Monday, September 16, 2013

Looking Back At Where I Was 5 Years Ago...

Today I wanted to take a look back to 5 years ago and where I was with game design in late 2008. I'd like to say that things have changed quite a bit, but I'm not so sure. My goals and methods have definitely changed, but the quirkiness of my games has not drifted. Now I have the 16-bit President, and back then there was Business Casual Bear. I'd like to think they would probably cross paths at some point. In a meeting... or at the coffee machine, I'm sure.

One of the first games I ever even considered making was Magic Gone Mad… a quirky/silly trading card game that was based on a set of videos that me, my brother (George), and my brother-in-law (Marty) made. But before I talk about the card game, I need to set the tone with the videos.

We made a series of 3 videos, each of which were less than 30 seconds each. I owned a decent video camera (Sony DCR-VX2100 represent!) and we had nothing better to do, so we sat down with no script and started recording.

After a few months we had three videos that we thought were hilarious. In fact, we still do. I have no clue if anyone else will find them entertaining at all. It really didn't matter because we had a blast making them. But at the time, I was both naive enough to think that everyone else would find it as funny as we did, and crazy enough to think that making a Collectible Card Game based off of a micro-series of YouTube videos was a good idea. We had dozens of views! If each person who watched the video bought a pack of cards we would be… 


But still, that naivety led to creativity, which is never a bad thing. Together, the three of us came up with a (semi)-functioning card game based off of this weirdo universe that we created. 

We focused more on collectibility than the actual gameplay, but it paved the way for a few things for me. 

1) It gave me my first experience with short run printing.  
We ordered 10 promo sets of 9 cards from Guild of Blades, who I think was one of the first Print-On-Demand card printers. You could order a minimum of 10 sets, and you could also offer it for sale on their website. This game didn't end up for sale there, but the very first edition of Pixel Lincoln did. Messing around with Magic Gone Mad led my curiosity right into the trials and errors of the original Pixel Lincoln, which led to everything I'm doing today.

2) It knocked out the thought of CCG's very early on.  
We were looking at printing this in a VERY short run (100 boosters), just for local conventions. But as everyone knows, that isn't how a CCG works. There are better formats for release, and without a lot of money to risk, a huge following, and a TV show companion, the CCG model isn't practical. 

We didn't know any better at the time, but even with our CCG naiveté it was going to be a huge undertaking, and eventually fell flat.

3) It helped me get into card layout.
I love good card layout, and I still stand by this as "wow, not that bad". Things are clean and clear and I think that is most important. Placement is second most and a little odd, but it still worked. It worked better than the game did! 

But it really pushed me to assume the role of graphic designer, whether it's at prototype level (Maximum Throwdown and many others) or release level (Pixel Lincoln). It's a skill that's very necessary as a game designer and I'm glad I jumped right into it. Note: You don't have to be a great graphic designer as a designer, but it's very important to be comfortable enough to make prototypes on your own. Even the ugly ones count.

It's funny that this experience helped with publishing and graphic design, but nothing with actual game design. I will make sure to dig into the old notes one of these days and see how weird/bad it really was. But it is interesting that everything was geared toward publishing or self-publishing back then. I have yet to fully shake that mindset, no matter how insane it may be. 

So, looking back, I was crazy back then (short run CCG!) and I still have a little of the crazy in me (still pushing the publisher side!). The big difference now is that I know I'm crazy.


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