The Feelings of Lasting Legacy

When I start working on a game, one of the first things I decide is how will the game make the player feel. Different designers have different ways of driving and focusing the design of their games: some will use a short elevator pitch, some will use key pieces of art, some will let the mechanics dictate the rest. I prefer to use the way I want players to feel to anchor the design, and I flesh out the rest of the game around it.

Once you have defined that feel, you can run every single design decision by it. Every game feature should support those feelings in some way, if not, they’re a good candidate to cut. And if some contradict them directly, you can veto them right away and not go down that path any further. Continue reading

Game Development Income

Inspired by Jake Birkett‘s game dev income chart, I decided to dig out my own data and make a similar chart. I figured it would be a good way to start the year looking at a retrospective of my time as an independent developer.

Game income2

Some interesting observations:

  • I made zero income in my first two years as as independent developer! I was supplementing my income writing a column for Game Developer Magazine, teaching classes, and doing some contracting. I even started interviewing thinking I would have to give up the indie life and go back to work for a company. I always tell new game developers to be ready not to make any money for a while for this reason.
  • Flower Garden seems to have a reasonable tail in spite of minimal updates. Every so often I feel a bit guilty for not doing more with it, but even if I wanted to spend time on it, I can’t think of anything that would increase sales.
  • Subterfuge is a blip in the radar. But what’s even worse, Subterfuge took 3.5 years to make, whereas Flower Garden was around 2 years (including all updates).
  • The US tax system isn’t really set up for people with really spikey income like this.
  • I need to make games more quickly.

Here’s to releasing a game in 2017 that is visible on that chart!

Most Influential Games (on Me)

I’ve been wanting to write about the project that I’m working on at the moment, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to announce it this year, so that will have to wait until January. I could do one of those year retrospective lists, but to be honest, I haven’t played enough digital or physical games from 2016 to be very interesting or representative.

Instead, I’m going to try something a bit different. I want to highlight the games that have had the most influence on me as a game maker. Not the best games, not the most memorable games, not the most impressive games, but the ones that have directly influenced me and the games I’ve made. Continue reading

Best Board Games of 2015

My tastes in board games are always evolving and changing, and 2015 was a very different year that marked a turning point for me. Looking at my play statistics, it’s clear that something changed: I played fewer games than in previous years, and, most importantly, I played many fewer new games than other years.

2015 was the year when I started focusing on playing more often the games I loved, and stopped chasing after trying all the hot new games.

Towards the end of 2014 it dawned on me that most new board games I was playing were ranging from bad to just OK, and only a selected few made it into the good or very good category. So why was I spending so much time and energy playing new games? It’s not like I had played the old ones too much and was done with them. As a matter of fact, I was frustrated with how little I was playing them, and how, if I only play a game once every six months or a year, I’m basically starting over from scratch. So I was always playing games at a very superficial level, without being able to get deeper into them. Not to mention it’s a pleasure to pull out a game and not have to worry about reading or explaining the rules!

2015 was the year of depth for me.

Of course depth comes at the cost of breath, so when it comes time to make a best-of list for 2015, I don’t have nearly as many different games to draw on as other years. Because of that, I’ll limit my list to just 3 games.

Continue reading