Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Found it!

Figured it out...

I was wondering what caused this latest spike in sales.  Turns out someone posted a favorable review on Reddit, which got a little traction and generated some sales.  Pretty neat.  It was really killing me to know that there was something out there, but I didn't know what it was.  Pretty cool.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Purple Mountaineers!

Purple Duck Games is currently looking for:

1) Playtest groups to run through Purple Mountain Level 10. If you have a group that is interested in playing drop me an email or level a comment.

2) Writers to work on additional levels of Purple Mountain. Drop me an email if you have the time and the inclination to be part of this huge project!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Sales Data

Hidden in Plain Sight is closing in on 1000 sales.

I think the sales graph is pretty nifty.  There's a nice little bump where the Joystiq Indie Pitch article hit.

Also note that the sales seem to be progressing pretty linearly. 

Contrast this with Bad Golf's sales over the first three months:

Very different curves, neh?  I'm not sure what it means, but it's interesting.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Eisenkern Heavy Trooper (Preview) 28-32mm miniatures

I am pleased to introduce the Eisenkern Heavy Trooper. Shown here are the three variants.

On the left, an anti-personnel or AA mount, nothing says suppressive fire like a quad S.A.W.  
Center, is an assault specialist armed with a power sword and wearing the fluted commander’s helm and chest armor.
To the right, a belt fed auto-cannon to deal with that armor problem.

Quad mount front

Quad mount rear

Assault specialist front

Assault specialist rear

Auto-cannon front

Auto-cannon rear

Here is the optional helm for those that prefer a more unified WWII/Weird war feel.

Here is an exploded view. Note the separate arms, head and shoulders… this will allow the modeler to use components from other miniatures to keep a cohesive look to their weapons, no matter what game they choose.

Here is a scale comparison with a Sturmtruppen.

Here is a scale comparison with another manufacturer’s sci-fi mini.

Note: These will be very slightly taller than most 28mm scale at 33.5mm from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head, about 2mm taller than most minis. Not so large as to look out of place on the table but if your eying them form ground level you may see a differance.

When will these be available? I don’t have a date yet but I hope to start the print and mold process ASAP. I will be posting the Eisenkern Sturmtruppen and Kriegsmarine on my web site next month.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Encounter - Blizzard of Loss

Yuki-onna by Michael Scotta
This image is available as stock art
from Michael Scotta and Purple Duck Games

Blizzard of Loss
Environment: Cold forest
Encounter Level:  8 (4,800)

   Area: The encounter takes place in a remote hamlet deep within the forest. The area is currently within the grip of a terrible snowstorm and the hamlet presents the characters with refuge from death by exposure.
   Situation: The player characters have been travelling for some time across the snow landscape as part of another quest when suddenly the weather takes a turn for the worse. While making their way through the snow and wind players may detect the presence of a small hamlet (Perception DC 20; -4 penalty due to inclement weather).
   The hamlet provides a dozen empty houses that can provide shelter from the store and a single occupied house. The owner of the house is an elderly man named Kousei. Kousei is currently frightened as he is being stalked by a yuki-onna and has and unfriendly attitude. If his attitude can be improved to friendly he will allow the characters in and provide hospitality to them. Once the heroes are warmed and relaxed he will try to persuade them to hunt down the yuki-onna that has destroyed the community. He will reward the characters (see below).

Complications (Optional)
1) Tracking a yuki-onna is extremely difficult as their feet never actually touch the ground. Player character searching for the yuki-onna may need to resort to magic or set a trap for the vengeful spirit by using one of their own as bait.
2) The yuki-onna has killed many of the villager from the surrounding area. This has attracted other predators and scavengers to the area like a pack of winter wolves.
3) The yuki-onna was at one time the daughter of Kousei. One evening Kousei was caught in the indiscreet company of a foreigner. After driving the man away, Kousei turned his rage upon his daughter who was shamed and forced from their house on a stormy evening. She died from exposure and returned as the yuki-onna that now plagues the hamlet. If the players discover the truth, will they kill Kousei's daughter a second time?

Kousei was once an adventurer of some skill. In battle he wielded a +1 spear known as the spear of the four winds (see Legendary II: Legendary Weapons for more information), which he will now pass on to the player that ended the threat of the yuki-onna as well as a pair of gloves of arrow snaring.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sneak peek of an Eisenkern Heavy Trooper

Still a W.I.P.
Here is one of three troopers for the "heavy" trooper class. The soldier is clad in full power armor and wielding a quad mount machine gun. On his back is an auto-loader system to reload his main weapon as well as a massive power supply for his armor.

There will be three heavy troopers…. More to follow….
TGN has nominated the Leviathan Mortis and Crusader for best vehicle 2011.
If you feel either of these should win, please head over and vote HERE

Monday, 23 January 2012

Narrative not a game mechanic?

I just stumbled upon Raph Koster's "Narrative is not a game mechanic" and found that it contains some stuff that I do not really agree with. Now, thinking somebody on the internet is wrong happens all the time, but I think this article brings up some stuff that warrants a reply. While it has up a few good points, it also contains views on a few concept that I think can be quite damaging when trying to expand upon the medium of videogames.

The word game is a very broad and fuzzy one. I can refer to boardgames, gambling, politics, drug dealing, sports and whatnot. For more part of the the article, Raph seems to be talking about videogames (given the black box analogy and that he specifically says "racing videogame"), but then later on slot machines and choose-your-own-stories are used as examples. Now one can see this as just using simply making a point, but I think the unclarity leads to an important issue: Videogames are very different from other games like chess, football, etc even though they are often lumped together.

The main reason why videogames are different is because they strictly impose rules upon the player. It is not really possible to play a videogame wrong, whereas playing football or chess (the physical versions) the wrong way are very easy. A videogame is more than a few game-rules, it is every single rule that you can possibly experience. Even basic laws of nature like friction and gravity play an essential role in a videogame. Videogames are not about following a specific rule-set, they are about being present inside a virtual world. The only way to really play a videogame incorrectly is to change the very fabric of its virtual reality, or to find some kind of exploitable flaw. (This is not strictly true, as one could say playing Mario and only running back and forth the first few pixels is not the correct way to play it, but I think I make my point).

In case you want more discussion on this, Chris Deleon goes into the issue a bit deeper here. My main point here is just that when discussing videogames, it is very common that all other kinds of games get thrown into the mix, and that is exactly what happens here. This does not mean that we should try and learn from other kind of games, but when we want to talk about the strength and weaknesses of our medium, we need to be clear what it is we are really talking about.

(I know I do say "game" when I really mean "videogame" from time to time. I hope I have become more clear on what I mean in later posts though. Also note that I sometimes simply use "game", after having just said "videogame" to make the text less repetitive. With that said, I hope I do not get too hammered because of improper usage :) )

A series of problems
This is something that have annoyed me for some time. It is the idea that videogames must pose some kind of challenge to the player. It leads to all kind issues, most importantly the idea that one needs to have trial-and-error in videogames. In my mind it is this kind of thinking what has been holding back videogames for quite some time.

In Raph's article, this thinking is best exemplified by:
"Cut the problem inside the black box, and you have a slideshow."
Once you get into this kind of mindset, I feel that there is so much you are missing out on. For instance, Amnesia would not have been possible to create if we had not let go of the belief that every meaningful interaction must have some kind of problem and challenge at heart. It is also a statement that makes videogames like Dear Esther impossible to create. It even dismisses a lot of what makes Silent Hill so great as bad videogame design. Needless to say, I think this is a very silly statement to make.

My view on the core of videogames is not that should to provide us with problems, but to immerse us in engaging virtual worlds. Sometimes problems are useful for doing this and sometimes not. But they are never what lies at the core of the experience.

Feedback is for fun
The way the article talks about feedback (graphics, sound effects, etc) is in a very simplistic manner: They are simply there to enhance the underlying mechanics. I believe that feedback, in any sensory form, can be a lot more than that. I think that visuals, etc can lie at the front and the mechanics can be a way of exploring them, hence you tweak the gameplay according to your visuals instead of the other way around.

Instead of seeing feedback as rewards for problem-solving, I think we should see them as a way to increase the feeling of presence in our virtual worlds. It is the ability to "kick back" that makes the virtual worlds of videogames so compelling and so different from other media like novels and film. If we see feedback as a tool of immersion, we can also stop seeing all interaction as problems. I think this brings forward a more inclusive view of what a videogame can be and is also much better at forming a platform for evolving the medium than the old narrow view.

I think there is a quite a confusion with words in the article. Narrative, in film theory, is how the story is told (how characters and plot are put together). When Raph talks about narrative in the sense of choose-your-own-adventure games, he is really referring to the plot. It is not narrative, but plot (ie some very specific events), that act has the reward for the player whenever they provide input.

It is much better to say that narrative is the subjective entirety of the session. This also goes along with Chris Bateman's view that all games tell a story and more interestingly that all art are games of some form. One could also take the view (which I do not) that narrative is, like in film, the way in which the story (plot and characters) are told, in which case narrative would be an umbrella term for game mechanics. In any case I do not think Raph's usage of the word is correct and a better title for his post would be "Plot is not a game mechanic". By saying it this way, I think the main point gets no stranger than "animations/sound/etc are not gameplay mechanics".

This might seem like a useless discussion in semantics, but I honestly think it is quite important. Right now, story, plot and narrative are mixed up to mean pretty much whatever, making discussions like "should our game focus on story" pointless. Language is our main tool for thinking, and if we cannot have a proper terminology, we will not be able to think properly.

The article's example from Batman: Arkham City is to me a very clear example of this kind of bad thinking. By saying that the "video of the Joker playing on a television set" is a narrative element, but then dismissing the entire climb that came before it as such, one is really missing out on the strengths of the videogame medium. For me I the Joker video is pure plot, a bit of needed exposition and not what is interesting. What is interesting is the climb up the cathedral. Here the player takes on the role of becoming Batman and, while performing interactive actions, forming a very compelling narrative.

As I have written before, in order to improve story-telling in games we need to consider stories beyond their plots.

End notes
Most of this post has been about meaning of words and of how to approach some concepts, but I hope that I still showed that it is a very important issue. Videogame is a medium that have grown from simplistic simulations, arcade machines and boardgames. This legacy has put its mark on a lot of nowadays thoughts on design, many of which are holding the medium back. The only way to move forward is to reassess this line of thinking and remove ingrained preconceptions of what a videogame is and needs to be. Not until we break the bonds of the past can we freely explore the future.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Random Encounters, Otyughnomicon and Grindylows

Even More Random Encounters Remastered
by David Nicholas Ross
Last week, Purple Duck Games saw the release of its two newest products. The first was Even More Random Encounters Remastered by David Nicholas Ross. This is the third and final release in the Random Encounters Remastered line. It has been very successful for us but with the release of this third volume which covers encounters in the bowels of the earth, endless caverns, highlands, scorched wastes, windswept plains and the within the teeming veldt we have cover most of the possible wilderness environments. If you have suggestions for other environments then please leave a comment or drop me an email.

Grindylows by Michael Scotta

The second release was the third volume of our template line known as the Otyughnomicon. The Typhoon-Kissed Otyugh was written by Sam Hing and presents the typhoon-kissed template along with an encounter with otyughs, brass dragons and a tribe of grindylow.

I really like grindylow as a monstrous race. I can see my players would probably love playing in a one-shot grindylow adventure similar to Paizo's own We Be Goblins. Of course, if I did create a We Be Grindylows adventure for my players I would first need some basic grindylow statistics. I'm thinking something like this.

Grindylow Racial Statistics (10 RP - Basic Race)
Racial Type: Aberration (2 RP)
Size: Small (0 RP)
Abilities: Standard (0 RP) - +2 Dex, +2 Wis, -2 Cha
Languages: Xenophobic (0 RP) - Aquan only
Movement: Swim (1 RP); Jet (1 RP)
Standard Abilities:  Tangling Tentacles (2 RP)
Skill and Feat Abilities: Camouflage (+4 Stealth) (1 RP); Octopus Empathy (+4 Handle Animals with octopuses) (1 RP)
Other: Amphibious (1 RP)

I think that could work well as base grindylow statistics. What do you think?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Nominated for best vehicle of 2011

I am pleased to announce that the Leviathan Mortis and Leviathan Crusader have both been nominated for best vehicle of the year by Table Top Gaming News!

Voting for the best game, miniature, vehicle and others is still on going and ends Friday the 20th.
The winner is chosen by you! If you feel the Crusader and Mortis are some of the best game vehicles for 2011, please head on over and cast your vote. Your help is truly appreciated.

UPDATE :) this is a msg from TGN.
Hey guys,
For those of you that went and checked out the polls for voting last night saw that there were nominations missing. I am working to fix that problem and make sure that all of the nominations are available for voting. Then the voting process will resume next Monday!
Thank you for all the entries for the Reader’s Choice awards, and for your patience.

All the best!

Great Review...

This review brought a tear to my eye...


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

More fan email...

I just noticed I had a Facebook message waiting from a few days ago from a random woman.  Almost sure it was spam, I hesitantly opened it.  Best email ever!

Mr. Adam Spragg,

It is a rarity that I would feel so compelled to send this message. Just to make sure you know right off that this is not a weird message, let me start by saying how big of a fan I am of Bad Golf. Seriously a huge fan. I have showed it to all of my friends and have yet to find a person who is not throughly entertained (although frustrated) by playing this game.

As I often download indie games, I recently downloaded another treasure called Hidden in Plain Sight. It is a delight! I have found that our favorite is the death race. Due to the way in which you sign into the game, it appeared that the creator of hidden in plain sight was also the creator of bad golf. With a little lite research, I found your name.

This message has two purposes. One of which is to let you know personally that your games are enjoyed and to please keep up the great work. The second is to see if you have any plans to make it so these games can be played with others online and also to see if you would ever make more maps for bad golf.

My fiancée is in the military as or other people in our family. It causes us to look for games to play online to stay in touch and be entertained. These games would be great to be able to play with others online. I highly assume that this is not in your game plan, but had to ask. That being said, I REALLY hope additional maps for bad golf might me something you have thought about. My friends and I just can not get enough!!!

In closing I would just like to tell you again how great your games are. Thanks again!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

State of the Duck - 2011 Review

The State of the Duck (2011 - Year in Review)
It’s the 4th of January 2012 and I thought I would take a moment to discuss how the last year has gone for Purple Duck Games. I’ve never ever written a “year-in-review” before and I don’t believe Stefen has either so please bear with me as I struggle through this post.

Who the Duck is in charge?
Purple Duck Games is the creative partnership of Stefen Styrsky and Mark Gedak. Mark was hosting a PBEM campaign Stefen joined. The campaign was a miserable failure as were all of Mark’s future attempts to run PBEM games, but Stefen and Mark continued to communicate and work together. Mark Gedak was the owner of the Grand OGL Wiki and Stefen became a contributor to an experiment on that site known as the DM Sketchpad. Their collaboration on the Grand OGL Wiki led them to work write Forgotten Foes with Bret Boyd (Tricky Owlbear Publishing) and Axel K. Carlsson (Headless Hydra Games).  Mark had the bright idea to continue their collaboration on a more formal basis, and Purple Duck Games was born.  Since the company’s formation in August of 2010, Purple Duck Games has released 25 roleplaying game supplements compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system and a number of stock art pieces.

What did Purple Duck Games produce last year?
Over the last twelve months Purple Duck Games has released 20 products for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. When Stefen and I first started the company we didn’t have a business plan or product schedule. Instead we looked at the things that interested us and wrote what we as gamers would like to see produced.  For Stefen this meant the launch of his Legendary Races line that expanded the playable character races to include cyclops, medusa and rakshasa. For myself, this meant the launch of the Otyughnomicon, Purple Mountain and the creation of Rook core class (which was penned by Thomas Baumbach).

What challenged you most this year?
The great thing about coming into this business with no publishing background of our own meant that there were many mistakes to make and learn from. There are so many it is difficult to know where to begin.

1) When I started Purple Duck Games, I signed on exclusively with Rpgnow/DTRPG. Now this isn’t really a bad thing, we were treated really well at Rpgnow and had a sizable customer base. The problem was we didn’t have access to the hardcore Pathfinder customer base. Several times, we heard from customers that they only bought material from Paizo, so they wouldn’t be buying our material. Once we fulfilled our 1 year exclusive with Rpgnow/DTRPG we branched off to Paizo as well.

2) Common Look and Feel. It has taken me a long to time to develop the look of Purple Duck Games products. I think this is because I lack any kind of artistic talent whatsoever. Now, I will never say that my layout is excellent but for at least the last half of the year it has been consistent in its look. Does that mean I’m done fiddling with it, probably not but I now have a minimum base line to build from.

3) Getting the Word Out. I am an introvert by nature, like my father. I am absolutely terrible at promoting myself and Purple Duck Games. I know, I should be communicating with my fans more, I know I should be engaging in discussion forums more, I know I should be figuring out promotions, contests and advertising opportunities more. I find all of those things exhausting. So this is something I’m going to need proactive about in 2012.

What regrets do you have?
I regret that I haven’t been able to work with Stefen on more products in 2011. In 2010, most of our work was collaborative and in 2011 we worked in solitude. Sometimes this was because Stefen was busy when I needed a hand, sometimes it was because I was busy when Stefen needed a hand, and sometimes we just had our own vision of a particular product but I’d like to do more collaboration with Stefen in 2012.

What were your stand-out products this year?
This is sort of like picking a favourite child. According to the reviews we have received I would have to say Random Encounters Remastered, Purple Mountain I, Otyughnomicon (both), Monstrous Races: Second Horde, Monsters Unleashed V.1 & 2, Legendary IV: Legendary Shields and V: Eastern and Exotic Weapons, Legendary Races: Rakshasa and Medusa, Forgotten Encounters line and Encounter Pages. All have an average 4-star rating or above.

Personally my top five picks of things not written by me are in no particular order: Legendary IV: Legendary Shields, Monstrous Races: Second Horde, Forgotten Encounters: Urban, Random Encounters Remastered and Legendary Classes: The Rook.

What didn’t hit the mark like you’d hoped?
From a sales point of view I’m disappointed with the Encounter Pages and Forgotten Encounters line.  I think the Forgotten Encounters are an overlooked deal. They are not just a bunch of one-shot encounters, but also include new feats, items, monsters, spells, and archetypes.

Where is Purple Duck Games headed in 2012?
We plan to hire more freelance writers and issue some of our products as print or print-on-demand.

What new releases are in the works, what’s on the drawing board, and what’s an inkling of an idea?

Currently in development we have the third volume of the Otyughnomicon, volumes 4 through 6 of Monsters Unleashed, Legendary VI: Legendary Armor, a few more levels of Purple Mountain, our megadungeon, and Mythos Archetypes, a supplement containing PC archetypes and rules for playing Pathfinder with a Call of Cthulhu feel.

In development we have Legendary Races: Harpy, a Runecaster Pathfinder base class, a supplement dealing exclusively with trapped chests, and GM version of Mythos Archetypes.

We’ve also started writing 4Saken using the free 4Color RPG system. It’s a game based on the horror movies of the 1980s (dating Mark and Stefen). We’re talking Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Prince of Darkness and C.H.U.D. The rules allow for fast-paced narrative and can be played as a straight-up horror game or with a more tongue-in-cheek tone.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Best of 2011

Since 2012 is here I thought it might be a good time for a short best of 2011 list! Note that only games that have been released during 2011 are included (and not games that I have played last year). So without further ado, here are my top picks from the past year (starting in reverse order, to make things exciting!):

3 - Portal 2

What I liked the most about Portal 2 were these little moments where you really felt immersed in the world. For example if you hesitate to follow Wheatly's advice and a make a not very safe looking leap down, he will try to persuade you using hilarious quips. These (unfortunately sparse) moments created this kind of special connection to characters you rarely see in games. There also exists a very strong sense of place in Portal 2. I think this is mostly created by how the dialog and environments come together and interact. Unfortunately most of this is in the first third or so and the game becomes more and more drawn out during the end. There is also a lot of really lackluster puzzle sections where you are simply trying to find the right area to place a portal. Despite these short comings, Portal 2 had me quite engaged and proved to be one of the better experiences of last year.

2 - To the Moon

I think the most interesting aspect of this game is how it in some ways is a culmination of a 25 years JPRPG pixel dramaturgy. The emotional displays of the simplistic sprites are very limited, but are used to perfection and creates a very powerful and mature narration. The game also feature very interesting take on puzzles and action. Sometimes it is possible to decide how much challenge you want and at other times the activities are irrelevant and simply there to make you more connected to the world. Unfortunately this is at its best at the start of the game and it gets progressively worse. The end even contains a terrible action sequence.
What really brings the game home though, is how To the Moon manages to bring up mature themes in a way that is extremely rare in videogames. These play out in fairly non-interactive situations and thus are not any kind of revolution. But simply seeing a game where the core experience is a meditation on love, relationships, memory and what is really important in life, makes me really happy and hopeful.

1- Sword and Sworcery
This is by far my favorite game from last year. The videogame's strong focus on making something that blends interaction, music and visuals creates a really engaging experience. This is truly a game that aims to take you inside a another world and it is all about living it instead of trying to beat it. Another thing I really liked about it is how the game does not force you into continuing playing it. Sword and Sworcery actually explicitly tells you to take a rest and come back later between chapters. In an industry where it is all about getting players hooked and never stop playing, this is extremly refreshing to see. Combined with this, the game also asks you to reflect upon it and encourages the player to not just have a shallow, addictive experience. I really hope to see more of this! The game is not without flaws of course. There are lots of problems with the often annoying combat, repetitive puzzles, the twitter integration did not feel needed and some of the writing feels a bit too quirky and lazy. Still, Sword and Sworcery is quite the thing and I urge all of everyone to give it a go.

Now I am interested to hear which 3 games from 2011 were your favorites!