Showing posts from July, 2013

More Big Announcements

Apparently today is a day for Big Announcements. I didn't plan it this way, but it just sort of happened.

SoulJAR Games is proud to announce the continued involvement of Jeff Laubenstein with Cairn, and his future involvement with SoulJAR Games projects.

Jeff has been involved from the very beginning. He was excited to create a world of his own making, to establish the visual style. This is something he did at FASA, and he's responsible for why Earthdawn looks the way it does. He never really gets the chance to do that as a freelancer (since they must draw what they're told to draw), and it's why he got involved with Castle Nystul. He and Mike worked together at FASA, and he was hoping for a position where he could just create.

He drew those initial art pieces, and then everything went pear-shaped. Quite frankly, I could publish the game just with those 30-some pieces of art. That would mean the end of Jeff's involvement, technically. He'd drawn what we needed.



I know many of you have been promised a lot of things, and you don't really know me. I haven't done this before, but then again I have. I've published a lot of RPGs over the years, but never before for myself. So really, I'm an unknown quantity. I've seen some speculation that maybe I'll never produce. That's certainly a fair assessment, if you don't really know me.

I have a lot of contacts in this business, I'm proud to say. I've had offers of help from some big names in the business, which is also kind of humbling. I'm fortunate to call them friends. One of these people is the award-winning Jim Pinto. Pinto and I got to know each other from my time at AEG, and we've kept in touch ever since. Pinto offered to do the layout for Cairn, and he started on the template last night. I'm quite pleased with it, and I thought I'd share it with you. It's just a test, and very rough. But:

A) I have files ready for layout. Because you don&…

Review: Fold for iPhone and iPad

Fold by Ricardo Moura is a well executed and original puzzle game, with a colorful presentation and smooth animations.
The playing area contains stripes of colored blocks. When you tap the last block of a stripe, the stripe starts shortening until it becomes only one block long.
Some blocks of different colors are connected together. When you fold one of these blocks, they pull the others with them. In the example below, tapping the yellow block will bring the three red blocks over to the left, joining the other red blocks.
The goal of each level is to end with only single blocks. To get a gold medal, there must be exactly one block of each color.

Other elements include blocks which expand instead of folding:
Grey blocks which become the color of the neighboring blocks when they are all of the same color:
And the dreaded black blocks which make all the blocks inside their area of influence become black.
The game contains 30 puzzles playable for free, and 30 more unlockable with a single in-a…

Status Report

Oh my goodness! It's been almost a week without an update. I'm sorry about that. I kind of lost track of the time. I've had my head buried in Cairn, working out some stuff. Got a lot done, but there always seems to be more that needs doing. It's kind of like pulling a thread on a sweater... next thing you know you've got a ball of yarn in your lap. Which is to say I do something in chapter 3 and discover that changes something in chapter 7, or means I have to write something new for chapter 9....

So, what have I been doing? Let me give you a status update:

I fixed the enchanter. The problem with this class has always been that they exist to create magic items. That means magic item creation rules. This can be hard in a game that's supposed to be simple and fun. As originally written, enchanters only really got to enchant things when they got to a high level. In the meantime, they could wander around writing runes on things for short-term effects. Which is okay, b…

Here Be Monsters

There's been some significant progress here on my end in the past few days. First, the magic item and potion creation rules have been hashed out. Which allowed me to finalize the enchanter and alchemist. I've gone through and tweaked the Harmony rules a bit, too, adding some new elements that cause Disharmony and ways to gain Harmony. I was talking with a backer the other day who is an amateur game designer (aren't we all?), and he wasn't sure how the professionals do it. This is how. It's like a giant intellectual puzzle. You work on something over here, and that gives you a piece of the puzzle over there... Trouble is when the pieces don't all fit together (which happens quite a lot, since we're dealing with a million variables). 
So, I moved on to the shifter last night. I think we've got a really great idea here. One of the things this process has forced me to do is question assumptions. Like magic, for example. Why is magic in the game? Well, becaus…

Strategy Guide: Stickets

Lately I've been not only playing Stickets a lot, but also thinking about it as an example of a very well designed game.
Just a few days ago, Raf Peeters was kind enough to share with me some insight about how puzzles which are enjoyable in physical form don't necessarily work as well when ported to a touch screen device. For example, a put-together puzzle like Roadblock becomes harder to play on iPhone because rotating the pieces, which is a natural motion when playing the physical version, becomes cumbersome and requires multiple taps.

Stickets doesn't have the above problem, because it was born as a digital game. It avoids the difficulty of rotating the pieces, simply by not allowing to rotate them. Everything becomes more natural that way.

The Press Kit on the developer's website lists some points about the philosophy of the game, which I quote:
Less is more.Reason like a child.Stickets is about rhythms and patterns.While I haven't yet figured out the "Reason …

July 18th, 2013 Update

So what is new you say?

Deus ex Historica (M&M 3e)
I've disabled all the sales of the individuals issues in favor of the subscription only. After several months of trying doing single issues I learned that:

The sales of individual issues did not warrant the time spent on them.The nature of the individual issues resulted in layout that was not attractive and ultimately was not work I was proud of as the primary layout person for Purple Duck Games.So changes have been made. The layout has been tightened a lot and each of the pages has a much more consistent feel. Here are a couple of two page spreads to give you a sense of the new look.

Under this model, most heroes or villains get three pages (two for background and one for statistics). On some of the hero or villain teams each member may only get two pages instead.

This file is being uploaded to the subscription every Friday (check your downloads) and it is a work-in-progress, meaning that Perry, Don, and I still need to do error c…

It's Hot

Ah, NYC in July. It's hot. When I was a wee lad, sitting on my grandfather's knee, he would tell me of the days before air conditioning, when people would sleep out on their tenement roofs to escape the stifling heat.... I never really believed him. And now that I'm older, and it's close to 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) at midnight, I totally believe him. Which is a long way of saying the Souljar Games offices don't have AC, and I'm melting. It's actually affecting my laptop....

Anyway, a few thoughts to let you know I haven't forgotten you.

First, I've been working on the enchanters and magic item creation rules. They're done. The problem was that the person writing the enchanter had no idea what those rules would be. Because they weren't written yet. Then, when I tried to write magic item creation rules, I tried to preserve as much of the original enchanter class as possible. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake.... So, three days of writing …

Update #???

I just checked the stats for the page, and I see that there's a steady decrease in page views for each successive update. I find that a tad distressing, because it means there may be a bit of information overload going on. The reason why I try to post every day is because for so long you guys heard nothing about the progress of this game. I pride myself on being open and available about the process. If you guys think this is now too much information, maybe I should post only once a week....

That said, I haven't posted in a few days because stuff and things are going on over here. Mostly, writing. Lots and lots of writing. I worry that I'm giving the impression that the game needed a lot of work or that it was largely undone. This is actually far from the truth. Mostly, what's going on is tightening up the language as certain key concepts get hammered into place. For example, the discussion on magic items led to an idea that ended up better explaining why magic leads to …


Hidden in Plain Sight is going through a bit of a renaissance, which is kind of exciting.  First of all, the Ouya has officially launched, and HIPS is selling dozens of units per day.  And even though the minimum required price is $0.99, the average price people are paying is over $2, so that’s kind of cool.
Furthermore, a very popular YouTube channel has done a series of three videos, which cumulatively have over half a million views.  That’s led to a big spike in sales on the Xbox… 4000 copies sold in the first 11 days of this month.  If it’s anything like the Great SourceFed Spike of ’12, I expect there to be quite a long tail of sales as word of mouth spreads.
I got this email yesterday.  It looked like spam on the surface, but here’s what it said:
Hi I am 14 and i have played this game called "Hidden in Plain Sight ". i think you might know it. this game is really fun and i have played it with my sister and my friend and it is better than any 60 $ game i have ever bo…

Review: Bézier for iPhone and iPad

Bézier by Spiderling Studios is a physics puzzle game that looks like a physics textbook.
It was originally only for iPad, but a recent update added iPhone compatibility.
The basic idea isn't new: a ball moves on the screen, following the laws of physics. Without support, the ball would fall through the bottom of the screen, so the player must set up a path which the ball can roll on. The goal is to make the ball touch a few waypoints scattered across the screen.

I had seen similar games where you had to draw the path with your finger; in this case, however, the path is created by adjusting the control points of a Bézier curve, hence the title of the game. The Bézier curve ensures that that the lines are always smoothly curved.
The presentation is very clean and polished; the font and the drawing style look like those you could find in a physics textbook. The buttons have LEDs on their sides as if they were control switches of some laboratory apparatus.
For precise control, you can als…

Magic Items

I've already begun to get information from backers for their contributions to the game. I've been adding it to the text, and sending the involved a copy of what I've done (so they can see it and approve it). So, I urge you to get me your information as soon as possible, so I can close out this chapter... For example, I've got a pika villain and I don't know where it came from, and I want to make some changes to him... And there are bunch of unnamed NPCs that would really like their names... So, send me your contributions if you paid for them and you're entitled to add stuff., with BACKER CONTRIBUTION in the subject line.

Today, I think I'm going to tackle something I've been avoiding like the plague. Magic item creation rules. The game includes enchanters, which, to be honest, I'm not thrilled with. It suggests that every town has a magic user who makes magic items, and it seems to be there to address a common trope in fantasy …


Hidden in Plain Sight FAQ 1.0
My game has apparently reached some sort of critical mass, and I’m beginning to get a lot of the same questions over and over again, so I’ll address them here.
1)  Online multiplayer?
No.  I’m not going to update this game to support online multiplayer.  The answer is a little complicated.
When I started making this game, I was targeting the Xbox Live Indie Games platform, and just making a somewhat experimental, hobbyist game.  I had no idea that it would be as successful as it would eventually become.  I figured I’d be lucky to sell a few hundred copies.  So I didn’t anticipate a big player base, which is kind of necessary for an online game, if people want to just jump online at a random time to play.
But making an online game is HARD.  Really hard.  Anyone who tells you otherwise has never done it before.  It really would have made the coding 100x more complicated, and perhaps is even beyond my technical ability.  Because of those reasons, I led with a loc…

An Update

Hi all! Just a quick update for all of you.

I've already started to get backer contribution information. It's terrific to see people so engaged in Cairn. I've already learned that some bits already made it into the text, in which case it's nice to see who it came from. And some bits that didn't, so I have to figure out how to get it in there. Again, if you're a backer who paid to have something added to the game, please email me at with BACKER CONTRIBUTION in the subject line. Even if you contacted Mike long ago, I want to make sure your information made it in by cross-checking it with the text. I don't want anything to fall through the cracks. Or, at least minimize it as much as possible.

Next, I want to tell you all that I appreciate all the support and encouragement I'm receiving from you all. Many of you are just happy to see some progress and are sending me encouragement. "I can't wait to see the game" or "th…

July Update 1

July has been a very, very month so far which is just awesome. July/August are the only two months of the year at which I can be "full-time" with Purple Duck Games so I'm really pleased at the amount of work that we have gotten done so far. For new releases we have:

Campaign Elements Series (DCC; Daniel J. Bishop)
Daniel J. Bishop has kicked off our second series for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game called Campaign Elements (CE). Daniel describes them as follows:

The Campaign Elements series is designed to help judges create persistent campaign worlds, as well as deal with patron quests, divine requests, and the sudden need to "Quest For It". Whether it is because you are short on players one evening, or the wizard needs to locate a new spell, the Campaign Elements series has you covered. Each of these areas is short enough to be played through by most groups in only a single session. That doesn't mean that the value of the area is limited to a singl…