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Weekly Post #32 - Tabletop Gaming ("Special Topic")

Hello again fellow gamers and devs!

If you aren't really all that interested in tabletop gaming and just want an update on my current development announcements I do have some interesting things to announce at the end of the post so feel free to skip ahead but...as promised, this weeks topic (really last weeks topic, sorry about being late...again) is Tabletop Gaming. Games that you can easily play without electricity with 1 or more people if you find yourself stuck at home with siblings or a significant other without power.

I'll touch a little bit on Role Playing Games, Board Games and Card Games, all of which can require a great deal of strategy, creativity and sometimes a little luck...features like any video game has. For anyone looking to get into video game development, trying to create your own tabletop game is a great starting place and helps to make a decent prototype that can even translate into a video game to develop later on. Tabletops are a great source of inspiration for game concepts, mini-games to include within a larger game, other mechanics and even storytelling.

If any of these styles of games or games I mention interest you I recommend visiting a local hobby or comic store that also deals in tabletop gaming just to see how many options are out there for the tabletops that interest you. Some can easily be found at retail stores as well like Target or Wal Mart but they may not have that one niche game or genre you might be interested in....just the big name ones. They also tend to not carry Tabletop RPG's. Speaking of that is our first tabletop to discuss...


1) Role Playing Games

Tabletop role playing games are probably my favorite by far. There are several out there to choose from including big franchises like Star Trek but the ones I've played and enjoyed were Firefly (based on the TV series universe) and the other that is my personal favorite and you probably have heard of before is Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop RPG that paved the way for the rest. Unfortunately, they do usually require 1 person (The Dungeon Master/DM) to run/create the campaign story and encounters by playing as all of the monsters/enemies and characters involved, which requires a good bit of prep work/studying, and it also requires between at least 2-4 players to play the campaign as a character they create based on different classes available in the campaign. Really it's just like any video game RPG except the developer is running the show via narration and the sky is the limit on what can be done without having to invest in several hour of coding to test things like in video game development and the only bugs in this game are mistakes made by the DM or players. Events and combat are done with dice rolls and player ability modifiers to determine outcomes via numbers.

There are also many times where the DM will have to make things up on the spot if their players do something they don't expect and have to decide if they will allow it or find a way to prevent them from doing it. There are pre-made campaigns for each out type of tabletop RPG if you aren't interested in creating your own but it will still require some reading prior to playing, best if done a few days in advance but requires significantly less work than creating a campaign from scratch. I should probably also mention it usually takes a group of 3+ players meeting at least once a week for a few hours to play each meeting in order to beat the campaign over the course of a several weeks depending on the campaign so I recommend sticking to a shorter campaign to start that can build into a larger overarching campaign/story later on if you wish to continue it.

I used to DM for a couple groups and I loved it. I guess you could say it was my first experience in game development...aside from playing with Klik N' Play/Clickteam Products growing up. For my campaign I designed the whole world, encounters, characters and story line...even made my own custom enemies, player classes/abilities, deities/religions and even languages and player classes available aside from the original D&D ones available. It's a campaign that I hope some day to turn into a full open world RPG video game based on it but that will take a small team, a few years of development and funds to do so...needless to say that's going to be a while. If you have friends who want to or already play a tabletop RPG and you are looking into video game development, now or in the future I highly recommend, at the very least, playing with them but more so I recommend trying to run a campaign for them as it is a great introduction to game design and storytelling with live feedback from players via their real time reactions allowing you to tweak things on the fly to see what makes it more fun for them as you go. There are also plenty of easy to find videos of other people's tabletop RPG campaigns on YouTube and Twitch if you want to check them out before trying your hand at it.


2) Card Games

If you own or have used a pack of regular playing cards to play Poker or Blackjack you probably also know there are many other card games you can play with a single deck, even solo games like Solitaire. You've probably also heard of other types of card games like Pokemon and Yugi-Oh but my personal favorites are Munchkin, Cards Against Humanity and of course Magic: The Gathering. Card games are usually 2-4 players and require some form of strategy to defeat your opponents but also involve random chance, some might call it luck but really if you play your cards right luck won't matter. Also if you like collecting things, especially rare things, many card games have small expansion packs with rare chances to get a fairly unique card that can gain you a good advantage against other players...or you can trade for other cards from other players or even sell them for a little extra cash. Many of the more popular card games have a large community of players and even tournaments. \

Let's also not forget trivia card games. For anyone who likes random interesting facts or facts about specific topics even, Trivia games are great and can be fun to make as well if not simply to learn new things. Aside from all the other types of card games I mentioned there are some grid based strategy one or adventure style card games where each card reveals a new room/obstacle or item to help you overcome those obstacles ...but I can't really say too much about those as I haven't played any of them.

It wasn't until my college years that I got into card games like Magic the Gathering when a friend introduced me to the custom deck building. The strategy of it sucked me in. It's a great feeling defeating your opponent when your custom deck and strategy works and it's also always a good lesson learned when it doesn't. Much like video game development, you have to test test test your decks. Just by building a custom deck you are already doing some form of game developing by trying to predict the outcome of your how your opponent will play the same way you have to try and predict how the player of a video game you are developing will play it.

If after playing a few card games and you have some friends to try out a card game of your own design on all you need is some index cards with basic doodles and text/instructions on each card as to what it does and some written rules of the game. I used to design my own card game creatures in middle school during class if I was bored mostly inspired by Pokemon since it was a huge hit and a fairly hot new thing at the time (I know my age is showing). Making a card game is also a good way to flesh out some systems that could also be incorporated into a video game or even just turned into a card game video game like Magic: The Gathering has done or even Blizzard's Hearthstone.


3) Board Games

Ah, good old board games. I grew up playing a lot of these with my family and some were more fun than others. The ones I recall the most are Candyland, Jumanji, Life, Scrabble...and perhaps the most frustrating, Monopoly since my Parents usually had the upper hand there because they had more dealings with real world business and would apply that knowledge in the game...knowledge I lacked at a young age. Of course there is always the classic checkers and for more advanced strategy players, chess.

There are so many different varieties of board games out there...too many to go over all of them but basically most require 2+ players and include some combination of use of cards, dice, character pieces and sometimes even battery operated devices...they even made VHS board games that were timed to the VHS which would occasionally give you instructions and change things up when it happened.

Making your own board game would probably be a bit more advanced in a development sense so I wouldn't recommend it right off the bat, if at all. It's not something I have even remotely considered dabbling in since it require a lot more prep work like the cards, pieces, the board itself etc. Honestly, playing board games has probably been more beneficial to me in a development sense then trying to create one and has given some great ideas..granted ideas on the back burner for now. Could be the game itself, story or even just that one card that I drew that inspires me for that one cool thing to put in a video game.

The most recent board game I've played and really enjoyed the most was Betrayal at House on the Hill. Each play through and outcome is almost always different. As you move through the rooms in the house you pick a new tile to lay down which will create a new room or a trap and make you draw specific cards or could even be a safe haven. Everyone starts out on the same team exploring for items but as you go curses start to pile up and once so many have been obtained the haunt begins and one of the players will become the enemy and has to defeat the other players before they figure out how to defeat them...best part is both the enemy and the players read from different instructions and know only partial details(most of the time) of what is happening or what to do to win creating some very interesting outcomes. I highly recommend playing it.


Conclusion and Quick Update

I'm sure there are so many more details I could go into on this topic but already seeing that this post is becoming a rather long one. Seeing as this post is late (again) hopefully being a longer post made up for that and had some good details or tips and at the very least introduced you to some new tabletops you might want to try out. Since my day/night job has been a little more demanding I'm probably just going to start calling these “Updates” instead of “Weekly Updates” and just do them when I can or just make “Special Topic” posts until I start having weekly content updates for my game in development (post announcement of course).

Speaking of, before I finish up here is a quick update on my current game dev endeavors. I decided the current game I'm working on (Still TBA) will probably be too high scope to be releasing anything on it any time soon (maybe even not till late this year) but I am continuing and will continue to work on it but in the meantime I decided to start work on one very small project that shouldn't take long to complete and there will be FREE version of it...hopefully could be done within a month or two and will announce it when I can get the game page up for it prior to release. Once that's done I will also begin work on a sequel to Probe with loads more content and features than the first seeing as it would be fairly easy to build on what I already have and tweak. Exciting to show off my new implementations as they go and get feedback from everyone.


Next Post

Normally I would say “next weeks post will be” but seeing as my time is pretty limited lately let's just say my next “Special Topic” post will be “What I learned from releasing my first solo indie game” ...especially since it will be a topic that will take me a little time to flesh everything out and be thorough but straightforward on. This will be much different than the Probe Post Mortem but I may reference some things from it that are relevant, like some typical game design lessons I learned, but mostly I want to go over what I learned (good or bad) from the process of releasing a game start to finish including betas, updates, platforms I published on, marketing, etc while trying to exclude a lot of things I covered in the post mortem like the early concept/prototypes, game improvements/updates and all the boring statistics. I'll also try to keep it as short and straight forward as possible as it will probably be my most important post about game development to date...not just for my own self reflection but for the sake of other developers who may be able to learn from my mistakes and/or successes that are also just starting out in indie dev industries.

Be looking for that post hopefully sooner than later. If you haven't already, make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the page if you want to be notified when the next post is live and thank you to everyone who already has! I appreciate all the support and, as always, I welcome any feedback or suggestions for this or future content.


Nathan Hicks

Nate Bit Games


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