Wind-up Knight In-App Purchases Synthesize Old and New

A couple of months ago, I briefly previewed Wind-Up Knight, the new action game for Android (and soon, iOS) by Robot Invader. Well, it came out about a week ago, and the only reason I didn’t mention it then was that I didn’t really have anything to say. I didn’t expect that the first thing I’d have to say would be about their business model, which is really interesting. Continue reading

Merchant of Venus Reprint Announced … One Time Too Many

Merchant of VenusWell, this is awkward.

Richard Hamblen’s Merchant of Venus is one of the great out-of-print holy grails of the hobby boardgame world. Originally published by Avalon Hill in 1988, copies these days will run you in the $200 range. So, it was good news when Stronghold Games announced that they had forged an agreement with Hamblen for a reprint of the game. Unless, that is, you were Fantasy Flight Games, for whom it was terrible news, since it turns out they had licensed the same rights from Hasbro (now-parent company of the defunct Avalon Hill). Continue reading

MDA Workshop at PAX Dev

PAX Dev logoLooks like I’ll be out at PAX Dev next week, helping to present the Mechanics/Dynamics/Aesthetics Workshop. This is based on Marc Leblanc’s material that I’ve been helping to teach at GDC for the last 10 years or so, but I’ve never seen it excerpted into a 3-hour slot before.

I’m filling in at the last minute, so I’m not even briefed yet on exactly how we’re treating the material. But I know Marc has done these compressed workshops before at various times, and the event is always a hit with the attendees. For me, it’s a long way to go to teach for three hours, but it should be a lot of fun.

Heigh Ho

I spent some time today doing consulting. You know, like on a commercial venture, not a personal project. So, while that certainly meets my design time goals for the day, it’s not something I can talk about.

I will say that the exercises I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks whetted my appetite for the work, but that it still took me quite a while today to start getting back into the groove. I suppose that’s to be expected after several months away. But now I’ve sunk my teeth into it, and am feeling keen to pick it up again tomorrow. It’s a good feeling.

My Turn in the GAMBIT Looking Glass interview series.

The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab’s Matthew Weise has been conducting a podcast series interviewing various alumni of Looking Glass Studios. The first two episodes featured Austin Grossman (author of Soon I Will Be Invincible) and Harmonix’s Dan Schmidt. Episode 3 is Laura Baldwin and myself, along with GAMBIT’s Sara Verrilli.

The conversation mostly centers on the Thief series, as the project we three shared. But really, we talked and talked, so the topics are all over the map.

Off to GDC

The festive advent of the Game Developers Conference is here. The conference basically starts a day early for me each year, with the pre-conference faculty meeting for the Game Design Workshop. Getting to California early is hardly an unwelcome thing after a winter in Boston.

How much time I’ll have to collect my thoughts about the conference remains to be seen. But, hey, if you happen to be here because I gave out my timstellmach.com contact information at the Workshop, then welcome!

MIT & Columbia

I’ve had a busy week for a guy who thought he was still taking the summer off.

The other day, I was at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab to record a podcast. Matthew Weise invited Sara Verrilli, Laura Baldwin and me to talk about our work at Looking Glass. As we started, I wasn’t sure whether I’d remember bygone days well enough, but that doesn’t seem to have been a problem. We ended up chatting for a good hour and a half, so I imagine someone’s got a fair bit of editing to do. I’ll post here when I found out it’s online.

As I write this, I’m on my way to Manhattan, where I’ll be guest lecturing at Columbia for Prof. Yee’s class on Game Design and Production. My material is a talk on creativity exercises, based on stuff I’ve given before at GDC. Here on the train, I’m still in the process of adapting it to their syllabus, pulling out stuff I haven’t found useful, adding stuff I have, and generally punching up at least some of the tiresome bullet-list wrongdoing it originally committed.

I’m glad I took the opportunity to relax and get in better shape since my bout of gangrene in April (yeah, gangrene; it’s not as fun as it sounds). But I’d kind of forgotten the thrill of a good intellectual workout, too.

Defense of the Oasis Released for iPad

Oasis is a crackerjack little game by my friends at Mind Control Software. The original version took home an Independent Games Festival grand prize a few years back, and I always thought it deserved wider attention. Hopefully, an all-new iPad version of the game, titled Defense of the Oasis to avoid search confusion with the English rock band, will help with that.

Defense of the Oasis screenshot

Full disclosure: I have a scenario design credit in the game, for helping to brainstorm the “Plagues of Egypt” campaign.

Final Day at LookingGlass

It’s been just over 10 years since LookingGlass Studios went out of business, and I lost my first job in the game industry. My coworker Mike Chrzanowski (two-time coworker, actually, since he’s now at Vicarious Visions) videotaped the last day of business, and has just put it up on YouTube.

I can’t help but have a mixture of reactions, of course. I thought at the time that it was odd (and Mike is very often odd, usually in a good way), but I sure am glad now that he did it. Memory is such a hazy thing, and it’s good to see all of this again.

I don’t even remember helping to come up with that puzzle that Marc Leblanc mentions, the one where you have to take the severed head to the retina scanner. I always thought that puzzle was awfully clever, and now I know why!

I’m pretty sure that’s me in the background audio of Steve Pearsall’s shot, talking about how the then-unreleased Deus Ex was going. I’d just recently taken a week’s vacation down in Austin, and had spent some time visiting Ion Storm and giving them comments on the game. Hence my “Special Thanks” appearance in the game credits.

I was so damn young! I was so happy, even with what was going on, just to have shared it with people I liked and respected so well.





Hello, I Must Be Going

The announcement just went out at work: the end of next week will be my last day at Vicarious Visions, after eight and a half years. I’m feeling excited, apprehensive, relieved, happy, sad, grateful, and adventuresome. I have some possible consulting clients I need to follow through with, some projects people have suggested, and very little pressing need of my own to do anything I don’t want to.

I’ll be keeping an eye open at PAX East this weekend, though. You never know when something interesting might turn up.