Railroad Junctions are Hard

Closeup of Rolling Control boardToday’s project was finishing graphic design for Rolling Control, the game my team made at the Fall 2011 Cardboard Game Jam. I just want to say for the record that drawing railroad junctions is a pain in the rump.

Railroad track? No problem. Good tools exist for taking a repeating pattern and laying it along whatever curve you want (I used mostly Inkscape for the Rolling Control components). The problem is, at a junction, you can’t just overlay one track on the other, because you end up with railroad ties stacked on top of other railroad ties, which looks (A) fake and (B) busy. So it’s off to the Web to see how those things are really put together.

Luckily, there’s a fair amount of symmetry in the Rolling Control board (even after the asymmetries I threw in to avoid 3-way railroad junctions). So I did just portions of the board before mirror-imaging and rotating copies my labor intensive junctions into place.

I may be in a perfectionist frenzy, but I’m no hero.

Boston Cardboard Jam, Day 2

I’ll save the detailed report-out on the Fall 2011 Boston Cardboard Jam for after I’ve posted the game materials themselves. I volunteered to act as scribe, so I’ll be sending that stuff to the organizers later this week, and I’ll link here.

The short summary is that we focused mainly on graphic design and thematic hooks to make the game easier for players to understand. We went with a commerce theme, which did a pretty good job of providing a scaffold to hang the game concepts on.

If you’re interested in following up further, the Flickr stream of the event is up, as is the Ustream video of the final presentations. Our project starts at the 20 minute mark.

Boston Coardboard Game Jam, Day 1

Boston Game JamsI spent the whole day yesterday at the Fall 2011 Cardboard Jam. The theme for the jam is “Occupy,” whatever that word suggests to you.

I ended up joining a team with Jonathan Venezian and Ed Su. We interpreted the theme mechanically, taking cues from games (say, Acquire) where a stream of game pieces occupies the board, with play based on the structures that form. That served as the back end to a neat idea Jonathan wanted to work with in the dice/dexterity game area.

Overall, it’s going well. We had something playable quickly, and gravitated to a fairly simple but sound game (“simple” being the order of the day if you want to get in a lot of plays in the game jam format). By dinnertime the game was in fairly good shape, and we were all mentally exhausted. So we broke there.

The event starts up again bright and early this morning, and here I am up even earlier. Did I mention “exhausted?” Well, early to bed, early to rise.

Version 0.4 is Up

Version 0.4.0 of my Salta project has been posted. The first thing you’ll notice is an actual installer. Other notes:

  • The game now autosaves on exit (unless it’s in a Game Over state)
  • Sound! Only a few, but it’s a big difference.
  • The button array was getting crowded, so now there’s a separate menu screen for things that don’t need to be quite so accessible from in-game
  • Added “New Game” button, now that (because of autosave) you can’t start a new game any other way
  • Various AI changes, generally making it a bit smarter.
  • Game detects when either side is left with only disadvantageous jumps to choose from, and plays a somewhat applause-like sound in congratulations
  • Changed the way the Undo buffer works. You can no longer undo an entire game, but you can still undo plenty.
  • Implemented final scoring! It’s not particularly explained, but after the end of regular play, any side that doesn’t have all its pieces parked yet has to count the moves required to do so, taking that number as a (penalty) score.


Autofocusing Through Glass

Here’s something that any photographer would know, but I almost forgot. Check out these two shots of the same sea lion:
Before and After sea lion
I had a very obliging sea lion, you see, who seemed to like to swim laps in a certain route. So the big difference between these two shots is that the one on the left is woefully out of focus, while the one on the right is pretty much okay. This is a problem you’ll get if you use automatic focus, which (for most of the people likely to read this) you pretty much do. Continue reading Autofocusing Through Glass


End scoring demoI alluded yesterday to a problem with the way my AI ranked moves. In fact, it’s a problem with the way the whole game is scored. See, I took the rule where each side finishes parking its pieces “as if the opponent’s pieces were non-existent” and got it into my head as “as if the other pieces were non-existent.” This is one of those easier-said-than-done kind of distinctions! The latter is simply the total shortest-path distance of each piece from its destination. Easy-peasy. The real rule takes planning, which means more AI work. Continue reading 7/11

Fall 2011 Cardboard Jam Announced

Boston Game JamsBoston Game Jams is organizing their Fall 2011 Cardboard Jam this weekend, Oct. 8th and 9th. Our old friends the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab are hosting.

Clearly, it is my destiny. Board game design is not exactly my comfort zone, which seems like all the more reason to go, however much impostor syndrome may be telling me otherwise.

If you’re interested, plenty of registrations are still available as of this writing.

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