Good Grief and a Plea for Help

My ISP crashed the box where my weblog was hosted. I may have lost quite a bit
of content as well. My own fault for not having a better backup strategy.

I’ll be gradually replacing content as I recover it from various sources, so
please be patient. If you happen to use a news aggregator and have an archive
of my postings, please let me know! You might be able to help me out.

Convergence of Game and Software Design Methodology?

I read in the nimrods blog about this
article
by
Jacob Davenport, designer (or co-
designer) of some great
Icehouse games like
Pikemen and
Gnostica.

Few topics have garnered such praise and criticism as
Agile / Extreme programming (XP) over the past 4 years.
Its proponents argue that XP is a deliberate and disciplined approach to
software development, while its opponents often claim that it is nothing more
than a chaotic, shoot-from-the-hip approach that eschews formal requirements
analysis and design. The Truth is, when applied to certain classes of
projects, XP is a very attractive, effective approach that can be very
successful.

Jacob’s juxtaposition of XP on top of game design is interesting, though I
wonder what point he is trying to make. I’m not a game designer, but the two
seem so very different to me. Software methodologies exist for one primary
reason – to reduce the defects (or, to put it a different way, increase the
quality) of a software product. Usually this means bringing some formality to
how we figure out what the problem is (requirements), how we plan to solve the
problem (design), solving the problem (programming), and verifying that we
solved it (testing).

Game design isn’t so much about solving a problem as it is producing a system
for entertainment – an act of creativity. I’m not sure that any sort of
methodology would help me become a game designer. But I will concede that
Jacob’s ideas make a lot of sense around the area of game and rule refinement.
He has some nice things to say about refactoring and testing that sound
applicable to game design.

What Games Are People Playing?

Mark Jackson took some time to
summarize
what are
called “5 and 10” or “five and dime” reports culled from
spielfrieks early
this year. This was a bit late in coming, but better late than never. The
results were taken from 64 different gamers, with 5 points awarded if the
gameshowed up on their five list (played 5-9 times) and 10 points if the game
showed upon their dime list (played 10+ times). Here is a list of the top 10:

Game Points % 01 Rank 00 Rank 99 Rank
Puerto Rico 395 74% new n/a n/a
Carcassonne 355 60% 1st 24th new
Settlers of Catan 215 43% 5th 1st 3rd
Crokinole 210 37% 5th 136th 62nd
Liar’s Dice / Bluff / Perudo 200 37% 2nd 7th 8th
Transamerica 190 42% new n/a n/a
Lost Cities 150 32% 3rd 2nd 1st
Can’t Stop 125 28% 11th 7th 11th
Take 6 125 26% 33rd 15th 40th
Bohnanza 110 22% 9th 20th 16th

The games on the list clearly fall into a few distinct categories: light
filler games that people tend to play frequently (Liar’s Dice, Can’t Stop,
Transamerica, Lost Cities, Take 6) and deeper strategic games that are hugely
popular (Puerto Rico, Settlers). The game in a category by itself, dexterity
games, is Crokinole. You can put Carcassonne in either the light filler
category or deeper game depending on your preference :-).

I’ve played all of these games except for Lost Cities and Take 6. Actually
I’ve played Lost Cities online against an AI, but never in real life.

Judging from the session reports I’ve been reading so far this year, it looks
like Puerto Rico will again be at the top of the list for 2003. A few
predictions for new games that we might see in the top 10 for 2003:

Likely it will be tough to displace some of the tried-and-true fillers (like
Can’t Stop and Liar’s Dice) and classics.

Train Gaming

Took the family to Seattle for Thanksgiving weekend – it is a tradition for us
to explore some area or just go somewhere for this holiday since all of our
family is out of driving distance. This year we trusted in
Amtrak to get us to Seattle. We did this 4 years ago
(compliments of Corillian for some hard work for a
new big bank we had just signed) and thought it was time to give it another
try.

I’ll post some more photos upon return, but here are some pictures of the
gaming we’ve done this weekend. We played a few games on the train ride up
from Portland – the Cascades is
a great train ride, about 3.5 hours so not much longer than a drive and much
more relaxing. We managed to play Settlers of Catan: Travel Edition, the Monopoly card game, and a bit
of checkers. Back in the room, Matthew, Jacob and I had a great game of Wyatt
Earp
. Jacob and I have
played about 3 games of
Chrononauts so far –
he keeps requesting to play this Looney Labs game.

Gaming with the Family

After another long week of travel, I was determined to spend as many waking
hours over the weekend with Julie, Jacob, and Matthew. On Saturday, Julie and
Jacob had a Cub Scout outing for the morning and early afternoon. Matthew and
I did some Christmas shopping, had lunch and Matthew’s favorite fast food
joint (Arby’s), then came home for some fun one-on-one time. We opened up the
game closet to see what we should play – we both agreed that
Battlecards would be
a great two-player game to idle away the afternoon.

Battlecards: World Conflict, Pacific Theatre

I own each of the expansions for this game except for the newly released
North African Campaign. I
wrote a review of the first product back in March.

This game was very one-sided, with me on top for the entire game. In fact, we
didn’t even finish the game since it was clear I would prevail. The Pacific
expansion is different in that most of the battles have Pearl Harbor as a pre-
requisite. This potentially leads to quite a bit of buildup before the first
battle. Unfortunately for Matthew, I drew most of the military buildup cards.
This just shouldn’t happen – there’s a decent distribution of these cards, so
I don’t think this is a flaw in the game.

Battlecards: World Conflict, The Russian Front

Jacob arrived and saw the tail end of my game with Matthew, so we went to
battle on the eastern front. Similar result this time – I ended up winning
every battle and achieving the victory condition of > 1/2 available victory
points. Even though these games were one-sided, I still really enjoy playing
this game.

Can’t Stop

Julie, Matthew, and I played an abbreviated game of Can’t Stop before bed
time. This has become one our light favorites – very often when I come home
from work I learn that Julie has played this with the boys after coming home
from school. I won with an amazing string of high rolls on the 10 and 11
tracks.