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How King Steven’s Games Almost Died Part 1

Hello blog, my old friend!

I haven’t updated this website in almost a year. I think it’s time I posted something, right?

A LOT has happened over the year. I’m in my last semester of school, started a You Tube Channel, my novel is almost done being edited, and I have been coming up with a ton of new game ideas. But it hasn’t been all sun-shine and rainbows. In fact, I also on the edge of closing down this whole “King Steven’s Games” idea. I have been teasing my mind with self-publishing my games for 3 years now, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing.

But that has been my own doing. I haven’t tried a kickstarter, I have only been sending out a game for evaluation about twice a year, and I have been slacking on the social media aspect. I began to blame myself for it. I would say, “I see all these new companies come in after me, and they already have a successful kickstarter! I’m so lazy…” And then sit in self-loathing for a weekend. I think this is what many of us ambitious people do – we push ourselves to the break and if we fail we wonder what we did wrong? How many times have you said to yourself, “If I only had done this…” or “Why did I do this instead of that??” Then welcome to the family of Over-Thinkers.

It wasn’t until I began following Kickstarter-advice facebook pages that I began to notice a pattern. Most kickstarters have a team of people (at least 2 or more). So I eventually posted my issue by asking the question: how much time does everyone spend in getting a kickstarter ready before launching?

Come to find out, some people spend years. When I talked about my schedule: 40 hour per week job, school part time getting a masters… people responded back saying that those two things alone is enough to make it too hard to ever give a good kickstarter campaign. You see, most people split up the workload among teammates, and the really good campaigns are usually done by people without jobs. They then encourage that I continue making games but seek out publishers to partner with.

That made me feel TONS better. I thought I was being lazy, but nope, just like I posted in the last blog post about too many ideas and keeping the plates spinning – that is exactly what was happening to me. This was a great relief.

Still, I wondered to myself if all of this was worth it? I already have a job, and soon a promotion (Lord willing!), so why struggle with this whole concept of King Steven’s Games? The answer is simple, I have ideas I want to share so that others can enjoy them too. But up until now, my ideas produced zero results. No revenue, no publications, no recognition. But then a miracle happened…

But this has gone on long enough, I’ll publish it in the next post. Until then, Keep on playing!

Take a Pick-Axe to Business!

One valuable business lesson I learned can also be applied to anything in life – from game design problems to arguments on Facebook. “PPPICACC” (pronounced “Pick-Axe”), it is an acronym for reminding yourself how to enhance your critical thinking skills. In short, it teaches you how to process a problem from everyone’s point of view then solve the problem that benefits everyone. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can always come back for a refresher! Here is what it stands for:
Points of View: Did you seek out and identify all relevant perspectives for the situation being evaluated? If you don’t consider every perspective, you may miss out on important, relative, information.

 

Purposes: For each point of view, did you explore and understand what you and the others want to accomplish and care about? In other words, did you dig deeper than just the surface of what they want, and do you really understand what you and the other parties want? If not, then you should continue asking questions until you fully understand. A good way to make sure you are all on the same page.

 

Problems: Did you formulate the problem or challenge from more than one point of view? Remember: A problem for you may not be a problem for someone else.

 

Information: Did you gather sufficient, accurate, and relevant information to solve the issue? If you don’t have enough information or the wrong information you may never come to a good conclusion, or you may all end up agreeing but to a bad idea. It is also essential to research information that opposes your solution/approach as well. Two reasons, first is it will help you reach a good conclusion that will be more likely to succeed. Second, this way when others come to disagree with you, you can have the information you need to explain how it is a good idea and address their concerns.

 

Concepts: Did you identify and explain the main concepts used as part of the formulation or solution approach? If you give a solution without re-stating what the solution is supposed to solve, then you may end up accidentally coming up with a solution that in reality doesn’t make sense. Plus it clears any confusion others might have ~ the other parties may think the solution is supposed to solve one thing, but in reality you mean for it to solve something else. This prevents a lot of unnecessary arguments.

 

Assumptions: These kill the potential for good conversations. So when you make business cases, marketing strategies, perform analyst, etc. always state what your assumptions are within your idea. Then ask yourself, “Did I question the validity of these assumptions?”,  “Did I examine the assumptions that allowed me to eliminate particular solutions?”, “Did I justify or can I justify otherwise hidden assumptions in the development of my solution?”

 

Conclusions: Is your solution clear and supported by logical deductions so that people can understand your approach? Is it consistent with your earlier points/inferences?

 

Consequences: One of the most important and probably hardest is: what are the potential positive and negative long-run consequences of your solution? This can be easily skewed by biases. I can’t tell you all how many times I’ve seen people come up with inconsistent ideas or presentations just to end it with, “As a result we are certain to succeed with little to no chance of failure.” This is because when we think of solutions and come up with one – of course we don’t think it will end up badly, it’s our solution! That is when you have to look at people’s incentives. Ask yourself, “If I was the other person, and I saw this solution/strategy get implemented, how would I respond?” And if you want to plan for worst case scenarios, just assume the other parties are going to be as profiteering as possible.

I’ll write more about how to think of incentives of others and better come up with possible consequences, but that will be for another day.
As for right now, just keep on playing!

Pixel Pop Success!!

Pixel Pop St. Louis was last weekend and I am still recovering from all the excitement. There are so many creative people in our area!  There were a lot of video games, but that only helped our booth stand out as we were one of the few non-video game companies there.

We demoed our flagship product World of Anastroc, and another brand new board game (which I cannot say what it is atm).

Needless to say World of Anastroc was well received by the public. I got to demo the game to someone who had never played a trading card game before and he understood all the rules within a few minutes and went on to beat me! That was exciting because it showed that my goal of making a simple yet challenge trading card game worked.

What really surprised me was our newest game. I wanted to demo it out and get feedback, this was the perfect place to do it. It attracted many people to play our games, while just making other people laugh that it exists (in a good way). Let me put it like this, I’m a numbers guy, and I kept track of how many played which game, this game got played more than DOUBLE of Anastroc!

We also gave away a bunch of stuff, we gave away food for beating the demoers (which I could have advertised better; live and learn). And a cool T-Shirt of Machine Emperor X! It made my day when several gamers came back to try to win the drawing; particularly one young gentleman who came back several times. Ironically he also won the shirt, which made his day.

I think my biggest success from the event was when I saw people laughing and enjoying the games I created. When I demoed about my umpteenth time, I was getting to the point of saying, “Look…I win…yay…can we be done now?” But then I realized that while the flavor of the game got stale with me, these people were tasting it for the first time, and they were loving it! That was motivational. It also helps when people say they would buy it in a heartbeat if possible.

While I love making profit through sales, it was really just seeing everyone having a good time that made the hard work and investment worth it. That is why I will continue to do what I can to make this company great.

Pixel Pop Time!

Big news! I will be hosting my first vendor booth at Pixel Pop St. Louis this weekend! September 12th-13th!

I have had very little time to focus on this event because of sooooo many life changing events happening recently! I got a new full time job, going back to school for my masters, and still working on games and trying to get this business running into high gear. I had no idea running a business would be so hard. If you really want a well functioning business you have to devote your entire evening to it sometimes for weeks at a time, and then you will have moments where there is nothing to do but wait for weeks at a time.

Lesson: Never start a business without a back up plan, or at least another source of income. If you do so anyway, then you better stay creative!
I hope to see all of you at the Pixel Pop event! I will be demoing some of my games, including a brand new one only a week old! Not to mention giving away a cool T-Shirt! Posted here:

Machine Emperor X T-Shirt

First of our many T-Shirts to come!

Back Story – Back Story – Back Story

To quote a wise man:

“The Back Story is the why he does what he do.” –Dr. Doofenshmirtz (evil scientist from Phineas and Ferb)

Although a fictional character, the line is genuine. It is important in games to have back stories if you want your players to be drawn in for years to come. Many games base themselves on simple concepts such Clue (figure out who killed the host, where, and how), some games go into great detail such as Magic: The Gathering, where they actually produce novels to go with each set of cards they print. This gives the players a sense of what is happening, why they are doing what they are doing, and what to expect.

 

In my Summoners the Board Game, the story is very simple, you are a wizard, you don’t like competition, go eliminate that competition.  In my World of Anastroc TCG, it is founded on a story that feels like it is ages old now, with so many plot twists that even Alexander the Great would have issues. That what leads to this post today, the importance of back stories but also to smart on how to use them. For example, in World of Anastroc TCG, I need to be able to get across to the players what is happening in the world at that current moment, and be able to guide them gently through what is happening during the time of the set. So in the first set “Beginnings” I designed it to act like a prequel to what the real story is about to be about.

 

This means the Necromancer is introduced and the destruction of the Land of Chaos. Also that there is tension between Representative Malgear and the other 8 Representatives. It gives hints about an “Oskota Clan” but doesn’t go into detail because they really are not important at that time. Machine Emperor X is the boss of machines (and a self-obsessive jerk) which I think is made clear in his flavor texts. The Forest Council is having issues of losing a bunch of land, but it doesn’t say to whom. What we can be sure of though is that a young elf named Fysi is up to something (this is made bluntly when you see she is the only Minion that cost a star fragment).

Lucky for me, setting up the back story for the game was easy because I have thought about it so many dozens of times and began to write short stories about them. What is more challenging is the set “Fate Begins” which goes into:

Tthe Necromancer’s failure to invade the Republic because Archi warned the Representatives about him, and told them how to defeat the evil sorcerer. But the only reason why they took Archi’s advice is because Malgear betrayed the rules of the Republic which is, no action can be made by the Representatives without certain majority of approval; Malgear saw how long it would take for the other 8 to discuss the matter and knew the Necromancer would win if such time was wasted.

This lead the 8 to be angry at Malgear, not just for breaking the law but also for showing them up. So with the advice of their advisers and the Order of Agnatia, they arrested Malgear on accounts of treason. Archi and the gang busted Malgear out of jail, fled to the towns he saved where he would be safe by popularity. However, Herna and her son Tor were captured in the process then held for ransom ~ Malgear for the two of them. The 8 were hoping Archi would betray Malgear in order to save his friends. Instead, Archi went to the Necromancer, begged for help, in which the Necromancer agreed if afterwords, Archi would provide him with 10,000 corpses. Archi agreed.

The Necromancer invaded the capital so Archi could save his friends. Little did they know the Oskota Clan was in that same capital, so they fought against the Necromancer’s invasion. He killed 3 leaders one of which was Grimtasha. The Republic was about to fall until Cardinal Frederik cast one final spell and vanquished the undead army. Archi, Herna, and Tor were able to escape. As for Archi’s end of the deal, he provided the Necromancer with 10,000 corpses ~ all of which were dead rats. 

This doesn’t even touch what is going on in the Machine Empire or the Forest Council! Can you see the challenge? The way to work it out is by making the cards with the most flavor text commons, and have their effects reflex the comment. This way the player is more likely to get the key cards to your story line. If the player cares enough they will begin to piece the story puzzle together; if they don’t, well at least you made a funny card which they can enjoy.

More on this another time. Until then, keep on playing and stay productive!

Always have a Backup Plan – But Not Too Many!

You know the biggest mistake villains seem to always make? They never have a plan B in life.

The common bad-guy puts all of his eggs into one basket, then some goodie-to-shoe comes over and knocks over the whole thing! What does the villain do? Cry and cry until he dies or goes to jail. Although those are just fiction stories they do deliver a lesson: be smarter than the average villain, always have a plan B in life.

Throughout my life I have always had a big dream, an end goal for my legacy before I die, now how I get to that point is a mystery. That is why I always am coming up with ideas for how to achieve this dream. Along the way many of them failed, evolved, or (on the off chance) succeeded so then I could focus on the next step. But my point is that as the world reacts to your actions you must have a plan B (and if you can a C never hurts).

So for example, lets say you want to become a Digital Artist for a gaming company, then when you begin to look at how to achieve that goal, you should also be thinking, “What if this doesn’t end up being what I want? What if in 2 years I want to change my mind? Or what if the market chances and it becomes a struggle to get this job, what do I do then?” With this thinking process in the back of your mind, you should keep an open door for alternative paths, say that during college you meet someone who wants to give you an internship…as a secretary at his gaming company! Not exactly your dream job, but you say, “Thank you for the offer. I would be happy to. But just to be clear, when I am done with college I would like to try to start as a Digital Artist as that is what I am studying.” And he would probably say, “I completely understand! That is why I want to give you this job, so to get your foot in the door and meet our artist department.”

Now even if you don’t get to work for them as a digital artist in the future, you will at least be able to put down that company as someone you did work for, and it might evolve into working for a different company at a job more suited to what you are wanting. Or if the market is bad (like it is today), then it will mature into a really good full playing job. This makes it an excellent plan B.

A year ago I left my retail job of 8 or so years to work for a great paying job where the President of the company knew me very well. I could have dropped my retail job all together, but I really enjoyed it, respected the owner of the company, and wanted to keep doors open. So for the following year I worked for both companies, the retail job was a good Plan B should my new job not work out. After a year of trying to adjust and listening to many different advices from non-bias sources, I decided to leave that job and go back to my first job. My pay at the small business is 2/3rd of that great paying job (and soon to be 1/3rd after Christmas), but my job description was upgraded to Business Consultant; a dream position to me. I might be eating ramen noodles instead of steak every night, but at least I’m much happier. I was glad to have that Plan B.

And even now I have more plans in the works to keep my income up, but I cannot rest with just one, so I have several of them. Now the down side to having back-up plans is you end up with too many options! It is like trying to spin plates. The more plats you have, the more impressive you are to people but the harder it is to keep them all spinning. It makes for very little free time and everyday you end up exhausted even if you didn’t really do much. This is a tough lesson I’m learning right now myself.

Solution? Restrain yourself to only having so many projects, then zoom in and focus on those projects. When new opportunities come along, weigh it not based on itself but based on how it compares to your current projects. If you are like me you will see the potential in many many things which makes you want to pursue every idea out there. Do that and you will fail at all your projects (they will never get done).

Last thing I would say is stay realistic to what you can and cannot do, you are not superman, but you still have talents. Find them, focus on them, and stay organized.

Till next time!

-King Steven

Phone now with internet?!

Ever have those times where you come up with something really awesome to share, so awesome that you want to post it somewhere that will be remembered forever and seen by all? Well that is what the internet is for! The best part is that even if you want to take it back later on, you can’t! : D

The only down side is being where the internet is so you can post it before you forget about it; I’m the worst at that, so I did my homework, asked a few friends, did a little bit of soul searching and meditation, but finally decided to accept the internet on my phone. This means no matter where I am at, I can share those amazing, half-thought threw comments on facebook, twitter, google+, you tube, and of course my own site!

Lets just hope I don’t become one of those people that posts everything!

 

Twitter: This morning, I had bacon!…Why won’t people follow my tweets?! #BaconLover #Ranting

I Was Set Up! ~ How the Board Set Up Came to Be

Today I thought I would talk about how the four player chess set up came to be.

When I first show Four Player Chess a lot of people ask about the board set up, especially the Rooks, Bishops, and Knights.Every time I have to tell them, “There is a reason!” Then without going into all the history of trial and error with different set ups and rules over the decade(s) I like to outline the logistics of it; however, believe it or not the set up that is played by today is basically the same set up I came up with when I first made the idea in 7th grade. Turned out my 12 year old self was on the ball and didn’t even realize it.

Below is a side by side comparison between my younger self’s reasoning when first invented, and my reasoning today as to why I would keep it that way:

 

The Rook in the corner:

Young Me:
The rook is in the corner because in regular chess, the rook is in the corner. Obviously.

Old(er) Me:
When people sit down to a game they like familiarity. If it is something completely new they might be turned off to it before they can learn how much fun it really is. A mentor of mine taught me that every game needs three things, comfort, surprise, and completion. This satisfied the ‘comfort’ part of the game. Everyone who knows chess knows the rooks always start in the four corners of the board, so when they sit down to play the first time it doesn’t look that scary to learn. Not to mention, it helps with making set up easy to remember.

 

The Bishops & Knights, and how only half the players get one or the other:


Young Me:

I did think about letting people choose, but that got too complected, and I wanted both sides to have at least 1 Bishop and 1 Knight thus half the players get one, half get the other.

Not-As-Young Me:
Going first in chess isn’t that big of an advantage, the same is true about Bishops vs Knights. There is a reason why they are the same points on the grading scale (three points for each capture). The only difference about them is playing style. Which is ok, that is why if you don’t like Bishops, then sit on the side with the Knight, and vice-versa.

The other trick is that now players are forced to coordinate with each other better. With two Bishops it was very easy to double team. Turns out that although 1 Bishop vs 1 Knight is equal; 2 Bishops vs 2 Knights, Bishops are way better. This is why I changed it so that there is a set assignment of Bishops and Knights: allows people to choose their fancy, and it forces players to work together without 2 Bishops.

If players can’t decide, or placement is random, that is where that 2nd element of every game kicks in: Surprise. Now you have to be proficient in both pieces just in case you don’t get the side you were hoping to play.

 

King and Queen:

Young Me:

King needs to be far away from everyone, but I need the Rook in the corner, so he will go as far back as he can. And the Queen is way too powerful, so she needs to be 3rd to the corner while another piece blocks her from escaping too early.

Wise-Old(ish) Me:

King needs to be far away from everyone, but I need the Rook in the corner, so he will go as far back as he can. And the Queen is way too powerful, so she needs to be 3rd to the corner while another piece blocks her from being used too early.

 

Four Pawns facing the opponent’s side:

Young Me:

Need a Pawn in front of each piece. What’s wrong with that?

 

Today Me:

The Pawns in front of each piece follows the same guidelines from my mentor: Comfort. We are use to Pawns protecting our men. Makes sense.

The reason why there are no Pawns on the side of the army is because it makes the game board way too cluttered. Not to mention makes the game far longer than needs be. The idea is for the game to be fun, and fighting tooth and nail to get through a wall of Pawns isn’t fun (not to my play group at least).
It also opened up for more strategies for the player such as, “Should I open with moving my Pawns, or my Bishop?” Or even if you were the aggressor, “Should I move my Pawn up two this turn just to threaten my opponent’s Pawn? Can he stop me?” Really as a player you want options, the tricky thing about game designing for things like this is as you allow more options for 1 player, you allow them for all players (assuming you are wanting to remain symmetrical).

 

But why have the armies facing each others sides?:

Young Me:
Where else am I going to put the pieces? Next to each other, or starting on the center of the board?

 

Just-Having-To-Accept-My-Old-Age Me:
The sides just made the most sense. I tried the idea of putting them all in the corners, but that required the pieces to change how they can move so that way they can just spread out fairly. Also tried putting a player in the middle, but it made it to advantageous for the players along the side to simply rush the middle player. On top of it all, it kept the board’s turn symmetry (besides the Bishop vs Knight), which made it extremely easy to set up. You felt like you were just setting up a regular game with half the army.

Granted, the board could have been set up with both teams starting on the same side and marching forward together, but this way was just so much fun! The idea that the only way a White player would get to the end of the board was by physically ripping through the starting position of a Black player forced the players to concentrate on their defense while also having to focus on keeping the pressure on their opponent which they can take the advantage of. This created a new way of thinking never before in regular two player chess. In two player you just march forward making sure to leave no gaps, and leaving no piece unprotected by another piece. Here you literately start with a two-front war; the exciting part is so does your opponents!

This ensures that every game ends in a memorable explosion of strategy.