Action Go “in action”

Here’s a video demo of my latest project, Action Go, in progress. I’ve got all the code from Go-Tetris (the flash version) ported, and capture / territory counts are updating correctly. Now it just needs a bit of visual polish, a way to switch between game modes, a help / tutorial screen, and maybe some GameCenter leaderboards and achievements. There are a lot of other things on my wishlist, like score multipliers when you make more than one capture/territory at once (super easy), or one I just thought of today — a bonus/multiplier for when you clear all of one color or, better yet, the entire gameboard.

Anyway, here’s the video:

ActionGo – Quick and Dirty

I’m still trying to finish up Catchup, the board game conversion that I’ve been working on for literally about a year now. (Obviously not full-time.) But I decided the week before last to take a quick break from it and update DrawCade to support the new MFi controllers. That took me all of about three days, (the second update, version 2.1 that fixes some issues from the 2.0 update is now live, yay!) But most importantly, what I got out of those days was a wrapper that supports iCade style controllers (pretending to be bluetooth keyboards), as well as the new GCController style controllers. (The Moga Ace Power and Logitech Power Shell are the only two available at the time of this blog post, but the first Bluetooth one has also been announced, but is not yet available.)

Anyway, I promptly decided I MUST create a game that would use the new controllers. The obvious choice is to port Go Tetris to iOS. This has been on my TODO for a long time, calling it Action Go to match Action Chess, but the big holdup was that I have never been satisfied with touchscreen controls for Tetris. It can be done okay, but not great. I’ll of course have some “okay” controls in there, but now that there are some viable controller options, I’m super excited to get it playable, and decided it was worth putting Catchup off for a few weeks to do so.

I started the project a little over a week ago, and promptly spent a day getting some cool menu animations (using AGGeometryKit) in there. I made the following video:

Then I spent three days preparing some changes to my GDC speaker proposal. (Which still hasn’t been accepted, but also hasn’t — yet — been rejected.)

If we were counting today, this would be the 5th day I’ve worked on it. I’ve got the tetris aspects pretty much done, but the piece capturing and two-eye breaking aspects are not yet complete. That is the bulk of the code that needs to be “ported”, and consists of about 800 lines of ActionScript. I’m maybe an 8th of the way there. Ironically, I’ve got the touch-screen controls finished, but still need to shoehorn my shiny new controller class in there. I decided I wanted it to be playable first. I’m guessing it’ll be another week or so of work.

Root Down

icon_in_contexttl/dr: I just submitted an app version of a board game I call Root Down to the app store. The app will be free, and represents not all that much effort on my part, but if there is interest, I’d like to update it with AI and multiplayer.

What is it?

Root Down is a 2-player abstract strategy game where the main mechanic is that pieces flip from a state where they can move (kickers) to a state where they cannot move (roots) after every move. The key is that kickers must also be next to a root in order to move, and the number of spaces they move is also determined by the number of kickers next to each root. I spent an evening and adapted the game for iPad, and have now iterated on it a couple of times to the point where I think I’d like to get it out there and see if there is additional interest. There is no AI, and the game can only be played on an iPad with two players. Consequently, I can’t imagine it will get that much interest, but I still want to put it out there and see what happens.

Here are a couple of screenshots:

screenshot-1screenshot-2

(Yes, I know this looks awful! I have lost any html skills I maybe once had!)

Full Rules

The full rules for the game can be found in this public google doc.

Features

I could probably wrote an entire additional blog post about what features I decided to include and ultimately decided against including in this simple game. As I mention below, I essentially wrote the initial version of this app in an evening. Probably four hours tops. I knew I wanted to put it out there, get it in the app store, even though it’s pretty minimal in what it does. That initial version basically just had the following:

  • 2-player “pass and play” multiplayer (on the same device)
  • a rules popover
  • end-game popover with final scores

Yes, that was it. I spent another couple of hours adding the following:

  • an edit button on the game screen — This allows you to change the opening setup, and initially I thought it would be useful as a “poor man’s undo”, but it can’t undo capture counts, so it really doesn’t work for that.
  • a feedback button — This just opens the standard email popup.
  • an Abstract Puzzle logo that fades out to the home screen — This doesn’t look as good as I wanted it to, and I’m still debating pulling it from the next build. The problem is that I didn’t have a version of the logo with a transparent background, and the black on red ended up just looking okay, but not great.

App Store Submission

Apple rejected the first version because they didn’t like this bit in my app description: “This is an app experiment. There is no AI (yet), nor are there the other typical bells and whistles usually present in iOS board game conversions. If there is interest, I plan to add an interactive tutorial, asynchronous multiplayer, an AI to play against, universal (iPhone) support, and whatever other features are requested.” I removed all of that, and replaced it with a call to use a “submit feedback” button on the app’s menu.

Subsequently, (this morning), I found a bug in the end-game scoring. I’ll be rejecting the binary, and resubmitting in the next hour or so.

History / Backstory

A month or so ago, Christian Freeling (creator of Mindsports) started a contest on BGG in the Abstract Strategy forums concerning “activator” games, or games with pieces that “activate” other pieces. The idea percolated in my brain a bit, and suddenly I found myself on the floor with my copy of Card Chess, playtesting an idea or two.

I got enamored enough with the game that I wrote up the rules, and wanted to post them on BGG to get feedback, but I didn’t have a name. I started thinking about the pieces in my game that activate, and how they sort of put out tentacles to the pieces next to them, kind of like roots on a tree. Eventually the Beastie Boys’ Root Down popped into my head, and the name was set. Eventually I re-wrote the rules to incorporate “roots” and “kickers”, and “kicking it root down” from the lyrics of that song. I think it works pretty well, actually, for an otherwise themeless abstract. Eventually, I did post the game to BGG. I have also submitted the game to the actual BGG database, where it is pending approval.

A 4X Dice Game

dice-pnpThis project came about while I was joking yesterday afternoon with my friend Patrick about how we needed to rush a space-themed dice game to Kickstarter before TMG publishes Eminent Domain Dice.

I’m still working on my deckbuilding 4X game, so 4X mechanics have been on my mind a lot lately, and the more I thought about it, the more I actually thought a 4X dice game could be pretty cool. Right away I had the idea that you would take your actions at the beginning of your turn, then roll the dice to plan out your next turn’s actions. From there, the game practically wrote itself.

I went to BGG to post my rough draft of the rules (without any graphics or pnp files), and before I got that far, I discovered that the theme for this month’s 24 hour game design contest is dice. Well, that seemed awfully convenient, but reading through the rules, I’d have to do everything myself, prototype art and all… so I did.

The other thing I did for this project that I’ve never done before, because I think it’s part of the “complete board game package”, is that I wrote some “flavor text”. I’m actually pretty happy with it too. Here’s probably my favorite bit: “What gravity at the edge of a black hole, this calculating weight of choice?”

So without further ado, here are the rules (and PNP pages, including custom dice in two sizes), for my new game, which I am tentatively calling 4X Dice.

deck building with standard playing cards

I posted a set of rules on BGG this morning for an idea I had for a deck building game with standard playing cards. The game was specifically envisioned for the 2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest. I think the idea could be expanded to a multiplayer game, but I haven’t done too much thinking about that yet. This was partly inspired by the contest, and also partly inspired by this neat RPG I found (also on BGG) called 52 Card Adventure (also playable with standard playing cards). Anyway, here my rules are, reposted here for posterity:

Object
Acquire all cards into your deck in as few turns as possible

Setup
You start with 10 cards in your deck, (all 2s & 3s, and two 4s). Also set asside the other 4s and two 5s for scoring. Shuffle the rest of the cards and lay out five of them (the lineup) for purchasing.

Turn overview
A turn consists of the following steps:

  • increment your score/turn counter (see scoring below)
  • draw 5 cards and use them to acquire other cards
  • put all the cards used, unused, or acquired in your discard pile
  • refresh the lineup back up to five cards

Gameplay details
Draw 5 cards from your deck each turn and buy cards using the values of the cards you’ve drawn. For example, you may buy a 10 of clubs by paying a 9 of diamonds and two of clubs. You do not get “change” for your purchase and the same card may never be used to buy more than one card.

You may only buy a card if you are using at least one card of the same suit.

If you buy a card using its exact value (a 6 using two 3s, for example), you may acquire another card from the lineup without paying anything for it. The “same suit” rule does not apply to the free card acquired in this way.

You may acquire as many cards from the lineup in a turn as you can afford/acquire.

Face cards (J, Q, K) may be acquired by paying their value (11, 12, 13), or (more likely) with the free card after an exact payment. When they are in your hand they may be used as their value (11, 12, 13), or you may discard them to draw additional cards from your deck. A Jack lets you draw one card, Queen two cards, and King three cards.

An ace may only be acquired as the free card from an exact value payment. Thus if the last card to be acquired is an ace and there are no other cards remaining in the lineup or lineup deck, this is the only way to lose the game. When an ace is in your hand, you may use it to acquire any card from the lineup regardless of suit or cost (other than an ace).

Scoring
Right now, your score is simply the number of turns it takes you to acquire all the cards in the lineup deck.

Lay a 4 and a 5 face-up near (but separate from) the play area. Place the other 4 and 5 face-down on top of them. The 4s are your “tens” counter and 5s are for 1s. On the first and subsequent turns, reveal one of the suit symbols on the face-up 5 by moving the face-down 5 on top of it. When you get to 5, flip the face-down 5 to face-up, and cover the other suit symbols. For six, move the top face-up card to revelal another symbol, etc.

(I hope this is explained well enough. I cannot take credit for this, as it’s how my family has scored euchre for years.)

Feedback desired
I’ve played through this a bunch of times (best score was 12). I think the scoring is the weakest part right now. Definitely looking for ideas on how to improve that.

ActionChess 1.7 Release Notes

new-iconActionChess 1.7 has been submitted to the app store. It’s a very minor release, and here are the notes:

* fixed leaderboard submission for Highest Level Reached
* new app icon courtesy of John Grider (http://brokencrow.com/)
* updated default graphics and one or two other minor changes

I hope you like the new icon, I really dig it!

Global Game Jam 2013 – Introducing “Heart Burn”

Here is my submission for this year’s global game jam: Heart Burn. Much like last year’s Global Game Jam, I wasn’t in attendance for all that much of the weekend after Friday night. But while I was there on Friday night, I made up a quick 25 card deck using colored post-it notes and a calligraphy pen. There were five colors and five “symbols”. You can see them in this image.

original_sm

Already August, (who I collaborated with for the first time on last year’s game jam game Eat Thyself), has come up with some better looking artwork, and he and I are planning on working together to polish up the app’s look and feel, and possibly publish it to the app store.

The concept and rules are quite simple: An iPhone app (code created during the game jam is up on bitbucket) will tell the players both whose turn it is to play, and what cards they can play. The game uses the “No cheating (please)” diversifier, which means that you’re basically on your honor not to cheat and play when it isn’t your turn or not to play the wrong cards. And it needs that diversifier, because, at least as it plays right now, the game is far too fast-paced to pay attention to anyone else’s cards!

About halfway through the weekend, I decided I should make the game playable without the custom cards, so I spent most of my time on Sunday making it work with a standard Euchre deck. If we release the app, it’ll have a setting to play it either way.

Here’s a clip on youtube of the game being played at the gamejam.

Announcing Ketchup the iOS app

I have been pretty quiet on here about what I’ve been up to lately. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been reluctant to announce my next project. I think part of it is that it’s a very simple game, and it’s that age-old fear that someone else is going to make it before you do. Sure, there may be some valid precedent for that, but it’s a silly thing to get hung up about.

So anyway, my next project is an iOS version of Ketchup, a very simple (deceptively simple) abstract board game created by Nick Bentley. Ketchup is already playable in a few different places on the web (more about that later), but I think at least a couple of the planned features will give folks who already play it somewhere else a reason to pick it up for their phones or iPads. Those reasons are a very strong AI (in development by Tysen Streib, who worked on For The Win with me), and asynchronous multiplayer via GameCenter. The AI is already TOO good, (a problem we also had on For The Win) and one of the challenges we have yet to tackle is how best to make it interesting to play against at all levels of difficulty. Ideally, I want to have some kind of automatic scaling of difficulty so that it attempts to play at or just above your level, always giving you a challenge, but not making it impossible for you to win. I’m not yet sure the best way to do this, so there is probably a lot of work left in that department.

Another area that is still pretty undeveloped is the user interface. The game is totally playable right now (and as of last week, asynchronously as well), but the interface needs a lot of love. These two items combined mean there is probably another few weeks worth of work left on the game’s development. (As with my previous personal projects, I’m balancing this with freelance work too.)

Recently, someone posted on reddit about another web-based version of Ketchup they’d created. (The other playable versions are on Mindsports and igGameCenter.) Part of my motivation for writing this post is because there was a mention of interest on Reddit in a mobile version, and I wanted to reply to that. (So if you’re coming from Reddit, hello!)

Promo Codes for Oppo-Citrus

I have some promo codes for my latest game, Oppo-Citrus that I’d like to give away to anyone who reads this.

Just leave a comment on this post, (and maybe double check to make sure your email is correct), and I’ll email you a promo code. If you’d rather not comment, that’s fine too, just send an email to promocodes [at] abstractpuzzle dot com, and I’ll reply with a code as soon as I get it.

UPDATE: promo codes are gone. Thanks.

For The Win is out now!

For The Win is out now and on sale at launch for only $.99 in the App store!

For The Win is probably the most ambitious game project I’ve ever worked on, and represents months of hard work. Surprisingly, I’m not even sick of playing the game, and supporting the project means there is a better chance that I’ll be able to add asynchronous multiplayer (and a universal version) in an update in the near future. The game is already packed with features, including five different AI personalities, with three levels of difficulty each, GameCenter leaderboards for number of games played and won against each AI difficulty. You can quit and resume your game at any time, (great for pass-and play games), and it’s easy to name the players and customize their colors and avatars.

I think it’s well worth a buck, so go download For The Win now!