@lewpuls on twitter
I was at PrezCon, will be at WBC, will be at GenCon as an "Industry Insider Guest of Honor", will not be at Origins.
I will have games to playtest, of course.
I'm interested in talking with people about the nature of game design. (Which can be really interesting, believe me.) You don't need to be an expert, you don't even need to be a game designer, because the players are more important than the designers . . .
I'll be doing my usual talk at WBC ("Lew Pulsipher's Annual Game Design "Seminar"). As much as I can say (and hear) about game design in the time people want to listen (two hours plus, usually). Since my book that's strictly about game design has been published, I'll focus more this year on the business of game licensing and marketing, including protection of intellectual property. And a bit about self-publishing. Thursday, 1600 (4 PM), Hopewell.
At GenCon: all in ICC 242, scheduled for 1 hour (though I'll stay longer if the room is available)
Game Design Business: Getting the Attention of Publishers 8/15/2013 7:00:00 PM
Game Design Business: Protecting your Intellectual Property 8/16/2013 3:00:00 PM
Game Design Business: Publishing (and Funding) 8/17/2013 1:00:00 PM
Of Course You Can Design a Game, But Can You Design a Good One? 8/18/2013 10:00:00 AM
Again, I won't be at Origins this year.
Britannia Third Editions
I have spent a great deal of time testing the full Historical Version of the new edition, which is a "more accurate" representation of history than past editions. The Introductory version of that game is much quicker, a "freeform" version. But the versions that will likely attract the most people are a short (as little as 1:24 in non-solo testing) version and a diceless (2-3 hour) version, which I expect to be sold as separate games. Discussion of testing is at the Eurobrit Yahoo Group.
Dragon Rage, which is distributed in the USA exclusively through GameSalute, is available at Amazon with Super Saver (free) shipping for the list price of $75.
Game Designers Survey results
Results of my game designers' survey are in my blogs, e.g. http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2013/04/2012-13-game-designer-survey-results.html
Game design book
From ARBA vol 44 p. 16 (final sentence): "Although a single book cannot substitute for education in game creation or practice, this book provides useful tips and resources for game designers and those interested in entering the field." This is another professional, subscription only journal so I cannot provide a URL (I got a non-convertible PDF from my publisher).
Pages 25 ff in Diplomacy World #121 (April '13) contains Jim Burgess' rather stream-of-consciousness review of the book, as related to the game Diplomacy. Diplomacy World has been the flagship magazine of Diplomacy fandom for over 30 years, and recently under editor Doug Kent is a massive quarterly free download at http://www.diplomacyworld.net/. I was active in the hobby in the 70s, and have designed more published Diplomacy variants than anyone, I think.
From March 2013 Choice Online Reviews: by A. Chen, Cogswell College: "Summing up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and two-year technical program students in game design programs and professionals/practitioners." (An image of this was sent to me by McFarland. I don't have a URL - I think Choice, a journal for academics, is subscription-only.)
New (7 Feb 13) review by Michael Fox at Little Metal Dog Show (a well-known UK game blog). "Rather than having someone standing in front of you, telling you what to do to move on, Lewis’ writing feels more like he’s sitting by you, making helpful suggestions on how to get out of sticky design issues and encouraging you to think your way through the stages of your game."
Book review - Game Design by Joe Huber (3 Dec 12). "So summing it all up, Game Design does an excellent job of providing a path to become an effective game designer."
Review: Lewis Pulsipher’s ‘How to Design Epic Games' by David Bolton. (Yes, he knows the actual title.) "If you want to design games, as opposed to just produce them, this is a great book. It hits the ground running, though you’ll need to read it quite a few times for everything to sink in. . ."
From a reader review on Amazon.co.uk: "There is scarcely a spare word in this book, and that's a good thing. You know the author is not wasting your time because he is not wasting his. . . . He gets to the point: "You want to make games, Johnny? The only way to do it is to do it". I know it seems obvious, but sometimes you just need to be told, and it's refreshing not to feel that the author is winking at you like they have a secret which they've promised to share and never do. I did not feel that this author held anything back, and now I have something really extraordinary on my shelf: a textbook that's not only become my go-to reference, but also an inspiration - believe it or not, it's exciting!"
Regulator Bookshop (Durham, NC) has an ebook version for $17.99. Likely other independent bookshops - see Indibound.org.
The book is available in a "Nook Book" (ebook) edition from Barnes & Noble for $13.74.
The book is available in a Kindle edition for $14.74 (compared to $38.00 for the paperback). Kindle is Amazon's format, but with a free app you can read Kindle books on PCs.
You may know that you can get a free PC program that lets you read (and buy) Kindle books. I don't know if something of the same kind is available for eBooks.
Books-a-Million are offering eBook copies of my book at $28.65. eBook is the standard for e-readers other than Amazon's Kindles. The PDF version is no longer listed. (At my latest visit I see that BaM says the book is PDF, but a commenter on Joe Huber's review (3 Dec) says it is an eBook format, not PDF.)
I have no seen a copy of either of these formats. Something to keep in mind for future contracts, getting a copy of the electronic versions.
Table of Contents and excerpts:
The first 27 pages, and page 268, of my book are readable on Google Books.
Excerpt on GameCareerGuide: A systematic view of game design
Excerpt on GameCareerGuide: What Makes A Game 'Epic' Or Even 'Great'
The book is now being offered by some small sellers for less than the majors are selling it for (paper version).
It's available in the UK from Amazon UK and Waterstones.com.
"Dear Mr. Pulsipher,
Just finished your book on tabletop and video games and it was awesome! I appreciate all the great advice and the realistic expectation level it sets for designers. The supporting website is so helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this book and sharing your knowledge and experience.
"I found your book to be very useful Lewis because it doesn't have a one size fits all approach. There are a range of issues to consider and solutions offered for a variety of challenges in game design. I was able to check issues I'd come up against in my game design and find either that I had approached things in one of your recommended ways (due to intuition or collective consideration by our game dev group), or you gave me new ideas to try or things to check.
Over all this a great generalist game design book for tabletop games." Kim Brebach (This is a post on a boardgame site. The book is a video game design book first, tabletop second.)
Use in class
Scott Nicholson wrote recently to let me know that "I've decided to adopt your game design book as my primary text in my 'Transformative Game Design' class I'm teaching in the spring at Syracuse University. I reviewed a wide variety of game design texts, and found yours to be the best for what I need!
Thanks, Scott. The book is "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish". Dr. Scott Nicholson is an Associate Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and the director of the Because Play Matters game lab. He's well known for "Board games with Scott". Transformative games are games intended to change the player in some significant way.
Outside the USA
People outside the USA might consider using Book Depository to order, as they have free shipping to about 50 countries. I have not used it myself but see references to it.
I am using twitter occasionally now, and will use it more in the future. I am @lewpuls.
Intentions versus Actions (in Game Design). A warning for new game designers
Maintenance based economies vs. "accumulation" economies OR Economic "Limits"
Review: Atlas of World Military History
Six words about game sequels
Abstractions and plans for new edition(s) of Britannia
Observations about changes in game distribution (and publishing)
How to be taken seriously by publishers (more cautionary advice)
Comparing this year’s game conventions
Interface (and other) game design lessons from a rental car
Review: Gratuitous Space Battles
I have to apologize for a snafu at GenCon. I didn't get tickets for my Sunday talks (you get tickets for talks you attend, and I thought the speakers were getting a list for talks they were giving, but I got none). Not having anything in writing, I relied on memory, and remembered the room as 210 (where seminars are most commonly held, and which was available). I was not on the list of the door-opening lady, however, and no one turned up at 210. I checked the other rooms where seminars are commonly held, and couldn't find anyone. Looking at my email now I see that the talks were scheduled for 201 (wherever that is, I cannot recall seeing it), not 210. So I probably stood up several people, which is very frustrating.
New edition of Britannia
After sales of 16,000 the FFG version of Britannia has sold out (though it's still available in some stores, FFG has no more). I've received a notification from FFG that the contract is terminated. So I have been looking for another publisher for a revised edition, and have two strong candidates.
The plan for the new editions of Britannia - don't forget that plans don't always work out - is that there are several versions. The standard version that has been available in the past will be changed more than I anticipated when I started out two months ago, primarily to make it work better as a way of teaching/understanding British history - to make it closer to reality, if you will. In the process the game has changed some, which I also think will be interesting for players. In particular I've eliminated some things that I strongly dislike. First, it won't be possible for the Romans to make a deal with the Welsh, who then submit although never touched. This time, they Will Fight. Second, it won't be possible for a "starving army" to commit virtual suicide by making a bad-odds attack. Its compatriots will have to come along. Third, we won't have the Romano-British scurrying for the hills, abandoning their homes and farms. But they'll be in better shape than in the old game.
It also won't be a Roman walkover with Romans even known to be killing Caledonians. The Roman will have more difficult choices. Unfortunately, players who tend to make a hash of the Romans now, when it IS often a cakewalk for an experienced player, may REALLY make a hash of it in the new version. There's always a problem in games, whether to design for the 99% expert player or the 33% or the 75%. When the 99% expert is going to work a bit, the 33% may just get creamed. Fortunately, the Roman-British are MUCH more prominent in the game - for a while.
There's a smaller, diceless version ("Rule Britannia") that uses a new board (21 land areas including Ireland); and a quick, really small (nine nations) "Gateway" version (no set title, tentatively "Britannia Brevis") that also uses a new board (18 land). The Gateway version appeals to people who like Risk and Axis & Allies (but remember, 60-90 minutes) and to video gamers. Rule Britannia should appeal to people who don’t like dice (battle cards, each player has an identical set). Less than three hours.
There's also an "Ultimate" version that uses the standard board with the addition of Ireland, and will be significantly longer than the standard game (Epic, get it?). But it will be an expansion, not part of the standard package. Ireland will be on the standard board, even though it won't be used in the standard game.
The standard game (likely called "Epic Britannia") will come with several shorter scenarios (4-9 turns), and a new three player game that I am trying very hard to balance, and a 6-7 turn game that covers the entire period using the same colors/sides, and will take half as long to play.
Game Design Book
My book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" is available. Publisher's web page for the book. Amazon. As you might expect, I make a lot more from a copy ordered through McFarland than through Amazon, but most people use Amazon's free shipping.
It can be ordered from McFarland or from retail book sellers. Because McFarland's first market is libraries, you have an alternative not practically available for most books: you can request that your library order a copy. Many public libraries will respond to suggestions/requests, though many of those want more than one person to make the request.
Why would you read a book? While the book is no longer the absolute treasure trove of information that was when I was a kid (see below), it still organizes information in an easily digestible form. But more important, a book can convey the experience of the author to the reader, and if that experience is valuable than this is something the reader won't get anywhere else. A major purpose for me in writing the book is to help beginning game designers avoid the "school of hard knocks" that I had to go through, applying my experience in teaching novice game designers as well.
When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, if you were lucky you had three television networks to watch instead of two, there was no Internet and consequently no e-mail, no cell phones, no personal computers (or printers), no World Wide Web, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. A long distance call of any length cost real money. I first saw color TV in a person's house when I was 10 (trick-or-treat: the people let the kids come in and see their cool color TV). Music was on vinyl LPs and (later) cassette tapes. If you wanted to watch a movie you stayed up after 11 (old movies only on TV) or you went to a theater, there was no way to record a movie other than film. There was no instant replay on sporting events because videotape had not been perfected.
In that era, as for generations before, a book was a treasure trove of information, something to be read carefully and absorbed as much as possible.
Nowadays people are much less impressed by books because there's so many other sources of information, but if you really want to learn about something in depth a good book is the best way to do it other than having an experienced person teach you directly.
I gave four talks at Origins 2012 about game design, and one at WBC.
I talked about managing frustration in game design at the East Coast Game Conference on 26 April 2012. More than 75 attended. I'll describe the conference in my blog. Slides and the audio from the talk will be posted on this site. Those who read my blog on BGG and F:AT have seen a written discussion of the same topic, though of course written and oral versions diverge considerably.
I was the guest on the Ludology podcast #26 about epic games (tabletop games, not the video game company). This is the only podcast I listen to, because it's about "the why of games", not about new games and community chit-chat.
My blog is posted, now, in as many as five places, reaching a quite different readership at each place. The blog has existed since 2004 but I "spread out" only in 2011.
The "home" is at: http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/; on Boardgamegeek (and the other geek sites); on boardgame designers forum; on "Fortress: AT" ("Ameritrash"). Some, but not all, of the posts are also on my "expert" blog on Gamasutra, the site for video game professionals.
The sometimes-lively discussions at BGG, fortress:at, and Gamasutra, where most of the readers are, are usually very different from one another.
Dragon Rage is now distributed in the USA exclusively by GameSalute.com. I saw it at GenCon for $75.
Michael Barnes' review on fortressat.
Boardgamegeek's video about Dragon Rage.
Video review, in German, of Dragon Rage.
Another review, from "Fortress Ameritrash"! I have to quote this one: "It’s an absolute grab-bag of fun fantasy memes and is certainly the most customisable wargame without miniatures that I’ve ever seen."
The multi-contributor ETC Press book "Tabletop: Analog Game Design," edited by Greg Costikyan and Drew Davidson, is now available (electronic downloads free). Greg briefly describes it. Downloads here in electronic book and PDF formats.
My piece on "The Three Player Problem" is the first chapter in the book.
Slides and audio recordings of my game design talks at UK Game Expo and Origins are here.
The physical components are very impressive (compared with the original microgame), on a par with Britannia. The hit recording sheets are full-size plasticized cardboard, as opposed to the original notepad. The board is fully mounted, and has an orc lair on the opposite side, with new scenarios. You can see from the photo that the pieces are individually cut and have round corners, not like the typical wargame with square-cornered little pieces.
This version includes a second map (of an orc lair area, more or less) and additional scenarios for it, devised by Eric Hanuise.
Welcome to PulsipherGames.com/Pulsipher.net, a web site for supplementary material and playtesting of games designed by Lewis Pulsipher (Britannia, Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Diplomacy variants, RPG material, etc.), and for teaching about games.
I started playing games more than 50 years ago. I started designing games more than 45 years ago. My first published (non-commercial) games appeared in the early 1970s, and my first commercial game over 30 years ago, in 1978 (Diplomacy Games & Variants), followed in 1980 by Swords and Wizardry.
After publication of several commercial games, and after I earned my Ph.D., I took 20 years off from designing games, though I played and made up adventures (which is level design) and refereed lots of Dungeons and Dragons while learning computing, programming, networking, and making a living. In 2004 I decided to get back into game design rather than write computer textbooks, though my primary profession is college teaching. I taught my first course in game design in fall 2004, though I did not teach games full time until fall 2007.
I do not run a public Web discussion board on this site, as Boardgamegeek.com serves the purpose very well. The Eurobrit Yahoo Group is the main location for Britannia discussions. Fantasy Flight Games also has a discussion board (generally inactive) at their Britannia site. Most of my new writing about games is posted on my blog, http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/ or at http://teachgamedesign.blogspot.com/, or on GameCareerGuide.Com.
I am @lewpuls on twitter; I see twitter as of use only for publicity, so I don't post daily. I do find I tweet than I thought I would.
Dr. P's personal recommendation for those who want to get into the game industry and live in this area (central-eastern North Carolina).
Disclaimer: occasionally people send me unsolicited ideas or concepts for games. Be aware that when you do this you acknowledge that I may use your ideas in any way I wish without legal obligation. (I'm unlikely to do this, but I may have the same idea already, and I have no desire to be sued by someone who doesn't realize that ideas are not protected by copyright law in any case.)
WBC 2012 tournament account by Jim Jordan (PDF).
Britannia out of print, looking for publisher for new edition.
WBC 2011 tournament account by Jim Jordan.
I have added an archive from my game design blogs for most of the past year here. It is 41 pages in the word processor.
In November I was at the MACE game convention in High Point, NC, my first visit. It's interesting how different a game convention can be when it comes from SF/F convention traditions rather than from game convention traditions.
I've posted one of my old (and popular) first edition AD&D character of classes, The Necromancer, originally from White Dwarf #5.
I'm putting some comments engendered by the conventions on my blog.
I am a contributor to Family Games: the 100 Best, which will be published later this year. I've been asked to contribute to another anthology, a book about non-electronic game design, to be published this year by ETC Press.
More articles on Gamasutra/GameCareerGuide and other online locations (not including "expert blog" entries):
"Playtesting is Sovereign, Part 2" 2 Sep 10
"The Elephant in the Room" (varieties of game-related education, lead article in Aug 10 IGDA Perspectives Newsletter special extended issue on game education)
"Playtesting is Sovereign, Part 1" 10 Aug 10
Opinion: The "Virgin Mary" of Video Games? Depictions of Violent Death 31 May 10
"Identifying a good game school" 3/30/10 (co-author, Ian Schreiber)
"What are game designers trying to do?" 2.19.10
"Maxims of Game Design" 2/4/10
"Some Game Playing Styles, and How Games Match One Style or Another" [a longer version] 1/25/2010
"Opinion: Are Games Too Much Like Work?" 4 Sep 09
"Game Curricula: Differences in Focus" 4 Aug 09
"Industry Hopefuls: Prepare Intelligently" 7 July 09
"Twenty Essential Design Questions" 14 April 09
"The Nine Structural Sub-Systems of Any Game" 17 Mar 09
The Nature of Games in the 21st Century 5 Mar '09
"Opinion: What Does 'Game Developer' Mean?" 2 March '09
Why Design Games 13 January '09
I am teaching curriculum game creation classes at Fayetteville Technical Community College (NC). "Simulation and Game Development" is a new Associates Degree program at FTCC. This is a program for artists and designers as well as programmers. More. Link to FTCC game development Web site.
I have updated my list of Britannia-like games. I have posted mp3s of my talks at Origins 2008, Powerpoint slides are already posted. I've also posted a talk by Ian Schreiner. All here. I'll not be posting mp3s of the 2009 talks, I think.
Most of my present gaming activity is in revising games and trying to write a game design book (the articles on Gamasutra/GameCareerGuide are sometimes excerpts).
I am a contributor to Hobby Games: The 100 Best, an anthology book that came out at GenCon this year. Press release. Britannia is one of the "100 Best", I'm glad to say. I wrote about Stalingrad. Update: this book won the "Origins Award" in its category, as well as an "Ennie" award.
The initial print run of Britannia sold out in 2007. It was reprinted in November 2008. International editions (German, French, Spanish, Hungarian [sic]) were printed at the same time.
I have developed a 6 turn version of Britannia, using the current set, that actually works, and takes me about two hours to play (first time play by others takes a lot longer, of course). This is being tested; I intend to distribute it as widely as possible to help those who dislike the 4-5 hour playing time of full Britannia.
Just for the heck of it, I developed a "broad market" version of Brit (the kind of thing that would sell with Risk and similar games). History may be too serious for a broad market, especially medieval British history, but it's an interesting exercise. I already have "Brit Lite" version, and that can be played by casual gamers, but I'm aiming at the sort of folks who might play Risk and Monopoly and a few other games, but not much else. I have liked the result so much that I am developing a series of games using the same rules (with exceptions), beginning with a new version of Barbaria that has turned out very well.
I've added a podcast (11 minutes) "Quick Guide How to Play Britannia."
I have started an announcement-only newsletter for new information about Britannia. This will include new editions, new variants, new articles, new reviews, new FAQ, anything that may be noteworthy for fans. Hence there probably won't be more than ten or so messages a year. To subscribe, go to http://pulsipher.net/newsletter/?p=subscribe. The information gathered will never be used for any other purpose.
I received a certificate awarded November 2006 to Britannia by the Viennese Games Academy: "Vienna Selection of Games, 2006" 99 games are selected each year. According to the accompanying letter, this certificate has been awarded annually since 1996. Their Web site: www.spielen.at (mostly in Austrian).
My article "Uncertainty in Wargames" appeared in "Against the Odds" magazine, #18, late in 2006.
Tom Vasel reviews dozens upon dozens of games, but he is not a wargamer, rather he's a Euro gamer. I have wondered whether he would review Britannia at all, but he has, very positively in the circumstances. See http://www.thedicetower.com/thedicetower/index.php?page=britannia.
This only reinforces my intention to make shorter versions of Britannia (and other games) that don't use the old combat system. I have played both "Britannia Brevis" (10 turns, no dice used) and "Britannia Minimus" (6 turns, much less luck in the dice system). Unfortunately, FFG has no interest in expansions, as the numbers just aren't there. But I have finally devised a version of Britannia using the same pieces, sides, colors, that lasts just six turns, yet seems to reflect everything that happens in the longer Britannia, just much faster (and with more attacking). When finished this will be posted (free) in as many places as possible. For now you can find the draft at the Eurobrit Yahoo Group.
There is a Wikipedia entry for Britannia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britannia_%28board_game%29
Boardgamegeek has the following entry for Britannia: "Nominee for the 1987 Charles S. Roberts awards for Best Pre-World War II Boardgame (Charles S. Roberts Awards)." I had not known this, as by that time I had "left the hobby".
Lewis Pulsipher and Pulsiphergames.com do not accept or consider unsolicited submissions, ideas or materials, such as games, game ideas, treatments, books, story ideas, or characters. Any unsolicited materials submitted will be disposed of without review.
Recently (October 2011) played video games: Gratuitous Space Battles, Angry Birds, and several "social network" games. I played the latter (all Zynga games) because I was talking with them about the possibility of working as a game designer in Bangalore India. But the current emphasis in these games is on frustration (to persuade people to spend real money), and that's the opposite of what I want to create. Further, I suspect Zynga is stuck in the rut they've made, a company so large that they may not be able to risk trying games drastically different from the ones they now support. I know what kind of social network game I would make, first and foremost to make it truly social, not solitary.
More recently I've reconciled myself to using Steam and have bought Civilization V and Skyrim to go along with Portal, but who knows when I'll have time to play them!
I have never designed a published "computer game", largely because I have not known anyone able and willing to do the necessary programming and artwork. I have never been interested in starving in order to produce a video game. Nowadays, of course, computer games are the products of teams, not of individuals. Back when one individual could write a game, I was a database programmer, which doesn't help much with computer games, nor do I have a hint of an artist in me.
Why would I want to design electronic games? I'm better off as is:
1. The "AAA list" electronic games are really designed by committee. When I design a game, it is almost all MINE. (The rest is playtesters and publisher.)
2. Video games, until fairly recently, were almost always
interactive puzzles, not games. Games are about people, interactive
puzzles are about computers. I like games, not puzzles.
People become computer game designers after working on computer games for a company in other capacities, especially level designer. Practically no one is hired directly as a computer game designer, though level designers (a subset of game design) may be hired directly from school. The production costs for "big" off-the-shelf games ($10-100 million) make a person without a track record too much of a risk.
Click here for advice for those who want to get into the game industry.
Hits since August 07:
"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest." Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery
"A teacher is never a giver of truth - he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst." (Martial Arts quote)
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Pogo (Walt Kelly) "Enjoy the Journey"
Send mail to webmaster (at) pulsiphergames (dot) com with comments about this web site. Last modified: 02/08/13. Copyright 2012 Lewis Pulsipher