Monday, October 8, 2012

The Games I Got To Try At Indiecade

I wish I could've gotten away from my table long enough to check out the other games in more detail, but I kept having to race back and give my spiel "SodoyouplaytabletopRPGs?AreyouaGM?WellVornheimisbothatoolforcreating..."but here are the ones I managed to get a good look at...

Bloop is a simple game but one that should exist: it's on a flat table screen, you and 1-3 other players each get assigned a color. Colored rectangles pop up, you touch the ones in your color as fast as you can. It's the perfect bar game.

Gorogoa is equally cool in the opposite way, and takes you totally down a dungeonish rabbit hole. There are 4 frames with hand-illustrated pictures in them. There are a limited number of things you can do to manipulate them--zoom in, click on things, slide them around, superimpose them, etc. Doing the right thing triggers an animation that moves the story along and changes the pictures. The kind of fascinating mixture of art and story you can probably only get when the artist is also the programmer.

Hokra is another simple-but-sweet one. It's like a notch or two above a Super Mario Party-type party game in complexity. One screen. 4 players control squares who all try to get a ball back to their goals. They can walk, run, knock into each other and pass and it's completely addictive. Just exactly hits the spot.

Prom Week is like one of those cars James May brings to the Top Gear challenges--unassuming on top but with a fascinating engine--if, y'know, you're into that kind of thing. And if you read this blog you probably are.

Basically you have high school students talk to each other and then they get mad or sad or whatever and that changes their mood. Dull right? But the thing is: their responses aren't programmed--at any given moment each kid has levels of  things like "coolness" "weakness" "confidence" plus relationships to the other students and their responses and dialogue have to do with (and alter) those sliding scales.

The dialogue isn't automatically attached to a given kid--it's a characteristic of where all their characteristic levels are at that moment. So by having them interact you can get all kinds of emergent behaviors. It's actually a strategy game, hidden under a sitcommish skin. I really hope the programmers find a way to show off the engine underneath during game play because it's a really interesting idea. Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure there's something RPGable in it.

I didn't get to try Qasir al-Wasit but I love the Bihzad-like Persian-miniature-meets-bighead-CRPG art style. I wish I'd got to talk to the artists. Wooden Sen Sey also had a nice eurocomics kind of art style married to a fun-looking Donkey-Kongish gameplay.

Super Space is like Hokra: simple addictive multiplayer party game. Lemme see if I can explain: ok, so it's like Asteroids right? You're a ship and shoot shapes. But every time you shoot you drift backwards. Because physics. And if you touch the edge of the screen (or any other obstacle) you die, so you gotta keep spinning and shooting all around. But the best part is: it's a 4-player and all 4 ships are connected--so you have to work together to keep the ships alive, but you all score zapping-points separately.

Unfinished Swan's about to come out for the PS3. It has a great core mechanic: the 3d world is all totally white with no inflection. You toss splats of black paint at it to see where the architecture (which is wonderfully elaborate) is. Click the link to see a demo.

Some other fun bits:

-Playing 4-square with game designers--whoever's in the kings square gets to make up one rule. Double-hits only, off-hand only, one-eyed, etc

-It's so fun talking to computer game designers about D&D. They almost all play it or played it. Also: I didn't know this but apparently a lot of designers build dice-engine paper models of their games to test them before they start coding. Risk: Legacy's designer popped up (we were head-to-head for the Diana Jones Award earlier this year), and we talked about how tabletop games inspired some of the mechanics in there.

GMing D&D for a USC game design class on Tuesday.


  1. "GMing D&D for a USC game design class on Tuesday."

    This is another one of those occasions when I say, "Goddammit, why didn't I get something useful like an art degree?"

    Sounds like a totally cool time to be had. You going to show 'em anything in particular? Vornheim? Something else?

  2. Hi Zak;

    Apologies for writing to you via your forum comments. We were unable to locate an email address or contact form.

    Enhanced4E has just launched a new book: Combat in Motion. We would like to offer you the opportunity to review the book. If you are interested, send an email to Enhanced4E -- @ --- You can find more details at our site,

    We hope to hear from you soon.


    Stephen Carr

  3. Your acceptance speech video was real awesome. Totally unrelated, have you seen this?