Where to Start…

So… I’m gonna talk… About stuff…

But seriously, this article isn’t going to be my usual article (is it too late to say I’m mainly a humor writer? My latest blog/article posts make me think it’s too late.) Not that this’ll be sad or anything, just different.

Now, I’ll be the second to tell you I’m not the smartest in the world (the people I know who are in school would be the first), but I think I can be a reasonably insightful person. And when I start writing I can write (type) like there’s no tomorrow (but there are hand cramps). The real problem is knowing where to start. Over the years I’ve developed many theories and views that intertwine to the extent that I have no idea where to even begin to explain them, because each piece requires another piece to fully comprehend. The ideal “book” in that case would be circular, one where it simply starts somewhere and then ends in that same place. Even more ideally, the language and concepts would be simple enough that one could simply jump in anywhere and start reading until they looped back around to that point.

Unfortunately, due to the very reason that so many things relate to each other, a book like this would end up being much less like a circle and more like a choose-your-own-adventure book, or a food web, with many complex ideas growing from or branching off of smaller “stepping-stone” or “building-block” ideas.

But what are these ideas that form the basis of all other ideas? Is the idea of a language to communicate ideas the basic idea, or merely a tangential one? And there are even more basic ideas even further down. And higher “ranking” ideas are necessary to understand the smaller ones. We’d need a word made up of letters to express the idea that perhaps a letter is the smallest idea. It isn’t, but that’s what we’d need. The problem here is that new ideas are infinitely majuscule and miniscule. In science (or all of the physical world, really) a Planck-length is the shortest measurable distance, there is nothing smaller, nothing ever gets smaller or acts over a smaller distance. But in our minds we can easily imagine something say… Half the size.

Now what does this have to do with my inability to figure out where to start? Well, first off, it showcases my ability to write something completely tangential to what I intended to talk about whenever I feel I am unable to start something. It also really means that there is no good place to start anything. There are an infinite amount of topics to discuss that could lead to greater understanding of the central (undefined at the moment) topic. Of course, this also means there are an infinite amount of topics that could lead to misunderstanding of the topic as well, and that infinity is likely larger.

Now looking at what I have just written, infinity seems quite large, and diving into something that could lead to infinity seems quite daunting. But I find that the projects I simply start end up being better than all other projects (mainly in that they aren’t really projects until they’re started). So, I guess that’s really the answer: just start, start anywhere, you don’t need a good place, and if you find the “best” place retroactively, place it in front. Make things better, work at them, but start anywhere. Starting is better than staring at the monolith of work in your mind and doing nothing.

Of course you might like to start at the monolith.

Board Game Creation Blogging Part 1 – Inception to Prototyping

I’m making a board game, and I run this blog, so I thought I could combine the two to write this blog post about making a board game.

I don’t know why I thought making a board game would be a good idea, but it seemed the most do-able project in my project lineup, aside from what I was already doing. In hindsight, this might not have been the case, but I think that making a board game might be one of the more rewarding things I’ll be doing for a bit, because it has immediate and highly tangible results. I like being near the end of a project and looking over the things I made and saying “Yes, I made these”. (Which, with the smallest number of games being 1000, might put me in a little over my head, but that’s a good thing.)

I’d say I started about a year and half ago. I’d graduated from high school two years early, and no longer had a chess partner (one of the few benefits of my forced interaction with people my age) and I wasn’t planning to go to college for a while. So I was just looking online a lot and drawing a bunch of comics, which I still consider my primary occupation. I had gotten on the fringes of the board game world when I had been looking up chess variants and other abstract strategy games (which I still love but getting only one other person to play them is kinda awkward). I decided to dive full into board games and got some of the most recommended beginner games (Pandemic) and some not so recommended games (Diplomacy). Quickly I discovered that while I was thinking about board games a lot, I didn’t have much time to play them. (My poker group was still a poker group and not the mini-gaming-group it is today. So I made up a bunch of designs for board games. The first was one I made for my mother’s birthday, which will show up later. But the main one was a historical game inspired by the Roman Empire. I had been learning quite a lot about the Romans (another hobby), and really wanted a game that captured the feeling of a late republican setting, which I found to my dismay during research was not available, at least how I wanted it.

So in the summer of 2013 I quickly made a prototype of my Roman game (Original code name) which at the time was really just cobbled together from other games that I’d played (Battlestar Galactica, Pandemic, Risk), seen (Eight Minute Empire, Cosmic Encounter), or had an idea of making (The board specifically was cannibalized from a Roman conquest game I still have plans for, although the boards are now quite different and will only get more so with development). I played it a few times with my family and friends, to which to response was a general “meh”. But I took “meh” on a first time prototype (a seriously bad one filled with inconstancies, spelling errors, and having almost no artwork for a very thematic game) by a guy who had absolutely no idea what he was doing as a sign that I had something good to work with here.

Seriously I played on this board several times.

Seriously I played on this board several times.

So I spent the next few months working on the game on and off. I had to stop several times because of important dates in my not-at-all lucrative comics business, and I tried building websites with no advertising plan in a small town. I heavily refined the game’s mechanics (mechanisms for snobs), wrote down actual rules, moved into a workable office space, made a good-looking board, and was just about to make better looking cards in January. I declared that I would playtest the game and have a Kickstarter launched by the end of February. My body’s immediate response to that plan was a month’s worth of migraines. At the middle of March I barely had the artwork done, so I decided to just order a prototype and see what information I could dig up. I did get to re-introduce the game to my friends, whose response went from “meh” to “man this is really cool!”. Unfortunately after that I got hit with a very bad cold and didn’t do my research (i.e. Why there isn’t a preview of my game by some well-watched game reviewers, etc.). But I did get a wonderful prototype at the end of it. Which I made a video about.

I think the new board might have helped

I went with the Game Crafter (www.thegamecrafter.com) to make my prototype for several reasons. The first and foremost is that it is very well known, and generally the most well-known producers make the most money and can afford to have the little touches it takes to make a high-quality product. Also, I considered the possibility of the planned Kickstarter failing, and me simply publishing the game through the already-uploaded files on the Game Crafter website, a proposition that seems less and less attractive, but might end up being the case if things go particularly badly. For these two reasons that are highly intertwined, I used the Game Crafter and only took a tiny glance at other platforms I could use for prototyping. I think, though, with the quality of components I got that I made the right decision.

I got several copies of the game, one of which is still wrapped and one is currently with me, being played by friends who now really like the game (of course it has negotiation elements, which can leave a sour taste in people’s mouths if played too much or in too long a game). I also got some other people to play-test it, to which to response was (and from my friends as well) “this is good, but the rules need some work”, which is what that phase of the process is for, so I can’t say it was a failure.

With this little bit of information in hand I dove in to the “Looking for a Manufacturer” phase which will be covered in the next post. I know I didn’t cover everything there is to cover here and I hope to cover some of the details more in-depth in later posts. If there is any particular part of the process you’d like to know about please leave a comment and I’ll move that closer to the top of my “to get done” list.

Speak Your Mind 56 #276-280


1. Have you had anesthesia?

2. Why do you think a toll is charged on some roads?

3. Do you get cold easily?

4. What is one thing that makes you excited?

5. Do you look good in red?

ANSWERS By: Austin Smith

1. Yes, when I was having ear surgery and when I was having my tooth pulled.

2. To help pay for the road of course.

3. Yes, I’m sometimes cold in the blistering heat of a Texas summer.

4. Blogging makes me excited.

5. I might, but not too much I think.

What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: WordPress is Self-centered (Occupy wall street, election, cats, babies, space, etc…)

Every day nineteen or so people appear on the front page of wordpress.com. This is the freshly pressed section that is the first thing seen by all who enter wordpress. Regardless or whether or not the posts are freshly pressed they are there, and many people wonder why those who end up there do. It seems like it has something to do with the ideas expressed in the post or the relevance of said post to current events. But lately there has been one or two freshly pressed posts about wordpress itself and mainly how to get freshly pressed.

I can understand how one or two can be relevant, even in sequence, but for over a month having a post about yourself on the front page is pushing it. I would understand if wordpress was mainly about itself, but it isn’t. My impression was that the freshly-pressed section was to highlight some of the better blogs out there (or at least the better posts). WordPress is about the community, and when the site keeps highlighting itself it just comes off as self centered.

I mean really wordpress, what about all those other bloggers out there, like me? Why can’t we (I) be on the front page? I mean I do great stuff, and none of it is ever appreciated. Just because you created and maintain the best blogging service and software on the web doesn’t mean you can be selfish about it. Just because you facilitate my ability (read: addiction) to Blog you think you can just promote yourself over me.

And what about what info I can consume? I could be reading about the “occupy …” protesters I don’t like, or the upcoming presidential election I hate everybody in, or someone’s post about their cat, or babies, or about wasting resources looking at and landing in space, but no, I can only read about wordpress. WordPress, wordpress, wordpress. Shame on you wordpress!  Didn’t your mother teach you about humility?