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Cardboard AI and Solo Gaming

February 25, 2020

There is a good article on Dicebreaker looking at the design of solo boardgame AI, here’s the context:

Solo board games have exploded in popularity in recent years. In fact, the 1 Player guild on BoardGameGeek is the most populous on the site, having earned that distinction sometime in the last year or so.

This is interesting to me as I’ve played solo boardgames for a while; starting with, of course – Chainsaw Warrior! I interviewed the original designer of the cardboard game Stephen Hand, a few years back and this topic came up too:

In direct contrast to the evolution of videogames, the solo boardgame was a neglected beast. You had Solitaire (which I knew as Patience) and that was it. Some multiplayer games did contain variant rules for solo players but these were generally unsatisfying. So Chainsaw Warrior was a conscious effort to try to fill the void. I knew there were many players like me who, at those frustrating times when you couldn’t find another player, would have use for a solo game if only as a stopgap.

Back to the Dicebreaker article you can see the ethos in the design:

“The key phrase I keep in my mind is ‘playability’,” Royal says. “We often talk about creating an ‘intelligent’ opponent to play against when developing a solo variant. Developing this automaton is like working on a sliding scale, with simple and dumbed-down on one end, and complex and intelligent on the other. Somewhere in the middle is a Goldilocks zone where playability is king.”

Which I’d note is similar to how we design for digital too!

PS. You can grab great Chainsaw Warrior loot here! Oh and we did a deepdrive on Chainsaw Warrior in S2 E4 of the podcast.

Chainsaw Warrior Original Board Game

The future of RTS Games

February 24, 2020

RTS is a beloved genre of mine (along with TBS, see podcast S1 E4 & 5) – when I first discovered Dune 2 (and Warcraft 2) I ended up staying up all night playing each until I’d made quite a pile of digital skulls and was too tired to carry on. So I’m both interested in making them and playing them. Which is why this article on PC Gamer caught my eye…

Can real-time strategy come back from the brink of death? … It was Westwood, however, that would give us our first successful RTS, Dune 2, in 1992. … It took a bit more time for other developers to follow suit, starting with Blizzard. The first Warcraft borrowed plenty from Dune 2, but switched the setting from sci-fi to fantasy and threw in the now-standard online multiplayer. That’s when things got really exciting, beginning a rivalry between the two studios that would give us what are still considered some of the greatest PC games of all time, from Command & Conquer to StarCraft.

Indeed. I enjoyed C&C but prefered Starcraft personally. We used to play it for a while as MP over lunch in the office when I was at Hothouse.

Indeed, I’m even less confident than I was a few years ago, when people still seemed to be fans of a lot of the mechanics and design philosophy inherent in RTS games, as evidenced by the popularity of MOBAs. They’ve never been my cup of tea, aside from Smite, which is probably the furthest from the RTS origins, and Heroes of the Storm, because I’m a sucker for Blizzard’s character designs. But now the MOBA genre has coalesced around a tiny number of enduring games. The behemoths don’t appear to be going anywhere, yet, but fewer and fewer games are joining them.

There is a forum to discuss this too. Now, I’d argue that RTS has actually had a huge and ongoing life – but more on mobile. Until a few years ago RTS-like games such as Clash Royale and Clash of Clans were the top grossing games (and the many, many like them). What they had done is taken the formula and re-posted it into a more accessible gameplay loop and it has become huge. It’s also seen a range of spin-offs such as MOBAs and Tower Defense games, which owe their lineage to RTS games. But still, I get they are not quite the ‘classic’ mode of RTS…

I also suspect that the vast, vast amount of games now on Steam means that the genre is now divided and sub-divided into many, many smaller titles that each tweak the formula in different ways. But each is not big enough to rise to the individual level of a Warcraft 2 or C&C was before. For example Conan Unconquered which adds coop and survival as a twist.

But ahhh. Dune 2 please.

 

The Auroch Digital ‘How to Make a Game’ Podcast – with added Cthulhu, Space, Car Combat and Strategy Gaming

January 15, 2020

We’ve been doing a podcast for a while now, and the feedback has been positive. So I thought it was time to post about it here and point to a few episodes, below, you might find of interest?

Cthulhu Episodes

  • Season 0 Episode 4, 5 & 6  – The Birth of Cthulhu, The Function Call of Cthulhu (pun!) & The Momentum of Cthulhu – These three are all about Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. The first episode focused on what Cthulhu is and who this Lovecraft guy is, so a good introduction.
  • Season 4 Episode 5 –  A potted history of Cthulhu games; from the original RPG down to the games being produced now, my personal history of Lovecraftian games.

Space (Mars Horizon) Episodes

  • Season 0 Episode 1 – All on Mars Horizon. Season 0 Episode 1, 2 and 3 Mars Horizon Mission Control Gameplay Explained & Translating Space Engineering to Games
  • Season 0 Episode 2 – Drama / Challenge, In-depth look at Mission Control & Meta Management Gameplay, UI design, and Meta Management playthrough
  • Season 0 Episode 3 – Andrew Kuh of the UK Space Agency chats Mars and the inner workings of an agency with Tomas, Steve talks Mars Mission, and the Brodster details Event Systems
  • Season 2 Episode 2 – Mars Horizon: Blast off! special episode about the spin-off boardgame we made.
  • Season 4 Episode 3 & 4 – Visiting the European Space Agency parts 1 and 2. (Really pleased with S4 E3!)

Cat Combat (Dark Future) Episodes

Strategy Episodes

If you enjoy them, please do rate them on iTunes, or however you listen to your podcasts!

Also we’re working on Season 5 now, so subscribe to get them as they are released.

Thanks.

I’m at PG Connect London 2020

January 10, 2020

Hello all and happy new year! Happy to say am starting the new year off with the trip to London on 20th/21st to PG Connect. I’ve been invited to take part in a panel there:

This year our Design Director Tomas Rawlings is on a panel about Indie publishing so make sure to go give it a listen if you are attending. Further details on the panel are below:

Indie Publishing – How Indie developers deal with publishing in PC/console, biggest challenges and advantages and opportunities ahead

So if you’re there too and want to hook up, do ping me!

 

Dark Future Shortlisted for TIGA Award!

September 28, 2019

Really happy to say that our title, Dark Future: Blood Red States, a reboot of the cult Games Workshop game, Dark Future, has been nominated for a TIGA award!

The TIGA awards, run by The Independent Game Developers’ Association, are designed to recognise the achievements of studios, businesses, and universities across the games sector.

We’ve been shortlisted for The Heritage Award which recognises a game that reflects British creativity, subject matter, and heritage. … Its narrative framing and visual design has inspirations within it from everything from the bleakly humourous British sci-fi comics of the ‘80s, to the BBC’s now defunct Ceefax service. You can find out more about this in our podcast with several episodes about the development and creation of Dark Future.

But! We need your help! If can head on over here to vote (listed alphabetically under ‘Auroch Digital: Dark Future…) but make sure you do it before midnight on 18th October! It would mean a lot to us to get your vote as Dark Future has been a labour of love for everyone here at Auroch Digital. Once you’ve voted, please do share this and as other Sanctioned Ops to share too! Together the future’s not bright, it’s dark.

TIGA+blog+post

Judge Dredd: The Thread

September 24, 2019

On the Day of Dredd, I posted a thread on Twitter about that iconic character. It’s here if you want to take a look!

Megaquarium Launches 18th Oct – on PlayStation Blog!

September 24, 2019

It’s always a buzz when a thing you are a part of gets taken up. Amazing to see the blog posts go up for Megaquarium on the US and EU Sony blogs!

You can sign up to the newsletter for this game here.

Latest Podcast is on Our Trip to ESA

September 22, 2019

Yes indeed, we were lucky enough to meet the good people of the European Space Agency and we recorded some of that trip and the conversations had and you can listen in here:

 

Going to be talking at Game Industry Conference, in October (Note – Sadly not able to attend)

September 18, 2019

(Updated – Sadly not able to make it now!)

Talking about Mars Horizon, so really looking forward to the event and the talk!

If you can’t wait and want some info now, do check out the podcast we do…

 

Mars Horizon Meets Rosalind Franklin (aka ExoMars Rover)

July 5, 2019

Myself and Matt (our community & marketing person) went on a trip to meet the good people of the European Space Agency and I had the nerdy, but obvious idea to record our new Mars Horizon: Blast Off! boardgame alongside one of the Rosalind Franklin aka ExoMars Rovers, which my colleague Kathryn kindly put to music…

It was exciting to demo the game to actual people working on Mars missions and everyone there was so kind. If you missed out, you can join in here. The Kickstarter update is here.