So, I’m still hard at work on Teratozoic. I did a little play-testing and a moderate amount of calculation/maths this weekend & ended up revising the entire Era cards setup to better-balance the game against 1) going to 3 colors from the originally-designed 2, and 2) simultaneously adding support for up to 6 players from 4. (Actually originally 2, but that was many, many major revisions ago, now.) Ended up adding a 7th Era card, a new Era name (really re-named 5 Eras, but it’s mostly re-arranging names), and having to try to reconcile this with the fact that I ordered (effectively) 5 copies of the updated game from 3 printers last Wednesday. One printer let me change the cards, but put me at the back of their queue, another couldn’t change the existing order (but it was the one I was ordering 3 copies from) so I made a new order for just the 7 new cards (21 total cards in the new order, and shipping double the cost of printing). The third printer hasn’t gotten back to me, yet. Maybe I’ll call them tomorrow. So… things are advancing, I have more play-testing scheduled for next weekend, and [redacted] which was probably premature and has been stressing me out—I guess I’ll have my answer one way or another by Friday?
In other news, which I broadcast on all my Facebook pages, I actually published my first game on March 6th. It’s called Paved With [my…] Intentions and it’s … a bit of an odd duck. It’s the third or fourth game I’ve designed with narrative being one of the central pillars of its design, in this case quite obviously and literally. Mechanically it begins as a quick card-drafting game—each player starts with a stack of cards, picks one, and passes the stack to the next player, receiving a new stack from the other direction and repeating until they have a full set. In this case a full set is one card in each color of the rainbow, plus white. (No, not indigo.) Then players take the cards they selected and arrange them into a straight line where each card covers half of the card below it—because each card (except the white ones, which are on top) is divided into two halves and each half has a distinct chunk of story (and a numerical value) on it, and players have to choose one half of each card to be part of their story. Finally, each player reads the story they built, out loud, to the group, and compares stories and scores.
If they’ve put their cards in the correct color-order, every possible combination of cards forms a grammatically and structurally-valid story (though many, many combinations are quite-intentionally surreal and/or disturbing), each one carefully crafted as a possibility by me when I was writing them. It occurred to me recently that with this game I jump from having a few dozen published stories to having almost eighteen million published stories: There are 17,915,904 valid story formations possible from the 42 story cards in the deck. (Some assembly required.) Realistically, there are only a little over a million stories which make sense for someone to play if they care about their score, because of the way I devised the scoring of each story chunk, but almost everyone who’s played it so far has agreed that the scoring is clearly secondary to the story-building. (They also seem to think it’s a blast to play. Almost everyone has quite enjoyed the stories I wrote for this game.) So I’m clearly going to go ahead and start describing myself as the author of over 17 million stories.
(And I’m currently in early development on another narrative card game which, based on my current concepts, would result in upping that number to “over 128 trillion stories”, though I expect that total to fluctuate wildly as I hammer out the details of the gameplay and write the narrative chunks.)
Here are some photos of the cards I took, for the product page:
Did I forget to mention that the game is for adult/mature players only? “Contains elements of comedy, horror, working in an office, sexuality, religion, dreams, and nightmares.” Oh, and as you can see in the 2nd rules card, there’s one other mechanic which makes things more interesting: many of the story chunks have occurrences of “[my…]” which, during the reading of the story, will be replaced by the red phrase on the player’s chosen white card. This creates much more apparently-coherent storytelling from an otherwise random combination of sentences and sentence fragments.
So it’s quite an odd game. Very light, very quick, almost-surprisingly functional. I did roughly zero testing, designing it and ordering my copy within (I think) 48 hours. There’s no art, only graphic design. (The font selection and the colors used are very specifically chosen for this project—I custom mixed (with math) CMYK colors for the rainbow of cards to suit my intentions for the tone of the game.) I have no idea how to sell it, no expectations that there’s even an audience for it, but it turns out that’s one of the core concepts of my publishing company: Publishing the creations I wanted to create, not the ones I think the market wants to buy. So I put it up for sale via POD, ordered myself a copy (and a copy for each of my Plus Subscribers), and that was that. No attempts to raise funds for a print run to give myself stock I wouldn’t know how to sell, just put it out there, put up some links, and hope for the best. Depending on how I decide to account for Plus Subscriptions, exactly, it’s already profitable.
((Note: If you buy a Plus or Patron Plus Subscription before the end of March, a physical copy of Paved With [my…] Intentions is included in your subscription.))
I am definitely doing my best to resist the urge to do the same thing with the production and distribution of Teratozoic. Teratozoic, I think, is broadly marketable. Potentially difficult to learn the scoring of monsters for, but appealing to people of all ages and capabilities (re: gaming). I’m going to keep working on Teratozoic. Dumping it straight to POD-only is the last resort. (But certainly still counts as publishing it, of course!)