4 November – Workshop Serious Games

Tijdens het Let’s Gro festival 4-6 november 2022 zullen we een mooie combinatie van serieus en spelen aanbieden: vrijdag 4 november duiken we in de wereld van spel en spelen voor meer dan alleen vertier.

Het is te kort om helemaal de diepte in te gaan, maar tijdens deze teaser workshop van 18.00 tot 19.30 uur worden ontwerp-principes besproken en zijn ze in een aantal serious games te ervaren die worden gedemonstreerd. En bezoekers die een eigen thematiek voor ogen hebben kunnen al sparrend een eerste concept richting uitwerken.

Aansluitend is deze avond op dezelfde locatie de ‘Tabletop Testing Night’ van het Spellenmaakgilde (ook door ondergetekende georganiseerd). Daar is verder te sparren of testen van het concept, kan met spellenmakers worden gesproken en is uiteraard er vollop de gelegenheid om spelconcepten te ervaren. Zowel tijdens deze workshop als bij de testavond zal GRUNN te spelen zijn, een spel, waarbij ook een educatief doel wordt bereikt.

Aanmelden voor de workshop kan hieronder en aanmelden voor de speltestavond kan hier.

Game on!

GRUNN – Eerste keren gespeeld bij Noorderspel

Afgelopen zaterdag konden we de eerste spellen GRUNN aan het publiek tonen op Noorderspel. Meerdere groepen hebben een eigen provincie gebouwd en de landschappen ontgonnen. Er was veel aanloop de hele dag, mede door de mooie illustraties van Emma Wilson. Qua thema was het natuurlijk ook een thuiswedstrijd.

Binnenkort zullen de spellen naar de betrokken musea worden gedistribueerd. Daarnaast is ook het laatste deel van het spel in de maak: op dit moment worden de scenariokaarten gedrukt die straks bij alle musea te verzamelen zijn. Het is nog even wachten, maar we tonen her en der het spel al waar het kan. Straks breed verkrijgbaar, in Grunn.

Playtesting -Informal Learning- at CMGT Hanze

The academic year is nearing it’s end and as many educators can probably tell you, running classes / workshops is not yet the same as it was pre-COVID. The activity that did have a lot of students participate are our playtesting events, Test & Chill.

T&C advertisement, made by Edwin Yanarico

When we started in September with our new study Creative Media & Game Technologies (CMGT) our vision was to have informal activities, that are social and learning in a different way, be more embedded. This means having them scheduled and promoted, even if it means that they overlap with schedules of classes (staff can tell you they certainly noticed this if…). This was also the case with guest lectures and the impact there is less awesome, as they were less visited (in real life a bit more than online). The playtesting events however were a success. These test session organise twice per block were visited well, also after first year students realized they were not mandatory (nothing is) or part of a specific course, assessment.

The social aspect and cooperativeness, helping each other out with feedback, while keeping it casual, seems to be the right tone. And while some courses require testing and this can be a good avenue for it, participation seems more often to go beyond instrumental goals like that. And from the start there were were students bringing their personal non study related projects as well. For some students this seemed a better ‘hook’ to learn: they might be doing ok in courses and show up selectively, but come over to these events with a new prototype made regularly.

In the past we had companies come over to demo, test and recruit students for extra-curricular work. Let’s see if that can be the upgrade this informal learning track event with that again next year (contact me if this is interesting to you!).

Check out the pictures below for a visual impression. The cool workshop location you see is the Hanze MakerSpace where any student can come over for crafting and tinkering, support in learning how to work with the machinery and technologies. Like a ‘Fab Lab’, if you are familiar with that. Another informal resource for students, one with very cool possibilities to make use of.

Test & Chill 2022 week 7 of period 4

GRUNN – A Game About Landscapes

Over the last year there are multiple projects we have been working on a big game production with multiple stakeholders in co-design: GRUNN – Pioneers in the Province. The project has a lot of unique aspects to it, making it very exciting (and a bit scary at start) to work on. So now we are in the later stages of the project, time to share more about it, with the pictures showing the prototype in all it’s stages. The co-creation is done together with Robert Brouwer. Pairing up certainly made concepting and going through the first iterations of prototypes a LOT faster and more fun!

One of the projects is a game for a client that wanted to make a version of an existing game about the history of the landscape in the northern province Groningen in the Netherlands. With the plan to sell the game at museums in the province. Sublicensing and modding an existing game that is famous turned out hard, even though there seemed to be possibilities at first. The project aims to add value to the museums and is subsidized by the province, that does mean there are multiple stakeholders and decision makers to keep on board during the development process.

We pitched our services and started concepting. We pitched 9 directions in concepts and together with the stakeholders defines some important aspects like theme, price point and target audience, making explicit what we aim for in play time, originality, player motivations, amount of complexity and luck. Another challenge with this project is to create a good core game, but have it be expandable with modules that can be collected at all the museums in the province where game is for sale. That meant planning for around 30 modules that somehow change/ add to the game play.

After concepting and iterating on 2 game setups, together we picked the one that is most fitting the design requirements and seemed to be ‘moddable’ by adding modules. Since then, the game has been iterated and tested plenty of times, with small test groups, at museums that participate and and at bigger events such as the game convention SpellenSpektakel, a local urban event Let’s Gro (with a city builder variant) and of course at the monthly tabletop testing nights of the Spellenmaakgilde and at the USVA.

What kind of game is it? As the pictures already indicate every player will create their own province, combining tiles to a 4 by 4 grid of different types of landscapes. There are 6 different landscape tiles in the game, each offering different ways of scoring victory points, offering in game money by developing them and offering building spots where players can build on for additional victory points. Player interaction happens because the tiles are offered in a general market row, where each turn a player takes the first tile and action card combination, or can pay money to skip them for another one down the line.

Each tile can be developed (turn around) reflecting the types of the landscape in the province and how it changed. For example, sea clay areas were claimed and became grass lands (cattle), other parts became famous for the grain. Forest was rare but used for lumber. The project initiator Heidi Renkema ensured the game is historically correct (as much as possible). The game in that sense is play first, yet is educational correct and facilitates learning about the province.

We are now in the phase of details and gearing up for production. After having 3 artists pitch their servives, now Emma Wilson has started with drawing the art work for the tiles and boxes and she has pitched multiple styles of drawing and graphic design, to make the most fitting choices with all stakeholders involved.

For the design we are now in the final stages of testing all the modules (which by the way can be combined!) and develoing a solo game mode. With that the game will facilitate play for 1 to 6 players (updated, 6 players is also possible). The planning is to have the game published after the summer, fall 2022. The game will also have English rules available online on this website.

Currently more art is created and here you can see a preview of the art for the landscape tiles:

If you are interested in receiving updates on the game or it’s release you can fill in the form below, or use this link to purchase a copy with us:

Tabletop Roleplaying Fan?

My colleague and friend Kjell at Ornate Engineering launched his crowdfunding campaign. If you are into tabletop rpg games and are looking for the ultimate gift to enhance your hobby, this is certainly one to check out! Link to the campaign: Dwarf-Made all-in-one modular tabletop gear

Ornate Engineering sponsored the Dutch Tabletop Game Designer awards 2020 with constructing the awesome looking awards. Global Game Jam participants in Groningen might also recognize his work.

And to increase the coolness (I am biased), if you pledge for 120 euro’s or more, you will receive a copy of my fantasy themed trick taking game Tricky Dungeon! And you can order it as a separate add-on.

To sum it up, this crowdfunding has my recommendation!

Workshop Feedback Loops in MOBA’s

For students of our major Game Design at CMD, Hanze Applied University, I held a extra-curricular workshop on feedback loops. We even had a guest from a local other education (MBO) who was interested.

Split into 2 groups we discussed what positive and negative feedback loops are and how the can be used to steer the player experience in games. Then we started sketching out what happens in MOBA games such as League of Legends (LoL), Defenders of the Ancients 2 (DOTA2) and Heroes of the Storm (HotS). These are real-time team versus team competitive games with a lot of tactical and strategical layers. Plus they offer a lot of depth to explore due to the large amount of different heroes they offer. And in case of HotS also a very diverse set of maps, each with their own extra events and map challenges.

It was very interesting to see how many potential loops there are in the game and how they raise the stakes the longer the match lasts and create spikes of opportunities at certain moments. These are not so much guaranteed counterbalances or reinforcements of success and failure, rather they offer leverage but they leave it up to the players to

A team needs to play well together to capitalize on them, by offering more platforms for skillful play and leaving it fully in hands of the players. This seems to link really really well to the the 3 core aspects of intrinsic motivation: relatedness, mastery and autonomy!

We also discussed how many heroes, abilities and items seemed to have stronger links to feedback loops, or related to it the progression of the match. So which abilities do better if you do well, or have diminishing returns depending on your relative progress compared to the other team. This led to a lively debate on the pro’s and con’s of of certain items and heroes (of wich I knew nothing, as I only play HotS).

For now, the group playing HotS was the minority. But that was ok. Seen from this lens, it is interesting and no surprise that HotS only has 1 hero now, Abathur, that has an ability (talent) that lets you repair buildings: reducing the progress in some form of the opponents. And the other games did not to have such an ability.

The reality of these games is even more complex than we discussed, yet this was insightful and inspiring!

Looking Back: Test & Chill – December 2019

At our study CMD at the Hanze Applied University we held another playtesting event. With around 50 participants multiple student projects were experienced by guests, lecturers and fellow students. In addition, several companies came over for user testing and showcasing, including the academic hospital UCMG with their LEAN game, the big governmental organisation DUO with their app for students and Big Bang Studio with their mobile game. Plus we had some guests over from Tokyo, Japan and Ohio, USA that could check out the prototypes.

Day Jam November Impressions

Once again a few students took up the challenge to develop a game with a preset theme within 24 ours. Design muscles were flexed, custom art was made, the 3D printer set in motion and the lazer cutter burned wood. In the end, with various amount of night time playtesting, 3 games reached the finish line and were played by everyone. Feedback to improve the concept was offered and some games as prizes to all teams. Nice work!

Looking back: Test & Chill October 2019

Just before the student Autumn break we had another edition of the playtesting event ‘Test & Chill’, co-organised with the student association Glitch. With around 80 participants -from all study years- we had a great turn up! It meant year 1 card game concepts were played, as were digital games. Check out the pictures below (made by Vasil and me).

Next block we will have 1 or 2 more playtesting events. And before that, to get your design juices flowing, we will have a ‘Day Jam’ on 14 and 15 November. Make a game in 24 hours!