Game Design

Stupid Unity UI Navigation Tricks - by Dylan Wolf Blogs - 28 January 2019 - 6:47am
Here's a few tricks you can use to get a little more control over controller or keyboard navigation in Unity UI.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Sharing And Shining The Spotlight

Gnome Stew - 28 January 2019 - 5:03am

A few nights ago as I left my dinner spot, a lady behind me on a scooter handed me a rose and told me she just liked to brighten people’s days. She rode around with a bouquet of flowers all day and handed them to people. The rose is beautiful and it smells divine, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the kind of emotional giving that’s possible in a tabletop rpg. I was lucky enough on a few weekends ago to sit down with Ryan Macklin and fellow gnome Angela Murray so that Becky Annison could run us through her upcoming kickstarter game, Bite Me. I loved the game — it’s all werewolves and feelings — but the people at the table reminded me of an important role player skill: shining the spotlight.

 When I land in a game where the spotlight isn’t being shared freely and generously, it’s rough both as a player and a GM — it can feel boring, or like a power struggle. Share25Tweet18+11Reddit1EmailWe frequently talk about sharing the spotlight, and sharing it is key. Sharing it is how we work as a team and collaborate to create a story (and fun times for all). Sharing the spotlight is when I bring someone in to my scene, or hook them in to the story in another way; give them fodder to play to with my character and engage with them. Without sharing we have a group of disparate characters who are loosely held together by the fact that the people at the table are in the same physical space. When I land in a game where the spotlight isn’t being shared freely and generously, it’s rough both as a player and a GM — it can feel boring, or like a power struggle.

Shining the spotlight to me is a little different. When you shine the spotlight on another character, you are making them the most important part of the scene or story. Shining the spotlight requires selfless players, creativity, and an ability to prize the group story over the personal story of a single character and individual time in the spotlight. It also requires trust — trust that the other players in the game will shine back to you when you shine on them. In this particular game, Ryan did two things that I thought were spectacular examples of shining the spotlight on another character: he tossed Ang’s character Jax in to the front lines of a negotiation, and he sank a thousand teeth of creepy prophecy (we’d agreed there was one, but that was all) in to my character. So how can you shine the spotlight at your table?

  • Be on the lookout for story beats that you can toss others in to. When our werewolf pack needed a negotiator, Ryan, playing Old Dog Miller, didn’t use his pack status to jump in to the negotiation role — he actually did the opposite and thrust the situation on Jax before disappearing from the scene entirely on a mysterious errand of his own. Narratively, he created the story that seeing his face across the table would only have made the negotiations go even more poorly than they did, since his sister led the opposing pack.
  • Trust that you will receive play time in return. Trust that when you take the spotlight and point it at someone else, they will do the same for you in return. Instead of hoarding or fighting for your time, allow the spotlight to be gifted back to you, which leads directly to…
  • Celebrate your fellow players (and GM).  When you are excited not just about what someone else’s character is doing, but what they could be doing, when you are just as excited about their story as your own, then you can shine the spotlight on them selflessly, and the game is better for it. Be interested in the ways that your fellow PCs will react to situations, and then help build those interesting narratives. That’s not just tossing Jax in to the lion’s mouth on negotiations, it was also building up a prophecy related to my character further and further without my character’s knowledge, until we could have a moment where it all came out in the open.

And finally, when the spotlight is being pointed at you, accept the gift with grace…and share the moment. When the beam of story is aimed at you on high, now is the time to share that light out and make sure that others are involved with you. Take the story offering that is handed to you (given that it is safe and consensual), and make it the coolest moment you can. Once your moment is past, take the light and reflect it on someone else. Give someone a rose, just to see them smile.

What is a memorable time someone shone the spotlight on you? Do you have any other tips for shining vs. sharing as a player?

If you are interested in more information about Bite Me, which is coming to kickstarter in February, you can follow up here!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Side Treks

RPGNet - 28 January 2019 - 12:00am
Fuzzy jobs.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: The Tiny House Anthem Metro Exodus - by Simon Carless Blogs - 27 January 2019 - 7:47am
This week's highlights include creators building tiny houses in The Sims, impressions of BioWare's much anticipated Anthem, & a whole bunch of new games to check out - from the Resident Evil 2 reboot to FutureGrind through Metro Exodus.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Facebook shot down safeguards to keep kids from overspending in Facebook Games

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 25 January 2019 - 1:27pm

Internal documents now show that the company chose not to implement security measures that would have prevented kids from unknowingly pouring their parents' money into games. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

How I Learn New Games

Gnome Stew - 25 January 2019 - 5:00am

January is the time of the year when I am often learning a new game to run for my home group. This time around, we are gearing up for Spire by Grant Howitt & Chris Taylor. When it comes to learning a new game, especially a bigger game, I have a method for how to learn it. It’s not really a deliberate method, though it may bear some thought on to how to make this into a more structured process. But, I wanted to share with you, as I am in the middle of this process right now.

Class Is In Session

When it comes to learning a new game, I am looking to learn more than just the rules of the game. Don’t get me wrong, the rules are critical, but they are not the only part of the game that you have to learn if you want to be able to run the game effectively. When you are learning a new game you are really learning the following things:

  1. Rules – mechanics and procedures.
  2. Setting – the world(s) where the game takes place, the cultures, etc.
  3. Genre – the relevant tropes, and trappings for the type of game you are playing.

When you are starting to learn a new game, you can start by figuring out the difficulty for each of these areas, relative to your own skills and experience, and then prioritize them in terms of what you need to learn. If you are running a game in a setting you know, then setting will be easier, or if you have run a number of Powered by the Apocalypse games and you are running another PbtA game, you are going to be more familiar with the mechanics.

If we now look at Spire, starting with the description:

You are a dark elf. Your home, the towering city of Spire, was occupied by the high elves two hundred years ago. Now, you have joined a secret organization known as the Ministry, a paramilitary cult with a single aim – to overthrow the cruel high elves and restore the drow as the rightful rulers of the city.

What – or who – will you sacrifice to achieve your aims? Will you evade the attention of the authorities, or end up shot in the street like so many before you?

So, picking up the book here is what I know. The mechanics are new so they are unknown to me, but Grant’s style tends to be lighter – so that is a plus. The setting is new and novel, so that is something I don’t know about, and I suspect learning this new world will be the heavy lift for me. The genre is fantasy and resistance/revolution. I am pretty solid on fantasy tropes, and resistance/revolution is one of my favorite genres, so I know that this will be the easiest part of the game for me.

So picking up the book I have two questions I want to find out:

  1. How complicated are the mechanics?
  2. How intricate is the setting? (That is to say, how much of the setting do I have to memorize to effectively run the game).

With those questions in my mind, I can then start reading the game and directing my focus as I read to answer these questions.

Learning Methods

When I am learning a new game, I often rely on more than just the game to help myself get up to speed. The game itself is key, but there are other things I can tap into to help me get oriented and acclimated.


When it comes to the rules of the game I use the following sources:

  • The Core Book – First and foremost, the mechanics of the game as written by the designer. This is the first source for learning the game.
  • Actual Plays – Listening to APs are a great way to learn the game, but many APs cut corners on the rules or edit some of the dryer parts out, so they are a good way to get a general feel, but will never replace the Rules.
  • Making Cheat Sheets – If a game lacks cheat sheets, then making your own is a great way to solidify the game in your head.
  • The Core Book – Again, the core book is going to be the main source of the setting and the first place you should look. Most will have chapters dedicated to the setting for their game.
  • Supplements – Many larger games have separate setting supplements. These are, of course, great sources for info, but may be more than you need for getting your game started. Often when I am starting a game I skip these until I am sure the game is going to take off.
  • Adventures – I am 50/50 on running published adventures, but I will always read them for more setting info.
  • Other related media – If a setting has fiction, comics, or movies, these are a great source for more setting info as well. You want to balance the knowledge gained and getting trapped in canon.
Genre  …the core book does not always spell out what the tropes and important genre elements are. Share8Tweet1+11Reddit1Email
  • The Core Book – Now here is where the core book does not always spell out what the tropes and important genre elements are. Some games do this specifically and others expect you to pull it from the setting material.
  • Other related media – you will have to pull the info for the genre out of this material, as it is never spelled out. But if you consume enough of this media, you will start to see the tropes and other conventions. A number of games will have an Appendix N or other lists of media inspirations that you can use to do your research.
  • TV Tropes – This gold mine and time sink is the best place to look at tropes for any genre or media. Be warned, you will get lost in reading when you go here. Set a timer before you click.
Getting Your Learn On

When you are polygamerous, learning games is something you have to do all the time, and I wind up learning a few games a year. The faster you can learn them the more games you can play. Learning a game, and being prepared to run it, is no small task – and having an efficient method for learning and getting a game ready to play is a valuable tool for any GM to have.

Over the years, I have cobbled together this method above, but it is one that works for me quite well. What about you? Do you have a method for learning new games?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

GDC 2019 State of the Industry: Nearly 50% of devs support unionization

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 24 January 2019 - 8:59am

The results of the latest GDC State of the Industry survey are out, offering unparalleled insight into how game makers feel about unionization, the state of Steam, crunch time, and more! ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Kliuless #20: Netflix vs. Fortnite... Competitors in Content & Influence - by Kenneth Liu Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 6:17am
Each week I compile a gaming industry insights newsletter that I share with other Rioters, including Riot’s senior leadership. This edition is the public version that I publish broadly every week as well. Opinions are mine.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Houdini Piers that Disappear - by Vasileios Karavasilis Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 6:17am
Procedural modeling can be a huge bonus to small teams that want to create diverse worlds. We needed to create piers. 3 of them.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

What is Mesmer? A step forward for Rain Games - by Peter Wingaard Meldahl Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 6:17am
This is the first development post on our next game, Mesmer. On a series of posts, we'll be covering some of the key aspects of the game, from game design to lore and mechanics.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Spread Your Wings: Forging a Distinctive Brand and Identity as a Creative Talent - by Michel Sabbagh Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 6:15am
Bethesda Softworks alumnus Michel Sabbagh tackles the value of artistic individualism in creative industries that are simultaneously varied and over-saturated with run-of-the-mill artworks. How tangible is the desire to follow trends?
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Matt Raithel, Graphite Lab: Developing a Brand You Can Build On - by Jessica Paek Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 6:14am
We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Matt Raithel and discuss how Graphite Lab recovered from their failed Kickstarter, developed Hive Jump for Switch and Xbox One, and landed on the front page of the Nintendo eShop.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game accessibility quotes of 2018 - by Ian Hamilton Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 6:13am
2018 was a vintage year for inclusion of gamers with disabilities, with all kinds of lovely firsts. Post on the progress made throughout the year is incoming, but first a few of my favourite quotes
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gnomecast #58 – Meet a New Gnome: Jen Adcock

Gnome Stew - 24 January 2019 - 5:20am

Join Ang and get to know one of the newest Gnomes, Jen, in this “Meet a New Gnome” episode of Gnomecast! Learn about Jen’s start in gaming and her plans for future games, conventions, and Gnome Stew articles! Will Jen’s game theme extremes be enough to help her avoid the stew?

Download: Gnomecast #58 – Meet a New Gnome: Jen Adcock

Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting, following @gnomestew on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page. Check out Gnome Stew Merch, and support Gnome Stew on Patreon!

Follow Jen at @JenKatWrites on Twitter, check out her website First Sight Second Thoughts, and support her on Patreon at

Follow Ang at @orikes13 on Twitter, or find her in the Misdirected Mark Google+ Community.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Why Friendly AI Cheat in Ghost Recon Wildlands - by Tommy Thompson Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 2:44am
Sometimes if you want to make your game work as intended, you need to cheat a little bit. In this video I examine one of the best 'cheating' AI systems in recent years: the companion AI of 2017's Ghost Recon Wildlands.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Inverse kinematics for fingers explanation and example in Unreal Engine 4.21 - by Tom Kemna Blogs - 24 January 2019 - 2:38am
Inverse kinematics seems like a daunting subject, but in Unreal Engine 4 it's surprisingly straightforward! I'll show an overview on how I applied used it in VR, and provide an example project where you can look into the code itself and experiment around.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

So You Want To Compete With Steam: Epic, Discord, Kartridge, and RobotCache - by Lars Doucet Blogs - 23 January 2019 - 10:03pm
Four new competitors have emerged to take on Steam: Epic, Discord, Kartridge, and RobotCache. Let's see how they stack up.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

With CryEngine's SpatialOS GDK in the works, Crytek reaffirms open-platform goals

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 23 January 2019 - 1:07pm

In the wake of the big (now resolved) dispute between SpatialOS dev Improbable and Unity, Cryengine maker Crytek has reaffirmed its commitment to providing an open platform in a post on its blog. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Master the art of creating and managing great live games at GDC 2019

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 23 January 2019 - 11:29am

Don't miss all the great GDC 2019 talks aimed at helping you become a better live game developer! Catch these talks from folks who've worked on Fallout 76, Armello, Path of Exile and more! ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Donut County: Quick Porting from PC to Nintendo Switch - by Veronika Chebotareva Blogs - 23 January 2019 - 6:50am
Each new platform helps expand the audience and engage new passionate gamers for your title. The well-chosen platform in combination with an accurate and timely porting can turn into a key to success for your game in the long-term perspective.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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