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February 22, 2024: Time Is On My Side

Speaking of game elements that are ephemeral, have you ever noticed how weird "playing time" is with games? I've played 30-minute games where I've been like, "Gee, that felt a bit long," and I've been engrossed in games where 2 to 3 hours have simply and delightfully melted away.

I want to pontificate more here, but – unlike my precious "choices/feelings in games" post – I have nothing specific to point to. So I'm curious if this is just my personal weirdness when it comes to timekeeping, or if others feel the same way. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on the forums.

-- Steven Marsh

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February 21, 2024: Summiting Austin

Here we are, fresh off our Steve Jackson Games Summit, held right here in Austin, TX. It was the first one in my memory, and I've been here more than nine years!

With most of us working at home (yay!), and with seven (!) staff people now working from out of state (Dallas IS out of state, yes?), the start of a new year seemed the perfect time to put our heads together for some heavy-duty collaboration. For some of us, it was the first chance we'd had to meet our newest staff members face to face! The first thing we had to do, of course, was introduce everyone to breakfast tacos.

We had some fruitful meetings, which inspired even more talk and collaboration. Production met with Marketing, Marketing met with Editorial, our Line Editors met with Marketing and Production, and Steve and Meredith met with everyone! It's really helpful to open these conversations; we all do our jobs better . . . [more]

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February 20, 2024: Game Design Is Just, Like, Vibes

I've worn a lot of hats in the gaming world, from avid player to playtester to writer to editor to retailer and a dozen other aspects I've forgotten. One thing I've come to appreciate is how much game design boils down to this vague, ephemeral sense of how a mechanic feels.

Take, for example, a simple combat game where you need to roll against the other character's defense value. Imagine you miss your roll by 1 to hit your opponent. That will likely feel different if the game explains the outcome as "you miss" versus "you almost hit, but the enemy dodges out of the way" versus "you hit, but it doesn't penetrate the enemy's defenses."

Similarly, imagine a card game with cards that reflect various abilities or powers. "You need to pay three resources each turn or else your character becomes weaker" might be mechanically identical to "you need to pay three resources each . . . [more]

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February 19, 2024: My Pet Monster

Fantasy Trip fans noticed a new monster in the Legacy Edition: the Scolopendra. It's a big centipede. I added it because centipedes are cool. And fate rewarded me in a funny way.

You see, Scolopendra are real creatures. They don't (fortunately!) get as big as the biggest ones in TFT, but they get big enough. Over a foot long, for some species. Like the one I have in my office at home.

This is a fine, fat specimen of Scolopendra heros, the Texas Red-Headed Centipede. I found him (technically IT . . . determining sex on these beauties is not a job for the faint-hearted) in my house, in the middle of the night. When I woke up, I had a 4-inch highly-venomous centipede in a jar. He's now over 5 1/2" and apparently still growing. He likes crickets!

In this picture, Monster is curled up on top of his piece of bark. He was supposed to make a cave under the bark, but he dug under the flowerpot . . . [more]

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February 18, 2024: Shuffling: The Next Generation

Apparently my recent batch of Daily Illuminator posts about shuffling generated some comments. Here are a few that piqued my interest.

Over on the forums, long-time contributor Buzzardo noted that the "most-effective shuffle" is the "smoosh shuffle," where you spread all the cards out on a flat surface and kind of . . . umm . . . smoosh them into each other. (In the same thread, RogerBW calls it a "puddle" shuffle.) Per an article Buzzardo linked, "One shuffle lasting about a minute is more than enough to ensure a statistically random arrangement of cards." It's an interesting idea, and I've certainly used the "smoosh shuffle" quite often. However, as I've noted previously, I tend to sleeve a bunch of my card games, and that kind of situation really requires all the cards to be oriented the same way or else they get caught in themselves. Still, in my experience, the "smoosh shuffle" . . . [more]

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