Monday, April 23, 2012

Judging a Book by Its (New) Cover

Those of you who have been waiting for a proper OVA update need wait no more. Here it is, the new cover! (Click to see it in its full-size glory.)

Even though this isn’t final, hopefully you all will find lots to love in the revised cover design. Like the rest of the book, the cover illustration is done by talented Niko Geyer, and you may even notice a new look for Wise Turtle Publishing itself!

The Kickstarter for OVA (previously mentioned here) is slated for late June/July, just in time for the game’s 7th anniversary. I’m still tinkering with the pledge premiums list, so if you have an opinion, be sure to let me hear about it! What sort of things would make you back at a higher level, and what would you pay for it? Gauging consumer interest will be very useful before jumping in the crowd-funding deep-end!

Keep checking by, as I will continue to post OVA updates leading up to the Kickstarter, including a look behind the curtains as I finalize the typesetting of the rules.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Box and the Hare

Outside of a fleeting flirtation with popularity in the 1980s, rpgs have always been a niche product, a collection of tomes and boxes more likely to be squirreled away in the recesses of some specialized hobby shop than displayed front-and-center in your favorite department store. Still, you’ll see the bigger rpgs, like Dungeons & Dragons, show up in the big chain booksellers, and such games are never-the-less a prominent part of our cultural identity — even if everyone isn’t aware of exactly how to play one.

But in Japan, things are a little different. rpgs may have seen the same brief rise in visibility as they did in the west, with really awesome-looking versions of D&D, Battletech, and other standbys localized for a curious audience, but nowadays Japanese rpgs are lucky to have a tiny space of three or four books in stores. Polyhedral dice are a chore to get a hold of, and besides the venerable D&D, often eschewed in favor of the stalwart six-sider. Suffice it to say, it’s a niche of a niche, to the point where rpgs have to be referred to as “Table-Talk rpgs” to differentiate them from the grossly more popular video game variety.

That’s what makes a game like Golden Sky Stories all the more remarkable. There’s no thriving “story-gaming” culture there, not a slew of diceless rpgs to draw inspiration from, no new-fangled narrative rpgs to be influenced by. It’s a microcosm of rpgs, one largely still in the same boat as our games were 10 years ago. And you'd think a game developed for a much smaller audience may have hit-and-miss production values, especially when you consider that most Japanese webpages look like Geocities came by for a visit and then never left. That’s not the case. gSS is a lovely book, with big, expressive art that brings a rural Japanese town to life. So I’ve tried to be faithful to the original design of the book as I’ve gone about rebuilding it from scratch. (No source files here, folks!)

But still, there are some things throughout the design that seems a little out of place. For instance, the book is split into four parts, seasons, and each section is introduced by art and one of these symbols. You can see the very thematic, almost sumi-e looking paint job behind the character for Spring, right? Looks great!

However, throughout the book, these stark, austere-looking rounded boxes are used for notes and callouts. In a book otherwise so warm and comfy, it seemed inappropriate to me. So I did something about it! Drawing inspiration from the seasonal characters, all of the boxes, tables, and other details have swapped their old rounded-rectangle tool attire for newer threads with rough edges and a more painted look. I think the end result is much more in character with the book, and I can only hope Ryo Kamiya, the book's author, would approve!

For your reading enjoyment, I’ve included an entire spread from the Powers section. The left-hand page features abilities all henge of a given type possess, while recto features optional ones. It’s a neat system, because in order to gain more powers, you have to take the corresponding weakness! The number in parenthesis indicates the amount of Wonder (a sort of story-telling currency) you spend to use that power.

Why the Rabbit, you ask? Well, it only seemed appropriate for today, right? Hope you all have a great Easter!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nyan Cat: Rainbow Race

I’m ecstatic to reveal the box art for Minion Games’ next title. As a subject near and dear to my heart, I’m so excited we were able to procure the license bouncing off the success of the now sold-out Manhattan Project.

Nyan Cat: Rainbow Race is a “real-time” card game for 2-4 players based on the popular internet meme. Instead of taking turns, players can draw, discard, and play cards at any time. The deck consists of 6 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, which are shuffled and evenly divided among the players to become individual draw decks. When you draw a card, you may either place it in your hand or play it to your play area on the table. Cards played to the table are organized by color, and the goal is to create the biggest stack of a single color. Players may not have multiple stacks of the same color on the table in front of them at any point in the game. When players feels like their stack is big enough, they can take the whole stack and put it in their scoring pile. If a stack of that color already exists in the scoring pile, the new pile must be at least one larger, and the old pile is discarded.

There is also the Nyan Cat card. This special rare card can be played on top of anyone’s color stack, and that stack immediately goes to the Nyan Cat player’s scoring pile. Managing how big to make your color stacks — to maximize score value but hopefully not attract other players' desirous eyes! — is the core of the game.

Once all cards have been played or discarded, scoring is handled in traditional Knizian manner: The player with the most cards in their smallest color stack is the winner!

Once again, I can’t express how enthusiastic I am about this game. I designed it from the ground up with Nyan Cat in mind and to be accessible to younger players. I only hope the gaming public will find I’ve succeeded! Keep checking by in the coming months for updates as Nyan Cat: Rainbow Race goes through production!