Entries Tagged 'Project Updates' ↓

Send Us Your Armies

So it was pointed out to me that the whole secret project thing is sort of lame and a bad way to go about marketing something. I’m still in a state of mild shock that anybody would care enough to read this forgotten blog. But a big Thank You to those who have expressed interest in what I have been up to creatively. And since I am terrible with this type of stuff I’m just going to come out and say that I wrote a book. It’s called How To Fail Until You Succeed. No. Just joking, although that title hits home.

But I did write a sci fi/fantasy book. Mostly fantasy but it starts with a sci fi premise. I remember one of the reviewers for Occult Chronicles saying that the writing wasn’t half bad and since I had done that myself, it encouraged me to approach the project seriously with the idea that I could actually write something interesting. Consecutive design failures in the card board prototype arena had been a bit discouraging.

The whole idea for the book came from a number sequence that kept repeating in my head from as far back as 2004 when I started work on Armageddon Empires. I used to blurt out this phrase “It’s all about 14’s and 44’s” To this day I still have no idea why. or what it means. Please don’t contact mental health services about me. I’m fine. I know that’s what you would expect me to say but really I’m fine.

So I had that disembodied phrase and I also had this odd idea about travel to other “Universes.” I had been watching a lot of youtube videos about eternal inflation, the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and a bunch of Sir Roger Penrose interviews on CCC (conformal cyclic cosmology) and when thinking about this whole other reality thing, it occurred to me that we just assume that if you could travel there, the physics would be just the same. That is to say you would appear there with your body and your brain and all the information stored in your neural connections. The famous Star Trek episode Mirror Mirror runs on this premise.

But what if travel to another universe ended up translating you there but you ended up in a very different form? What if the physics and laws there were completely different?

Thus was born my idea for my debut (and perhaps last) novel titled “Send Us Your Armies.” Here is the flavor text I’m thinking of using to give you an idea of what it’s all about:

(Cue Impressive Music)

Pursued relentlessly across the multiverse, across countless other realities, The Exiles had finally found a place to make their last stand. It was a pocket universe with laws and rules unlike anything they had ever discovered before during their long flight. Their tormentors, the Old Ones, eventually found them as they always did. They pierced the veil of The Exiles’ haven, and the battle was joined.

The Exiles had a plan to secure their new world once and for all, but they needed help to buy enough time to see it to completion; there were so few of them remaining. An artifact was built to look for and summon potential allies from other realities. Encoded within its operation was a desperate plea: Send Us Your Armies.

So it’s at the copy editor right now. I hope to have it up on Amazon in 6 weeks or so. It would make the perfect gift for the holidays for your favorite sci fi or fantasy geek. Not sure about the price. Something in the range of a latte in a high cost of living city.

I Live Again


So things didn’t quite work out as planned as you can deduce by my four year hiatus from this blog. Forgotten Lore indeed.

I did make some board game prototypes; five or six actually. I lose count. In the end I realized that things just were not working out as I had hoped. Part of this I think was due to the nature of designing and play testing a physical game vs. a digital. You would think that they would be similar but they are not. The digital games in my indie experience, which means me doing the design and coding and then relying on others to pitch in for art, music and play testing, were like sculpting. You made choices at chipping away at the marble but your process went forward whether or not you broke off the nose. In that case you added a prosthetic nose or carved a new one.

When designing a board game you have so much more flexibility that it’s almost paralyzing. You can cut the nose off and then decide its not a human but an alien with a smelling orifice, add tentacles and then quickly chip those away just for the heck of it. If you don’t like the sculpt then just throw the whole block away and start again. After all it’s just a bunch of cheap card holders, die and a pdf rule book not a code base.

There was also a dirty little secret of mine that came in to play (pun intended). I love collecting games, ogling the pieces, inhaling the rule books, setting them up and fiddling around with them but I don’t actually play them with people all that much. Playing with real people for me has been limited to those lame party games at the beach house every summer. Oh, and Ticket To Ride because my mom loves that game. The Train Game she calls it.

So yeah, there are solitaire games; good ones even. And I kept finding myself compelled to try and make game designs that had strong solitaire possibilities. But in the end I kept coming back to computer games as my preferred way of entertaining myself. You can do things in digital that you simply can’t with card board; set up, ai, visuals. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying one is better than the other. There are strong arguments for playing both in different circumstances. But for me and my misanthropic, hermit ways it became obvious that computer games were the best fit. And once I had decompressed from making games for ten years, I started to actually enjoy them again.

But I did make some board games and I’d like to thing they were fun. The problem was that I kept thinking that they really weren’t all that original. If you’ve looked at the board game world lately you can see that it has exploded. Are there new mechanics left to be invented or cleverly juxtaposed inside a spiffy rule system? Perhaps marginally so but it’s to the point where it almost has to be a gimmick to be novel. Theme is king nowadays.

In the end I realized that while my designs were fun, mostly, they weren’t anything special. And seriously how special can you be moving one piece of card board here or flipping one card there or making you go oh, I want to do that but I have to do this or that other thing might happen. In the meantime you surrender yourself to the enchantment of the game’s thematic appeal and wonder of wonders it still isn’t enough. And even if you like elves with pointy ears and shotguns, it’s still not enough despite the cool new mini sculpts. You end up collecting boxes of cool sculpts that you never paint. And then your wife starts yelling at you to clean out your office but I digress.

So what unpublished treasures did I create? One was a multi player assassin game set in a mythical fantasy city. You can see the prototype in previous post. You had to use cards and attribute stats to roll dice to come up with enough “successes” to beat other numbers that represented mission objectives. Your opponents could mess with you or bluff you. You tried to get enough VP to win when the end game condition triggered.

I let that sit for a while but later came back to it and turned it into a game focused on just two players but really tuned well for one player. It had you try and become guild leader by getting prestige points which you spent in the last mission encounter with the evil guild master. You could buy powerups etc to help beat the last mission. You didn’t always know what you were facing unless you had put some effort into discovering the final boss’s secret abilities so it wasn’t always easy to know what to buy.

I made a space exploration game. You had cards that represented your ship and you put little wooden cubes on them to track fuel, supplies and tactics. You rolled dice to get successes to beat encounter cards and survey planets. You could spend the cubes to add dice or play cards to do so or change the rules (rerolls etc.) It was fun but very fiddly.

I made an Armageddon Empires card game. I tried to capture the whole recon, supply, turtle vs aggressive offense strategy choices that the game has. You could build special project with your labs and then nuke your opponents HQ if you could find it. I created a great recon system for that which I was really proud of. You could see your opponents cards of course but you had to tag them with a recon token to actually attack them. It had something like 350 cards so I realized that it just wasn’t going to work. I spent countless hours in photoshop making the mock ups with the AE art. Even got them printed up. They did look sharp.

I started trying to really come up with a good solitaire game in the mold of Dawn of the Zeds. I had wanted to do an asymmetrical computer game like that but in a fantasy setting but I realized though that my coding days were long gone. But I came up with several designs centered around cards where you built up your kingdom and then an AI opponent with special rules attacked you from all points of the compass; The Demon Horde etc.

There was a design based on Chakra colors and symbol matching that I worked on for ages but never really got into a state that was fun. There were a couple of others too that were just printed paper slips in card holders. The cats chewed them up since they were plastic.

So TLDR: Designing board games didn’t turn out like I thought it would. It ground me down in the end. But it led to something else. Part of the fun of playing and making games is the story generation aspect. And that’s what I found that I really enjoyed. So hopefully in a month or so, I will have something to show anybody who is interested. I won’t say anything more until it’s ready. But it’s NOT a game; card board, digital or otherwise.

I’ve added an email list sign up to this blog if you would like to get notifications of new posts or updates about my new secret project. The address will never be sold or shared with anybody.

Decision Space Analysis

The phrase “present interesting and meaningful decisions” has become such a mantra in designer speak that I almost get a little annoyed when I hear myself tossing it around or run across it while reading about other designers. In sports you have a worn out phrase “Deliberate practice and meaningful games.”  I’m always trying to be wary of groupthink.  I have run across it so often in the course of my life that I’m always on the look out for it.  The herd can find water together as well as walk off a cliff together.  In the case of “interesting decisions” or “deliberate practice” I think the group has found a solid nugget of wisdom.  The debates on the meaning of “meaningful” (or that other bogeyman called “balance”) sometimes make me wonder about the cliff.

Back on track though. When I studied electrical engineering back in the early 80’s one of my light bulb moments was learning about the Laplace transform. You get a whole new picture of a signal by doing a Laplace transform and going from the time domain to the frequency domain. This idea that you could do a mathematical transformation on something and see hidden data and meaning was astounding to me at the time. I’ve tried to apply the concept wherever I can. So with a game design I like to transform it into the decision domain or space and see what it looks like.  I don’t use integral calculus of course but I try to draw out a map of all the decisions in the game and how they interact.  Often it starts out like a simple flow chart or even just a list.  But if you get creative you can work the elements around visually to help figure out how the decisions interconnect.  This can also help you figure out whether decisions are interesting or meaningful.

Key Decisions for my board game

Play positive Guild Card to Mission that I want to win OR play negative Guild Card to Mission that I want to deny opponent

Decide Strategy for round based on my resources/Influence Points (IP) versus opponents’ resources/IP

Decide on use of Interrupt Text on any Guild Cards I have versus other useful text on cards i.e Guild Cards have split text options

Choose 2 of 8 options for my turn during round of turns (8 rounds total for 2 or 4 player game)

If need to rebuild resource base then decide on

1) visit  guild healer

2) take guild stipend

3) buy item card

4) buy spell card

5) charge a spell card

6) take secret objective cards

7) play guild card for “Guild Event”

8.  Attempt Mission Contract card to earn Influence Points then decide which mission

Decide on use of Guild cards, Item cards, Skill cards, Spell cards and Fate Tokens to accomplish challenges on sequential stages of mission challenge track

Decide which of the three face up challenge cards to attempt for each stage of the mission contract card.

Decide on how many wounds you can afford to take while attempting mission contract card challenges.

Decide on how far to push luck in mission/Abort Mission. i.e. multiple reward levels

Opponents’ Turn Decisions

Decide on use of Guild Cards with Interrupt Actions

Post Turn Decisions/Influence Bidding Phase

Based on gold stockpile (mostly from stipend and mission rewards) decide on bidding strategy for number of influence card auctions and opponents wealth/need for IP

Bid on Influence Cards based on need of IP, mission type matches to accomplished mission contracts and opponents’ positions

New Year, New Direction

Happy New Year!

I’ve been selling computer games for over 7 years and it’s been a great ride.  Selling games directly from this website has been an increasingly difficult task. My programming skills are so tied to an aging and abandoned development platform that making even a niche title like my previous games is a dubious proposition at best.  So I’m leaving the digital space and moving over to the card board arena where I hope my design skills can shine.

It’s a natural transition since my games have all been very board game like.  I hope that has been part of their charm. I will naturally continue to support all my customers with tech support and downloads of lost purchases. And I will continue to sell my digital games and support them as well for as long as they keep running.  God Bless windows compatibility mode. 🙂

But my next game will be a board game and I will have come full circle.  About 10 years ago I spent large chunks of my day packing and shipping physical goods.  I hope to discover that a lot of progress has been made in the logistics of processing and shipping physical goods.  I know that my garage can’t store them.

I have a working prototype of a 2-4 player game that involves players trying to accumulate enough “influence” points to win the game.  The theme is a fantasy setting set in a fictitious city of splendor named Vance. I’ll reveal a lot more about the theme and mechanics as things progress. In general it is played in rounds with each player choosing 2 of 7 possible actions.  It involves a card and dice system, screw you cards played face down and an end of round secret bidding phase for important cards from a special deck.  The currency is gold coins as befits the fantasy setting.

I’m really proud of the design and I hope that my old customers from my computer games will give it a try when it’s available.  In a few months I should have enough materials to get an announcement out and an entry up on Board Game Geek and my Cryptic Comet website as well.

I’m also going to try and keep this blog updated with information on the design process for this game as well as an occasional general game design entry.  My new year’s resolution is to do 1 entry a week so hopefully that will work out better than my diet resolution.



The Black Company

I’ve started reading some again just for fun. I will go on binges and then suddenly not pick up any fiction for months. I have to say that I am really enjoying Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company. I’m up to book six (bypassing The Silver Spike) Bleak Seasons. It’s really great stuff and Lady (along with Croaker) is one of my all time favorite characters. I’ve got to figure a way to sneak the name Dorotea Senjak into one of my next games as a homage. If you find that you like Cook’s work then I would also recommend “The Dragon Never Sleeps” which I read last year and which gave me the idea to try out some of his other books. It’s sci-fi and a great read.

I’ll have some development news soon. It’s been a bit of a rough summer but I am making slow but steady progress on multiple projects. The free mini-expansion pack for SI has it’s own code base now and it will be version 1.07. I’m toying with calling it Solium Infernum: Rectification. I’m not sure when I will have it ready. Most likely it will be early next year. I’ve got to get some other work out to generate some more revenue and once that’s on track I’ll be able to advance at a better pace on that front.

Solium Infernum Update 1.06b

Update Instructions:
This is sort of a micro update. It does have an important fix for players attempting to frame other players for attacking Pandemonium so it’s worth updating for that.

The 1.06b update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: I strongly recommend that hosts update to this version. All other players should as well but many of the key fixes are for the turn resolution performed by the host.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt in the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06b ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06b .Exe

Important: For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Bug Fixes:
Fixed bug introduced in 1.06a that could cause script error if a player tried to frame another player for attacking Pandemonium with a ritual that resulted in excommunication

Fixed bug in AI for Goal Wage Offense Operations In Blood Feud that could result in script error if a specific attack option was selected

Fixed bug in AI for Goal Support Blood Feud Legion Movement that would result in script error if Secret Manipulation ritual was chosen and path could not be determined

Improved AI selection process for attacking enemy legions during Vendetta. Weak legions supporting Places of Power or other legions have an increased probability of being attacked first

Improved AI goal priority architecture so that actions are spread out more logically based on which threats have legions in threatening positions….. i.e. prestige differences are still big factors but that multiplier has been decreased.

Improved AI threat assessment algorithm so that threat reassessment of opponents is now done for the AI’s every turn.

Fixed error in Demonic Trance combat move resolution where infernal damage from neutralized opponent’s moves was not being negated

Solium Infernum Update 1.06

Update Instructions:

The 1.06 update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: I strongly recommend that hosts update to this version. All other players should as well but many of the key fixes are for the turn resolution performed by the host.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt in the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06 ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06 .Exe

For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Bug Fix And Change Notes (Only Partial):

Fixed bug where player perk bonuses where not being added to deceit roll for frame attempt success

The bonus for Pandemonium in determining successful framing for hostile rituals is now 10 instead of 8

If a player has demonic premonitions active and is the target of a ritual (not the player being framed) then they now receive their Prophecy roll number as a bonus when determining whether frame attempts are successful

Fixed bug in AI selection of Rain of Brimstone and Vile Oath

Fixed bug where player could be excommunicated by event and still selected regent

Fixed bug where paying to continue Planar Lock did not actually continue the lock effect

Implemented update message to target of Planar Lock that has been continued to the next turn

Fixed bug where wrong message was sent when player performed rituals against Pandemonium and was excommunicated

Fixed bug where loyalty for legions was not getting demonic premonitions bonus when events that required a loyalty check occurred

Fixed bug in AI goal that directed the destruction of opponent’s legions

Fixed error in display of 3 digit resource stockpiles

Fixed bug in Dire Dissipation ritual so that attributes as well as hit points are permanently reduced (as the manual says they should be)

Increased average reformation times of personal guard legions for lower infernal rank Archfiends

Fixed AI bug where wrong support ritual was being performed during attacks on unclaimed Places of Power

Increased range threat threshold that AI uses for determining threats to own stronghold by excommunicated players

Fixed AI bug where goal processing cycled endlessly between goals for buffing up legion for attack and moving legion to attack because battle success chances did not match

Fixed AI bug where even though a Machine was completed it did not get constructed if the AI prioritized a different goal because the Create Machine goal was removed from the stack and also not in the possible goals pool

Fixed bug where excommunication of player removed all mod objects from player and not just mod objects that were Infernal Conclave Decrees

Solium Infernum Update 1.05c

The main point of this update is to correct a problem that occurs in games with Blood Vassals and Blood Lords where the Blood Vassal does not get credit for actions during Vendettas. If you are a host for a PBEM game then I would recommend you update. There are some other fixes as well but the main one is the Blood Vassal problem.

The update is compatible with 1.05b and 1.05a. If you have a lower version than 1.05a then I would strongly recommend that you upgrade

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05c ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05c .Exe

Solium Infernum Update 1.05b Release

Update Instructions:

The 1.05b update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: I strongly recommend that hosts update to this version. All other players should as well but 1.05a and 1.05b are compatible. There are a lot of nice fixes here though so I would encourage all players to update especially if you have lots of excommunication going on in games.

Thanks to everybody who tested out the beta and to all the bug submissions I got over the last few days….some were really nice finds that I am happy to have terminated.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt it the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05b ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05b .Exe

For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Bug Fix Notes (Only Partial):

Fixed bug where attaching Praetor with level bonus to Place of Power resulted in PoP gaining that level bonus to its level permanently

Fixed bug where player did not get refunded prestige wager from Vendetta when opponent was excommunicated.

Fixed bug where legion returned to Bazaar for lack up upkeep displayed EOF text for artifacts and relics attached.

Fix bug with Dimensional Gate ritual that allowed player to abuse targeting process

Fixed bug where legion that was bought in Bazaar but did not have valid Canton to deploy to had inspect icon on message that caused script error when clicked on.

Fixed bug in level up response message for Praetor who defeated Champion of Pandemonium

Fixed bug where player was excommunicated multiple times with repeat messages and the excommunication list also had multiple entries for player causing problems with Expel the Heretic event and Dissolution of the Conclave

Fixed bug where event to reinstate excommunicated players was not working properly when one player could not be reinstated due to the fact that they were occupying Pandemonium at the time.

Fixed bug where player removed from game was not also removed from excommunication list

Fixed bug in Conclave dissolution process where loss of Pandemonium due to event could result in control being assigned to Conclave which does not exist

Fixed bug where you could dismiss Personal Guard under certain conditions

Fixed bug where Bribing an enemy legion without having a valid deploy hex caused an error

Fixed bug where removal of a player from the game could cause incorrect visibility data for newly created legions in the Bazaar

Fixed bug for Strategic Confusion ritual where selecting invalid target messed up remaining targeting choices

Biting Off More Than….

you can chew….You need to be able to admit it and moving on is sometimes the best option as bitter as it tastes to swallow that pill. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last few weeks – on and off trying to prototype a new twist to Solium Infernum that I was going to release as a free mini expansion pack. I have dropped it once, then moved onto a more compact mini-expansion idea and then tried another stab at the “big idea” approach and now finally realized that I need to moderate my ambition….otherwise a mini-expansion pack is going to morph into a full blown expansion pack and that’s just not something I want to approach at this point. But for S & G’s documentation sake here is how the “big idea” really was too big for now.

The “big idea” actually seemed pretty simple: Let one player assume the role of avenging Angelic Hosts that launch incursions into the Infernal Pit to punish the other players. The details proved however to be rather more complicated.

My main design goal was to do a twist on the Cults of the Wastelands mini expansion pack that I offered for Armageddon Empires except this time the role of the “spoiler” would be played by a human opponent. To do this I had to overcome a couple of big hurdles….invent a resource system for the Angelic Hosts player and come up with a win condition as well. The benefits would be great if I could pull this off. Ideally the Angelic Host player would offer yet another cooperate/defect dynamic to the game that would spice things up even more. It would be in all the Archfiends interests to make sure that the Angelic Host did not “win” the game but of course having the “Angelic Host” hammer your opponents would also be in a players interest as well. Balancing that dynamic would ideally add a whole range of new decisions.

The key design issues would then be how the Angelic Host player would interact with the Archfiends. Success for the Angelic Host player would mean loss of prestige for the players and most importantly the loss needed to be distributed unevenly. My initial idea was that the Angelic Host player would first send scouting parties to a Canton and then invest effort into setting up outposts and eventually stronger fortifications. This would result in an Archfiend having a continual drain on prestige the longer the Angelic Host operated with impunity in a players domain. I won’t go into other details other than I fiddled with a bunch of different rules variations…sometimes the outposts were hidden from all the players besides the one owning the Canton etc. Weight was given to locations that would border two or more Archfiends so that both would lose prestige and be able to act….and successfully removing an incursion fortification would gain the Archfiend prestige.

I already had a good idea how I wanted to handle the resource system for the Angelic Host player. I have always loved the design idea of players actions generating “negative action points” which can be used by other players to fuel resistance and roadblocks for the “acting” player. That type of system provides an elegant negative feedback mechanism to restrain would be leaders. One of the best examples of this type of mechanic is the wonderful little card game called dungeoneer So the basic idea would be that as the Archfiends used “souls” in their turn orders, the Angelic Host would be granted points to spend to torment the Archfiends.

The last key hurdle was coming up with a Victory condition for the Angelic Host and this was something that I only partially explored. There are a lot of possibilities ranging from the Angelic Host scoring Victory points to a build up for and conquest of Pandemonium that dissolves the Conclave and wins the game for the Angelic Host. I honestly didn’t get very far into this aspect before I realized that the whole endeavor was not working out well. In the prototyping I did getting the balance right for this idea proved really difficult. Putting a “spoiler” into the mix calls for a very deliberative approach to get it right and more importantly the design is way too ambitious for 4-6 weeks worth of work which is what I had planned for the free mini-expansion pack.

So I am going to back burner this and hopefully maybe come back to it as a more major expansion to the Solium Infernum universe. In the meantime I have gone back to the idea of a less revolutionary mini-expansion pack that smooths out some of the rough edges from the game.

So here is what I have in mind right now(and remember this could all change) and it will be a free addition for players who have already purchased the game:

Curses – Direct ways to affect your opponents’ prestige. The plan is for each Discipline except Diabolism to get a unique one.

Resource Fonts – Level up in a Discipline to level 3 and you can create an “Attachment” for a place of power/stronghold that gives you the chance each turn to receive a tribute card that contains an amount of the resource associated with the Discipline (Martial Skill => Ichor, Deceit => Darkness, Prophecy => Souls, Destruction => Hellfire) If you create one then your max Diabolism Level is capped at 6 minus the number of Fonts that you have created. Also if you create a font then the next font requires one level higher in the discipline you are choosing. i.e. if you created a soul font at level 3 Prophecy then a hellfire font will require level 4 in Destruction.

Assertion of Weakness – A new diplomatic action. Make an assertion of weakness before the Conclave against an opponent who has an unoccupied border hex adjacent to your holdings. The Conclave authorizes you to move into the single canton and remain there for X turns. If your opponent cannot eject you from the Canton (and only the Canton…this is not Vendetta) in X turns then you gain the Canton and he loses prestige (and you gain some as well).

New Praetors, Artifacts and Relics

New Events

A Regular Infernal Census
every 5 tokens where 1 prestige point is generated for each Canton held

I’m going to shoot for a May/June time frame for this and I’m still trying to think up a good name. 🙂