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Kickstarter Preview: Psi Wars

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It is the 37th century. Competing warlords have harnessed the knowledge of creation, using it to create powerful armies. This knowledge has spread across the galaxy unchecked causing mass-extinctions. Most of humanity has been wiped out. The Galactic Alliance has enlisted your help. Hyper-Card technology allows you to take part in planetary battles and help re-establish order in the galaxy.

In Psi Wars you’ll use advanced technologies to create an army of forces in order to fight for control of your planet. Creatures battle psyonically, physically, and through cyber attacks. To win, a player must use their army to crush their opponent’s forces and reduce their lab to 0.

Developed by Michael Wohl (a self professed old school gamer) and his son, Adeev (who usually wins their games), Psi Wars is a fast playing futuristic themed deck builder for 2-4 players. I chatted with the boys about Psi Wars and the game design process in anticipation of their Kickstarter launch.

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What prompted the development of Psi Wars?

Michael: My son Adeev and I have been playing games for years, including all sorts of card games. Since I have been a gamer for 40 years and an an entrepreneur for 30 (thanks to gaming) – I had a lot of experience to pull from, both as a gamer and a developer. I really felt games that had absolutes, such as games where a 5 always beat a 4) were missing important elements of life. A 5 has a better chance of beating a 4, but not 100%. In life there are no absolutes, which could be reflected in a game. We realized that we could create a multi-dimensional game that had relatively simple rules with tremendous degrees of freedom of decision-making. This would lead to highly creative strategies – a beautiful balance of creativity and reasoning. We went through so many iterations and refinements together. I like Decision-Making research, Game Theory, etc, which is at the heart of Psi Wars.

Adeev: My dad and I like to play a lot of games and watch movies together. We started bending rules of some games and really enjoyed the process. We thought we could expand this idea.

What did you think about the design/playtesting process? What did you like/dislike?

Adeev: It was a really fun and educational experience. I was able to create something from my imagination. I kept thinking of new cards and abilities and would share them with my dad. I created spreadsheets with tons of ideas. It was really fun doing this with my dad, we learned a lot together and I now know what it takes to launch a business.

 I was always a bit impatient about getting the game out there and always excited for new ideas. I even started counting down the days until launch. I even get to go to game conventions for ‘work.’ I mean, how cool is that?

Michael: The design and play testing was a highlight of the entire process. Our goal was a beautifully balanced game. Every time we changed a small rule it would change us and how we played. We’d see if there was a way to ‘game’ the rules, etc. Once it was refined, we sought highly sophisticated players of other strategic card games and their reaction was wonderful – nobody has played anything quite like Psi Wars. It was invigorating to recognize the excitement they found in playing our game. The other piece was working with all of the artists around the world to create an artistic vision that works also as 3D animated lenticular cards. We were lucky to work with some amazing people to produce outstanding art. Everyone flips out over the 3D cards. From the start, we wanted the game to be mesmerizing from an artistic and sensory perspective. I think holding back Psi Wars until it was really ready to launch was hard. We worked on it for over 2.5 years and we are dying for people to play it. We are very curious to see what all of the amazing minds in the world do when they start to construct/personalize their own decks and strategies. We have non-random expansion packs in the works.

What do you hope your audience gets/takes away from the game?

Michael: Really appreciating the card art while kicking some serious butt through mind-bending strategies that make you jump up and down and scream like we do when we play.  A new joy that playing Psi Wars brings through creative strategy and decision-making. Navigating the fog of war with perfectly imperfect information, which helps so much to understand how to thrive in the world.

Adeev: I hope they have as much fun and enjoyment as we do playing Psi Wars.

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Psi Wars is great intro to deck builders for new players and a intensely fast playing game for experienced ones with striking art that really evokes its sci-fi theme. Check it out on Kickstarter May 15th. Keep up with their progress and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Top 10 (Nerdy) Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

So here we are, deep into February with March right around the corner.  It’s the beginning of tax season and with all that’s fit to buy, I’m going to offer up my top ten choices to spend a tax refund on:

10. Steam Wallet

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First off, Steam is addicting. With a sale for every season and weekly deals the year round, I suggest you dump part (or all) of you refund into your steam wallet. When the Spring sale starts, you won’t be able to cry you don’t have money in your bank account; it’ll be right there on Steam waiting for you to spend.

9. Kickstarter

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Following a close second to the constant games on sale are games yet to come out. Feeling nostalgic for a game you used to play? There’s likely a reboot, or an anniversary edition being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. I’ve got my 20th Anniversary Whiskey Box Edition of Deadlands coming and I can’t wait. New ideas abound there as well. There might be an awesome game you don’t know you’ll love just waiting for you to back it.

8. VR Equipment

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Virtual reality is hot, even Pornhub is into it (so I’m told). The high end phones, and even the PlayStation all have VR tech waiting to gobble up your cash.  There are inexpensive models you can purchase for your phone if you’re not ready for a setup the same price as a full console.

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Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

Posted on
Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

by Michael Wells

Disclosure: I am a backer of Beneath Nexus on Kickstarter. Also, while I have not worked on this specific project, I have been in discussion with Silverclutch Games to provide writing for a future project.

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It’s time for another developer spotlight! This time around we’re talking about Silverclutch games about their upcoming release Beneath Nexus. We had a chance to talk to Tom and Chris from Silverclutch at Too Many Games in Oaks, PA (check out our convention impressions here and here) and now we’re pleased to feature them and their project on our site.

The Project:

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From their website:

Beneath Nexus is a dungeon crawling card game for 4 to 6 players. Discover powerful treasures and unlock forgotten secrets in your quest to reclaim the city of Nexus. The Heroes combine their unique skills and powers to overcome the trials of The Blight Lord who uses fiendish monsters and dark magicks to destroy all who delve Beneath Nexus.

Beneath Nexus is a tabletop card game that offers an exciting roleplaying experience in a quickplay format. It is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs and aims to recreate the feel of those games using predetermined heroes with decks of unique abilities. One player takes on the traditional GM role and plays the Blight Lord, a boss character for the other players to take on. To do so, the other players choose heroes that are drawn from traditional role-playing class archetypes and must strategize how best to use their complimentary abilities to overcome the monsters and spells that the Blight Lord arrays against them.

Beneath Nexus is currently up on Kickstarter and has nearly reached 75% of their goal at time of this writing. Take a look and consider backing this exciting project.

Developer Interview:

I sent a few questions to Silverclutch Games and Chris took some time away from their Kickstarter and Convention schedule to respond.

What made you want to get into game development?

Tom and I have both played games since early childhood. Tom developed his passion for gaming when he was introduced to Magic: the Gathering in the 3rd grade. I played the classics with my father, and he was relentless. Instead of a healthy hobby, my passion for gaming lies more so in my hunger for revenge against my dad for absolutely decimating my brother and me for years in Risk, Stratego, Checkers, and Uno. We began gaming together when Tom joined my Pathfinder RPG group when we were in college. Both of us have always been curious about how games work and have been ready to criticize any game that comes our way. We ended up making games because we knew what we wanted to play and wanted to share those ideas with our friends.
How did Silverclutch Games get started?
Silverclutch Games is a product of my desire to own my own business and Tom’s desire to create awesome games. Tom was developing an introductory dungeon crawler for a handful of months when I approached him with the idea to start our own game design business. That was June of 2015. We incorporated in August, 2015, with the plan to create accessible, easy to learn games that engage the hobbyist gamer.

 

What were your inspirations for Beneath Nexus?
Tom and I are huge fans of D&D, Dungeonworld, etc. We play roleplaying games regularly, but many of our friends can’t be bothered with the hefty rulebook and long playtimes. That bums us out! Beneath Nexus was created so that new players and casual gamers can get a taste of the fantasy adventure genre without having to do homework in the meantime.
What about Beneath Nexus is most interesting/exciting to you as a designer?
We tried a lot of different things, mechanically, with Beneath Nexus. We wanted it to be easy to learn, quick to play, and interesting for both hobbyists and newbies, so we had to experiment with a bunch of different ideas. What excited me most about the process was translating player feedback into mechanical changes. A lot of hobbyists tested the game, so their comments were very direct and specific. The casual gamers that had much more general feedback were the most fun for me because the playtesting notes became a puzzle of vague notions after a few play throughs. Tom seemed most excited by the balance of the asymmetry of the game. Making sure the Blight Lord wasn’t too weak or too strong was a huge task when we incorporated it. Tom dug into it immediately and really shined there.
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I had the chance to play two games of Beneath Nexus at Too Many Games and was very impressed by how polished and balanced the game is. A great deal of obvious care went into the design of the heroes, their abilities, and the ways that they interact with each other. Using the whole party’s abilities in just the right way to overcome a challenge feels a bit like the moment in Magic: The Gathering when the cards in your deck line up and play just right for that devastating combo. Meanwhile, the Blight Lord’s abilities and Monsters keep players on their toes and can easily punish careless or reckless play. The game looks like it is rewarding for players on either side of the table.
The game is already available in a print and play format if you want to give it a go. I can’t wait for the physical game to be released. For more information about the game and Silverclutch Games, check out the Beneath Nexus Kickstarter and their website.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Crowdfunding

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Crowdfunding

Disclosure:  I bought into the base crowdfunding for Star Citizen, and a couple of other non-gaming projects that are not mentioned in this piece.

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Crowdfunding has become a wildly popular means for artists, designers, writers and film makers to get their projects off the ground in lieu of traditional investment funding.  With the rise in the number of funding projects, there’s also a rise in scams, failed projects, and teams that don’t come through with their promises.  As every year passes the list of failed ideas grows longer and it’s making gamers more and more skeptical of funding new independent projects.

Mighty No. 9,  though it has been released, has been a long chain of concerns and disappointments for the last year or more.  Community management issues, communication problems and finally a delayed and troublesome release have left a bad taste in people’s mouths.  Some backers were able to get refunds before release, but many stuck it out in hopes they would get the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but by all reports Mighty No. 9 isn’t so mighty.  Often the best way for an indie game to get made now is with crowdfunding, but when backers get burned by a bad project it will make them think twice before backing another, which could turn out to be a great game.

Then we have projects that have been funded, have been updating, but have not released yet.  Star Citizen is a huge undertaking, that has grown larger over the years as it has managed to raise more money than any crowdfunded game yet.  Over the course of the funding the developer has expanded the size and scope of the game, but there doesn’t appear to be a release date in sight.  They have updated backers regularly with videos, alpha releases of small portions of the game, and email newsletters.  The delay has left people wondering if they’ll ever see the game, and some have even gotten a refund on their investment.

Worse, in my opinion, are the funded ideas that never deliver, even a bad quality product, and don’t update the backers at all.  A Feminist Deck was funded completely in June of 2015, and, according to comments on the page, went radio silent in February of this year.  By all appearances, the organizer has taken the money and run, which may or may not be true, but in the case of asking people to trust you with their money, appearances are all you have.

That’s essentially what crowdfunding is.  Asking people for money for a product that isn’t yet created, and asking them to trust you to deliver that product as promised.  The bigger issue here is faceless project organizers and anonymous artists are the bulk of the people asking for money, and the more trust that’s broken with consumers, the less they’ll trust the next one.  A few people burned by a couple of failed games tell their friends, who also become more skeptical.  A creator might have a great idea and be able to deliver, but they might not be able to find enough backers to trust them to get it off the ground.  Messes like Double Fine’s Broken Age debacle just make it harder for the next team with a great idea.

Despite the large number of incomplete game projects there have been some great successes with games getting funded.  Pillars of Eternity, for example, got great reviews from both players and critics.  In its time, it was the highest funded Kickstarter game on the site.  Along with Pillars, we’ve seen a couple of Shadowrun games, Superhot, and Darkest Dungeon, just to name a few of the more popular ones.  We’ve gotten some great titles, unique concepts, and quality product out of crowdfunding, and it is a great way for independent developers to get their projects out there, but it’s certainly become a minefield of risk and disappointment.

Indie Game Spotlight: Essence

Written by: OneVision
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OneVision Games is comprised of two young developers from Berlin who love to create worlds and inspiring and meaningful games. It’s just an amazing feeling to see how an idea becomes reality and how a thought actually turns into a world that you can walk in and that takes you in a totally different universe. We both love games and it has always been a dream to create games since we have been small.
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The game is launching a prototype/demo in a couple of days. The game itself will take a bit more time as there are many worlds that need to be built, many more cool surprises and secrets we want to hide within the worlds and many more abilities and game play elements that we still have to implement. The estimated release of Essence is at the end of 2016 (around the end of October).
Now LIVE on Kickstarter!
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