Wind Catcher Games

Games by Josh Raab

Hello Again, World

Alright! Quick runthrough of the last two months. First, I completed my third out of four semesters at NYU Game Center. Games I worked on include:

My thesis project:

1. Sumer (temp title): A video game inspired by board games, we’re calling it a “worker placement platformer” – Mario meets Settlers of Catan, or (more accurately) Agricola meets Killer Queen. Co-designers include Misha Favorov, Sig Gunnarsson,and Geoff Suthers. Art by Adam Alexander, sound by Seori Sachs. Not the last you’ll hear of Sumer!

For Rob Daviau’s board game design class:

2. Jefferson: A deck-builder using a standard deck of cards. Designed solo.

3. Lia Frank’s Rainbow Road: A real-time math game using a board and a standard deck of cards. Designed with Jesse Fuchs and Elyse Lemoine.

4. Train-a-saurus Wrecks: A game for preschoolers where you stack dinosaurs onto an electronic train. Designed with Vanessa Briceño, Misha Favorov, and Geoff Suthers.

5. Ratnakara: A Euro-style board game where you play as a merchant captain in the 1400s plying the Indian Ocean. Our final project, and a pretty fun game! Designed with Bruce Lan, Wynn Chen, and Jason Schoenfeld.

I also wrote a feature on Keith Nemitz, founder of Mousechief and creator of 7 Grand Steps and Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!, for Chris Plante’s’ journalism class.

With Studio Mercato, the most exciting news was showing Crystal Brawl at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in early December. We’ll also have it at MAGFest later in January. As for Nika, you can purchase the board game version online here, and we’ve been putting the app on all kinds of new platforms as well as working on the AI and polishing up the look. I expect it’ll be available for release within a couple months.

That’s about it! See ya next time.

– Josh

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Catching Up

Well! It’s certainly been a while. Most of my time has been going into my thesis project, a sort of digital Eurogame/spiritual successor to M.U.L.E. whose working title is Sumer. The core team of designer/programmers is myself, Sig Gunnarsson, Misha Favorov, and Geoff Suthers. Seori Sachs is our sound designer, and we’ll hopefully have our artist nailed down within a week or so.

For my other classes, I’ve been learning journalism from Chris Plante (Polygon, the Verge) and board game design from Rob Daviau (Risk Legacy, Betrayal at House on the Hill). Moving into final projects now, in the form of a feature article and a hobby-market board game. Details to come.

At Studio Mercato, we’re continuing to iterate on and playtest Crystal Brawl and the Nika app. We brought CB to the Boston FIG and Maker Faire in September, and are most likely planning to have it at MAGFest in late January. As usual, people enjoyed the games but there’s always lots more work to do.

I went 0 for 3 in terms of IndieCade submissions, but hope springs eternal – we submitted Geneses to the IGF Student Showcase. We did get good feedback from the IndieCade judges, mostly on issues of UI, legibility, and learning the game. Hard stuff, but super important!

Lastly, I applied for my third stint as a volunteer at GDC. I won’t hear back for a while, but I’ve loved volunteering there in the past and hope to be able to do so again.

That’s about it! I’ll have more updates when I hear back from various places, and as my school projects continue.

– Josh

Agency is Online!

Like the title says. We’ve put it up on Philomela, a lovely free Twine hosting site. Play it here and tell ya friends!

(Edit: Not sure how to have Philomela access our sound and art assets, so USE THIS LINK instead: http://bit.ly/1lvq1oN)

Here’s the Philomela link, but you should use the previous one: http://philome.la/raabgames/agency

 

Critical Hit Recap

Okay! It’s been well over a month, meaning I have been terribly negligent in my blog duties. So let’s get right into it!

Most of the summer was occupied by the amazing Critical Hit program at Concordia University’s TAG Lab. Each of the 15 other participants were phenomenally talented and wonderful people, and I’m honored to have spent 10 weeks making games alongside them.

I ended up working primarily on Agency, a text-based game built in Twine that explores themes of morality, necessity, and bureaucratic obfuscation in a not-so-distant-future America. You play as a government Inspector tasked with extracting information from a suspect. It will be online very soon, and I’ll post a little addendum when it is. I created the game alongside fellow NYU MFA student Pierre Depaz, and under the indispensable tutelage of Leanne Taylor and Jonathan Lessard.

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On other fronts, Crystal Brawl was accepted into the Boston Festival of Indie Games (September 13 at MIT). Geneses, sadly, was not, but we have some good hypotheses as to why – more to do with difficulties in UI and teaching the rules than with the quality of the design, in which we’re completely confident. Still waiting to hear back from IndieCade about those two and Nika, but that should be coming soon.

Additionally, Crystal Brawl will be showing at two festivals in the near future: lwlvl this weekend in Williamsburg, and Maker Faire NYC September 20-21 in Queens. We’re going as part of Mark Kleback’s wandering indie arcade carnival Deathmatch by Audio, and both events look like they’re going to be awesome. Hope to see you there!

Lastly, team assembly and preliminary design work have begun on my MFA thesis project. I won’t say much for now, but stay tuned. It’s gonna be good.

– Josh

Evo 2014: Nika + Geneses

I’ll be at Evo this weekend showing both Nika and Geneses with the NYU Game Center. Super awesome opportunity to get some competitive games I’ve worked in front of thousands of pairs of eyes. Huge thanks to NYU, and Dylan McKenzie in particular, for reaching

Critical Hit just made the transition from 1-week game jam projects to a 6-week final game. Last week I worked on the twitchy 2D physics platformer Shimmy with Hamish Lambert, Ben Swinden, and Ana Tavera Mendoza, which we showed off at CH’s big public playtest/party on Friday.

People loved Shimmy, but ultimately I decided to return to Welcome, Inspector for the remainder of the program, along with Patrick Chan, Pierre Depaz, and Tuuli Saarinen. As a game primarily concerned with information, hidden roles, and social dynamics, it’s a difficult design challenge I’m eager to tackle. We’ve decided to make it a full-on installation, which will allow us to focus on atmosphere and set design as well. This does mean the game will be harder to set up and run outside of CH, but we believe it’ll be that much more effective this way for those who do get to play it.

More updates coming throughout the summer!

Josh

Nika Sample Copy!

Today I received my advance sample copy of Nika!

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board photo 1

It’s an amazing feeling, having my name on that box. The components are all lovely, and I’m grateful to Eagle Games for doing such a good job on them. I’m also looking forward to finally having a copy of the game that actually fits in a backpack, instead of having to carry it under my arm like I’ve been doing for the past few years. Lesson learned: convenience of storage and transportation is a factor when prototyping.

I’ll be showing the game off to as many people as I can find to play it in Montreal this summer. I’ll most likely be leaving this copy at Concordia University’s TAG Lab as thanks for hosting me at Critical Hit.

How’s that been, you ask? Well, I’ve worked on three games so far…

Still is a meditative game inspired by memories of childhood and my love for walking around vast public spaces at night when no one else is around. Starting in a forest and moving into a city, the player may choose to explore and seek out bits of written narrative. The game plays with perception, with its three sections evoking feelings of being first lost, then awed, and finally trapped. I created Still along with Li Zhi He and Winnie Song.

– Welcome, Inspector is more or less a digitally aided role-playing game for five players. Set in a (technically) fictional capitalist dystopia, four players are brought into the Bureau for Economic Assessment and Rehabilitation (B.E.A.R.) for questioning by the fifth player. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say it involves headphones and a program called the “Sonic Isolator”. The team included myself, Pierre Depaz, Andrew Goudreau, Li Zhi He, and Tuuli Saarinen.

– Spacebro Justice Rocket! is a rhythm combat game controlled by the High-5000, a custom-built controller that uses pressure plates and an Arduino to detect high fives, fist pounds, and elbow bumps. What more could you want? I worked on this with Anh Chi Bui, Nick Kornek, and Louis Sciannamblo. Special shout-out to Nick for assembling the High-5000.

The Critical Hit site has loads of great documentation, including interviews, game summaries, a blog, and tons of fantastic photos. The other games from the program have been as cool as mine if not cooler, so go check it out!

Josh

End of MFA 1st Year, Now To Montreal!

With the MFA end of year showcase at NYU on May 22nd, my amazing and exhausting first year of grad school finally ended. Though Chomp and Bandit Kings were present, I mostly manned Geneses, which got quite positive response. We’re planning on submitting that to a few festivals, so hopefully there’ll be some more announcements on that front within a couple months. Also, if you haven’t seen it already, the show and the program have been getting some pretty sweet coverage from publications like Kill Screen and the goddamn New York Times.

As for me, since the show I’ve been enjoying some much-needed rest, hanging out with cats, and catching up on games I’ve been meaning to play. On June 5th, however, I’ll be leaving NYC for…

Critical Hit! Until the middle of August, I’ll be jamming away at Concordia University in Montreal, making weird experimental artsy games or something. The program looks pretty great, and I’m damn excited to be heading up there (along with fellow MFA students Pierre Depaz and Winnie Song).

As for Nika, I’ve just contacted the publisher and learned that there was a slight delay, but the game should be arriving in your home in early August. I’ll be receiving a sample copy within a couple weeks – can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Lastly, the Studio Mercato projects are both making major steps forward. The Nika app shouldn’t be too far away from finished – we just need to add visual polish and possibly AI, then we’ll push it out the door. We added a major new class-switching feature to Crystal Brawl and are currently overhauling our level design process. Both Crystal Brawl and the board game version of Nika are being submitted to IndieCade, so I hope to have at least one reason to buy a ticket to California this October!

Post-GDC Stretch

Hey all, long time no update… mostly I’ve just been banging away at my various grad school projects. I’m pretty excited about all of them and hope to have more to say about them soon, but here are some brief descriptions of my final projects…

Chomp: 2 players share a single controller, each manipulating one jaw of a fish as you swim through the ocean. When you see a good fish, try to chomp down on it by moving the jaws together at the same time. I’ve mostly worked on design, though I also wrote the main menu music. Zlata Barshteyn is the programmer and project lead, Trevin Hiebert is doing sound design, and Jenny Jiao Hsia is our artist. For Andy Nealen’s Minimalist Game Design class.

Chomp Screenshot 1

Bandit Kings (temporary name): A CCG ( collectible card game) where you swap cards permanently during play. Whatever cards you end the game with, you keep! When you create a deck, you customize your cards with names and pictures. You’ll use these bandits and treasures to battle opponents and snag their best cards. Each card has a “Glory” rating which is used to assess your deck’s prestige – the more Glory you have, the better you’re doing! Designed with Misha Favorov, Char George, Elyse Lemoine, and Maria Saint Martin for Eric Zimmerman’s Game Design 2.

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Geneses: An abstract real-time strategy game where your only resource is time. As a fledgling god at the end of a cosmic cycle, you strike out across the world to discover the Altars of the old gods, which house their sacred power. You build holy Beacons to spread your influence across the land, and you win by connecting the Altars you find back to your home base or “Genesis”, slowly adding their power to yours.

Geneses Screenshot 1

In other news, I received proofs of the materials for Nika and finalized the dimensions of the pieces. Aside from one minor issue, everything looked great and appears to be on schedule to ship in July. I also submitted Nika (as a board game) to IndieCade this year, so, fingers crossed!

Finally, I hope to know soon what my summer plans are. I’ll let you know when I know!

Josh

To GDC!

Today I head to San Francisco for GDC, where I’ll be volunteering for the second year in a row. If you’re there, you can see me in my “emergency cone orange” volunteer t-shirt. I had an absolute blast last year and this year should be even better.

My main conference goal (when not on duty) will be to find a summer job or internship at a game dev company outside of NYC. I’m also hoping to show off Nika and Crystal Brawl and spread the word about Studio Mercato, plus the general stuff like meeting new people, seeing old friends, and learning more about design.

If you, person from outside NYC who probably received a business card from me during the conference, might be interested in hiring me for the summer, drop me a line at joshr2121@gmail.com. As a quick reminder, I’m an MFA grad student in game design with plenty of design experience and some technical proficiency. At the very least, thanks for taking the time to remember me and check out my site!

On another note, here are two nice, quick reviews of Nika on Intel’s site and PopMatters. Cool!

Kickstarter Complete!

The Kickstarter campaign for Nika is over. The final reckoning:

532 backers
$14,401 raised

Amazing! To everyone who backed the campaign, thank you so much. To everyone else, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to purchase the game. We’re hoping to release the app version this summer as well, so keep an eye out for that too!

Josh

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