Let’s Play: The Plan

 

As someone who hardly plays video games, I thought I would begin this journey by playing the most basic of basic games – a game that claimed to be a short story game… One that took under 10 minutes to complete. I present to you: The Plan.

A fly ascends to the skies, pondering the pointlessness of its brief existence.

The Plan was developed by Krillbite Studio in 2012/13. The developers describe The Plan as a small side project but it has received a lot of positive attention throughout the years. They describe it as being a short, experimental game about self-discovery. I definitely noticed how calming it was to play.

The Plan offers players an eerie, yet stunning backdrop to fly along the path of life.  The game can be summed up as a simple yet striking metaphor about the circle of life. The picturesque scene is also accompanied with a slightly haunting score that was performed by Oslo Camerata.

Joseph Burnstein from Buzzfeed summed up the experience of The Plan to a tee. He commented “… Here are the emotions I experienced during the three minutes it took me to play The Plan…: confusion, frustration, boredom, fear, amusement, delight, joy, enchantment, and regret.”

Steam categorises The Plan as indie, atmospheric, short and casual. Basically four words that sum up this video game perfectly. Krillbite have developed this game for Windows, Mac and Linux.

As for the rules of this game; they’re as simple as you think. You control the fly with four little buttons. [W] to go up, [A] to fly to the left, [D] to fly to the right and [X] to go down. The objective? Just keep going up. You’ll see what happens. Mobility is a key mechanic in The Plan – the whole point of it is to move around and get through an obstacle or two.

The Plan received very little initial advertising. Krillbite notified the media with a brief mailer and sent a newsletter to their friends. The rest happened through the power of the internet. Let’s plays started popping up all over Youtube and sites like Eurogamer and indiegames started writing about it.

According to the Krillbite website, The Plan was named the 10th most important game of 2013 and has been downloaded just under 800, 000 times. I downloaded my copy from Steam in the ‘free to play’ section. It is also available as a free download from their website.

Screenshot from The Plan. Photo credit: Krillbite Studio

Reference:

Krillbite.com. (n.d.). Krillbite Studio Presskit – The Plan.

Krillbite Studio via steampowered.com (2015). The Plan, two year anniversary!

Game Designing (2017). The Beginner’s Guide to Game Mechanics.

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The Safe Zone Prototyping

Play testing became an integral part of the game design process. The first couple of play tests focused on testing whether the rules I had decided on fit in with the game and the mechanics. The later play tests revolved more around testing out the finalised rules and design with different size groups.

Play test one & two

This was the first time I had anyone else play the game and look at the design. This play test was with the minimum people allowed to play (two). I still didn’t have a board that went with the game so I borrowed elements from board games that I have. In this first play test it was determined that thirty health was too much and that rolling the set of four dice up to three times was too many. We had both completed the game with health levels in the mid-twenties and the game was over in fifteen minutes.

Set up for play tests 1 & 2

Play test three

This game was again played with two people. I used this to test out what had been discussed in the previous play test. This time, three dice were used and we were only able to re-roll once.

Play test four & five

These two play tests took place during class time and were the first I had done with the maximum number of players (six). Play test number four was played with three dice and play test number five was played with two. Two dice worked much better with a larger group of players and the game lasted longer and players were able to move further on the board. During play test four, players were only able to get to the second or third column on the board, whereas players were able to complete the board during play test five.

Set up for play tests 4 & 5

Feedback during these two play tests was to have two different dice systems for the different number groups.

Two to three players:

  • Two action dice: these two dice both have numbers 1-3, an infectious attack, a direct attack and health on them.

Four to six players:

  • One action die: contains two infectious attacks, two direct attacks and two health sides.
  • Number die: numbers 1-6.

These different methods allow the game to take place similarly, even though the number of actions is different.

Play test six & seven

These two play tests were more about narrowing down the different dice methods for the different groups of players. This time three people were playing. The first play test took place with the number/ action dice. The second was with two action dice. Both methods worked for the smaller group but feedback showed that the two action dice was more enjoyable.

Set up for play tests 6 & 7

Main changes:

  • Being allowed to roll the dice up to 3x down to only rolling them once.
  • Introducing a safe area onto the board (black zones). Landing on this means that players aren’t impacted by the actions on their dice.
  • Rain symbol on dice impacts everyone in your column.
  • Lower health from 30 to 15.

The Safe Zone | A Game Pitch

The Safe Zone is a board game controlled by dice and chance cards that is inspired by I Am Legend (book or movie, you decide). The game combines my favourite elements of King of TokyoThe Safe Zone takes a lot of the mechanics that were displayed in King of Tokyo and expands on others. I knew that I wanted to design a game that was controlled by actions displayed on a set of dice, but thought that utilising an actual board would bring an interesting aspect to the overall board game.

Initial planning for The Safe Zone

Initial planning for The Safe Zone

Designing the technicals for this board game was the hardest. Coming up with names, symbols and rules took a lot of brainstorming that my 2am self didn’t appreciate. I’m still not 100% with everything that’s been chosen for the game so far, but with the remaining weeks between now and the due date for the project dossier, I’m sure pieces of the puzzle will fall together.

After researching game styles, I believe that The Safe Zone falls into ‘Euro-style’. Taken from a post on The Games JournalThe Safe Zone draws on many points that the author deems to be ‘Euro-style’.

  1. The game takes under an hour to finish
  2. Simple rules
  3. Player interaction without overt conflict
  4. Abstract enough that the theme isn’t entirely necessary.

The Safe Zone: A Board Game box artwork example

Overview:

An infectious disease has overtaken your hometown! The disease is spread by contact and a strange modified form of rain and has been reported to have infected towns all around the country. You and your remaining uninfected friends must work together to get across town to the bunker that was set up by the community before chaos happened.

Example of game board

In The Safe Zone you take on the role of one of six uninfected townspeople, whose main purpose is to make it safely across town to a bunker to wait out the infection. You will have four dice that will determine your move on the gameplay board. A player can roll the set of dice up to three separate times in a go to get your desired pairings. There’s health (to benefit you), attack from The Infected, attack from the infected rain and numbers 1, 2 and 3 to determine how far you move on the board. Certain tiles on the board allow you to pick up a chance card which will further the game on. The chance cards are split into two different categories; USE NOW and SAVE FOR LATER. The SAVE FOR LATER option allows players to either use the cards immediately or save them for a later strategic move. Each player will each start with 30 health on your points tile. If a player reaches zero health, they become one of The Infected and are out of the game. First person to the bunker, wins. The game could end there, or you can play on to see who else will make it to the bunker and who will become infected.

Example of chance cards

Each player will begin the game with the same level of health. The player with the most recent birthday will go first and then the game will proceed in a clockwise order. The rest of the game will be determined by chance, with strategic aspects present with SAVE FOR LATER cards.

What comes in the box:

  • The gameplay board
  • A deck of chance cards (approx. 70 cards)
  • Four dice
  • Illustrated boards to track health
  • Character tiles

Mechanisms: 

The Safe Zone is a combination of my favourite board game mechanics. The game will contain:

  • Card drafting;
  • Dice rolling;
  • Player elimination;
  • Turns;
  • Action points;
  • Movement; and
  • Risk and reward.

Design:

I had originally planned for the game design to be really green and lush. After playing around with painting the chance cards and trying to design a board, the designs didn’t really work together and the game was no longer cohesive. Instead, I have used Canva to design the images featured above to keep the design of the game simple, easy to navigate and cohesive.

Marketing:

As of yet, I haven’t done any play testing with The Safe Zone so it’s tricky to determine what age its target audience would be. I think the game would appeal to audience ages 12+ as there aren’t a lot of rules to follow and the idea behind it is so simple.

Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala Board Game Review

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like this game when we started to play it but after I got the hang of things, it was actually really great. Five Tribes is very similar to the board game Splendor but I found it to be a bit more interesting.

Released in 2014 by Days of Wonder, designer Bruno Cathala created a game for the serious strategy gamer. Five Tribes is said to be Days of Wonder’s first gamer’s game, even though it’s a very easy one to play.

The game is aimed at players aged thirteen and up. The box recommends that the game will take between 40-80 minutes to complete. Our game with three first time players took around 60 minutes to complete.

Five Tribe retails for around $110 AUD.


Game Overview:

Five Tribes takes place in the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. Players move meeples that represent the five tribes, around the board of tiles to gain power and influence. Players have to remove all the meeples from a tile and distribute them, one at a time. At the end of the game, whoever has the most influence and wealth will become the new ruler of Naqala.

To set up the game, players have to randomly place the tiles to make a modular board in a 5×6 array. The game comes with 30 double-sided tiles — meaning no two games will be the same. The meeples are drawn randomly from the included cloth bag and three are placed on each tile. Starting on any tile, all of the meeples on that particular tile have to be picked up and placed in an orthogonal-only path with one meeple being placed on each tile you pass. For your move to be legal, the tile you end on must have a meeple of the same colour you have remaining on it. The player then collects all of the meeples of that colour from the board and trades it according to what it offers. If the tile is then empty, the player can place a camel on the tile to claim that area.

Nine resource cards are set up on one side of the board, which can be purchased with certain coloured meeples or victory coins. There’s also a display for Djinn cards — three are face up from a deck of 22. Each of these has a special ability that can be used if you acquire that card.

The game also comes with some wooden pieces, which represent camels, palm trees and palaces. The camels come in each player’s colour and are used to represent who has taken ownership over which tile. Instead of being made from cardboard like the victory coins are, these pieces and the bid markers are made from thick wood and painted to match the overall style of the game.

The game is played in a series of rounds, where the players have to bid in order to go first. If someone doesn’t want to bid, they take over one of the free spots on the turn order track. This has to be done every round.

Once all of the tiles have been claimed or there are no longer any moves available, the game is almost over. Players must collect all of their tiles and accompanying cards, meeples, palaces and palm trees and tally up the points on the score pad that comes with the game. The player with the most points wins the game.

We were quite impressed that our scores were on the higher side, as we didn’t really know what we were doing to begin with. The game was interesting in which there are many different ways to collect points. The tiles are worth points, as are your remaining coins, and any meeples you collected throughout the game.

The artwork on the box is quite beautiful and detailed and I found that the tiles, cards, etc. matched the story well. The mix of dull browns and bright colours was very aesthetically pleasing for a game about a caravan stopping in a town that needs a new ruler.

I’ve only played Five Tribes once, but I imagine each game would be better than the last. Just as you think you’ve developed a strategy, the tiles get shuffled and a new board is created. As no game is the same, strategies can’t really be transferred from game to game.

This is the one of the games that we played during class that I would actually consider buying. Although it’s a hard game to master, I can imagine it being a crowd pleaser.

 

My Month in the UK | Student Exchange Trip

This has been the craziest month of my life. Packing up my belongings and trying to fit my life in a 23kg bag to move to the other side of the world for an adventurous five months. Moving to the UK was a dream come true for me. During the last year of high school my school organised for a sort of motivational speaker to visit for the day. I remember two things from that day; always keep eye contact when shaking someone’s hand and the fact that when we were asked to write out our bucket list, ‘move to England’ was at the top of mine.

This whole adventure started on the 10th of September. It was my first time leaving Australia and to say I wasn’t prepared is the biggest understatement of all time. I arrived in London the next day and it still didn’t feel real. A month later and it still doesn’t really feel like I’m on the other side of the world. By the time I got to my hotel in London Victoria, I had about twenty four hours to explore before I was back on a bus on my way to Sheffield.

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I only stuck to a small part of London; it was so hot and I was dressed for a nice autumn day. My hotel was quite close to Buckingham Palace, so that’s where I first ventured to after dropping my suitcases off at my hotel, showering and changing for the first time in what felt like forever. Buckingham Palace was different than I expected, but I couldn’t tell you what I expected. For two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, there weren’t that many people milling about the gates. For someone who loves lists and planning, I had no idea what I wanted to do in London. My phone didn’t work and I had the most basic map that I picked up from the National Express ticket machine at Heathrow. I ended up just walking and hoping for the best. A stroll through St James Park and through the Horse Guards Parade, I found Trafalgar Square. The streets around here were absolutely packed- the Tour of Britain or something was on. I could see the London Eye in the distance but didn’t really have a clue how to get there, except to just follow the streets and trust my instinct. This adventure had me walking past some really posh restaurants and some stunning old buildings but I finally found the embankment and the London Eye! Oh, and when was Big Ben and the House of Parliament so close to the London Eye? I honestly had no idea. It was around four o’clock now and I was kind of exhausted so now was the time to try and get back to my hotel. Key word there was try. I was so lost and it was kind of overwhelming. I couldn’t even use my map because I couldn’t even find the name of the street I was on. It was kind of a disaster. It took a bit and a couple of mini freak outs but I finally found the street I was staying on. Miracles do happen! A night in and a cheeky Nandos were on the cards for me before I crashed for the night.

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I woke up the next day to the view of great weather. It was another warm day but I was keen to get out and do my last bit of London exploring before I had to be at the coach station. In the time that I had, I only managed to walk past Wellington Arch and into Hyde Park. I didn’t even walk that far into Hyde Park; I was too scared of getting lost and missing my bus! I just hung around the park for a bit before walking back and picking up my bags to start the four-ish hour journey from London to Sheffield. I don’t know what other towns the bus drove to but I can guarantee my face was against the glass the whole time.

The bus got to Sheffield around 4.30pm, and with some help from a worker at the bus station, I was in a taxi and on my way to Endcliffe village where I was staying for orientation week. Disaster struck around dinner time when I realised 1) walking into town to get food would be an hour round trip, 2) I didn’t even know how to get into town and 3) after going to the local shop to buy a microwaveable dinner, I couldn’t find the kitchen in my flat… Turns out the room I thought was the kitchen was actually the fire escape. I eventually found it, so crisis averted. The rest of the week, aka orientation week, passed in a bit of a blur and if I were asked to do it again, I probably wouldn’t (it was a bit boring).

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My first day trip from Sheffield was to Leeds; the city that could have been. Leeds Uni was actually my first preference for the UK. I still think the classes I wanted to take at Leeds would have been better, but after visiting the city, I’m kinda glad I got Sheffield instead. Again, I didn’t have a plan or any place I wanted to visit in particular, so it was nice just walking around an unfamiliar town. The first thing I noticed about Leeds city was that there were shopping arcades everywhere! Kirgate Market was a bit crazy for me but I really enjoyed Leeds City Museum (there were mummies!), Leeds Minster and the Corn Exchange.

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Sheffield University offers this really cool program called ‘Give It A Go’, where they organise trips around the UK for students and their families, in some cases, to explore some of the more popular sites. That’s how I came about visiting Chatsworth House. That place was soooooo cool and so grand. Our ticket for the day got us into the house and the 105 acre garden. The inside of the house was so stunning, each room had painted murals on the walls and roofs. There was something interesting every way you looked. Since the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire still live in the house, only a small part of the house is available for public viewing. My favourite rooms were the bedrooms, the library, and the dining room. The gardens housed the biggest veggie patch I’ve ever seen in my life and even had a maze… Casual.

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Inside Chatsworth House

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Another week of classes and life passed and before I knew it, I’d been in the UK for a month! To celebrate, I went on another GIAG trip, but this time it was to a town called Bakewell and it was a tasting tour. Writing this post a couple of weeks later, I can still say that Bakewell’s one of my favourite places I’ve visited so far. It was the first proper town I went to that wasn’t a city and there were actually fields of grass and animals and I loved it. Bakewell was founded in Anglo-Saxon times and is still known as being a market town. The church was also built in 920. I can’t even wrap my head around dates like that. The GIAG group was taken around the town for a couple of hours before we went back to the visitor centre to try some local treats. There were the usual things like sausages and cheese but I also got to try a pork pie and a homity pie. After chowing down, we went on another stroll to try some handmade chocolate and a Bakewell pudding. Can’t say I’m a fan of that one… We had the afternoon to roam around the town by ourselves so seeing as it was a Sunday, I decided to sit down and have my first roast dinner in the UK.

So, that about sums up my first month of my semester abroad. It only gets crazier and busier from here!

Lifespan of Devices in the Family Home

It’s rare for any one individual to not have some old tech/ devices laying around the family home. Take a look at what was currently found in the house of an average older family.

The Uni Student

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The Everyday Tech

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MacBook Pro (Late 2011), iPhone 6 and iPod Classic

“I’m a big lover of Apple, okay? I’ve never been a total tech head who loves to pull things apart and personalise them, so Apple products are perfect for me. I know the what’s and the who’s and that’s fine by me.”

The Nostalgia Tech

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LG KF700 and iPhone 4

“The LG wasn’t even my first phone so I’m not sure why I still have it. It was a birthday gift from about six years ago, and it even made the house move three years ago. I probably need to get rid of it. The iPhone 4 is my backup. I don’t have great luck with iPhone’s so I like having a spare around”

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iPod Nano (4th Generation)

“I haven’t put music on this since 2010 but I can’t convince myself to part with it. The tunes are too good.”

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Olympus fe and Nikon CoolPix

“I remember asking for a point and shoot camera to keep in my bag. Obviously I forgot that smartphones were a thing.”

The Teenage Gamer

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The Everyday Tech

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PlayStation 4 and LG G4

“I like the software that comes on Android devices- it’s so much better than what you get with Apple. I’m on my PS4 daily. Compared to the XBox, I prefer its in-game features and it’s a better gaming experience. ”

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Customised Gaming PC

“I was given my first gaming tower for my seventeenth birthday. My cousin is a big gamer and he convinced me that building my own system was the best course of action.”

The Nostalgia Tech

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PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3

“As a family, we played the life out of the PS2. Not sure why we haven’t gotten rid of it. It probably doesn’t even turn on anymore. I remember when the PS3 was the only one of the market, and I actually used to go outside. Since the PS4 came out, I haven’t played it but some of the games I have for that system still call to me.”

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Nintendo DS Lite and iPod Nano (5th Generation)

“Honestly, I lost my DS for about four years and I’ve only recently found it. I’m not even sure about the music that’s on my iPod Nano. I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked it up to listen to music. I don’t use iTunes, so I don’t have a use for it anymore.”

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Nokia N97, HTC Velocity 4G and Samsung Galaxy S4

“These phones live on my bookshelf and the only reason I’ve got them is incase someone else needs them. If my current phone broke I would definitely use one of these. The Samsung would have to be my favourite but the insides kind of exploded.”

The Tech Obsessed

jvh

The Everyday Tech

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Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Samsung Gear S2, iPhone 4 and iPad 3rd Generation

“I like android because of it’s ability to customise- no two phones will ever be the same. The iPad and iPhone are work supplied products.”

*Not pictured is the PC’s used everyday for work purposes*

The Nostalgia Tech

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Samsung Galaxy S3 and Lexar Digital Music Player

“I still have them because they still work. Prior to getting the iPod Shuffle, I used to use the MP3 player when I exercised.”

The ‘Outdoorsy’ One

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The Everyday Tech

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iPad 3rd Generation and iPhone 6s

“I only use my iPad to read my magazines and to look up real estate and holidays. I own Apple products because it’s the brand that I know how to use. It was the first brand to really release a phone that had internet and all that, and they’ve never really changed.”

*Not pictured is the PC used everyday for work purposes*

The Nostalgia Tech

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iPhone 5

“I still have this phone incase my current one breaks. My daughter gave me this iPhone 5 after she got her new phone, and I passed my old one on to my mum. I don’t like keeping old devices- I’ve passed most of the older stuff onto my mum.”