Planet Iron Blogger SF

January 16, 2019

a digital life

January 14, 2019

Doctor Popular

A new comic book about yo-yos

During last year’s 24 Hour Comic Day challenge, I created a silly comic book about yo-yos called “Believe it or Knot”. I’ve been yearning to make a book like this for years and I think it turned out awesome. You can download it for just $3 here, or you can get it for free when you support me on Patreon

available on

The book was created almost entirely on my iPad using Procreate and an Apple Pencil. The only non-ipad stuff was the fonts I added in photoshop. I sure wish Procreate supported fonts. 

The post A new comic book about yo-yos appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.

by doc at January 14, 2019 05:21 AM

Certainly Strange

A Killer Personality

I was in a goofy mood, so I drew this. I guess it is a good thing that Steen doesn’t have any problems fulfilling her duties, then! Although honestly, as a low-born nightblade, I’m sure Steen is no stranger to … Continue reading

by Steen at January 14, 2019 02:19 AM

January 13, 2019

Diegetic Games

Designing at the Frontiers

Recently I’ve been thinking about the frontiers of design in storytelling games. What are the most interesting facets of play to engage with as a designer? Where can we push the medium the most?

Here is an initial pass at a list of the areas that I think are most fruitful to focus on:

Digital / Analog Hybrid

Games that are played in person, whether at a table or embodied, that are assisted by an app. I haven’t seen many apps involved in storytelling games, with the exception of character creation tools, dice rolling functions, and simple wikis.

Apps can provide the following benefits:

  • Tracking a complicated state of the world or directory of locations and NPCs
  • Maintaining a simulation of the world that enables interesting emergence in response to player actions
  • Making complicated resolution systems easy through automation
  • Sharing secrets with and among players
  • Assisting with narrative generation / coming up with story options

Apps might be able to replace many of the traditional functions of a GM, the key question is when it is most interesting for that to happen.

It’s never been easier to code up simple web apps with real time data structures. I suspect we’ll start seeing game designers who have a little coding chops start experimenting with app driven in-person games.

Digital First & Audience Oriented

Over the past few years, there’s been a huge rise in online play. Whether streamed for an audience through Twitch or just with friends over Hangouts or Role 20 – many players are adapting analog games to digital tools.

I think we’ll start seeing more games designed from the start to played online. Two existing examples are ViewScream about spaceship crew communicating through video chat, Chariot is a digital only larp, and Event Horizon an in-person blockbuster larp that also has remote players communicating through text and video chat.

Beyond that, there’s plenty of room for games designed to be played with an online audience. A Doomed Pilgrim is played through forums / comment threads but has also been run live on Twitch. Some Twitch streams now have many thousands of viewers and there’s a huge opportunity to design games that directly engage the audience.


There’s lots of interesting opportunities at the intersection of different design cultures. Games here have an opportunity to serve as bridges between communities and ideally bring new players into adjacent types of play.

RPG / Larp: There’s already a lot of activity in the American Freeform space on the continuum between RPG and larp but there’s plenty of room for more experimentation.

Party Game / RPG / Larp: One of the biggest opportunities might be storytelling games for folks who like party games (Charades, Taboo, Cards Against Humanity) but who haven’t played storytelling games. Storytelling games that are designed with minimal rules, very short runtime, and scaffolding for novice improvisers could be crossover hits. Ghost Court and Noisy Person Cards are both interesting games in this space but neither achieved massive commercial success.

Serious games: Business schools have featured games and simulations for decades and militaries have used games going back to the 1800s. I think the time is right for a wave of ‘serious’ in-person games that help organizations explore the future and explain the present – I started a Leveraged Play to do just that!

Theater & VR: Immersive theater and VR are adjacent media that give audiences an opportunity to influence story. Both can learn a ton from storytelling games, especially when it comes to sharing narrative control with participants.

Open Table

Scheduling is hard and it isn’t always realistic to get the same group together for a weekly campaign. One solution is an ‘open table’ style game where a larger pool of players (say 10-20) have characters but only a subset (4-6) show up to a given session. This style play has been around since at least the early 2000s with The West Marches being the earliest form I’ve heard about.

Some of the unique problems with open table are keeping all players updated on the state of the story, world, and characters. If you’re playing a game with character advancement (leveling up) then a session should work well even if it’s one player’s first session and another player’s 20th. Another tradeoff is that it’s hard for a GM (if there is one) to focus on any specific character’s arc and their relationships with NPCs; likewise the relationships between player characters might not have much room to evolve.

There’s room for a wave of games that are designed from the beginning to be open table. They’ll have built in solutions to the above problems and likely other interesting affordances. For example, there might be a way to have quick games with any subset of participants. If two players find themselves hanging out randomly after work they could run a quick session and have it naturally plug into the broader campaign.

This could also intersect with digital-first where there’s a setting shared online and different groups around the world are running adventures and updating the world as they go.

Story APIs

Building on some of the Open Table affordances, Story APIs is a philosophy of building storytelling games that allow for a wide variety of play types within an ongoing world or campaign.

API (Application Programing Interface) is a term from the software world that covers easy ways that different bits of code can talk to each other and share information. Good APIs allow critical information to pass back and forth between different apps without either app having to know much about how the other works.

A framework of Story APIs would allow players to play one campaign with multiple systems, with an option to change the system each session based on what type of play they want to engage in. The API part would make it easy to convert relevant stats from one system to another – and back. If a group is playing with experience points, harm, or other key stats, there should be a way of carrying that over across systems.

One way this might work in a fantasy campaign is using Dungeon World as a default but transitioning to D&D for boss battles and even a wargame for large army combat.

If there is a core building block of play, like a quest or a heist, then there could be a general set of probabilities around outcomes and then a way of translating that into any other system. For example, it could be that quests have a 20% chance of failing interestingly, 50% chance of succeeding at a cost and 30% chance of ending with a resounding success. There would be guidance in translating those odds to combat ratings in D&D, a number of hard moves in Dungeon World, and a clear way to enable designers to quickly make up their own resolution systems that play well with the core system.


Here’s a quick list of other trends I’ve been following that show continuing promise:

  • Single player games, potentially using a journal or played while walking around the world
  • Games using interesting props, potentially as resolution mechanics
  • Games about topics and genres outside of fantasy and scifi
  • Games about people whose experiences are vastly different than the straight white male default
  • Games that are non-linear
  • Games that limit or play with communication among players
  • Games designed for a specific location

Final Thoughts

This was a quick pass but I’d love to hear your thoughts – where do you think the interesting frontiers are?

I’ll likely be shifting my game designs to focus on the frontiers. There are tons of talented designers creating non-frontier games and I’d rather be exploring the new and experimental.

January 13, 2019 11:35 PM


Spec Work

I’m enjoying all the new things I’m learning about running a business as I continue to dive deeper into freelancing, but I just had my first encounter with a proposition to do spec work.

If you walk into a restaurant and order a sandwich, would you only pay for it afterwards if you decided you liked it enough?

Spec work, short for “speculative work,” is the concept of soliciting design work from multiple designers before deciding who to ultimately hire or pay for the work done or a larger contract. Sometimes it happens as a contest, or as part of a pitch, and sometimes it is treated as an entrance exam or a “test” of your skills. The AIGA has a hard line position against spec work, the main reasons being:

1. To assure the client receives the most appropriate and responsive work. Successful design work results from a collaborative process between a client and the designer with the intention of developing a clear sense of the client’s objectives, competitive situation and needs. Speculative design competitions or processes result in a superficial assessment of the project at hand that is not grounded in a client’s business dynamics. Design creates value for clients as a result of the strategic approach designers take in addressing the problems or needs of the client and only at the end of that process is a “design” created. Speculative or open competitions for work based on a perfunctory problem statement will not result in the best design solution for the client. 

2. Requesting work for free demonstrates a lack of respect for the designer and the design process. Requesting work for free reflects a lack of understanding and respect for the value of effective design as well as the time of the professionals who are asked to provide it. This approach, therefore, reflects on your personal practices and standards and may be harmful to the professional reputation of both you and your business.

Think about it in terms of other industries—if you walk into a restaurant and order a sandwich, would you only pay for it afterwards if you decided you liked it enough? Or maybe you go eat a few different sandwiches from different restaurants, and decide which is the only one you want to pay money for. This is spec work.

Coming from a history of agencies, Ive done my share of spec work. My first agency participated in this practice. We would bust our normally-billable butts on non-billable work to come up with multiple concepts to be presented in pitches, where our people tried to convince prospective clients that we were the best partner out there to solve their particular challenge. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. (I’ll note that when I moved on to Blue State Digital, we had a no-spec policy, preferring to win projects based on merit and thoughtfulness rather than shiny pitch decks.)

Spec work was stressful because it felt as though so much rode on the designer’s back to show something beautiful and convincing—but I always felt it was a bit of an empty vanity play. We would be operating on limited information of what we understood the challenge to be, without having actually done the six weeks or so of collaboration and discovery that the real project would actually begin with, with a final deliverable being a few choice, ultra-sexy screens. Sometimes it was fun to flex my design muscles in a world with very few constraints—no real users to empathize with, no larger system to work within, just make it look as awesome as possible—but most of the time it was exhausting and grueling work that you couldn’t even put in your portfolio due to the confidential nature of the work.

I think it’s one thing if you are an agency employing hundreds of people, and you’re going after a $500k project—it’s your business’s decision to invest the hours of a salaried employee on spec work. If you win the project, you now have half a million dollars coming down the pipe!—and it only cost you a few weeks of some of your staff’s time. If you lose it, it’s a bummer, but your staff, from the designers to the biz dev team, will still get paid for their efforts. However, it’s a totally different game if you’re a freelancer. The projects you’re going after aren’t nearly as big, and you most certainly can’t afford to work for free.

As freelancers, our expertise is of value, and our time is for purchase.

Now that I am an independent designer, I am a team of one. I am my own founder, CEO, CMO, CFO, and CTO. I do my own business development, marketing, project management, IT, bookkeeping and so on. The time spent on finding and meeting with prospective clients, researching, writing proposals and estimates, and keeping all of my comms up is no small feat—it’s a lot of overhead, and I don’t get paid for any of it. What I DO get paid for is what I specialize in: good, thoughtful design and a unique perspective.

As freelancers, our expertise is of value, and our time is for purchase. The right kinds of clients will understand that value and be willing to pay a fair price for it. Which is why, when a prospective client used the words “design challenge,” it took me a while to realize that what he actually meant wasn’t simply framing a paid branding project as a “challenge”, but to actually DO the branding project as unpaid spec work, pitching alongside a few other designers. It was a gut-punch when I realized this live on our call, and had to explain why I don’t participate in spec work. The call ended shortly after.

While I am bummed to have lost out on a project, it’s an experience I was bound to encounter sooner or later. I’m glad it happened early so I can either better qualify my leads, or be less offended when such requests come in. And on the bright side, by saying no and speaking my mind, I’m (hopefully) educating someone on why this is an unethical request. The optimist in me wants to believe that he will reconsider his approach, or will get results that prove that spec work is simply a race to the bottom.

To learn more about about spec work and how other designers feel about it, check out this resources page from No!Spec.

by Jenna at January 13, 2019 06:51 AM

January 09, 2019

a digital life

January 08, 2019

I Like Turtles

Christmas in New York


January 08, 2019 05:00 AM

January 07, 2019

Certainly Strange

Telvanni Outfits

I tried to imagine Master Aryon dressed casual and practical for traveling.The inspiration was the note in his Dwemer Museum, recommending the visitor come back often as he is always acquiring new artifacts on his travels. This suggests that he … Continue reading

by Steen at January 07, 2019 05:05 AM

Randy Lubin

2018 Recap

It has been way too long since I’ve blogged here! That’s partly because I’ve been blogging elsewhere but mostly because I fell off my weekly blogging cadence. This post will recap all of 2018 and I aim to start blogging more regularly in 2019.

Overall I had a great year, chock full of great collaborations and projects. I’ve started combining my love of startups and love of games. I’m still enjoying San Francisco and Avital and I have built up a great community of friends here.

Consumer Games

I’ve been publishing storytelling games through Diegetic Games for almost three years! I have a separate blog post on that site, going in depth about my 2018 in game design – check it out if you want all the details!

On the consumer side, there were three highlights: Honor Bound, Behind the Magic, and CIA: Collect It All.

I teamed up with Jason Morningstar to design and publish Honor Bound, a game about honor culture and toxic masculinity through the lens of an old fashioned duel. Jason is one of the top designers in the world and it was a joy to collaborate with him. I’m very proud of how the game turned out.

I also released Behind the Magic, a fantasy mockumentary game about incompetent heroes who are trying to save the world. This is the longest game I’ve made on my own (20 pages) and it turned out very well. It’s gotten a great reception from players and I’m looking forward to hearing about the ridiculous stories people make with it!

I also did my first Kickstarter this year, CIA: Collect It All. It was a collaboration with Mike Masnick, of Techdirt, where we brought a declassified CIA training game to public. The Kickstarter raised over $150,000 and we made over 6,000 copies in China. It was a pretty smooth process, with only a few minor hiccups. We shipped copies to all of our backers a few weeks ago, just in time for the holidays!

“Serious” Games

2018 was also the year I started designing more serious games. I started with Machine Learning President, which I co-designed with, Mike Masnick, and a few others. It was a 40-50 person game that explored the intersection of tech and politics through the lens of the 2020 US presidential election. The game was a huge hit with our players, a mix of tech executives and political experts. We ran it once in San Francisco, which led to a bizarre news cycle and then again in Chicago, hosted by Cards Against Humanity and NPR. It was even covered in Polygon!

The success of that game led me to start a consulting firm that makes serious games. The mission is to design games that help organizations explore the future and explain the present. It’s called Leverage Play – reach out if you’re interested in commissioning a game!

Also in 2018, I collaborated with Mike on a few other games including one about disruption at the Disruptive Strategy Summit. You can learn all about them on the Leveraged Play site.


We had a busy year of travel! Avital expanded her company to New York so we had plenty of trips east. I also attended a total of five games conference – amazing but exhausting!

In November we went to Paris. We had both been before (Avital lived there back in college) but we found incredibly cheap flights and a free place to stay: with Avital’s wonderful cousins who were living there for the year.

It was great to enjoy the city without feeling like we had to cram in tourist activities. We had leisurely days full of great food and an activity or two.

One night we went to see Paul McCartney – not the most Parisian activity but it was great to finally see him live!

Another highlight was the “On Air” exhibit at Palais De Tokyo which included spider webs make from spiders in the museum. It was ethereal and amazing.

Obligatory Eiffel Tower Selfie!

Good trip!


Last year had a variety of consulting gigs, plus income from the Kickstarter. This year I’m aiming to either get some serious commissions for Leveraged Play or I’ll switch gears and get a full time job. Either way, I’m sure I’ll find something fun and meaningful!


Avital and I got even more into Immersive Theater. Our highlights there were Sleep No More and Then She Fell, both in NYC. Sleep No More had gorgeous choreography and set design but huge crowds. Then She Fell was a much more intimate performance, with only 15 attendees, and was more interactive. I highly recommend both!

I also had two collaborations fall through that I was quite excited about. It was a bummer but I imagine I’ll find similar ones soon.

The first was around a new interactive theater show in San Francisco. I was the Narrative Designer and Writer on the show and it was to be a two hour, intimate (4 person) experience over a flight of cocktails. I had a blast writing it and collaborating with the rest of the team, consisting of seasoned theater professionals. Unfortunately, our venue fell through and there were other issues so the show is on permanent hold. I’ll write a longer post on the experience sometime soon and I hope to get involved in another show soon.

The second was a collaboration with a famous international artist to create a hybrid game and contemporary art exhibit at the De Young museum. We had a great time exploring initial ideas but ultimately things didn’t work out. I’m still in touch with the artist and De Young and hopefully I’ll be able to do something in a museum in the future.

Final Thoughts

Overall, 2018 was a great year! I’m looking forward to an excellent 2019 and building on my experiences of the last year. Stay tuned for (hopefully regular) posts about my plans for 2019 and the various adventures we’re going to have!

January 07, 2019 04:35 AM

Diegetic Games

Gaming Like It's 1923

2019 is the first year that new works are entering the public domain since 1998. Anything published in 1923 is now free to remix and share. To celebrate, we’ve teamed up with Mike Masnick and Techdirt to host a game jam based on works from 1923.

Submissions are open through the end of January and we’ll be picking winners in early February. We’re awarding prizes in multiple categories and have a phenomenal array of judges.

You can find info on prizes, judges, and more on the game jam page:

Looking forward to reading the submissions!

January 07, 2019 03:46 AM

January 06, 2019

I Like Turtles

Leonard's second birthday


January 06, 2019 05:00 AM

January 04, 2019

a digital life

January 03, 2019


2018 in review

What a year. In short, I thrived. There’s some amount of guilt that comes with feeling personal satisfaction when the world seems to be going to shit, but as an individual, I feel very fulfilled in what I accomplished last year.


  1. Marrying the love of my life in an insanely beautiful, weird and unique ceremony, in a church we built, surrounded by our amazing community in the middle of the desert

BurningMan2018_0829_170723-8464_SAG-Edit.jpg BurningMan2018_0829_185828-9071_SAG.jpg

2. Facilitating a silly and wonderful naming competition in which our new last name was decided

3. Helping Thomas to swingbomb San Francisco (#SwingbombSF)

4. Leaving an unsatisfying job to start freelancing—a journey into the empowerment and responsibility of self-employment

5. Sewing my own wedding dress, among other new costume pieces I made this year (including matching his and hers weirdo jackets, 3 different headpieces/hats, and several pairs of leggings)

6. Reverse-engineering a discarded geodesic dome, which was a wildly satisfying logic puzzle to solve

7. Roadtripping across the Southwest for the first time and seeing so much natural beauty my head exploded; subsequently falling deeply in love with canyons and red rocks

8. Designing side projects that brought me great fulfillment—such as partnering with witty geniuses to create a satire publication from scratch, and high-production party invites for an intergalactic gala

9. Nurturing newish friendships and creative partnerships that provided great nourishment to my soul!

10. Buying my first car. Yes, I’m 32—but I’ve lived NYC and SF my entire adult life and gotten by just fine with some combination of my feet, my bicycle, public transportation and the occasional Lyft. I still more or less bike everywhere for my day-to-day life, but having a car has been liberating for weekend trips and spontaneous adventures.

by Jenna at January 03, 2019 06:33 AM

January 02, 2019

Doctor Popular

Tiramizoo, a dessert made with animal crackers

I was at a holiday party a few weeks back and made a joke about making tiramisu with animal crackers and calling it “tiramizoo”. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, so I had to make it! 

I’ve never made custard before, so I was lucky that Christine was around to make sure I wasn’t messing it up, but everything else was pretty straightforward. I essentially followed a pretty basic tiramisu recipe (find it here), but used animal crackers and homemade coffee whiskey (recipe here). The end result was fantastic and the animal crackers could really work as a basic substitute if you don’t have lady fingers lying around. 

The post Tiramizoo, a dessert made with animal crackers appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.

by doc at January 02, 2019 12:54 AM

December 31, 2018

a digital life

Doctor Popular

Roast Beef Dunwich, our horrifying new Twitterbot

Have you ever wondered what items would be on the menu in a cosmic-horror-themed diner? Me too! Well not at first, but I had a fun Twitter handle (@eatroastbeef) that I wanted to do something neat with, so I thought it would be fun combine a bunch of unspeakable descriptions from Lovecraft novels along with tasty menu descriptions from various local restaurants and fast food chains. Ideally, the bot would then send tweets with a name, short description, price, and calorie count.  Like this:

Christine had written her own Markov Chain script for a similar project earlier this year, so we thought that would be perfect for this project. While Christine worked on the code, I collected as many descriptions as possible to feed to the bot. This was the most tedious part for me as I had to scour the web hunting down good sources, then usually needing to click copy and paste multiple times on each item on their menu and add them to our list. Many sites didn’t even have this info on one page, so I had to load a new page for every single item. This was hours of work, but it was so much fun to see the bots descriptions improve and change with each new menu we feed it. For the Lovecraft text, I started off by just feeding in all of his novels, but that often yielded some boring tweets. I was lucky to find Yog-Blogsoth, which collected every single Lovecraft creature (no matter how obscure) and listed it along with the specific block of text that describes it. This meant all of our Lovecraft text was just the gruesome descriptions, with none of that plot stuff to get in the way. It was still a ton of copying/pasting/checking for duplicates, but it saved a ton of time. 

We had some decent names to choose from, but ended up calling our “diner” Roast Beef Dunwich. I banged out a mascot and logo and the end result is online now. We don’t curate the feed, so there’s bound to be some gibberish, but so far we’ve seen some great tweets. Be sure to give @eatroastbeef a follow for a small dose of absurd tweets throughout the day. 

My favorite food title so far.
No wait, this is my favorite item title! “NYARLATHOTEP MASHED POTATOES THAT ENDED ARBYS”?! How did it even come up with that title? 
Gluten free!

Fun fact, we have yet to see a single Shoggoth or Cthulhu callout since our bot went live. I think I’ll freak out when it happens. 

For more information, check out Christine’s post about Roast Beef Dunwich… and be sure to follow and share our ghastly creation

The post Roast Beef Dunwich, our horrifying new Twitterbot appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.

by doc at December 31, 2018 06:01 AM

Certainly Strange

Cosmic Horror Restaurant Menus

Doc and I made a Twitter bot here. For months now, Doc has been obsessed with the idea of making a twitter bot that posts menu items with a mix of actual restaurant items and cosmic horror. The idea being … Continue reading

by Steen at December 31, 2018 05:46 AM


Missing Obama


I just finished reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming. It was a great read, and made me nostalgic for our former first family and the legacy they created. Her story was authentic and heartwarming, and painted a very human portrait of both herself and Barack through what must have been such challenging years.

I found myself enjoying her stories as a young girl—how she perceived her family and surroundings, how education and discipline played such a strong role in her development, and the role models and mentors she leaned on and learned from as she grew.

The chapters focused on the White House years were fascinating—it’s rare to be able to get the insider perspective of things that happened in our country and touched our nation and the world over those years. Even the more mundane details about everyday life in the White House were interesting—it’s a life I could never imagine for myself, and hearing how someone with humble beginnings navigated such a foreign environment was captivating.

It’s a punch to the gut to wake from this warm story’s reverie to realize where the presidency has gone since Obama left office. I miss the dignity, respect, and human empathy that characterized the Obamas’ eight-year reign. How far we’ve fallen! I’m looking forward to 2020, praying that the blue tide will continue to rise.

by Jenna at December 31, 2018 12:00 AM

December 30, 2018

Diegetic Games

2018 Recap

Wow what a year! Two Patreon releases, a Kickstarter funded and fulfilled, several “serious” games that got press coverage and more…

I launched my Patreon at the end of 2017 and my initial goal was to ship 4 games this year. I ended up getting massively side tracked but for interesting reasons and still had a high design output, just not how I intended!

Patreon Releases: Honor Bound and Behind the Magic

I started 2018 by iterating on Behind the Magic, my fantasy mockumentary game. The core game was great but I was experimenting with how to present the rules and trying out variant ways to play.

I decided to commission illustrations and knew that Meg Dornbrock’s style was perfect for my incompetent adventurers. She did a phenomenal job and it was a joy to work with her. Check out these results:

The main adventurers in Behind the MagicBard and Thief from Behind the MagicI was about to switch into layout and typesetting for the game when I put it on hold to collaborate with Jason Morningstar on Honor Bound.

Honor Bound came together over a couple hours of focused design work while we were hanging out in San Francisco. It examines toxic masculinity and honor culture through the lens of an old fashioned duel. Jason was a pleasure to collaborate with and I’m extremely proud of how the game turned out.

You can grab a copy here for $8 and we’ll donate all profits to the EFF. We’ve heard great feedback from players and it was even mentioned on the Imaginary World podcast!

We released Honor Bound to the public in June but I was too busy to return to Behind the Magic until a few months ago – I’ll cover why in the next section.

I ran Behind the Magic twice at Big Bad Con – once as a larp and once as a staged improv show with audience participation. The show went incredibly well, in large part due to a phenomenal team of Karen Twelves as The Bard, James D’Amato, Jeeyon Shim, Brodie Atwater, Banana Chan, and Ash Cheshire as Adventurers, and Nathan Black as The Villain. We had a great audience turn out and the show was hilarious!

I finally published Behind the Magic to my Patreon backers last week and I’m 100% thrilled with how it turned out. It’s the longest game I’ve published as a solo designer and the rules and designs look great. You can buy a copy on Itch for $10 – let me know if you have a chance to play!

Kickstarting CIA: Collect It All

One of my major projects this year was the Kickstarter for CIA: Collect It All. The game is an adaptation of an actual CIA training game, the rules of which were recently released to the public. I teamed up with Mike Masnick and Leigh Beadon of Techdirt to run the Kickstarter, redesign the game, and produce the print run.

The Kickstarter did extremely well – we raised $151,184 from 4,476 backers! We manufactured the game in China and, despite some production delays, shipped the game to most backers before the holidays. The entire process was a great experience and I feel very well prepared to run more Kickstarters in the future.

You can buy a copy via this page.

Free Games

I also released two free games this year, as part of game jams.

First was How (And Why) I Took Over the World for the 200 Word RPG Challenge. It’s a very simple one player larp that involves recording videos for YouTube.

Next there was Stellar Drift, submitted for Golden Cobra. It’s about generation ships traveling to settle distant planets, and the ways in which their cultures morph over time in response to crises.

Leveraged Play: Serious Games

I spent a lot of time this year focused on serious games that help people explore the future and explain the present. It think there’s a promising opportunity here and I’ve founded Leveraged Play as a consulting firm to create and run bespoke games.

The first “serious” game I designed was Machine Learning President – in collaboration with the team, Mike Masnick, and Eliot Peper. It’s a ~50 person game that explores the intersection of technology and politics through the 2020 US presidential election. It was involved in a bizarre news cycle in June that generated enough interest that we ran it again in Chicago in October. Polygon wrote about it!

Mike and I also ran a game at the Disruptive Strategy Summit called “Playing with Disruption” where we had huge businesses brainstorm how their industries might evolve, partly by having them give VC pitches and play out earnings calls. I also helped Mike on a few Techdirt / Copia related games such as Working Futures and You Make the Call.

Combining my love of game design and business has been a lot of fun so far and hopefully I plan to continue in 2019. Reach out if you’d like to commission a game!

What’s Next?

2019 will probably be a mix of consumer games through Diegetic Games and games for organizations through Leveraged Play. I playtested a few other games this year that might be candidates for further development. I’ll cover them in another post, sometime in January!

December 30, 2018 07:00 PM

I Like Turtles



December 30, 2018 05:00 AM

December 29, 2018

a digital life

December 24, 2018

Certainly Strange

Playing The Binding of Isaac Four Souls

We got the board game The Binding of Isaac Four Souls as a Kickstarter reward, and have finally started playing it. It is pretty well balanced, and the rules are easy to pick up. We have yet to play with … Continue reading

by Steen at December 24, 2018 06:04 AM

December 23, 2018

I Like Turtles

Night out in Greenpoint


December 23, 2018 05:00 AM

December 20, 2018

a digital life

December 18, 2018

a digital life

December 17, 2018

Doctor Popular

Loading Screen Tips for Bad North

My latest gaming obsession is a roguelight real time strategy game called “Bad North” (Steam link here). The game’s low-poly aesthetic combined with brutal battles is what pulled me in, but I’m really love the minimalistic gameplay which works surprisingly great as a console experience.

The basics:

The game’s basic strategy comes down to a rock/paper/scissors dynamic: Pikemen beat knights. Knights beat archers. Archers beat pikemen. 

Loading screen tips:

It’s that simplistic concept that makes the game easy to get into, but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. What islands are worth attacking, when to level up, what units to assign items to, when to restore a unit, etc. A lot of the games nuances take a little work to figure out, but many of the basic tips are randomly displayed during loading times. Unfortunately these only appear for a few seconds, so I wanted to compile the list of them here for anyone to find. If I missed any, please let me know in the comments. 

  • Replenish squads in houses to bring them back to full strength
  • You can flee an island on an empty ship if the battle seems lost
  • Ships can stun your troops if they are too close to the beach
  • Archers are vulnerable in melee
  • Your Pikes can’t fight while moving
  • Troops with shields can block arrows
  • Your Militia are basic troops that can be upgraded
  • The large viking brutes pack a punch – be careful where you face them
  • Pay attention: all units have their strengths and weaknesses
  • Adapt your strategy to the shape of each island
  • If your commanders fall in battle, they will be lost forever
  • Shields can only block one threat at a time
  • Stunned enemies are vulnerable

I tried running a grep to find these loading screen tips in the game’s directory, just like I did in this Fallout Shelter post, but I couldn’t find them. Luckily one of the developers shared a list on a Steam forum, but I still feel some are missing. 

A few other basics:

let the shields take the damage
  • Archers always target the closest units or buildings to them, so so let it be your knights. As far as I can tell, their shields will block all (or most) of the damage. 
  • Some units, like the Berserkers with the red and white shields, will go straight for the nearest unit instead of a building. This means it’s easy to lure them up a ramp where you pikes are ready to demolish them. 
  • Game state is saved between islands. I’m not saying it’s okay to force quit when a battle goes horribly wrong… I’m just saying. 
  • Falling into the water is instant death. So you can position your pikesmen to push units into water or use items like bombs or hammers to fling opponents to their watery deaths. Be careful though, bombs can damage your own troops too. 
  • Focus on one upgrade at a time, there’s no reason to spread your gold out too thinly. I always start by turning my militiamen into the three basic units, starting with my archers then knights, then pikesmen. After that, I do the basic upgrade on each unit in that order, then the full upgrade, before I start messing with upgrading items or other units. If I gain a fourth army of militiamen, I will convert them to a second archery unit asap, then keep them in the rotation of upgrades I mentioned before. 
  • Once you’ve clicked on an island, you can leave it before a battle begins without losing troops. This means if you open it up and don’t think it’s defendable, or the risk isn’t worth the gold (because there aren’t enough buildings), you can select another island instead.
  • Don’t rush to the end. Try to maximize the gold you can gain on each island before they disappear. Sometimes it might be better to go for an island with more gold than it would be to go for an island with a new army or item to unlock. 
  • Use the highground. Pikes work great at entrances to high ground, and archers seem most effective from higher positions too. Pikes also work great for narrow passages, but knights only seem to fight one at time in these narrow areas, so it seems best to keep them on flat ground when attacking. 

More resources:

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by doc at December 17, 2018 08:51 PM

Certainly Strange

New Winter, New Sweater

Alright youz guyz, it is winter yet again, and that means… time to knit a new sweater!!! I saw this yarn and I absolutely fell in love it it, so we’ll see how it turns out…

by Steen at December 17, 2018 04:48 AM

December 14, 2018

Doctor Popular

Stuck in an airport in Nashville

Hey y’all, I’m back from a short trip to Tennessee where I was stuck in an airport for 6 hours so I decided to film a new episode of PopCast. This ended up with me focusing on a neat element that I hadn’t thought about documenting before, even though it is one of my most requested tricks. The focus is: slack wraps. 

As usual, I want to give a big shout out to all of my Greg Knowles, Jeff Atwood, and all of my sponsors on who help make this show possible. 

The post Stuck in an airport in Nashville appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.

by doc at December 14, 2018 07:37 PM

December 13, 2018


"Don't refer to yourself as a brand."

I got some good spiritual advice this weekend from an experienced freelancer. He encouraged me to spend this initial start up time exploring my art and figuring out what my voice is. Which is… pretty much exactly what I’ve been trying to focus on. It’s awesome hearing it from an outside source though. He was really speaking my language when he told me that “you spend so much time working for companies that you train you to think like them, to deliver what they want. The commercial world mainstreams your point of view. Right now you should focus on what makes you unique as an individual and a person. This is one of the few chances you get to really recover that identity, and think about the kind of work you want to do, and then go do it.

…And don’t refer to yourself as a brand—that’s a small version of who you really are. You’re a person. You’re authentic. Don’t become like them.”

So nourishing to have that discussion. Thanks for the advice!

by Jenna at December 13, 2018 01:13 AM

December 11, 2018

I Like Turtles

Tuba Christmas


December 11, 2018 05:00 AM

a digital life

December 09, 2018

I Like Turtles

Christmas tree


December 09, 2018 05:00 AM

a digital life

December 06, 2018


Merry Christmas

I went to a wreath-making workshop the other night at my friend Mason’s house. It was led by Gina of Bloom Generation. It was a great gathering of ladies crafting together, in a medium that I’m not super familiar with. I had a lot of fun and really like how my wreath turned out.

For the base, I wanted the smell of a traditional tree but with more of a windswept look—so I used douglass fir for volume under longer fronds of cedar, and sprinkled some clusters of dried berries around. I wanted to do a cool asymmetrical accent and I was inspired by some of the richly colored earthy things that Gina had provided, so I made a composition with mushrooms, moss, lichens, and other strange dried things that I don’t know what they are. I finished it with some pheasant feathers.

IMG_3261.JPG IMG_3259.JPG

by Jenna at December 06, 2018 05:30 PM

a digital life

December 05, 2018

a digital life

December 03, 2018

a digital life

Certainly Strange

Making Dagoth Ur Hands

For the Dagoth Ur costume hands (to go with the Dagoth Ur Mask), I initially did a few trial runs with gluing the nails onto my hands and painting my hands with the facepaint, but I soon ended up with … Continue reading

by Steen at December 03, 2018 05:14 AM

Doctor Popular

The 48 Hour Yo-Yo Project: Part 2 of 2

I took a trip to Eugene Oregon about a month ago to design an experimental new yo-yo with One Drop. We made a documentary about that trip and I’ve already shared part one here.

Well, part two is finished and I hope you enjoy it!

The yo-yo is called The Weekender and I’m hoping to launch it on Kickstarter on December 10th. No promises though. Fingers crossed I can launch it soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this video.

The post The 48 Hour Yo-Yo Project: Part 2 of 2 appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.

by doc at December 03, 2018 05:13 AM

December 02, 2018

a digital life