Keeping Score

3:46 PM Tuesday, October 16, 2018


One of the questions we faced as a team was, "How are we going to keep score?"

Atlas Break is a small card game. That means it's a single box, no nonsense, just about pocket-portable package. I LOVE the gems of a game like Ascension. And there's nothing wrong with going old school with a little pen and paper. We also discussed the possibility of enclosing dice to keep track. Who doesn't enjoy the tactile sensation of something that brings you closer to great victory?

Well, practicality doesn't always enjoy it. Creating an extra compartment in our box for something that will otherwise bang against our cards...not cool. And, extra components mean extra space, bigger box = less portable game.

Star Realms is a similarly small box, all card game, which uses cards with values on both sides (1, 5, and 10) to keep score, which I've used and found a bit of a bother, to pause in order to rearrange my score cards. (They also suggest the good ol' pencil and paper route)

So, when our creative director came up with a few novel ideas to keep score, I was blown away by the simplicity and elegance of his solutions. Here's the one that won out:


So first, let's look at the central card in this draft: Champion Rizza Vice. Players of Atlas Break choose one of six characters at the beginning of the game. Each of these champions has these green markers up top which align with the Score Cards. Our game calls health "Influence" and the amount of influence a player has is determined by the location of the Score Cards behind their Champion Card.

In this image, Rizza's Influence is at 25.

Not sure if this is a big deal to you guys, but this score-keeping method just so seamlessly integrated itself into the game, particularly because of our Champion component. And this stuff is freakin' exciting!

Let me know if you've seen a score-keeping method like this before or if there are other score-keeping methods that are your favorites! (My favorite is still Ascension's cool gems!)

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Card Types: Districts

3:28 PM Monday, August 27, 2018


Another card type we have in Atlas Break is called the District card. This is a card with mechanics which affect both players and take effect and precedence as soon as it appears in the market.

These can have wild game-changing effects, such as adding an additional card to both player's hand every turn or the ability to counteract an attack by sacrificing a card in your hand.

Here is one of those cards:

Old Porthos Satellite Relay


This card adds +1 Currency to both players, which could be a formidable force when dealing with Hex Holcomb, the Engineer, who already gets +1 as a Champion power.

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Playtesting Progress

6:14 PM Friday, July 13, 2018

Hello, Everybody!

We are currently working on internal playtesting and beginning to branch out into small outside groups.

So far, we've been able to uncover a few errs in the efficacy of some cards and some balancing issues.

What I'm really interested in right now is figuring out what is better for our game:

- Having every card be unique (this is how it stands now)
- Having duplicates of some cards to assist in crafting a strategy

Some cards serve similar purposes, but because we have factions, they offer different potential advantages for players. One thing we may do is decrease the number of factions in order to increase the likelihood of coming across a card that is useful (decreasing factions from 6 to 3).

So, playtesting continues and we'll experiment with these components as the weeks go on.

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Card Types: Bugs!

4:10 PM Tuesday, June 12, 2018


One of the most unique cards in our game is the Bug card type. When these cards are drawn into the Marketplace, players have the option to attack their opponent as normal OR they can go in to attack the Bug card to reap victory bonuses.

Here is one of those cards: Brood Mother, a powerful beast entering the fray!


This Bug has 12 Defense, which means you have to pack quite a punch to destroy it. However, once you do, it also has an equally hefty reward, offering +6 Influence points. Influence work as health in this game, as different factions fight to gain Influence over the world.

Hope that's helpful in explaining the unique mechanics of this card type and we look forward to sharing more with you as we continue!

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The Playtesting Process

6:48 AM Sunday, May 6, 2018


Now that the rules, cards, mechanics, have all been nicely laid and seem to work in my head...it's time to smash it up!

My approach to playtesting begins with building out a very simple prototype with my team. We have an indispensable programmer who has developed a clean database for us to add to and to print our first stage prototypes from.

This prototype is very simple, made up of only text and small images. Simultaneously, the art team is bringing the art and frames together in what will be used for our second stage prototype and final print.

Playing Solo
The first part of playtesting is playing the game myself. As the person who built the mechanics, I am starting off with so many questions in mind. Are all mechanics making sense? Are they all necessary and useful? Are play styles I designed in actually practical and usable?

However, the first game often reveals issues very quickly that I may not have even considered, which is why getting to this stage is so important. These little revelations will inform how I adjust the game and how I alter rules and/or mechanics for my team's internal testing.

Internal Testing
It's so vital and helpful to get everyone on the team on board and playing the game. This will be my first opportunity to access real issues that players will run into whether that's confusion regarding the rules, poor game pace, overpowered champions, etc. But I'll also get to hear about the good stuff, too. Who everyone's favorite champion is, what was liked, etc.

An important not here for all playtesting: People like to win. Be sure to clarify before playtesting sessions that winning is not the goal at this time. Exploring the mechanics and what can be improved is the primary mission.

External Testing
This is something I'm very excited about. Bringing groups of players together to play the game and get feedback. This is also tricky. Depending on player knowledge of your closeness to the project, players may not feel comfortable giving negative criticism because they want to be kind. I think the best information to be gathered here is probably by observing how games flow and listening to the questions that people have while playing, which will indicate hurdles in gameplay. Direct feedback could also be useful but perhaps not as much as careful observation.

That is a little bit about my process and I'm so looking forward to it! I'll be printing this week in order to playtest and make as many necessary edits as possible before we go into our second stage prototype which is the one we'll be using for external playtesting.

Thank you for reading our blog post! Let me know in the comments about where you find the most valuable input when playtesting!

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Development Update

5:54 PM Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Hello, Everybody! Just wanted to update you all on our progress to date on Atlas Break.

We've worked and re-worked this game over a long period of time and we are getting into our prototyping phase.

  • - Card frames for all card types are completed.
  • - Card Art is completed, named, and organized
  • - Mechanics are in our Card Database

Next Steps

  • - Automating card variables into our card frames
  • - Manually placing card art into respective frames
  • - Printing prototype
  • - Playtesting

Those are our short term goals coming up. The cards themselves are looking beautiful! I remember our first prototype for the first version of this game. It was basically tables with our variables and card test, no card art, and printed on card stock. And when I say "basically," I mean "actually."

Our previous prototype was ugly but it was playable and served its purpose. There are varying opinions regarding how "finished" a game should appear before playtesting, especially before playtesting with those outside of your group. Regardless of where one SHOULD be for the playtesting stage, I am very glad that we've played with most basic of prototypes and that we will be playing with a prototype with this level of finish.


Here are a couple of samples of our cards. These are only samples (not all variables included/only flavor text) but they're so pretty, I had to share.



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Atlas Break Card Type Breakdown

2:00 PM Sunday, March 18, 2018


As we hammer out our final rules and mechanics, I'll be piecing together brief synopses of the game. Today, we'll go over our card types.

Atlas Break contains a total of 8 card types:

Champion
This card shows your chosen champion and their respective Champion Power.

Starter Cards - Basic Bot and Basic Currency
These are the cards that each player begins with. They include a Basic Bot, which does 1 attack and one Basic Currency Card, which permits 1 purchase power. Currently we have our currency noted as "Units" but not sure if this will stick. Let us know if you have any suggestions for Currency!

Ability
These cards are used once then discarded into the Void.

Mob
These are bots, humanoids, and other creatures that are collected and then cycle through the player's deck.

Bug
Bugs are a nuisance to all. Destroying a bug card provides an instant reward to the victor!

Barrier
Protective shields of all types that must be destroyed before the player can be attacked.

District
These are location cards that have a mechanic that applies a new mechanic to both players.

And, that's it! Each of these cards has appropriate variations in their card design for which I've mocked up templates for our art director to work from. From the last post about card frames, I think you know how excited I am about those! They've been further refined and continue to be improved.

The templates are also being used on our database side to automate our table of card information to actual cards. We're looking forward for our new prototype being finished soon and play testing of the new version of Atlas Break to begin.


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New Bio for our Nature Character: Shale Pride

5:20 PM Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hey, Everyone! We just added a brief bio for our awesome Nature Champion: Shale Pride! Popped it in our Champions section and down below:



Shale Pride is one of many of his kind. The faulty reterraformers that the humans left on Earth failed their intended task, but in failing, succeeded in a great number of wondrous and unexpected things.

What was supposed to replenish the Earth poisoned creatures, deformed them, and reshaped them. Radioactive waves pulsed through the landscape, accelerating mutation in fauna and flora alike. From these mutations sprung Shale and his ilk. Mutating to use reterraformer radioactivity as an energy source.

Not much is known about these sentient plant-like beings. Only that they travel alone, keeping to the wilds. That they are dangerous. And that they are very, very territorial.

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5 Tips for Working with your Artist

1:24 PM Monday, January 29, 2018



This article is about working with artists. Whether you're hiring out or hiring someone you know, it's very important to develop a system that is clear to all parties so everyone knows what to expect. These are tips we employed but there are so many others that are effective and useful. Comment with your ideas!

1. Pay your Artist
This one seems like a no-brainer but I want to put it first. Respect the work your artist does by paying them appropriately. Having them involved in your game for free as "exposure" for them is absurd. They are doing you a favor by offering their skills to you. Value them.

2. Discuss Needs and Work Style
Talk to your artist about your mutual needs. Do you need them to create something very specific or do they have a lot of creative freedom in how they depict something? And, what do they prefer? How much art will you be needing and in what time frame?

Be sure you know their forte. Are they best at illustrating backgrounds, people, animals? Assign them work appropriate to their skills.

3. Develop a System for Edits
Once needs and work style is discussed you can develop a system that works for both of you. For example, after assignment, the client is returned with 3 or fewer rough sketches per assignment at which one is chosen to be moved forward to a finished image and edits are discussed.

The finished image is returned to client and a final round of edits is done before final approval.

Be sure you and your artist discuss a specific number of edits that is allowed by the client. There is nothing more frustrating than working on a single image and getting edits in one by one. The editing process should be limited to improve your pace and enforce the need for clarity by the client. If you aren't getting your message across, find better ways to communicate and use examples of what you are looking for if appropriate.

If you can, creating a style guide for your artists to work from can be an incredibly useful tool to ensure understanding and to more easily create a sense of continuity, especially when working with multiple artists.

4. Get it in Writing
Have your process written out so that either of you can reference it at any time. This is a good place to keep best practices as well. The standards, like the size of the image and keeping images numbered so they are easier to discuss and refer to together.

5. Try your System and Refresh it
The first round of working with an artist will help you understand each other a lot better. If there is something that needs to be changed for either of you, it's a good time to check in and make sure those changes happen.

I think one of the biggest edits for less experienced artists I've worked with was at the sketch stage. They would create these beautiful, detailed images at the sketch stage, sometimes even in full color, that were absolutely lovely. However, it's the sketch stage for a reason. If you're a hired artist, keep in mind that sketches are used to convey the idea, sometimes a color palette. Use your time effectively; your client hired you, they already know how skilled you are.


Well, that's all for now! Hope that was helpful and informative. If you have anything to add, drop it in our comments and thanks for reading!

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Let's Design some Game Card Frames!

10:25 AM Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Hard Rules

In order to design a card suitable for printing, one must first understand a little about the printing process and what printers expect from images they will print. Each card (from inside out) has a:

  1. Safe Zone - This is the area where all important text, images, and design elements must be within
  2. Cut Area Line - Where the card will be cut to create the correct card size. Space between the safe zone and cut line is often one, solid color.
  3. Bleed Area - Area where the design continues to prevent any empty space or white lines appearing around the edges.
A great resource for taking a look at some templates for different card formats can be found at MakePlayingCards

For our cards, we will be using a Traditional Poker Card size to maximize horizontal real estate. This card format (2.5" x 3.5") is the most commonly used for card games.

Design

Card frames house all the art and information necessary for game play. For our card game, we want our frames to meet all the following criteria:

  1. Be Logical
  2. Be Consistent
  3. Look Good
  4. Follow the necessary printing parameters
1. Be Logical
Being logical means that each piece of text serves a purpose, that the size of each component is relative to its importance, that space is used well.

Here is a simple template I made for our mob cards. What do you think, anything standing out? There is also one component missing to this card: faction. Where would you put the faction icon?


One thing that struck our team was how the Title position was a bit low, not taking advantage of all the available space. Regarding the faction icon, its position will be top left. Think about how a person holds a hand of cards, with the upper left exposed and faction is an important piece of information as you play.

We placed cost information in the top left because once the card is purchased and put into one's deck, it no longer matters.

2. Be Consistent
Consistency lends to overall cohesiveness of the game. This means that if you are going to change your formats, only do it with purpose and clear reasoning behind it.

3. Look Good
This is a little extra. Of course there are so many games that have very simply card frames that are amazing, fun games. A card game can be made with tables alone. But a well-designed card frame with well-done embellishment can further immerse you into the game world itself. Just be sure the design elements don't interfere with the clarity of your card information.

Here is the first round of mock ups for the physical card game.



This rough sketch shows the same template come to life. We'll be making a number of changes here but you can see the process taking shape.

Hope this article was informative and helpful! We are very excited to continue sharing our process.


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