• Andrew Jonhardt

Trying to get out of flux

This past week, I finally had the opportunity to attend a Jeugos Rancheros meetup. Jeugos Rancheros sells itself as an "independent games collective", and I'm still not 100% clear on what that means. My worry was that it meant a room full of laptops and people with drinks talking loudly over club music. Jeugos almost lived up to my worries.

Jeugos currently occurs at The North Door, a venue that manages to pack a restaurant, a bar, a small stage, and enough space for 50 or 60 people into what appears to be a tiny hole-in-the-wall off I35. The space wasn't filled when I arrived, but there was a good number of people milling around with drinks. There weren't as many laptops as I'd expected, but there were enough setups for anyone who wanted a turn.

The theme for the meetup was a simple celebration of the fruits from the most recent Train Jam, a March event that sees game designers, programmers, and artists shut up in a train for 52 hours straight. Naturally , I hoped to meet some of these Train Jam-ies, and to make stronger my poor connection to the existing videogame design world.

I met one guy from the jam. He'd brought a VR setup, and was showing off a tech demo that was not a full game in my eyes (the "game" was simply a dice roll, where your goals and abilities are hidden or mystified to the extent that it was impossible to plan or care about what was happening). I tried to speak with him, but I struggled to communicate in the space.

I've got something of a minor speech impediment. I hate talking about it, but it tends to come up, and it's impossible to miss in loud spaces. The Jeugos meetup was loud, just as I was worried it would be, and every conversation I attempted was a struggle. To make matters worse, I'd just spent all of that weekday struggling through my customer-service job. I've managed to communicate at the cons before (PAX, SXSW), but trying to talk in a space that felt like a con after working all day was fucking torture.

I managed an hour. I tried a few games, and I managed 3 conversations in that time. None of the conversations led to an exchange of information or anything meaningful. There was a 1-button party racing game, a gravity-altering platformer about bringing ice to a planet's core, a a puzzle game about getting to a car or something, the previously mentioned VR tech demo, a Smash Bros clone, a top-down 1v1 fighting game inspired bullet hell-thing, an interesting puzzle noise card game with nothing more than a 1 to 2 minute tutorial demo, and some other projects I didn't bother with.

I left feeling like my expectations had been, unfortunately, on point, and I'm not in any rush to go back. The space just wasn't very inviting for me, unlike board game play and design meetups.

I'm still doing board game things on the side, and so far I've had fun every time I do. Board games are all about understanding the engines that drive them, while videogames are all about hiding them. I see this reflected in the attitudes of board game and video game designers, and I find myself drawn to the less-mystical, more down-to-earth perspectives of the latter.

I found myself thinking back over all this when I sat down to try and put more work into Psychic Scrap Racers this past weekend. I say try, because I didn't actually do any more work on the Unity project.

I'm shelving the PsyScrpRace digital conversion project. The whole thing has taken so long that I've thought up new mechanics to add more randomization to the game, and I still don't have enough baked into the Unity project to even test the basic mechanics! Plus, my projects folder is filling with ideas, and I hate being unable to work on any of them without jeopardizing the future of the PsyScrapRace digital version. So, I'm rebuilding PsyScrapRace as a board game.

The current plan is as follows:

  • I'm going to rebuild PsyScrapRace with the new mechanics I have in mind.

  • I'm going to test the new mechanics on my own and with the assistance of other board game designers.

  • I'm going to create a presence on BoardGameGeek.com.

  • I'm going to upload a prototype to BoardGameGeek.com and attempt to attract testers for broader feedback.

  • I'm going to try finding a publisher again, and will publish on the Game Crafter if I can't. I want to get my projects out there, and I'm hoping for a little cash.

  • I'm going to learn more about Godot (and, eventually, more Unity) on the side.

  • I'm going to try and find a work-life balance that allows me to explore Godot and the videogames I love while working on board games.

That last bullet is going to be the hardest one. I don't know many people who've achieved work-life balance without sacrificing something significant, and I've still got the demand to earn an IT certification hanging over my head. However, I have 0 interest in giving up.

I will be back next week.

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