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Game design and excellent cheapness

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Okay, first the cheapness. I found a dandy little XML editor that's small (one 500k EXE file and no installer) and cheap (free). I played with other XML editors before, and I honestly didn't understand why something as intrinsically simple as XML would require some kind of giant obnoxious editor that costs $500, so I just edited XML using my free text editor of choice.

I don't know if this'll supplant just doing it in a text editor, as I really don't work with all that much XML, but this works. It's here.

Next isn't software related, but it's a good hint. If you ever go to Home Depot and/or Lowe's looking for ceramic floor-tile, you'll see a great disparity in price. At one end of the aisle, you'll see some shiny veiny marble-looking stuff for $5 a tile. And the price will go up and down as you look about the aisle. At the very end, though, you'll see a stack of plain-looking tile going for about 70-80 cents a square. It might not even be displayed next to the rest of the tile (it wasn't at Home Depot). It's just piled up there in boxes, hoping that you'll ignore it.

Well, having now installed that stuff in two houses, I can verify that it's great. Lowe's has it for 68 cents a square, so I was able to buy two bathrooms worth of tile for about $50. Our tile installer allayed any fears we had about quality, telling us that it's every bit as good as the more expensive stuff.

That's just FYI. If you find yourself shopping for tile, and you see the boxes at the end going for about 1/3 the price of the rest of the tile, and you worry that there's probably something wrong with it, don't worry.

On to game design. I have two interesting new resources to show off. Well one actually. One will be up eventually. First is a short article about the design of Viktory II, complete with plenty of pictures. It's a game designed to put the best features of Settlers of Catan and Axis & Allies into a single game. Given my wife's love for Settlers, we'll undoubtedly be buying this soom. It's especially interesting to see what was involved in getting all of the physical bits for the game made. Since I've never done a physical game, I never gave much thought as to what'd be involved in making all the bits.

Second is a piece of game design history that I have in-hand and still haven't done anything with. About four years ago, the bar-none most talented game designer of our time, Sid Sackson died. Much of his enormous collection of games was then ebay-ed off. Shelly and I managed to grab a couple of really interesting pieces of gaming history from the sell-off.

1. A prototype for an update to the classic kids' game Mouse Trap, in which Sid was asked to improve the board-game part of the game. As anyone who's ever played the game as a kid can attest, it's loads of fun to build and deploy the little rube-goldberg machine in the middle of the board, but the rest of the game (moving mice) is really dull and was clearly tacked on. Sid made a new prototype board with "cheese-points" and a couple more additions. Unfortunately, it looks unfinished and he never wrote up rules, so it's not really playable. Someday I plan to scan the board and put it up. Maybe the community can flesh the thing out.

2. Three drafts (handwritten, first printed draft, and release-candidate) for some game rules that Sid made for some kind of game rug-towel thingy. It looks like a rulebook for some kind of beach-towel or rug or tablecloth that had a checkerboard printed on it and came with a handful of checkers. The rulebook amounts to 30 different games that you can play with a standard checkers-set. Some games are simple checkers variants and some are pretty unique. I plan to scan all three drafts into PDF files and make 'em available on the site eventually. I figure it'll be interesting for folks to see the design process that's used by someone who was clearly at the top of the industry.

So keep me honest, and I'll make it available. I figure it'll be a reasonable way to drive a little traffic to the site, so I'll put 'em up when I have a little more stuff to sell.
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I never knew of Sackson. It's a shame to see someone who made so many innovative games disappear into obscurity.

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Get thee a copy of Can't Stop and Acquire ASAP. Those are the two games that I'm always in the mood to play.

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