Archive for the 'Snow Queen' Category

Snow Queen Video Demo

October 10, 2009

In case you’ve decided to never read Story Games ever again, here’s the video demo (Quicktime) I made for how basic fights work in Super Snow Queen.

This little 16-bit style evolution of some of the “chakra”/theme maps stuff I was doing earlier is pretty solid, I think, and I’m mostly trying to figure out how to present the various locations in the palace, which link the fights together with puzzles and characters you can talk to and other stuff.

Degrees of Abstraction

October 4, 2009

I’m at a frustrating crossroads with the Snow Queen game where I have to figure out which of my various conflicting intentions to follow and which need to be left behind by the side of the road.

The main issue I’m wrestling with is the degree of abstraction vs. representation in the graphics / mapping of the game. There’s this thing in roleplaying games where the less physical representation you have, the more the players’ imaginations are free to take flight with the narrative contents. Imagine a continuum of representation that starts with the 4E battlemap, is abstracted into the Agon strip, is abstracted further to Danger Patrol’s arbitrarily moved slips of paper, then is further abstracted into scripted moves like Mouse Guard, and is finally totally abstracted into freeform description.

As you move towards increased abstraction in physical or mechanical structures, more of the burden of creating appropriate and powerful content and structures — including, that hallowed technique, “reincorporation” — falls on the players rather than the game designer or scenario designer. When there are few physical representations of the fiction, including details and numbers jotted down on a sheet, the play experience leans totally on the imagined content because there are no other records or indicators.

So, as a game designer, when there’s physical component or narrative structure that’s going to be difficult or nigh-impossible for me to create physically or mechanically, my instinct is to create a very abstract representation — allowing the players to flesh out and fill in the blanks as needed — or have it exist purely in the players imaginations. But this creates a problem when I feel like I have a relatively clear vision of what play is supposed to feel like. It’s difficult to both leave things up to the players and also create methods by which the things that the players come up with match my overall design vision.

And that’s where I think I’m at with the Snow Queen. The whole purpose of the game is for the players to imagine wandering through an immense ice palace, a beautiful and harrowing combination of Zelda and Ico, full of puzzles and monsters and characters to meet and missions to accomplish and interactive scenery. But it’s difficult to create really complex puzzles or dungeon layouts without mapping out every corner of the ice palace and that’s way too difficult and time consuming, I think. So I need to find a level of abstraction that allows me to frame various sections of the castle while still leaving room for the players to describe and flesh out the castle, both so 1) the play experience will be personal and emotionally powerful for the players, and 2) so I don’t have to spend the next year pushing pixels to create a giant map of the entire palace.

The other problem I’m having is tone. The 16-bit graphics I’ve been working with are really fun, but I’m worried they’re going to trap players’ minds in certain ways, worrying about how certain things would be depicted in a 16-bit video game rather than following the fiction and imagining whatever they want. In the same way that Shadow of the Colossus followed the classic Zelda narrative pattern but subverted it, I want the Snow Queen game to draw on the narrative structures of classic video games but not be trapped by them, and I’m not quite sure yet how to present the game in a way that will make that happen. I don’t want to have to commission a bunch of expensive art, but I’m not sure I have the capacity to illustrate it myself if I don’t use a 16-bit style. But I’m not sure people will have the capacity to look at Mega Man art and imagine Pluto, to draw a parallel to a different genre.

Anyway, those are the issues I’m currently wrestling with. Once I have those figured out, designing the game should be easy. But, in my mind, the physical components and presentation are key to making the game work, so I have to start there.

Level 1-1 Sketch 2

September 21, 2009


With the guardhouse and walls added, plus a new way of doing shadows that I’m not entirely satisfied with. Getting closer at least.

Level 1-1 Sketch

September 20, 2009


The bridge is basically done, the rest is just a rough outline of where stuff will go.

More SQ Cards

September 18, 2009






The Snowflake Action Dial

September 18, 2009


I’m designing something that’ll blow your mind.

The Queen Lives

April 13, 2009

This is the plan I outlined to Dev today, to be tackled after I finish a couple other outstanding projects.

Publish each “stage” of The Snow Queen individually, either ransomed or sold electronically. Each stage includes a write up and 8-bit pictures of new characters and items, a map and description of locations and complications, and a original musical track to serve as the soundtrack for that particular stage. Playing through a single stage probably takes 1-3 sessions, depending on how you play, how long each session goes, and how many players there are.

After all the stages are complete and published individually, sell a deluxe version packaged in a DVD case, with a CD containing all the music and a booklet containing all the rules. The combined map is printed on the front and/or back of the cover insert.

Release the Title Screen track (mp3 sketch, not final) and the introduction for free, so people have a good sense of what they’re getting. Maybe I’ll work up a free “boss fight” track as well, for when you face bosses and mini-bosses.

Gerda & Bae

April 13, 2009

4x actual size, though WordPress makes it a bit blurry.

Week 1 (Oct 1-7): The Garden

September 8, 2008

Oct 01, How It All Begin: Read the story of the Snow Queen aloud, up until the point where Gerda and Bae (the reindeer) are approaching the Snow Queen’s palace. Unlike in Hans Christian Anderson’s story, Bae does not leave Gerda to face the palace alone, but comes with her. You can either read Anderson’s original (if you speak Danish), the abridged English version included with the calendar, or a version of your own choosing.

Oct 02, The Prince Misplaces the Mirror: This chapter involves the new Snow Prince, Kay, losing the frame that formerly held the Troll’s Mirror, before it shattered into a million pieces, worming into the hearts and eyes of various creatures. Somehow, he loses possession of the frame and it ends up in the bottom of the icy pond that lies in the center of the Snow Queen’s garden. Determine how this happens.

Oct 03, Into the Garden: In this chapter, Gerda sneaks into the Snow Queen’s garden, circumventing the high garden wall and the gatehouse guarded by a stubborn emperor penguin. Determine how she does this. Additionally, she has to find a way for Bae to sneak inside as well, but he’s much bigger and less good at sneaking. In the end, she succeeds. Determine how.

Oct 04, Through the Garden: On the way through the garden, towards the palace, Gerda and Bae have to sneak past or overcome a number of obstacles — garden sculptures that come to life, watchful arctic wolves, beautiful snow flowers that sing a hypnotic song, an enormous hedge maze with many twisting passages, and whatever else you concoct — but ultimately they make it through and arrive at the end of the pond. Determine how.

Oct 05, The Garden Ambush: Gerda and Bae catch sight of the mirror at the bottom of the pond. Armed snowflakes drop from the sky, surrounding them, accompanied by the Snow Queen’s lieutenant, Shiver. They exchange angry words, but Bae and Gerda fight off the snowflakes. Determine how. Shiver uses his powers to bury Gerda and Bae in snow, but a beaver leaps from the pond and grabs Gerda, swimming away with her. Gerda passes out from the cold of the water.

Oct 06, Beneath the Dam: Gerda awakes wrapped in warm blankets in the beaver’s den. The beaver, Agnes, introduces Gerda to her family and apologizes for not being able to save Bae, who was captured by Shiver. They share a meal. The beavers give Gerda the frame of the Troll’s Mirror, which they recovered from the pond. They do not know how to unlock the frame’s power, but they suggest that Gerda ask the owl in the morning. They all go to sleep.

Oct 07, The Old Oak: The beavers usher Gerda across the garden to the Old Oak, an enormous half-dead tree. They are frightened of the owl, who is known to eat beavers on occasion, so Gerda must climb up the tree and explore it’s hollowed-out interior by herself. Along the way, she meets various insects, birds, and other creatures that make their home there. This chapter ends with her arriving at the owl’s nest. Though the owl is huge and frightening, he invites Gerda in for tea.

Reindeer & Rupees

September 5, 2008

Updated Priorities

August 21, 2008

Now that Geiger Beta is out, it’s time to take a break from that and give people some time to play it and make comments. Which means I can finally think about other things.

Dev recently said that he wants to play the Avatar game, which means I need to tweak it a bit. I might just end up blatantly stealing the fight mechanics from Mist-Robed Gate, because I think they’ll work mighty well. Then a few other tweaks and we’re off. The Avatar game still gets the most hits of anything on my website, so perhaps I should just release it through Bleeding Play in PDF form, once we playtest it a bunch more.

Push is definitely near the top of the list. I want to get the other articles from Push 1 up in HTML format on Bleeding Play, make the link to the PDF more prominent, type in the edits to her article that Em sent me months ago, and get Push 1 set up on Lulu so people can order print copies at cost. I also want to start getting some of the stuff from Push 2 up. Eero and Bill’s articles in particular are things I’ve been sitting on for many months. I just need to edit them, ask for a couple corrections from the authors, and post them up there.

Currently, it looks like Transantiago development may move to Secret Wars for a bit, since Shreyas has agreed to help me work on the passages from the rules that are supposed to be read aloud during play.

And then there’s Fingers on the Firmament, which I’ve been thinking about a ton and can’t wait to get to. Development-wise, I think it comes right after Transantiago, since Justin is still focused on getting the John Rain game done. It will rock some serious socks. Honestly, after playing 4th some more, I’m also interested in seeing the changes they’re coming out with for the GSL, on the outside chance that Firmament might be able to mine some of the better parts of the new edition. We’ll see.

Then, on the outside, things I still want to finish some day:
The Snow Queen

Ice Castles

January 31, 2008

I’ve been sick since Friday at noon and been home the first part of the week because of it, barely being able to think because of lots of sinus pressure. I’m feeling pretty solid today, so hopefully I’m through the really bad stuff.

While I was home, I managed to finish Ico, the brilliant video game that is the main inspiration for my future game based on The Snow Queen. While I thought the last section of it was fairly anticlimactic — I expected the game to be longer, exploring the rest of the castle, and wasn’t expecting actual combat to be at the focus of the finale, given the relative lack of violence in the first sections — it was good to see the entire scope of it.

In the imaginary Snow Queen game in my head, there is a GM who plays the enormous ice castle and the players, however many there are, play Gerda and Kay, the two children trying to flee the Snow Queen’s palace. Ideally, I will be able to eventually work something out with Tony Dowler, who will draw a giant poster-sized ice castle with hundreds of rooms.

To give structure to the castle, I am imagining that the rooms will probably be broken down into sections, like the aerie, the catacombs, the crystal chapel, the wolfen kennel, the snowflake factory, etc. In most sections there will be one or two main puzzles that the children must solve — working together! — before they are able to move on to the next section, but the puzzles will probably require doing things in multiple rooms or moving objects around the section. I’m imagining that the game will often be played with actual children as the players, right before bedtime, instead of, say, reading to them. So the children might play through one section of the castle and then go to sleep, tackling the next section on a subsequent night.

In my mind, the game consists of a laminated poster of the castle and a small booklet that explains how to play. It might even be possible to put the text of the game — both the instructions and the short descriptions of various rooms — on the poster as well, in the white space around the outside of the castle illustration. That would be cool, but if it doesn’t all fit, the rest of the text could go in the booklet.