Creative game design part 2

This evening I had the second lesson of my 6-week course on Creative Thinking & Problem Solving, with game design as a practical exercise. We did brainstorming, and came up with a bunch of wacky ideas for games. Some examples of the ideas for game themes that the stidents and I came up with:

  • A cooking competition
  • A doctor examining patients
  • Causing trouble in school
  • Ruining someone’s wedding

I really like the last one, and kind of hope we end up developing that one into a game, but I’m planning to be guided by what the students think when we come back to the ideas next week.

Today daylight saving began here in New South Wales, by the way, so all my classes are now an hour later – because I’ve kept them the same time for all the students in other countries. I need to go through every class and decide if I want to move it another hour later when the northern hemisphere goes off daylight saving at the end of October. That will be to keep them at the same time for European and American countries that have DST. I think a lot of Asian countries don’t have DST at all, so classes with Asian students won’t need to move. It’s a bit of juggling, and I’m going to have to end up telling some of the students that their classes will be shifting in time, so they might have to move to another class or possibly unenrol if they cant find a suitable timeslot. And then in 6 months I have to go through this all in the other direction.

But I’m happy that sunset is now an hour later (by the clock). I love the long light summer evenings. Speaking of which, it was very warm and summery today, with a temperature of 26°C. I went on another walk with my wife and Scully, just around our local area from home today. There were a lot of people out enjoying the warmth, with dozens of people having picnics in various parks that we walked past. Picnics were only authorised a week or two ago as COVID lockdown restrictions slowly ease here, and plenty of people are taking advantage of it.

I want to make use of the warm weather and evening sunlight to have a picnic dinner with my wife for our wedding anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks. Not on the exact day, but some time during that week. It’ll be nice to sit in a park, with a view over the harbour, and have a pleasant dinner.

New content today:

A serious game suggestion

Saturday, and it’s a long weekend, with Monday being Labour Day. This October long weekend is traditionally considered the start of the summery half of the year, with swimming pools opening and stuff. Although it’s already been warm enough to swim for the past month or so, with warmer weather arriving earlier and earlier every year.

The other thing is that channel-billed cuckoos are back. I saw two of them today. These birds migrate north in the winter, and head back to our southerly climes around this tie of year. They’re big, noisy, loud birds, and other birds like to harass them noisily as well, so it’s usually pretty obvious when they’re in the area.

I went for another walk around more new places in our 5 km radius today, with my wife and Scully. This is Folly Point:

Folly Point

Scully by the water:

Folly Point

A panorama with Scully and my wife:

Folly Point

Willoughby Waterfall:

Primrose Park Track

And back home I worked on Darths & Droids comics for a bit. And I also did our tax returns, finally. I normally do them in July, but we’ve been putting them off for ages now, and it was finally time to get them out of the way. I did my wife’s and my tax returns, and it took about 20 minutes in total.

I forgot to mention an idea that we had last night during games night with my friends: A social deduction game played over text chat, where every player has a secret role which tells you to be either sincere or sarcastic. You have to enter text (without emojis) in your given mode, while trying to convince other players that you’re playing the other mode. The tentative title of this game: “Yeah, Right”.

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Splendid meals

Today I made the slides for the second lesson in my creative thinking course, based on the lesson plan I wrote up yesterday.

This evening I had two more ethics classes, on animal hunting. I’ve been ending the classes with a question for the kids to think about, without answering it: Experts say one of the biggest dangers facing the world is overpopulation of humans. What if an advanced alien species came by Earth and saw our population problems. Would it be okay for them to hunt humans?

In the second class today we’d previously discussed whether it’s okay to hunt overpopulated animals, and all the kids had been very affirmative that not only was it okay, but it was necessary to protect the greater environment. So… I got to the end of the class and left them with the above question to ponder, and one of the girls who I could see on the Zoom video silently did The Scream pose, and then slid her hands up to cover the top of her head as she continued the look of horror. It was really amusing to see!

This evening for dinner my wife and I ordered a special treat from a local Greek restaurant that we like to visit now and then. It’s a nice change from ordering pizzas. I went up to pick up the meal and we had spanakopita and roasted lamb shanks, with Greek salad. And there’s sticky date pudding for afters.

Tonight is online games night with my friends. We started with the game Splendor, which I haven’t played for a long time, and have always been really bad at. I thought I was winning, but then all of a sudden someone else took a huge lead and won the game, and I ended up third.

New content today:

Picking up pot

I have a couple of small plants growing on our balcony:

  • a chilli plant which has been very productive for a few years, and
  • a lime tree which has not yet produced any usable fruit, but which currently has some tiny limes that I hope will continue to mature rather than dropping off.

The chilli is in a suitably sized terracotta pot, but the lime tree is still in the plastic pot we bought it in. I decided it was time to repot it in a larger pot, so I went online and ordered a terracotta pot and saucer from the local hardware store. I had to guess the size of saucer because it was impossible to tell what the correct size was from the website information. (And I couldn’t just go into the hardware store to buy them because it’s closed by COVID restrictions – you can only order online, for contactless pickup.)

Anyway, my pickup was scheduled for this morning, so I drove over to the store, stopped in one of the marked “pick up” berths, and a guy came over and asked me my name, and then brought the pot and saucer over for me. It was impressively chunky. I brought it home, but I’ve put of repotting the lime tree to tomorrow.

Next up was picking up the online-ordered groceries from the supermarket. While there I grabbed three more punnets of super cheap strawberries as well.

Today mostly I worked on more of my creative thinking course. And tonight is games night with my friends, playing online via Board Game Arena. So far I think I’ve lost 5 games already…

New content today:

Forbidden Waters ending

It’s virtual games night with my friends, and we’ve just completed our ongoing game of Forbidden Waters, which has taken us three session to finish. We cooperated enough to win the scenario as a group, but several of us ended up with individual bad story endings. In particular I was a seasick pirate, and I ended up sentenced to life in a floating prison, where I was sick every day.

The COVID news here was dire again, with 291 new cases, a new record high for the state.

New content today:

Piratey games night

What did I do today?

I went to the supermarket to pick up my big weekly grocery shop, that I’d ordered online for fast pickup. This time I said I was “in my way” a good ten minutes before I left home, and when I arrived it was ready for me to grab and go, which was better than the waiting around I had to do last week.

I did discover a slightly annoying thing. The minimum order of green beans from the fresh vege section was 0.25 kg, so that’s what I ordered. It turned out to be about 5 times as many beans as I normally buy! We’ll be eating beans with a lot of meals over the next week. And… the same thing with mushrooms.

From 11 am I had a photography standards meeting. This is the Standards Australia meeting to follow-up from the international ISO meeting I attended last month. As the chair of the Australian committee, I presented a report on the international meeting for the benefit of the Australian experts. Our committee is doing really well, having grown in membership recently, so this is really satisfying work.

Then at 4 pm I had another ethics class, with the prejudice topic.

And now in the evening it’s virtual board games night with my friends. We started with a game of Nidavellir, which is one of our current favourites. And I actually won the game, although I’m not sure I have a good grip on the strategy yet. We’re now into our ongoing game of Forgotten Waters, that we started a few weeks ago.

In COVID news, NSW recorded 136 new cases, which sets another new record for the year. Case numbers have gone up alarmingly in the past two days, and the number of people infectious without being in isolation is going up too. It feels like the outbreak is slipping out of control, despite the current lockdown regulations. The lockdown was scheduled to end on 30 June, but I can’t see any way that it won’t be extended, and in fact tightened even further. I feel like the only thing we can do now is hunker down, avoid people, and wait for our second vaccinations.

New content today:

COVID-Virtual games night Friday

Tonight would have been face-to-face games night with the guys, but under the current COVID lockdown we’ve converted it to virtual once again. The COVID numbers rose again today, with 97 new cases in NSW. Nothing particularly new in terms of lockdown restrictions, just more urging people to do the right thing and stay home.

I did mostly. It was time for the weekly grocery shopping, but rather than go through the supermarket myself, I signed up for online shopping. Unfortunately the delivery fee scale is such that for people like me who do small weekly shops, the fee is high, whereas it gets lower if you buy more, until if you buy over $300 of groceries delivery is free. I kind of get it, but as someone who usually spends $80-$120 a week, I don’t want to have to add another $15 on top for delivery.

So instead I chose the free “pick up from store” option. At least it saves me from walking around the aisles, and I could spend only a couple of minutes in the supermarket picking up my stuff instead of half an hour. As it turned out, when I got there they didn’t have my order quite ready, so I had to wait a little while they ran around grabbing bags from storage lockers and fridges and stuff. But it was quicker than doing the shopping myself, so that was worthwhile.

The other reason to go out today was that Scully was booked in for her grooming day. She was getting very shaggy, but now after picking her up she’s velvety smooth.

For games night, the first game we played was Nidavellir, which is a game I enjoy, but I haven’t really got to grips with the strategy yet. Yet, somehow, I managed to win! By a single point. But a win is a win! Now we’re playing some games of 7 Wonders, which is a virtual games night staple. I came second in the first game, and… just won my second game! With an unconventional science + military strategy.

New content today:

Double plus lockdown Friday

Today’s COVID news in Sydney was even worse than yesterday. 44 new cases in the 24-hour reporting period (6 more than yesterday), and more of those cases than yesterday were circulating in the community rather than being isolated as known contacts of infected people. So basically we have more people spreading the virus further. The NSW Government announced further lockdown restrictions, as well as indicating stricter enforcement.

We are now prohibited from leaving the house for any reason except (1) medical reasons, (2) to get food or other necessary supplies, (3) for work or education if those cannot be done at home, or (4) for exercise. Additionally, we are prohibited from travelling more than 10 km from home, and are strongly advised not to leave home for any shopping if we can arrange home delivery. If you do go shopping, it must be directly to buy specific needed items – browsing in shops is prohibited. If you leave home to exercise you may only meet one person who does not live in your household. You may not visit anyone else’s home, and you may not have any visitors in your home. Facemasks must be worn in every indoor location except your own home, plus on public transport, and also outdoor locations where people gather.

This lockdown is supposed to end Friday next week, but given the trajectory of cases at the moment I expect it will be extended further.

So, I spent the day at home. Which I probably would have done anyway given that it started raining today and it was extremely cold and miserable. The maximum temperature in Sydney was a bone-chilling 12.1°C, which made it the second coldest day of the year so far.

Fortunately I went out and did my weekly grocery shopping first thing in the morning, before the new restrictions were announced. Although that would have been allowed under them, since it’s food we’re going to eat. And toothpaste.

This evening we did a virtual board games night. Played a few games on Board Game Arena: 7 Wonders, 6 Nimmt, Coloretto, and also Sketchful, and an implementation of Codenames on the game’s own website.

Oh, and I forgot to mention yesterday that I got up to 365 consecutive days of Italian language practice on Duolingo. A full year since I started this daily streak. So that feels like an achievement!

New content today:

Tonsil recovery day 8

My throat is improving again. Today I was able to swallow almost freely, although it’s still a bit painful to chew food. I did sleep without needing any painkillers, so that was good. Basically, things are looking up and hopefully will be back to normal soon.

I spent some time today doing boring stuff like going through spreadsheets of financial stuff for tax, and filling out a job application form for a position as a casual tutor at the University of Technology, Sydney, for the job that my contact offered me a while ago.

Normally we go out for dinner on a Friday evening, and also tonight was supposed to be fortnightly board games night, but with the COVID lockdown in Sydney restaurants are all closed and our games night has been converted to virtual. So we ordered Indian food to take-away from a favourite local restaurant. I went to pick it up, and although they couldn’t have seated customers, they were doing great business with take-away orders. When I arrived there, they had about a dozen bags waiting to be collected.

The first game we played tonight was Forgotten Waters, using an implementation on Tabletop Simulator. This is a pirate themed mostly cooperative board game with some light roleplaying components. Then we played some rounds of 7 Wonders, and ended up with some Sketchful.

New content today:

Games night roundup

I’m posting late again due to the fortnightly board games night happening last night. Yesterday was very busy.

I started with the weekly grocery shop, then launched straight into taking photos for a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I finished that just before lunch, had lunch, and then went on to writing my lesson plan for the afternoon’s online ethics class. In between I had to pick up Scully from my wife’s work, and then after I’d finished writing the lesson I took Scully out for a bit of exercise to get her tired so she’d rest through the lesson and I wouldn’t need to interrupt it to take her out again.

After last week’s class had 5 students in it, this time there were only two, and one had connection problems, so popped in and out a bit before giving up. So for most of the lesson I only had one kid. We discusses natural resources, and the questions of whether it’s okay or not for people to use resources that are just lying around in nature – such as forests, water, minerals, etc. I raised many questions over whether various resources were needed by people, or whether using them deprived other people, or caused harm in various ways. With just the one student it was interesting to explore exactly what she thought on these issues and dig deeply into her reasoning. Several times when I asked her to explain why she thought a certain way, it took a lot of thinking for her to articulate her reasons. She said she really enjoyed the lesson, when it was done.

When that was done it was time to head off for games night! Usually we order pizza, but tonight we decided to get Thai food from the place near where we all used to work. They make excellent dishes there, and we used to be spoiled having them for lunch, but we’ve all missed out since losing our jobs there and going our separate ways. One guy picked up a bunch of dishes on the way and we all shared them – it was great.

For games, we started off with A Fake Artist Goes to New York. This is a party-style game where everyone has to collaboratively draw a picture. The catch is that all the drawers except one know what they’re drawing. At the start of each round, one person (who will not be drawing) selects a thing to draw and writes it on slips of paper, and gives those to the artists – except that one of the artists just gets an X and has no idea what the other artists will be drawing. The artists then take it in turns to draw a piece of the artwork, by placing their pen, drawing a contiguous line, and lifting just once. Each artist who knows what they’re drawing tries to draw something so that others will know that they know; while the artists who doesn’t know just has to bluff as best they can. But the catch is that the artists can’t make it too obvious, because then the artist who doesn’t know will figure it out. Once everyone has drawn twice, the artists all simultaneously vote/accuse someone of being the imposter. If a majority get it right, the real artists get a point – unless the imposter can successfully name what they were trying to draw, in which case the imposter gets a point. If the artists don’t identify the imposter, the imposter gets a point. And you play several rounds.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York

Here’s what we came up with (with the correct word added after the round so you can see). Because the artists are trying to reveal they know the word but without giving it away to the imposter, the drawing become rather abstracted. Of course this runs the risk of other artists not being able to successfully infer that you know what you’re doing. For example, for the “Church” drawing, two real artists drew two parts of a cross, separately, and they knew what each other was doing, but the other true artists had no idea what they were drawing and thought maybe one of them was the imposter.

Next we played Fantasy Realms. This is a card game where you have to collect a hand of seven cards, drawing and discarding rummy style, except the discard pile is laid out in full and you can draw any discard you want.

Fantasy Realms

Once the draw pile is exhausted, each player totals up the points in their hand. Simple! Except each card is worth a certain number of points, which usually varies depending on other cards in their hand. So the goal is to collect the various combos that enhance one another and minimise the combos that subtract points. I won this game with a combo hand of wizards and beasts! I actually grabbed the Warlock Lord (shown in the discard pile in the photo) despite having 5 wizards and thus it having a -40 point penalty, because another card gave me +100 points for having five cards of the same suit (wizards in this case).

After this we moved on to King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo

A simple dice rolling, beat-em-up game where each player is a giant monster attempting to rampage through Tokyo and defeat all the other monsters. I didn’t do so well in this one!

After that we split into two groups and I tried a new game for me: Nova Luna.

Nova Luna

This is an abstract game in which you need to collect tiles and lay them out in front of you, forming various combinations that allow you to place discs on some of the tiles. The goal is simply to be first to have used up all your discs. The intricacy comes about from the method of claiming tiles using a “moon phase” board – if you select low numbered tiles they are less useful, but you get to move again before other players, whereas if you select high numbered tiles they are often more useful, but you will need to wait longer before you get another turn. So there’s an interesting mix of strategies to consider. It was a very close game. I thought I was going strong and set myself up to win on my next turn with a high numbered tile, but the other players then each got multiple turns before I could go again, and two of them managed to finish before me!

To finish, we played Tussie Mussie. This is a very innocent looking card game in which you have to collect a set of four flowers, and then everyone scores points for their set. Each flower is worth 0, 1, or 2 points, but many also have abilities that give them bonus points when combined with other flowers, or restrictions that attract penalties if certain conditions are met.

The evil comes in the way the you collect flowers. Each person in turn draws two flowers, looks at them, then places one face up and one face down, and offers them to the player on the left. That player must choose one – either the one they can see, or the face down one. So the idea is to make the one you want to keep for yourself seem less tempting, without giving away that you want it for yourself. There’s a lot of psychological warfare and guessing going on, and it becomes very difficult to figure out the best move.

Another fine entry in the category of games that look sweet and innocent but are evil psychological minefields. We love them!

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