Gaming Personal

I Hate Shooters – I Love PUBG

I’ve never liked first-person shooters — not from a “too much killing” standpoint (crap, what does that say about me?!), but from a standpoint of just not finding them to be much fun.

However, a couple years ago when Tom started playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) I started watching him play and discovered it was really compelling. For those who aren’t gamers, the “plot” in a nutshell is that you and 99 others are parachuted onto a deserted island (lots of empty buildings — no other people) where you have to scavenge weapons and be the last person alive. All the while an “electric fence” is slowly pushing everyone toward one point, so you can’t just sit and hide somewhere.

Did you read “Hunger Games” or watch the movie? It’s that type of game.

What makes it different (to me) than a typical shooter is the strategy aspect. While you need to have decent reflexes in a firefight, there are many ways to avoid fights until there isn’t any other choice. And while scavenging weapons you can choose from guns that are better for close-in fighting like a shotgun or a sniper rifle with a scope that allows you to pick people off from a distance. (Okay, reading that back that now I sound like a bloodthirsty violent person. I’m not. I’M NOT!!! TAKE IT BACK!!!)

So while I liked watching PUBG, as a Mac user I didn’t have a good way to play it, and when Tom moved to Vegas I couldn’t even watch it. But a couple weeks ago the publisher released a version for iOS (iPhones and iPads). While nobody thought PUBG would be worth playing on a mobile device, we were wrong.

Yes, it’s different than the PC version, you automatically pick up some items you find, for example, but the general experience is the same. The suspense when sneaking up on someone, the excitement trading fire with others while ducking behind a nearby rock or tree.

There’s some discussion about more ‘bots than real people being used in the lower levels (10 and under) to give new players a taste of success, and that’s probably why I’ve been able to get into the Top 10 several times during my first dozen games — but it also just might be my innate gaming ability (ahem). I’m now a Level 13 so games should be getting harder if the ‘bot supposition is true, but I’m hoping my “training” has been enough that I’ll still feel like I have a chance for a Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.

I’m playing PUBG on an iPad Pro and it’s set for high-res graphics and plays without any problems. I also played one game on my iPhone 7+ and it worked well, but the screen is a little too cramped for me. From what I hear it plays well on a regular iPad and even works on Android (but who cares about that).

I know PUBG Mobile isn’t the kind of game that will appeal to everyone, but if you’re a (sometimes) hardcore gamer and want to try the latest cool new thing, PUBG is it.

Free to play, some micro-transactions that aren’t required.
PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds Mobile for iOS

Game Development Gaming Programming

Game Development for Homeschoolers

It doesn’t matter whether a kid is in public school or whether he or she is homeschooled — almost every kid loves computer games. And there’s a certain percentage of those who not only want to play video games, but they want to make them, too.

With the game engines available today that’s completely possible to do at home — and for much less money than most people think. As a homeschooler you don’t have an unlimited budget for curriculum, so I’m going to cover one of the better low-cost options. (And what’s really cool is that option may be lower cost, but it’s the same option professional studios use to create games you see for sale today.)

Creating Your Home Game Studio

While a separate room might be the nicest option, just about everything you require is digital and lives on a hard drive, so even a laptop you carry around here or there will work for your studio. A specific place is nice because having a whiteboard for brainstorming is a great help as well as having wall space for posters that spark your creativity.

While an internet connection is a complete requirement, it comes close. It helps your productivity to be able to look up information in online documentation, or see a sample video, or ask questions of experts online.

Assets: What Your Game Is Made Of

While the source code you’ll write may seem to be the heart of the game, there are two other assets you’re going to need: artwork and audio. It’s fairly easy to make your own simple sound effects, and if you’re talented in drawing or painting you may be able to do the artwork, too. But in many cases the game developer write the code and then plugs in art and sound created by someone else.

That’s one way a group of friends can work together in making a game. If you’re talented in art, maybe you’re the artist for the game while your musician friend creates sound effects and background music. But if you’re a “lone wolf” there are still options.

Hiring someone to create a set of art or game sounds can be done cheaply, but you’re probably going to end up paying at least a few hundred dollars (or a few thousand) for something that’s good quality. If you have the funds for that, it’s a great option because you’ll get exactly what you need.

Limited funds? No problem, there are artists and musicians out there who create game assets that can be used for free. No purchase up front, no royalties later. All you have to do is give them credit in your game, such as in the About box. Just make sure you check their license agreement before using the assets — you don’t want to be surprised later because use wasn’t permitted.

The Game Engine: 2D or 3D

While 3D games such as first-person shooters are very popular, I don’t recommend 3D for beginning game developers for the simple reason that they are very complicated to put together. Not only do you need to write the code, add artwork and sounds, but your artwork relies on 3D models that have to be created. Modeling is a skill that requires at least as much time as programming itself.

Plus, by creating a 2D game first (or always – some people prefer 2D games) you’re learning principles of design and development that will help you no matter what type of game development you do in the future.

Programming: Cranking Out The Code

While there are game development tools that require no coding at all, they’re typically much less powerful than those that require some actual programming. Even someone starting from scratch can quickly learn the necessary commands if the right game engine is chosen.

While some engines use C++, Objective-C, or even Javascript, probably the fastest language to pick up is called Lua. It’s been used for game development for years and now there are several 2D game engines available that use Lua as the language.

The best game engines make it quick and easy to get pictures on the screen and animating. The engine I’ve used for the last half dozen mobile games can draw the picture with one line of code, and animate it across the screen with a second. It’s a great balance of ease-of-use and power.

The Best Way To Learn To Make A Game

First choice is to find someone who knows and have them teach you. If you’re lucky enough to live close to someone like that, take advantage of it! For others, there are books and video courses. I usually suggest video tutorials because seeing how to do something is often the key to really learning it.

Discover how to create your own game for iOS or Android with the Beginning Mobile Game Development video course. shows how easy it is to make your own mobile game.

Content Creation Gaming Product Creation

My First Analog Game

Not too long ago I was reading a book I got from Amazon recently called “Paid to Play: The Business of Game Design” by Keith A. Meyers, who’s done a lot of board game creation and publishing. I bought the book because I thought it might have something good for my computer game development. And it surprised me…

…by giving me an idea for a board game. The last couple weeks, off and on while waiting for things to compile, when I needed a break from programming, etc., I wrote up the rules for my game and created a prototype.

Here’s a picture of the final prototype played by myself and my kids this evening:

Finished prototype

While the board says “Sailing Challenge” on it, that’s not going to be the real name. I’m still trying to come up with that. (It’s harder than I thought.)

The object of the game is to be the first to sail around the San Juan Islands by rolling the die and using special cards that are drawn. Among those cards are “Disaster” cards that you can play on your opponents to slow them down. For example, put an “Off Course” on a player and they’re stopped until they can play a “Navigational Charts” card, a “Tow Boat” card, etc.

You can get Stuck in Customs and lose a turn (unless you’re holding a “Friends in High Places” card), land on a Treasure Chest square and get to move extra spaces, etc.

There are aspects of luck (die rolling and drawing shuffled cards) mixed with strategy (which cards do you save or discard, when’s the best time to stop your opponent, etc.) that make it more than just a normal board game.

Playtesting has just begun, so there are probably going to be some changes coming over the next few weeks, but according to the family, it plays pretty well right now. 🙂 (I know, I know, what are the kids going to say, that it stinks?)

In the next few days I’m going to write up some of my notes from creating the prototype, just in case anyone’s interested in doing something similar.

Gaming Product Creation

My First Board Game

Yesterday I finished the initial prototype of my first board game. I came up with the idea while reading the book, “Paid to Play: The Business of Game Design” by Keith A. Meyers, and while I’ve only created computer games in the past, this one came together really quickly during a brainstorm session.

I bought a pack of index cards and using a pen and colored pencils created the cards for the game. Then taped four sheets of notebook paper together and drew the board on that. Finally, last night I sat down and typed up the rules for the game.

Today will be the first real play test with the family so we’ll see whether it’s as fun in real life as it is in my imagination. 🙂 And if it is, I’ll get some foam-core board to make a better game board and use the computer and printer to create better looking cards. And with a nicer-looking prototype I’ll start finding more people to play test to see if “real people” find it fun as well.

Still no name for the game, but I’ll post a picture of the prototype here in the next day or two and let you know how the play testing went.

Gaming Product Creation

Roly-Polies Submitted!

My newest game, Roly-Polies HD for the iPad, was submitted to the App Store last night. It looks like they’re taking about 7 days to approve new apps, so hopefully by this time next week you’ll be able to download and play!


Here’s a short demo video for Roly-Polies:

Dungeons and Dragons Gaming Miscellaneous RPG

Embracing My Inner Nerd (Come Along With Me)

Last week I finished 13 weeks of D&D Encounters, a weekly Dungeons and Dragons game that’s designed to get new players into the game (or old players back into it). Instead of marathon sessions that are hours long, the encounters take a couple hours and are designed for people who maybe can’t make it every time.

Probably because of my interest in sci-fi and fantasy literature, along with my penchant for performing, I’ve been interested in D&D since it came out when I was a teenage, but we never lived anywhere with a large enough population of geeks for me to get into it.

So when I found out about “D&D Encounters” I decided to make the once a week commute into Anchorage to participate — and I’ve had a ball.

I’ve had so much fun that when the new Encounters session starts next Thursday — even though the last one ended last Thursday — I’ll be driving in again, carrying my little pouch of funny-shaped dice and my papers that detail my new character, a Drow thief named Zahn. He carries a hand crossbow and his strategy involves hanging back in the shadows and picking off the monsters one by one.

D&D Is For _________ (Fill In The Blank)

I know D&D is a geeky thing, but I don’t think most people give it a fair shake. A lot of the people I know (including relatives) stick D&D into the same category as Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and seances — things good Christian people shouldn’t play with.

But it actually belongs in the same category as playing cowboys and indians, chess, and storytelling. It’s a strategy game for creative people. I’ll admit it can be a little complicated and intimidating to get started, but that’s what’s so great about the Encounters sessions. You can show up with nothing and they’ll let you pick from a selection of “pre-rolled” characters so you can just jump in and start playing.

About halfway through the last campaign (group of encounters, or fights) the entire party of adventurers I was in got killed (called a TPK, or Total Party Kill) and I had the option to “bring back” the guy I’d been playing or pick someone else. I took that opportunity to build my own character and switched from being a defender to being a striker — someone whose job is to jump in and do massive amounts of damage on the Big Evil Dude.


In the upcoming campaign I’m going to remain a striker, but switching from a guy who jumps in and fights up close with swords, to a guy who hangs back and takes out the enemy with a crossbow. I’ve already created the character and had the chance to play him in a couple fights last Saturday. I’m already seeing some potential problem areas with a character like that, but part of the fun is figuring out your weaknesses and compensating — at the same time you’re figuring out the weaknesses of the bad guys and capitalizing on them.

An Example Of Why I Like D&D

If you’re not going to jump up and go to your Friendly Neighborhood Game Store and sign up for Encounters (it’s free!), then do me a favor and watch at least the first video down below. It’ll take you 10 minutes and will give you a taste of what we do every week.

Okay, we might not be as “entertaining” as these guys, but it’s the same feeling — on a more local level.

Warning: The videos are not rated G, or even PG, because of language. In our local sessions the DMs (guys who run the games) smack people who swear, but in the videos they don’t have that restriction, so if you can’t handle that kind of stuff, skip the videos. But really, you should watch at least the first one! 🙂

PAX Celebrity Game

* Part 1:
* Part 2:
* Part 3:
* Part 4:
* Part 5:
* Part 6:
* Part 7:
* Part 8:
* Part 9:
* Part 10:

PS – Yes, it’s that Wil Wheaton in the videos, from Stand By Me, Star Trek, The Next Generation, etc.

PPS – They don’t really get into the swing of the game until the second video and don’t start battle until even later than that, but don’t skip ahead. Just watch ’em. 🙂

Dungeons and Dragons Gaming RPG

DnD Isn’t Just for Geeks (Okay, Yes it Is)

Here’s a secret not everyone knows (although people who know me won’t be surprised) — every Thursday evening I make a 90-mile round trip into Anchorage to play Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of people at Bosco’s Comics. 🙂 This week was the seventh week in a row and there are six more weeks before the “campaign” is over.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to play DnD and my sister Mariella remembers me “forcing” her and our brother Ray to play when we were all teens, although I don’t remember that (probably since I wasn’t the forcee).

I almost got to play with John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall, and the other original members of Id Software about 20 years ago — I recall eating pizza and drinking Mt Dew all night long but I don’t remember actually playing. I think I was probably a spectator and not a participant.

I’ve been interested most of my life but haven’t ever been in a place where it was handy/easy to find a way to play. And while I’d read books about playing DnD and other RPGs, I was kind of intimidated about the idea of joining a group that had already played together, etc.

But a couple months ago I stumbled upon mention of a thing called Dungeons and Dragons Encounters — it was a 2-hour per week game lasting 13 weeks where everyone started from ground zero. And yes, they welcomed complete newbies to the game — no experience necessary!


They let me pick from a stack of pre-generated characters and not knowing what I was doing I just picked the one on top — Jeskan, a Dragonborn Cavalier. As a defensive character my job was to lead the way into a fight and get the monsters to pound on me while the other members of the party picked them off.

Okay, I was also trying to kill the monsters, but a defender often takes a lot more damage than the other characters.

Last night my character was killed in battle.

(Pause for a moment of silence…)

In fact, the entire party was killed! Part of it was due to the roll of the dice, part of it was a battle strategy that was flawed.

To keep the game going everybody in the party has two choices — either come back next week with the same character, but with some penalties added, or come back with a brand new character.

While I liked Jeskan, I had grown a little bored with playing a defender. It seemed like everyone else had many different cool attacks while I could only slash someone with my sword or breath dragon breath on them. And the dragon breath could only happen once per fight (I guess I had to recharge between blasts).

So I’m taking this opportunity to switch characters and roles. Instead of a defender I’m going to be playing a striker, which mostly deals in offensive strikes to single targets at a time. A striker will use magic or trickery to move around the combat field and strike at those who need stricken.

The character I’ll be playing is named Zibit and is a good male Drow (dark elf). His usual weapons are a scimitar in his main hand and a short sword in his off hand. He also has a hand axe he can use as a throwing weapon if needed.

While it’s not cheap to make the round trip to Anchorage every week, I don’t have a lot of other hobbies and I don’t buy booze or heroin, so I kind of think it’s okay. It’s a fun escape for a couple hours a week and it also gives me lots of ideas I can use in stories and games, so I think it will show a business benefit, too.

Hmmm…maybe I can say it’s “research” and take the trip off my taxes as an expense? Gotta check with the accountant on that one…


America’s Army Cheats

(This is not a marketing post, it’s a gaming post. Well, except it has some lessons that can benefit your marketing, so…)

I’m sitting across the room from my son who is fending off enemies and accusers in an online game called America’s Army (v2.5).

Enemies: Those characters in the game who aren’t on his team.

Accusers: People behind the characters who insist my son is “running cheats” because he’s killing them left and right.

He’s not hacking America’s Army. He’s just that good. 🙂

My son is more of a computer user (okay, power user) than a programmer — while he could be doing something behind the scenes that I don’t know about, I think it’s unlikely. He’s using one of my laptops and knows if he’s caught hacking an online game he won’t just be kicked off the game server by the admin, he’ll be kicked off of ALL online gaming by me, Dad.

So how is he that much better than the other guys? I think it boils down to two major things (and these are the things that can make a difference in your marketing, etc.)…

Perseverance – Tom was not an expert when he started out, but he loved the game and kept playing it. In fact, he spends more hours per day playing America’s Army than most people do working.

Sidebar: No, his Mom isn’t happy with that and I wouldn’t either except I’ve been the same way my whole life — when I become interested in something I throw myself into it and that’s the way I’ve been able to have cool hobbies and careers during my life. There *are* ways to monetize game playing and Tom and I are starting to explore those things.

If Tom played AA an evening here or there, or just on weekends, he’d still have gotten better, but it would have taken much longer and he still wouldn’t be to the level he’s at now. Only by immersing himself in the game has he been able to make such huge strides.

Optimization – There are several panels of settings for America’s Army 2.5 and Tom has taken the time to find out which settings give him fast reaction time when switching weapons, targeting enemies, etc. And he’s not done tweaking. Just a day ago he was trying different settings to see if they had any effect in his game playing and he’ll continue trying different settings to see which ones have a positive effect on his gaming.

When he makes a change that slows down his wins, he changes it back or tries a different setting. When he finds something that increases his wins, he keeps it. Simple, but most people don’t “go to that much trouble” — they maybe tweak a couple settings to start and then just play with those from then on.

Sidebar: Back to gaming in a minute, but for the marketing side of things, imagine what could happen if you threw yourself into your online business and worked on it for more hours than some people think is healthy — you’ll probably get a lot better, much faster than anyone else. And then you start tweaking the sales process, etc., using tools like split-testers and optimize your business so it’s working better than your competitors.

Most people “start an online business” and then just play with it an evening here or there and some weekends. And most people don’t do any optimization other than “I think this is better than that” — which is useless.

Very little work, and very little (usually no) optimization. And they wonder why other people are beating them? They accuse the people who are having success of cheating, of hacking the system.


Tom’s good at America’s Army because he spends a lot of time with it. And he optimizes the settings to shave off a fraction of a second here and there. He has some other tricks I won’t mention here but he doesn’t cheat.

In the next few weeks he’s going to put together some of the techniques he uses and offer them for a really low price so others can try them out and see for themselves how optimizing the system can make a difference.

Of course, spending practice time is still up to the individual. 🙂

Gaming Product Creation

Match Game Magic

My new iPhone, iPod touch, iPad game is available to download from the App Store:

Match Game Magic

It’s a memory/match game for people who like puzzles — and it’s free, so download it and if you like it, please give me a good rating on the App Store. If you hate it, let’s just keep that a secret between us. 🙂

Gaming Product Creation

New iPhone/iPad Game

I just finished my first iOS game for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. It’s called Match Game Magic and it’s now sitting behind the scenes waiting for Apple to approve it. That usually takes 7-14 days but you never know when you submit it.

Match Game Magic (a memory game)

The site is up but the download link leads to limbo at this point — I’ll post a follow-up message when it’s ready to download. 🙂