Episode 3: Trends in Digital and Tabletop Gaming. With Bill Abner.


Contact Information

Jon Shafer - @JonShaferDesignwww.JonShaferOnDesign.comJon.Shafer@Comcast.net

Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer www.artana.comDirk@Knemeyer.com

Bill Abner – @TheAbner, www.NoHighScores.com


Episode Outline

  • 0:00:52 – Thoughts on What We’ve Been Playing
  • 0:30:01 – What We’ve Been Working On
  • 0:55:58 – Trends in Digital Games
  • 1:19:06 – Trends in Tabletop Games

Episode Outline (Detailed)

  • 0:00:00 – Intro
  • 0:00:52 – What Bill’s Played (The New Science, Coup, Fallen Enchantress)
  • 0:08:35 – What Dirk’s Played (Solium Infernum)
  • 0:09:35 – What Jon’s Played (Persona 4, Ticket to Ride)
  • 0:30:01 – Dirk’s Work (Edison vs. Tesla, The Day After Tomorrow, Pocket Armies)
  • 0:35:20 – How Dirk Came Up With ‘Tomorrow’
  • 0:44:40 – Bill’s Work (Tomorrow)
  • 0:51:15 – Bill’s Transition from the Media to Development
  • 0:55:58 – Jon’s Trends in Games
  • 1:02:28 – Customization in Tabletop Games
  • 1:08:23 – Bill’s Trends in Games
  • 1:19:06 – Trends in Tabletop Games

Our Games

Digital Games Discussed

Tabletop Games Discussed

8 Responses to “Episode 3: Trends in Digital and Tabletop Gaming. With Bill Abner.”

  1. [...] Episode #3 has been posted! Here’s the official description: Bill Abner from Conquistador Games joins Jon and Dirk to talk about trends in digital and tabletop games, as well as his experiences transitioning from gaming media into game development. [...]

  2. Jon Shafer says:

    I should mention that my thoughts on Persona 4 have changed quite a bit since we recorded this episode. The first couple hours are VERY slow, but the game actually has more tough decisions than any RPG I’ve ever played. I’ll have more to say about P4 in next week’s episode, plus an article up soon where dig into the game in great detail over at my website:


    - Jon

  3. wMattDodd says:

    I definitely agree with you on dice vs cards, Jon. I have found, though, that the right _number_ of dice per roll can help dice even that gap, though, due to the probability curving effect. Unfortunately almost all tabletop games use one (flat probability) or two (moderately curved) dice. Video games are actually worse in this regard, because they almost always use flat probability (one die). Of course, too strong a curve and you may as well not even be using randomness at all. Three or at most four dice seems to be the best solution to me. A fine-grained enough flat probability range can replicate this (and even better it), of course, but that’s impractical for tabletop games and rarely considered for video games. 2d6, 1d20, and 1-100 are iron-fisted tyrants.

    Master of Magic was one of the formative games of my teenage years (thousands of hours down the drain), so I’ve definitely got my eye on Fallen Enchantress now for when I have more spending money.

    It occurs to me that it might be useful to you guys to get some idea of who is listening and why, so… I’m a more or less full-time indie video game designer/developer, my first full game is nearing beta, and I have no prior industry experience (although my collaborator worked for Liquid briefly). I found out about this podcast because I’m an avid reader of Jon’s design articles. I listen for three primary reasons–1) to get design insights/inspiration, 2) to hear the opinions of those with more experience than me on various parts of the industry, and 3) to feel more connected to the larger community of game designers, even though my collaborator is the only other game designer I know. So hopefully that info is helpful in some way!


    • Jon Shafer says:

      Great comments Matt! Very nice to hear what brings you to our humble little corner of the interwebs.

      More dice certainly smooths out the curve, but I still dislike having even a minute possibility of massive extremes. I enjoy variety, but I always prefer it when there are constraints of some sort. This is obviously much easier in the digital space since you can do whatever you want with the math. The same is technically true with tabletop design, but you also have to consider how easy it will be for players to learn and enjoy the systems you’ve designed. The worker-placement game Stone Age is a good example of this. The number of resources collected being based on a die roll and a divisor is pretty clever, but I feel like it approaches that line of “too much.”

      And best of luck with your first project. As you’re no doubt already aware, making games for a living is both incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding. I’d love to hear more about your experiences – maybe once the process is finished you can write an article for Gamasutra, or maybe start your own blog!

      - Jon

      • wMattDodd says:

        Thanks Jon. I never used to leave feedback, but I’ve come to a new appreciation of how important it can be since I’ve gotten so little on my game over the last year, heh.

        I do generally agree–not least because I’m known to be something of a walking statistical anomaly. One of my first encounters with game design was trying to house-rule Risk into a non-random game when I was a kid.

        Thanks! It’s been pretty crazy–I have a tendency to do things the hard way, so what I originally (naively) thought would be a 3-4 month project is still going after more than a year (and that’s after a drastic scope reduction after 3 months). And been reduced to a ramen noodle diet more than once. But finally the end is (_actually_, I think) in sight–finish the tutorial, fix the issues revealed by open beta, then to market.

        If we succeed, or at least don’t fall flat on our face, I will definitely consider writing an article for Gamasutra, even though that sounds pretty intimidating to me. I do actually have a blog for my business, More Fun Computers, at http://www.morefuncomputers.com , and I think I had some good posts on it about our character selection criteria/process and how we came up with one of our core mechanics.

        I desperately need to post more often, however, heh. I have an old gameplay trailer here: http://morefuncomputers.com/Eternal%20Duel%20of%20Wits/EDoW%20trailer.avi (13 MB) and my collaborator has some good (not quite current) screenshots up here: http://missionstart.com/sneak-preview/eternal-duel-of-wits/ . If you’re interested, I love any and all feedback, and that goes at _least_ quadruple for someone with your experience.

  4. wMattDodd says:

    Managed to forget part of what I meant to say.

    I’m curious if you guys and your guests are all in the same area, if the show arranged via Skype (or equivalent), or if it’s a mix?

    Also, good show again.

    There, I think that’s everything, heh.


    • Jon Shafer says:

      I live in Michigan and Dirk/Bill both live in Ohio. We meet up once a month or so, but we always do the recordings remotely through Skype. Starting with episode #3 though we’ve been recording our audio separately with our producer stitching them together later (hence the improved audio quality over #2).

      - Jon

  5. Dolgion says:

    Hello Jon,

    I was led here by your blog on Gamasutra about Persona 4. As I am playing Persona 3 Portable right now, I was immediately drawn to it, and now finding this new podcast on game design feels like I just discovered a little chest full of riches in the dungeon that is the internet.

    So anyways, as I listen to your podcast, I immediately had the wish to participate in the discussion, and want to ask if there is the possibility of actually participating.
    To introduce myself, I’m 24 years old and am from Mongolia. I work as a programmer doing business software development, but my real passion is game design, and always has been since my childhood. I haven’t actually made a real game, save of a little project here and there in Flash,
    so I might not have actual credentials in the field. My experience is certainly am not on the level of designing Civ 5 :) .

    But I find myself designing games in my head 24/7. All. Of. The. Time.
    And there’s a huge range of topics I’d love to discuss with like-minded people.
    Anyway, my site has a bit more of my stuff, so check it out!


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