Seven Spindles and a McGuffin

Seven Spindles and a McGuffin (pdf link) is my entry into the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012. Much like last year’s entry (which was one of the winners) this one is more about dungeon structure than compelling narrative. In fact, the “story” is so minimal in this one that the whole entry is really more of a sandbox than an adventure. I sort of like dungeons that way, personally, but mileage varies.

I had some some goals for the design of this dungeon (and some observations after building it):

  • Must use a vector-based map. (Why? Well, note that this map is infinitely scalable, but the whole PDF is under 300KB.)
  • Wanted a dungeon with a couple totally different vectors of entry.
  • Provide the flow control usually supplied by different levels of a dungeon, all using a single map. The center spindle effectively allows this to be a six level dungeon on half a page.
  • Take a regional approach, where the dungeon is described by section rather that detailing each room.
  • Put some rooms at angles to the grid, but showing the grid in their own frame of reference.
  • Subvert the idea of dungeon as node graph idea from last year’s entry. It may be possible to node graph this dungeon, but I’m not entirely sure how to do it, especially since the small spindles are placed at random each time the dungeon is run.
  • Minimize hallways (if you were digging your own underground complex, you don’t get much return out of the labor). Some sections do this better than others.
  • Because each of the spindles serves eight potential openings, it turns out to be critical that the spindles turn in 45° increments. If they turned in 90° increments, I’m pretty sure that you can get situations where randomly placing the spindles results in unreachable rooms. Turning at 45° increments avoids this, though you might get cases where some rooms can only be reached if you stay in the spindle when it rotates.
  • Use psychology against the delvers. For example, in a couple of places, there are short hallways with a normal door on one end and a secret door on the other. The normal door is in the “more secret” area, so the idea is that if the delvers are already in the secret area and go through the normal door, when they find the (obvious) secret door at the other end, their tendency will be to go through it (“it’s secret, it must be protecting something good”), which actually leads them out of the secret area. Not sure if it would shake out like that in play, but that’s the idea.
  • Loved the idea of the spindles periodically sealing and unsealing sections, so that air, water and such rush in or out when the spindle moves. Like, if you are in a room with water up to your ankles and, meanwhile, the tide has risen outside, then the spindle turns and the high tide rushes into the room you’re in. Probably should have done more with that notion, but it is a) tough to do in one page and b) hard to explain and use.
  • The overlapping technique used in the fissure section, where one room is on top of another with a ladder between them, could have been used more. I thought it might confuse people, even though it is a bit easier to illustrate with the rooms at angles to each other.

I think last year’s entry was stronger, but when I went to the well this time, this is what came out.

Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack kickstarted

For its tenth anniversary, Mechaton, a game of giant fighty robots made of LEGO, is getting a revision and a new title. Today the Kickstarter for the new version started. Please help fund it.

Also, if you have a lot of cash, seriously consider one of the high level awards. Soren Roberts is an extremely talented LEGO designer and the rewards for his original work are rare offers.

Thanks in large part to prior posts here about Mechaton and LDraw, I’ve been asked to render the assembly instructions for the mechs in this product. Hopefully I can post some LDraw models when the product is published.

Kickstarter analysis

DivNull Productions backs a lot of Kickstarter projects. Curious about return on investment and so on, I ran the numbers on all projects DivNull backed with a “funding complete” date prior to January 1, 2012. Thus, all projects in the data set have had at least two months to deliver goals (most have had much longer). I wanted to see how much DivNull spent, what types of projects were funded, how much money went unclaimed (i.e. projects which failed to reach their funding goal) and how many projects actually delivered. Over this period, DivNull offered funding to 113 projects, 42 of which failed to reach their funding goal. This is all summarized in the following chart.

Kickstarter results through 2011

The first take away from this graph is that the number of projects not yet delivering is higher than I would have guessed. At present, 34 of the projects DivNull funded have not delivered. The monetary value obscures this a little, as around $1500 of the total can be attributed to just four of these projects. This does, however, represent just under 48% of the funded projects, which looks grim; however, the vast majority of these projects seem to be still working towards delivery.

Another surprise is that almost half of the cash offered up didn’t get used. After funding this many projects, you get a bit of a feel for which will succeed and which won’t. Initially, DivNull was fairly promiscuous about funding, taking a “give them a chance” approach, particularly when it came to role-playing games. That trailed off slightly as time went on.

As someone who gets irritated by lots of useless project updates, I tracked how many updates were made by each project. On a whim, I created a graph of the number of updates vs. the percentage of the target funds raised by the project:

Number of updates vs. Percentage of target funds

I’m not sure this reveals much of anything, except perhaps that there is no clear correlation between number of updates and funding success. And, perhaps, that overly successful projects clearly don’t update more often than other projects. I made an attempt for a while to categorize the type of comments made and count them, but ran out of interest so my dataset is incomplete. The categories may be of interest, though, especially in that they can be divided into two groups based on category: comments I care about and comments I don’t care about. All comments fell into one of these categories:

  1. “Spread the word”: requests for backers to shill for the project.
  2. “Project is progressing”: essentially a progress report without offering any new content.
  3. “Nothing is happening”: a non-progress report, usually to reassure backers that the project is still alive, even though it’s not being worked on.
  4. “Success/thanks”: Nearly every project has at least one “we did it” post.
  5. “Explaining delay or problem”: Details about why you’re not getting your swag on time.
  6. “Pitch changes/clarifications”: Adding new tiers, bonus goals provided in the event of overfunding, etc.
  7. “Pitch of related Kickstarter”: If you liked this project, you might like…
  8. “Art/content preview”: Preview text or artwork, all by itself. Sometimes art is included with other sorts of updates.
  9. “Reference to external content”: Links to a forum or blog supporting the project. Sometimes links to freebie stuff supporting the product, such as character sheets.
  10. “Incremental version”: Download to beta drafts, etc.
  11. “Request for information”: Project needs to give them information.
  12. “Release details”: Links to PDFs, details of product shipping, etc.

This list is sorted in order of least important to me to most important to me. Generally, I really only must see the last two.