Monthly Archives: July 2016

Web Design – the Skeleton Framework

This week we are taking a small break from our regular theme of games and looking at web design, specifically at using the Skeleton framework. Something that I learned from The Art of Game Design is that learning better design principles from any kind of design will help your game design.

Why Are We Talking Web Design?

I had my phone out and was looking up a certain kind of local businesses around my area and found that there were only a couple. When I clicked the link to their websites I found that they were not ready for phones. I had to pinch and zoom and scroll around the page. The information was there and the navigation was clear but it was just not designed to work on a phone.

Since I had been meaning to learn better responsive web design in an effort to increase my value as a web based programmer (my current day job), I decided I would take one of the sites on as a project. So I completely redesigned the whole site and made it mobile responsive. I was proud of my work and asked the opinion of a coworker who is very good at design.

He made a simple suggestion that took the redesign to another level.

Adding a Skeleton

My coworker suggested that I add a CSS Grid system to the site and recommended Skeleton. I had never heard of it before and decided to check it out.

One of the most common CSS grid frameworks is Bootstrap. Many people who have looked into modern web design can pretty quickly identify a site that uses one of its templates or something like it. I have tried learning more about Bootstrap in the past but always found it a little murky and never made much headway in understanding what it was trying to do.

Skeleton is a very light CSS framework that allows you to get started applying a grid system to your website design with just a few classes. It is pretty clear what it is trying to do, and it sort of self documents by example on their site. I found it extremely easy to get started with.

The grid is basically rows and columns. You then use these 2 building blocks to create a cohesive design that is more aesthetically appealing. Additionally it helps organizes the information that is being displayed to be more easily consumed by the user.

After applying Skeleton to the site, it looked 1000% better (in my personal opinion).

Lessoned Learned

Many of the principles of grid systems, such as cohesion, can apply to games and most importantly to the part of the game that the player interacts with, the interface.

Every game has some sort of interface that the player uses to play the game. We as game designers should take things like grid systems and learn to use the principles that they are based on to improve our games and their interfaces.

Don’t forget to look for inspiration in all design.

10 Things Analysis: Texas Hold’em

It’s been a while since I did a game analysis and since Game #3 for 2016 is going to be a card game, I decided to take a look at one of the many card games I enjoy, one that is been around for a while and played worldwide. The game I chose is Poker, specifically the Texas Hold’em style.

How I Know the Game

I had seen some Texas Hold’em played before on TV during the World Series of Poker (WSOP, which incidentally has been going on for the past few weeks), but had never played it myself and didn’t really understand it until a couple years ago.

Some guys at work where having a little home poker tournament and a friend of mine invited me to come play. I didn’t know the rules so he taught me the basic rules and then I proceeded to watch the coverage of the prior 2 years of WSOP on Youtube before the tournament to prepare.

I didn’t do all that well. And although I lasted longer than my friend, I did not have a strategy for how to win.

About 8 months later I happened across a Twitch streamer named Jason Summerville who was streaming poker of all varieties every evening and I began to watch and listen. After a couple months of watching him and about a year after my first time playing Poker, the guys at work scheduled another tournament.

Again I watched WSOP, continued to watch Jason, and played some practice games with a Poker app or 2 on my phone. This time I ended up coming in 2nd place out of about 20 guys after some real close calls. It was often and I am smiling now just thinking about it.

On to Analysis

Many of these things will actually apply to all kinds of Poker but I am mainly looking at the Texas Hold’em, tournament style.


The goal of the game is simple, win all the chips. In a tournament, typically all the players will start with a similar number of chips and if you lose all of your chips you are out.


You play the game with a standard deck of playing cards. You can play as long or as short as you want and in a tournament this is usually until one player has all of the chips. The game is played in hands and each hands has several rounds of betting. Whoever wins the hand gets the chips that where bet by the various players.

You can find a more detailed description of the rules here.


Players have 2 basic ways to interact with each other. The most obvious is through betting. When you bet it forces your opponents to make a choice of whether to fold (let you win), call (match your bet to continue playing), or reraise (force you into this decision by putting more chips in). Also the size of your bet gives your opponents information about how strong you think your hand is, or how strong you want them to think it is.

The other less obvious methods of interaction is through table talk and nonverbal communication. Good players can read body language fairly well and can even fake body language giving their opponents false information.


One of the things about poker is that you can come from behind and win. This is usually done from “doubling up” or doubling the amount of chips you have by going “all in” and betting all of your chips that you will win. However like all catchup features, it has risk. If you lose the hand when going all in, you are out of the game.


Each hand has 2 blinds, a big blind and a small blind. These players have to bet certain amounts each hand. This responsibility rotates around the table by one seat after each hand. The blind is also usually the minimum amount of chips you have to raise by if you want to raise. Most tournaments have the blinds increase every so often to move the game towards completion.


Poker is full of surprises. This comes with any game that has randomness and hidden information. For Texas Hold’em you are surprised by the cards that are revealed each round and by the cards your opponents have.


Despite the randomness inherent in a game like poker, it is full of strategy. How else you several people consistently make a living at it? Most of the strategy comes down to playing the odds and playing the other players. There are books and websites dedicated to how to play poker well. One of the great things about poker is that it is unlikely that you will ever be able to play perfectly.


There is a ton of fun in poker. Every time you put the pieces together of whether you can beat your opponent or not based on the limited information you have it is awesome. It is like one puzzle after another and can be kinda rewarding.


This one is tough. I am not sure that poker has a flavor and that is OK.

A Hook

In a word, money. This is what gets most people into any sort of gambling game to begin with. It is a powerful hook and can lead some people into spending too much money on the game.

Final Thoughts

There is actually an interesting crossover between people who play Poker and people who play Magic the Gathering (like me). And like MTG, Poker is a very fun game and there is a lot of strategy to be found in it. It has most of the elements of our 10 things list and is not surprisingly very popular. If you have never played before, I recommend giving it a shot. Although I will add that you probably should not play for real money (at least not at first and never more than you can afford to lose).

Have fun making games that stay popular like Poker.

Game 3 of 2016 Design Notes

It is now well into July and the 3rd quarter of the year. Game 2, “Drone Tournament” is not finished yet as the multiplayer still needs more work, but I have a schedule to keep.

Since the beginning of the year, I knew I wanted to make a simple card type game this year. I really enjoy many card based games like MTG, Poker, Munchkin, Duelyst, and Cards and Castles and want to begin coming up with ideas in this area.

The Game

The design right now is based around some of the core mechanics from MTG with some of my own flavor and rules tossed in. Additionally even though I have not played Hearthstone directly, I may borrow some of it’s mechanics as well.


The goal is to reduce your opponents character life total to 0. Pretty straightforward. This will be accomplished through attacking with your various creatures and abilities.


For this game, the rules need to be spelled out pretty clearly since it can ostensibly be played 100% on paper and no computer is needed. The following rules may change.

Each player chooses a character to represent them in play (those familiar with MTG Commander or EDH this would be like a commander but also like a Planeswalker). This character can be attacked by opponents creatures and targeted by their abilities.

Each player takes a turn that sequences as follows.

  1. Renew Resources – resources that have been used are untapped then you draw a card
  2. Status Effects Happen – any status effects that are on creatures or players apply during this phase
  3. Main Planning – players play new creatures, increase their resources, use abilities, play equipment, and modify creatures during this phase
  4. Combat – players attack with creatures and or their character during this phase
  5. Secondary Planning – same as Main planning
  6. Turn Ends

Again these rules may change a ton.


Players can do all sorts of interaction with their opponent by attacking, blocking, and using abilities to disrupt their opponents plan.

Catch Up

The game is not over until it is over. Their will be abilities that can bring a losing player back into the game and some that can help stabilize a losing situation.


The steady increase of available resources will unlock the player’s ability to use more powerful creatures and abilities which will bring the game to and end sooner. Considering implementing the Cards and Castles rule that when a deck runs out of cards, the player’s life starts decreasing slowly.


Hidden information games always contains surprise. In games like this there are 2 main areas for surprise. First your own deck. You do not know what you will draw each turn and in what order. Second your opponents hand and deck. You do not know what he has planned for you.


With deck building, strategy comes into giving yourself a good percentage to draw a sequence of cards that can be used to win the game. This skill can improve over time. With play involving hidden information like this, the strategy becomes making the play that gives you the highest chance to win with the resources that you have available and might become available later.


I am borrowing the fun from several other games so I expect this game to be fun as well. If the art of game design is to be believed, fun is just problem solving with a playful attitude and a little surprise mixed in certainly helps. This game is all about that.


The flavor is sort of going to be borrowed from one of my favorite RPG’s called Geneforge. I plan on asking the creator of the game if I can use the flavor directly but if I can’t I will still use the ideas, just flavor them slightly differently.

A Hook

This one is actually gonna be kinda tough. There are so many TCG’s (Trading Card Games) out there that occasionally I see one and think to myself, “not another one.” But I am also hopeful about some. Regardless, I think the hook will have to be something along the lines of strategy, deck building, and defeating your enemies with your awesome monsters.

Final Thoughts

While I don’t necessarily think this game will be a huge hit, I am excited to try to make a card game with a pile of mechanics that I think might be cool. It’s not a bunch of new stuff, but it is a different mix.

If you can’t think of new things to make, try mixing old things.

June 2016 End of Month Goal Review

June was actually pretty good.


  1. Write 3 Blog Posts Per Week and Publish 2 – After getting a list of post ideas written down, it was much easier to get post written ahead of time. Additionally I started the habit of writing down ideas as I get them to keep building the list. Still not up to 3 per week but 2 has gotten much more consistent.
  2. 1 Game Designed, Created, and Released Per Quarter – Game #2 for 2016, which is tentatively titled Drone Tournament, is nearing a working multiplayer state. A basic single player version is done (needs polish) and the gameplay seems kinda fun. I am going to finish the coding for the multiplayer version as I work on the design for game #3.
  3. 1 Book Read Every 2 Months on Game Design – Selected Clean Code as the next book. It has already been useful in laying out the code for the current game. Making good progress in reading it and should finish it by the end of July.
  4. 1 Article Read Or 1 Video Watched About Game Design/Creation Per Week – June article reading and video watching was primarily focused on generic programming improvement. I don’t remember actually watching any videos focused on game creation and design but I did watch some games that were new to me be played on Twitch and got some ideas from the design of the games.
  5. Get 100 People Reading Evolving Developer Per Month – Well at least 20 other people have now heard about Evolving Developer. Consistently getting traffic is still not happening (that I know of) but I did hear some interesting advice that it might take 2 years of blogging consistently to gain traction.

What Went Right

  1. Writing was more consistent and had some good ideas for posts.
  2. Picked up some good programming habits to keep my code clean and make my games better.
  3. Found Book #2 for the year.
  4. Game #2 is fun and multiplayer is coming along.
  5. I got my blog in front of several people.
  6. I started some good disciplines to help me be successful.
  7. Got an idea for a new game.

What Is Not Perfect Yet

  1. Multiplayer for Game #2 is not done and the game is not as polished as it should be.
  2. Writing volume is still well below what I would like it to be.
  3. Need to find an game artist and sound artist or find somewhere to purchase these assets.

Corrective Measures

Get a little more consistent with my daily habits for writing and programming. Find game development forums and such where artists and sound engineers might frequent and listen in. Find some asset stores where I can get graphics and sound inexpensively for my games.

Question to ask yourself

“How much value do you create for others?”

Book 2 for 2016 Revealed

The second book I have decided to read to help further my goals with Evolving Developer is not a game design book. It is a book about design however.

A Programming Book

The book I have decided on is Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship.

Clean Code

Why This Book?

I Make Games

While I want to get better at game design, I also am currently the only one making the games that I design. And since so far all of them have been video games (and will mostly be for the time being), I need to get better at building them.

The majority of the work that I do is writing code. If I can write it better and cleaner, not only will my games work better and be better, but also when I get to teach other people, they will be able to read the examples that I create and understand them easily.

Game Design Borrows From All Design

Additionally, Clean Code is about design. Naming things, when to include things, when to exclude things. These concepts are useful in both writing code and designing your games.

Time Leverage

There is an old saying “Kill 2 birds with 1 stone,” and that is what I am doing here. I have several goals with my day job in addition to goals in making games that Clean Code will hopefully help me accomplish better. One of those is to provide more value. If I can write better, cleaner, more easily readable code, I can provide more value.

Already 20% Done

I actually started this book a week ago and have already read over 100 pages in (out of almost 500). It should not stretch out over 5 months like The Art of Game Design did.

Remember, ideas about good design in general can help you with how you design your games.