039: Stillfleet with Aaron H.

On their epic quest our heroes encounter an old friend, Aaron H., and they talk about his recent gaming conquests in Stillfleet.

Things discussed this episode:

  • Stillfleet
  • Stillfleet Kickstarter
  • The Rain Thieves
  • Dune
  • Float City
  • Fun City Podcast
  • Strings
  • Roll 20
  • Malinger
  • Robot Factory
  • The Art of Game Design: Book of Lenses
  • The Game Design Workshop
  • Candyland
  • Moats in the Eye
  • Splendor
  • Galaxy Trucker

Aaron H. 0:05
So yeah, I’ve been like, you know, playing board games since I was a kid. I used to like invent silly board games with my friends. We actually like designed. Like, we would take poster board and like draw pieces out and like make boards and stuff. And I think like creating games has always been a hobby that just for fun. And I’ve actually designed and flight tested extensively a card game called robot factory. I made it for my son when he was four or five. Yeah, it was like it was a limited release published, like, literally like 10 copies. I keep meaning to like, go back, and I have the artwork repolished and I need to just do it. I just haven’t had time. But I keep saying that every year and it’s been like a long time now. But I am officially a published game author. I have as of this year. This is my book. There’s there’s my name, at the bottom. The Super. Yeah. It’s an honor to be a part of this project. And like I sorry, I almost cried when I saw like the physical copy with like my name in the bottom. Yeah.

Introductory Guy 1:27
It’s time for an adventure in the worlds of user experience and game design. On season three of the design thinking games podcast, join old school UX years and aspiring game designers Michael Scofield, Tim Broadwater, and an array of quirky characters from pixelated heroes to mischievous NPCs in search of the ultimate player experience, design thinking is a process that is applied to different types of games in this podcast, if you’re wondering whether your favorite games have already come up, you can listen through the backlog at design thinking games.com Now rapid Frodo bought fire that design thinking laser

Aaron H. 2:12
so the TTRPG system is called Stillfleet. And then my this is a like a an expanse. It’s like a setting book called The rain thieves. It’s both a setting and also like a venture like so it’s a campaign module. But there’s also like a ton of open ended content. And like a GM could totally go and just roll their own stuff from this. There’s a lot of like untapped stuff. I have all these ideas that I really want to write. But why the creator and the designer was like, like, No, we got to we got to stay in scope. We have to build a ship this. So next time

Michael Schofield 2:55
well, you already kind of like like sort of like dovetailed into. Almost like honestly, the reason we asked you on we asked you on just because of like history. But when I hit you up, then you kind of just like like just launched at me like this laundry list of like, projects that you’ve been into. And so we asked you here to really kind of like explore your experience kind of being part of this whole whirlwind around what looks like if a super original super deep like really, like really successfully Kickstarted TTRPG called still fleet. You wrote that book, the rain thieves. You built app supplements for still fleet and other things. I think I even saw in your PolyWorks that you are also illustrating some of the architects there. So So I want to know, like, total creative control. Where does this like start? What does this do?

Aaron H. 3:54
I got… All right, so I’m gonna rewind back, like several years. So like, wife, Marshall is the lead designer and creator of steal fleet. This is like his baby. And he has all of these like, you know, journal wasn’t like a five, like a big all these like books that are just like, top to bottom corner to corner covered with like roll tables and descriptions and maps and other things, every single page tables. I would say it’s like a madman Snoke book, but that’s not very charitable to him because he’s not a madman. He’s just really passionate about the source material. And like, I’ve seen a couple of them and they’re just they’re incredible, and he hasn’t even like fully copied all this content over. However, one of the areas was this one setting, which he called like a love letter to Dune by Frank Herbert. And the setting is called Ragnar. And it’s like, it’s a small like planet. And there is like just a small segment of this planet. That was Like settled, you know, long before present in the game. And then it was that resettled later on. So there’s kind of like two different cultures there. And in the source material. In the core rulebook originally, there was maybe two or three pages that he had written, which covered like a description of the setting some of the NPCs, you might find some of the like creatures and Xena fauna, and then just some like random little bits of trivia almost like a little mini tour guide of the setting. And he had a map that he had drawn out on a piece of eight and a half by 11, with highlighter. And so I read the content, and I don’t know what it was, but I just had this idea. And then I just started, like, I wonder, I wonder what this would look like. And I started writing it out, kind of like 30 or 40 pages, and I shared it with him. And he’s like, let’s, let’s keep running with this. And the book is printed, I think it’s like 100 pages. So we’ve like way overshot. The original goal. For the better though. But the the map that he did, I took the map, I scanned it into my computer, I imported it into Photoshop. And then I did a first it did a digitizing past to just kind of get the outlines. And then I went back through when I started adding detail. I have a fully vectorized version, there’s actually a screencast that I think is on my PolyWorks of me just like it’s like eight hours, I’m not even exaggerating. It’s like eight hours long. I saw there, yeah. Just like just chilling back, listen to the tunes, and just drawn Vector Curves to get the contours on this. And the so the reason why, though, was because the process of creating the map informed some of the features of the setting itself, like, you know, how long does it take to go across the canyon? How long does it take to go into the spiritual desert? What would the mountains do? How would it affect the climate if the winds are blowing in from the east or the west? Like all these different decisions that like what I wanted to avoid? Was someone playing and being like, well, that’s weird. Why would there be things here because obviously, like the sun would be super hot or something. So I, I felt like the map had to kind of be co developed with the content and the material. And the original idea that I had was, I think it was like this idea of just placing like locator beacons on these like key strategic resources. This it’s like this is you know, a fungus called step of our, that filters like toxic water into potable water. And so you can imagine like a desert planet, any water that is potable is like gold, right? And so the people who are living there depend on this just to be able to survive. They’re not like thriving or anything, this is just what they need to live. And the company that you the player work for are metagame wise, they’re like, inspired deeply by the Dutch East India Trading Company. There’s a lot of like throwback to like, to the Dutch language and everything. So your employer is like hyper capitalist, and colonial. And they’re like, Oh, hey, we heard this Zeno fungus might be useful. And we could use it to help populate and remediate water on other planets. Let’s go and like, go get us some samples so you can analyze it. But the there’s then this the whole moral decision for the players have to make is like, by sampling it, we could greatly disrupt the ecology and the survival of these people. And so becomes an ethical decision of like, do we do the work that our employer wants us to do? Or do we like, like, not kill these people who did nothing wrong other than just existing? So there’s a heavy tangent, sorry, but there’s just like a lot of all these different pieces kind of individually developed all at the same time. So like the map the story, the setting itself, all of them the the monsters even, or the sorry, the Zeno fauna. They’re not monsters, because there’s actually a colony of intelligent spiders like they’re like human level intelligence. And they have this like, really elaborate web city. And there’s content in the book specifically addresses the the traditional d&d player, I’m going to ask you, you’re playing a d&d campaign, you walk into like a big cavern full of spider webs. What’s the first thing you’re gonna do?

Tim Broadwater 9:48
Burn it down, so

Michael Schofield 9:48
Set it on fire.

Aaron H. 9:51
If the players try to do any kind of as a spoiler alert, I guess, any kind of conflagration there are consequences, and I’m not gonna spoil what the consequences are. But like, it’s big, because you just totally jacked up like another like an actual civilization for no reason. I mean, yeah, they’ll eat you, they’ll totally eat you, if you hang out there like they will capture you and then it desiccate your bodies because that’s what they do, but they’re not evil. They’re just like, I don’t know, like, humans eat animals. So why can’t see No spiders.

Michael Schofield 10:27
So as this like, so as like, Stillfleet is like was still fleet like, develop to like first or was like, Yeah, okay, so like so Stillfleet had already been developed. But like your book is like, like part of that like original, like Kickstarter are kind of like around that time. Like what? Like what happened to bring like all of this like, together? And I don’t know, like go like was it? The way you describe it is it feels fairly organic and creative. It’s like I’m going to do this and then I see I see like an emergent property over here and I’m gonna go tackle this. How did this all come to? Like, from your perspective? How did this all kind of like a range of self into? Like something that any like game designer would ever wish for like this $46,000 kickstart

Aaron H. 11:25
Like it was very successful. Like the success of the Kickstarter is I’m gonna say like, almost entirely if not entirely, like, whites effort over the years like he has this has been like his like intellectual thought baby. He and the rest of the team, Ethan and Eric and Steven and gay and Ben and everyone else. They’ve been working on this for 10 years 10 or 11 years. And wow, it’s it got a got a lot of kind of a spotlight with the funds at ventures podcast it did a year where they played the game with us the series is called Flip City. Fantastic, just narratively beautiful. And if it really showcases the whole system in such a like a delightful and playful way. But also like there’s parts of it that are feel almost like film noir kind of like oh no, wait, maybe we’re the bad guys kind of thing.

Michael Schofield 12:23
That’s really cool really come out like before anyone anyone outside of that group could even ever play or see anything from like the game.

Aaron H. 12:31
I think it definitely give it a big spotlight boost for sure. It was very helpful. promotionally I know that wife had been marketing it and play testing it for a long time before that. And there was a following fun city definitely helped. That’s how I found out about it.

The digital tooling that I made is called Strings and the name strings comes from the Patreon post that wife writes periodically called strings. And it’s just random tables that use strings as in like you’re knitting these together together as yarn or whatever to make a fabric. And so the idea that I had was, well what if I took some of these tables and then made a web application to We’d like roll them for you. And then you just every time you refresh the page, you get fresh results. And then I can, you know, do some little bit of CSS or something to make it look nice and add some flavor to it and everything. So I did a prototype. And I took a few of the tables that he had made up, and I threw them into this engine. And so rewinding again, there was a different tool that I made up for d&d with a campaign I did with my kids, where it was entirely off the cuff, it was completely improvised. And so basically, my kids would make a decision what they would do with their characters. And then I would roll something on the spot. The dmg has all these great tables for like, oh, the settlement looks like this, it has these things, there’s some conflicts, or an NPC generator or whatever. So I wrote a some Ruby scripts to take those tables. And then I have a special format that in it parses that format a table and then gives you back the results. And it’s all command line driven. So I took the, the bones of that, put it into a Rails application. And then it did the tables as the snowflake tables from strings. And that became the prototype of the strings application. wife saw it and liked it enough that he thought it could be useful for like the game at large. So I then I went back and kind of reskin it to make it fit better with the brand. And then we created the random character generator. It’s called a recruiter, I have the character Mansour type tooling, if you ever used roll 20 It’s the step by step like, what do you want? What species? Yeah, that one’s called interviewer. And that one is I’m really excited about it’s like halfway done. I’m hoping like, in a couple of months, it’ll be launched. So that’s in progress. But yeah, the the digital strings tooling came around, kind of that was sort of how I first connected with the project as a whole. And then the writing content kind of came after that. And it was like right in the middle of wife and the rest of the team taking this massive, and I might even exaggerating, 500 to 600 page volume, and then realizing we should split. So split this into two books, the last year, urine some was taking that initial volume, and then breaking it up into two pieces, and then getting this one released. And when he was planning on releasing this one, he had the idea of like, okay, well, this venture there rain thieves. I had been working on that for a while. And he was like, Hey, how would you feel about this being like a stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign? And I was like, hell yeah, holy. And so it was honestly, it was just incredible luck. And it was being in the right place at the right time. But the success of the Kickstarter 100% That’s like its wife and all of his effort over the years. I just happen to be lucky enough to be a part of it.

Michael Schofield 18:00
So there, so you, you became a fan. And then you saw that, hey, this dude was writing some tables that you could like, pull out of you could you could do manually, you could roll on your own, and being like a Rubeus. Or like, hell yeah. Like, I’m gonna turn this into something. Just totally like as a fan. And then the core team was like, This is amazing. And then at some point, they discovered that you did your own game design that you were capable of writing like a campaign module.

Tim Broadwater 18:34
Yeah, I want to know more about that. Like, how did that kind of so you said that you did a card game, you know, Robot Factory. I’m just kind of wondering, what else have you done before that? Or did you

Aaron H. 18:50
In the Stillfleet discord. We had we were talking about just bored game ideas, just like silly board game ideas that could be still fleet related. And one of them and idea that I had, and I have a few different ones. But I’m going to conveniently say that right now. My favorite game is words of water. Do you?

Michael Schofield 19:11
Excellent. Yeah,

Tim Broadwater 19:12
it is a very good game.

Aaron H. 19:14
It is a great game. And it’s one of my favorites for sure. But I was imagining Lords of Waterdeep but set in the still foot universe. And the idea is like you are you’re playing as a boss or in the in the stealthy vernacular. It’s called a refactor. And you’re just sending out the void miners, the wichard like the the adventurers. You’re sending them out on jobs. But you as the player, you’re just the boss sending people out to do your work for you. And the working title of the game is called Mullingar. And the idea is that you’re serving. It’s just the the self serving interest of yourself as the refactor the company who’s employing you and wants you to produce profit for them. But like, you can also secure some profit for yourself, like enrich yourself in the process. And then the void miners you’re hiring, who each have their own their own loyalties to their own factions individually and themselves. And so everyone is trying to screw everyone else over for their own game. It’s great. So like, the idea was just like a little zygote of an idea. And he and I were talking about it. And then I was like, I don’t know, we had a couple of calls. We did a couple of live streams where he and I, and our artists, Ethan, the three of us, we just kind of chat about it. And we’d sketch out some ideas to talk about, like, what the game flow might be like. And I made up a prototype, and I drove out to Queens one time, and like, the three of us and Stephen, our editor, we like played the prototype. And honestly, like, it was kind of fun. It was it was cool. And so I think maybe that was when, I don’t know, I guess I maybe got some like brownie points. As someone who knows about games, I think he called me. And one of the Patreon posts he called me like game expert era, and I was like… how about enthusiast.

Tim Broadwater 21:19
So I’m curious about you can’t get a copy of robot factory. Was it? Is there anything about it online that you can find?

Aaron H. 21:29
No, no, it was I mean, it was really I literally made the game for my son for Christmas one year. But I mean, I play tested it with a bunch of strangers and friends and family. I probably put in 100 200 hours of play testing on it. Oh my god. Like, it’s playable. And it’s fun. And honestly, like, it’s appeals to a lot of ages idea behind it was that I was tired of games like Candyland, and snakes and ladders and

Tim Broadwater 21:58
Just moving around. Yeah, random. Yeah,

Aaron H. 22:02
the point is to teach kids to take turns. So that’s the whole point of those games. And kids deserve so much better, because kids are smarter than any of us give them credit for. And so this game uses, I think it’s called the Winchester draft. It’s where you like ETL out one card into multiple piles. And then you pick one of the piles, you take all the cards in the pile, and then cards that remain, you keep adding additional cards. And so eventually, like the shitty pile becomes better just by virtue of having more cards in it. And I played it with, you know, my son, I think he was three or four at the time, he picked it up right away. And I had a co worker, I sent him a copy. He played it with his kids who are around the same age and they figured out right away two kids are smart,

Tim Broadwater 22:45
you need to … it’s time for a second edition.

Aaron H. 22:49
Yeah, maybe this summer, I’ll have some time this summer, I need I need to do it, I just need to bite down and just get things published the answer very,

Tim Broadwater 22:57
very popular. And if you go to any of these game cons like Gen Con, or Pax Unplugged um, Origins, you know, there’s a lot of families who go and a lot of them are looking for, hey, my kids, actually very smart kid, but I still want a kid friendly kind of game or something. So I see a lot of single parents, or families with kids. And I’ve always been told that the test indicator is that if an old person can teach it to a kid, then that means it’s successful. And then I think there’s this really, I’m kind of enamored with the simplicity of a lot of children’s games, because it’s like, no, it really has to be super simple. Like, number a very clear rules, you know, yeah, that kind of stuff. So very interested to see, if you do definitely think about,

Aaron H. 23:58
you’ll be the first to know, I, I need to do it, it needs to happen. And when I do it like we can I’ll come back on the show, we can talk about it then. Yeah,

Michael Schofield 24:08
It totally seems like you have like this kind of like personality trait that’s really conducive to like, prototyping shit, right. Like, like, like, so. When we talk to a bunch of people, there is the common obstacle of like, where do I start? Like, where like, I don’t, I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m not an expert. i There’s all sorts of reasons. Why not to I don’t have time, right? I don’t have all this thing. But you seem like you. I mean, you have a ton of hobbies. You have a ton of projects. And so it’s not just that you like design like a game for your kid you design a game with 100 or so hours of development for testing. Yeah, and so like when executing on it and somehow and what is your What is your comfort with like failure? What are your goals? Like I like…

Tim Broadwater 25:04
Things about like prototyping and playing, right? And they’re just like, when do I put it in front of people? Or, you know, when? How, what’s the fidelity need to be before I can, you know, play test, all these kinds of things? And I don’t think it necessarily matters per se, but just to get your perspective.

Aaron H. 25:24
Sure, sure. Um, so there’s two books that I read. Caught a long time ago, like over 10 years ago. One of them was a Jessie shells, the art of game design book of lenses. And then the other one was the game design workshop. And I forget the name of the author for that one. Apologies to the author. It’s a fantastic book. It’s just been a long time since I read it. Both of those

Michael Schofield 25:53
Tracy Fullerton?

Aaron H. 25:55
That’s great. That sounds right. The book color the covers, kind of like a yellow, blue green pastel colors. Yes.

Michael Schofield 26:00
The Game Design Workshop, a place centric approach to the to creative, innovative games.

Aaron H. 26:07
That sounds exactly like it. Yes. Yeah. Fantastic book, both of them are truly excellent. And one thing that they both kind of underscore. And I think this is reinforced by my experience as a developer, which is this idea of like getting to the MVP as soon as possible. So you want to get something in front of a user. So you can start up immediately hitting the ball rolling as fast as possible to get your bad ideas out. Get them out.

Tim Broadwater 26:37
You’re saying it as applies fail fast. as applied to a game, it’s like, we don’t need to work out all the rules or the details or other things, but let’s give this mechanic in front of us.

Aaron H. 26:47
I have literally taken like with the Malinger game, there was a it was a drafting mechanic and initially for like drafting the void minors, and I took that aspect of it out. And they made it into a module and immediate like, basically a mini game that could be played in 510 minutes. And then I played that with several different people, just to kind of feel it out. And I had like my whole I had a little journal that had like the notes on what how each turn went, what choices everyone made, just to kind of get like a log for what like, Are there any outliers? So is it like any dominant strategies that are just too broken, or anything that’s never getting picked at all, because it sucks. And you know, you look for those things, and then try to tweak them to balance them away from sucking and away from being too powerful, because you want to kind of get closer to the median, not exactly on the dot but closer to it. And then just, you know, testing those mechanics kind of in isolation, like unit testing them, essentially, that’s what it is, right? Just unit testing.

Michael Schofield 27:50
Interesting. For the for the folks who aren’t engineers listening, what’s the 30 seconds on the unit test?

Aaron H. 28:01
In programming, you have like a kind of an abstract concept, like, I don’t know, like a user or something. And a unit test would be a series of defined expectations about the behaviors of that concept within your application. So like, a user can sign in, a user has an email address, a user has a password, etc. And some of the behaviors that a user is capable of doing they can they can decide whether or not the password is valid, or sorry, the phone number is valid, whatever. So for mine, it’s not expectations in that sense. Like I’m not setting up like, oh, well, in this configuration, this player should all end up within one point to each other. It’s not like that. It’s just trying it out. Kind of like, you know, shake the Etch A Sketch and then see what, like I said, sketch right to shake it. But you got the idea of

Tim Broadwater 29:01
Going back to what you said previously, you said to get to this medium or sweet spot. Just to clarify in there, I think what you’re speaking to was Opie versus like, what’s, what’s the balance of strategy versus randomness? You know, that’d be a good interplay. Because if there’s no strategy, then why does it matter? It’s all random, like candy. Like they can’t be completely the other way. Then there’s like, well, there’s no randomness. There’s no potential we shake up the game. Yeah. Well, so

Aaron H. 29:33
It’s funny. You mentioned Candyland. Again, when I would play it with my son. We played I mean, I played it when I was a kid, I remember. And we had a copy of it. And when he was like two or three, we would play it and I was like, You’re so much smarter than this game. Like Like what’s and so what we did was every time you go, you take two cards. You choose one for yourself, and then the other one goes to the other player.

Tim Broadwater 29:58
And you wouldn’t have been played made it Advanced mode.

Aaron H. 30:04
Ya but he figured it out instantly, you know, like, it’s like, oh, well, if I take, I should take the two blue squares, because that lets me go forward twice. And then I’ll give the purple one to my mom, you know, and then she’ll go forward this much. But sometimes it’s like, you know, oh, once purple ones green. Well, I want this one because it lets me go a little bit further. It makes the game go a little faster. I mean, that’s not the reason to do it. The reason is the choice. Like Sid Meier’s always talks about like the a game. A good game is a series of interesting choices. And so I think that you can make any of those like the now this is how we take turns kind of games interesting. by just introducing any kind of player agency at all. If you can get away from stochastic dice rolling and card drawing. Because the Candyland, the game is predetermined when you shuffle the deck, the moment you shuffle the deck, the game has already decided first player, you know with a shuffled deck, the game is already over, you’re just discovering who is wins. So introducing player agency adds empowerment and interest. And you feel like the choices you make matter.

Michael Schofield 31:13
So when you were play testing for rain thieves, right, so there’s, there’s a difference between like a game that even if there’s like a lot of strategy involved, there’s a strange like a finite amount of cards. Right? How How do you play test, tabletop RPG, where you can have like murder hobos, or they can be all like the paladin equivalent? What was your approach there? How do you design for that?

Aaron H. 31:46
Alright, so

Tim Broadwater 31:49
that’s a complicated question to maybe deal with it in, like playtesting in the second part morality.

Aaron H. 31:58
Like the morality thing is, that was actually easier to do, because all I had to do was pointed out like, oh, okay, you’re gonna be like, a murder hobo and just do the work for the company. Well, guess what, like, you did this thing. And there’s consequences. And like, you know, the sample you took, like, oh, like, the stuff around it is like starting to turn black. And like, you know, it looks bad. And then, you know, you like you leave the room where the thing was, and then people are starting to panic. And then all of a sudden, like this people haunting you like the next day. And so you like you keep, as white always talks about raising stakes, you keep like ratcheting up the stakes end like ratcheting up the intensity. So like, the moral decisions are not hard to do. Because basically, you’re just like, find new ways to punish your players for being shitty.

Tim Broadwater 32:54
We don’t worry about morality… we have a tiered system of punishment …

Michael Schofield 33:03
You always see those, you always see those posts on like Reddit, where it’s like, oh my God, my party is like killing all the villagers, like what do I do? And for me, like I’m, I’m a grit and glory player. And like, the answer is like the guard comes in and kills that. Answer his death and imprisonment and injury.

Tim Broadwater 33:22
Or being wanted by the king or like being chased.

Michael Schofield 33:25

Aaron H. 33:26
We specifically included like quite a bit of content, that, like if you do things that threaten their ability to survive, like, they will try, they will see you as a threat and they will come they will hunt you there statblocks For the NPCs that will come after you. Awesome. Yeah, and so that’s definitely like a big part of it. And same thing with like the nonhuman Zeno fauna that are sapient like there’s specific things like if you go murder hobo on them, this is what’s going to happen to you.

Tim Broadwater 33:54
So do you ever game studio or do you have like a web portal that is like hey, I’m a game designer I’m or anything or have you done that moniker yet I guess?

Aaron H. 34:06
Stillfleet is officially developed by Stillfleet studios. And I am I guess, like a member, I am the team’s banshee. I do all the tech stuff. So I guess be like the equivalent of like, CTO or whatever. I’m not a CTO, but that’s what I would be Robot Factory was originally published under the name Karmic Egg. It was like my kids mom and I were she does like she designed some like taro and Bonora on DAX like, did the art for them and everything. And so we were kind of like she was publishing that stuff. And I was publishing games and that was kind of the name we picked. I guess I would use that I don’t know I hadn’t really thought about it.

Tim Broadwater 34:48
Karmic Egg Games is this cool?

Aaron H. 34:49
We had like a cool little like logo for it and everything. That’s cool. Yeah, but it doesn’t have a site or anything and I don’t have like my own studio or or anything like that I did recently put a post on LinkedIn that says that I am a published author, which is still surreal to me. But I would say most of my content is on my poly work, probably work.com/armadillo. And that’s where all of my like still fleet and our music and everything else, it’s like, I have too many hobbies. I the problem, the problem, and maybe it’s the benefit also is that anytime, you know, we would be like wife and I would be talking about the game, and then it would be like, oh, yeah, like, Oh, I could I could write content for this. I could write this thing, Oh, I’ll make an application. I would just peek keep being like, Put me in coach, like, I want to do it. I want to do more stuff. And I have this like hunger to constantly just like, create and do stuff. And so your earlier question about like prototyping. I just, I don’t know, man, I just always want to just keep doing things. And anytime I feel like I can probably contribute in some way. I just want to do it. Because I enjoy that. And so I think like if prototyping that’s sort of where that comes from is like, oh, like, this is fun. I’ll make a prototype. That’s what I’ll do next. Still fleet, best place to go is still fleet.com We’re wrapping up the first Kickstarter, but the next Kickstarter is coming out soon. We are doing a live stream I’m jamming. It’s kind of a spy versus spy on a new setting called Khadija. It’s think like East West Berlin kind of setting. And I’m jamming the group that is on the West Berlin side it’s the CO side you know the your the normal void miners, and you’re trying to do an assassination. The other group is the East Berlin they’re resisting and try to protect stop the disaster from happening. So we’re on episode three, which I think is airing in a few days. And then after that, a couple days later will be my second session. And then a week or so after that we’ll be both groups together for the finale.

There should be stuff on Stillfleet about it. If not, I think they’re on Twitter. There’s Twitch and I want to say the YouTube is it’s https://www.youtube.com/@stillfleet and you can find the the two broadcasted episodes so far and then the next ones will be up there as well. As for me personally polyworks.com/armahillo is where I put most of my hobby stuff. I do use Instagram, same username on Instagram. You can see my GitHub if you want I have the the DND command line tooling up there. It’s called GM assistant that’s kind of the was the prototype that led to the strings product the strings product is currently on a private repo. I’m the only developer so and then I think that’s that’s probably the main ways to get a hold of me. Army Hello pretty much everywhere. You can see my shitty heartaches on Reddit if you want. I’m gonna care.

Rapid ProtoBot 39:04
Rapid fire or time to rest which in knowledge to the test from gaming to UX is solid fair game. Answer Right and you’ll earn your fame. D12 roll the dice with you try out for questions and the most the game

Tim Broadwater 40:21
Essentially you will roll dice? Even if you roll one three times, we’re gonna give you a different question. We’ll just count the difference. So, but the questions are weird and random.

Aaron H. 40:31
Awesome, love it. Let’s do it. How do you want me to roll? Or like, I don’t have any?

Tim Broadwater 40:36
Do you have a D12? If not, we can do it.

Aaron H. 40:39
I can do it online.

Tim Broadwater 40:40
Do it online, it would be 12

Aaron H. 40:42
All right, one second. I think dice roller.

Michael Schofield 40:47
So you said you rolled a three. I did. Love game should everyone play at least once?

Aaron H. 40:52
Oh. I’m gonna go with either Splinter or cable cop. I think it’s him. I know we’re talking about this earlier. I think that camera cop is a fantastic game that anyone can appreciate.

Tim Broadwater 41:10
It’s a good suggestion. I used to desperate to us and listeners in season one. And it’s it is truly great. And everyone I’ve played it with has bought it. They enjoyed it that much.

Aaron H. 41:23
It’s such a fantastic game and it’s so accessible. And it’s very easy to explain to people too. I found. Okay, rolling, I got an eight

Michael Schofield 41:37
What is your dump stat?

Aaron H. 41:40
Like Me personally, like IRL? Oh God. Probably constitution. I guess. We put like, having, like, cardio is terrible. Or maybe strength? I don’t know. I’m not terribly weak… I’m gonna go with con probably like, I don’t know, but like the amount of sugar that I eat like can’t possibly be good for me. I literally like ate a giant bag of gummy bears this weekend.

Michael Schofield 42:22
Oh, delicious. Yeah, like Yeah. I feel Tim is literally like a tank. Like if we were in a party, like, you know, the heat aggro everybody. But like, I get really uncomfortable going for a walk. Like we were walking around Philadelphia like in like December or there abouts. And I was like, Oh, my little legs are so tight.

Tim Broadwater 42:43
It’s so cold and it’s so far.

Aaron H. 42:46
I’m trying to improve, I guess like, make my con west of a dumpster. Like are you exercising more and stuff? But like,

Tim Broadwater 42:53
As long as it’s not like three or four like consumption level. Right, right. Yeah,

Aaron H. 42:59
I mean, it’s it’s probably like, I don’t know, like an eight or a 10 or something like I get winded pretty easily. And like I don’t know I don’t want to go into my health issues. Two.

Michael Schofield 43:16
Theater of the mind, or maps and miniatures?

Aaron H. 43:20
Oh, all right. If you if you had asked me this, four years ago, four or five years ago, I would have totally said maps and minis I played a shit ton of third edition d&d. And like its second edition, you know, like you can only do so much with maps and minis like you know, it was okay but third edition really pushed the minis angle especially with all the like minis products. But I don’t know I I have come around on theater of the mind. d&d Fifth Edition does a great job with that they’ve really done a good job with like balancing out the game and like keeping the focus on narrative play, and, and still flee. You know, one of the things I love about it is just it the rules are light enough that you resolve conflicts with quick dice rolls, and then it gets back to the narrative. And so like everything is awesome. Like, it keeps things moving and the specifics on like, exact distance that you would need for a tactical map irrelevant. It’s like it’s you don’t you don’t get bogged down on that. So encounters go a lot faster. So yeah, theater of the mind, I think in my older years. Okay, 11.

Michael Schofield 44:50
What is your our speaking of d&d? What is your alignment?

Aaron H. 44:56
IRL? Probably either chaotic neutral, or chaotic good, but definitely chaotic. Yeah, yeah, I am very much like I don’t want to say that I’m Machiavellian. But like it means to an end for sure. Like if if something should be done then like, I don’t know. I don’t like getting bogged down in protocol. Which is funny because I also write rules for games. So what’s this all about? So, the man of mystery suppose. Uh, seven.

Michael Schofield 45:40
If you could make up any UX title to give yourself, oh, would it be?

Aaron H. 45:50
The first thing that popped in my head. I don’t know why it was UX Phantom. But like I don’t I don’t have any further explanation. Other than that was the first thing that popped in my mind. So let’s go with that.

Michael Schofield 46:04
In the jungles of Brazil, one man is designing readable charts. That’s amazing.

Aaron H. 46:13
In a world where things were designed poorly,

Tim Broadwater 46:17
My mind went right to Lord of illusion. Isn’t that a horror movie? Or book? I think?

Aaron H. 46:28
Yeah, it sounds familiar. Uh, 12.

Michael Schofield 46:39
What is the most usable game?

Aaron H. 46:46
I’mAre we talking like any game or like a specific type of game? Oh, well, I’m bad with superlatives. I’m gonna, I’m gonna hedge on most, but I’m gonna say the one that I’m thinking of right now. And maybe it’s because I mentioned earlier, I think splendor has a lot of usability. I love the fact that you have chits that you can, like hold in your hand, or like have in front of you. The cards themselves both express the point that you have the card, but also have a little thingy across the top that shows the bonus that you would get from having it as well as on the bottom, it shows the cost. The only thing I think that could do differently is the amount of chips of each and individual kind of you can take on a given turn, there’s a specific rule about whether you can take one or two. And that isn’t apparent. But otherwise, everything about the game feels like it is self reinforcing.

Tim Broadwater 47:51
TheI’ve had that on my wishlist for years, I literally just have not bought it yet. It’s

Aaron H. 47:58
I goldstar recommendation. There’s a digital version you can get if you want to just kind of dip your toes in the digital version by Asmodee games is fantastic. It’s a it’s a perfect the AI is actually really good. Great way to get a lot of practice games in so you can wreck your friends when you play it in person. Speaking from experience there’s probably other games that would have better UX I’m sure like Reiner Kinesia. Has. He’s done some that are. I appreciate the user experience in his games that he makes some great stuff. Um, I’ve definitely played a lot of Euro games that I think have bad UX though.

Tim Broadwater 48:45
Go on!

Aaron H. 48:48
Oh, man, I don’t even remember the names of them. I have a friend who has a game review YouTube channel. And we have like when she lived in the area, we would play games together. And so I got to play a lot of play test games.

Tim Broadwater 48:59
I’ll say something very controversial. And we didn’t totally I thought, like the first version. And now I know just here two or three years ago, they did a whole overhaul of the overhaul is amazing. And I’ve heard great things and the ratings are better. I like the concept, but the original game was horrid. Galaxy trucker. Oh, interesting. I haven’t played that. Galaxy Trucker. Like the idea of like, Hey, you’re a space trucker in your bill building your ship super quick and storing your cargo and you’re going over across the universe. And then you’re gonna get hit by comments and attacked by space pirates and like all this other stuff. And then whatever cargo you get there with is how much payload money you get out. And then that’s to build your next ship and to go on. And it just the instructions were bad. The graphics were kind of bad. You know, and it was just, there was a lot of people going online and like, well, how does this mechanic work?

Aaron H. 50:01
A 10?

Michael Schofield 50:08
What is your reaction when you hear UI / UX?

Aaron H. 50:12

Michael Schofield 50:18
We’re just gonna have like a, like a, like a cut of like, everyone this season just going ugh.

Aaron H. 50:25
For real though. Oh, man. I mean, first of all, like I I mean, I am of the camp of people that knows that they’re not the same thing. I mean, they’re closely related. Sure. But like you can have a UX without a UI. I usually, my I think my reaction is usually internally I rolling, and then just ignoring the fact that they said that and then interpreting it in whatever way I want to interpret it, or like using context to be like, Okay, I know what you’re actually asking here. I’m just going to, I’m going to speak, I’m going to correct you in my response implicitly. But whatever. Perfect. I think usually when people say UI UX, they usually mean one or the other. It’s like when people say like, like web design, or web developer or full stack, like, Oh, God, full stack developer don’t even get me started on that one. I think everything in tech, people who don’t work in tech need to stop talking about tech and making up their own words. That’s my hot take.

Michael Schofield 51:42
No, I love it.

Aaron H. 51:49
Okay, I rolled a five.

Michael Schofield 51:54
When you attack, do you use strength or dexterity? And we were talking IRL.

Aaron H. 51:59
Yeah. So IRL. So I have some background in jujitsu and Kung Fu, and Baguazhang. And so it’s kind of a mixture of like,

Michael Schofield 52:14
it’s probably both of both.

Aaron H. 52:17
And I feel like I’m missing out on the answer there by saying, Oh, I use both. But yeah, I think it’s, it’s a bit more like feeling it out. And like, trying to intelligently apply, I think I use like my int, maybe, like wisdom or something. A secondary neither. Yeah. Because I mean, I’m not slow. I’m gonna think I’m as fast as I am strong, for better or worse. So sparring is fun as heck, though.


Michael Schofield 52:59
What is your favorite design tool?

Aaron H. 53:04
Index cards, full stop. Like I have stacks upon stacks of index cards. And anytime I’m prototyping something, especially for games, I think, Okay, well, if we mean design tool, like for designing a game, index cards, for sure. index cards for some other design things. If we’re talking like art, like digital design, then I have a Wacom tablet with Photoshop. And I like to use Yeah, those to do like digital art and things. That was such a game changer. But yeah, get anywhere Wacom.

Tim Broadwater 53:48
Three more left.

Michael Schofield 53:52
What is your favorite? Describe your favorite dice?

Aaron H. 53:57
What do you mean?

Speaker 1 54:00
So parenthetically, we have like, do you like D fours? Do you like metal? Dice?

Aaron H. 54:07
Okay, so a long time ago. And when I lived in another state, I was I went to Gen Con one year and I got certified as a DCi level one judge for magic gathering. And so I would do I would be the judge at our stores, local stores FNM and other magic tournaments, which was a lot of fun. Super great. If you’d like magic. It’s a lot of fun to do that. Assuming they still have that program around. I don’t know if they do. But um, but the store had a solid metal D 20. Which we would use for any kind of random thing like for random prize give outs or whatever this thing was like. I mean, it was it was a weapon. It was probably about like that big like Martin larger than a golf ball. And it was, I want to say solid steel. It was some kind of very dense metal. But that was like I think my favorite the favorite dice have ever had the pleasure to hold. I will say don’t roll it on a glass display case. Oh my god yeah. How to things can happen. I rolled a one again. So

Michael Schofield 55:33
What is your color mode? RGB hexadecimal. RGBA Pantone? CMYK

Aaron H. 55:41
I’m gonna go with RGBA because transparency.

Tim Broadwater 55:47
That was the correct choice.

Aaron H. 55:48
Yeah. I mean, I fully respect the Pantone and CMYK that’s kind of not my, like, I’ll work with you. But that’s not my scene. I’m digital digital boy. But RGBA for sure. I gotta have that transparency layer.


Michael Schofield 56:15
What game is your guilty pleasure?

Aaron H. 56:18
Oh. Like any game at all?

Michael Schofield 56:24
Yeah. Oh, man guilty that you got to feel guilty about it.

Aaron H. 56:29
All right, let me think about this.

Michael Schofield 56:32
It’s hard for me because like, I don’t really feel shame. I’m just like, yeah.

Aaron H. 56:36
It’s like a throwaway answer. But I was gonna say like Skyrim or something, but I don’t really feel guilty about it. It’s just like, I feel guilty maybe about the amount of hours I’ve put into the game, which is a lot. Hundreds.

Michael Schofield 56:47
It’s an amazing game though. We’d like to give anything like in the old like the mods like changing every time!

Introductory Guy 1:01:12
Thank you for listening and connecting with design thinking games on tick tock, Twitch and Twitter. You can also check out design thinking games.com To request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on. Any final thoughts for our listeners rapid proto bot

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