Diary #31 – Enter the Spreadsheet

Important: the Mystery Box Game Jam will take place at Meeple Mayhem on Saturday  28th September. Have a go at designing your first tabletop game with the help of the Birmingham Game Designers.

Organising the Game Jam and board game bashes (next one September 14th) has left me with little time to work on Dawn of Gnome. I’ve spent it, as you’d expect, working on something completely different. First off, Scott and I created Spreadsheet #1 to help organise the bashes (feel free to sign up if you’d like to demo, or just gaze in awe at the multitude of indie game designers represented.) I’ve also been expanding my network using Facebook, coming across this event.

I’ve been learning to use Nandeck, a program for making and editing cards (games like Uno can be created with about 20 lines of code). I can now comfortably prototype games with, say, 151 cards. And yes, that number is significant: we’re once again talking about Pokémon: the Copyright Infringement Game. 

Before writing my code, I dived into Excel (as all game designers one day must) and created Spreadsheet #2, which grouped Pokémon by type, strength and evolutionary structure:

spreadsheet2
Spreadsheet #2

 

I then reproduced all of this information in a Nandeck code, creating Spreadsheet #3. Afterwards I told Nandeck what information each group of cards should have printed on them. When I hit “build deck”, cards flew out of my printer like in Uno Attack.

spreadsheet2
Spreadsheet #3

Have you spotted the problem yet? It turns out Nandeck can read spreadsheets – Spreadsheet #3 was completely unnecessary! (It can even find images in them, such as the ones I borrowed from Pokémon Fandom.) I also caused myself grief by using an abbreviated set of just 70 Pokémon – suddenly the code had two sets of reference numbers, the standard and abbreviated.

articuno
Identity crisis: #144 or #67?

The whole logic of my code was also questionable: rather than basing it on groups of cards, I could have used regions of space, for example: “at position 1cm by 3cm, write x, where x is found on spreadsheet #2″. Nandeck is powerful enough to cope either way, as explained in its monstrous, 179 page manual (I’d be very grateful to anyone who can decipher the following extract: “This function creates a string with elements taken from a sequence. Without the optional number parameter, the result is a single string, taken from concatenating every element of the sequence.”)

Enough about computers and their mysterious ways. I’ve noticed a problem with the mechanics of Pokémon: the Copyright Infringement Game: although there’s a card for each Pokémon, only the final evolutions (about half of the cards) get much use. Just as I was worrying about the impact of this on the game’s manufacturing cost, I remembered I can’t possibly manufacture the game anyway (without being sued). Hooray! Thinking like this is very liberating. It also means that I don’t need to pursue the mechanics to perfection – after all, how could I include the eeveelutions, or that little s**t Ditto?

ditto
“Can I play too?”

Most importantly, this silly bit of fanfiction provides another opportunity for cosplay. Who remembers this guy?

professoroak
“I study Pokémon as a profession.”

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