This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone. Woo boy. We're all still a bit worn out from PAX East 2016, but there's plenty of content to help push us through that post-con fatigue. No worries, you'll get all the goodness from PAX in the very near future! In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

DC has fired Shelly Bond, executive editor of Vertigo, and announces a not-yet-detailed 'restructuring of the label.

Games

Blizzard comes clean about their cancelled successor to World of Warcraft


Meet Project Nova, the first-person shooter by CCP that's trying to establish a solid foundation for itself. Oh, and, by the way, it's an Eve game.

Sony hasn't come right out and said as much, but it has dropped some strong hints that the PS4 may be the last console it ever produces.

The Xbox 360 received its official death notice from Microsoft this past Thursday.

Kerbal Space Program gets 'Turbo Charged' in the first large-scale update since the game's release.

Red Dead 2 seems as though it is a very, very real (eventually playable) possibility.

Movies/TV

Somewhere on this planet there exists 39 episodes of a Star Wars-based animated series that we may never get to see.

The showrunners have confirmed that they are approaching the end of the narrative for Game of Thrones


Science/Technology

Is it possible that the entirety of the known and unknown universe is actually just an elaborate computer simulation? Neil deGrasse Tyson and some of the other brightest minds in science concede that there's a chance this could be the case.

On a similar note: is it possible for scientists to prove that a multiverse exists?

The potential physical states of water are some of the best known in science, but, given the results of this study in the latest edition of Physical Review Letters, there may be a whole lot more to the molecule than previously believed.

While we're on the subject of water and the amazing things that we're just discovering it can do, researchers at Kyoto University have managed to isolate a dimer of the substance using a technique called molecular surgery. 
A robot monk? China's Longquan Temple now counts a mechanical member among its monastical ranks.

Vulcanologists are adopting a new type of statistical analysis in their studies, one typically employed by economists.

Need a few moments of beauty? NASA has you covered with these videos of the Aurora Borealis as seen from space. 

Obi-Wan may have believed them to be an elegant weapon, but lightsabers would actually be far more dangerous in real life than their cinematic depiction would have you believe them to be.

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are producing AI Squared: an AI protocol capable of stopping cyberattacks.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Happy Sunday everyone. Yep, I'm right back in the studying swing of things, but even the specter of another exam won't overshadow PAX East next weekend. Unsurprisingly, PAX crept up faster than I'd have preferred given everything else that's been going on this year, so it's not likely that there'll be any cosplaying from me this time around (unless I can whip one of my old costumes into shape in the next week or so). As this will be my only opportunity to cosplay in 2016 (more on this in a future post), it'd be great if I can make it happen. In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!

Comics

It was explicitly pointed out to us during the course of Episode VII, but we will learn exactly why C-3PO's arm was red in the film thanks to a new comic: Star Wars Special: C-3PO #1

Image credit
Games

If you are a fan of both My Little Pony and Kerbal Space Program, you now have a new cause to rejoice.

The World of Tanks finals at this year's WGL Grand were mind-bogglingly dramatic.

Behold, the new world record speed run of Super Mario Bros.


Movies/TV

Netflix has confirmed that it will offer its services in ultra-high-definition 4K resolution to its premium subscribers.

We're more more than a year and a half away from Episode VIII, but the rampant speculation concerning the plot of the next installment of Star Wars abounds, thanks in part to J.J. Abrams himself.

The promotional buildup for the forthcoming live-action release of Ghost in the Shell is off to an...ehm...less than excellent start.


Deadpool 2 will feature the exact same cast and creative team as its predecessor. It's almost like they saw how successful the first film was and wanted to replicate it. Their common sense is tingling!

February 10, 2017 will bring us John Wick 2.

Thank goodness DC can occasionally possess a lick of wherewithal. Batman: The Killing Joke, slated to make its debut at San Diego Comic Con in a few months, will be rated R

Ben Affleck can't get enough Batman. He's now slated to both star in and direct a standalone film about the caped crusader.

Science/Technology

Google is pushing forward with its crusade to bring self-driving cars to a road near you after filing these patents that will allow its autonomous autos to detect the turn signals of other vehicles.

How do you go about repairing a critical chip or component while travelling through space? Well, if NASA has anything to say about it, the solution may involve bugs that have been engineered to both eat and excrete metal.

We've gotten somewhat adept at discovering planets that exist beyond the reaches of our solar system but that's apparently to be expected given that we've been doing so for nearly a century.

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

We've been big proponents of 3D printing these four years past, so it's only natural that we get a bit excited about the latest possibilities the technology presents: printable food.


This is the arguably most love a medical frigate has gotten since The Empire Strikes Back.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Wait...are we...actually back online? Yes! Thanks for bearing with me guys. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of work, studying, actual test-taking, and recovery from said exam experience. As mentioned a few times in posts from earlier this year, this pattern is going to prevail for pretty much all of 2016. However, that doesn't stop us from reveling in this bit of freedom while we have it. On to the Week in Geekdom!

Games

If you are one of the 150,000 active WoWers playing on the Nostalrius server, we have some unfortunate news for you.

Image source
You can now use your PS4 from any computer in the world.

Movies/TV

If you have not partaken in the Rogue One trailer do not pass go, do not collect $200, but instead watch here:


Though the trailer for Rogue One looks amazing, there are plenty of people questioning just why so much time and energy is being spent on what's arguably one of the weakest narratives in present Star Wars canon.

If you are still irked over the 'cliffhanger' ending to season six of the Walking Dead you have plenty of company.

Science/Technology

On Friday our favorite supervillain-in-the-making, Elon Musk, oversaw the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, the delivery of the rocket's payload (the Dragon capsule), AND, for the first time, the successful landing of the Falcon's first stage on a seaward droneship! 

The search for the building blocks of life beyond the envelope of our atmosphere has yielded interesting results. In the latest edition of Science, scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center detail their study, which indicates that the monosaccharide ribose may be far more abundant than was previously supposed.

The process of making and storing memories is quite complex, but, as researchers at the University of Oxford and University College London may have found, that may be only half of what actually makes our brains tick.

Who's ready for a new state of matter? Physicists at the University of Cambridge may have just brought us proof the existence of quantum spin liquid, a physical state previously only theorized to exist.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
Read More

Developer Dialogues: Master of Spies

Hey guys. Exactly one week from today I'll be done with the first of the professional certification exams I have slated for this year. While more exams will be forthcoming, there'll be a bit of a break between sitting for the exam and receiving my results, during which I hope to get reacquainted with...well...everything really.

In the meantime, meet the guys behind Move Rate 20 Games, the minds behind the nimble-but-intrinsically-strategic card game, Master of Spies.

Image Credit
Tell us a little about yourselves. What prompted you to want to become game developers?

We’re a group of friends who’ve played various games together for years. We wanted to take our love of gaming to the next level and that was developing our own games. Steve R. brought an idea for a game he had to us, and we agreed to help him develop it -- that game is still being built out. Steve P. showed the group another quick, fun game idea he had, and that eventually became ourfirst Kickstarter, Master of Spies.

Once you decided to put on the developer’s hat, what made you choose this specific type of game? Why did you feel a card-based game was a particularly good fit for your vision of Master of Spies?

Master of Spies was, like many things in life, developed out of frustration. While working on developing our first game idea, which has the working title of “Project Lightning Sword,” Stephen P. got frustrated with some game-mechanic roadblocks. To clear his mind, he sat at the kitchen table with a deck of cards and some poker chips and came up with the rough idea for a simple, quick game that became Master of Spies. We then took that initial idea, tweaked it a bit and decided that it would be a good first release as it had appeal to both hard-core and more casual gamers alike. During the development, we got the idea of tying all of our games together by setting them within the Eldinar universe and thought that using the spy theme would be a fun introduction to the world.

The game is touted as being extremely easy to learn, but a highly satisfying overall play experience. How long would you say it takes people to pick up Master of Spies and what demographics do you think would most enjoy the game?

The basics of the game are very easy to learn, children as young as age nine have gotten the basics in just one play-through. The advanced rules add a bit more strategy, but gameplay remains quick & easy to learn. We believe the game would appeal to families with players of different ages & skill levels since, while being easy to learn, it also has enough strategy to keep the attention of more serious gamers.

The puzzle-based game market is pretty competitive with both major publishers and Indie developers in the field. What would you say makes Master of Spies distinct?

Well, one of the things that make it unique is that it’s based around the world of Eldinar, a unique fantasy world we are creating for the majority of our games. The names of places and characters will appear again and again, taking players deeper and deeper into the intrigue of the world. Plus, there’s the scalable complexity of the game -- we’ve designed it with rules for a “basic” game and a set of Advanced Rules with “Special Actions” that can further a player’s advantage or thwart an opponent.

The artwork and overall aesthetic of the game is very interesting. What was your inspiration for the look and feel of the game?

Since the world of Eldinar is a fantasy realm, we wanted the cards to have a look that fit that universe -- cards that feel like they could exist in that world. I wanted something that looked good, was distinctive enough for each Faction, while also being easy to read.

Image Credit
What do you feel was the most enjoyable part of developing Master of Spies and, conversely, what would you say was your biggest challenge?

The most enjoyable part was definitely seeing the reactions of people who play tested the game. They were initially engaged by it, but then got even more into it when they realized it offered more strategy than at first glance. The biggest challenge was finding a balance between simplicity and ease of play vs. depth and strategy, all while keeping gameplay short.

The most fun for me (Stephen P.), as the graphics guy, was designing the cards and bringing the artists onboard to create the portraits of the Royal Courts’ dignitaries.

You intimate on the Kickstarter page that the game would be the first in your Eldinar series, any hints as to what the rest of the series would be like?

The other game currently in development (Project: Lightning Sword) is a more complex resource management, unconventional deck building, and castle defense style card game. There are also plans for a board game and an RPG game setting, both also based in Eldinar.

Is there anything else that you think potential players should know about Master of Spies?

It is quick and fun…easy to learn….good for the family or for your hard-core gaming pals.

Collectively, we have played the game 100’s of times, for play testing, demoing at cons, showing family members during the holidays, etc., and we still enjoy playing. Every game is different because the tactics and styles of the different players combined with the randomness of the cards makes each game session different. Plus with no “player elimination” mechanic, everyone is still in the game and, with a cleverly played card, could potentially pull off a win in the last round.


Interested? The Kickstarter for Master of Spies runs for another two weeks; head over to their page for play footage and even more details!
Read More

NomNoms: Epic Gingerbread (Two Ways)

Say what? A non-This-Week-in-Geekdom post? I'm getting to the point in this not-semester's worth of studying where burnout is beginning to loom large. The brain takes in a tableau of equations for the umpteenth time, turns in on itself and meekly requests, "Could we please just not right now?"

It's been...ehm...a few years since undergrad, but I've found that I revert readily to what had once been tried-and-true study break behavior. This primarily takes the form of baking; it's edible chemistry! It's also a great way to address any and all cravings. In my case, it was the desire for the deep, spice-laden flavor of gingerbread even though the holidays have come and gone. The following recipes both began at one of my favorite online purveyors of make-your-own deliciousness, SmittenKitchen.com, and got a few tweaks partially borne from chemistry and partially due to the availability of ingredients I had on hand. 

Both recipes are a little involved, but yield some seriously bold, fluffy, cakey gingerbread. Bonus: your kitchen will be redolent with awesome for several hours post-baking. 


Difficulty: Medium
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: None
Feeds: 6-10 nerds
Time Till Noms: 60-75 minutes, but at least 30-35 of those minutes are passive while the gingerbread bakes.
Required Equipment: A saucepot, a large glass or other heatproof bowl, a heatproof mixing spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a large glass or metal baking pan.
Optional Equipment: A spice grater, a sifter

Ingredients
1 cup of water
1.5 teaspoons of baking soda
8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus a few more if you're using them to grease your pans.
2/3 cup of brown sugar 
1 cup unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
2.5 cups flour, plus a little more if you're using it to flour your pans
2 large eggs brought to room temperature
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoons ground cloves
0.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg 
0.5 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
A small quantity of confectioner's sugar for dusting over the finished bread
Parchment paper or cooking spray
1 Tablespoon of freshly ground ginger (optional)

*heat your oven to 350 degrees (176.67 Celsius) 

Step 1) Line your baking dish with parchment paper, then butter and flour the dish. Alternatively, you can coat it liberally with your cooking spray. If you're using spray, you may want to give the measuring cup that will be holding the molasses a spritz, as this will help release all of the sticky goodness later. Cut the remaining butter into small chunks and, if you haven't already, bring your eggs out so they can come up to room temperature.

Step 2) In your saucepot, bring the water to a rapid boil, then add your baking soda. This will produce a fun fizzy/foamy reaction for a few seconds. Woo, chemistry! Remove the water/soda mixture from the heat source and leave it to stand for five minutes.


Step 3) Once your soda-water has settled, add your butter into the mix and swirl everything together until the butter has completely melted. From here, add the brown sugar and molasses and stir until you have a nice, homogeneous mixture. If you're using fresh ginger, now would be the time to grate that over your saucepan and incorporate that into the mixture.




Step 4) Add the following to your heatproof bowl: the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, and nutmeg. If you have a sifter and want to get fancy, you can sift these together or, if you're really into not doing dishes and your saucepan is large enough, you can sift these directly into the saucepan. If your saucepan isn't quite big enough, pour the contents of it onto the dry ingredients in your heatproof bowl and stir until until everything is uniform.


Step 5) If the resulting mixture feels hot to the touch, let it cool for 10-15 minutes. If it doesn't, add your eggs and give everything one last good stir to ensure homogeneity.

Step 6: Pour your batter into your baking dish, then bake for 30-35 minutes. Once the gingerbread has finished its sojourn into the oven, let it cool completely. If you'd like, you can sprinkle some confectioner's sugar over the top once the gingerbread is cool to the touch. Yay!


Difficulty: Hard
Availability of Ingredients: Somewhat Common
Gadgetry: None
Feeds: 6-10 nerds
Time Till Noms: 70-85 minutes, but up to 50 of these minutes are passive as the gingerbread bakes.
Required Equipment: A saucepot, a large glass or other heatproof bowl, another mixing bowl, a heatproof mixing spoon, a whisk, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a glass or metal baking dish.
Optional Equipment: A bundt pan, a spice grater, a sifter

Ingredients

1 cup of Irish dry stout or oatmeal stout (I used Guinness stout and it worked very well)
0.5 teaspoons of baking soda
1 cup brown sugar 
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup of unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
2 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
2 Tablespoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon ground cloves
0.25 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
0.75 cups of vegetable, canola, or safflower oil
Parchment paper or cooking spray
A small amount of confectioner's sugar for dusting over the finished bread

*heat your oven to 350 degrees (176.67 Celsius) 

Step 1) Line your baking dish with parchment paper, then butter and flour the dish. Alternatively, you can coat it liberally with your cooking spray. If you're using spray, you may want to give the measuring cup that will be holding the molasses a spritz, as this will help release all of the sticky goodness later. **Note: if you're trying to make this in a bundt pan, be especially liberal with the buttering/flouring. This batter ends up extremely sticky.**

Step 2) In your saucepan, combine your molasses and stout, then bring that mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, add your baking soda, stir, and remove the whole shebang from your heat source.

Step 3) Add to your heatproof bowl the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom. Stir these gently to combine.

Step 4) Add the three eggs and both types of sugar to your other mixing bowl. Whisk these together, then add your oil and whisk that into the mix as well. 

Step 5) Give the molasses and stout mixture a quick feel test. If it's close to room temperature (or at least isn't hot), then add the contents to the bowl with the eggs/sugar mixture and stir everything together. Once you have a homogeneous blend, toss that in with the flour and spices. Stir the whole shebang together until everything is uniformly combined. 

Step 6) Pour the resulting batter into your pan and give the pan a few sharp raps on your countertop to eliminate any air bubbles that may have formed. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes if you're using a rectangular baking dish and 50 minutes if you're using a bundt pan.

Step 7) Once the gingerbread has finished its sojourn into the oven, let it cool completely. Sprinkle some confectioner's sugar over the top once the gingerbread is cool to the touch. Yay!


FAQs

Does it matter what type of brown sugar I use?

Not really. Dark brown sugar tends to jive a little better with the ingredients in these recipes, but there's no real reason why you couldn't use light brown sugar. Just ensure that it's brown sugar you're using and not, say, cane or some other form of raw sugar.

Why shouldn't I use blackstrap molasses?

Honestly you could, but your gingerbread would turn out with an extremely intense, somewhat bitter flavor that would likely be overwhelming for most palettes. If you like your gingerbread to be incredibly bold and on the less sweet side, then go right ahead and use blackstrap.

What's with the boiling of liquids? Can I just skip that step and add those ingredients directly to the others?

This step is what gives the gingerbread its fluffy, cakey texture. If you skip it the results will be quite different than if you hadn't.


Best of luck on your kitchen experimentations! <dives back into a pile of study materials>



Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Hey guys. It's been a while, I know, and for that I sincerely apologize. I'm about a month out from taking the first of the professional designation exams that are slated for this year, so the past few weeks have been all about the studying. Conversely, that means only four more weeks and we can get back to our regularly scheduled Care and Feeding of Nerds! In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom. 

Comics

Here's the lowdown on DC's forthcoming Rebirth and why they really want you to think of it as being akin to the new Star Wars trilogy.

Games

If you've been visiting here for a while, you won't be at all surprised when you hear that I'm...ehm...something of a fan of the Civilization series so it's a bit special to partake in the 25th anniversary celebrations of that most excellent franchise.

Did you know that the software library of the Internet Archive contains over 2,500 entirely free, wholly playable classic MS-DOS games?  

If you were among the legions of horror fans that were grief stricken following the cancellation of the reboot of Silent Hills you now have cause to rejoice: the reboot is back on.

Lead Mass Effect writer Chris Schlef is leaving Bioware to join the ranks of Bungie.

If you're still gleefully exploring the vast post-apocalyptic landscape of Fallout 4 you'll soon be in for even more of the same. The next three months will feature as many new DLC releases.

Movies/TV

This is a nifty little visual sample of the original negative of Episode IV contrasted with what a team of specialists have been able to coax from that fragile bit of film:




Science/Technology

Just how fast is the D-Wave quantum computer relative to, say your average everyday PC? This fast

Speaking of quantum computing, a team of theoretical physicists from MIT have developed a novel method for error correction on a quantum level

It's been a security flaw that's existed since 2008, but we're just now realizing the potential impact on everything derived from the GNU C Library.

Next month will begin the effective last scientific call for the discovery of WIMPs. What are WIMPs and why are they potentially so important? Read here.

She's made a career of studying 'zombie stars' and now Victoria Kaspi, Ph.D., is the first female recipient of Canada's Herzberg Medal

The JPL mastermind behind the 'seven minutes of terror' that delivered Curiosity to the surface of Mars has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Solar eclipses have been regarded by humanity as alternately fascinating and terrifying, but imagine a planetary configuration in which such eclipses lasted three and a half years.

Jupiter's moon, Europa, hosts possibly the best conditions for life to exist on a non-terrestrial segment of our solar system, so why is it so hard to get out there to confirm that?

Image credit
As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Hi guys. Happy weekend and best wishes for an excellent last day of con to all those of you attending PAX South right now. I know, it's been a little while since a new post went up on here. As mentioned earlier in the month, studying has been consuming just about every spare minute of my time and will continue to do so for the majority of 2016. Fortunately, a bit of a break will allow us to get down to This Week in Geekdom!

Games

Happy 20th birthday to Duke Nukem 3D!

Squad claims to not only be the most realistic team-based online shooter, but also eliminates all of the headaches that have plagued just about every other constituent of the genre.

Image source
More disappointment for everyone who backed and/or is eagerly anticipating the release of the distinctly Megaman-ish platformer Mighty No. 9, it's now slated to come out in the spring of this year, assuming no additional delays.

Movies/TV

After bringing a slew of comics-based series to the small screen, the CW network is now turning to Archie as a potential source of future programming.

Science/Technology


This is the story of how a cousin of the zebra went extinct a century ago and how South African geneticists have been able to bring the species back to life.


The latest edition of Science includes this research from Northwestern University that has resulted in an entirely new type of polymer. 

There is an epic throwdown taking place at the cutting edge of physics-related research. The grand prize: a billion dollar particle accelerator.

It's been inherent to a lot of our collective internet-browsing experience for years now, but Oracle is finally killing off its Java Plugin.

General Awesomeness

Turns out that 2016 will mark the 25th anniversary for many of our favorite geeky things, like these, for example.

If the minds behind this Kickstarter have their way, you may end up with a levitating bonsai to spruce up your decor.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
Read More

Developer Dialogues: Moonquake Escape

It's been a spell since the last iteration of Developer Dialogues and we return to the series with a very special entry. MoonQuake Escape was the very first game to venture into our Playtesting Lab and we've been gleefully watching its development in the nearly two years since. We'd sit here gushing about the mechanics, the artwork, and that board all day, but it's assuredly better if we turn this over to Jeff, the mind behind MoonQuake Escape, and Michael, the man behind its distinctive art.


Tell us a little about yourself. What prompted you to want to become a developer?

HI, Kel! I’m Jeff Johnston (@PairOfJacksGame) and I’ve been designing games as a hobby for the last few years. I started shortly after a friend at work mentioned that writing a book was on his bucket list. It got me thinking about what I’d want to do and I started thinking about all the fun I’d had when younger playing games with friends and family.  I decided my goal was to see a game that I’d created on a store shelf. Within about six months I had a fun little game about toasting marshmallows, Toasted or Roasted, and about six years later I walked into an EMS store and said “Look what I made!” to anyone within earshot.

Once you decided to put on the developer’s hat, what made you choose this specific type of game? Why did you feel this style was a particularly good fit for your vision of MoonQuake Escape?

I really enjoy making games for families with younger children. Like a Disney film, something focused on the youngest but enjoyable by the whole family. My second game, Flashlights & Fireflies, is about playing flashlight freeze tag and catching fireflies. I mention F&F in particular because its core fun was a “hide and seek” mechanic (a la 3-Card Monte) with players traveling a straight four-step track. My son was taking an entrepreneurial course during his college studies and I suggested we develop a game together and KickStart it—not sure I’ve ever a heard a faster “No” in my life! But, my wheels were already turning. I thought it would be a lot of fun to take F&F and add a bluffing mechanic: what if each player could protect (or shield) one face down card—would they protect their one key card, or would they try to lure you away? I also thought it would be interesting to have a way to bring players together on the board unexpectedly for some interesting interaction and I started to picture a set of concentric circular boards to create those situations, and inspired the look of a planet. The space-aged theme on a prison was simply to aim at an older audience and keep it a competitive setting. And thus “Monsters & Moonbeams” was born! The name MoonQuake Escape came about six names later…

The game is touted as being extremely easy to learn, but a highly satisfying overall play experience. How long would you say it takes people to pick up Moonquake Escape and what demographics do you think would most enjoy the game?

I think I’d like to meet these touters! At first brush, MoonQuake Escape takes some explaining. You do have to convey an entire world—its dangers, how you move, how it moves, how its moon moves!—how you interact with the other players, and your goals in the race to the only remaining escape rocket.  Hard core gamers jump right in without issue, but lighter gamers are often initially skeptical about the level of complexity. But after a round or two, they start to get that there are only a few but rewardingly deep decisions to make in each round. I was challenged by my fellow game designers to make it as simple as possible and so I created a Basic rule set that feeds you a healthy portion of the MQE world before introducing the rest in Advanced rules.  Those extra rules aren’t hard or complex, just less to absorb in an initial sit down.

I’ve been playing MQE with people from all walks for more than two years now of many ages and demographics.  The box will say ages 10+ and its extremely engaging for families. I’ve had kids chasing down parents to join in a second or third demo game. But, I’ve been extremely pleased with how adults playing adults enjoy the game and the constant playful interaction each round creates.

The board game market is pretty competitive with both major publishers and indie developers in the field. What would you say makes MoonQuake Escape distinctive?

It’s amazing the quality, variety and creativity in the market today.  That really means that your project has to have something special about it.  I didn’t really know where MQE would go—I just followed its lead.  It needed rotating rings and an orbiting & revolving Moon, and I was foolish enough to craft it.  In 2014 at PAX East, I accidentally “kidnapped” Shari Spiro (@AdMagic/@Breaking Games) and showed her an MQE prototype. At first sight, she immediately said “I want to make that!” and I knew MQE had the ally it needed to make it real.

The visual appeal of MQE on the table is amazing, but, it couldn’t be a gimmick. The game play on the board, with the cards, and between the cards and the board needed to be compelling all around.  Working through this was my key focus, even more so than the visual aspects of the game. I’ve developed a saying: “The board brings them to the table, the game brings them back.” OK, sometimes a Moon Pie brought them to the table.

The artwork and overall aesthetic of the game is very visually striking. What was your inspiration for the look and feel of the game?

After a great reception of the game at Boston Festival of Indie Games (@BostonFIG) in Sep 2014, I found Michael’s vector superhero art style and started collaborating with him on the art and design. I quickly realized what value he was bringing to the entire process and decided that partnering on this project would be the most rewarding. I think Michael can best speak to the overall art.  Michael?

Hello, I’m Michael Parla (@Michael_Parla) the art director for MQE and I’ll field this question. After working in the pharmaceutical industry as a graphic designer/art director for 15+ years, I felt called to scratch a creative itch I’ve been carrying since starting my career. This project seemed just the ticket!
When I was first introduced to MQE I felt it was an ambitious project offering a creative challenge. Initially Jeff was using an illustration for the cover that looked like something out of a Flash Gordon strip. Although the image fit the game’s genre, I didn’t feel it matched with the feel I got when Jeff would demo his games. Much like a 1950 serial film poster, MQE needed to feel loud and exciting, and that inspiration crystalized the art concept.  To capture the feel of these posters I found a bold display font for the main titles (thanks blambot.com) and a condensed secondary font similar to that of poster movie credits.
To me the cards were the most exciting to work on. I was able to display my illustration as a main focal point and add value to the gameplay. I saw early on that I could help clarify card type with colors (green = good, red=bad), making sure players could focus on enjoying the game play and not translating icons or inferring details from the text. Might not sound like much but in a game designed as complex as this it was a nice break.
Color was also missing from the board. In the early stages, Jeff wanted a stark prison world, so for that reason the colors of the board were a boring and drab color. It wasn’t until Shari Spiro (Ad Magic/Breaking Games) insisted that the surface include “MORE COLOR!” I wanted something that people could relate to as alien while contrasting off the dark blue background so it was pretty much set in stone that from here on Zartaclaton would be a bright orange planet. After that everything else fell into place.
What do you feel was the most enjoyable part of developing MoonQuake Escape and, conversely, what would you say was your biggest challenge?

The most enjoyable part was listening to the feedback from fellow designers, playtesters and observations, and then creatively solving the issues. For example, players were having trouble remembering whose turn it was—that was the problem that an orbiting moon component solves for the game!  Early in the process I discovered the Game Makers Guild here in the Boston area and it’s been an incredible resource—game design expertise, playing testing, and most importantly, honest frank feedback. I was confidently done with MQE at least three times before receiving that one additional comment that made me iron out one more crease. And, of course, sharing the game with hundreds of people the last year and a half at conventions across the country has been a blast.  We try to keep the interaction going—our fans are creating the backstories of our alien criminals on the MQE FaceBook page!

The biggest challenge: the rulebook, no doubt.  I must have tackled the approach to tell the whole MQE story in rule form five ways to Sunday with different reactions to each.  Some players wanting information in this order, others in that order.  But, I worked with some really sharp editors—Jim White (@twwombat) in particular—and many savvy play testers to iron out a rule book that tells the MQE story very well. A long process, but I’m very pleased with the final version (you can check it out on the MQE BGG page if you’re curious).

Let’s say MoonQuake Escape is received particularly well by the gaming community at large. Would you be open to continuing to develop it? Would you pursue any expansions or other additional content?

Which designers haven’t already mentally built an expansion to their game?! Yes, we have some exciting ideas we’d like to add to MQE. More dangers on the planet’s surface. A new set of board rings that lets you play a “prequel”: you start in the center of the board deep under the surface in the high security dentention cells and have to make your way through the prison to the surface (the moon will be replaced by a security camera with a different game play effect). And, I think there’s a more card focused game that focuses on the final battle on the Launch Pad. And each of these add to the others allowing you to revisit with new options. But, let’s sell the first copy of MQE before I get too excited!

Is there anything else that you think potential players should know about MoonQuake Escape?

If it looks like I’m having fun telling you about MQE, it’s only because I know how much fun you’ll have playing it. Many moons ago I had to admit that this project is officially my mid-life crisis (of my possible choices, my wife has approved this one!). It’s been quite a ride and we hope you escape with us!
Read More