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13 Oct 2014

Oh yeah, we've got a new game

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We've been as negligent as a Rotherham councilor of late - no blog or newsletter for nigh on 6 months, not a peep on Twitter and only the faintest, non-committal murmur on Facebook. What's been going on?

Well we've actually been busy game designing of all things. There's lots to catch up on, but we've just completed some educational game commissions for CAFOD and SOAS (more on that later) and are in the process of working on a rather exciting experiment at the BFI next year.

BUT, even more amazing than all that, we've also been finalising the testing and development of our new game, The Hen Commandments. Five years on from the release of our last, physical game, Crunch, we thought it was high time we brought out a follow-up.

The thing is, despite some entertaining successes with War on Terror and Crunch, we were still languishing in relative obscurity. What could bring us the popularity and riches that we crave? We asked ourselves. For some reason, games about the hypocrisy of imperialism and the failure of capitalism hadn't brought us friends and fame...

So we turned to religion.

And that religion is Heninism. A lesser-known, matriarchal religion which is best known for having a bizarre and disputed trinity consisting of the Holy Chicken, The Great Egg Above and (according to some Heninists), A Greater Chicken Above That.

In The Hen Commandments players are disciples charged with interpreting the often obscure messages emanating forth from The Holy Chicken via the medium of encoded eggs. It's played over 10 rounds and the winner gets to keep the resulting 10 commandments and proceed into the world to start his or her own distinct sect of Heninism.

Quite unusually for us, it can be explained and learned in about a minute. We didn't set out with this goal, but The Hen Commandments might be the ideal drinking game. It was tested with varying groups largely in a pub setting - and, if I'm honest, mostly conceived and developed there too. It brings people together, encourages absurdity, silliness and just the right amount of awkward uncomfortableness. And quite unusually for us, it can be explained and learned in about a minute.


When, What, How?

It's all done! We're just finalising the artwork and need to get it made. However, because we drank most of our remaining funds during testing of the game, we're going to need to crowd-source the production of The Hen Commandments and to that end we're putting together the last bits we need for a Kickstarter campaign, which will commence in the next couple of weeks.

While we're just pulling the last bits together, we'll leave you with a few early peaks at the artwork as it stands ...

The Hen Commandments
detail 1 detail 2

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 13 October 2014 - 1 comment

Comments so far:

  1. I'd like to point out your bot checker might be confusing for animal/alien/insect rights activists who know more about Verhoeven than global politics. Also yay, new game!Pete from London - 13 October 2014

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15 Apr 2014

It's a bit short notice, but ...

Today is the last day of the Norwich Game Festival. It's completely free and you don't need tickets, just drop in.

And just when you think you've had your fill of good news today, I'll be speaking at said Festival at 2pm at the main atrium of The Forum. I'm giving a talk supposedly on the making of War on Terror, the boardgame, but I can't guarantee to be that coherent.

Also we may have some games to sell and since they're getting a bit thin on the ground, it might be your last chance to nab one.

Go on, bunk off work/ school. You never do anything productive/learn anything anyway.

Posted by Andy S on 15 April 2014 - 1 comment

Comments so far:

  1. Sound great :)niks from London - 21 May 2014

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05 Dec 2013

Last chance to get the War on Terror app with original music

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Hello! Yes we're back - not that you noticed. Did we receive a single email of concern at our absence? Just one enquiry after our well-being? Had we slipped and fallen awkwardly? Had some wild animal escaped and prevented us from getting to our keyboards? Who knows, because no one asked. You unfeeling wretches.

Don't feel bad though, you can make it up to us by downloading the War on Terror app. It's actually been 2 years since this came out and that means that the licence for Jarvis Cocker's magnificent 'Cunts Are Still Running The World' is going to expire in under a month. So if you want the original version with Cocker's best-penned song to play you out, you better grab it now before it disappears.

If you've already got the app, first of all thanks and second, we know what you're going to ask - what's with multiplayer? Well it's not dead, that's the good news. But it's also hard to say when (or if) it will ever transpire now that our developer is in another country. But it's something that everyone involved in the project wants to see, so you never know.

Anyway there's lots to catch up on. What have you been doing? Summer was good, wasn't it? Edward Snowden leaked a massive surveillance programme by the CIA. We almost went to war with Syria! Malala Yousafzai spoke at the UN. Miley Cyrus licked a hammer. It was all happening.

Meanwhile down in the TBG bunker we've had some big decisions to make. We'll write it up fully in another post as it may be useful to others at a similar juncture but essentially we worked out we'd be better off selling fewer games. So there'll be no more large print runs and no more large-scale games with balaclavas (sorry). What we're working on next is a small-scale card-based game that we'll be putting out as a limited run hopefully early next year.

More on that to come and other news too, but for now, go get the game. Go! Even if you don't have an i-thing, just randomly click buttons until you've managed to give us 69p. Thank you.

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 5 December 2013 - 6 comments

Comments so far:

  1. Android...android? ;-)Andy from Germany - 5 December 2013
  2. Android, PLEASE!!!MDC from Ohio - 31 December 2013
  3. I have the board game and the app for IOS. I think you should create one for android and Windows 8 RT, Pretty please? or you will DIE infidels!Oliver from Chicago - 14 February 2014
  4. It appears that our lives are in danger unless we do an Android version of the WoT app. So while I've personally been motivated to work on this project for far less, I have to say we're rather dependent upon our lovely (but incredibly in demand) developer. But I have to be honest and say we're not pushing him either, it's one of those hard things to assign time to - we want to do it, but not nearly as much as we want to do new things. Such are the annoying pressures of time and money ...TerrorBull Games - 17 February 2014
  5. I have both your games, but I'm wondering, what are you up to now?Adil from NJ/CA - 27 March 2014
  6. I want to get the App for the War on Terror Boardgame. Is it still available. Can someone please email me on rob_skillin@yahoo.com.au. Thanks PS. It's obvious the Baby Sloth would come in very closely behind Tony Blair. Just look at the face on it. ;-)Robert Skillin from Australia - 11 April 2014

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14 Apr 2013

Game development blog no.6

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This is part of a series. You can read the previous entry here: Game development blog no.5

It's been a long, long while since we wrote a blog. A mixture of 'real life' intruding and keeping us both busy on other projects and also a lack of anything devastatingly new to report has kept us quiet, but we're back!

There's so much to write about and catch up on: the death of Thatcher, Chavez, Obama's ever-murkier drone war and the "Kissinger" wikileaks. But first let's get the boring stuff out of the way: game development update ahoy!

Kleptocracy is still bubbling under. It's not dead by any stretch, but it is a big project. Recently I've headed back to doing more research on the subject of corruption - there's something fascinating about how corruption takes root and self-propagates (and is then really difficult to get rid off). I desperately want this insidious root-taking to be an organic part of the game, but without understanding the causes better, that's never going to happen.

Meanwhile we've been steadily (and very gradually) testing and improving Drunk Prophet. Living up to its name, it's a remarkably suitable end-of-evening game for our Tuesday testing group before we get chucked out of the pub. What's interesting is that despite my desires to make the game a little more intellectually rewarding - a bit more meaningful - it's the simplest version of the game that keeps prevailing.

How to play Drunk Prophet

So here's how it plays currently: There are six decks of cards. This is the drunk prophet. The game takes place in ten rounds as the drunk prophet issues ten commandments. The topmost card is revealed from each deck in order, forming a (frequently confused) decree. All players have a hand of "theme cards". These themes are things like 'forgiveness', 'atonement', 'temptation' etc. Everyone holds the same themes and players have a short time to select a theme that they believe will represent a unique reading of the Drunk Prophet's words, but still relevant enough that it can be expanded upon. Everyone reveals their selected theme. All unique readings then get a chance to talk for 30 seconds, explaining and interpreting the Drunk Prophet's words with regard to their chosen theme. All non-playing players (those that didn't manage to select a unique theme) then vote on which disciple delivered the most compelling reading. Repeat ten times. That's it.

Can nonsense political arguments be made sense of and discussed quite normally? For me, the game has two high points: realising that anything can be interpreted is both funny and instructive. You really get a sense that authority and profundity comes not from meaning, but from context. If you read these phrases in the Bible, it's monumentally different to if you scribbled it down drunk. But the most surprising moments come when Drunk Prophet comes up with something unusually cogent and germain. I think we've encountered everything from the horrific to the genuinely thought-provoking and even the occasional moment of profundity.

Introducing ... Drunk President

On a whim, I reprogrammed my Drunk Prophet generator (yep, I've made such a thing - maybe a future app? (joking)) with a load of stock political buzz-words for the purposes of seeing if "Drunk President" was worth pursuing. Don't worry, this isn't the start of a pointless "Drunk ..." empire, there's a reason for this...

Politics was actually the original context for this whole mechanic - seeing if nonsense political arguments could be made sense of and discussed quite normally. The original goal for Drunk Prophet was something much more Orwellian - examining the potential for language to make the abnormal normal.

I decided to change the gameplay slightly: Players take it in turns to be the beleagured Press Secretary to the Drunk President. They unveil the nonsense policy and are then quizzed on this by the other players acting as the press corps. One player sits out each round and acts as the general public, allocating points to whoever they feel has swayed their opinion.

It's more raucus than Drunk Prophet - much more of a free-for-all - and it requires greater commitment. You need to embrace the role far more and perhaps it's also a little more demanding. I feel the people enjoying it most would need at least a vague knowledge of current affairs. But this is only off the back of one playtest.

Anyway, the first outing was remarkably successul. Almost depressingly so. I've strived so long for the sort of reaction the "Drunk ... " games have got - and yet to achieve it with a slightly cheap language trick is both a little frustrating and comically inevitable.

We've started work on producing some prototypes of Drunk Prophet for beta testing. This means we're fairly serious about making it. So if you'd like to help us improve and test it, get in touch and we'll start co-ordinating stuff over the next few weeks.

Posted by Andy S on 14 April 2013 - 2 comments

Comments so far:

  1. Wow, the "Drunk President" sounds great can't wait to purchase it!Zach Berly from North Carolina USA - 21 April 2013
  2. Thanks for sharing such valuable information. Keep posting such great info for us thanks! r4 3dsr4 3ds from Paris - 3 December 2013

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31 Jan 2013

Game development blog no.5

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This is part of a series. You can read the previous entry here: Game development blog no.4

So what started out as a determined and candid record of development of our next large-scale game has, in fact, exposed the entirely chaotic and fractured reality of game design. I think each post has introduced at least one new game idea.

But it's not something I'm altogether unhappy with - the idea that there is ever a linear, logical process to creativity is just an illusion anyway. For some though, it is more wayward than others. So if you can forgive our constant jaunts off-piste then, without further ado, allow me to introduce the latest splinter-game ... "Drunk Prophet".

Drunk Prophet

As we keep wrestling with a rule-creation mechanic for the President in our larger project, 'Kleptocracy', we started messing with various forms of language-generators. We were looking for something that might provide a (randomly generated) framework for a law, but give the President enough wiggle room to interpret as s/he saw fit.

In the middle of an already quite involved game, this soon showed itself for what it was - lunacy. However, it did feel like it could almost support an entire game in itself, so that's what we did.

The idea of interpreting a confused and random string of words planted the scene for a religiously-themed game. Religion isn't a subject we're desperately keen to embrace to be honest - not because there's nothing to be said on religion, but it's a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. What can you say that isn't repeated ad nauseum and known perfectly well by everyone already?

However, there was something irresistibly funny about these random phrases having all the gravitas and feeling of a religious decree, but being absolutely meaningless at the same time. Make the players fight over the meaning of said random phrase and you have almost instant ingredients for some silly, faintly satirical, discussion.

But the game really only took shape recently with the title of "Drunk Prophet". This made the game itself the protagonist and the players became well-meaning but relatively helpless recipients as the Drunk Prophet spews forth. As well as vying with each other to come up with the best, unique reading of the Drunk Prophet's words, there's also an underlying spirit of we're-all-in-this-together having to deal with this crazy, drunken divinity until such a point as he passes out and we can all relax.

I am constantly reminded how framework and context - something as basic as a title sometimes, but ultimately it comes down to the narrative of the game - can radically alter how it's played and perceived.

This is such a simple party game that honestly it could almost be released tomorrow. But there are ingredients here to create something a bit more meaningful without forcing the issue. There are so many "let's laugh at funny words" party games that I don't feel there's much value in creating yet another. I still have this fantasy of using the ambiguity of the dynamically created language and feeding it back into the game - this is the step-too-far that all other language games avoid. Mainly because it's nigh-on impossible, but for now I'm still chasing that rainbow.

Posted by Andy S on 31 January 2013 - 2 comments

Comments so far:

  1. Chase the rainbow and shit on the leprechaun!AndyT - 10 February 2013
  2. It's been ages since an update - what are you working on??Sally - 9 April 2013

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