Geyser – The Game

January 26, 2011

This was a game created as part of the Ringling Game Design Club’s game jams. It was based on a world we created in one of the club’s world jams. In a world where a large island is surrounded by a giant wall of falling water, and a steam geyser dominates the center of the only known mass of land. Steam is both a source of power, and danger, in this harsh terrain. Nomadic societies travel the land in search of steam beds to power their lives, and all vie to control the Mother Geyser.
To this end, a group consisting of myself, Eli Allen, Garrett Stephens, Clay, and Tony Sladky developed a game we simply call “Geyser”, that would be played in this world. And so I present –


For 2 to 4 Players
Supplies –

  • 2 6-sided dice
  • Game Board, or suitable mock-up as illustrated below
  • Unique tokens for each player’s tribe

Blocked-in game board

At the start of the game, place one of your tokens onto one starting square. Then, each player rolls 1 die. The person with the highest roll starts the game. Play proceeds to left of the starting player.
The goal of the game is to reach the Mother Geyser, and hold it through the end of a round.
A round consists of all players taking one turn.
In each player’s turn they will move one piece one square in any orthogonal direction. Diagonal moves are not allowed.
If a player lands on a geyser, they may place a new token on the board in any permissible square around that geyser. You may not place this new token on a square occupied by another player.
When a player claims a geyser, they must leave at least one piece on that geyser at all times.
Two tokens from the same player may occupy the same square at the same time.
You may “battle” with another player by moving your token into a square they occupy. In this event, each player rolls one 6-sided die and adds the number of geysers they control. Whoever has the highest number wins, and the loser removes that token from the board. The winning player now occupies the contested square.
In the event of a tie, the attacking player has the option to retreat to the square he previously occupied, and his turn is over. The attacking player also has the option to try the attack again until one side loses, or the attacking player chooses to retreat.
At the end of the first round, the player who started the game rolls two 6-sided die. Add the two numbers together, and this determines which “ring” of geysers fires off, destroying any tokens occupying that geyser. For example, if a player occupies a 6/8, and the roll is two 4s, he must remove the token he has placed on that geyser. This is known as the Geyser Firing Phase.
After the geysers have fired off, the player who went first passes the dice to his left and that person will roll for the next Geyser Firing Phase. After he has rolled, he will pass the dice to his left and so on until the game is over.
In order to move into the Mother Geyser, a player must control at least three normal geysers.
If a player has one token occupying the Mother Geyser after the Geyser Firing Phase, that player is declared the winner.
Comments are always appreciated.
This has been cross-posted to the Matthew Oztalay’s Blog.
Creative Commons LicenseGeyser – The Game by Matthew Oztalay, Tony Sladky, Eli Allen, Garrett Stephens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.Based on a work at


Sophomore Games

November 6, 2010

Well as of today the two GAD classes of 2013 have officially begun their sophomore game mod projects. I’m happy to announce the support from our department in setting up an e-mail blast about this coming Wednesday’s meeting in hopes that we can wrangle some more freshmen into coming and being play testers. Insight is always welcome no matter from which major so please don’t hesitate to stop on by the student smartroom at 8pm on Wednesday Oct. 13th for some crazy sophomore mod jamming.


Semester Wrap-up and New Leadership

June 20, 2010

This semester wasn’t the best for documenting our games, I’ll warrant. We did some pretty awesome things this semester, though.

World Jams

At some point midway through the semester we realized that most of our games were lacking a setting. In board and card games this may not be entirely necessary, but the Junior GADs were going through their Preproduction class and thought the ability to rapidly generate worlds would be beneficial. Like the first Game Jam, the first World Jam was a process of rapidly iterating on a World. We picked apart the process and pulled out common themes, and things that were central to developing a well-rounded world. Once we had crafted this fairly general overview of a world, we would take that world into the next week’s Game Jam and build from there. We found that every world had questions that needed to be answered to get a proper understanding of how it worked:

  1. What is the Geopolitical Climate of the world?
  2. What is the Socioeconomic Situation in the world?
  3. What are the Beliefs of the world?
  4. At what level of Technology does the world exist?

These questions could be fairly broad, to create outlandish and wild worlds. Sometimes we would craft worlds by changing a few very key facts about our own history to create wildly different worlds further down the historical lines. More often than not the end result would be a rough set of rules for how the world operates, and from these general rules we could create a game, or system, that resulted in a board or card game.

New Leadership

At the end of the semester, the Club voted in new leadership as Jeremy and I are stepping down to deal with our Senior Thesis. Please welcome

Linnea Harrison, President
Amanda Cha, Vice President
Shannon Berke, Public Relations Officer

With that, I leave the Game Design Club Blog in the capable hands of Shannon Berke. See you all in August!


T-shirt Presale

February 17, 2010

Hey All,

According to Student Life we need to pre-sell t-shirts. If you’re interested in purchasing a t-shirt the Leadership will be taking orders at the meeting on 2/17/10. T-shirts are $15.


Spring 2010 Announcements

January 15, 2010
Game Design Club will start for the semester this coming Wednesday, 1/20, at 7:00 P.M.  in the same place as last semester, the North Hall Student Smart Room.
Wednesdays at 7:00 P.M. will be our new meeting time for the semester.  Mark it on your calendars!
Some starting business for the semester to keep in mind:
1.  We will be electing a new Vice President during the beginning of the semester.  If you are interested, please email me before Wed. 1/27. We will be holding the election during 1/27’s meeting.  If you like, email me with a short explanation on how you would contribute as Vice President.  We can also just talk in person.  Either way, if you have a passion for our club, please submit your name!  We want as many strong candidates as possible.
2.  Just like last year, we will be holding a spring fundraiser in the form of…  T-SHIRTS. Over the next few weeks, we will be accepting submissions for t-shirt designs from our members.  The creator of the chosen design will receive something awesome.

That Ugly issue of Moral Choice

September 12, 2009

For at least most of the last two console generations, a major factor in attempting to excite people about games has been that of the ability to choose their destiny. These games proudly tell you that you’re free to choose between good and evil, but the choice often feels shallow. In this post, I’m going to explore a few of the reasons why the big choices feel shallow, and try to offer some simple solutions to tide us over until the technology exists in a mass-produce-able state to allow games to present the player with 100% freedom.

Firstly, the Issues:

  1. Limited Choices: Many games offer the player the chance to choose between Good and Evil, but neglect to mention that that is the entirety of the decision. You only get to make a black and white decision in a world that seems to contain many shades of gray. There’s rarely a middle ground in these sorts of scenarios. This creates issues of relatability: Unless the player is a living saint or the spawn of Satan, how can they possibly relate to a character who either makes Ned Flanders look like a heathen or eats raw, adorable, baby kittens for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a midnight snack? They can’t.
  2. Moral Disparity: Occasionally, the player’s morals may not match those of the game. What happens when a player who does not oppose executing a murderer as a deterrent to future murders is awarded “Evil Points” for acting upon this belief in-game? It seems to me that you’re more likely to annoy the player whose morals don’t line up with yours than to make them realize the error of their ways.
  3. Lack of Moral Complexity: Ethics and morality are complicated topics.  Is it wrong for a man to steal bread to feed his starving family? Is it wrong to execute a guilty criminal? What if that beggar you just gave a coin to is going to use it to buy his next fix? There aren’t easy answers to these questions, but they’re asked very often in a medium that relies on the black and white absolutes of boolean functions. In Justice Vol. 1, Lex Luthor asks if it is really so heroic for the Justice League to save us from a giant alien starfish in the middle of the ocean only to return us to the drudgery of our everyday lives. A zero or a one could not answer a question like that to anyone’s satisfaction.
  4. Obtrusive Heads-Up Morality Warnings: Many games are so excited about their moral choice that they like to stick it in your Heads-Up Display every time your moral standing changes. This is not information I, as a player, want to be beat over the head with. If I am going to make a moral decision, I want it to be my decision, and the moment I am told what the game thinks of my choice, it stops being my decision. Every time in the future that I might be presented with a similar choice, if I am trying to play a specific morality of character, I will have to stop and try to figure out what decision the game will make based on my decision. It stops being my choice. Also, propping up a Morality Warning is a terrible violation of the “Show, Don’t Tell” Rule. Show me the consequences of the action, don’t just tell me that my Evil Stat went up twenty points.
  5. Lack of Significant Feedback: Solving this issue would help a lot with #3 and #4. In order for a player to know what he “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing, the player needs to see the consequences of his actions. I’m not talking just about direct consequences; games don’t seem to have much of a problem with that. It’s easy enough for ordinary people to die when I attack them, bystanders to run away, and police to show up. However, after these types of scuffles, the status quo is generally reset. What are the far-reaching consequences of my actions? Where are the ripple effects? It’s a simple examples, but one of the best that I can think of of a game doing this right: In the Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, you had the option to steal items from the local shop. However, if you did this, you forfeited whatever name you entered for the stigma of “Thief”, which you will be called in every line of dialog that includes your name, and the shopkeeper will kill you when he next sees you. These immediately tell me that stealing was wrong, but they also enhance the game world in a way that simply calling the police cannot.
  6. Disproportionate Rewards: Occasionally, games give players bonuses based on their alignment, often in the form of stat-boosts or special powers. I have seen situations where these rewards are extremely well-balanced and simply augment different styles of play, but I have also heard of scenarios where one side’s bonuses are far more useful than the other’s. In these situations, the player’s choice is heavily influenced by the bonuses they receive rather than any sense of right or wrong. It is not a moral choice if the player makes his decisions based on what will win the game easier for him.

Some Alternatives:

  • D&D-style Alignments: Dungeons & Dragons features a more robust system of choices than many digital games do. The character’s Alignment is scored along two axes: Good-to-Evil and Chaotic-to-Lawful. Good and Evil are pretty self-explanatory (in the context of this post, being largely determined by the designer’s morals), but they are not the be-all, end-all. The Lawful-to-Chaotic axis brings a whole new layer to the character. It allows the player to make the distinction between the kind of Evil that wants to rule the world versus the kind of evil that wants to destroy it, or the law-abiding paladin versus the vigilante who does what is right by circumventing the law. It’s fairly obvious, however, why this solution is not utilized often outside of Pen-and-Paper RPGs: It would be a lot of extra work to go from two endings to four (if you leave out the neutral alignments) to nine (including all the neutrals). However, drawing inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons in planning morality-related gameplay could potentially make it that much harder for a designer to settle for the old “Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil” standby endings that so many games utilize.
  • Something other than Good-vs.-Evil: #2 in the above list is focused on the flexibility of what constitutes “good” versus what constitutes “evil”. A simple alternative would be to focus on something other than Good and Evil, something that can be made much more concrete. One example that I’ve been kicking around for a while is Honor versus Dishonor. Both of these concepts are much easier to nail down than good or evil. Both present a varied way to play the game which can easily be adapted to multiple aspects of the game: Lying to an NPC would be dishonorable, as would poisoning someone’s dinner; telling the truth and fighting someone mano-a-mano would be considered honorable. Another example is one that I hope they take with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (, which focuses heavily on the Marvel Civil War and picking a side. Hopefully, the player will feel they are choosing based on whether they feel freedom or security is of higher value. In this way, the player can make a choice based on his own values, rather than a set of values laid down by the designers.
  • Hide the Distinction: In direct contrast to #4, hiding the distinction between Good and Evil choices helps the player to not be overly influenced by the game’s opinion of him. It is not necessary to never let the player know how good or evil they are, but it is important not to beat him over the head with it. This works well with “Something Other Than Good-vs-Evil”. One example of this is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I had been playing Oblivion for months before I realized that deep in the bowels of one of the stats subscreens, the game was keeping a tally of my Fame versus my Infamy. Not knowing that meant not having my choices influenced by the game’s notions of right and wrong, which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the game and my sense of freedom.
  • Improve Feedback: Show, don’t tell. If I am going to make a decision, let me know what you thought of that decision by making the world react, not my Heads-Up-Display. If I start offing bums in the streets at night, I want to hear the people’s whispered rumors of a Jack-the-Ripper type character. When I save a stranded band of mercenaries, I want to see them out and about the world and know that they’re only there because of me. When I steal some rich old lady’s necklace and pawn it, I want to see her dejectedly walking around without her priceless bauble. If I assassinate a guard, I want the ripples of that action to let some bandits invade the city. Increased feedback and Butterfly-Effect-ing will make the world I’m playing in feel more alive, and make my decisions feel like they matter more.

In conclusion, I think the issues with moral choice in games stem from a lack of imagination in their application, cost in time or manpower of implementing more immersive systems, and negative assumptions about the degree of complexity that the player wants. For those interested in complexity in their games, these flaws are readily apparent. I do not feel that the solutions I have suggested

First Meeting of Fall 2009

August 28, 2009

Hey there,

Our first meeting is from 7pm to 9pm on Tuesday, September 1st in the Meeting Room of the new North Hall building, just next to the Student Center. Come for fun, games, and play!