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Summer Vacation

Since my tent camping days are mostly in the in the rearview and because my wife and I have been talking about buying a travel trailer, we rented a trailer and braved the elements in a brand new air conditioned cable ready luxury house on wheels for our summer vacation. We piled our two kids, two dogs and as much booze and bad for you food that our rented abode would hold and headed for the Santa Cruz mountains.

I haven’t “camped” in a trailer since I was a kid, a lot has changed in the travel trailer world in the last 35 years. Once we parked I used a remote to level it, unroll the awning, adjust the fridge, and extend the slide-out. Once I plugged in the power and hooked up the sewer I was ready for a start-my-vacation beer.

It didn’t take long for me to make the vacation adjustment. Soon I was sleeping in and looking at my phone less and less. When we weren’t hiking, biking or swimming, I was playing games with the kids, reading (more on that later), and for the most part not working. And while I wasn’t working (too much) I was thinking a lot about work and specifically what games we could develop next.

The question I kept asking myself was, what makes a great game? I thought about the different games I had been hooked on over the years and all of them had a few common threads:

  • Ease of play. Any game where I had to read instructions or couldn’t easily figure out was deleted as fast as it was installed.
  • Levels and/or goals. Any game that kept my interest for more than a few games had some next level I “had” to reach and
  • I gravitate towards multiplayer games. I love the head to head aspect knowing that I am playing a live person somewhere out in the interweb.

My 10 year old son is always sneaking games on my phone and while I usually get upset at him for it, I also like to see what’s out there. On this trip he downloaded a game called Bloons TD Battle. It is a 2 player battle game of mazes with monkeys using various weapons to pop balloons. Sounds ridiculous when I reread it, but it hit all of my checkmarks. The balloons come down a maze type path way and are easy enough to pop initially. As the game progresses the balloons multiply in numbers and become more resilient. To win a match against an opponent you have to keep the balloons from completing the path and killing your health before the same happened to them. After a couple of games, I was hooked. So it got me thinking…

Our AppA11y games are designed for the visually impaired where anything that is touched on the screen is spoken aloud so they can visualize the game moves being played. Battle type games or games with random variables have always been a tall order. If something is flying at your game character, it needs to be made audible for the visually impaired giving them enough time to react. If a game becomes overrun with audio instructions or variables it becomes more annoying than fun.

After a week of balloon battles my new quest is to come up with a multiplayer battle game that will fit our model and hook both the visually and non-visually impaired. We are currently writing an updated Oregon Trail type of game with where you have to get from Sacramento to Oregon without being killed by zombies who have taken over. We are super excited about it and hope to have it out soon. The minute it is released I plan to start working on a mind blowing multiplayer battle game. Let us know if you have any battle type game suggestions.

Oh, I mentioned reading…our head of Marketing, Devin Blakenship wrote a book a few years ago called Sherman’s Eagle. I had bought the book over a year ago, but hadn’t had time to read it until this vacation. Once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. I read it in two days which is not usually my style. The story is about a reluctant hero who falls into a murder and has to crack a bigger puzzle to clear his mentor’s name and locate a mythical Civil War treasure before a racist mercenary does in hopes of rewriting history books. Awesome thriller with plot twist after plot twist. If you liked the Da Vinci Code, you will love it. I highly highly recommend it. Nice work Devin!

All and all it was a great trip. Shared some good times with the shorties, recharged, read an awesome book and gained 5 lbs. Hit all the checkmarks and some unintended ones too.