Metatopia 2013 Schedule

Conventions specifically geared towards game design are a huge bonus for game designers of all stripes, from the newly published to the experienced. My first game design convention was years ago at Protospiel. While the games I brought that year didn’t go anywhere, I learned a lot about the process, how to critique, and most importantly, contacts and friends who I still see regularly (and play games with!)

Metatopia is a unique convention, added a few years ago to the roster of Double Exposure conventions. Metatopia covers games of all kinds, from board/card/party games to roleplaying games to live action games. As someone who has interests in all those areas, I’ve been happy to be at Metatopia every time they’ve put the convention on, including this year. Plus, Metatopia meets my primary criteria of conventions with a critical mass of awesome people attending. Seriously, there’s a lot of talent there this year, and that’s not even counting all the great people just there to test.

The convention starts this Thursday, a full extra day of convention from previous years that is supposed to serve as a meet and greet- which I plan to use to play lots and lots of games with friends who are there. Though it’s too late to register as a designer, there’s still preregistration for players and registration at the door. So if you can make it, whether you’re a designer or just want to try out what could be the next hot game, or want to attend one of the most impressive panel tracks I’ve ever seen, I’d highly recommend coming by.

In case you want to find me at the convention, here’s my schedule: 

Heat Playtest (Friday, 2p-3p)

Recruit members of your crew to pull off some big scores- but be careful, because alerting the police means life is more difficult for everyone. A quick playing microgame with a small number of cards but high replayability.

One of my newest designs that has come together recently after being blown away like many people have by Love Letter. There’s some adjustments to make to the cards, but the basic play of the game is strong, and likely is close to being finished. 

Spell Dice Playtest (Friday, 3p-4p)

Using a unique drafting mechanism, players draft dice representing different elements that they’ll then use to acquire magical artifacts and spells. A medium-weight strategy game of dice drafting, combining effects, and choosing carefully when to steal.

That’s a completely (terrible) working title. After trying to adapt a mechanism that didn’t quite work out in my friend Kory Heath’s game from years ago, I came up with a new spin using dice and other cards. It needs development and wider testing, but the core of the game is solid.

Inside Joke Playtest (Friday, 8p-9p)

Start with a simple word, like “school” or “snow.” Try and get your partner to guess it by saying anything you want. However, everyone else at the table is trying to guess it first. Can you communicate the idea to your partner without anyone else guessing first? A simple but raucous party game.

I had this game at Metatopia last year, and since then, it’s become vastly simplified for the better. This is a game that I’m ready to call DONE: it just needs a home.

Hobo Fun Time Adventure Game Playtest (Saturday, 4p-6p)

An adventure game of hobos traveling a magical-realist version of depression-era America, heavily inspired by the works of John Hodgman. A board game in early development, featuring both competitive and cooperative play.

This one needs some serious work, so I’m hoping Metatopia will jump start some paths to try. Otherwise, it might get shelved again, after years of trying different big developments.

Playtesting Brutally Seminar (Saturday, 8p-9p)

Presented by Dave Chalker & John Stavropoulos. Your best friend, your spouse, and your grandma all say they like your game, so it must be ready to be published, right? WRONG. The most refined games come from an extended playtesting process, where your decisions are challenged and every mechanic is put through the burning forge of brutal playtesting. Learn how to examine games of your own design and others for ways to streamline, balance, and otherwise turn into a better game by “killing your darlings” and learning what red flags to watch out for in the playtesting process that could sink you after publication.

This is the kind of panel I love doing, because I’m all about spreading the word of not being too soft on games, because there’s so many ways that games can be improved in the design phase. I hope to be able to provide some of the tools that my group and others use to grind down to the meat of a game. John and I did a similar panel last year and have a good dynamic (actually I suspect that John has a good dynamic with everyone) so I’m really looking forward to it. 

Roleplaying Development from A to Z Seminar (Sunday, 1p-2p)

Presented by Kenneth Hite, Darren Watts, Dave Chalker & Amanda Valentine. The designer of an RPG makes the basic mechanics and structure. Then, the development comes in. Sometimes this is the same person, another person, or a whole team of people. Development then makes sure the RPG has everything it needs to be played, and also playtests the heck out of it to identify any flaws that need to be patched. Come learn what it’s like being an RPG developer on games both big and small, how every RPG can benefit from a strong development cycle, and what to look for in game development.

Now that’s a talented panel, plus me. I pitched the panel, and am really looking forward to it, but I expect I’ll mainly be drinking in what the other panelists have to say.

All the above, plus dropping into other seminars and playtests when I can. Hope to see you there- if you are coming, let me know what you’re running or excited about playing.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.