KarmaStar (iPhone Casual Strategy Game)


As a side project, I’ve been working with a small team on a card/board-style iPhone game called KarmaStar. The game is done and should be up on the App Store in a couple of weeks. (This is not my primary project with Arkane Studios…it’s something that I wrote up and we tested locally using marked up Uno cards and dice. I love the iPhone.)

I have a couple of things to say about this project:

First, it was completely rejuvenating to work with a tiny team on a small-budget project. I envy casual game developers in many ways. I had a really good time working with the people involved (directly or in support roles). I got to do a bit of everything, which reminded me of my skills (and deficiencies) and helped me sharpen up some.

Second, my respect for people who design strategy games just went through the roof. I mean, through the roof. Most of the time, we all just iterate on existing game rules. For KarmaStar, I didn’t start off using the (excellent, smart) design method of “taking an existing game and modifying it.” The structure was worked out without modeling it on something else exactly, mostly as a challenge. It was hard, even though this is a simple game.


I hope to post more on the project later…process, what-went-right/wrong, development quirks, details, etc.

Zen Bound

Zen Bound is an almost unbelievably innovative and interesting game.

Basically, you wrap a cord around a wooden object, which paints the object. Sessions feel half like a game and half like some kind of soothing knot-to-untie.

This game has vision; all the elements feel unified in a monastic, gothic way. But the game is not just cohesive aesthetically…the entire thing feels polished in a way that you rarely encounter. That alone adds some pleasurable quality to interacting with the game.

Part game, part toy, part puzzle, part relaxation fetish. I love this Zen Bound.

(Note: Jordan, this game is for you.)


Subway Shuffle (iPhone)


I have a love/hate relationship with puzzle games. (I’d rather engage with something that allows me to play expressively.) But I love strategy games and a few puzzle games.

Subway gameplay involves moving pieces around to open a path to the goal. Each level (01-91) gets increasingly difficult.

The part I find fascinating is my approach to solving the puzzles. There’s an interesting mental shift, where I “let go” of trying to solve the puzzle overall, focus on which moves I *can* currently make, take into account what has to happen (in the final move) to solve the puzzle, and *try to solve faster*. I find that I’m far more successful when I make this series of mental shifts than when I try to approach the puzzle as a whole, or in a systemic way. Hard to articulate.

Subway also has a super clean art style and implementation that I love.

This game has made it onto my list of iPhone favorites, along with Galcon and Drop7.



After hearing about them for a while, I finally started listening to Glasvegas this week. One part melodrama, one part grit, I love their music entirely.

I’m playtesting my iPhone game a lot right now, near the end of the project. (This is, more or less, a regenerative side project I’m doing with a handful of other people, while working on longer-term first-person RPG-style stuff with Arkane Studios.) Out of many, many great qualities, one of the best things about the iPhone/iPod is that you can general pop on headphones, turn off the game’s music, and play to your own soundtrack. Not completely novel, but better supported than on any prior platform.

My favorite music while playing my iPhone game: Dan Deacon, Cut Copy and–more specifically–the Teenagers’ remake of a song by Vampire Weekend. Glasvegas works well too, it turns out.