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The creation of Zhadu

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RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008

Friends,

It is a breath of fresh air to discover a site like this one. Especially for those of us who continue to find ways to master our "craft".

I am the creator of Zhadu (www.zhadu.com). It is the first game of classic strategy that I have chosen to release to the public. I have been designing games for over 10 years most of which have yet to be released as well. All my games are and will be self-published. My second game will be released (hopefully) in December 2003.

There is so much that I want to say about the process, but don't know where to begin. So I will let others guide the discussion. I am open to any questions you may have about the creation of Zhadu and/or designing in general.

Be well,

R.A.F

p.s.

The website for Zhadu is a work in progress and will be updated soon. Please excuse any difficulty you may have experienced in exploring the site.

Anonymous
The creation of Zhadu

:D

Hi RAF,

I'm glad you decided to join the forum.

On your site, you stated that Zhadu came to you in a "dream". What was that like ? and do most of your ideas come to you in this way ?

- Maleqi

RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008
The creation of Zhadu

When I was given the 'task' to create a special gift , I had been thinking about my already existing passion for games, mostly strategy in nature. That same night, I had a dream that I was on a mountain in the desert. I was sitting in front of an elderly man who had a strange wooden object in front of him. He then began to place stones inside this object and motioned me to look closer. When I did, I noticed that the inside of this object was engraved with various patterns. Also, too some of the stones were located in the spaces of these patterns. I intuited at this point that what he was showing me was some kind of game.

Intially I tried to recreate this very game and the process transformed it into what is now Zhadu. I spent alot of years -day & night - working on this. It took about 5 consecutive years for me to get Zhadu to were I wanted it to be design wise and another few years to decided to actually sell it - I used to just give them away.

I consider this craft of creating games an art form, not different from painting, music, sculpture, etc. The process is quite different though than some of these. But was is similiar is the "flashes of insight" or "intution" that seems to come on its own time schedule. I am fortunate to have learnt from some special people how to cultivate this using various techniques.

I've also been fortunate to have a rich dream life as well. Most if not all of my games have come to me in dream either initially or during the process. Some of these have will release one day, some I still have no clue how to even articulate it to myself.

Be well,

RAF

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The creation of Zhadu

Greetings and welcome.

It's good to hear from another whose games come in dreams. Another member here, Scurra, and I both have that very thing happen. All of the core concepts for my best games come in dreams, and refinements often do as well.

When I dream of a new game I am always watching other people play it. Sometimes it's simply amazing how detailed the game can be and how I can actually watch people playing different strategies.

When it comes to refinements I find that I'm always involved in playing the game, too.

Great symbolism, really. The game is delivered to me, and then in the next dream I'm a co-designer. Good stuff.

I, too, feel that game design is an artform just like other creative arts, and that like them there's also a craft to it.

Good to hear from a kindred spirit.

-- Matthew

RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008
The creation of Zhadu

Thanks Matthew....

It's interesting that the more stories I read from other designers, the more I discover that this occurence of revelations through dreams is more common than not. In my dreams, I'm either watching someone else play (usually in some strange land) or I'm being introduced to the game by someone, but the rules aren't entirely clear.

This is one reason I enjoy reading about the process from other people. I remember in designing Zhadu how frustrating it was to communicate what the process was like to other people who were not involved in the 'craft' in anyway. I then realized the value of a "closed-circle" of communication with those who could appreciate the finer aspects of the process - ie. the philosophy, aesthetics, cultural paradigms, etc.

One of the disciplines I consider in the 'craft' is writing/sketching in a journal - everyday. I learned the hard way of letting ideas swim around inside me only to forget the next day what the hell I was thinking about. For Zhadu, I disciplined myself to keep every single idea I had no matter what time it was (i.e 3:00 am) , where I was (i.e. in a diner writing on a napkin), etc for over 5 years. I held my dreams, sudden insights, and epiphanies to be sacred and deserving of my attention. I realized too of the chain-effect of writing an idea down and out of nowhere, another idea arises.

I'm planning to write a book about all this which will hopefully include stories from others as well.

Be well,

RAF

Anonymous
The creation of Zhadu

Hello RAF,

After reading the goings on in this thread I looked at your website for Zhadu. Looking at the presentation and the look of the game itself, I can only say I am awe struck! Its beautiful!

I myself am a fan of the simple beauty of the abstract strategy game. I have a few ideas still in the works but I would appreciate any insight you might be able to share in the creation of strategy and especially strategic elements applied in a game design of this nature.

While I am an amateur at Chess, I love the game, as well as Backgammon and Othello. These games are my inspiration for board game design. It is my hope to one day create a strategy game with the very qualities that make those mentioned so lasting.

I would like to get into a more indepth discussion regarding the principles of strategy that helped you create Zhadu.

Have Fun!

-Vexx

RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008
The creation of Zhadu

Vexx,

Thank you for your insights - I do appreciate it. I'm more of a game designer than web designer, but I do my best.

Here are a few recommendations that I have in designing your own masterpiece:

1. RESEARCH - learn the history of the very games you mentioned - Chess, Backgammon and Othello (which is a modern day 'Go-Moku' from japan). Learn about how these games influenced and were influenced by the very cultures & societies they thrived in or didn't thrive in. Try and "peel" back the layers to discover some of the "paradigms" that may have metaphorically driven some of the themes in the gameplay.

For example, chess and war is obvious. But what about Backgammon or Othello ? What ideas may be "woven" in the very fabric of the gameplay itself that stem from some of these cultures ?

2. LISTEN - learn to become more aware of the "threads" of ideas and inspirations inherent in your own designs. Where are they coming from ? Why ? Is there a connection between Chess, Othello and Backgammon that you see or intuit ? What ideas interest you that may be hidden in the very games that have inspired you ?

3. WRITE/SKETCH - respect the process. For some reason(s), it has meaning for you at this time in your life. Your revelations are your own and deserve your attention. Write and/or sketch CONSISTENTLY. Whether this means every day, once a week, etc. This is the discipline. Learn to "breathe" with the flow of the process. Sometimes this means writing 8+ hours a day, sometimes this may mean not doing any at all for 8+ months.

I didn't understand this later part until a friend told me, " Even if your not doing anything now, it (Zhadu) will be better when you engage it again. This is because you will be better." In designing Zhadu, I wrote/sketched almost every day for about 5 years. You can learn alot from your own history of the designs.

4. HONESTY - be honest at all times with what you are doing, why you are doing it, etc. Do you seek to cleverly mimic the games you mentioned as most people do ? - this is not a judgement, just an observation. Or does your inspiration take you somewhere "deeper" ? less comfortable, less familar ? Learn to trust yourself more...

In Zhadu, I began to notice my attachment to certain ideas as they began to surface in my initial designs of Zhadu. I held on to them for years until I had the great "epiphany" that challenged, questioned, attacked every idea that I held to be true for Zhadu since the beginning. But I had the courage to let-go and follow the "threads" of ideas that transformed Zhadu into its current version.

These are just a few hard-lessons I learned along the way of mastery my own "craft". In Zhadu specifically, my strategic elements of play arose from my exploration of a different interpretation of resistance. War is one example on a grand scale. But there are many other examples such as the sometimes "war within". Aspects of onself that seem in direct opposition to one another. In this scenario, I began to contemplate the idea of "embracing" these aspects of onself rather than trying to destroy them. This inspired the design of the objective in Zhadu.

Let me know if this helps or not. My passion for designing enables me to "talk all day" at times.

Be well,

RAF

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The creation of Zhadu

RAF wrote:
3. WRITE/SKETCH - respect the process.

I know quite a few professional fiction authors and have discussed writing with them many times. One of the things that is a common mantra in that field is "Writers write." If you want to write stories you must write stories. Again and again and again.

I am a firm believer that the same is true of game design, and my mantra has become "Game designers design games." Whether it's revisiting an existing design or sketching out ideas for a new one, I'm convinced that the very act of designing develops design skills, just as the act of writing develops writing skills. In addition I believe that such designing "keeps the pump primed," allowing new ideas to flow freely.

Some writers, for example, make a point of writing a certain number of pages of material every day. Some days they just don't have the inspiration to work on a particular story, but they still make themselves write something, even if it's just a five-page treatise on the items on their desks. Just as writing -- nearly any writing -- improves their craft and makes their brains "work like a writer's," so too must designing do the same for game designers.

-- Matthew

RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008
The creation of Zhadu

Matthew,

I agree. You have to design in order to learn to design well.

I like your mantra. One of my own is, " Create the game that you want to play."
I take this to heart. Since I consider our 'craft' an art form, my measure of success is not terms of $$$, notoriety, etc. but in the integrity of the final work.

One question I always ask myself when I complete a game is "Is it true ?" In other words, have I been truly honest in what I have manifested. If I cannot answer yes to this question, then the work is not finished...

Be well,

RAF

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
The creation of Zhadu

Could you clarify your statement.

Quote:
One question I always ask myself when I complete a game is "Is it true ?" In other words, have I been truly honest in what I have manifested.

What do you mean by honest? who are you deceiving, yourself, your customers?

Call me thick but i just don't get what you are saying.

RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008
The creation of Zhadu

Dralius,

Cool name by the way.

To clarify, when I ask myself "Is it true ?", this is one of the ways in which I gauge the integrity of the final work with what I envisioned.

For example:

One day, a friend of mine suggested that I put my logo on one side of each of the Zhadu pieces. Now, from a purely business point of view, perhaps this is a marketable thing to do. But from the perspective of the vision for Zhadu, this was blasphemy.

To make my point, if I had decided to go that route and make changes according to what the so-called "market says" or "what is popular", etc. than in my eyes I have strayed from the vision and my work has become a mere "product".

It has become a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. My craft is an art form and I treat it as such. I hope this helps...

Be well,

RAF

Anonymous
The creation of Zhadu

Thank you RAF for your insights and suggestions. I find your philosophy regarding game design interesting. With what I have seen of Zhadu, I think it exemplifies your vision of our craft being an art and that the creation is an end in itself, not primarily a means to one.

Have fun!

-Vexx

RAF
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Joined: 11/17/2008
The creation of Zhadu

Vexx,

Thanks.

Stay in touch...

- RF

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