The first wave
What drives a man to do what he does? Women give birth, we're on the sidelines, wondering what it's all about. Diving into the deepest of our motives, leaving a mark, like an animal in the woods, is certainly part of it. "Kilroy was here", such is our need. Then there's this annoying awareness that life is terminal. Having children doesn't quite prevent one's having to come to terms with that. The animal marks and doesn't think about it, but we're not so priviliged. We not just pee, we want it to make sense. We want it to be permanent. We write books or create art or discover math or the laws of nature, well ... almost, but that's beside the point. At least we try. We must try. We're doomed to try.
The cheapest roads to immortality are writing books, creating art or playing Chess. Of course, we see only the sunlit tip of the iceberg not the big black cold below. Most writers and artists effortlessly outlive their own work and I didn't know what to write about or what to create to begin with. And I was bad at Chess. The prospects of cheap immortality were slowly but surely slipsliding away. I was sentenced to common sense.
So I was only too grateful to discover I had a talent. Call me a romantic, I like the idea of following one's talent, whatever the consequences. So, for the time it lasted, it became a total dedication. Havannah had no special position for having been marketed and having failed. I had already discovered that the games I valued most, were the games least likely to be marketed. They're not supposed to be marketed, they're a gift. So my friend Ed and I put them all on MindSports, to at least make them available. Ed does all those great things that my inductive mind is badly wired for, applets, interfaces, the works. That was a decade after their invention. My philosophy was that of a snake mother: deliver them and let them prove themselves.
That took a long time. But they didn't actually die out there, while I was occupied otherwise. They kept popping up at wiki and gameservers and stuff. When I finally returned from otherwise, 2007 or thereabouts, I was surprised to find I hadn't died either.
I lived unexpectedly.
Also, Havannah was 'discovered' by a broader player base, ironically not at MindSports but at Little Golem, and at about the same time its 'programmability challenge' was discoverd to indeed be a challenge.
The second wave
I neither intended nor expected to invent more games, but I did. Hanniball and YvY, in 2009, were still co-inventions, giving testimony to a reluctant restart, but then Query happened, and Symple, which is not only a quintessential strategy game, but the cradle of a new meta-mechanism. The 'symple mechanism' almost instantly found its way, in slightly different forms to fit their respective housing, in Lhexus and Charybdis.
Then a thought struck me: ... "what about Go?" . The next day the game it had been all about in the first place solidified in a couple of hours, including complete rules, examples and graphics. Sygo was born, and in retrospect everything from Symple onwards had been a signpost pointing in its direction.
Come November 2010 there was no denying: I may be able, someway sometime, to stop inventing games, but intentions and expectations to that effect don't seem to work very well. I don't hunt for games, but occasionally one gets too close, and when I smell prey I can't resist. There's no effort involved, no fumbling with pieces and boards, and no interference in my much appreciated daily routine, so who am I to intend, expect or complain?
I'm a game whisperer, nolens volens.
What a game needs to survive and flourish is a player base, or controversy. Grand Chess will remain controversial, the important part being that it will remain. If 'complete Chess' has a future, Grand Chess will have a future. Havannah has a growing player base and a growing reputation for being 'unprogrammable'. Well, not wholly, but largely, still.
Disregarding the ornamental, this leaves a number of games that ask for your trust. They can all be found in the ArenA. They only reluctantly show themselves because they're strategy games and will only reveal their secrets to those willing to learn that there's 'more to them than meets the eye'. They're games you cannot try without being tried by them.
The third wave
So it happened again, and again it happened in winter. It seems to be seasonal. Early December 2012 I found a new generic opening protocol for a class of games that naturally starts (or can start) with equal forces covering half to two thirds of the board. The protocol, coined "one sticking, one free" renders zillions of such positions for a whole category of games. To store it, more than anyting else, I devised a little game that I called "Triccs". At the time I was playing both Symple and Luis Bolaños Mures' Ayu, both games featuring a dynamic connection theme. Ayu's object is to immobilize one's own forces, and one way to do it, the main way actually, is to unite all one's stones into one group. A challenging object that I had not investigated in itself before. After inventing Scware on the fly by applying the Symple move protocol to a square connection object much the same way that Benedikt Rosenau had done with Hex (making "symple Hex"), I subjected my brain to dynamic connection.
First to arrive were Multiplicity and Argon, using the Symple move protocol and the 'one sticking, one free' opening protocol respectively. Both seem solid enough, though as I write this there has been no testing yet. Multiplicity would seem to be a pure strategy game, while Argon is definitely more dominated by tactical opportunism. Then, unexpectedly, I saw a governing restiction for a game with Ayu's object: making an increase in the number of one's groups illegal. In Ayu a player may not split his groups, and as a result the number of one's groups cannot increase. Inertia, as the new game is called, allows splitting anytime, as long as the number of groups doesn't increase, meaning that one can jump between groups. It was easy to find the right kind of move to facilitate that feature. As I write, Ed is working on an applet. Tentatively speaking I'd say Inertia is the 'important' one in this batch.
Anyway, it was 5 games in 10 weeks. Now I'm done, presumably till the next wave.
Enschede, march 2009,
edited october 2009
edited october/november 2010
edited february 2013