The Lazy Designer

The Next Game

Yes, “The Next Game” is the title of my second Lazy Designer book but today I actually want to talk about the next Unity prototype-game that I am actually working on.

While building a technical framework to help me get Unity projects up and running faster I also started to think about what might be a fun game concept to explore for my next prototype. I decided upon a simple grid-based area editor. While this does not sound overly exciting it has been an interesting challenge.

I’ve gotten it to the point where I can place buildings from an list and rotate them. It ensures no buildings overlap and all the various grid rules are honored. It is also able to serialize and deserialize data to/from my server.

The main reason for building this is that I’m going to attempt to build a Simpsons Tapped Out styled game, albeit simpler and with a different “end goal” than current games of this type (more on that in a later post). But I’m also excited by a range of other uses for the system, which I’ve managed to keep fairly generic. It will serve as the core system for a couple board game translations I’ve been wanting to create in Unity for a while. It will also serve as a rudimentary area editor for simpler games that I might build in the future.

Anyways here’s an image of a small grid with a couple test buildings placed. Obviously lots of work left to go but with the core system in place I’m eager to mess around with it more (however I won’t, as I’ve accomplished this month’s milestone already and need to wait till next month).

I’ll do a proper write up like I did with the Hauler stuff, but that won’t be until later in the year, but basically my first prototype is complete and its just halfway through the month, so I’m pleased.

In writing related news, edits are proceeding on my kid’s novel. I’m taking a phase approach to these edits, with each phase focusing on one or two areas at a time (i.e., character development, setting development, et cetera). We’ll see how it works out.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


  • James Paten

    Hey Brent – in regards to the game itself… are you planning on having characters walking around the map eventually, like in The Simpsons Tapped Out? Or does your game just focus on the buildings themselves, like a city sim similar to… Sim City? (That phrase has some serious redundancy in it).

  • Brent Knowles

    For the current project I’m keeping it real simple (though also keeping the engine flexible enough to add to). If I’m happy with this, once done, I might take the code and try to build a more elaborate game.

    My “Priority A” features focus on building/resource generation for particular goals. A “B level” feature is to have wandering ambient creatures.

    But we’ll see. I’m only designing ahead one milestone at a time and allowing myself the flexibility of changing direction :)

  • James Paten

    Hi Brent,

    Just saw this news article today about a new game being made by some of the Bioware developers from DA:O:

    I see Dan Tudge on the list, who I know you worked with for a number of years. Do you have any insight into how this type of open-development, collaborative efforts might shape the industry going forward, possibly shedding the traditional developer/publisher relationship? Might that (or the nature of other indie ventures, such as crowd-funding) be a topic for a chapter in your next book?


  • Brent Knowles

    This is definitely something worth exploring — as is indie funding. It is hard to say how common this will be… stuff like this has happened in the past, as well.
    I like the idea of companies having the flexibility to build relationships with other developers to build games, relying on the strengths of each partner.On the other hand new challenges will be introduced — organization structure, communication, and the like. How those challenges are dealt with will probably shape how successful the endeavors are.

    Interesting times, for sure!

  • Mordi Peshkess

    Hello again Brent. Long time since I last commented.

    It is interesting to see that there’s a sort of renaissance of the “infinity engine” CRPG’s. In 2015 we are going to get 3 no less with Pillars of Eternity, Sword Coast Legends, and Torment: Tides of Numenera. I hope these games do very well as to encourage other developers to follow because I think this genre, with recent advances in technology and constant boom of social media: that there are still avenues left to discover in features and how to implement social media and human interaction within games.

    Take for example the DM feature in Sword Coast Legends. According to the Dan Turge ““Dungeon Master Mode is going to allow players to quickly jump in and play as a real-time DM in a way that has never really been fully realized in a video game…DMs are able to adjust encounters, place, promote, manage and even control monsters, set traps, reward and punish party members – all in real time.“ Also there will be DM tools to allow to create your own scenarios for people to play.

    Gameplay wise the options will be interesting but for story telling the options will be virtually unlimited. I can see people even using that with the pen and paper version of D&D’s 5th Edition which, btw, is really good and with the right moves going forward might give Pathfinder a run for it’s money but that’s a subject for another time. This IGN link gives a pretty good short coverage of Sword Coast Legends.

    I would implore you to go check out on those three games I mentioned as I think you will find them interesting. Especially Torment: Tides of Numenera as that game focuses a lot of story and character interaction and less on combat gameplay.

    anyways. I am rather intrigued to see you are working on a kid’s novel. So many questions so I’ll try to ask them in the order my brain set them.

    1.) What made you decide to write a kid’s novel?

    2.) Which genre is it going to be? Please say horror sci fi. :P

    3.) How is the writing process differs from writing an “adult” novel and was the switch difficult?


    As I am reading through the Hitchhiker’s Guid to the Galaxy series I’ll end this comment with…SHARE AND ENJOY!

  • Brent Knowles


    Great to hear from you and sorry for the delay in replying, lots of crazy stuff going on here.

    I totally agree that there’s a lot of potential for developers to create games targeted for specific audiences with less risk than in the past. I think we’ll see many interesting games going forward and I hope these particular titles you mention do very well. I have checked up on all of them.

    In regards to the kid’s novel:
    1) I’ve started reading the books my eldest reads and decided that I wanted to have a writing experience I could share with my kids. Thought it would be fun to create a world for them to explore.

    2) Horror/magical though I do have some ideas for a more sci-fi centric series down the road.

    3) The process so far has been fairly similar to my prior novels. I haven’t really tried to simplify things other than to keep the chapters smaller and the overall novel shorter than an adult novel would be.
    I’ve also been reading various articles on writing for kids and listening to podcasts and whatnot and slightly tweaking how I deliver information (kids seem more receptive to having the characters talk out their problems, for example). I’m also working on including more humor… a lot of it stolen directly from my own kids.

    Thanks for the questions and I hope all is well with you.

    – Brent

  • James Paten

    Hi Brent,

    Just curious – hadn’t seen an update or email from you in two months, aside from the replies to this post. Anything news worthy? Hope everything is going well!

  • Brent Knowles


    Hi sorry for the delay.

    My life is pretty much on hiatus as I adapt… my wife and I separated a couple months ago and I’m just in the process of moving into my own place. I will likely blog about this down the road but things are confusing… just trying to focus on the kids.

    As well I’m looking for a job in the Edmonton area which is also restricting any available time I have! However, I’m going to try to have a newsletter out next week with the next part of the Lazy Designer.

    Take care,


  • Wolf

    Hi Brent, there are a lot of people that are still playing neverwinter nights despite its a 2002 game. Do you think it will be possible to port the game on smartphones

  • Brent Knowles

    Very difficult, for sure. Portable devices are quite different than the PCs the game was optimized for back in the day. It would be quite the conversion process! And I’m not sure how compatible things would be with whatever existing version of NWN is being played.

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