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Unfortunately, I’ve had about as much time to work on Subsume as I’ve gotten feedback on the game (i.e., not much).  Site traffic still shows it being played regularly, but it’s far from giving an MMO like WoW a run for its money.  I managed to find a little free time over the weekend to tweak the site layout a bit, and it left me with a couple game-related thoughts I figured I’d write about.

If you go to the Subsume game site now, you’ll see that it is “inspired” by the game board itself.  The largest square, the index page and representing the entire site, is divided into 4 smaller squares (or just quarters, if you don’t have JavaScript enabled for some reason).  The two on the left show what I’ll generically label here as “brand” and “detail”; aspects that define the game independent of the computer implementation.  The two on the right show what I’ll generically label here as “play” and “pay”, and they are further divided into 4 related subsections.  In theory, everything about the game could be represented on this one page with further divisions giving further detail, with some whiz-bang zooming animations as you clicked around, much the same way that Google Maps does.

So, really, the game is a content management system, and in many ways that means you can think of a CMS as a game, too.  I’m not saying that’s a particularly deep thought, but I really haven’t seen anyone explore the implications of that.  Certainly the language of CMS seems to be the language of business rather than play, as though the bits representing warehouse inventory and user shopping carts somehow vastly differ from the bits representing dungeon monsters and player inventory.  I’m certainly of the mind now to merge game site content with the game itself, resulting in self-referential fractal goodness.  I certainly can’t be the first madman to think of doing this, can I?

In that same line of reasoning, the game represents a social network, so perhaps it is time to start treating social networking sites like games, too.  Many people already seem to do this.  They keep score by counting their friends on Facebook, by seeing if they’re someone’s top friend on MySpace, by finding out how short their LinkedIn connection with someone else is, and on and on.  They don’t seem to act like they know it’s a game, though.  Not even an alternate reality game.  Not even when they directly take steps to game the system or notice that other people are attempting to game the system.

No, they still seem to convince themselves that some arbitrary online ranking is both deserved and important, just as surely as I might like to convince myself that Subsume deserves to be a top 5 result on Google for “8×8 board game”.  Suck it, checkers and chess, you ugly losers!

I’m not saying that visibility in Google is a bad thing, or that all online relationships are superficial games.  All I’m saying is that game design doesn’t always stop at some obvious point.  Inasmuch as Subsume is a game, it will also (unintentionally) be a social networking site and it will also be CMS, and it will likely have major elements of whatever else comes down the pipe being pushed as the next big thing, too.

In short, I guess what I’m saying is that, damn, it takes a lot of effort to write an online game.




  1. I look forward to a version where I can figure out the network play or even web play, keep up the good work, and if possible write the game instructions in a simpler way to digest, insuch a way you don’t alienate non uber:nerds…


  2. I’d love to hear exactly where you’re running into trouble. I’d really hoping to make things easy enough to understand so that Subsume could be used as a teaching tool for basic math concepts like addition and multiplication (normally staring at age 5!), so if anyone older is having trouble I’m eager to make fixes. One of the reason for introducing it as just a 2 player game was to keep things from getting too complex, but I guess there’s more to do.

    The rules given on the site do cover just the game itself, not the online play. Would it help you if I added a section that covered starting and playing a game with the web interface? Another possibility is to include in-game instructions, or possibly tweak the interface to change the flow of the online game. For example, it might make more sense to click on a square to place your token at the start of a turn and then be asked to select its type. Another example, as given in the FAQ, is to create a skin for the game to make it less abstract. Do you think giving it a concrete theme, such as rival mobs trying to take over a city, would help make the play more easy to grasp?

    I would greatly appreciate hearing exactly where the confusion starts. Feel free to relate it to how you learned other 8×8 games like checker or chess, or any other board games you found easier to pick up. I’d even be interested in hearing if having an actual physical version of Subsume might make it clearer how things work. I know the mock-up I made during design definitely helped me work out the mechanics.

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  1. […] in Uncategorized Back in a post discussing a site update over a year ago, I noted how the work on Subsume had become very much like the work of a social […]

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