Hack Retreat

IMG_5099I imagine most people are familiar with the concept of a ‘hackathon’ at this point: a semi-cloistered block of time dedicated to writing as much caffeine-soaked code as physically possible, by one or a few people, also usually in the context of other groups hacking on their own things.

I’d like to describe another time-boxed structure for focused productivity: the “Hack Retreat”. I did this during one weekend in November to focus on a specific project, and I’m easily two months of ‘nights and weekends’ ahead of where I was when I embarked on the retreat. (Full disclosure… this concept was initially inspired by an article I once read about Jon Carmack, so I can’t claim full credit.) Continue reading


My friend Eric tweeted an expression a few weeks back that has been on my mind recently. I’m not sure where it came from, or I’d source it:

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

Frequently, I’m reluctant to bring in others on the projects I’m developing, and I’m not sure if my reasoning behind that is a fear of loss-of-control over the end result, or the loner side of my extrovert that just doesn’t want to worry about orchestrating or coordinating with anyone else.

I’ve been reflecting on this as well as what, if anything, I should do about it. I’ve looked at each project, how and when I’ve collaborated on it, and tried to form a mental model to help determine if or when is the right time to work with others. Continue reading

One Step to the Epiphany


The Player Development Cycle?

During a quarterly goals check-in with Andrea, I talked over the status of several Flightless projects, and she asked a question I didn’t have a ready answer for. “Who exactly are your customers for each of these?”

I had a vague idea who I was designing for in each case, but no clue on specifics. “Erm, gamers who like… games… about… things?” Basically some bullshit that would never fly in the startup world where I spend my days and earn my living. Yet somehow I had failed to apply that same type of rigor before spending time developing and iterating on game designs.

Andrea went on to talk out how this could be a valuable tool for deciding who to reach out to about projects, what to include when writing about them, and making sure that my designs were scratching my prospective players gaming itches, so to speak. She, too, was flabbergasted that this had never occurred to either of us in any of our previous goal sit-downs. She said she felt like she’d had ‘an epiphany’. So that became the joke. I added “Andrea’s Epiphany” to my to-do list, which when I later broke out into “develop steps for Andrea’s Epiphany”, made that record-scratch noise in my head. The canonical work on this exact piece of building a business is literally called “The Four Steps to the Epiphany“. I revisited this notion (more specifically via the work’s more-digestible little brother: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development“) and am working to design a model of customer development for tabletop games (…and maybe more).

I’m not ready to show it yet, as I want to run through several cycles of experimentation and revision before releasing, but if you’re interested in this concept applied to tabletop gaming, please email me at woodardj@gmail; we can talk over your experiences, and I’ll share the early phases of my research with you.

Playtesting Tips Round Two — Lessons from Protospiel 2015

Not long ago, I wrote a post with some baseline strategies for running a successful playtesting session. I just got back from Protospiel 2015 in Chelsea Michigan (full conference write-up to come soon!) and had a few new observations for this helping to tune this process. Continue reading