Cardboard Gods – The Book That Brings Me Back

Shortly after I had decided to pursue the idea of a game based on trading baseball cards, I was at my local library looking through the books about baseball. I was really after books with great pictures that would stir up more of my childhood memories. I found a few, then my finger slid across the top of a small paperback entitled Cardboard Gods. And boy did I find a gem.

I didn’t immediately decipher what that phrase could mean, but the binding has a small picture of a couple of baseball cards on it. So I pulled out the book and flipped to the first chapter. It is titled “Topps 1975 #533: Rudy Meoli”. The first line reads:

For a long time, I knew how to find happiness. All I needed was a quarter.

I was hooked. I was sucked back into the days of collecting. Coincidentally, the author, Josh Wilker, is only a couple of years older than me, making his recollections really hit home. Wilker is a talented writer, weaving his love of baseball and card collecting together with stories of his upbringing, his summer days, his growing up and his struggles with everyday life. He writes:

I absorbed myself in my cards. I absorbed myself in the sameness of them, even as the sameness began to show signs that it was an illusion.

Finding and reading this book was like fuel for the fire. I had been steadily jotting down notes and trying to envision how I could get that “feel” I was looking for designed into a game. I had made a lot of progress and Cardboard Gods was like icing on the cake. So many memories and feelings have been captured by the author. I recently bought my own copy and it arrived today. (Here’s a link to the official page)

I highly recommend it if you enjoy a talented writer recollecting tales of baseball and growing up collecting cards. I leave you with more prose from the book:

…the select group of cards, my favorites, that I touched more than I touched anything else in my life. My incessant childhood pawings pushed these cards beyond the limits of the language of commerce, dulling and creasing their surfaces, corroding their edges, blunting their corners…These were the cards that I kept going back to.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

My biggest, overall design goal for the game is to recreate that feeling of summer in my childhood neighborhood. I knew I wanted the player to walk around, see the sights and hear the sounds of a lazy summer day, meet up with friends and trade cards.

I loosely played around with different styles and camera angles for the houses as I was coding the functionality of the game. I’ve always liked Craftsman style houses, so that is what I decided the neighborhood was going to be made mostly of. I also knew that the player would be mowing lawns to earn money and felt that I was going to need some kind of overhead view to be able to move around trees and other obstacles.

This was one of my first concepts.

Craftsman House Concept

This seemed to be working out pretty well, so I started working on some Craftsman houses in earnest. I was also following the standard RPG-like camera angle and splitting my houses into tilesets, with the hope that I could create different houses easily by mixing and matching parts.

Craftsman House Tiles

Once I put these houses together with scenery and started walking my character around the neighborhood, it felt pretty neat. But it wasn’t quite the feeling I was looking for. I even briefly tried the isometric view that has become popular.

Craftsman - Isometric

I also began modeling up a house in Blender so I could experiment with totally different camera angles.


But I still felt disconnected from the character, as if I was moving a game piece around a diorama. I wanted to feel like I was a boy again, actually in the neighborhood and soaking up those summer days.

I really wanted to be down on the sidewalk, and was considering doing a full-on 2D, front view of the house. I also wanted to feel more like I was in a Saturday morning cartoon instead of looking at a realistic replica of a street. How was I going to handle scenes like mowing the lawn though? I wrestled with this for a while and finally decided to put off that problem and just see if the front view was what I was looking for.

Whoa! Now I was getting somewhere. Suddenly the game felt more intimate. I’m actually in the neighborhood. I want to walk up to that front door and see if my friend is home so we can trade cards. I began switching my game over to handle this new view. Only one thing was missing, and it took me a while to realize the obvious.

I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood of Craftsman houses. I grew up in a neighborhood of Ranch houses. This wasn’t really going to affect the game, and I can always add the Craftsmans in at a later time, but I decided to make a Ranch house and see if this was the final piece of the puzzle.

Ranch House

Wow. This was it. Everything now fell into place. This house of course probably stirs up only my own memories, but hey, now I really felt myself getting drawn into the overall feel of the game. That original spark I had to create this game gave me the same feeling, and now I was on the way to capturing it.


Play Any Year, Any League

When the first demo is released, you will be playing during the summer of 1980 (one of the years that means something to me) and the cards will reflect the players of Major League Baseball. But you don’t have to keep it that way. You have the ability in Waxpack Summer to play any year with any league!

Trading Cards
Trading Cards

The key to making this happen are simple text files included with the game that you can modify and create. You see, you can add as many different years and leagues as you would like to the game. Would you like to play the summer of this year and see Jeter, Cabrera and McCutchen cards? Or how about the summer of 1957 so you can collect Mantle, Aaron and Donovan? Play the Negro Leagues, AAA ball or even a little league if you like. Add the text files, fire up the game, select a summer and enjoy.

If you’d like to see a little more detail of how this works behind the scenes, head over to my article at Indie DB.

After the demo is released, there will also be an area over at Indie DB where you can share your mods. After people start creating these mods, you will be able to choose from a library and simply download the files, place them into the game folder and play an entirely new summer.

I hope this gets you as excited as it does me! Let me know what you think and as always, I welcome suggestions.

I will talk with you again soon.

A Quick Tour

I’d like to give you a quick tour of Waxpack Summer,  to introduce you to the basic gameplay, and to give you a sense of where the game is going. Note that all of the following screenshots represent the current, functioning game.

Neighborhood view in front of home
On the sidewalk in front of your house

You play the boy you see on the sidewalk. In this view, you happen to be in front of your house. The neighborhood is quite large and you will soon find it easier to get around on your bike. Note the deliciously warm sun. Can you hear the tree toads?

Let’s click on our front door.


There’s not a whole lot going on in here yet, but in the game you will earn, buy and win things for your room — posters, autographed baseballs, etc. That will really make this room come alive. But the most important item in this room, indeed the game, is that white box you see there on your desk. Your collection. Let’s open it.

Looking at a card in your collection

Here you see your entire collection, organized by team. The player only has 25 cards right now, so not all of the teams are there yet. You’ve clicked the Tigers divider so all of your Tigers cards form a stack for you to thumb through. If you drag down on a card, you can flip it over to see the back.

Let’s step back outside and walk next door to Billy’s house and see if he’s got any new cards he’d like to trade.

At Friend's House

We’ve clicked on the front door and it looks like Billy’s grandma has answered. You can ask for Billy or just decide to come back later. Let’s see if he’s home. He is, so let’s start trading.

Trading Cards
Trading Cards

As you can see, your collection is on the left. You can pick teams and thumb through your cards just like you did back in your room. Move up to three cards into your trading lane to offer up to Billy. Ask him for cards from specific teams then thumb through the cards he is willing to trade and see if you can strike a deal.

After that trade we’re still lacking some Tigers that we want to use in tomorrow’s game, so it might be nice to run down to Baldwin’s General store and buy a pack of cards. We’re a little short on money though so let’s see if we can mow someone’s lawn.

If we run back home, click on the garage, then the lawn mower and come back to Billy’s, we’ll see this:

Asking to mow the lawn

Let’s mow the lawn and be extra careful we don’t run over her flowers. If we do, you can bet she won’t pay us as much.

Mowing the Lawn

Well this isn’t so bad. It’s not a big yard and there are not many obstacles. You’ll be finished in no time, then have some money to get that pack of cards.

Let’s walk down the street to Baldwin’s.

Buying a Pack of Cards

Ahh. You can already taste the gum and feel those pristine cards in your hands can’t you?

So that was a quick tour of how the game is functioning today. There are a lot more pieces to this game (including playing an actual game with your cards) that I will be building out and sharing with you here and at Indie DB. I am also gauging how close I am to releasing an alpha demo and will be announcing that as well.

Thanks for reading and I will talk to you soon!

We Are Official on Indie DB

Waxpack Summer is now listed within the halls of Indie DB, a terrific gathering place of independent game developers showcasing their progress on current projects.

I’m still getting used to setting everything up to my liking over there, but it is going to be terrific. As posted previously, Indie DB will be my main forum for technical discussions. I will still get into a bit of technicality here, on the official site, but I’ll try and avoid the hardcore development discussions.

I will begin posting regular game updates here so you can keep track of the progress and join in the discussions. If you wish to dive deeper into the makings of the game, feel free to head over to Indie DB. An easy way to get there is to look for this icon:

Waxpack Summer


Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you soon.

Introducing Waxpack Summer!

It has been a busy spring and first half of summer leading up to the All Star Break — the deadline I had set for myself  to go public with Waxpack Summer. This game, which is on its way to an alpha release for PC, is a game with its roots in my childhood. Collecting baseball cards was my life for several years and those summer days I recollect fondly. This game is my expression of those years and the fun I had collecting, trading and following the big leagues through the season.

I will be posting a lot here in the coming days, so stay tuned. I will be setting everything up over at Indie DB which will be the main space for my development progress and technical discussions if you are interested.

I will post here when that space is ready to go.

I am glad you are here and I thank you for your interest in this game. I am excited to be creating it and cannot wait to have you play it!