Author Archives: threadbarejamie

45,000 is the new black

Mars_atmosphereSo I was checking out the leaderboards for Shifts, and you people are doing too well. You need to slow it down a little. I mean, come on, save some for the rest of us!

Or maybe you have an ulterior motive? A high score on Shifts might mean you’re qualified to make those though decisions needed for a one-way trip to Mars. Is that the plan? You all want to go on Mars One? (

Well, if any of you make it and your ridiculous 40,000+ scores help in your application, send us a postcard!

Seriously though, you guys are killing it, and I’m impressed! Keep it up!

And if you’re new? Get out there and stake your claim!

Personal Profile : Jamie Lewandowski

biophoto-jamieI’ve been tasked with the incredibly unenviable task of writing my own personal profile.

My list of skills is filled with a variety of eclectic, useless things, but self-promotion isn’t among them. (I suppose I should amend that… self-promotion while sober isn’t among them)


I’m the in house game designer here at Threadbare. My job is to drink the beer. There’s a bunch of other stuff people keep asking me to do, but first and foremost, I drink the beer. I also have to make up games and tweak all the under the hood stuff to make it fun.

As a kid, family board games were a pretty common staple around the house, but my eyes were really opened when my school got it’s first TRS-80, and our elementary school game piracy ring started up in force. Pretty soon all of the young nerds were carrying around black plastic cases filled with 5 1/4″ floppy disks packed with illicit software. We’d spend our weekends at the computer lab in the back of the local Radio Shack staring at black and white pixels the size of your fingernail.

Here it is, years later, (lots of years… I mean LOTS of years) and things are pretty much the same. Sure, the graphics are better, I have a lot less hair, a little more beard, and way more bourbon than I did, and nobody gives a sh*t about Radio Shack anymore, but other than that, pretty much the same.

Nowadays a lot of my time is occupied with board and card games (and beer), but I still keep the digital kind close to my heart.

I’ve done some work in role playing games and other aspects of the table top world, but Threadbare is my first foray into actually making video games. So far, so awesome.

Currently Playing: Mage Wars, Shadowfist, Twilight Imperium, Libertalia and Sentinels of the Multiverse. On the PC, I’m chewing through indie games, all in the name of “research”.

Currently Reading: Wool (the Silo saga) and Gene Wolfe.

Currently Watching: Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and Archer.

Tips from the Pro(s)

Last week I dropped a post about my merciless trouncing on the Game Center leaderboards and got some responses from our reigning Shifts champion, holder of the current top score of 54,556, Slabymushina!

Slabymushina (which is most likely not their real name, but you never really know) had some hot tips and advice for all you wannabe heros of humanity. Rather than leave them spread around a variety of comments sections on our blog, I’m giving ‘em the front page treatment!

Here’s what our top scorer has to say to help you help mankind:

More seriously, I agree with your advice, preserve Arks at all costs (everything else is repairable, Arks aren’t), and scan, scan, scan.

The one insight I might have is that you lose Arks in two different ways, and you care about them differently, depending on the stage of the game. At the beginning of the game, I am fanatic about minimizing percentage losses of Arks, and am relatively indifferent to losing 15 Arks a pop. When I’m down to 100 Arks or less, I could care less about percentage losses, but will do anything to not lose the 15 Arks a pop. Between those two points, I slowly care less about percentage Ark losses, and more about losing 15 Arks a pop. The key to having a high score is to minimize percentage losses of Arks for as long as possible. Remember, your people actually get better at fixing things as time goes on, so if you can keep the game going for awhile with a high number of Arks, you’ll tend to do well.

So, I tend to deploy my robots to minimize Arks losses, given the priorities above. However, Shifts has replay value because you never face the same situation twice, so rules are made to be broken. Depending on circumstances, I may use a robot on an non-Arks repair, if use of that robot is the difference between not fixing something this turn, and a guaranteed fix this turn. Also, I (usually) will do a fix if I am losing 15 hull points a turn – if you are losing 15 hull points a turn, you will be doing little other than fixing hull points, whereas 10 hull points lost a turn is tolerable.

I have a number of other rules of thumb, but those are the key ones. It also helps to be lucky – on expert level, you are going to lose frequently, no matter how well you play.

Thanks for the tips!


So I was feeling a little smug when we were working on scoring.

I held the office high score with like almost 40,000 points. I was untouchable.

My name was whispered in tones of hushed awe. After work at the bar, I drank for free. (come to think of it, that might have been because of the fringed suede chaps and my pole dancing, but I’m going to cling to my beliefs)

After I’d made enough money off of the inter-office Shifts tournament to pay my rent for the year and buy a large stake in that alpaca ranch, the other guys all de-friended me on Game Center and stopped telling me their scores. (actually, they stopped talking to me altogether…)

Needless to say, I went into our update release feeling pretty confident that I’d be able to feel pretty confident about my score for a good, long while. I wouldn’t even need to play on Game Center. No one could possibly touch me, I MADE this game.

Yeah, that lasted about 25 minutes.

My awesome score, which I achieved once, before we went live, on an internal build, that I didn’t screenshot, and thus have no proof of, wouldn’t even get me in the top 10 now.

You guys have kicked some ass.

At the time I’m writing this, the #1 score is 53,339. That’s impressive. I’m suitably humbled. With a score like that, you shouldn’t even need the chaps to drink for free.



My CEO went to PAX East and all I got was this video….

Zach went off to PAX East last month, and the nice guys at interviewed him for their iOS report!

Check out what he has to say through the crushing grip of his jetlag below:

You can check it out on their site and see some other great approaching games here:

Maybe we’re just pessimists

We seem to be obsessed with the death of mankind.

Shifts, our first game, has you fleeing a dead Earth in a disintegrating ship crewed by the last vestiges of humanity. Things are bad, getting worse, and you’re going to die.

So we start a new project. After the grim desolation of Shifts, we should be doing happy rainbows and puppies, maybe with some candy, or ferrets in sweaters.

ferrets in sweaters


Terra Omega, our current work in progress, puts you in direct conflict with aliens hell-bent on ending humanity.

Their force came with no warning, and with no reason. We don’t know why, but they want us dead and our planet changed irrevocably. And they’re winning.

Their forces are demolishing cities and populations without mercy. Their machines are changing our Earth into something else. Something made for someone else.

Pushed to the edge, humanity has one option left: Fight or Die.

You play as the leader of a local insurgent force, struggling to battle back against the invaders by any means necessary.

Your cell is just part of the larger resistance, but since the whole planet is now behind enemy lines, communications are limited and you can’t count on anyone but your team.

Will you be able to strike meaningful blows against the merciless invasion? Can you protect the Earth? Can anyone?


First timer? The climb is worth it!

Shifts can look a little daunting when you load it up for the first time. The assignment screen doesn’t make immediate sense, and the help screen throws a whole bunch of text at you. It can all seem a little intimidating.

For that, I’d like to apologize.

Once you get going, you’ll assign some officers, move your ship around, explore some planets, and then most likely die in the cold vacuum of space.

For that, I won’t apologize at all.

We designed Shifts to be tough. When you play, you spend a lot of time trying to persevere in dire, hopeless situations. We didn’t want starting your first game to be dire and hopeless as well! Here are a few tips for new players to get started:

1) Play in casual mode. Shifts can be punishing, so familiarize yourself with the way things work in casual before you venture onto the higher difficulties. You must learn to walk before you can run. (or something like that… you must learn to die in deep space before you can die in deep space? hmmm, needs work…)

2) Tap on the crisis icons to familiarize yourself with the effects you’ll be suffering. Make sure to keep note of the damage bar in the lower left corner of your map, so you know what kind of horrible mutilation your ship will be taking at the end of the turn.

3) Try to get a feel for what each of your officers can do. There are only 5 of them, and knowing their abilities goes a long way.

4) Scan. I’ve heard tell of people saying that scanning is a waste of an action, but it’s the best way to plot a path across the galaxy. Knowing where to go is the key to planning effective and efficient turns.

5) Pay attention to your Reactor Power and Hull Integrity. If you know how far you can make it with the crises you have in your queue, you can set out the officers you need and have that engineer ready for the maintenance she needs to do!

6) Don’t forget your BRObots. Even if you don’t have an officer working to resolve a crisis, you can still toss some BRObots on it to push it towards completion. (note, that if your BRObots will resolve a crisis without an officer assigned, it’ll be resolved at the end of the turn, instead of during that officer’s shift.)

The learning curve is still a little steep, but hopefully that’ll help out some folks!

Now get out there and save humanity!

The End is Near!

The Threadbare crew has been hip deep in our new project, Terra Omega!IMG_0006

Invaders have come, and the Earth’s last stand is now!

Your insurgent force is the only thing that stands in the way of alien genocide. Will your skillful tactics give you the upper hand against the wave of alien troopers taking over our planet?

Stay tuned for more announcements and info!

Shifts 1.3: We’re busy polishing the rails on your Titanic

Odds are, your ship is doomed. Humanity will vanish completely from the universe, and it’s most likely your fault. Oops.

You’ll have to live with your failure, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone tell you that even though you personally doomed your entire species, your latest command fiasco went a little better than that last horrible debacle?

Hey, don’t say we’re not here to help!

Later this week, Shifts 1.3 releases to the App Store, and with it, we’re delivering a bevy  of new features that were requested by the slavering legions of our loyal fans!

First and foremost, we’re going to give you a score. A measure of how miserably you let all of mankind down, or, in those most rare of circumstances, how well the clockwork efficiency of your crew flourished under your brilliant leadership and saved everyone.

Your score is based on a variety of things, but the key factors are colonies and ARKS remaining at the end of the game. You get some extra value out of solving crises, leveling officers, exploring planets, and having good ship stats at the end, but you won’t get a championship score unless you actually win.

Hand in hand with scoring, we implemented Game Center leaderboards, so that you can see how your Captaining stacks up to the rest of the world. Compete with your friends (as well as faceless strangers) to see who can be the best savior of humanity!

We also added 3 different difficulty levels to the game so you can choose your challenge.

Casual is a good place to get some experience in species saving. This easiest difficulty level gives you a little extra time to get your colonize on. You’ll start with more ARKS, and the map is a little less desolate and empty. Explore the galaxy, have some adventures, but don’t think that it’s too easy. Those crises are going to pile up, and while you have more time, it’s still not on your side.

Normal is the standard Shifts difficulty. If you’ve been playing before 1.3, this is the only difficulty level you know.

Expert is for you masochists out there. Think you can out-Kirk Kirk? Teach Picard what it means to be a real leader? Save mankind on expert difficulty, and you’ll earn the scores that show your badassery.

Hopefully you’ll all like the new features, and promptly figure out a way to make my top score of 39,573 look sad and pathetic, instead of something cool and awesome that I get to brag about on our blog.

Those niggling issues

When we started our first shot at an iOS game, and there were a lot of expectations we had for ourselves. Things like “oh yeah, we’ll have time to make it everything we want it to be” and “of course our tutorial will be awesome and explain everything, we’ll get to it right after this list of things!”

As a tiny indie studio with 5 guys in a garage, time turned out to be not be on our side, and the demands of having a product to show outstripped our wish list of awesome features and standard kind of features that we woefully undervalued (tutorial and scoring, I’m looking at you).  What came out of our tight schedule was Shifts, and we’re all very proud of our warty, little baby. Did it end up the way we dreamt? Nah, but it’s fun to play, looks nice, and delivers a solid experience, flaws and all.

David Neumann at Board Game Geek had some very nice words to say about Shifts, and he also raised some very valid issues that we might not have done the best job addressing in our help screens. So where better than our company blog to go through them point by point?

1) Leveling up.  Oh yeah, that goes by almost completely unexplained in our help call outs!

Whenever one of your officers successfully resolves a crisis (or one of their crises gets resolved with BRObots) they gain a level. Max level for an officer is 9, and each level adds to their effectiveness in crisis resolution. The amount that a single level adds isn’t enormous, but as those levels rack up, you’ll notice the time that it takes to resolve those things dropping like a rock.

2)What do I get for resolving a crisis?

Well, the only awesome bonus you get is the aforementioned level up for your relevant officer. Other than that, you just don’t have to suffer the (potentially debilitating) effects of that crisis at the end of each turn. Each active (unresolved) crisis in your queue will hand out some kind of negative effect at the end of your turn. Each Hull Breach that you have up and active in your queue is going to cost you 5 hull integrity at the end of your turn. Resolving those is the only way to stop the bleeding, and even that’s no guarantee that you won’t just spring another leak that needs to be fixed!

3)How do I lower my ARKS corruption rate, or energy usage, or hull damage?

Power loss and hull damage are direct results of crises (Navigation Error and Hull Breach, respectively) that you have piled up in your queue. Resolving those is the key to keeping your ship in working order. 1 reactor power is also consumed each time you move, so keep an eye on that. You can gain more power through the Calibrate Reactor Core action, and even more if you use it with your engineer interfaced. Hull integrity can only be recovered with the Repair action that interfacing the engineer gives you access to.

ARKS corruption is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Each turn that you have an active Nano Corruption crisis up, your ARKS corruption rate will increase by 1.5%. Once it’s up, there’s not much you can do about it! (Though there are rumors of corruption reducing radiations on mysterious planets out in the galaxy.) Both Nano Corruption and ARKS Sabotage deal damage to your total ARKS supply in different ways, and since there’s no way to get ARKS back once they’re gone (Earth is dead, after all) you need to be extra cautious about keeping them safe!

As for finding colonizable planets being a challenge, I’m going to leave that in the capable hands of you captains to plot your best courses. I believe that humanity is in capable hands.

-Jamie Lewandowski