Sunday, April 30, 2006
Punisher: It's hard to say. There were a lot of explosions.
This is from the hilarious (in a dark and twisted way) Punisher PS2 game, which was written by the equally dark and twisted Garth Ennis.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Still, there seems to be some sense floating around the pundit class that
those on the left who were wrong about invading Iraq were wrong in an
interesting, morally meaningful way; wrong in the manner of a wrong Winston
Churchill, or something. But one who turned out to be totally wrong, as I
may have mentioned. That's just total bullshit and any of these people who
is now going on to advocate war with Iran should be roundly ignored. No,
they should be laughed at, and then ignored. And then maybe someone should
pistol-whip them a little.
I really try to avoid politics around here. But this point must be made. Strongly. Repeatedly. The same people who now think war with Iran is obviously the right and moral thing to do, and that it can be pulled out without feeding a large number of American service men into a blender and that anyone who thinks war with a nation that has not attacked you is a bad idea is a lame-ass wimpy unpatriotic hippie are the people who said these exact things about war with Iraq.
They were wrong then. About everything. And they are wrong now. Everyone really needs to get in the wayback and remember what people in the press and the government were saying in the buildup to our Mesopotamian Adventure.
Just to put an even finer point on this, even Pat freaking Buchanan gets it:
Thus, in March, 2003, Bush, in perhaps the greatest strategic blunder in
U.S. history, invaded an Arab nation that had not attacked us, did not want war
with us, and did not threaten us—to strip it of weapons we now know it did not
This message really needs to be heard. And repeated. Not the drumbeat that war is basically cool in a made for TV way.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
I always love seeing a finished book for the first time. As a writer you have books all to yourself for awhile. Then it gets shown to the playtesters and the boss and you fix things and compromise.
Then it gets released and its really out there. In a way it's like childbirth.
From then on it's no longer mine, it's yours.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
It's a great way to combat "white page syndrome" which is that overwhelming feeling you get at the start of a book where you have nothing, know you need 50+ pages and just go "oh shit... I can't do this".
I run into that even on books I have planned out well in advance, talked to the boss about and have a full-fledged plan for. It's a matter of having a place to start.
So I do an outline, and then slowly fill it in.
Now if I could find a way to combat the utter feeling of disgust I get at the end of a project, where there's just a little left to do and you're absolutely sick of a book and sure it's the worst thing you've ever written, then I could give up beer and coffee entirely.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
"The whole thing was reported entirely without our cooperation," says the director with a hint of regret. "People learned that I was producing a Star Trek film, that I had an option to direct it, they hear rumours of what the thing was going to be and ran with a story that is not entirely accurate."
Abrams won't talk directly about the plot, but his remarks don't cast much doubt on Variety's claim that the movie will focus on a younger Kirk and Spock, before they became the heroes we know from ST:TOS. In fact, Abrams' expresses his desire to see some TOS brought back to life.
"Those characters are so spectacular. I just think that… you know, they could live again."
I got turned down by Mongoose, Bastion and a couple others before self-publishing a PDF and getting noticed by Mystic Eye for a couple of rewarding, though non-remunerating gigs. Of course I didn't know the last part at the time. The company went out of business and still owes me some cash, but since my books might very well have helped them go out of business, it's hard to hold (much) of a grudge.
About the same time I was talking with Chris, owner of RPGObjects who tossed some editing gigs my way for the first edition Darwin's World books (my first credit in a printed book was the original Terrors of the Twisted Earth for Additional Editing).
Along the way one of the things we talked about was me writing a supplement for DW centered around my original campaign area, set around the Great Lakes region, which I dubbed the Fertile Crescent out of a nod to the past.
The Twisted Earth was a desert, so around these once might lakes, which managed to survive (though smaller) new civilizations were springing up. It was an idea that intrigues me and it still does.
But other things were calling and after a pretty successful straight d20 book, Blood and Space, d20 Modern was coming out and Chris and I both saw so much potential there we rolled up our sleeves and dug into books like Blood and Fists and Blood and Guts (still my two most successful books ever I think).
So the Fertile Crescent continued to get pushed back, even past the second edition of the game. The name Fertile Crescent and a few of the cities however (such as Bastion) made it into the second edition map of the Twisted Earth.
So with the location officially part of the world, at some point it was inevitable that I'd write it up. The draft for that is done, and I'm about to start work on the adventure, called the Feeding Grounds, set in that setting, with both seeing the light of day at Gen Con.
BTW if you're not familiar with what the Feeding Grounds is, I'll work up a promo to the adventure and the setting for you friends of the blog.
Btw, have I mentioned how amazingly cool Nathan Fillion (Mal from Firefly/Serenity) is. He really seems to enjoy being around the fans, frequently wears fan-made Serenity t-shirts at cons and always makes the fans laugh.
Many, many other sci-fi stars should take a cue from him.
Don't hold the sequels against this. It's just perfect and it has the best ending of a movie ever. And the action sequences still get my blood pumping.
And Agent Smith? Is there a better villain?
Memorable quote: "Mr. Anderson..."
2. Star Trek II
Watching Shatner and Montalban attempt to out-ham each other is one of the most glorious sights you will ever see. And no FX looks as good as the ILM models. CGI is great and can do a lot more in terms of ship movement and camera moves, and I understand that it allows TV shows, like DS9 to do awesome, big battles you could not do with models.
But the models in ST II and the Star Wars movies have such a real feel to them that CGI can't (yet) replace.
Memorable quote: "KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
3. Empire Strikes Back
This is the movie that made the Empire seem menacing, made it seem cool. Darth Vader is the star of this movie hands down, with the best supporting puppet nod going to Yoda. A Lawrence of Arabia like trek from the frozen wastes to the swamp to the clouds... the best Star Wars movie ever.
Memorable quote: "I'm not afraid." Yoda "You will be"
4. Planet of the Apes (the original- don't get me started on the remake)
Charlton Heston is god. Maybe not THE god but A god. And in this movie his gravitas makes something that should be absurd (and is at times) have a nightmarish, through the looking glass quality when it could just be funny (like the later movies).
Memorable quote: "You did it. You finally did it. Damn you. Damn you all to hell!!!!!!!!!!"
5. 12 Monkeys
Weird and absurdly funny in a very twisted Terry Gilliam-esque way. Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt both turn in fantastic performances, you're on the edge of your seat wondering how it's going to work out until the final frame, and there's so many subtle nuances it begs to be watched again.
The best time travel movie. Ever.
Memorable quote: "What are you THEN, huh? Consumers!"
Back to work. I'm going to be doing an adventure for Darwin's World, the gencon adventure. First full-length "pro" adventure I've done in a long time. I'm actually a little nervous, which is an odd way to start a book for me.
But interesting, and cool.
Monday, April 24, 2006
This stuff is like... doing taxes. Important, rewarding, but requiring an eye for detail that gets exhausting after awhile.
I'm weak, what can I say.
If you have a convulted backstory, you make it harder for new fans to jump on board. This is true in comics or any long running TV show. If anyone is trying to figure out what's going in Smallville now I wish them luck.
What this means, since its hard for new fans to break in and since even the most devoted fanbase will lose one every now and then as people change or you do something they don't like and walk away or get intrigued in the new hot property, is that your fanbase will slowly begin to shrink.
At first you won't feel it on the bottom line. You get by with the fans you have and occasionally someone gets interested enough to break in late in the series.
If you look at Trek, there's evidence this has been happening for some time. Every trek series since Next Generation has had lower ratings. With every series they lost fans, and those fans don't seem to have returned.
Whether because the later series weren't as good or because they had built TNG fans or DS9 fans and not just general trek fans is unclear to me, but the numbers don't lie. They have been in steady decline.
Reboots can solve this problem, if done right.
If a reboot captures the feel, the flavor of the original, many die-hard fans will come with you no matter how much they cry and wring their hands about the reboot. Ultimate Spiderman was railed against by fans. Petitions were started. The MArvel U as we knew it was over. It was the Worst. Idea. Ever.
It's also one of the hottest titles Marvel has released in decades, and my feeling is that not all of those fans are new off the street. Their protests were loud, but my sense is that Spider-man fans are quietly buying those Ultimate comics, because they're good.
Of course the other advantage of a reboot is that you can get a lot of new fans. Often these are younger fans with little exerperience with the original. This gives you a great opportunity to build a new fanbase into the future.
Again this might not be a reboot, it might be a simple "origin story". Both ideas have exciting possibilities to me, but I'm an easy mark, a sucker for all things Trek.
But if they do it right, the naysayers will quietly go see it, and some new fans might show up as well.
Everything in life is a risk-reward ratio. This project carries a higher risk. But the reward potential is tremendous.
Trek is due to hit one out, after a couple of projects that were long on potential but couldn't deliver, such as Enterprise and Nemesis. Here's hoping they do.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
I wonder what all the dumbasses claiming the end of Trek is nigh on the boards would feel if he was laughing his ass off at all the free publicity he's getting right now. One sentence plot synopsis in a Variety article= weeks of teeth gnashing.
Of course, all those yelling the loudest will only go see it three times. Opening day.
(That's a comic book guide line about the Star Wars prequels)
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Former Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore, who is now the executive producer of the Battlestar Galactica revival, is interested in bringing that franchise more completely into the video game market.
The Hollywood Reporter (via Yahoo!) reported that although Battlestar Galactica was revived as a game at the same time that the miniseries aired on the Sci Fi Channel, Moore is interested in exploring interactive possibilities in the Galactica universe by way of games, which he called "a new medium and new technology for storytelling, which means there are a lot of things people haven't done yet and figured out yet." Other franchises such as Star Trek and The Godfather are exploring such technology.
Moore said that he has noticed the influence of gamers on how film and television are produced now, with a generation that grew up playing video games now working as directors, cinematographers and digital effects artists. "There's a lot of technical and stylistic impact that I'm aware of in my world," he explained. "It's been a bit of a surprise to people involved in studios and networks, the idea that people will soak up that type of detail and depth" possible in a gaming environment."
For a new Galactica game, it would have to be decided whether to set the scenario within the already established events of the series or whether to go "off into uncharted territory but taking it further away from the reason you watch the show in the first place", noted Moore. He said he would like to start a franchise across several mediums at once, on television and on the internet with a role-playing game. "Not every show or property will lend itself to that type of hybrid environment, but if you set it up from the get-go to design it that way, I think that's a really rich and interesting place for the business to go."
That rocks. And no I don't mean that awful Doom movie with The Rock. *shudder*
Friday, April 21, 2006
There will never, ever be a Trek film (or most likely a TV show) starring Sisko, Seven of Nine, and a time-traveling T'Pol in a rollicking jaunt through the Delta Quadrant to discover the lost Orb of Suffocating Continuity.
That is hilarious.
In charge of the movie you'll note is a hot young director and writing team (JJ Abrams) who has two hits on the air right now in the form of Alias and Lost.
This is good news.
I also note in the article that the new head of Paramount has made getting the studio's franchise properties back on track his top priority and that this 11th trek film was #2 on his list after the third Mission Impossible movie.
This is also good news.
Being the geek that I am, I of course immediately went to the message board thread of trek today and lurked, watching what the faithful had to say about this.
As expected, the response ranges from awesome to WORST. IDEA. EVER.
However I am heartened by more of the former and very little of the latter, with the sweet spot of the bell curve seeming to be about where I am: if it's good, this is great news and if the movie is bad, well bad is never good news.
Personally I think a reboot of some sort is called for. We have seen the Roddenberry era come and go. We have now seen (it appears) the Rick Berman era come and go (thank you Jeebus).
There was a pretty big difference in tone and feel between the Roddenberry and Berman eras and I would expect nothing less of a similar change in feel this time.
Consider me cautiously optimisitc. Lost is great, Alias is even better, so to me this news registers as good. Star Trek is a priority at Paramount again.
When I really like a band or an album I read reviews of them, just to get a feel for how the reviewers' tastes coincide with mine. Checking one such site, All Music Guide, I was really blown away at the way the critic bends over backwards to find a box he can cram Alison Krauss' music into.
Here's what the critic had to say:
While they have in some part grown away from their earthy, rollicking bluegrass roots, they've been able to craft a really polished and honest-sounding brand of mid-American adult contemporary that never dips into the schlockiness of mainstream AC or the formula-driven sound of young country.
Got that? Its not bluegrass, its not adult contemporary and its not country.
So, since he's apparently not really sure what it is, why does he need to give three examples of what its not? Especially on a site where you click a button and HEAR IT.
That's right ladies and gentleman, with a push of a button, you can hear the music the critic is going to such lengths to sketch a border around.
I understand radio stations need to put music into little boxes so they can target a demographic and sell advertising. Just one of those things you have to do in a commercial society.
But why exactly is it that the rest of the world decided that was the way everything had to be? You record in Nashville and therefore you're a country act.
Can anyone tell me what form of music "Grunge" is? Remember Grunge? That was all those bands from Seattle who sound nothing alike. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden. These bands have one thing in common: where they got signed. And sometimes not even that.
Back to the Alison Krauss review, its like the reviewer had to show his "due diligence" to show the reader that he tried, he really tried put them in a traditional "box" of popular music to the reader.
I realize this is a tendency people have, even very smart people. In college I had professors who loved to sort Shakespeare into his comedies, his tragedies, his histories, his tragicomedies, his cometragedies and his historiocomedies.
I never understood this need. Especially not now, not on a site like All Music Guide, where, with the wonders of modern technology, you can push a button and decide if music is for you.
And as mentioned earlier (I think- who can tell) I've already completed an adventure that will work either for Timeline: 20's (which itself certainly can work as a Blood and Time supplement) or for Blood and Time centered on the Lindbergh kidnapping.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
This book has a lot to recommend it. I have only looked in depth at the classes so far. My thoughts are that all are nicely done, you'd think that Skip Williams guy knows how to design a class or something.
The new skills in the Psychic rules section bother me, but that's just me.
I'll post more thoughts on the book when I have them.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
This shit makes my head spin. Not the least of which because every source I read (yeah, I know, I multiple source- what a loser huh) disagrees with each other.
And of course as we all know, there are readers out there who know the difference in damage (rated in d20 Modern dice) between the TOW and the TOW II, so accuracy is crucial.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
I'm really really sorry, I apologize unreservedly.
I do, I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.
PS In case it isn't totally, clear, this is not special ops poetry. The poem here has been removed because its author posted it online in the hopes that it NOT be read.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Man that just came out... wrong.
Anyway, I promised an update and I updated so there.
Should be a nice addition to Legends of Sorcery.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
So in case you thought I was doing nothing... huh... you did? Damn.
Anyhoo... I'm writing an interesting supplement for my Legends of Sorcery book that will explore the magical powers of gems. As with the original, it trends more toward the mid- to low-magic end of the spectrum but will provide a lot of color to magic item creation and spell casting regardless of the kind of campaign you run.
More when I know it...
Monday, April 10, 2006
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Great setting done right. I already have my players making characters, and I have successfully dug up my FASA Thieves' World modules from the 80's (along with my copy of Traps and Treachery).
Im running it in the "classic" era not the new stuff, but still a great book. Lots of nice crunch to go with the setting.
Sovereign Stone's "build up energy" magic system. In this magic system you slowly build up energy until the spell goes off. TWPM adds the concept of being able to lose energy, spectacular failures and spectacular successes to the mix to make magic even more unpredictable.
The classes. Assassin as a core class. The Survivor is a neat sort of "unbreakable" street brawler. I mean, how could a class with an ability called "too tough to die" not be cool.
Not a lot really. A faithful, crunchy, flavorful rendition of the ultimate fantasy city.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
For those not in the know, Napster used to be an illegal PtP file sharing system a la Kazaa that now allows folks to buy tracks for the standard .99 per track. But they also have a membership which lets you listen and/or download as much as you want for 9.95 a month. Just anything you dont buy gets deactivated if you cancel your membership.
My favorite part of the service is what Napster calls radio, which is really just a collection of tracks, broken down by genre, assembeled by a DJ. I really like this because it exposes me to lots of cool new music, you get an info box with the band, album and track number (which you can click to be taken to that album, and can then click the album and listen to the whole thing).
Best of all, since its just tracks, if a song doesnt appeal to me, I click "next" and it goes away. Now that is what *I* call radio.
Anyway... Im about to explain how cool this whole "next and it goes away" concept of radio is to me when my friend stops me dead in my tracks by saying "that's dumb... if your puter crashes you lose all your tunes".
It was at this point I explained that I was not, in fact, buying anything. I was paying for the service and streaming the songs I wanted to listen to. Whatever I was in the mood for, stuff I'd NEVER by because its not a common occurence for me to want to hear it.
Manhatten Transfer, then Foo Fighters, then Rusted Root all in one queue of my own making.
In other words... if I wipe my HD every day, all I have to do is install napster. The music hasnt gone anywhere cause it was never on my HD to begin with.
As I watched the gears grind in my friend's eyes, it occured to me that maybe music is starting to trend back to what it was in the 19th century, pre-phonograph. Something listened to. Not owned, collected and filed away.
Napster's service, where I am in effect "renting" 1.5 million or so songs for 10 bucks a month, lends itself to this model more than the P2P services like Kazaa, which still feeds into the "collecting" mentality, just without, you know, being legal and paying the musicians you're collecting.
Id like to see this trend continue, and I think Google virtual desktop is a step in that (right) direction. I already store material in the occasional web email account so I'd have instant access to it if my puter crashed.
I think we're heading toward a non-ownership society in some ways, where you have access to everything, but actually own very little of it.
Friday, April 07, 2006
What's most remarkable about this DVD, though, are the crowd shots. Rush had never played in Brazil before, and the devotion of their fans (including local heroes Sepultura) borders on the maniacal. Watching an ocean of hands clapping in unison to ''The Spirit of Radio'' is quite a spectacle. And that's not something you see everyday.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
As a long time fan (since-ugh this is painful- 1979) I have watched Rush go through a few transitions already. From esoteric cult rock, to 80's radio rock, to a synthesizer sound that seemed purposely designed to alienate all those bandwagon fans from their 80's rock phase and back to a modern mature metal that would have been reminiscent of their 80's rock phase if there were any actual DJs left outside of the odd college campus with the power to play it.
Then tragedy struck the band with drummer Neal Peart losing his daughter and wife in a short span and a band that had recorded an album every 2-3 years for decades went 6 years without a studio album.
Although A Geddy Lee-produced live album was produced in 1998, the band went from 1996 to 2002 between studio albums. When Geddy Lee released a solo album and Vapor Trails, the band's 2002 "comeback" was followed by a greatest hits compilation, a lot of fans had to be wondering if the band was looking back with an eye to calling it a career.
I might have been one of them. But I'm not telling.
But boy was I (assuming I had any theoretical thoughts that the band might be winding down) mistaken. In the last three years Rush has released three albums.
First came Rush in Rio, a concert recorded live on one night without any overdubbing that showed that band hadnt lost a thing.
Having played before the largest crowd of their careers the night before, when 60,000 came out in the rain to hear the band in Sao Paulo, the band recorded Rush in Rio in front of 40,000 fans on the last night of their Vapor Trails tour.
Then in 2004 the band released Feedback, a cover album with songs that had influenced them when they were that struggling bar band. This album includes one of the best tracks Rush has ever recorded, a tight, heavy metal cover of Summertime Blues.
And then in 2005 the band was on tour again, for their 30th anniversary, when they recorded R30. Maybe the best live album I've heard. The album starts off with an instrumental called the R30 Orchestra, a tribute to the title track of 2112. This amazing instrumental includes snippets of half a dozen classic Rush songs including Finding my Way, Anthem, Bastille Day, Passage to Bangkok, Cygnus X-1 and Hemispheres.
Like Rush in Rio, R30 was recorded on a single night, proving the trio still has it in terms of muscianship and performance.
This is followed up with a second disc showcasing standout 70's concert tracks including such fan favorites as Finding my Way and La Villa Strangiato.
During this tour, the band let fans know that they weren't going to sit still for long after the R30 tour was done as well. They're back in the studio right now (Neal Peart recently revealed in his blog that 6 tracks were in the can for the new album).
And of course, the band has already revealed that once the new album is out, they will (wait for it) be going on tour again.
Life is good. I'm not done, and neither is my favorite band.
Which is a good thing, because someone needs to continue writing the soundtrack to my life.
No? Well I do.
I will always love comics but for the most part I have no time or patience for reading them month to month. First off, Im a freaking adult. Im not going to wait patiently month to month. I have things to do. I'm not going to track a story for 6 months.
Secondly, Im a freaking adult. It takes me about 10 minutes to read a comic. Give me 12 at once and that's a solid 2 hours of entertainment. Give me one and its like half a beer.
But I digress.
Welcome Back Frank, written by Garth Ennis showed me that finally, finally Marvel had found a writer that had a genuine take on the Punisher. He wasn't an avenging angel, nor was he a raving lunatic.
Oh and he was also funny. Darkly funny. Laugh out loud funny.
Here's an example:
I have a .45. He has a submachine gun. My night goes downhill from there.Warning: This tradeback is not kid safe.
Im not even 100% sure its safe to read it if you're pregnant.
For the rest of you out there, pick this up for some fun that's a bit on the dark and twisted side.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Earth Passed Over For Invasion
April 5, 2006 | Issue 42•14
BETA QUADRANT, ZGYXA—Nearly 200,000 hostile aliens from the planet Zgyxa skipped invading Earth Monday, saying it "does not seem worth the effort." "A planet scan indicates that its resources will be tapped by 2015, its most intelligent life form cannot fly, and it possesses no significant deposits of Tangium," said Supreme Commander Kasha Ak-Bej, the nine-foot serpentine leader of the invasion. "Not to mention that their fleshy exoskeleton would make earthlings unfit slaves for mining Zgyxa's molten core." Representatives from the Council of Earth expressed their disappointment.
America's real fair and balanced news outlet.
Monday, April 03, 2006
In terms of crunch, B&Time is light on classes, although it does present three new advanced classes: Anomaly (someone who can manipulate time), the time enforcer (a soldier skilled in weapons of varying time periods) and the temporal historian (a scientist knowledge about the culture and technology of varying time periods).
The meat of the crunch are the weapon and armor lists for the Stone Age (PL 0), Bronze and Iron Age (PL1), Middle Ages (PL 2), the Renaissance (PL 3) and the Industrial Age (PL 4).
In terms of feats what you get are feats to allow characters to be skilled with weapons regardless of progress level. I took the 10 PLs and divided them into three basic periods: Ancient Weapons and Armor cover PL 0-3, Modern PL 4-6 and Futuristic 7-9.
Then there is a specific feat for each PL that represents greater familiarity with a time period, as if you lived there.
Obviously every character will get a period feat and a PL feat as bonus feats.
One thing I like about this system is that its easy to fit existing characters into the current framework with little effort. If a character has the Archaic Weapons feat that can count as Ancient Technology and if he has Personal Firearms that can count as Modern Technology.
Of course this is early in the game, the boss is just starting to look at the draft now, and the playtesters have thrown some additional class ideas my way.
So the crunch might get upped some.
For now though, Im content. I hate writing the same class twice, and since Ive written a lot of classes over the years in my other d20M products, a book like this is going to be relatively class-light.
But since its early in the process, stay tuned for more information as the release gets closer.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
What is New Voyages you ask? Imagine fans with a lot of film savvy and acting chops got together and made a fan film.
Now imagine it was really good, not something the Galaxy Quest kids made in their garage.
Now imagine that it was good enough that they got Gene Roddenberry Jr, Ron Moore (not that one the other one), FX supervisor for Trek for 18 years and DC Fontana to lend a hand behind the camera.
Now imagine they got Walter Koenig and George Takei to appear in episodes.
And its free.
That gives you an idea of what a special and unique fan project New Voyages is. People who used to get paid to make Star Trek but still love it enough that they want one last go with the original ship and crew.
Set in the "lost" final two years of the 5 year mission, with different actors playing most of the parts, New Voyages has two full episodes and one vignette out, with more on the way. The pace of production is slow because all the people involved are working out of pocket. But the results are as good as what you've seen on TV.
Better if you're talking about Enterprise.
Check out their latest vignette, "Center Seat" along with their two previous full-length episodes here.
What every RPG (computer, console or P&P) aspires to, or at least should, this game took the excellent fallout game mechanics and moody atmosphere and increased the gameplay time by 300%.
Those of you who read my article on console RPGs will notice I mention playtime as a big factor (along with replay potential) that seperates a good RPG (like Dark Alliance) from a great one. This isn't me being a stingy gamer. RPGs are an immersive experience. The game should give the characters and the world time to simmer in your imagination.
Fallout 2 delivers on that and just about every other criteria for a great game. There are optional quests that only be completed if you have certain skills (such as medicine or science) and almost every situation in the game can be addressed one of three ways: diplomatically, stealth or assault.
Not as well mind you, but you can in fact play the game all the way through as a character who talks his way out of trouble, sneaks past trouble or just kills it and takes its stuff. Even within specialties there are variations of characters, allowing literally dozens of completely distinct stealth, diplomacy or combat characters.
Want to be a melee monster wielding a massive sledgehammer or a sniper? Want to be a martial artist? Want to be a Doctor or a merchant? Not only can each of these characters be played but combinations of most are possible (for instance one of the most fun experiences I ever had was with my sniper who had stealth, lockpick and small guns, allowing him to bypass combats he didnt want and get in a good spot to pick off the ones he did want from a distance).
2. Bard's Tale
Let's begin at the beginning shall we? This is the game that proved a real, immersive RPG was possible on the computer. Almost no animation, most of the town scenes and monster images were jpegs. Still, the town of Skara Brae had so many dungeons to explore as you worked your way to Mangar and the game mechanics were excellent.
This game took almost everything that was good about the P&P experience, being able to make your own characters, picking characters from a wide range of classes and attempting to create a balanced party. Despite the limitations of the old Commodore 64 (like having to store the game on a series of floppies, one for each section of the city and each dungeon) the gameplay was enthralling and holds up even today.
Yes, several people, including me were still playing this game until changes in Windows after Win 95 began to make running DOS games impossible (or at least more of a technical challenge than Im willing to go through). And I know a couple of die-hard BTers who keep an old puter around just to play through these from time to time.
Probably the best way to experience this game today (as well as the most accessible technically) is on the old original Nintendo game system, where the entire game was ported over in near-perfect accuracy. Of course Nintendos are getting harder to come by these days as well but still a great way to play one of the classics.
In its own way, Diablo was as revolutionary and important as Bard's Tale. This game showed that not all RPGs on the console or the puter needed to be turn-based games centered around a party of characters. Instead, it could be a single character, played in real time, with a heavy emphasis on action.
Diablo was the influence not only for numerous console games that have attempted to emulate its gameplay (Dark Alliance 1&2, Fallout:Brotherhood of Steel, Champions of Norrath 1&2) but it even influenced D&D, showing the folks at WOTC just what it was about D&D that was so appealing.
And despite what certain game reviewers would like you to think, a lot of this game's appeal was the fact that it was a big dungeon where you killed things (in some nicely gory ways) and took their stuff. Its the closest thing to the Temple of Elemental Evil in a computer gameyet.
With a lot of gameplay time needed to beat the game (especially with the Hellfire expansion disc), just enough plot to give the hacking and slashing a framework but with an eye toward replayability (dungeons are random and not all quests appear in every game), Diablo is the perfect blend of action and role-playing.
And when you add in the Battle.net experience, a direct precursor to the MMORPG (which we will discuss below), Diablo is a game whose shadow seems to get longer, influencing games made over a decade after it was released.
EQ was, like games 2 and 3 a huge step forward in CRPGs. Taking gameplay and mechanics from D&D (or shall we say inspired by? liberally adopted from?), multiplayer and plot cues from text-based MUDs and putting the whole package into the gorgeous, 3-D world of Norrath, EQ was an immersive experience like nothing else.
While some of the elements seen in EQ had been done before, such as the shared virtual economy in Diablo's Battle.net, EQ did a lot that was new (or least done better). First, Norrath is huge, with over 400 zones to visit (and the zones each carry a lot of adventuring material). The graphics are well done as well, making Norrath a world that begs to be explored.
The appeal of Norrath is not to be overlooked in what makes this game great. The Champions of Norrath console RPGs draw heavily on the world, politics and races of Norrath and show again what an interesting, richly realized fantasy world it is.
Secondly EQ was the first real, successful MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG). This meant thousands of players were in the virtual world of each server (and since there were more than one server, there were essentially alternate realities), and could interact, adventuring together or alone, trading, buying and selling items and even challenging one another to the occasional duel.
Diablo really gave you the sense that you were in a dungeon. Sights, sounds, smells, monsters that were alerted to your presence and would chase you, using the dungeon geography to your advantage (like doorways to prevent being surrounded) and this was a huge step up from previous RPGs.
EQ took that an even bigger step further, giving you the sense that Norrath was a living, breathing place.
5. Freedom Force
The first true superhero RPG for the computer (to my knowledge), Freedom Force is moddable, playing in real time or turn based modes and follows the adventures of a team of Silver Age heroes that are lovingly tongue in cheek and heavily (heavily) infulenced by the artistic style of Jack Kirby, one of the twin pillars of the marvel universe along with Stan Lee.
You could make your own characters, design your own powers and variations on powers and recruit characters from the established universe as you went along. Since the game is moddable and addictive, fan communities have worked to keep it alive in much the way that the mod community kept Civ II the best computer strategy game for about a decade (a long reign for any computer game).
Saturday, April 01, 2006
When I decided to do a time travel book, I was determined to do it right. For me that meant making it as much a historical resource as a book about temporal mechanics. Maybe more.
Any GM who wants to run a time travel game has an idea in his head how he wants it to work. Black magic? Psionic loners on the run from the government? Shadowy cabal from the future? Travelers from a post apocalyptic wasteland attempting to prevent their own future?
Well you get the idea.
SO since I knew the time travel part would be the easy part, I set out to do the hard work. That meant a massive timeline, covering the entire world, from its formation through the year 1900.
It was a massive undertaking, involving about 400 hours of research alone over the course of 6 weeks. Websites were consulted. Books were read. Books were listened to while I was in the shower.
All in all the timeline takes up about 40 pages of the book and provides you with, at the very least a good starting point to your own research if you wanted to run an adventure during a time. Despite its size and amount of space it takes up, with so much ground to cover the timeline is still just a guide.
But hey, its a guide loaded with adventure hooks.
Next time we'll talk about the crunch.
In addition, we're going to be doing NPC supplements, usually through the dispatch, called "Dramatis Personae".
These books, like the Timeline books, will serve two masters: be great historical sourcebooks for strictly historical play or, when combined with Blood and Time make great resources for visiting that time.
This Dramatis Personae will give you stats, background and adventure hooks for: Frank Abbandando, Al Capone, Jack Dempsey, Nikolai Tesla, Edgar Cayce, Eliot Ness and Charles Lindbergh.
And although we're not quite ready to announce it yet, I'm also happy to say that I've already written a short historical set in the 20's that will have hooks for historical and time travel options.
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