Sunday, September 24, 2006

True 20 stuff

So I've been a little quiet here lately, which usually means I'm writing something for monetary gain (cause I'm a sell out like that).

And I think it's far enough along for me to share a bit.

RPGObjects scored a license to do some True 20 adaptations of our works and we decided to do a fantasy, a sci-fi and a modern.

I'm almost done with my conversion of the first, the fantasy work, a True 20 version of Legends of Excalibur.

I really like True 20, it's simple but robust enough to handle almost anything you need and felt right away that it was a perfect fit for Excalibur (a product I always thought was one of my best).

I'm almost done with the monster conversions, leaving me a boatload of NPCs from the "who's who" section.

More info as it become available.

Chuck

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Knights of Cydonia

So, been a few days but I found something I had to share. Best. Music. Video. Ever.

Imagine the Lone Ranger... but he knows Shaolin style martial arts and hangs out with a hot blonde. Now imagine he rides a motorcycle and fights dudes who wield laser pistols and also use martial arts... oh heck... just watch it already.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Review Roundup: Blood and Time

Psion has posted a 4 star review of my time travel book Blood and Time over at ENWorld. Thanks as always for the thorough and thoughtful review.

And of course my favorite bit: "Blood & Time is the best treatment of time travel campaigning I have seen for the d20 system. It is not merely a collection of time themed spells. It tries to provide support for things you will need in time travelling campaign, but avoids mechanically defining the nature of time travel effect."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Gamer Traveler

The Dragon's Landing podcast has a regular feature called the gamer traveler, a perfect source for those who like historical fantasy (as I surely do). In their feature this week about the city of Brugge in Belgium, Daniel Perez was kind enough to mention RPGObjects' Legends of the Dark Ages as a system where Brugge would make a good adventuring destination.

Being mentioned in the same breath as Green Ronin's Medieval Player's Handbook is quite flattering indeed and hearing the mention was as unexpected as it was delightful. Thanks Daniel.

I encourage everyone to check out Daniel's blog where they can find information on all the location spotlights he's done thus far.

And of course I recommend everyone check out the Dragon's Landing podcast where they can hear Daniel's gamer traveler segments in glorious streaming audio.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Veronics Mars: Season One


So I just finished watching Veronica Mars Season 1 on DVD. Here's my thoughts/review:

Overall

Definitely a good series and worth a watch. A lot of mysteries, a lot of clues scattered throughout. Though each episode is standalone, there is a running thread throughout the season (the Lilly Kane murder) which is developed at a good pace.

Without spoilers, I will say I was satisfied with the things that were wrapped up, as well as the things that were left hanging. I never got that "Twin Peaks" feeling that the central mysteries of the show would NEVER EVER be wrapped up.

The Good

The main cast is compelling and the characters experience some growth within the first year.

The guest cast is also top notch, and there are some good minor characters who recur, and who I am always GLAD to see when they do recur (there are many many shows that either eschew recurring characters, or the ones that return annoy me, while the ones we never see again are interesting).

The Bad

The special features on the DVD are really, really lame. This is the 21st century people. If shows like The Shield and Buffy and NYPD Blue can have actor and director commentaries and featurettes, you can too.

The only special features for an entire season are deleted scenes, and even those are done badly. There's one huge batch for the entire season at the end of disc 6.

Meaning you watch the scene and you vaguely recall the episode the scenes were deleted from but not to the extent that they enliven the episode any. Worse, there's no submenu. The deleted scenes just play one after another.

In other words, even if you WANTED to go to the trouble of going back to the episode and watching it right before you watched the DVD, you'd have to fast forward through them.

I know I'm going on about this a little, but it's really inexcusable. There should be more to a boxed set than just getting the episodes. If I was a fan and had watched these as they aired, I would be mad at the paucity of additional insights to the show offered by the boxed set.

Final Grade

B+

If the set had come with the usual amount of special features, including a few episode commentaries and a featurette about the show, this would have been A+. I'm not sure if the issue was money or laziness but either way, it's a big omission in an otherwise excellent show that deserved better.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Coccoon


Sometimes technology really warms my geek heart.

For decades I've jokingly referred to a specific spot in my home as "the coccoon". The coccoon must contain the following things: a comfortable chair, a computer with internet connectivity, a television with DVD and gaming console (to let you know how long I have been coccooning the console has gone from Nintendo to Sega to Playstation and now to Playstation II) and a radio.

Each of these devices must be visible from each other and as many as possible must within reach.

As technology has advanced, this has become easier and easier. For example, my first coccoon, like the Batcave in the old Adam West series from the 60's, had to be more spread out since each facet was a seperate device and each was rather large (TV, Sega gaming system, computer, CD player/boombox/radio).

Currently however, the computer fills the functions of the DVD player and the radio, so all I need is the computer and a TV for the gaming system(which also allows me to watch DVDs there if desirable).

But technology continues to make the coccoon more complete. I recently subscribed to gametap, which gives me access to over 600 games, mostly older games, in return for a monthly fee.

But tonight I learned that I can start gametap, mute the sound, minimize it, then fire up Napster, which I also subscribe to, pick the music of my choice, and then bring gametap back up to play Shining Force with my own soundtrack.

Alternately, I can fire up Itunes and use a podcast for background.

All we need now are the sentient computers from the Matrix.

And let me be the first to welcome our new digital overlords and say, "I give off a lot of heat, way more than that scrawny Neo dude. Plus I'm not into revolution or anything."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

John Romero rates the PS3 last (sort of ranty)

So as I look at my NEXT game console, to replace my venerable, aging PS 2, I decided to go with the Wii over the X-box 360 and PS3.

John Romero, co-creator of Doom, agrees. He rates the PS3 last because of its expense and just being more of the same as the PS2, but with better graphics (and a heftier price tag by far). The X-box comes in second because of X-box live allowing you so many online options.

The winner in his eyes? The Wii, Nintendo's new console that will combine decent graphics (but not high end- they look about PS2 quality to me) with unique gameplay and some great franchises (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Super Mario Galaxy, and Zelda *swoon*).

I started a thread about this at ENW, titled "PS3 600 bucks, Sony is on crack" and immediately triggered about 4 pages of people reflexively defending Sony, telling me 600 bucks wasn't really that much money, basically talking to me like a little kid who just had a visceral reaction to the price tag.

Well you know what? I *DO* have sticker shock and I do *NOT* think that's a bad thing. I'm not spending more for a console game system then I could spend for a decent tower.

Ok?

I'm just not. I could buy a tower for 600 bucks and get my game on... oh yeah and I could also work, and surf the web. I wouldn't pay 600 bucks for a computer that JUST played games and I won't spend 600 bucks .

Combined with the fact that the Wii has a ton of games that look cool to me, and that I will likely be able to buy the Wii and EIGHT FREAKING GAMES for what a PS3 and one controller (with no games) would cost me... well let's just say Wii is winning out with this customer.

And this isn't about the price alone. Lord knows I have spent more than 600 bucks for just about EVERY ONE of my fruitless geek pursuits. Hell I spend more than 600 bucks a year on game books AND I CAN WRITE THEM.

It's more a matter of feeling like a company is strongarming me to support their hardware (I think the PS3 is designed as much to encourage us all to buy Blue Ray discs and Sony HD TVs as it is to be a gaming system).

And I don't like to play THOSE sorts of games with my money. Id rather buy a Wii and play Red Steel for my money.

Chuck

Grumpy Gamer Speaks about DRM

You Listen.

David Letterman skit about Bill Gates

David Letterman is a national treasure.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Computer Game Review: Civilization IV


Civilization is the greatest turn-based strategy computer game ever designed. Created by Sid Meier, the original still stands as a triumph in terms of it's groundbreaking gameplay, with later editions mostly tweaking the gameplay and updating the graphics.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Civilization starts you on a randomly generated fractal map of the world as a great civilization, such as the British, the Romans, the Zulu, the Egyptians and so forth at the dawn of civilization, in 4000 BCE.

From there it is up to you to colonize new lands, build military units to fight battles and defend the areas you have settled and research new technologies to progress from the Stone Age to the Space Age and beyond.

To win the game you must achieve supreme mastery of one aspect of the game: military, technology, culture or diplomacy are all ways to win. If no one achieves a clear victory, then the highest score at the end of the game (in the 21st century) wins instead.

Since the last edition, Civ III, was rather disappointing, with resources drying up randomly leading to chaotic games and games that took forever (even by Civilization standards which says a lot), it stood to reason that Firaxis would release a new edition sooner rather than later.

In Civ IV, they finally have a game that not only matches the classic play of Civ I and Civ II but surpasses it.

Civ IV keeps many of the interesting editions to Civ III, such as strategic resources. Strategic resources are required to build certain types of units. So horses, a key early and mid-game strategic resource, is required to build Horse Archers, Knights and Cavalry. Oil, a crucial mid- and late-game strategic resource is required to build fighter jets and bombers.

Strategic resources are enhanced by the removal of resources randomly drying up. Civilization is a pure strategy game that involves very little luck when at its best. The fact that resources could disappear randomly (and with the game being so long, they often did) could seriously cripple your civilization out of nowhere.

It represents reality nicely, but it added a little too much randomness to the game. Suffering a serious setback by a random event after playing a game for 30 hours is not a good thing.

Another great addition to the game adapted from Civ III is the concept of Great People. As we all know, history might be written by nations and their leaders but is frequently carried out by extraordinary men and women.

While Civ III had the concept of great leaders who could form armies or spur a city on to great productivity, Civ IV introduces a host of Great People (but not, oddly, great military leaders). Great People can be great artists, great engineers, great scientists, great religious leaders and great merchants.

The effect of each great person is profound. A great scientist can discover a new technology for you instantly, found a great center of learning or be turned into a "super citizen", providing a science boost forever.

By contrast a great artist provides a big culture boost, great engineers productivity, great merchants cash and great religious leaders can found centers of religioun in certain holy cities.

Great People are more likely to be born if your society pursues a specific strategy as well, making a strategy that promotes culture more appealing. If you're building cultural wonders of the world, like Shakepeare's Theater, the odds of a great artist being born into your society increases and so forth.

And the game plays quicker as well. While at times it seems as though you're flying through history, this is a welcome change after Civ III, where completing a game was a chore due to its length.

And while the gameplay is amazing and some of the best seen since Civ II, the scenery is lovely as well. This is the best looking Civilization game ever from a graphics standpoint. In fact this is really the only negative the game has. If you don't have a high-end PC with a decent graphics card, you won't be playing this game at all. It simply will not run without a good processor and video card.

Still, some things are worth a new graphics card and this game is one of them.
It is one of the best computer games I have ever played and might just be the finest strategy game ever written.

Chuck

Trek Enhanced

So the original Star Trek is returning to TV for the first time in several years, with a difference. Taking a page from Lucas' playbook, they're updating the FX.

Turns out someone else did it first, and he posted his proof of concept on youtube. I have to say, if the enhanced Trek from the pros looks this good or better, I am on board. Release the DVDs already.

New Adventure for AZ on the Way

So, Adventure Locale #1: White Star Trailer Park is coming soon! It's a location based adventure for my zombie apocalypse game, AZ: Afte...