Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dear Hulu...

I love you, but don't expect any money from me until you get on my Roku box.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Build a 3-legged chair

I've probably said this before in the 5 or so years I have been doing this blog, but working on Old School Magic has compelled me to say it again:

Writing RPGs is not art. It's not artistic. It's often not creative.

It's like making a chair. It's carpentry. Everything artistic about it is superfluous.

When you make a chair, most of it is there because its necessary for it to be there. Sure, you could make a 3-legged chair with no back, but I wouldn't want to sit in it.

Maybe could adopt it, which is fine, but I still will refuse to sit there. Give me something really sturdy, with 4 legs, a lot of padding, and a back.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This just in...

Master of Orion 2 still rocks. Thanks to Good Old Games!

In case you weren't aware, GOG takes old games (and they have games on their catalogue going back to the 80's, apparently at one time games ran on some arcane device known as the Apple II?) and bundle them with DOSBox, so you can just click on a game from 86 to 98 and it will run without a hassle.

Awesome, awesome stuff.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some other deep discounts on games that are good

Steam has gone crazy, glancing around at some other serious deals I see:

Sacred Gold for 3.39- this is a Diablo style action RPG.

Space Empires IV 3.39- great sci-fi turn-based strategy.

Dark Star One on sale

So I praised Dark Star One in a recent review, calling it a serious bargain at $9.99.

Well, if you get in the next 15 hours or so through Steam, it's $3.39.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dark Star One

Dark Star One is one of the best games I've ever played.

It's the type of game that doesn't get made much anymore, a space combat sim along the lines of Privateer, Elite, and Freelancer. Two things to point out about that list: one, they are all classics; two, they are all 10 or more years old, with Elite hailing from 1984 when people played games on something called the Apple II.

Ok, enough arcane video game history. Let's cut right to the chase: Ever wanted to be Han Solo? If you just said yes, then you should be playing Dark Star One.

Dark Star One puts the player in control of a ship. Called, shockingly enough, the Dark Star One. This ship was your father's dream, built from alien technology, it can be expanded and modified greatly by finding alien artifacts scattered across the galaxy and incorporating them into the ship's design.

Thus over the course of the game, you literally will be able to expand the wings, hull and engines of the Dark Star One to suit the way you like to play the game.

Your father was murdered after completing the Dark Star One, which provides the main storyline of the game. However, this is a very sandboxy game and you can follow the main quest as much or as little as you like.

There's six basic ways to play the game:

  • Merchant: Buy low, sell high, profit. The trading system works well. You can look at your galaxy map and see what a system makes for export. If a system doesn't export a product, they probably have a need to import it, which is where intrepid merchant adventurers like yourself come in.
  • Smuggler: The dark side of being a merchant. Most systems have two trade goods that are listed as illegal. Interestingly, these vary from system to system. What's illegal in one star system might be perfectly legal in another. There seems to be a limited number of products that rotate through the illegal list though: spirits (alcohol), drugs, androids and video games. Yes, video games. Selling these illicit goods is risky but extremely profitable.
  • Mercenary: It's a big galaxy. People need things done. At every trade station you find a job board with missions, ranging from fetching an abandoned cargo container and delivering it, to taking on an entire gang of criminals in deep space. There's many different kinds of missions. Succeed and you get paid.
  • Bounty Hunter: Some people in space are bad. In fact some of them are straight up scumbags who prey on the innocent merchants of space. Blowing these pirates out of the sky is not just a good deed though. It's also rewarded in cold, hard, creds.
  • Pirate: There's fat merchant ships out there with cargo. Being a merchant isn't hard at all when you blow ships up and steal their goods to sell yourself. That's a profit margin of around 100% in fact (minus whatever you paid for missiles).
  • Killer: This is about as bad as it sounds. See those space patrols that try and keep smuggling and piracy in star systems down? Ever want to blow them up? Well then this is for you.
In general, you'll wind up doing a few of these. You can do any of them as much or little as you like, along with hunting down alien artifacts to upgrade your ship and following the story quests to pursue your father's killer.

After you do a certain type of activity enough times, you become known for it through the game's Reputation mechanic. Many of these reputations are beneficial.

Trade a lot of merchandise, for example, and you become known as a merchant, getting a discount when you buy exports.

On the other hand, become known for being a killer and the cops target you for elimination on sight.

Again depending on how you play the game, you can gain multiple reputations. For example, in the current game I'm playing, I'm known as a Mercenary, a Merchant and a Bounty Hunter, with a dash of smuggler mixed into my rep.

There's dozens of star systems to explore, and your ability to range further from home is unlocked in part through your own explorations and in part through the main questline. There's half a dozen alien races to meet and interact with.

There's a PC version out now, which is the version I am playing. This has good graphics but the cutscenes are a bit basic, with mediocre voice acting and so-so animations. However, the actual gameplay outside of the cutscenes is amazing.

Also, the game comes at a steep discount. I got my copy in a bundle with two other games for $10 on Steam.

For those who want better graphical presentation (at a higher price point), there's also a X-Box 360 version on the way.

In short, if you love sandbox games in a sci-fi setting, with a good story, great gameplay and almost complete freedom, then Dark Star One is a game you should check out.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A personal note about personal notes

In Old School Magic I pull the curtain back on a few occasions, relating personal anecdotes on why I did what I did.

I consider this a bit self-indulgent. Consider it the power of not having a boss going to my head at last.

Coming soon from Vigilance Press: Old School Magic

Coming this summer from the producers of Old School Psionics: Old School Magic.

This sourcebook for magic in old-school games will introduce new magic systems, suitable for turning the traditional magic system into one more suited for low-magic games, or historical "legendary" games. New magic systems include: Incantations, Rare Components, Mana/Ley Lines and Star Magic.

All these new magic systems work with the standard spells you already know and love, though one (mana/ley lines) does away with spell slots.

Advice and rules tweaks for no magic, low magic, medium magic and high magic games will also be included.

This is followed by new magical archetypes, new core classes for your game, including: Alchemist, Artificer, Conjurer, Elementalist, Hedge Wizard, Hermit, Holy Man, Naturalist, Sage, Seer, Shadow Mage, Shaman, Shapechanger, Spell Thief, Trickster, Warrior Mage and Witch Doctor.

Next comes magical equipment, new rules and options for magic items in your games.

Finally comes magical campaigns, several new campaign models to serve as a starting point for campaigns built around magic.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ah yes, without money, why would anyone write?!?

Note to Scott Adams: people have been creating great, professional, enduring works of literature for several millennia.

Meanwhile, our current scheme of copyright and the culture of ownership that allowed a very (VERY!) small percentage of creators, like you and Stephen King and JK Rowling to sleep on big stinking piles of money while you create, is about 100 years old.

T.S Eliot never, ever, supported himself as a poet. He was a teacher, worked at a bank, and later a publishing house. His work didn't "suck" as a result.

Geoffrey Chaucer sought patronage for his writings, but saw them expressly as a way to advance his career as a courtier.

The people who wrote the Homeric Hymns a couple thousand years ago didn't even put their names on these seminal works of the Western canon. They put Homer's name on them, to honor the great bard.

See, people don't even need glory, much less a life of ease and luxury to create.

Give certain people a cave wall and they will draw on it. And they will pour their hearts and souls into that drawing, or writing, or singing, whether or not there's any chance they can become Tom Clancy and buy an island with their video game money.

So, I'm designing a western RPG

Western as in "set in the old west a la Tombstone" not "as opposed to a JRPG".

The system is called the Squared System, which I am currently designing and is being created to be simple, fast and get the hell out of the way.

Character generation should be very quick.

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