The 34th annual Origins Awards were presented by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design on June 28, 2008 during the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. And Hobby Games: The 100 Best was presented the award for Non-Fiction Publication of the Year for 2007.
I got a chance to test drive (er, playtest) a cleric in Robin Laws’s 4th edition D&D game tonight. I can’t say too much about the game (NDAs and all, despite the game being shipped early and torrented all over the goddamn place), and if you’re up on your 4e, you certainly know more than I do, but this is what I know:
It was a helluva exciting time.
Now, we didn’t get very far. The sessions are short, there’s a TON of cross-referencing the books to figure out which power does what exactly, and some members of the group (myself included) are too quick to kibbitz about non-game stuff.
But playing my elf (Xerxes, natch), a “battle priest,” cleric of the Raven Queen (goddess of death, winter and fate, I believe), was pretty damn cool. I got to carry around a big-ass morningstar, had a bunch of options every round of combat – both attack and healing – and felt like a core, but not necessarily essential, part of the group.
I may just be parroting all the buzzwords and talking points I’ve picked up about D&D 4 over the last six months, but my first and last impressions were:
It was D&D.
And it was fun.
Oh, and Robin is as fiendish a DM here as he is with any other game!
It’s been a long while since I’ve updated. It’s been a crazy and incredibly busy and difficult winter, but now that the snow is gone (it seems dumb to type that on April 20, yet I’m /still/ not convinced we’re out of the woods yet), things are starting to feel a bit more positive. I feel like I’m getting a bit more done (and I don’t just mean completing a song on Guitar Hero III).
Work is getting very busy, and will continue to be so for the next few months. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about what I’m working on. Our codename is Smurf Club, and it’s going to be really really cool. At the moment it’s research, playtesting, and drafting various internal documents. But you’ll just have to wait until I can say more. “The first rule of Smurf Club…”
In other news, Dev and I have finished the 2nd draft of our Western Horror script. (OK, that’s a lie, we have about 12 words in one scene that we’re still kicking at, but otherwise…). The second draft was a lot harder to do than I figured it would be. But it feels great to have pushed through. It was harder for a number of reasons, including:
* The worst enemy of the second draft is the first draft. (I think Goldman said that, though it might have been someone more recent. Regardless, it’s bloody true).
* The parts that we glossed over in our original outline, that we said “oh, we’ll just go with this for now and fix it later,” Yeah, those sucked. Giant roadblocks that forced us to grind to a halt for long sections. I swear we did 6 to 12 passes on one nasty scene in particular.
* Both of us suddenly having full time jobs and lots of things going on in our personal lives. Funny that…
* Corollary to the last, just having enough time to hang out together, watch movies, shoot the shit…all the stuff that is needed to fuel the writing process (though it can also be detrimental to it, if one overindulges). On that note, I finally saw 3:10 to Yuma. Um. It was OK. Not as bad as I feared, with a couple of nice scenes. But to say it’s the “best Western since Unforgiven” seems disingenuous at best.
But overall it was a great process and I’m very happy with the end result. At least, I think I am. Right now I’m in the zone of “God I can’t stand looking at this bloody thing anymore,” but I suspect after I’ve had a short break I’ll enjoy it again.
Now we just need to figure out what to do with the bloody thing…
So you know the Clinton campaign strategy of ceding most of the February contests to Obama and then dealing him knockout punches in the big states of Texas and Ohio? Problem is, the very complicated rules in Texas do not remotely favor this. Plain ordinary proportional delegate allocation would make it very difficult, but the weighting of districts according to past support for Democratic candidates renders it nigh impossible. When did Clinton strategists figure this out? A month ago.
If I were a Democratic primary voter in one of the upcoming contests, this blunder of nuts-and-bolts detail would weigh heavily on my decision.
Especially in a candidacy predicated on being ready on day one, it would have been helpful to also be ready on day -346.
Interesting that Texas is suddenly so important. It’s nice, isn’t it, that one year Florida is key, then Ohio, now Texas has a turn…(sigh). Not sure why they have the make the rules so bloody complex. This ain’t Champions after all.*
I don’t have a lot to add other than I’m pleased so far with the leading candidates…on both sides of the spectrum. Oh, they all have their issues, and I’m sure we’re still in for a rough ride…but damn change will be good.
I need to figure out how to vote as an ex-pat once again…during the 2004 election my last residence had been in Boston (which was like throwing my vote into a sea of blue), although now that my last US residence was in Texas, I suspect it will be like throwing it into a red sea. Whaddya gonna do?
* I love the guys at Hero Games, and kudos to Steve, Darren, et. al. on the big news.
From the GenCon site:
SEATTLE (February 15, 2008) Gen Con LLC announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the State of Washington. This action became necessary as a result of significant unforeseen expenses associated with attempts to expand its core business to encompass externally licensed events. Gen Con’s flagship show, Gen Con Indy, remains a vibrant, profitable event. Gen Con Indy will take place as scheduled August 14–17, 2008, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The protections afforded by Chapter 11 will allow Gen Con to further its efforts to address its liquidity needs, preserve value for its creditors and explore strategic alternatives for the business. “Because the fundamentals of our business are strong; and because our debt problems are challenges mostly linked to one-time events, we feel confident that the profile of our company will benefit under Chapter 11 and come out strong in the end,” said Peter D. Adkison, CEO of Gen Con.
Chapter 11 refers to the section of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code that provides for court-supervised restructuring of companies as they continue to operate normally. This proceeding is intended to help companies to become stronger financially.
Gen Con LLC will continue to operate without interruption during this process and looks forward to an expeditious resolution to the short-term challenges and the ability to focus entirely on producing Gen Con Indy, The Best Four Days in Gaming. International Gen Con events are unaffected by this situation and will continue to operate as scheduled.
All of which is a little concerning, but not too terribly troubling. Peter is a smart guy, and he has lots of people who are going to make sure he gets through this intact – people who love GenCon, and have made it part of their lives by making it an annual ritual. It’s a tremendous business opportunity for anyone in – or interested in – the industry. And the increase in computer gaming over the last few years only increases its long-term viability.
In case you are wondering what they are referring to in the press release by the “externally licensed events,” dollars to donuts it’s the Star Wars Celebration show. A few days ago news broke that Lucas was suing GenCon. My pal, the punk-hacker bastard Adam Jury, talks about it here.
It’s unfortunate that GenCon LLC hasn’t been successful with the SoCal show, and now with the Star Wars Celebrations (though maybe that has as much to do with the property being corrupted lo this past decade). But I think the Indy show will continue to grow – and it should be a blast this year. Doing my best to figure a way to get there…
(City of Heroes update)
Old news by now, but NCsoft’s buy-out of the City of Heroes IP from Cryptic is big news for the company, team, game and players (not necessarily in that order). Previous to this, NCsoft & Cryptic shared the property 50/50. Cryptic did the development work out in California, and NCsoft did a lot of Quality Assurance, Customer Service, PR, and Community* from Austin. There was a … let’s call it an embassy … of NCsoft Producers working out in Cali with the rest of the team, working on the project on a very high level.
So what does the purchase mean? Well, all of this is just my best guess of course (and full disclosure, I used to work for NCsoft on the CoH team, so consider my words shaded appropriately):
Never enough time, is there?
Been meaning to write a few more meaningful posts, but the new job (writer in the creative team at Ganz – the makers of Webkinz, in addition to Eyes Only Secret Projects) has kept me busy for the past month.
However, I’ve also been working on a chapter for an upcoming pen&paper RPG game to be published by Green Ronin. I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about it yet, but if you’ve followed my work in the past, I’m sure you can make an educated guess. It’s been fun delving back into that world, though my work for the core book is pretty small. How sharp is that sword, anyway?
In other gaming related news, I’m a regular player…scratch that. I have an open invitation to attend Robin Laws’s weekly gaming/playtest sessions, changing to whatever game Robin is working on at the moment. I just often have conflicts.
But anyway, I’ve played a bit of “American Empire” (where we played both the President’s Cabinet of an intergalactic version of the current regime, slightly exaggerated, and also played the members of a special forces squad – the Seven Dwarfs, not completely unlike agents of Blackwater or Delta Force). It created an interesting dynamic where the politicos would send the spec forces guys to perform a mission that sounded plausible from the high-level view, but looked impossible from the ground. Then, the spec forces guys would send back “mission accomplished” reports, embellished as much or as little as success and failure dictated. Then our administration characters would make new policy based on progressively “spun” information and create even more impossible tasks for the forces on the ground, etc.
After that, we played Law&Order meets Heroes. I’m not sure I can say much about that, as it’s a project that will be published, but the concept was very cool, and Robin makes some nice innovations in procedural/mystery gaming.
This week we started a brand new game, which is, as they say, a little bit lighter in tone. I haven’t laughed this hard at a session for awhile. It’s more a miniatures game with a bit of role-playing than a serious RPG but it would be a fun game to play between more dramatic campaigns. Our invasion of Earth was curtailed by our inability to overcome Earth’s first line of defense…a peep of chickens.
I’m told changes will be made and our psychic powers will be bolstered. The brood shall rue the day it ever stood against us!
On Thursday my last Paragon Times articles went up on City of Heroes, to a wonderful reception. Between this week’s and last week’s piece, I’ve certainly ended on a high-note. The Outbreak Plague / Foiled Breakout piece got 398 comments in the official thread, while the President Marchand / Dastardly Duo piece has received 299 posts and spawned at least two other threads of note. Not too shabby.
I spent of chunk of Saturday browsing the comments – it’s always exciting to see what people think, good or bad (just not indifferent) – about a piece. The most common theories seem to be:
* Alternate Timeline
* Parallel Dimension
* Multiple Timelines (Crisis on Finite Servers!)
* Jesse screwing with people on his way-out-the-door (can’t catch me now, suckas!)
* or a typo. Which is probably my favorite answer. 🙂
These articles were a lot of fun to write, as I’m sure is obvious. There was a lot to draw from. There are a number of subtle clues within them, many of which have been brought up. There are also a handful of in-jokes, most (but not all) of which have been mentioned.
People have also asked if there are mistakes in either piece (there were some typos in the first that have since been corrected – whew!). The only typo that I’ll acknowledge in the newest piece is “Columbian” should be “Colombian.” A few people didn’t like my Spanglish quote of “Los United States,” but in my defense it’s a bit of dialect taken from Across the Wire by Luis Alberto Urrea (great book), where he uses the phrase “los Yunaites Estaites.” Now I realize one is Mexico and one is Colombia, so I may be flat out wrong here, but it was an educated guess as to how a regular joe in the Colobmian army might speak.
Oh, and I *think* people are making an association between President Marchand’s power-armor and Iron Man/Tony Stark, because the reporter’s name is James Stark. Except, I’m not. James Stark has been “my” reporter since my first times, and was always intended to be the alter-ego to Arctic Sun.
I’m really thrilled at how much people enjoyed these stories. A shame my third piece – a 17 minute youtube interpretative dance clip involving mimes playing Citadel, Numina, Mako, and Snaptooth – was deemed too costly.
Today marks the first of two special edition Paragon Times features. (Paragon Times: Outbreak Plague / Guards Foil Breakout)
As I said last time, I wanted to discuss the process of crafting an issue of the Paragon Times.
I always believed the Paragon Times should focus on something eventful happening in the game. Ideally an edition would coincide with the lead up to a new Issue (game update), an in-game event, or the wrap-up of an Issue or in-game event.
I’m not very big on “slice of life” or “human interest stories” except when done very well (in this case it would have to be something that spotlights a player-character or group, and tells it in an engaging way).
I regret not being able to hit AGDC this year, as it was a tremendous learning experience last year. However, being in Toronto, and still recovering from GenCon and post-GenCon travels, it wasn’t to be. Still, I got to go to Pitch Expo Toronto, which may well have been more worthwhile.
But I saw this article today, on Slashdot. Zonk covers Bioware’s Writing Seminar from the Austin GDC.
How They Do It
The core of the BioWare writing process would sound familiar to most programmers: iterate, iterate, iterate. To that end, the company aims to get writers involved in a game’s creation early in the process. They make it a point to have a writer in the room during the broad concept stage of game creation. From an org char perspective, writers are a part of the design department. Currently the company has 73 designers on 5 projects, with 26 of those folks being members of the writing team. Titles on the writing team include lead writers and managing editors, writers, and technical editors.
Projects are broken out into three distinct phases: Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Production. Prototyping is primarily early story and setting concepting, looking for new ideas, trying to figure out how to do things in a different way. They ask how they can explore the IP they’re working on while staying true to the core concept. This is the ‘cheapest’ phase of the work, by far. Pre-Production, then, is about nailing things down: defining characters and story arcs, and working out systems and work pipelines. Production is the longest phase by far, with several distinct sub-phases making it up. This is all about generating the guts of the game, and the goal is to know what the company is going to make before they get here.