I was thrilled to be invited to contribute an essay to the upcoming Hobby Games: The 100 Best, published by Green Ronin. James Lowder wrangled 100 authors to each talk about one of their favorite games – whether roleplaying game, collectible card games, miniatures games, wargames, or board games – in what promises to be a very fun and historic collection. The authors list alone “blows my mind.”

Authors are luminaries from many gaming fields, from the grandfathers of the pen&paper and wargame industry to cutting edge computer game gurus. It’s a real honor to be counted among these folks, though I fully admit my contributions to the industry have been fairly minor. Among the list we’ve got legendary game designers: Gary Gygax (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons), Ian Livingstone and (British) Steve Jackson (co-founders of Games Workshop), Richard Garfield (creator of Magic: The Gathering); best-selling authors: R. A. Salvatore, Tracy Hickman, Douglas Niles, and Ed Greenwood; computer industry notables Warren Spector (Deus Ex), Bruce Shelley (Age of Empires), Jack Emmert (City of Heroes), and Bruce Nesmith (Oblivion); and the usual suspects: Monte Cook, Zeb Cook, Greg Costikyan, (American) Steve Jackson, Christian T. Petersen, Jordan Weisman, Stewart Wieck, JD Wilker, and Skip Williams.

And a list of top-notch designers I’m always happy to drink with: Justin Achilli, Stan! Brown, Richard Dansky, Matt Forbeck, James Ernest, Kenneth Hite, Steve Kenson, John Kovalic, Steve Long, Mike Selinker, Zev Shlasinger, Jeff Tidball, George Vasilakos, James Wallis, and Erick Wujcik.

I can’t tell you yet what game I wrote about (hint: it’s *not* my favorite RPG of all time), but all will be revealed soon. Advance copies will be for sale at the Green Ronin booth at GenCon.

Hobby Games: The 100 Best info page.
(note the tabs at the bottom of the page and check out the Author List and the Editor Interview)

Posted in Games, Writing on August 12, 2007 by Jesse

Ninja Chycks

The Knives of Artemis villain background for City of Heroes is going up this week. This was a fun piece to do, although it was a case of a sparse documentation (some days I have the other problem, and have way too much world info to wade through). I kept having visions of red-clad femme fatales, but also wanted to make them stand out a bit on their own.

I did a little bit of web research, and decided to play up the Artemis/Goddess of the Hunt angle a bit. And while I was mulling things over, a player (Tropic) sent me a link to his story on the cohwritersguild about the Knives. His story is called…actually, I have no idea what it’s called because the formatting on the guild is…rough…to be kind, but I think it’s called Recurrence. Anyway, while I haven’t read the entire thing, the first part was great. It certainly gave me some cool ideas on the Knives (and I subtly added his idea of the Oracle into my piece, though in a very very minor way).

And because I was a bit worried about having enough for a full feature, and because there are some very talented writers among the players, I posted an open call for “in character testimonials.” Basically I wanted people to write little stories – 1st person in-character, or 3rd person narrators were both fine – about how their characters had encountered the Knives of Artemis. I got something like 70 replies, and there were some great ones that I was able to incorporate into the extended content section.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading parts of Blackhawk Down, and I started thinking about the Delta boys. That led to some more net research, and I came across a great description of the training regimen used by some of the American Special Forces, and well, upped it a bit. It’s a comic book game, right? Full of larger than life actions!

I added it all together, and suddenly I had one of the longest pieces I’ve written for the CoH game features, and I’m quite thrilled by it. Of course, the real test is to see whether the players like it.

Knives of Artemis Villain Backgrounder.

Posted in CoH, Games, Writing on March 14, 2007 by Jesse
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The Closed Beta test of the upcoming City of Heroes Invention System is well underway. I can’t say much about it at this time, but I think it’s potentially a really exciting addition to City of Heroes and Villains.

As you may know, I’ve been working for NCsoft for well over a year now as “web content writer” – I write the stories and articles that show up on the web site, and help with event fiction for newsletters, review and edit player submitted stories and art pieces and publish the best to the Top Cow comic book, etc. I post under the name “Arctic Sun.”

I missed the first year and a half of CoH’s development, coming on board as City of Villains – the dark side expansion – launched, and I’ve been around for the subsequent free updates (Issue 7 and Issue 8). While both of those added a fair bit of content to the game, there were certainly rumbles from the community that not enough new content was being added, or that Issues felt “light.” I’m torn a little over this, in part because despite CoH being my first and still primary MMO, there’s still large parts of the game that I’ve barely seen, let alone explored fully. Still, I recognize that the heart of our vocal community is considerably more hardcore than I am, and they burn through content pretty damn quick. They always want more, and it’s the developers job to try and keep up with that appetite to the best they can.

So it will be interesting to see if Cryptic introduces a robust enough system in their crafting mechanism to make the game that much deeper than it currently is. Obviously, on one level CoH will always be what it is – a comic book fighting game, with an absolutely amazing character creator, which does a really good job of making me feel like I have super-powers. It has some brilliantly written stories (and some just OK ones), some really funny NPC dialog, and some great background characters/groups. But for some people – especially if you don’t have a regular group of friends (and it is far more slanted towards being a team game than a solo player game), it does eventually become repetitive. So the Invention system will let you take salvage that you randomly earn by beating up baddies and invent (or craft) nifty and different enhancements to your powers, OR create new costume parts, OR create new temporary powers, etc.

The big question is how many people will embrace this new, fairly intensive game system, and how many will simply want to ignore it and keep playing the way they always have? Will it really make the game feel like it has more options that just fighting, or will collecting salvage be a chore? (Like having to upgrade all your enhancements when you go up a level). From what I’ve seen, the system is flavorful and will give them further options down the line. It’s just very hard to predict how adding a new system like this on top on a well-established game will do.

Posted in CoH, Games on by Jesse
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Jesse Scoble

Jesse Scoble is a writer, story editor, and game designer in no particular order.

He has won awards, written a Western Horror script, worked on computer games & pen&paper games, contributed to more than 30 titles, and makes a mean mojito.

Currently he is a freelance writer in Montreal, QC.