Connections: October’s Fools


I just noticed one of my co-workers has put up a game design/writing blog (though mostly he seems to be talking about Windows7 – boo! Get a Mac! Or stay on XP! 🙂

Gord and I often talk games, game design (he has a particular fancy for games like Gloom, Zombies, and Graverobbers from Outer Space), and movies.

Here’s Gord in his own words:

This is my corner of the web to rant, rave, and pontificate about things that interest me, which will likely be very heavily biased towards science fiction movies and TV, video games, and news on science/technology/archaeology/anthropology. I’m just going to dive right in tonight with my first post on today’s experiments running Windows 7.

You can see more of Gord’s writing at:

October’s Fools


Posted in Games, Writing on January 12, 2009 by Jesse
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Lions & Lambs 2009

Jesse & Kaila (Malamute) Scoble, Niagra Falls, 2007

Jesse & Kaila (Malamute) Scoble, Niagra, 2007

Insert usual responses as to why this blog hasn’t been updated in awhile – work, holidays, personal development projects, and so forth – and of course I may “make a resolution” to update more, but I’d only be lying to myself.

On the home front, well, things are busy. If you are in the need to know, you should know. If you think you are, but don’t, shoot me an email and we’ll sort it out. 🙂

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Posted in General on January 7, 2009 by Jesse
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Money to Burn – Music Stylist

Seriously?

Music stylists?

While Muzak has for decades created what it calls “audio architecture” for commercial environments, it is just in the last five years that a handful of music consultants, mostly in New York and London, have begun to specialize in creating custom domestic soundtracks. From Aspen lodges to bungalows in Belize, they are compiling playlists to match their clients’ décor.

“Hearing the wrong music in the wrong space can be very disorienting,” said Coleman Feltes, a music stylist in New York City.

I’m torn between thinking this is an awesome racket job, and thinking seriously? Do these people have that much money to burn?

Mr. Feltes and other music stylists typically visit clients’ homes or look at photographs of them to assess their decorating styles and to understand layouts. They may also peruse clients’ music collections to learn the genres and artists they’ve liked in the past.

Though they consider clients’ musical preferences, stylists said they are paid to be the final arbiters of what songs work in a space. “When clients hire me, they are buying into the Coleman brand of taste,” Mr. Feltes said. Stylists typically charge between $50 and $250 per hour of music, which they usually download onto iPods but which can also be delivered on CDs.

“Our clients are the type who send people all over the world to find the perfect spoon, or doorknob or type of marble,” said Jeffrey Reed, a club D.J. and a founder of Audio Sushi, a custom music service in London with an international clientele. “My job is to find the perfect music.”

Man, I tend to think I have a pretty cool job, but man…


Posted in Current Events on October 31, 2008 by Jesse
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‘riting & Reputation

Links!

Links!

Two interesting links to point out.

First, Rich Danksy, the Tom Clancy Czar of Red Storm, has a solid essay on writing for the video game industry entitled, “Young Industry My Sweet Patootie, You Goldurn Whippersnappers.” It’s posted up at Storytellersunplugged (which is kind of an ugly name, but whatever)

His essay is a nice exploration of the challenges of writing for games. It debunks some of the classic arguments, and has an optimistic look towards the future. But it also examines the realistic hurdles of working as a writer. It’s a nice companion piece to my “Pencils to Pixels.”

The second article is on Reputation, by Brian “Psychochild” Green. He discusses managing one’s professional reputation given the small, incestuous nature of the industry.

One of the points I raised in the comments is: how carefully should one tread in online space, such as a keeping a blog? There’s obvious things not to post (such as exactly what you did during your downtime at a conference in Vegas), and then there’s personal choices. I don’t post much about my private home life, for example. (see Sanya’s post from last Feb for a similar reasoning).

Brian answered my comment thusly:

As you point out, it cuts both ways. I think it’s also just one element to what you can do to build reputation. There is a core of people who read my blog, for example, but many more that know me from my M59 work, or my conference talks, etc. I get some useful contacts from blog posting, but I get a lot more from personal contacts.

So, a blog can help. Standing out from the crowd by being a big ranter can also help. But, it can also hurt. Luckily Scott’s a pretty good guy in person, so a lot of people have forgiven him for his earlier ranting. He knows now that he was severely off the mark in many ways (and painfully on the mark in others), and he’s been a pretty decent guy about it.

Anyway. So go read about writing and reputation and tell me what *you* think about ’em.


Posted in General on September 28, 2008 by Jesse
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Twilight (part 2 – Players)

Earlier this week I started discussing the Twilight of the Superheroes game I co-wrote and co-GM at Ambercon US 2003. We designed the game as one of the “big event” games for the con. 2-3 GMs, anywhere from 10-16 players, 2 slots (ranging from 8-12 hours). The “big event” games tend to have primo locations, such as use of the VIP Suite at whatever hotel we’re based at, and are run a bit “free form.” They aren’t LARPs in the traditional sense, and costumes are rare if ever used, but players are encouraged to move around the space, to break off into small groups, to live it up a bit, as it were. We also – assuming the space is big & primo enough – tend to designate different parts of the game room as different locales. So one year we ran a game where Rebma (the underwater reflection of Amber) was key, we used the master bedroom as Rebma, the en suite bathroom w/jacuzzi as the queen’s quarters, and the main living room as Amber, the outer hall as the sky city, etc.

By 2003, Ambercon was a place to try out new games that weren’t just Amber based (although they were almost entirely diceless). Some of the diehard Amber players (like Chris Kindred or Sol Foster, I believe, and of course Erick Wujcik who started Ambercon had a long history of games like Zelaforms and Red/Black) had already been doing this for years, but it was becoming more common to stage the “big event” game as something non-Amber. In Part 1, I said that Prestor John’s Gods Game had been a year or two previously – he actually debuted it at Ambercon North 1998, so clearly my memory is shot. The Gods Game, properly entitled “The End of Days,” featured about 15 players, 3-4 GMs, and used a game system that was a fairly extreme extension of the Amber DRPG. There were three political groups – the archangels of God, a mixed bag of gods from any (historical) pantheon, and Lucifer & his minions.

Again, using the “End of Days” as our foundation, and Alan Moore’s now-classic “Twilight…” pitch, with more than a hint of Warren Ellis’s late 90s/early 00s comic work, we set to work crafting our take on “Twilight of the Superheroes.” Leaving the game rules aside for a moment, we began by riffing on what would be core to the scenario.

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Posted in Games on September 27, 2008 by Jesse
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Pencils to Pixels

I’m guest-blogging over at Jeff Tidball & Will Hindmarch’s site, gameplaywright.

Pencils to Pixels

Last month I was lucky enough to attend GenCon, and I caught one of the “Pencils to Pixels” panels (apologies for all alliteration), given by Dave Williams (of Red5 Studios, formerly a designer at AEG), Ed Stark (of Red5 Studios, formerly of Wizards of the Coast), and Jack Emmert (of Cryptic/Champions Online & Star Trek Online, formerly of City of Heroes).

The discussion was on the transition of game designers from pen&paper RPGs to video games. Specifically MMOs in this case, but I think many of their comments are applicable to all sorts of digital game development. Although I’m nowhere near the designer that these guys are, I’ve worked in pen&paper games for more than 6 years now, and have about 3 years working for various computer game companies under my belt. So I figured I would try to riff on some of their ideas and add my own thoughts to the similarities, differences, and trends across the two fields.

Unfortunately, the way the pen&paper market has downturned so much in the past 5 or 10 years, it’s very hard to make a living wage doing game writing or design full time in hobby games. There are only a handful of companies big enough to employ a full staff, and salaries aren’t great at the best of times. Never mind working full-time as a freelancer.

Read the rest of the essay over there.


Posted in Games, Writing on September 25, 2008 by Jesse
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Twilight (part 1)

The meek did not inherit the Earth.

Welcome to the Twilight of the age. In the early 2000s, the governments of the world slowly collapsed and various social institutions crumbled in the face of accelerated social change. Almost by default, the superheroes took over. While the duties were unwanted and unasked for, the superheroes have become a new feudal royalty, offering a government and civic authority to those under their province. The world’s citizens find themselves in an upheaval more abstract and bizarre than any period, yet every bit as violent as the worst social and civil revolutions. As their institutions disintegrate in the wave of change, they cling to the various superhero clans who represent the only anchor of stability in this rapidly altering world.

Twilight of the Superheroes is a near urban legend, a pitch given by Alan “Watchmen / V for Vendetta” Moore. A very full version of it can be found on the web (such as here).

[The goal] is to create a storyline that lent the whole superhero phenomenon, the whole cosmos and concept a context that was intensely mythic and we extracted from the characters involved in it their last ounce of mythic potential, aiming at coming up with something that cements the link between superheroes and the Gods of legend by attempting something as direct and resonant as the original legends themselves. One legend in particular will be the main thematic drift of the storyline, this being the Norse legend of Ragnarok, twilight of the Gods.

I bring Twilight of the Superheroes up because I got a very unusual, and kinda neat email earlier this week. A gamer and seemingly cool dude named Sam sent me a note that read, in part:

So I’m GMing a superhero RPG based around “Twilight of the Superheroes”, the story proposal by Alan Moore. In the proposal, Moore talks about the idea making for an awesome superhero RPG setting, and I tend to agree; on the other hand, the actual plotline presented in the book doesn’t easily lend itself to gaming, given that it’s basically “Everyone follow Constantine around. Check out how awesome he is!”

Sam Googled Twilight + RPG and lo and behold he got a hit on me – because a few years ago (c2003) I co-wrote and co-ran a con scenario directly inspired by this. And Sam wanted to know if I had any notes that I might be cool to share. I’ve thought about using this blog/thinger to post some old game ideas. I don’t have as deep an archive as I probably should, but this is a good push to revisit that idea.

So I’m going to do up a few posts on our Twilight game, and try to put the files up for anyone who is interested. Back in 2003 I was in the thick of Silver Age Sentinels, The Authority RPG adaption, and the Amber community with Mark MacKinnon. It was a good time with the horizon bright and full of potential. And we (Mark & I) approached Ambercon as a challenge in game design. When the big mega-games worked, it was the fine wine of role-playing (or at least a hearty European beer). When they didn’t, well, it was still a weekend with great friends.

A year or two previously, our pal Prestor John had run the fantastic “Gods” game at Ambercon. It was the end times. We were gods from any and all pantheons. It was based in the Mt. Olympus Casino in Vegas. It was awesome.

So Mark and I riffed on the scope of that game. Ambercon was becoming a place to experiment with other diceless stories. We wanted to run a superhero game, and were fairly taken with The Authority and Planetary view of “mature superhero stories.” I can’t remember if I dug up the Alan Moore Twilight document from my files, or if Prestor John recommended it to me (his knowledge of mythology, and the occult, and superheroes is invaluable), but as soon as we read it we knew it was the perfect cornerstone.

We decided to blend the Marvel & DC Universes to have a greater pool of iconic characters. And we needed to use recognizable characters to get the players into the game more quickly. That’s one of the great things about the Amber DRPG and Ambercon — if you are playing an Amber game, all the players have a common basis of knowledge, and many of the characters exist from game to game (either as NPCs or even players, in many cases, when they play Zelazny’s “Elder” Amberites). As long as the players in our superhero game were playing Superman or Spider-man or Captain America, and NOT Batroc the Leaper or Speedball, it would be a short cut for getting into the meat of the game.

And we roped Prestor John in to help script the story, and to play as a “directed NPC” (not quite a GM, but more “scripted” than a player; consider him directly tied to the plot, and then given fairly free reign). John brought his “Dr. Deimos” mad-scientist to the game, and we spitballed from there.

In future posts I’ll try to explore the game from a few different angles. Feel free to poke me if there’s anything you’d like to know more about.


Posted in General on September 19, 2008 by Jesse
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AGOT d20 Addendum (of a sort)

I am eagerly awaiting Green Ronin’s upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire RPG, and not just because I worked on it (OK, a large part of it is because I wrote ’em a couple of chapters, but I also want to see what Hal “Righteous Fist” Mangold is going to do with it. The art I’ve seen is wicked so far).

Some time before GenCon I lent a colleague my working copy of AGOT d20 for him to peruse. He liked it and was so intrigued that he finally got around to reading the novels. He’s finished the first and is working on Clash of Kings as we speak. But he was inspired to come up with a few house rules for the old version of the game. Figured I’d post these here until we get the new goods from GR.

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Posted in General on September 17, 2008 by Jesse
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Slacker Art

While I try not to procrastinate (the irony does not escape me) and get a few writer-y or designer-y things done, figured I’d steal a riff from Jason Durall’s blog and post a Wordle of my site.

Meanwhile, jdurall’s Wordle is here.


Posted in General, Link Blog on September 16, 2008 by Jesse
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Armchair Reviewing, Writing, and Designing

Been quiet for a while, healing my stupid leg up.

First, if you read this spot, then you know I go on and on and on about Hobby Games: 100 Best. If someone I haven’t convinced you to track this wonderful piece down, perhaps the fine folks at Armchair General can tip the scales.

They do a nice review:

Quick—name the best game you’ve ever played!

Tough to narrow that down, isn’t it? But 100 game designers, developers and others from the game industry were asked to do something similar: to submit three or more “best game” nominees. They were then asked to write about one of those nominees and explain why it deserved to be included in Hobby Games: The 100 Best.

The full review is here.

Second, on the scriptwriting scene, I helped Dev come up with a few shorts for a work project. His mandate was to incorporate responses from an employee survey (comments and concerns) into short skits for a presentation. It was a fun little exercise, and with luck they will be filmed and we’ll get a copy.

Been working on a few more urban fantasy outlines for several stories, but need to do a lot more work where they are concerned.

And I’ve been putting together some ideas for a D&D adventure. It will be a low-level / introductory thing, probably using kobolds (who doesn’t love kobolds), stealing some of Will Hindmarch’s ideas, a few of Mike Mearl’s, mixing in some Greek mythology, and a heavy dosage of George Martin flavoring for the world setting. If I flesh it out more, I might sketch some of it out here.


Posted in General on September 9, 2008 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.