Magnus – CGI Short

Monday, 4. July 2011

Magnus from Meradi Omar on Vimeo.

Linked from Geeks are Sexy, this is some serious eye candy. Feels very remineniscent of Final Fantasy 7.

“Made by Dos Santos Nelson and Meradi Omar at ATI for their master’s degrees, Magnus is a full CG movie telling the tale of an old train which travels through landscapes to get to an ancient city. Enjoy!”

Established Character Destiny

Friday, 18. February 2011

(Flickr / AZAdam) - Pere Lachaise Grave

I like having somewhat detailed characters within my games.    At least, starting with a little bit of details.  Background, family, connections, training and schooling, so on and so forth.  It doesn’t have to be incredibly long, but a couple of paragraphs works wonders in establishing some connection between the character and the player as well as making the involved.

Modern characters though, can take some serious time to put together, particular if you are thinking of doing anything over the equivalent of a level 1 character.  There is perks, feats, disadvantages and flaws and an entire other number of considerations that go into a character that can make them take some serious time in getting together.  As opposed to say, a an old school basic D&D character which you can put together in 5 or 10 minutes and get rolling.

Now of course, the downsides to being long and my thoughts…  Are we establishing a destiny for the character in the process?  Is it simply assumed that this character is going to be great or at least worth something simply because the time spent in the character creation?

The older characters you could simply crush without too much remorse and it would be a fast re roll to the them up to speed as the character concept is finished.  The characters had no real expectations of surviving (particularly at level 1) just as it might be in say actual combat for us standard mortals.

Newer characters of course, you have some pause.  Simply because of all the time invested, that you don’t pick them off on a casual basis.  Of course, maybe that’s just myself.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

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Mad Max much?

Friday, 4. February 2011

Who needs to go to the post apocalyptic future to see how they refine oil when it can be had right here.. right now. In Indonesia apparently to boot. All it really needs is a couple bleached and oil soaked skulls, some towers and barbed wire.. and of course some guards posted carrying AK’s and spears (because there really isn’t that much technology difference between the 2 sadly.) Leather armor or wearing tires is of course optional.

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Making Sandboxing Relevant

Friday, 21. January 2011

We can all play in here right? (Flickr, Katmere)

Christian makes a very good point over at Destination unknown, regarding sandbox play.  A truly unattached style of sandbox play can be very distant feeling and is difficult to make work well unless your players are very motivated to get out and do their thing. (This varies a lot with me, sometimes it does and doesn’t work well.)  As gaming is hopefully about entertainment, in order to keep people interesting your game play styles need to vary.  I typically use a semi sandbox style when playing and it usually has pretty good results.
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MMO & RPG Crossover

Wednesday, 15. December 2010

WoW - Lich King

There are some interesting questions posed at Beyond the Black Gate regarding MMO and RPG crossover.  If you’re too lazy to go look, the specifics are regarding setting customization, rules customization, and character development driving the game.  The assertion is that MMO’s will get there eventually, simply because there is so much money involved. World of Warcraft is a good one to pick from since it’s currently the giant, however it doesn’t have all the distinguishing features of some of the other MMO’s.

Now admittedly some of these have already happened efficiently in games.  Neverwinter nights with it’s GM’ing tools did a pretty good job with rules and setting customization, within a limited frame of what the tool set could do.  NWN 2 improved on this in some ways and fell away in others, namely the ease of using the GM tool when it was released.  Rules tweaking.. not so much so.  Some of the physics and other mechanics of the game could be programmed however in Second Life from my understanding.

As far as MMO’s, City of Heroes/Villains has a pretty good generator for making custom adventures.  The tool offers a lot of flexibility in setting up an adventure from dialog to various combat scenarios as well as, however it doesn’t really allow for the setting “mood” changes that a GM can impart.  The genre is that of an action superhero game and its hard to shift that dynamic to anything else.  Moreso, the game has the standard MMO drivers to continue playing, which I will address below.

For rules customization there has been something that you could tweak spur of the moment.. but to instantly adopt something, you’d really have to look at some of the more “classless” games, such as EVE.    True, it’s impossible to implement anything at more than a newb level, but that’s possible to change.  Final fantasy was able to implement class games, but as mentioned it requires a lot of outside input to make it happen. 

Character development driving the game?  I think it’ll never happen. Never ever.  At least not in the sense of character development being “further developing the character in terms elements unrelated to pure advancement of power or other advantages.”  Play in MMO’s revolves around 3 concepts:  entertainment, social circles, and character advancement.  If you remove the MMO element?  Well, then you can put some character development in, but from what I’ve seen otherwise it is mutually exclusive.

I think at best that this is something that can be filled partway, but the real crossover of why people enjoy role playing games.. the same reasons that Al mentioned aren’t going to be fulfilled anytime soon.  I’m going to leverage that character development as one of the main tabletop advantages, and something that it will keep the crown for a long time.

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Art Styles in RPG’s

Tuesday, 14. December 2010

Art of HG Vol1 (DP9, S. Jackson Games)

As we look at any reference book for games, you see a continuous evolution of the rules, for better or for worse.  Along with this in most cases, is an evolution of art styles between one edition or another.   If you look further from one game to another, the styles are wildly divergent from intense black and whites, to anime, to themes that fight right into movies.  Does the art style of a particular game influence your style of play?

I think it definitely influences how consistently the game world is viewed from player to player.  Along with that, it sets a tone for the style of play within the game world itself.  This isn’t to say that it can’t be deviated from, but the set idea of the game comes from its artwork.  If it’s say, dark and gritty then it’s hard to get the mind out of the idea that the setting is in fact the same, even if it is in reality less serious.  Likewise if the art has a lighter feeling, it takes a little work to get into a darker mood.  White wolf and Heavy gear would probably be my 2 examples there, anime art always has a little bit of a cartoonish feel to me. 

Likewise, we can also look at art between editions.  D&D is the most obvious  in my case, so I’ll use that as an example.  It spans from the classical art in first and second edition, moving into a very Tolkien feeling in 3rd and 3.5, finally to a somewhat cartoon world of warcraft feeling in 4 and essentials.  I think this ties more into what the public acceptability of popular is.. but generally invokes the feeling of an epic fantasy from all of them.  The styling just dictates the flavor of epic fantasy.  I think the flavor in this case changes more from one setting to another.. looking at Greyhawk or Darksun or Ravenloft. It seems to me that affects my perception of the play style considerably more.

Does anyone else find there is something of an expectation based on the art styling?

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Zombie Apocalypse Survival

Wednesday, 8. December 2010

(Flickr / Darkpatator)

Faust was kind enough to include me as to a zombie survival topic, he’s got some sound logic as to his arguments however despite anything his group of survivors pull off; my initial jist of course is that given the situation, most Americans are outright screwed for a variety of reasons. My primary thinking of this is a couple reasons. 1) a gross lack of primitive skills 2) Generally poor physical conditioning and 3) little to no preparedness. Getting food is one of them (and a -very- important one at that.) but the problem goes far deeper than that really.

The system here in the states functions particularly efficiently because it’s become hyper specialized. Assuming you’re employed, most likely you are doing some rather specific sets of tasks, research or whatnot. That in turn generates income and if you’re like most other people you take that income and turn it around to buy food, gadgets and other things you need to survive or generally want. Such systems work rather well until you have systemic disruptions. What happens when the net goes down, the power goes out or the water stops working? Mostly.. we’re screwed essentially until it gets fixed. There is little redundancy for operating outside of the finely tuned system.
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Using Established Settings

Monday, 6. December 2010

Yay, star wars trilogy

Although I don’t watch a tremendous amount of television for movies for that matter, I’m always fascinated by the huge amounts of time that goes into making them.  Not only do you have to pen everything in, you have to create everything visually as well and then take your time filming it to get the shots you want.   It’s produces a well defined setting that looks like it would be great to play in… except for the fact that in most cases the settings are already encased in stone.  We can use books and TV for sake of the argument as well, since they’re more or less the same backdrop.

Star wars is a pretty good example to work with because everyone is familiar with the setting, most people like it for one reason or another and consequently a lot of people play it.  It has a predisposed timeline and major characters however.. events X, Y and Z will happen unless you’re playing away from something that is canon.  As a result any other action that goes on can never be within the first chair of action.  You’re lucky if you get into second, but most of the time you would be third or even fourth.  If you’re game for that, go ahead.  I want my players to have the flexibility to do nearly anything without inconveniences such as pre written story to adhere to. 

This is precisely why I love Knights of the Old Republic.  Nothing like a few thousand years of blank slate to play with, of course with the exception of whats already established in terms of planets, technology and setting.  You have virtually all of the advantages, and none of the hinderances from above.

This can go with pretty much any setting you might imagine of course; Willow, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, Terminator, Blade runner all have very interesting settings that you can work with, except for the established timeline.  I think the consistency that film produces is some of the draw to these, everyone more or less sees the same thing with the exception of what details are you focusing on.  Eventually however you’re going to run into that while playing unless you set your campaign far enough ahead of or behind whats already going on.  Or, maybe just do a series of short adventures within the settings.

That is the angle that I generally try and work from - before or after the time lines or just do a short series of one off adventures that fall in-between or perhaps run parallel to the main movie plot.  I avoid using any of the main characters like the plague, unless they are pure background characters.  If I wanted fan fiction I’d write it!

Who else uses some of the established settings, and what are your work arounds?

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The trouble with Initiative..

Monday, 29. November 2010

Looking at Christan’s post over at Destination Unknown, I have some mixed feelings about initiative systems in general. A lot of them are cumbersome and generally a pain to work with. It’s another layer of complexity that slows down the action… depending on how its handled that is. There is some added obscurity in that the first acting person isn’t necessarily first… depending on the circumstances.

As the title was saying, the trouble with initiative is that at least in melee combat – the person who is “first” is often the loser. The trick is to get someone to mentally commit to an action, then respond to it. There is a large variety of methods of accomplishing this, but unless the defender really is “flat footed” so to say, its often to their great advantage to go second. Make them miss, then kill them. Of course, this only applies with melee weapons.. if there are ranged weapons such as guns that are brought into play then the first person to connect wins. There is no choice but to beat them and control the weapon or take evasive action until you can bring your own weapons to bear (Incidentally, 4-10 feet is about the worst possible distance you can be in that instance, but thats another conversation entirely.)

Any case, the point is that the person who shouldn’t be “first” per say isn’t always at an advantage.. which is where at least somewhat of the random factor in initiative comes from. So what factors are there to consider?

1) The mental willingness to commit acts of violence – #1 the largest single factor in combat. It is one thing to hit someone with a fist, it is another large step to attack them with something that is obviously lethal. If the mental resolve isn’t there, this person loses. Period.
2) Physical preparation for combat – If your hands aren’t up you’re probably going to get sucker punched. Likewise for the person balancing oddly on one foot or in other strange positions. There is a weight shift necessary to respond and it works in strange fashions.
3) The characters speed in question – How fast can the character respond.. both mentally and physically. This places a pretty respectable effect on how bit that reactionary gap is.
4) Weapon type & Distance – What weapons are being brought to bear, and how far away is your target? Woe to the person who is within the reactionary gap of the weapon in question.
5) Luck – Not to be discounted. Training only hedges your bet to survive a fight – sadly it has diminishing returns as well.
6) Superseded action – An interrupted combat plan has a tendency to slow people down considerably further as they have to rethink what they’re doing.

I would rate speed based on the above, with a healthy dose of luck and an order change in between rounds based on interruptions, if I were to normalize away from regular systems dice throws.


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House Rules = Cars?

Wednesday, 10. November 2010

Everyone does it to a lesser or greater extent.  We take our systems and tweak them either adding our own rules, changing the stock ones, or removing unnecessary parts.  Hmm, this sounds an awful lot like something else we own.  Vehicles perhaps?  Games; like vehicles are designed to function in a particular fashion with parts changes affecting their performance.  Everyone knows what a “stock” car looks like and how the normal game plays.  It’s somewhat expected that when you’re running a game, that there are some default guidelines that make it what it is.  The question is of course how much can you change under the hood before its no longer stock?  I’ll answer these after I get some feedback of course..

Unfortunately unlike cars there are some other complications behind lots of house rules or rules changes.  Unlike cars, where you can normally just hop in and drive without too many problems rules changes have to be memorized.  They have to be taught and they have to be remembered as well to be put to use and of course there are always the rules lawyers there to protest and exploit.  I’d guess with cars of course, this is assuming you aren’t swapping the gas and brakes or moving the steering wheel to the other side or messing with the shifting pattern…   So what are the structural components that are usually avoid being changed when house rules come into play?

What are some of your standard or nonstandard house rules?

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