Posts Tagged ‘ RPG ’

Countdown to New Vegas

If you been hiding under a rock somewhere, you might not know that Fallout: New Vegas comes out tomorrow.

Fallout 3 exceeded all my expectations and this installment promises to be better.

See you on the wasteland!

Back in the saddle again

Yep, I’m back inside the electronic womb of Azeroth, the land of electronic milk and megabyte honey. One of million slaying beasts, exploring dungeons and collecting bear asses (I kid you not!)  Still, the environments are enriching, the world is huge and colorful and the designers are always upgrading the experience which leads to a lot of complaints about nerfing, that is that which was once powerful (abilities) or hard to get (mount, special pets, etc) now it’s easy or underpowered. But I understand that you need to change things constantly, otherwise the game becomes stale. And even after five years you don’t need to invest in a AlienWare(tm) gaming rig to play the game.

Still, after awhile it becomes more of the same; the same quests, the same locations, the same objectives. I done the guild thing and the encounter thing. No high level dungeons, but then again, each expansion wipes out the thrill of legendary dungeons with more, over the top locations. Still pretty to look at, but as someone who enjoys solo play (and was once had a severe addiction to WoW), it has run its course. Now I’m back to visit, the way Scrooge visited his childhood home. Nice memories revisited, but I doubt I would pay to return.

Time to move on.

And talking about WoW based memories, here is an old one from days gone by:

Axioms of Video Game Design

Today’s games come in shiny disc packing gigabytes of fancy graphics, great music and complex graphic engines made to be played in the latest high end consoles and PCs.  And guess what? Most of them suck! They do. You spend upwards of $60 (U.S.) and in a day or so you are selling them back to the retailer for half the price.

Why? How come? What’s going on here?

Well, the problem is that many game designers forget or ignore the basic axioms of video game design. They are so wrapped up on their wide palette of shades or how well the new physics engine simulates a body reacting to an explosion that they ignore basic game play. Which brings me to my Axioms of Video Game Design:

  • Game play is the thing: Yes, good, solid, basic game play. In fact, everything below this bullet point is about game play and the game experience.  I don’t care how many compressed terrabytes of data you devoted to leaves in the fairy forest of fire, if the game play sucks, your game sucks, and I’ll be asking for my money back.
  • Easy to learn, hard to master: From the time of the one lever+red button joystick susccesful video games have followed this formula. I should not have to spend fiver hours reading a manual just to know how to start the game. All tittles now have in game tutorials, so make the most it. I know that my controller has about ten different buttons, I shouldn’t have to use them all just to walk from Point A to Point B. I do expect that as I master the controls and the environment, the game challenge adjust accordingly. And please no cheap tricks like needing to reload a sequence 200 times in order to get lucky just once so I can finish the game, or stripping me of my hyper-space arsenal (and cash) mid way through the game when I’m facing a horde of enemies that are far tougher than the ones at the begging when I only had a crowbar.  In other words, I turn on the machine, grab the controller and start playing, just that simple. Oh, for god’s sake, do playtest the controller’s map, I’m playing a first person shooter, not Twist, ya twit!
  • Save anywhere, at any time: Save Points? Really? At this stage of the game? Come on! I’m playing a game on a machine with a 300Gb+ hard drive and game etched on a Blue-Ray DVD. Remind me again why are we still doing the save point thing? I wouldn’t mind it so much if there was a mission save feature or quick save button, that way I don’t walk/run/ride back from the last save point to the beginning of the mission or have to do the whole thing over again because I failed to pick up that small note under the table that no one would know about unless they had a game guide on their lap.
  • Getting my money’s worth: I paid good money for this game, I expect to get said money’s worth. That means that I expect somewhere between 3o-120 hours of game time. Yeah, you heard me! At around $60+ (U.S. +tax) I should have at least one a full hour of game time for every $2 spent on your product. Either reduce the price to match overall game time or give me my money back! And again, no cheap tricks, like excessive travel times between locations, or unwanted detours or scenarios that have to be rebooted again and again, just to eat up time. I want ACTUAL game play, not long frustrating hours of bullshit! Which leads me to my next bullet point.
  • Solid single player experience: “But it has great multiplayer!” Yeah, so what! Unless the game is specifically made as a multplayer game (MMORPGs for example) I don’t want to hear about. I want my solo campaign to stand on it’s own. Multiplayer is just something people tack on the game. And believe me, there are so only many times I can play capture the flag or deathmacth, been doing that since DOOM. A great multiplayer certainly gives depth to a game, I don’t deny that. But if that is all there is, then market it as a multiplayer/online game. Besides I find that if the single player experience is weak, then overall the game is weak, regardless of how many people you cram in a map on Xbox live.
  • Stick to a core game mechanic: Sure, sandbox games are all the rage, but that doesn’t mean your game has to be one, especially when you pretend it’s a sandbox game but is so heavily scripted that if the player goes outside the lines, it’s instant death/game over. Layering game elements from different genres is fine, as long as they don’t disrupt game flow. I shouldn’t have to go from shooting zombies on the head to a coin collecting mini-game and then have to pilot a fighter plane. I’m sure it sounded great on the conference room, but in real life, not so much.
  • Easy on the cinematics:  Yes, I do have an N-envy-dia 54000 game card that can display a bazillion colors per dot on a 50ft. flat screen. Hooray for me! Explain to me (again) why I spent five hours of my life looking at cut-scenes or quicktime events? This is not a James Cameron movie, this is a game, and I want to play it! Sure, I can understand that you spent six months of your live (and a broken marriage with alimony to go with it) on getting the perfect shine of the darker than black hair on the hero’s love interest just right for that one cut scene. I understand, but I don’t give damn! There is a difference between pretty cut scenes and actual game play. Learn it, love it and good luck with wife #2.
  • Sequelitis: Oh, so your last game was a run away success? Good for you! But you know what, that was back in 1992, this is 2010, would you mind changing things up a little? Please? I know that you want to go with what works. Makes perfect sense, and in the case of say, GTA, it worked. For awhile anyway. But the guys from Rockstar knew when they could not longer stretch a game any further and rebooted the whole thing. Also if I, as the player, I’m supposed to be playing the same character from the last game, why do I have to start at level 1 again, unknown, unloved, and broke? SSI did the whole character porting thing back in the 80’s with their gold box D&D games. I would think that with massive hard drives, online servers and game cards (those are still around?) it shouldn’t be much of a problem to just keep my character, right?
  • Nail the ending: Don’t get nailed by the ending. You have plenty of space, and a huge budget, why don’t you hire competent writer’s to write a full, comprehensive storyline from beginning to end? You gave my 30+ hours, why is it that you sucked the life out of the game in the last five seconds? I play games, in part, because I want to know what happens next (just for the same reason read books), a stupid, bland or nonsensical ending just ruins it. So dial back on the graphics budget and hire a half decent writer, please?
  • Don’t over promise: I know you spent hours of your life developing this one game. Is that Wife #3 on the line? But enough with the endless sneak peaks, developer trailers and the like. More likely than not, either you’re going scare away potential costumers who don’t like or understand how complex the development process is or you’re going to over promise and disappoint when you fail to deliver.
  • KISS: Above all else, Keep It Simple, Stupid! Start small and build from there. All gimmicks and hardware are useless if your basic game play sucks.

In fact, the popularity of retro gaming, online flash games and such platforms as Nintendo’s Wii and DS show that good game play, married with a solid story line and simple to use control scheme does will sell games. It’s just that simple. And it wouldn’t kill you to run your game through a video game cliche checklist before ship it out, just in case.

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Check out my writing blog for the details of the 1k Words BlogFest, starting on February 22nd.

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Things I learned about RPGs over the years.

 

I’ve learned a few rules…why are you looking me like that? Okay, rules is a bit strong, if not inaccurate. Maybe lessons I picked up? Working suggestions? Useful bullet points? Whatever! Here is a list of things I sort of remember from my many years of playing RPGs and mastering a few (just a tad). In no particular order (other than the one given, like you really care either way)

1. Every gamer is a min-maxer: Each and every ONE OF THEM. Even the scrawny kid in the corner who is waiting for his thespian moment. Oh, woe it be to the Master who goes anywhere his one combo, stat or item he has hanged his characters hopes and fears on. Somebody called the waaaaaambulance please! Also known as “all players all whiny little children”.

Oh, a mirror, for me? Thank you! And don’t get me started on the munchkins . Yes, I have that mirror right here. Why do you ask?

2. Strip all publish adventures of treasure: Every single copper piece, +1 sword or other form of treasure must go. Then carefully build the treasure with all the misery love of a pre-Xmas Eve Ebenezer Scrooge. It is the only way to avoid Monty Hauling , which invariably leads to a dead campaign because the PC ascended to godhood by the end of the first encounter, or you drop a red dragon on their heads which leads to a TPK (Total Party Kill for you noobs!)

3. Don’t mess with the established monsters: Sure you can fiddle with them a little, but go too far and you will NEVER live down that one time, fifteen years ago when you decided to drop a “special” on them. Never…EVER!

4. When you utter the words, “Hey aren’t you playing X?” or “Here I have an NPC ready for you”, or “How about playing Y race cause I really need one in my game”, it translates in the players mind thus (Cue Admiral Akbar voice) “IT’S A TRAP!”

5. The Rule of Inverse Book Rule Carry: Lets say your current system has, oh I don’t know, 10 books so far (it’s just a number, yes I know they have like 30 out, or 177, just go with it, okay!). If you bring all 10, by the end of the night you will discover that you brought 9 to many. Bring only one and, of course, you brought 9 too few. Never fails.

6. The Inverse Square Rule of GM Loving/Slavish Detail: The more you time you spend on something, a weapon, an NPC or a map (or some such) the less likely the Players will care about it, react to it or bother to use it. However they will spend hours try to gang-bang the no name wench behind the bar, then once she gets knocked up they will want you to research (i.e. make shit up on the spot) the whole courtship/marriage ritual/ceremony whatever of the Old Kingdom of Aerdy just so they can slap a ring on the bitch and then leave her and her unborn child behind to loot another dungeon.

7. “You all meet at the local inn.” It’s old, cliched, kind of stupid and boring. It also FUCKING WORKS!

8. Ask for a character background, you may get a paragraph if you’re lucky. Ignore the player that handed you a freaking bible of a backstory and they will go on, and on, and on, and….yeah…..

9. As the GM is the master of time and space, which means if you give 3 days for the PCs to recover, hop across the planes, save their uber-wizard friend from the Pit of Hell and be back to face down the Apocalypse and the PCs say, “Not going to happen Bob”. Don’t be surprised if they didn’t also rescue Dorothy from Oz and reversed Global Warming while they were at it.

10. Celebrate PC ingenuity: If they found a cool way to kill your uber-monster of the week, reward them, don’t whine about how it was too easy. Also clever and unexpected solutions to problems (in and out of combat) are what players live for, so don’t be a spoil sport about it.

11. Oh and a final note, NO CLUE IS OBVIOUS FOR THE CLUELESS: What is obvious to you is not obvious to your players, remember rule #6.

2 Days to NaNo: Writer’s Notes/Encyclopedia Galactica

More world building stuff, this time an “encyclopedia” of useful terms. Again, this is a reconstruction, since I lost the original some time ago. Now, in no particular order (and therefore defying the encyclopedic concept|) here are a few terms:

Galactic Empire:  Form of hereditary government that claimed dominion over the whole of the Milky Way Galaxy. Currently defunct.

Throne of Stars: Galactic seat of government. Established on Pharriss Prime.

I.C.: Imperial Calendar. Current year 1300. Year Zero 3000 CE.  Not in used outside the central spar.

Imperial Credit Standard: Or ICS (not to be confused with I.C.). Serves as the galactic monetary reserve standard and main form of galactic currency. Comes in two forms- ICS and BICS. ICS covers all transactions except those at the world governments/institutions level, those use the Billion Imperial Credit Standard.

Imperial Governance Bureau: The main bureaucratic/technocratic corp that enabled the Emperor to administer the galaxy. They now control the central spar of the galaxy waiting for a new Emperor to take the Throne of Stars.

Imperial Navy: Main military branch of the Empire. It’s mission was to patrol the trade routes between worlds and uphold  Imperial writ(s).  Currently divided among the House Major with 40% under the control of the Grand Marshall of the Imperial Arm.

Grand Marshall:  Supreme military commander under the Empire.

Gate Network: A series of “jump” gates that allow ships to traverse space at Faster Than Light travel (FTL) and also serve as transmitters for FTL-communication between star systems. Military vessels rely on their own “jump engines” for FTL, but this makes them several orders of magnitude more expensive than not FTL equipped ships.

Imperial Marine Corps Support ground units of the Imperial Navy. Specializes in using powered armor for planetary assaults.

House-Major: Political subdivisions of the Empire. Each house controls an arm of the galaxy.  Each Five Houses exists divided into a host of House-Minor.

House Regiments:  Military forces of each House-Major. Considered to be inferior in quality to former Imperial elite forces (Navy/Marines). Most of the these forces serve as planetary garrisons and/or system defense. Since the fall of the Third Dynasty many of the forces have expanded. Some, like the 555th Infantry Regiment of House de Havilland have acquired reputations rivaling the former Imperial counterparts.

The Red Horse: A mercenary “company”. One of many that came to being during the Dark Age.

Dark Age (Galactic): Current area. The last 300 years of galactic history without sans Empire.

Garou: First space-faring alien race encountered by humanity. After a series of wars with humanity the Garou were defeated and assimilated into the Empire. Later, under the Second Dynasty they were ascended to House-Major status.

Dynastic Eras– The galaxy has known three dynastic periods- Kaiser/Han/De Havilland.

Powered Armor– Sophisticated suits of armor that provide omni-environmental protection to ground forces, with expanded sensor suites and enhanced strength/endurance. Basic armament consists of a 27 mm Grad-Mauser  auto-cannon, but can be armed with a series of weapons suites including missile/rocket launchers (direct/indirect fire),  recon/stealth sensor suites and enhanced kinetic or portable energy weapons.

The Void: The space at the edge of known space. The scattered worlds on the galactic rim (the edges of the spiral arm and the outer sphere of the galaxy) do not hold any allegiances to House or Empire.  Also known as the Grey Market, it is home to rebel factions, commerce raiders and the like.  Attempts over the centuries to bring this area over Imperial control have failed. Economist suggest that the Void acts as an “pressure valve” for the “close galactic economy”.

World: Any planet or system with over 100 million inhabitants.  Each world has a governor or some form of representation within the House-Minor/Major structure. They also sport one or more jump gates.

World-Sanctuary:  Worlds reserved for non-human sentient races.

World-Imperial: Worlds controlled directly by Imperial writ. They serve a series of functions, such as libraries or military bases.

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Well that’s all I have for now. I’ll add more terms as I remember them.

And now for the obligatory video!

Flash Fiction Friday: A Day Late and a Apocalypse Short

Haven’t done one of these in awhile and yes I am a day late (or several weeks, even a month or two if you’re into counting such things). However, I was writing a short story background for my latest RPG character and I decided to share it without you. Make of it what you will.

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The City fumed, screeched and stank as it always did. Winter had come early this year and with it an edge. Bill felt it in the air. He had one more package to deliver before turning in for the day. He parked his bike on an alleyway, away from the prying eyes of the MetroPol officers in the corner.

Fascist pigs.

They carried body armor and heavy assault rifles. They treated Mid-Town as if were some god forsaken occupied Third World country.  Bill”s boss was tired of covering his parking tickets and he didn’t want to give him a reason to fire him or the cops a reason to arrest him. He knocked on the metal door, “Quick Time Delivery! Package for Mr. Tom Harris!” He checked the address on the box again. Right place.

Screw this.

He left the small box on front step and turned to leave when he heard the door open but before he could say anything shock hit him in the back and everything went dark.

He opened his eyes but could not focus them, his arms and legs in metal restrains. A hooded figure stepped from the darkness into the light of a single light bulb over head. A familiar voice emanated from under the hood, “I’m sorry that I have to do this to you.”  A syringe pierced his arm, “and yes this is going to hurt.”

Fire course through Bill’s veins until the pain overwhelmed him. When he opened his eyes, he heard the same voice pushing him out of the room, “You got to get out of here, take this.” He gave Bill a  bag now loaded with something heavy and rectangular. “Run, I’ll cover you.”

“Whaaa….”

An explosion shook the building followed by flashes of light and gunfire. Bill stumbled away through a door and into the alley. He pulled the hood of his jacket over his head to ward off the cold blast of air. Heavily armed police and soldiers swarmed the building. Explosions echoed through the urban canyons. He looked up. A military helicopter hovered over the street. A second later, a large piece of concrete hit it. It maneuvered away, only to crash a block down. The street shook from the impact.

Bill ran for the safety of his apartment. There a pounding headache drove him to take a fistful of aspirin and go to sleep.

The next morning the news anchor talked about an anti-terrorist operation gone wrong, with several casualties, but no exact numbers. The network cycled handful of shaky images shot by bystanders on cellphones and digital videocams. His phone beeped. A few messages from Evelyn asking where the Hell he was, but none from his jerkass boss. He still had his job. Then he remembered his bag.

Inside he found a laptop. Once it loaded, a video came on screen. The same hooded figure from yesterday spoke directly to the camera.

“Bill, I’m sorry for what happened. I wish there had been another way. But I had no time, literally. By this time, the injections worked and you should be feeling the effects soon. I’ll explain what that means, exactly later, but for now you need to find the others. Things are deteriorating, fast. And by you,” the man in the screen pulled his hood back, “I mean me.”

Bill saw himself on screen.

Oh shit!

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Confused?

That’s the idea.

Seen it all before?

This might give you a clue (click on the link for a hilarious review of the same):

Flash Fiction Friday: Once More Into the Breach

Haven’t updated in awhile. It seems that Flash Fiction Friday is not as popular as I thought it would be. No worries, you live and learn. This is another story set in the Galaxy Command RPG setting.

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Argus stared at the screen over the bar through bleary red eyes. Someone sat on the stool to his left, “How are you buddy?”

Argus drained his glass with one long pull. “What parts of no you don’t understand Gary, the N or the O?” he spat at the new comer.

“The part where you’re broke or the part where you still have nine months on your reserve status, I can’t decide which part that may be Argus,” said Gary.

“And what are you going to do about it?” Argus looked around him, “I don’t see a security squad with you and you’re not stupid enough to try to drag me back to the brig all by yourself so what do you want?”

“I’m putting a new team together and I need someone like you. Technically I could order you back, but I don’t want it to go down that way.”

Argus made a slicing motion across his throat to the bartender. “Technically I could give three shits about what you want or your orders.”

“I’ll take care of that,” said Gary to the bartender. He took the data pad and sign in his own name. “Still drinking scotch I see, all three bottles worth.”

Argus shrugged, “You done?”

“Yeah. There should be something waiting for you in your room. Think of it as your severance package.”

Argus got up from his chair and made his way across the casino. Little old ladies played the coin machines. Lights and sounds blasted through his dulled senses. Inside his room, he stumbled in the dark. “Ouch! Damn it!” A small table toppled over. The pain emanating from the stubbed toe pierced through the alcohol induced mental fog. “Lights!” A black box lay on the ground.  It came to life the moment he touched it.

WE ARE D’VOR

Startled by the ominous voice Argus put the box down on the bed. Gary’ holographic face appeared before him, “Argus this is part of a transmission we received from Eden about a week ago. You heard the rumors about what happened. We still don’t have all the facts and I can’t say more without compromising security. I need someone to whip up a new team to investigate this. Training contract, good pay, expunged record. Can’t give you back your old rank, but you never stood on rank anyway. Meet me at the starport at 11:45hrs. If you don’t show up, I won’t hold it against you. Hope to see you there.” The image winked out.

Argus shook his head and flopped back to be. He would be crazy to return to Galaxy Command. Not after the Koha Maru, not after what happened to Ryan.

Then again… he thought, but sleep took over.