Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ships in the Fog Blog of Game Design?

Posted: May 11, 2010 by Guy Shalev in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I know I haven’t blogged a lot recently (under-statement), and even less than I actually blogged in general had been posted here, as I decided to stop cross-posting from my other blogs here… I’ve been swamped with school, Chen, dealing with miniatures and such. I’ll elaborate on this more as time allows, but that time is certainly not now.

Anyway, I’ve moved my game design blog from LJ to WordPress, which I like better in handling, having no commercial, its appearance, how robust and easy to manage multiple blogs it is, etc.
The old blog was here, and the new blog (don’t expect a lot of content, please) is at https://guyshalev.wordpress.com/ which has all the old content and a new post.

The new post is what I also want to talk a bit about here. The new post is titled Design Thoughts – Cranium Rats, Competition, Story, Currency. If you think its format is a bit weird, well… it was written in a class about Wittgenstein for the most part, so one thing followed another and so it came to pass. This WordPress theme changed anything from say, 7.1.. to 7.A.b.c…

I wonder if I should’ve split it, both because it’s pretty long and to make reading it easier. Points 1-5 could be seen as "Logistics", of how to handle the game, Cranium Rats. Point 6 talks about the interaction between Story and Competition, which #7 does as well but in a different manner. #8 talks about Currency and is more closely tied to Cranium Rats. #5 also deals with Currency to a degree, but slightly more "didactic".

I feel though it’s hard to pin-point exactly, that this might also be of interest and slightly more broadly applicable than only to those who know Cranium Rats, or even those who are interested in competitive games who also have a story. I wonder how others feel.
I also can’t really think of how to let people know of this post*, so consider this post the place where I allow myself to do so, and more than that, a post where I point people to the new blog, where things will rarely happen, but every so often, they will.

I specifically think of the new post, that sections 6-7 might be of interest to people, here’s an example with 7.b.c-d:
c.In the joint realm (of story), competition can obviously revolve around story, over its direction, over controlling it, etc.
d.I find this option or at least its presentation as unfulfilling and insufficient, because every competition which occurs within a game of this sort will affect the story. Either directly, or by its control via currency which is exchanged between the players who will later use it in order to succeed within the game or to modify it on the player level directly. And so, even though it is an option, it could be said that every solution that will be given will already perform this, so there is no need to talk of it as a separate option at this stage.

Until the next time, where hopefully school will no longer bury me.

* I am also feeling the desire to feel appreciated, this what happens when you no longer blog regularly, because when you do, your regular readership “takes care” of it to a degree.

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A couple of days ago I posted on twitter the following:
""Story Now" is a passive activity, once you’re active, it’s ahead or before."

Scott Dunphey asked me via twitter to elaborate on it, so I said that I’d try and secure permission from Paul Czege, with whom I had a conversation on the matter, and the above was taken from said conversation. Note, I find it amusing, and well, very internet-esque, that on this thread someone took two tweets I’ve made and wagered I have an axe to grind against hippy story games.
Damn, but I should’ve taken that wager! (I do find it genuinely amusing, I’m not even slightly offended or snarky)

Anyway, here is the transcript.
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On the Dread Terror of (C)RPGs!

Posted: October 13, 2009 by Guy Shalev in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

This will be a short post on Computer/Console-Role-Playing Games (RPGs), which are why I’m so scarce this week; as opposed to last week, when it was due to me attending a convention.

Rush and Irina Sykes. Protagonist and sister.
Rush and Irina Sykes. Protagonist and sister.

The Last Remnant, Square Enix‘s less than stellar last game, is the one I’m currently spending too much time on, which is exactly the point: These games work their magic on me in such a manner that even when they are less than stellar, my days are lost to them.

The way in which RPGs work on me is that there’s always another goal, just nearby, and when you reach it, you’ve already got another goal or two on your sights. Not to mention that when you have a farther goal it is comprised of several mini-quests, or you find out that getting Super-Duper Sword Z makes getting Superlative Armour Y much easier, so the sword you never aimed for is now your new goal…

You know how they say most RPGs are 40-60 hours long, and if you spend more time on them, they can get up to 100 hours? Well, these people don’t know me, who grinds and usually does ALL side-quests. I don’t grind so things would be easier (and indeed, in The Last Remnant, as you gain levels, your enemies gain new powers and more life), but I want to complete everything available to me at each point.

Heck, you know how in Poke’Mon (the original gameboy games), many people rush to the end, and only then really work on their Poke’Mons? Well, I worked quite a lot on my Poke’Mon before, and then kept working later, both on getting new Poke’Mon and getting more of them powerful. I didn’t just stay with my 6 uber, but rotated for more of a roster, and that translated to more hours. Of course, due to my bent-neck with the gameboy, I had a very hurty neck, my new chair helps ensure that my travels with Rush Sykes and friends will not be as hurtful.
Maybe it’s bad, as it means I won’t leave my computer, but nah, I won’t be leaving it anyway 😉

World of Warcraft is an example of a game I’ve stopped playing in part because it was too good. I played WoW a lot, and I’ve realized, that if I keep playing it so much, I wouldn’t be able to visit the forum (RPG.net) and sites, and talk to the friends, I had at the time. And with the addition of the subscription fee, I’ve thought to myself, "Hm, if I’m not going to be playing it much, why pay for the subscription?" (I was in the army at the time, so my monthly salary was $80 or so, so $15 a month for subscription was not negligible).

So yes, these days when I look for MMORPGs, for instance, I look for games that are not as good as WoW, or at least, not as addictive (but when they aren’t as good, I end up not enjoying them :D). Guild Wars works perfectly for me, less for being "less good", and more for the no-subscription. I haven’t played since January, but I might install it again and give it some more of my time. Of course, that it takes 15-20 giga of hard-drive space is also consideration, so I might try and finish The Last Remnant first, you know?

The convention I went to has something to do with it, as I sat in the cafeteria during down-time next to someone who was playing, though it’s been on my mind for a while that I hadn’t played in quite some time. And of course, next month comes out Dragon Age: Origins by my favourite RPG-releasing company, BioWare, and seeing as next week the new school-year begins, I hope it’ll go well.

The only way to stop this is to limit myself, not to "goals", as there are always more, but to time-spent playing. And no, "30 more minutes" shouldn’t be acceptable, as you can find yourself looking at the watch again, and it’s 3-4 hours later.

I’ll cover the board game known as Infernal Contraption by Privateer Press in this post. I use the definition "card-game" even though it’s a non-collectible card-game, ala Munchkin, which I think is really a "board-game"; I hope you can bear with that. Furthermore, I’ll tell you the general gist of this post: We did not enjoy this game much.

This is a "Things I Like" post, so the review is more me covering opinions than describing the thing blow by blow, and all the rules.
In this game each player receives a deck of card, and must create a machine: Connecting "contraptions" that do things to power-sources, connecting "enhancements" to contraptions, and connecting one-time "consumables" to something. You get to place things only if they have matching "sockets", and you need to "pay" for each card you play after the first free card each turn.

Your goal in this game is to be the last man standing. I was actually a bit worried about this from a design stand-point before: This is not a game like Munchkin where we all play and have the ability to affect the game till it ends. Instead, players are removed from the game and may end up becoming bored. From my experience though, when someone gets removed, the game is usually close to completion, and the players are going to grow bored way before that as well 😉

There are a lot of cards, and while many of them are quite similar to one another, and only have slight differences in the rules, or their connectors are different and they are otherwise identical, this translates to every turn, where a player might have a completely new hand (other players’ actions can grant and take cards away), they will sit huddled, and spend 3-5 minutes reading their cards and planning what to play, where. During this time, the other players can stop paying attention. There’s only one card type (so 3-4 copies) that truly require you to pay attention to another player’s machine.

A Contraption Card.
A Contraption Card.

The cards are certainly quite beautiful, and have a distinct art-style. I think their design though, is prohibitive for play. It is true, that since you can connect your card via one of the four connectors on the four cardinal directions, you might place it "upside down", but still. As it stands, when the cards are in your hand you need to tilt them to read them, and due to the text being small and the picture being so big, your attention is divided: There are too many things to look at, and either the picture draws too much attention, or you don’t really look at it at all.
And then, once you have your machine, once per turn you activate it. In the beginning, my mother (I played with my mother and one of my friends), would read us what the card said, word-for-word. I told her, "No need to read the card, just tell us what to do," as I desired to speed the game up a bit. And that’s the other shoe; while a player builds their machine, the other players sit there twiddling their thumbs, or begin reading on their new cards early hoping it’d still be relevant by next round. And when another player runs his machine, they just tell you for
the next 1-2 minutes what cards to draw, which cards to discard, etc.

This is basically a giant "mutual" solitaire game: You sit around and play with some other people, but the interaction between players is quite minimal. The only really social aspect of the game is choosing who to attack on each of your turns. Perhaps trying to cajole players to attack other players.

I think the only thing worse than playing it with 3 players is playing it with 4, as the time you sit there doing nothing adds up. Sure, if we’d have kept playing we’d probably have become more adept, and played faster, slightly faster. But for what purpose? It’s not like what makes a game fun, which is actual real strategy beyond the basic (make it so you don’t play too many cards a turn, as you’ll draw your own deck out), and social relations, are there.

Score
: 4.5/10.

P.S.:
I forgot to say these two things before: First, my mother enjoyed the game, but she took way longer than the rest of us to play her turn. Same as her turn took double the time in Settlers or so. She was engrossed in her cards all the time, during our turns too, so she probably didn’t notice their length. Second, the game has an add-on that adds "Interrupts", so to speak, that add to your options to act during the other players’ turns. But since the main game is so sub-par, even if the add-on brings it up to par, it’s too late.

Panty Explosion is a role-playing game about psychic girls and school drama. Classroom Deathmatch, the next RPG Jake had worked on is based on Battle Royale, to a degree. A game where a class of students must fight to the death.
This part of the interview will deal mostly with Classroom Deathmatch, but also with The Magical Land of Yeld, a fusion of Zelda, the secret worlds of Narnia, and Final Fantasy Tactics’ job-system, a game about children in a magical world of adventure.

The previous part of the interview can be read here, dealing mostly with Panty Explosion, and the work-process Jake and his co-creators engage in.
I will have my comments (in italics and parenthesis), and most links had been added by myself. Hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

1. How did you decide on Classroom Deathmatch after Panty Explosion?
Matt and I had been selling Panty Explosion at GenCon (The biggest role-playing convention in the world, AFAIK), and the booth across from us was am import DVD seller called Cine-East. The couple running the booth were really enthusiastic about the game and helped us promote it at the show, and Matt and I ended up buying a whole mess of DVDs from them. Survive Style 5+, Saikano and a whole bunch of other stuff. One of those was Battle Royale 2, and Nick came over to the house and watched it with me a few weeks after the con. We were about half way through the movie and one of us was like "we could totally play this with Panty Explosion". And then at the same time we both blurted out something about a Battle Royale/Panty Explosion game. We wrote the entire thing that night.
Originally we had planned to release a yaoi-flavored version of Panty Explosion, but it never really happened. Maybe someday.

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Panty Explosion RPG! Jake Richmond Interview Part 1.

Posted: September 22, 2009 by Brian in Uncategorized
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Hello gang. This is an interview I’ve conducted with the game-designer and artist Jake Richmond, whom I’ve known for several years. The interview’s first part will follow here, and the second part will be posted in a week’s time. Jake does anime related RPG design, and this week we’ll focus on Jake and the game of Panty Explosion. Jake’s part of what is often termed as "Indie RPGs", which are basically "Official doujinshi" if you will; people create and publish a role-playing game on their own, for the most part. They’re sold for ~$20.
Also, this is what people often call "Story-Games", games focused on the creation of a story.

I will have my comments (in italics and parenthesis), and most links had been added by myself. Hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Jake Richmond. I live with friends in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been a full time freelance illustrator for about 5 years and a part-time art teacher for about 3. I make comics and games, and I publish my games under the label Atarashi Games. I rarely wake up before 1pm, and I never go to sleep before 4am. My blood type is A. I like Indian and Mexican food, collect video game art books and have a glasses fetish.

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So, some of you may know, I’m a university student, I’m one (1,800+ pages of material) test away from finishing my second year, studying Philosophy and Sociology/Anthropology. And one of the bennies when you get a too-open assignment, is to write about shit you care about. I wrote an assignment on Holism in analyzing RPGs.

This is actually not the first time I’ve done something like this. The first time we were asked to write a major assignment (around 20-30 pages) was in the fifth grade, and I wrote about Dungeons and Dragons. I hunted down the articles in Hebrew written about it, publications translated on satanism, psychology, how the game was brought into Israel, etc. This was back when "Mitzuv" the company that brought D&D to Israel existed, and TSR too, so I just had my mom go to their offices and photocopy that stuff for me.
I might actually still have this assignment somewhere, perhaps even on a computer (though if I do, it’s in Hebrew).

Now, I had a course in Philosophy about Holism, we’ve discussed the topic mainly through the lens of the Philosophy of Science and the Philosophy of Language, and a broad-picture was painted. We were told (we were told on the first lesson, so it didn’t come as a surprise) to write an assignment regarding Holism, anything we wanted.
And then came the time to write the assignment, and I wasn’t sure what to write about, so I turned to my interests, things I didn’t need to do major reading about in order to crank out a roughly 7 page assignment, because being the procrastinator that I am, there was no time.

I recalled the arrow diagram of The Big Model in RPGs, and how all the levels had to be taken into account, especially in light of "The Lumpley Principle" ("System (including but not limited to ‘the rules’) is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play.") and I set down to right.

Note, this assignment is obviously not without flaws, but I had constraints of time and space to begin with, and the paper had to be tailored to a specific audience. Roleplaying games may have needed a better explanation and breakdown, The Big Model deserves its own section, and of course, describing the roleplaying theory scene while giving everyone it credit too. But that was unfeasible. So things were simplified, and I’m sure some things were butchered.

Maybe it all makes me a bad academic, perhaps it even makes me a bad student, but the point is another: Use what you already know and care for when you can. Beat dealing with stuff you are either not passionate about (I quite like Philosophy, thank you), or need to read up on when you can avoid it (yes, I guess I am a bad proto-academic).

Here’s a direct link to the assignment, note, it’s a .doc (Word document, office 2000).
Also, this is the last day of the month, so expect some summary posts to follow this week, including my media breakdown, my purchases, a review of the Figures of the Month (I will see about that), and break-down traffic and posts made this month.

P.S. I know this is greek to most of you, "The Big Model", "The Lumpley Principle", etc. I touch on it in the paper you can read, and well, this is a blog about what I care for. And this is something I care for. So there you go.
P.P.S. The "About" page had been updated. The Links page still awaits completion.

P.P.P.S. for you LJ people: You’ll get some more reposts, or a post linking to posts that don’t really belong here, later this week.