Friday, February 26, 2010


In honour of my New Years resolution, I will not be talking about any of the following topics:

  • People complaining about poor weather in the winter
  • The proposed BBC cuts and how they make me want to punch someone
  • The inevitable witchhunt over our poor showing at the Winter Olympics (see #1..)
Why? Because I have already exploded at the TV twice today and I'm all ranted out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Storm in a D-Cup

..or how slow a news day was it yesterday?

So I'm reading the Metro this morning going into work and I scan across an article about a student from Oxbridge (that fictional higher plane that links Oxford and Cambridge despite them being nowhere near each other) has written a sex diary blog about her exploits in bed. It is, the papers say, the next Belle de Jour and images of Billy Piper in a v-necked jumper, Ugg boots and a pashmina drinking Skittles raced around my head.

So I exercised the wonders of modern technology and hunted down this cesspit of human depravity on my iPhone. It took a while because the newspaper didn't give a URL and when I searched for it, I found a lot of newspaper coverage - Guardian, Mail, Telegraph etc. Eventually, I found the site in question.

It has three posts on it - and the majority of the content had been relayed to the reader through the exerpts from the press.

Now we all know sex sells, and posh, literate totty who doesn't mind a quicky sells even better in the broadsheets (bringing back memories of halcyon days for the journalists, no doubt) but three posts?! Its not like its even explicit stuff.

Post 1 is 'I have OCD, I was a latecomer to sex, here's what I intend to do here.'
Post 2 is 'How I lost my virginity in a dignified manner'
Post 3 is 'Rugby lads - ok in bed, wanted anal, as if?!'

I am, of course, just jealous. Said 'closet nympho' has managed in three posts to generate no doubt a gazillion hits and will spiral into 15 minutes of fame. Clearly what I need to do is post something other than gaming and anti-media 'why can't we all be sensible' rantings and start talking about something more smutty.

No takers?

I'm stunned....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Long Strange Trip is Over!

Today, I finally finished the 'What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been' achievement in World of Warcraft. Rather than wooshing around Azeroth on my Albino Drake, I now really do WOOSH around on my 310% Violet Proto-Drake. Moreover, it caps over a year of doing all of those little holiday quests that populate the game occassionally.

Some of the quests and achievements have been a lot of fun. Some have been downright bollock-burningly annoying. I've traveled over every inch of the map, delved into myriad dungeons, eaten bizarre foods, juggled near invisible batons, been riotously pissed, pledged my love and honour literally dozens of elders. Of all the things I have done is WoW, this act of sheer tenacity is the only one that I would even consider an 'achievement' - if you ever can have one in a computer game.

Of course, now I am going to have to find something else to do but Catacylsm will be out sometime this year and that may well start a longer, stranger trip.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Living in a Google World

Another day, another Google product - this time, Google Buzz (a sort of Google-ised Twitter-cum-Facebook Status Update). The advance of the Google empire across the digital world seems to be an unstoppable force. I wonder however, whether it will reach the immoveable object of public suspicion?

The computer literati have a history of suspicion when it comes to having One Big Company controlling all of their resources and this suspicion is mirrored in legal circles by various attempts to dismantle these alleged monopolies. I am, of course, nodding towards the various amounts of litigation against Microsoft and the rise of the small but vocal advocates for 'alternate' browser systems to Windows.

I was pondering yesterday whether the spread of Google was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. Consider this - could you do a complete web-based project using only Google products? They provide a search engine, a chat function, a collaborative tool, a groups tool, a blogging tool, a social networking tool, a shared calendar tool, a photo library tool, a map tool, a video library tool, a website creation tool and even an online checkout tool. Assuming you don't have to do any image manipulation, yes, I reckon you could create a complete web-based project of some degree of sophistication using just the Google tools.

I'm normally the last person to complain about these sort of things as I find it a little funny that you have people profiting from a capitalist society complaining that someone (Microsoft) is a far better capitalist than they are. Sob sob boo hoo. However, something doesn't sit right with me that Google should have this level of integration but for the life of me, I cannot think why. I'm posting this on a Google blog, powered by a Google browser all generated by an account for a Google email. Hypocrite? Moi?

Then again, it might just be that everyonehas managed to link their Twitter, Facebook and Buzz feeds together so that everywhere I turn, I see the same bloody messages!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

GenCon .... HO!

And its on!

My (early) 40th birthday present to myself - a trip to GenCon US 2010 - is now fully booked. Its going to be an interesting trip. I stumbled across a really rather cheap flight today - £460 return, which is faaaaar better than the other £660 fares. The catch? Well, we fly from Heathrow at 6am (so thats staying up overnight then...) to ... Rome. And then from Rome we fly to Chicago and my old favourite of O'Hare International and then onto Indianapolis. Vice versa on the way home. The 45 minute internal transfer at Rome might be a bit tight, but thats half the fun (memories of Chicago '07 remind me of how fast gamers can move when needed!)

No Travelodge on the state border this time - we're booked into a hotel just down the street from the convention centre and again, its a bit cheaper than expected, which is awesome. Ticket for the con booked too - all we need is insurance, a cheap ticket to London and clearance to travel to the USA.

And this time around, I am adamant that I am not going to be ill in any way, shape or form!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Terminating Facebook?

Its funny how things tend to come along in bunches. I was talking to Dave (who is doing his PhD on some complicated marketing thingamebob that has stuff to do with online games) about termination costs on Saturday night. We have the best, more interesting conversations, you see. We were talking about the methods that companies use to increase the termination costs of their products, especially online products to hold onto customers.

This week, Facebook changed its interface again. It moved a few bits around and altered the way that some things worked and there is an extra click here or there. Those people addicted to the various online games that are played on Facebook will have known this was coming because they have been altering how the games interact with the site over the last couple of months, probably due to load issues.

And, like every other time that this has happened, there has been an uproar of people bemoaning the changes that have been made. They are accusing Facebook of changes for changes sake, terrible design choices, ignoring the needs of the user and above all else returning them to the deluge of 'Bobby has just planted some Elephant Corn in FarmTownVille' messages. (Although why, for the life of me, the people that play the games simply don't ignore the offers to post these messages, I do not know.)

And I pondered this for a while, reading the vitriol that the users were pouring onto the newsfeeds and I thought 'Why not just stop using it then?'

And then I remembered - termination costs.

I think a lot can be said about us that we can hate a product (well, for this week anyway, until we all get used to the changes and they become the norm, until the next change comes along) so much that we set up a group to attack that self-same product and yet we simply cannot bring ourselves to cease the usage of that product.

Them's damned high termination costs.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My Fiery Cockles

As has been noted here before, I am not a great fan of running games at conventions. To be more accurate, I'm not a fan of the prospect of running games at conventions - the execution of the game is always more gratifying than the build-up. With this in mind I tried to approach Conception with a degree of nonchalance. I hadn't prepared any games and I was going to try to avoid running anything. Oh, I know - bad designer, no biscuit - but sometimes you just want to kick back and not have to worry. I did take my patented generic convention kit of bits and bobs so I could throw something together if needed though and as it happened I did end up running a great game of BtQ as a sequel to my previous Sharpe/Hornblower game from Furnace.

Anyway, this post isn't about me, its about the amazing array of wonderful people who were also running Duty & Honour/Beat to Quarters games. Throughout the convention there was a steady stream of mainstream D&H being ran as well as a number of alternate versions including a WWII Prison Camp escape scenario and a Goblin Tribes scenario. Yes, goblins!

I'd never quite experienced anyone else running one of my games at a convention - it made me nervous - but in the end there were so many that it just became a relentless wave of gaming. What made it more apparent is that the nature of the games and the tension of the card flopping can cause these games to get a little ... noisy. There was much cheering coming from the D&H tables.

I'm still trying to put a finger on the feeling but it really vindicated my publishing aims to see my game being openly enjoyed by so many people. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who took part in any of the games and especially the guys who stepped up to run the games. IndiePete suggested it would warm my cockles? I think you guys made them hotter than that!

Lady Blackbird

In the first of a few post-Conception posts, I'd like to address Lady Blackbird.

I'd heard about this game tangetially over the last couple of months but I dismissed it as a 'joke' game akin to Sea Dracula, but when I actually saw it in play and read it online it is far far more.
In a 15-page pdf, the game delivers characters, system and specific kicker situation for 1-6 sessions of play. It even manages to squeeze in an advancement system as well. The setting is a steampunky-magic-science-opera thing which is beautifully realised within the document. There's art - colour art - that adds to the package. Its really quite inspiring. However, what makes this sing to me more than anything else is that it is Part One.

Part One!

There will be more stuff and there should be. There are little nuggets of implied backstory within the text - Noble house names, for example - that may be addressed, and promises of further expansion options for the characters. There will be other adventures and I imagine if they are anything like this, they too will advance this newly formed world.

Something like this really excites me as it is a model that is totally new to me and yet isn't. Its a format that has worked for many years in comic and TV format and the drip, drip, drip of information is reminicent of both CCGs and MMOs. From a setting point of view, it allows for a slow burn of creativity and gives the players of the game room to work around the setting thats there and appreciate it fully.

I've been searching for the solution to modular game publishing for a while now. I love the idea of simply publishing a small amount of something over time rather than in massive chunks. This seems to scratch that itch exceedingly well and whats even more impressive for a product of this quality is that the author, John Harper, has not tried to monetise the entire affair. The game is available for free download.

I still haven't played or ran Lady Blackbird but from a conceptual point of view, it excites me no end. Have a look at it and see what you think?