Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Top Three Gaming Moments

Its been a funny old year - when I have looked back at what we have done, we don't seem to have done lots of gaming but in reality it appears that we have done more than we usually do. Maybe its because I have been virtually convention-free this year? Maybe its because we have had a smaller group? I have no idea. Still, there have still been some excellent gaming highlights.

There has been one gaming, but not at the table, highlight - next year I have been asked to be a Guest of Honour at Continuum, which is one of the 'name' conventions on the calendar, especially amongst 'trad' circles. Clearly, I'm going to have to pull my socks up to make their generosity worth their while.

Honourable Mention: Playing @ Furnace
Gaming at Furnace was a delight this year, as I got to play one of my favourite games (Mouse Guard) and one of the systems I was yearning to play rather than GM (FATE). Great GMs and great games with great players. It was just an excellent convention.

Honourable Mention: The Gamma World finale
Gamma World was a funny old game. From the initial character generation to the rollout of the campaign ideas, randomness ruled, and it was a little difficult to balance and plan things. Kudos to Nigel for riding this rollercoaster so well. The final session, however, managed to do something I thought was impossible and that was to provide a funny, poignant and poetic ending to the campaign. For the three comedy heroes to be so close to global snack food domination and then have it snatched away from them, to end up back at square one and for it to feel like victory? Wonderful!

Future Mention: Dave's D&D Game
Two sessions of a campaign does not do something this epic justice, so I'm going to note this as a 'one to watch' for 2012.

#3: D&H 40k
As seems to be a growing tradition, one game which didn't necessarily 'work' enters into the top three. At Furnace, I ran two games of Duty & Honour based in the Warhammer 40k universe. The games were fine and I had a lot of fun running them in a very Gaunts Ghosts manner. However, the main victory was making the conversion of D&H, getting it printed up and it working just as I intended. The future, both literally and in game development sense, was here.

#2: Chronica Feudalis
CottageCon was a big of a wipeout for me this year. I was very unwell indeed and had to leave half way through. The upshot was that I only got to play in one of the games - a game of Chronica Feudalis based around 'The Tudors'. It was excellently conceived, perfect for the occassion and marked with some brutal PvP political action. The playaids were exemplary and really helped with the immersion in the setting. A great one-shot session. Excellent.

#1: The Temporal Detective Agency
My daughters have always been 'gaming curious' and have dabbled in the past, so they bullied me into running something for them. We have had three sessions (incl chargen) of the Temporal Detective Agency thus far and  it has been revelatory. The girls possess a passion about the subject matter and a real  ... purity (?) in the way that they approach the games. It has been the most refreshing gaming I have done in years. Real thrills, real excitement, real fear at one point! The only downside is that it takes me a while to think up a good enough story to put before them so my output is not matching their demand. Mouse Guard next for them, by the way!

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Resolutions in Review

The Bottom of the Glass tradition returns, as the end-of-year triumvirate of posts look back, and forward, on the gaming year.

#1: Game More (SUCCESS)
An absolute success. My main gaming group have played through the end of our D&D campaign this year, and then Gamma World, the Dresden Files RPG and a little Burning Wheel too. Dave has successfully started a second gaming night, with some new blood, playing D&D which has been very tasty so far. And, as if that isn't enough, I have been playing with the girls - mainly the Dr Who RPG. From precious little to a smorgasbord of gaming. Superb.

#2 Fold or Twist with Omnihedron (QUALIFIED SUCCESS) and #3 D&H V2.0 (FAILURE)
This is a difficult one. Lots of things changed this year in my work life and that meant that I had to make some very difficult decisions with respect to Omnihedron. It became a matter of priorities and resource management - the main resources being time, energy and concentration! The upshot has been the mothballing of Omnihedron for the time being. Its not dead - just resting, and I have some things planned for next year when I get my head into gear. The decision - well, I like to think of it as a decision because that implies I had an active part in it - was a hard one, but in the end it was a right one. The upshot was that I had to cancel all my rumoured and planned projects which included the revised edition of D&H. That was poor form on my part and it is definitely something that will never happen again.

#4: Run Another Game (SUCCESS)
An easy one, this. I've been running a Dresden Files game which has been OK. I have some serious and growing issues with the system and the way that it handles wizards, but the story has been fine and the attitude I have tried to adopt - more an ongoing game rather than a fixed campaign of unrelenting awesome, has been interesting. I'm not sure it 'worked' but it was nice to try it. The games with the girls have been highly entertaining and some of that entertainment has had me wondering about the effects of cultural metagaming on other game play. More on that later though..

#5: Time Management (SUCCESS)
... but a Pyrrhic success if ever there was one. I have gone through a period of extreme 'faff-pruning'. A huge number of Facebook time-sink games have gone the way, as has any real attempt to do any hardcore MMO gaming, retreating back to just F2P DCUO. Work has become a far more regimented system, with marking and planning done with military precision - especially hard as my new position results in some very random callings upon my time. This has kept me open when it comes to gaming and allowed me to maintain things. However, a lot of this extra time has been surrendered to just vegetating in a knackered stupor. I don't think this is a gaming thing - I think it has more to do with health. However, I have managed to make room for gaming, so its a win!

#Unofficial 6: Continue Avoiding Toxicity
This isn't even a question nowadays. I just walk away. Self-editing and knowing when to turn the computer off are amazing skills.

So, three and a half out of five this year - mostly due to external factors. Not too bad really. The year has been far better in terms of gaming than this post seems. Which naturally leads to the next post - Best Games!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Still Alive and Kicking More Than Ever!

It feels like ages since I have had time to put finger to keyboard. Life has, as per usual, been throwing me a full-on barrage of curve balls. Loathe as I am to blog about work life, I have been through the wringer over the summer and come out of the other side with a job, a promotion and a little stability. Woot!

On the gaming front, I have moved from a vertitable famine to a feast. The transition between games is always a tense time for a group like ours but we seem to have moved on from Gamma World quite well, going back to explore the Dresden Files setting again. We have rejigged the cast of characters and I have taken a more relaxed slowburn attitude to the game and it appears to be working. Still has a lot of player input (as always) but it is definitely a game which is tootling along rather than being played at breakneck speed.

But thats not all! A reconstituted Group 2, with two new players, will embark on another game of Dungeons and Dragons 4e, this time ran by Dave. This is a game which has its roots in stories like A Game of Thrones and it looks like it will be a totally different game from our previous efforts. My character is a shapechanging Whirling Barbarian Half-Orc. Its very different! Actually, whilst the game is now pleasantly familiar, the character generation was quite daunting. Our old game was like the proverbial frog in hot water, slowly getting hotter and hotter, not realising. This time, with a cornucopia of options available, its more like being plunged into the boiling pan! Almost input overload. Thats why I chose the Barbarian in the end - just a few books and options to consider. My other possible choice, Ranger, would have caused my nerves to frazzle!

And it still doesn't end! On Sunday I had the first session with my new gaming group ... me and the kids! We're goinmg to be playing Dr Who on Sunday mornings for the forseeable. The girls have created two really nice, well-rounded 'normal' characters who will get into all sorts of hijinks in time and space. They were, even if I say so myself, fantastic - really bringing imagination and control to the table. I was impressed. I'm planning on relatively short sessions - two hours max - in the first instance. Of course, the upshot is that Mrs Gow gets a couple of totally child free hours. Feel the brownie points rack up.

Of course amidst all of this, something had to give and remarkably, I've put all of my Omnihedron Games activities on hiatus at the moment, and for the indefinite future. I'll almost certainly write more about that in the future, but it feels like a weight off my shoulders.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sexual Networking

...or why you should not friend your students on facebook.

I have a rule: no current students as friends on facebook. Yesterday I realised one of the more practical reasons why that should remain so. That reason was a game called The Sims Social.

This is a Facebook game based on the ridiculously popular game, The Sims. Personally, I hate the standard Sims game with a passion because all I have seen when playing it is confirmation that life sucks. You have to sleep, eat, wash, tidy, play, work and socialise ... but you can only do four or five of them. Which one are you going to sacrifice? Yeah, it sucks. Sims Social removes some of that (at the moment) and rotates around the standard FB game tropes of skills, quests and home building. However, it has another nuance and thats the hotwiring of relationships into the game.

When you visit your neighbours, one of the parts of the game is changing your relationships with them. You start as acquaintances, and then become friends and then best friends and beyond. To do this you undertake social interactions with their avatar. Some of them are purely social - chit chat, shoot the breeze, gossip, tell a story etc. However, you can also flirt with them - compliment their appearance, give them flowers and offer them a romantic kiss. Do these things enough and you get to 'the next level'. Eventually you can start dating them and consummate your love with whoopee in the shower. Together.

OK, thats fine you think ... after all, your neighbours cannot tell which actions you have been doing. Oh really? Well, to progress to the next level of 'friendliness' you have to ask the permission of your neighbour. Look at your friends list? Who do YOU feel comfortable sending the message 'Hey, I'd like my avatar in a computer game to start dating your avatar in a computer game and possibly get shagged in the shower?'. Add to that, that every person I know in the game has made a character that looks like them (well, mine is Sims-Skinny rather than RL-Fat) and you are doing the hootchie-hootchie purposefully with someone who represents someone in real life. What will be the reaction of your RL SO when they discover that you have an in-game girlfriend ... or boyfriend!

If find that quite strange. Creepy even. And definitely something that you shouldn't be doing with say, your ex-girlfriend, an ex-student or your teenage daughter's best friend....!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What is EPOCH?

Its been three years since I launched Duty & Honour and my world changed forever. Its been an amazing adventure so far but I needed some time to relax and sit back and reflect on where things are and where things could be going. I did this during this year's sabbatical from conventions. I finished my teaching qualification, got my job prospects sorted and looked long and hard at the 'Empire' line. A few things struck me. The first was that there were certain commitments that I had made (and half-finished books that I have done) which could be brought to market if I thought a little differently about format and content. Shook things up a bit. The second was that, when all this is done, I'm pretty much bored with Napoleonics at the moment. You can only have so many pointy hats. So I fancied something different.

So I dug out an old idea that just will not die. A game I have written on backs of envelopes for the last few years but never really got my teeth into. Over the last couple of nights, teeth have been well and truly engaged and gnawing has been taking place. So what is it?

Well, I'm not sure, because it can be anything really. I've skinned it as ultra-high fantasy at the moment but I suppose it could do any sort of genre if need be. I haven't even had time to come up with an elevator pitch except that its my take on a pick-up and play game where you can have characters and situation done in about ten minutes and an adventure resolved in maybe an hour? Lots of stuff about hero's journey floating around in my head about it as well.

So why mention this alpha-alpha here? Well, because I'm really excited about it. Its new. Its different. It does not smell of garlic! It could be a new route for Omnihedron Games or it could die a million deaths on the playtesting table of doom tomorrow. Its the thrill of the unknown that makes it so good!

More later...

(Oh and before anyone starts jumping up and down, no this does not mean I am stopping doing Empire at all. *looks at production schedule*  Far from it....)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Here's an honest to god transcript of a message between me and another guy who plays Wrestler: Unstoppable -  a wrestling based facebook game. I'm Joey, he's Acer. Its special....

Acer: actually I won't, because I just fail every move, but the game won't fail a move on you when you pull the same combo three times....that would NEVER happen for me. LUCKY FU C K ING YOU. Unlucky you, you've had all the success against me you're going to have.

Acer: You're busy on the newsfeed, switching stables or companies? Lol

Joey: No, just getting my behind into gear for once. So much to do, so little time

Acer: cool cool...just saw you clogging it up a lot...haha

Acer: yup, might as well just keep the f-ing losing streak alive. god dam it

Acer: maybe next time you could do what would have f-ing happened to me in that fail a pin, I think...oh I can take this, and one of those little bs moves, which apparently never fails for anyone else, fails for me and I still lose the match.. I'm sure glad I can f-ing give matches away...f-this

Acer: Oh look, another win for you, and another loss for me off a failed pin...sure be nice if the game ever let me have that f-ing luxury. Thanks for that birthday present, ass wipe.

Acer: of course....because I get NOTHING EVEER>>>>>>>.all I f-ing do is give and and lose....

(Acer wins a match)

Acer: well, there's a mercy

(Acer loses again)

Acer: well that was a waste of my time, maybe it's time to unfan you and get something out of it. f this bs. go play with yourself, might as well be. more fun for me anyway..f you.

Joey: Whatever. Its not my fault the RNG falls in my favour sometimes. Best of luck though - you have been nothing if not entertaining.

Acer: go fail double axe handles, reverse chinlocks, footstomps....arm bars, bodyslams....funny how you get more moves in one f-ing turn than I get in an entire match....seems pretty much fair. I call bs when I f-ing see it, and if you don't then you're f-ing blind. when the game isn't fun for me, i try hard to make it less fun for you. Go f yourself.

(Acer loses a match with his being a fan of me ‘on the line’ although I had no idea if I had to win or lose for the honour…)

Acer: too never fail to f-ing ruin my life.

Joey: You really take this seriously don't you?Just relax mate - its just a game. A very random game at that. Nothing to get all stressed about at all.

Acer: failed piledriver with 100 momentum = me un-fanning you. I can't help it if the game doesn't want me to succeed moves. You obviously cared a lot about me staying your fan. If I can't succeed moves, then I do what I can do.

Acer: too bad for you. Since I get nothing but disappointment and you get nothing but success, it's time for you to have some retribution for my victimization.

Joey: So you wanted me to throw the match, so that you would stay as my 'fan'? Wow.... thats another level.

Acer: well, I figured that at SOME point maybe I wouldn't fail every f-ing move for no god dam reason, but I guess that's never going to f-ing happen. I didn't want you to throw the match, but since I'm about five succeeded moves from anything good happening to me, something bad should happen to me taking you into the alley and f-ing up your face with a garbage can lid, since all you are is garbage and these matches have been garbage.

Acer: you NEVER f-ing inexplicably fail a move, how f-ing nice. you get everything and I get nothing, so time for you to get nothing.

Joey: Would it help if I told you I lost five title belts and three title matches last week in the biggest run of fail ever? You focus on the bad mate, not the good. You've beaten me loads in the past - months ago you were unstoppable (no pun intended). Its a run of bad form, thats all. But there's no need to be f-ing and blinding about me on the feed, thats just rude.

Acer: well, that's true...I'll take down the feed stuff...but we're done for a long freaking time.

Joey: No worries - when you want to dance again you know where I am. Best of luck

Acer: Thanks...I'd have better sentiments for you if even ONE of these nothing matches had gone my way. I won't dump you as a friend, but don't expect me to send a support your way any time soon, and I have little sympathy for your lost titles. Actions have consequences, even ones that you have little control over. Since you ruined my day last night and today on this game, you deserve a little f-ing suffering.

(Acer decides to fight me again, and after a couple of losses, I win a match after a pretty good comeback)

Acer: yup, amazing how events turn how I say I won't de-fan you and then that happens. Congrats on your good fortune. It ought to have some consequence. I shouldn't be surprised, why would I think that the game would ever f-ing do anything my way ever.

(He finally de-fans me….)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The BIG Idea

As some of you might know, I have been a little vocal in the past about Kickstarter and the effect it is having on the independent games community. However, sometimes something comes along and really opens your eyes, and 'Far West' has been that thing for me.

My eye-opener is not something related to the game itself, although it does look super-cool and something I think would work really well. No, its the plans that flow around the game - the comics, the web series, the fan-influenced creative direction, the art, the 'Far West Society' etc. I think this is fantastic.

We live in a media bombarded age, a highly tribalised age, an age of recycling and regurgitation. To have something like this, which actually makes me sit up and listen and think 'Wow, that's very cool and probably something I could buy into' is very rare indeed. To have something that seems to have taken that media saturation and tribalisation and turned it into something wholly positive? That's fantastic.

However, that's not the only thing that this has done to me. It has really made me look at my creative works and question where I go next. My Duty & Honour project is coming to a close. I have a few more things I have committed to seeing off (a revised edition, a french book and a zulu book - the latter two coming in a short format in all probability, and a stripped down hack-friendly free pdf as well). I'm currently enjoying messing around with my unofficial WH40k hack as well. However, it's very much treading the same ground I have been treading for the last five years and nothing 'new' is coming from it.

What struck me from 'Far West' was the commitment to the bigger idea, the long term commitment. I look at this and it reminds me of Legend of the Five Rings - both in subject matter (naturally) but more importantly in organisation. It has the feeling of something bigger than just a game.

God, I wish I could do something like that?! I wish I could have the clarity of vision and commitment to do that. Put together a team of like-minded friends and carve out something new and brilliant and run with it for a good long time, getting momentum behind it. You know how someone said that everyone has a novel in them? Well, I'd like to think that my Big Idea would be something like this.

I just have no idea how to realise it out from under the morass of mundane bollocks that life is at the moment.

Best of luck to the folks at Adamant with Far West. Its inspirational in more than one way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Yeah, I'm down with the kids.

DCUO has finally flipped its lid. For six months now just about everyone has been waiting for the Green Lantern content. I believe there may have been some bruhaha in the news recently about some motion picture that it might have been tied into? For six months, we have been told it is coming. Beta testers have already seen it. Its there and ready to breathe life into the ailing corpse of a game.

And SOE finally release it ... as paid DLC 'later in the summer'.

Really? REALLY?!

This is the game of broken promises. The slowest developed game in history. Monthly content updates became periodic content updates. Megaservers are taking longer to test than the CERN hyper-accelerator thingamebob. Free content as a result of monthly fee has turned into Station Store content and now ... paid for micro expansions.

Its like taking your customer and kicking them in the bollocks again and again and again.

And what makes me even more stunned is that there are dozens of people on a number of fora defending this practice. Sure, its only $10 but its now actually a principle thing. You cannot lie, mislead and backtrack to your customers this many times without some sort of backlash. Its ludicrous. SOE, I can forgive you the hacking nonsense but this? Seriously ... what on Earth, or indeed Oa, were you thinking?

The End of an Era

One of my first memories of being a child was a hot summer afternoon. I was five. I held in my hand a copy of the Marvel UK 'Mighty Avengers' title - the one where Scarlet Witch, Vision and Quicksilver had been transported to a melting world - and I was hooked. I decided there and then to make a change in my life and with the permission of my mam, I walked the thirty yards from my backyard to the corner shop and proudly told Rosa (the owner) that I wanted to change my order from 'The Barnaby Comic' to the Avengers.

And ever since then I have had a slew of comics that I read every month .... until tomorrow. Tomorrow I will receive the last two issues of the 'War of the Lanterns' in Green Lantern and I will close down my order at Forbidden Planet. Thirty years of comics buying has come to an end. Some might say its about time. Others might think its ill-directed pragmatism. Personally, I just have nothing invested in it anymore.

It started, predictably, with Bendis. That the machinations of one man could have me ... ME ... abandon the Avengers is almost too much to imagine, but it happened. However, what I didn't realise at the time, was that my dropping of my beloved Earth's Mightiest Heroes would prove a watershed moment. The world didn't stop. I wasn't left bereft. It was ... inconsequential. As I have looked at the title (because I still flick through it each month, just to keep my eye in...) there has been nothing to draw me back, no reason to slap down my money.

Oh yes, money. Comics are just too damned expensive as well. £2.30 for a five minute (if that...) experience? No thank you. Of course, if there was some way that DC could reduce the cost of comics, that would work right? Maybe a ... digital revolution?

But no. Well, yes, if you want to wait a month, but not if you want them upfront. I have a lot of problems with DC's Flashpoint revolution. I don't see the DCU as it stands as an overly complex place - certainly its simpler than the pre-Crisis DCU by factors of ten - and I don't see the characters as 'tired'. I do see some titles treading water (JLA, JSA, Teen Titans etc) so I can see their point but a wholesale reboot of the franchise? Really? Nuking Detective and Action back to #1? Seriously?! Can you imagine if they did that in say, Eastenders? Oh we have decided that the backstory is too convoluted, so this week we are going to restart the show and move the characters to Wolverhampton. Same names, maybe same people, new relationships. Madness.

Its also a straight up lack of historical perspective. DC have done this before - an explosion of minor titles in the 1970s followed by the infamous 'DC Implosion' a couple of years later. Every event has been followed by the spinning off of a slew of new titles, the vast majority of which never make it through the first year of publication. Its a failed tactic. Is this supposed to a market penetration strategy, selling more of the same to the current comics buyers, or is this digital revolution supposed to represent market development - penetrating new readers with their online offer? I don't see it - this is the 'app' generation, the 'itunes' generation. Apps cost 59p and are useful forever, updated for free. A single costs 79p. A comic costs ... £2.30? Bear in mind that for the price of 2-3 comics, you can get a fully playable PC game from Steam. And these aren't your father's comics. You cannot trade them, share them, buy them second hand. You cannot trace them and learn to draw from them.... but you can read them on an iPad. Whoopee fucking do.

So what Bendis started, the Flashpoint devolution has finished. Thats me done. No more comics. Its a strange and sobering thought and quite a sad one. I may have to go and dig out that issue of the Avengers (which I have in about three different formats now!) and have some nostalgia to calm my nerves.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lost in RIFT!

So, how have I been doing in RIFT? Slowly but surely, I think would be the best way to describe it. I've been very casually bumbling my way through the PVE content and have reached the heady heights of L28! Please don't mistake slow for lack of interest, its just that there are so many more things that you can do.

The levelling isn't shabby either. Each zone I have been in so far has ended with quite a challenging fortress that has to be stormed. As a rogue, with stealth and sprint abilities and my elf 'jump' ability I think I'm pretty set up for this sort of stuff and I've still come a cropper some times. Challenging PVE is nice to play. I get the feeling as I am playing it that nothing is too easy and thats really making me think. And look around - its really pretty in some areas, Gloomwood especially. The designers also like their labyrinths and dying has more consequences than a simple corpse run! Its a mind test as well (especially for someone with a history of getting lost!)

The other thing which forms a major distraction are the rifts themselves. I'll underline again that this content is what makes RIFT different from its direct competition. The world fights back. At the moment there is a large storyline event happening and occassionally, all hell breaks loose.Monsters roaming everywhere, besieging towns and attacking wardstones. And YOU have to stop them. Its like a game built around the idea of world bosses on all different levels. Tonight, the Defiant players managed to release some giant crawling lobster thing in Scarlet Gorge and we, the Guardians, had to jump in and help put it down. These aren't tank-and-spank bosses either. This one was summoning adds and setting up fire to stay out of as well! Nothing a WoW veteran cannot handle...

I've also adopted a new 'Soul' too.- the Saboteur. Very interesting so far as it encompasses a snare and a ranged stacking attack (theres much more to it, but thats the basics). I'm looking forward to trying more of its tricks out in the fiuture.

I'm under no illusions about the longevity of RIFT. I can see little reason to replay the game with an alt as there is no new content to progress through, just the same thing again. I also know that my history of getting raids in is scant so the endgame might well not be visited much. However, the journey to that endgame is intriguing and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chicken Little Does Entitlement

Ah, the Wrestler Unstoppable app on Facebook does it again.

They've only gone and changed something! Actually, they've changed quite a lot - the page layout, the addition of daily rewards, 'missions' (i.e. quests) and some other cosmetic stuff. Buttons have moved and you might take maybe almost ten seconds to work it all out.

So the natural reaction is a massive movement to go to the page's facebook page and give it One-Star reviews in order to nose-dive it down the app rankings and thus 'send a message' to the devs that they have not listened to the fans and introduced a trash talk board (like you would ever create that cesspit of bile willingly) or tag teams (again, imagine how quickly they would change and consider their worth). 

The level of idiocy that says 'the way to express how much we love something is to try to destroy it' is so high, so mind-numbingly dense, its hard to comprehend.

Sadly, this is common place on Facebook. Remember the old facebook layouts?

No, I don't either but at the time these changes were the sole reason fro the destruction of Facebook, the depletion of the ozone layer and your ability not to pull on a Saturday night! Change and Facebook do not mix well. Ever.

Time will tell whether Wrestler: Unstoppable will survive having some buttons moved....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In Brightest Day....

Well, this has been a long time coming but I finally got to see Green Lantern on the big screen. I have tried my hardest to keep away from too many spoilers and comments but generally, the scuttlebutt that I have heard is that it was going to be a bit of a turkey. I've a very high tolerance for bad films, with my baseline now being the truly snore-inducing Pirates IV, so what did I think?

It was ... OK. I'd go as far as to say 'Good' but only as a rabid Green Lantern fan, and that I think was the films problem.

One of the issues I see with the GL franchise is that it deals with a lot of 'big ideas' - immortal beings, Oa at the centre of the universe, splitting said universe into 3600 sectors, using the power of Will through rings which are charged from lanterns which gain their power from a big lantern which in turn harnasses the power of a being of immense power called Ion but also has a being called Parallax in it which is Fear but also makes the rings immune to yellow unless you have learned to overcome great fear and then.... you get the picture?

Compare that to ' Boy sees parents gunned down and grows up to be extreme vigilante' or 'last survivor of dead world comes to Earth, has cool powers, is awesome'. Note in my diatribe above we haven't even started on Hal Jordan yet?!

So there is a lot to work with and a lot of baseline understanding that makes the franchise tick. Once you understand it, fine, but until then its quite complex and daunting.

I did like the way they cherry-picked the best of the new stuff and some of the classics too. Having Hector Hammond as the first villain was very cool, especially noting his obsession with Carol Ferris. Indeed, how everyone fell in love with Carol was nice too, because she does have the power to instill great love and the nod to this, in her 'sapphire' call sign made me smile. Amanda Waller and the D.E.O., yep, nice. Having Hal, Parallax and the Sun all put together like that was a nice nod to Final Night as well. And I'm told there is a post credits scene with Sinestro becoming the man we all know and love. Excellent. Oh and one head-scratcher for the non-initiated is kept - why does Abin Sur, a space-faring Green Lantern - need a spaceship to travel around? Who knows... We also had nods to Hal's father's death ala the recent storyline and his dysfunctional relationship with his family. All good.

I can also see where they made some decisions to not complicate things. Leaving out the old yellow problem was good as it would have become a distraction. Hammond as a non-stunted form was probably a decent call too, as they did manage to get some of his transformation included. Even Parallax as a renegade Guardian  was a decent call as I think it might have been too much to include the seven beings of the emotional spectrum and then the concept of the seven corps at this early stage.

Special effects were fine. Lots of CGI in this film, some better than others. I could have done without the animated costumes etc. Actually, the one thing that really did put me off was that when he has his mask on, Ryan Reynolds looks a lot like Ben Stiller and I kept seeing Green Lantern as Zohan! The story was ... exactly what you would have written for this sort of movie. In fact, thats probably the biggest downside of the film - the story is so cookie-cutter, by the numbers Hollywood blockbuster, that it makes it quite a dull viewing when you are not looking for the next Easter egg. I don't think that makes good cinema. There's just no tension!

Oh and the visual treatment of Parallax? Another galactic entity reduced to a giant fart, ala Galactus in FF2. *shakes head*

On the flipside, check out the trailer for the new Transformers film. No set-up in this one, it just looks like two hours of what Bay does Best. BOOOM! I'm actually quite looking forward to it for the spectacle. That is if I can hold back my Harry Potter excitement any longer.

Green Lantern. Its OK. Better if you like the comics, worse if you cannot parse exposition quickly.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Emperor Protects!

Through a strange mixture of circumstance, it has come around to me being 'in the chair' for roleplaying again soon. Well, soon being next, as our schedule is as random as ever. And indeed, the game I am going to run has come around by a strange mix of circumstance as well - adopted from another GM no less! Its going to be 'The Emperor Protects!' - a Warhammer 40k hack for Duty & Honour.

I have to say, this is a game that I never thought I would run or that I would enjoy the prospect of so much. Back when I was a lad, I did 'play' WH40k a few times. Just a few. I used to paint the figures a lot more often and had myself a canny little collection of space marines, eldar harlequins and squats. Poor old squats. However, as I grew up these things were deemed too expensive and well, dull, and I abandoned tabletop gaming before it became the behemoth it is today. And thats the way it stayed for literally decades until Dave suggested that D&H was made to run something called 'Gaunt's Ghosts' - a sort of Sharpe in Space apparently. I wasn't convinced, not because of the concept but because I viewed the WH40k fiction as somewhere just above the Beano in quality of content and I thought that the Warhammer universe was just a trap for the dread lore wars.

Anyway, Dave persevered and it looked like his time was on the horizon so I thought I would have a go at the hack. To do so however, I had to do some assimilation, some research. So I started reading the huge volumes of the Ghosts omnibuses. Little did I know that I would become so absorbed by them and that they were every bit as good as the other military SF I have read, if not better in some places. What I also discovered was that a lot of the 'lore' is simply fluff. You can do an awful lot with a few words here or there, a few phrases etc. Thats exactly the same mechanism I usually use to build the flavour into a game of vanilla D&H. Good stuff.

Once I got my head around that, everything just fell into place. The game itself is an almost straight fit for the genre, with some small changes and introductions. New weapons, new traits etc. were a given. Armour has been introduced and some complications for weapons as well. A slightly more granular Mission system allows for objectives to be included in the challenges. Its looking quite nice - so nice that I have booked two games of this into Furnace, my favourite convention in October.

Of course, none of this is ever going to result in a saleable product without some radical reworking to remove any hint of the GW IP, but it has been a fun experiment and in many ways has reawoken both my love for my own system and my interest in the WH40k universe.


I'm knackered.

Not just in a 'a bit exhausted' way - in a 'oh God, yesterday I passed out asleep whilst reading' way. Its quite scary as I simply cannot lie in whatsoever and I hate going to bed early at night as I tend to be at my most awake around 10pm. Really, I could do with a life of four six hour periods rather than two twelve hours ones. But this is just an aside.

I'm also coming to the conclusion that I am tired of many things. Things that seem to be ever present in the world and have annoyed me for a while, but now I just cannot be arsed. Like comics. The new DC Universe reboot has hit me like a large wave of 'meh'. I've told Glenn at FP that I'll just let my order end when it happens. I can't be bothered with the constant re-inventing the wheel, the constant need to chase the new readers at the expense of the old. The need to fiddle. Nope, thats knackered me out. I can't even be arsed to get riled up about politics anymore - and considering the tenderhooks that my job has me on at almost every turn, thats like turkeys forgetting what month comes after November.

I'm tired of 'fans' as well. One of the more intriguing parts of the latest half series of Dr Who has not been the show itself, but the reaction of the fans - on facebook, twitter etc. What a bunch of entitled fools. Two messages stick with me. The first one condemned the entire show as 'fail' because the poster had managed to guess the identity of River Song earlier on. Boo hoo! You guessed, you won, well done. That doesn't make the show a failure. The other one was one early on that condemned the show as an utter disaster because of one set of overnight ratings that made it the 'least watched Nu-Who' of some such. A week later when the official figures were announced, this changed substantially, but that mercenary poster was desperate to have his pound of flesh.

I've seen this before in wrestling - when the comparative ratings between the WWE and TNA were scoured over, quarter hour by quarter hour, to see whether the observers could glean some meaning - like modern day soothsayers picking through the entrails of a dead sheep. It just ends in ill feeling and tribalism.

I'm tired - so very tired - of being made to feel like I should apologise for the TV I watch and the books that I read.  Not by people who watch radically different shows, or read radically different books. That would be understandable. No, its by people who are essentially forcing a cigarette paper between two things and then calling one side good and one side bad. I'm tired of people telling me how bad Green Lantern will be next week - I'm going to watch it regardless, you know?

Moreover I'm tired of the relentless need to pronounce things 'Awesome!' or 'Terrible!' with no middle ground. Can nothing just be 'Good','Acceptable','Perfectly Acceptable Viewing'? Why does it always have to be the most erection inducing thing EVER or so utter disdainful that its mere mention kills puppies.

And I'm tired of puppies. Because I want one and too many people have them.

I yearn for a world of positivity - where the ability the internet and the communications revolution has given us is tempered by an old Mam's saying ... 'If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all.'

Right, time to go to sle...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Series Cancelled!

On the day that Action Comics #900 came out, I cancelled by subscription to DC Universe Online. OK, it doesn't run out until the middle of June, but its not being renewed.

I've given the game a good go and I think it has amazing potential, but at the moment thats all it is - potential. It doesn't seem to have hit the multi-faceted nature of play that I look for, and indeed, need, in a game like this. To whit, the game has exceptionally limited linear content. You do 1-30 and then you grind tokens for gear to get better at grinding tokens for gear. Readers of my WoW playing woes will remember that this is an aspect of a game that I detest with a passion, especially when I am grinding tokens to grind tokens without my friends.

The endgame grind simply does not hold the same attraction to me as the exploratory beginnings of WoW way back in the day and the feeling of group achievement. The DC game suffers exactly the same. Its too fast and too easy and then WHAM! its all grouped and grindy. Not even world PvP 'counts' which is a crying shame.

There are many many good things about this game but in the end, as per usual, when the chips are down my very insular definition of the term 'multiplayer' dooms it to failure.

ho hum.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Whilst I am nowhere near the game buyer I used to be when I was a kid, I will pick up a new and innovative system if it gets a decent sounding online. Sometimes this doesn't work (Reign) for me and sometimes it works very well (Mouse Guard) and sometimes its absolutely revelatory. Ladies and Gentlemen, Smallville definitely falls into the third category.

As I'm sure you are all aware, Smallville is the reimagining of the Superboy mythos thats been on our screens now for nine seasons. Personally, until I picked up the game I have not seen one episode of it and now I have only see half a dozen shows from S1. Thats not important really as I know a fair bit about DC mythology (yeah, you can stop laughing at the back...understatement of the century) and I know how US teen drama works. Anyway, the real reason I wanted to pick up the book was that it has been raved about online for two mechanics.

The first is the character generation which is powered by the group generation of a massive, intricate relationship map which brings characters, NPCs, groups, locations and more important than all those together, relationships, are there at the beginning of the game. Sure, there are some mechanical bits but this, this is amazing. It does everything I ever wanted it to do and more. We did an experimental chargen session and it rocked. Four characters, all interlinked, dripping with potential. I'd love to do it again, with a proper game idea in place and some real intricate consideration of some of the decisions and answers. It would make for an amazing game.

The second thing is the mechanics of the game which centre around the 'why' rather than the 'how' of actions. So instead of saying 'I hit him with my sword' and then describing the mechanics of the situation, you say 'He stands between me and the woman I love and I cannot see her insulted in this way again!'. Thats very different  from the games that I have played before - even some of the 'indie' ones - and I want to explore that and see whether it drives a different kind of play.

We may never play Smallville - we just have so many potential games and so little time - but I think some of the lessons that the game brings will stay with us and be incorporated into our evolving metagame. Thats a great thing in my opinion.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Other Side

Due to a complete lack of action on 'Reality Lost', the EU PvP server for DCUO, I have rerolled onto 'Death and Glory', a US PvP server. What a difference!

First, there are obviously some possible issues playing on a transatlantic server, but they haven't materialised. Lag is non-existant and reactions seem just the same as on the EU servers. Second, the PvP aspect simply makes the game better. One of the most frustrating parts of playing on a PvE server is that a superhero game has a natural, in-built, factionalised PvP bias. Heroes stop villains, right? They don't stand by and watch them do their crimes. Now, as a villain (as I am on this server) you are watching your back all of the time. Its so much better. Sure, you get ganked occassionally and no, I am not a great PvPer, but it adds a certain something.

The new character, 'The Untouchable', is a gadgets/dual pistol/Joker character and a totally different kettle of bananas to Pele (a Fire Tank). The addition of bona fide CC to the arsenal makes for a very different game and then there is stealth which is simply delightful for PvP. The class is more like a WoW Rogue, but with the addition of thermite and implosion bombs, handcuffs, backstabbing and the almighty Bomb! its a right handful. Great stuff to play.

I've even managed to ... (you may need to sit down here) ... talk and play with other people! I know, I know, its amazing but its true. I even did an instance with another person (the Mr Freeze one) which was a lot of fun. Still unsure about the longevity of the game, but its had a new lease of life with this little server distraction.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Yeah, I'm stoked about the Rock being back around the WWE, but that aside, the PC is back and running and I have been able to play a little more DCUO! So, as promised, here's more fashion shots of my character in the various collectible outfits.

The left-hand image is due to a special trinket which allows me to transform into a Manhunter. As a bit of a Green Lantern geek, thats pretty much awesome and (oh how I wish they had dedicated RP servers) could have made for some awesome RP storylines. The middle image is the 'Biomech' suit which makes you look like Bug from the Micronauts. OK, if thats your bag. Finally, the right-hand image is the Egyptian outfit, which looked pretty good until I got the final piece - the god awful head-dress. Would it have hurt the game too much to have an accessible Horus-style hawk head that could have doubled up for the six Hawkman fans out there? Really?

These two extras are examples of the hoodies that I have picked up from the daily random Vault. The left-hand image is the 'Hawkman Hoodie' and the right-hand one is the 'Martian Manhunter hoodie' - or the Trivial Pursuit top as I prefer to call it.

More later

Sunday, February 06, 2011

High Concept vs. Longevity

(An interruption to your regular DCUO exploration, as my PC seems incapable of running the bloody thing!)

I have been considering a number of roleplaying related issues of late. I have my eye on the future gaming slots and also a deep seated itch that I have been wanting to scratch of late. I have been considering how to combine a few things that are incident at the same time.

- I want something that I can run consistently
- I want something that is not 'big concept'
- I want something with little or no prep
- I want something that speaks to the type of game we play.

The first one is a departure for me, but it is also something that I have become painfully aware of over the years. I am a method GM. When I am preparing and running a game I will submerge myself in the media associated with the game. Movies, comics, books, music - everything. It becomes the soundtrack to my life while I am running the game. With our schedule being quite sparse when it comes to gaming, this means that I have found myself weakening in concentration as a game progresses. I run out of steam, almost. I want something that I can run without the need for this intervention to my life. That would seem to suggest D&H (as I am pretty much in perma-research mode) but I am leaning towards fantasy or even superheroes.

The second one actually plays off the first. I'd like to run something a little more sandbox than normal. My games tend to be quite grandiose affairs. I'm coming to think that there is some charm in something akin to the older style of games. I'm not saying a straight-up dungeon bash, but something with a little less Hollywood Blockbuster and a little more TV serial.

The third regards the type of game I need to run. If I am going to do something, it has to be something I can do off the cuff or with minimal prep. That means I might quite like something that comes as a pre-prepped module (shock!) or some game that has an accessible monster manual style affair. I don't have the time to generate stat blocks or any such nonsense.

And, of course, I need some of that story-based gaming action, but we know that, right? Of course, we also know that I am a firm believer that nowadays with my group there are gaming ideas that we transpose across systems regardless.

Now all I need to do is find a solution to this ....hmmmmm. Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

More DCUO Styles

Three more styles have been unlocked by your intrepid blogger! The left-hand style is the full 'Jah Kir' set. I'll be honest - I have no idea where the inspiration for this set comes from. It could be something to do with 'Joh Ker' or it could be something Kryptonian.

The middle style is the Retro-Tech set and it is awesome! What you cannot see is the rocket-pack on my back. Its a full-on Rocketeer set. Very cool.

The right hand set is the aforementioned Greco-Roman set which happily fulfils all of your 'I need to look like a Roman centurion' needs quite nicely.

I'll post more as I get them!

Expansion Fever

It would appear that SOE are holding to their promise of new content for DCUO. A Catwoman expansion/Valentine's Day patch has been announced for mid-February, critical feature fixes are beginning to appear (such as easing the stranglehold the profanity filter has on normal English) and future content is beginning to emerge (such as the Green Lantern Patch...swoon!)

Catwoman patch includes a five boss level 30 episode, a new legends PvP character, more races, new armour sets, Valentine's Day stuff (fun, but not needed - however, it adds another 4-man Alert), a Bane Duo, a Gotham PvP zone, a new high end raid and ... the Brokerage (aka the Auction House).

I have to say, I am quietly impressed. The real story here for me is that there is content at just about every level of the game and stuff that is going to add content to everyone's gameplay in some way. I've learned over the years - especially the last one - that you can extend your love of a game by embracing both PvE and PvP and accepting that PvP is a whole new skillset that needs to be developed and trained. Thus the inclusion of PvP stuff makes me very happy.

So the question comes, is it worth 10 quid?

Well, there are two ways to look at this. The first is, could I get more utility from a new game for 10 quid (sorry about the colloquialism, but I simply cannot find the pound sign on this bloody keyboard) and the answer is probably yes, but there would be no perpetual character and no perpetual community built up. The second is whether I would get the same level of new content from WoW, which is my other subscription option? No.

Another thing I have considered is what I would buy into if it was done as micro-transactions? Probably not everything but I think thats because doubt allows you to back down on those transactions. By having it all in one lump I'm probably more likely to have a try.

Of course, even in this post of good news, the community can deliver the sour grapes. I have particularly liked the debate over the release date and the precise semantic definition of what 'roughly monthly' and 'mid-February' actually mean. And yes, there have been people who have said that four days past one calendar month is a broken promise by SOE. Hilarious.

I'm please. I sub for another month. But of course, you all know they had me at Green Lantern!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I have to say I am developing an unhealthy obsession with the thought processes of the DCUO community and the strange way that they seem to rationalise matters related to the game. This is the first such community that I have looked at from its inception and the memes are fascinating. As someone who has watched other communities for a while the way people's expectations change and warp.

The first thing I have seen is some sort of real dislike and spite between the PC and the PS3 community. There are a good few posters who blame any perceived problems with the game as the fault of it sharing its platform with the PS3. 'Sacrifices' have been made to accommodate the PS3 users. Its a remarkable example of a fault-and-blame culture where someone must be blamed for their dislikes and the remote and 'different' console gamers are an easy target. Its endemic of an inability just to accept the game for what it is. It has six power slots and two 'loadouts', it has a keyboard/mouse no-click interface which allows for these minimal on-screen options. Personally I find it quite refreshing and I can now why people press buttons rather than click in WoW. The game is what it is, and you have to either accept that or not.

Another swathe of posters seem to have a very fixed idea of what a MMORPG should be, regardless of genre. I've read some impassioned pleas for a crafting system of all things? I can absolutely guarantee that in no comic I have ever read, have I seen a superhero farming for materials to make consumables or even their own equipment! That said, I have never seen a hero wearing armour pieces for bonuses either, but that happens. One particular post goes on to say that without the immersion created by player housing, crafting and more people on the streets, this is no MMORPG. I sniggered. What next? Flight points? I'll put it this way, if Brainiac was trying to take over the world I wouldn't be out browsing the shops!

The first two are pretty weak really, but the third is more serious for the longevity of the game and the genre of games into the future, I think. DCUO is a standard monthly subscription game and SOE has 'promised' monthly updates for this money. Within the community however, there seems to be an ongoing shock that the game has the audacity to charge a monthly fee for the game. It feels, in my gut, like there is a sizeable portion of the community who are waiting for the moment they can scream 'told you so' when the game goes free to play. I feel that this issue will only explode further if SOE miss one of their monthly updates. They have already added a caveat that content needs to be approved for the PS3 but you would hope that they have content stocked away for months of releases. Somehow, I doubt it. And the utter shit storm that will follow will make Shaman/Paladin or Space Goats look like a walk in the park.

I remain your DCUO correspondent, reading the forums so you don't have to!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Threads, DCUO Style

...or why this game needs RP servers, pronto.

One of the things which you do as a sideline to all of the other cool stuff in DCUO, is collect costumes. This might seem quite a strange thing, especially coming from a game like WoW where the functionality of the armour is far more important than the look, but for a superhero game, the look is paramount! The ability within DCUO to lock your look means that you can perfect it and keep it, whilst increasing your power through loot 'underneath the hood' (quite literally in some cases). To encourage you to complete these sets, successfully gathering the costumes delivers a feat and feats mean extra skill points. However, to me, the joy is being able to perfect your image. With this in mind, I present Pele at level 25

Not a huge number of differences, but to me, they are noticeable. Firstly I've added some cool goggle things for a slightly more futuristic look. These have also been accompanied by new shoulder and hand pieces (from the New Genesis set) and a belt (from the Fourth World set.) Her 'simple blades' have been replaced by 'Techno-Katanas' as well. The changes are subtle, but they add to the character overall. Now, of course some of the sets are so outlandish that you can rarely use the pieces, but I have managed to collect two of the sets and now I can present them here, in all their glory.

This is the Demonic suit (coloured to the red, white and orange of my original costume.) Its a particularly spikey affair and looks wholly impractical but it offers the perfect possibility for your character to be possessed by some sort of entity and transformed into something from beyond that man should never know.

This rather funky get-up is the 'Shielded Robot' set - a full-on elegant manga armour set with big hands and feet, smooth helment and spikey exhaust jets out of the back. Now any self-respecting Iron Man fan will be able to tell you that Shellhead has a set of armour for all weathers and this could easily be the 'edge of the atmosphere/close orbit' sort of space armour, or even stuff for underwater!

So many possibilities, so little RP in the game. It could be so much more.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Yea....Week Later

So, one week after install, whats the conclusion regarding DCUO?

Well, because of the unique way my work hours fall, I haven't been able to play a lot this week but a few hours today took me to level 18 (maybe 19?) after a quick detour to Gotham to tackle Harley Quinn (who dropped my first Epic!) and Poison Ivy (although I bailed before I finished her off - more on that later) and the decimation of Circe's latest attempts to Take Over the World (tm). Pele now has a pretty decent slew of powers, making the differentiation on my Defence/Damage loadouts a bit better although I do need to practice some of them a little more. Equipment is coming and doing ... stuff. I haven't quite bothered with theorycrafting! (Like I ever do?!)

So, what don't I like? There are a couple of things that spring to mind. The first is that I am remarkably squishy - or at least thats how it feels. I think I need to learn to slow down and block/dodge more but sometimes I can maul four mobs and others I get reamed by two. Its strange. By no way, shape or form a game breaker though. The second is the nature of instances. The end of each quest chain ends in your own personal instance and they are a little fruity! Lots of less-than-simple pulls, mini-bosses, sub-quests and usually a multi-phase boss fight that are like a solo version of a WoW raid boss. Great eh? Remember my squishy-ness? Death happens in here and really, the only effective healing I can muster at the moment is good old Soda Cola (healing potions). When they run out, its a very quick journey to repair-ville. So, of course, you go and get your equipment healed, right? WRONG! Because if you do that, it resets the frigging instance! So you have to (a) not die, (b) suffer multiple resets or (c) fight on without equipment. Guess which one I chose? Yup, (c) and it doesn't make that much difference except in that Poison Ivy fight which was just beyond me!

What do I like? Well, I have become used to the different interface and I am beginning to really appreciate the difference. This isn't a traditional MMO (and by that, I mean a WoW-clone) and the departures are such that you need to think very differently. The fact that you can change your loadouts whenever and wherever you are means you can customise your interface on the fly, which removes the need for loads of different taskbars. This allows for a nice clean interface and that in turn allows you to appreciate what is a very very pretty game.  Strangely, the difficulty of the game is also very pleasing. Back in Classic and TBC, WoW had elite encounters that you simply couldn't handle solo at the correct level. This formed a challenge that has been all but eliminated from the game by 'aided' elites and quirky mechanics which make them just boosted normal mobs. Being able to see an opponent - even a normal mob - and knowing that if you don't give it the respect it deserves, it will stunlock you, knock you about and knock you out is refreshing. The game demands your attention. Another thing that I like is whilst I have only relatively short amounts of time to play, I am still doing things all of the time. There is no grinding. There is no farming. There is no crafting. Its all about the action and the story. Thats very nice indeed.

There are some things that I have not done yet - I have yet to group with ANYONE and thus I have yet to do an Alert or a world boss. I'll readily admit that I cannot abide PUGing - it drives me to distraction. I will get there eventually, but I need to learn to play a little bit more.

So the verdict at the end of Week One? Its good, its tough and its pretty. Nice.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

A week or so ago, I got called arrogant and elitist for jokingly suggesting that people stop posting divisive threads on a forum. I chuckled. I've yet to venture officially onto the DCUO forums, deciding instead to lurk and read the madness as it develops. And develop it has. I wonder sometimes whether its my age, but I have never understood some of the practices that come about on these things. The levels of egocentrism and delusion that must exist in the minds of some of the posters is amazing.

I simply cannot fathom what would bring someone to waste their time posting with such passion and vitriol on subjects which anyone with two pence of common sense would know they are wasting their time contributing. Does WiggyBoggy276 really think that Sony Online Entertainment is going to completely redesign their game because he has a gripe with the way that the interface works? Do they really believe that anyone cares if they, singularly, threaten to 'leave' the game? Do they think that the best way to represent their customer service issues is on a forum where they type in l33t-speak and represent themselves as an image of the Mad Hatter?

Of course, these people have valid concerns... or do they? I mean the game is what it is, after all and whether you like it or not is the gamble the developers have taken. If you don't like it, you don't like it - thats always the case with any product. DCUO is a very different game from WoW. It has dispensed with some of the familiar tropes of MMOs and brought in some stuff from the console genre. In a world where games are readily disregarded as 'WoW Clones', this game is a very different consideration and some people could find that hard to handle.

Of course, there are also problems when it comes to expectation. A lot of people come to a game with very closed minds. Clamped down minds with deep set parameters that run from the way buttons should be pressed, the way the canon is represented and to some, the way that the game expands upon their favourite comparative game. So if the character generation isn't as intricate as CoX, the game is 'fail', if the powers cannot mimic every single power as represented in the comics, 'fail. If the game doesn't have exactly the right buttons in the right places ... fail.

I'm unsure what these ragers against the machine think they will achieve and I wonder whether they operate the same rules when it comes to other products? Do they contact the publisher of a book and demand that an aspect of character development is altered because they don't like it? Do they barrage their local supermarket with demands that the recipe on their pizza be changed, lest they cease buying pizza? Do they raise petitions for changes in the design of a new car, as they find the knobs in an inconvenient position?

And all this after less than a week. To quote a friend - People are weird!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Up! Up! and Away!

Its Super-Cheryl!!
Originally the plan was to go to the dark side and kick superhero ass. Sadly this hasn't transpired yet as Dave has managed to have all of the worlds technical problems happen at the same time. I hope you get it fixed soon mate! In the meantime I have been pottering about on the (at the time of character creation) only EU PVE server. I'm glad I chose PvE after seeing some of the game as I think PvP would be a charnel house! My character, above, is 'Pele' (as in the Polynesian goddess of Fire, not the Brazilian footballer!) who sports a Fire/Dual Wield/Flight/WonderWoman combination.The costume set-up is straight from the character creation system with no additional bits and bobs. Since this shot I've added some 'New Gods' gloves, belt and shoulders which make her look a little more streamlined and a little less StreetDance 3D.

Nominally in my brain, I have her as some sort of exchange student who believes she is possessed by the spirit of the goddess (rather than mutated by the Exobyte virus thingys - I have no idea how Brainiac is supposed to have triggered mystical powers, but he has!). So, who has she tackled? Well, she fought alongside Zatanna (never a chore...) against Felix Faust, she had a right nasty tussle with the Titans against a possessed Raven and she has recently battered Giganta senseless with Wonder Girl.

This game is not easy (for me) and I have hit a pretty stern learning curve, but what is nice is I am learning. I can feel my grasp of the controls growing and that means I can unleash more destruction, faster and more accurately. I like that the game is challenging me in ways that other games have not. Downside? I spend a lot on repairs!

Oh, I also got the tour of the JLA Watchtower. Its almost worth the price of admission! One final note - its nice to see that somethings never change. Clearly the architects from WoW have come across here as most of the police stations have that familiar 'enter and hit a brick wall, which you have to walk around to carry on' business that the WoW buildings have. Bizarre.

Friday, January 14, 2011


The new shiney is here and it is DC Universe Online, the latest attempt by SOE to wow the MMO market (hehe, see what I did there...). After Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, Pirates etc. we know that SOE know something about the MMO genre and after Champions and City of Heroes/Villains there are some expectations of the superhero genre too. Hey, after reading the comics for decades, I have my own expectations!

I got the game through a new source - - and the process was reasonably easy. There was some issues with phone verification of credit cards but I eventually just used my paypal account to pay and left it downloading overnight. I woke up expecting a nightmare, but after a small driver patch I was playing the game. Whoo hoo. Thats about as smooth as I could expect so I am very pleased.

The game itself is different from the other MMOs I have played and it took a little time to accustom myself to the controls. Essentially you move with the WASD keys but you steer with the mouse. This works very well for flight etc. but I have had to get used to not pressing the mouse keys when doing this. Powers are activated using the number keys and weapons attacks are accessed via combos of mouse clicks. I find this a lot of fun. All of the crucial keys are around the WASD interface and this too appeals to me as a newbie-non-clicker.

I'll go into the aesthetics of the game in another post - here I want to talk about the experience and how it impacts upon my perceptions of the game. The game, essentially, has all of the staples you would expect from a MMO (except an Auction House, which was not included from beta) and operates in much the same format as many MMOs - with quests, reputations and the standard four quest types (kill x, collect x, find x, escort x). All of this is wrapped up in a very action orientated interface with a LOT of combat involved. Which is FANTASTIC. Kicking ass and taking names is a very good thing to do and this game does it well. I've even had some mid air battles which were great!

However, this familarity has lead to some downsides. I've come to the game from WoW - a game that I can confidently say I have a decent grasp of many of the mechanics and I can even more confidently say I could walk around with my eyes closed. Now, I am faced with a new world and its filled with uncertainty. Will the things I expect be there when I want them? Will there be an endgame? Will there be sufficient content? Its a curious set of thoughts considering I have had the game installed for all of one day but it is a sense of foreboding that a number of people seem to be sharing. We shall see. I am reminded of the fact that Dire Maul was not in the original launch of WoW, of you know what I mean.

This leads me nicely to the community and how it has panned out. Guess what? Its the same old bitching, complaining, entitled bunch of doomsayers as you get everywhere. To highlight one example, there are no official RP servers (yet) so a bunch of RP guilds ganged together and after some consultation decided to announce a couple of servers as the (un)official RP servers. Now, whenever they do it, someone will pipe up 'Who told you that? Who decided that? You can't tell me which servers have been unofficially chosen! You're not the boss of me!!' - its laughable.

Finally there is some teethgrinding about the designation of the game as a roleplaying game, as in an MMORPG-style of roleplaying (i.e. none). Its too action-orientated to be a RPG, surely, people are saying. Which implies that to be a RPG, you have to be slow, ponderous and dull. Again, I laughed.

Looking good so far.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse!

'Created' by Stephen Jones

It is not often that I mention books that I am reading never mind review them. Thats mostly because not everyone is as absorbed with Napoleonic military fiction as I am, mind you! However, sometimes I am moved to mention something and this is one of those times. I picked up 'Zombie Apocalypse!' on a whim last week and I read it in under 24 hours. Thats always a sign of a good book in my eyes. The tome tells the tale of ... well, a zombie apocalypse, through transcripts of modern media - emails, tweets, blogs etc. as well as more traditional means with diaries, police reports etc.

Sound familiar? Well yes, I thought so too, as it in theory treads the same ground as World War Z by Max Brooks right? Well, yes and no. Technically yes, but the scope and tone of this is different. If WWZ was presented as a hollywood blockbuster, then ZA! is a BBC2 mini-series. It has a very British tone and indeed, in my opinion, the book begins to loose some of its lustre when 'the Death' spreads around the world.

Another interesting aspect of the book for me is that it is quite possibly the first piece of post-coalition fiction I have seen! The backdrop of a broken Britain being distracted from an increasingly oppressive state by the bread and circuses of a New Festival of Britain has to have some mirrors in the real world difficulties of the country, the discussions of mainland water cannons in response to student protests and the imminent media maelstrom over the 2012 Olympics?

The book is an anthology and as such, there are some differing levels of quality within the writing. Some of it is spine-chillingly good. The 'Diary of Anne Frank' style memoirs of a 13-year old girl and the typed memories of a woman trapped in the tower block are excellent, for example. On the other hand there are some that are filled with rather clumsy exposition - especially the police report of the first outbreak, which cannot work out whether it is fiction or report. I have read some criticism about the likelihood that people really would text someone as they are being besieged by zombies ... but I think they might well, in a world so obsessed with instant information channels.

If there is a real downside to the book, it is when it tackles other areas of the world. This only happens in the last third of the book but here, some of the stuff didn't have much traction with me - except for the stuff in Mexico, which was very good indeed. The American stuff however? Yawn. Another thing I would say is that I really REALLY did not like the end of the book. I won't spoil it but if you want to have a decent ending, just miss out the last two pieces - an address from the President of the USA and the Queen.

This is not a happy book. I cannot remember one truly happy ending to any of the pieces. It achieves something for me which WWZ did not. It took me out of that arrogant 'roleplayers 1-0 zombies' mode and made me think what it would actually be like to have to deal with say, children, during a zombie attack. It made me consider some of the practicalities in a wholly different way and it made me realise that whilst we all like to think we would be able to put our theoretical knowledge into practice, we would all almost certainly fail. Thats a kind of bleak mental horror that does it for me more than any amount of gore.

Not a great work of literature, but a great read and currently available at Waterstones as part of their '3 for 2' deal, so a good pick up to make up your numbers there.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Gaming Resolutions 2011

And the final part of the now traditional triumvirate of posts is here. I absolutely detest the expectation and madness that occurs around New Year and until I started doing these had never been drawn to make any resolutions in my life. However, these statements of intent have been very useful for forming up my thoughts about what I want from my gaming.

As an aside, you will note they only cover gaming. A lot of the hobbies which plagued me at the start of this blog have faded to black over the years. I no longer play CCGs, I'm only really buying a couple of comic titles now, I have officially 'retired' from fan fiction and wrestling is something that occasionally gets put on when there is nothing else to watch. Gaming is pretty much my Number One hobby nowadays, in its varied forms.

So without further ado:

Number One: Game More
As gaming is now my number one and only real hobby, I really would like to do it more than once a fortnight at best. I have sated my need for more gaming through other means over the years; fanfic, efeds, RP servers on WoW, PBEM, PBF, PBGwave... you name it. My gaming group have experimented with 'Group Two' - an occasional midweek group - and that would definitely be something that I would like to pursue again. However, if that cannot work I might have to throw my net a little wider. However, as noted below, I have to watch the balance of my time. I just feel that I want to do more of the hobby that I enjoy so much but I don't really have to tools to do so at the moment.

Number Two: Fold or Twist with Omnihedron
Big changes on the self-publishing front this year - Collective Endeavour is still around but its pretty much not going to be functional as a sales conduit. Additionally, I've made a decision to have some time off from the convention circuit to recharge my batteries a little and just to spend some time at home. This gives me the time to assess whether I want to continue with the self-publishing - specifically with the Empire! line of books - into the coming years, or whether I should just bow out at the top, so to speak. I really enjoy the self-publishing thing but I've done all I can at this level now. Pushing it up to the next one would require quite a bit of work on my part and I have to consider the time and effort required and whether there would be a reasonable return on my 'investment'. That said, I have some unfinished business - starting with 'Vive L'Empereur' and then ....

Number Three: Duty & Honour V2.0
Regardless of the outcome of Resolution Two, I will publish D&Hv2 this year. There are a number of reasons, but the overriding one is that I know that with some lessons that I have learned through BtQ and the feedback I have received from other people, I can make it a much much better game than it is at the moment. With that settled, I can then make a proper decision with regard to continuing with the company and the entire game publishing thing. Now, anyone out there raising some cynical eyebrows about this being some sort of market-squeezing scam can return to your normal non-Vulcan appearance. I'm going to endeavour to make it all as painless as possible for people who already have the game, somehow. Haven't quite worked it out yet like, but I will.

Number Four: Run Another Game
Dresden Files was a success and the new format or running relatively short runs of games seems to be one that we are happy with at the moment, so my aim will be to run another game this year at some point in time. Indeed, if Resolution One holds true, I might run it sooner rather than the scheduled slot after Nigel and Dave. Currently I'm working through some of my issues with superhero games via the medium of ICONS and its going quite well. There has to be some sort of irony that the fact that I have almost stopped reading comics has opened the door for me to explore them in the RPG sense!

Number Five: Time Management
Time is my perennial enemy. I never have enough time and I am always having to shave things here, there and everywhere. Horrifically, for me, one of the things that began to lose in the war with time at the end of last year was reading books! That soon changed over the holidays but it was a little wake-up call. Now, things should get a little easier soon as I will be getting my Tuesday nights back soon when my course eases up. Similarly, I am getting a little more disciplined about my marking. However, on the horizon is a more stringent marking regime and the probability of some course design coming along which is going to eat up my time. However, I know I need to get some more time available for other stuff. So I have to work smarter and think about what is eating my time. One of the things that I have in my sights at the moment are a number of facebook and online games that I play which are not delivering palpable returns in terms of pleasure. They could get the chop to make way for other stuff. I'm simply going to have to be more disciplined.

(Unofficial) Number Six: Continue Avoiding Toxicity
This year has been a bit of a watershed for me, in that I removed myself from any sort of online grief and strife. Fora which have caused me crap have been kicked to the digital curb with ruthless abandon and anything I have posted has been edited to ensure that they are constructive, positive and not spikey. It has resulted in a very pleasant online year. Reading back on some of my old posts, especially right at the beginning of the blog, I was shocked with the amount of crap I put up with - not anymore! So this resolution gets promoted into a continued behaviour. Thats a very good thing!


As David Bowie once stuttered.

I'm going to be fiddling with the format of the old blog over the next few days as I continue bringing the bloody thing back to life. I appears that in the five years since I started (Is it really that long?), Blogspot have got their arse together and offered up an absolute smorgasbord of tinkering options. This is a good thing.

There are some more fundamental changes going to be made as well - namely, I need a new title. You see, when I started this blog, I used to drink quite a lot, so viewing life 'though the bottom of a glass' was quite an appropriate title. However, three years ago, I stopped drinking alcohol and therefore its a little disingenuous to continue with the title. 'Through the bottom of a mountain of marking' would be more appropriate at the moment, but thats not going to hold.

Similarly, my strapline, about being the musings of a 30-something whatever, is going to have to change as I turn 40 in a couple of weeks. Again, an update is required!