Archive for August, 2011
My daughter is 10 years old, and she loves stuffed animals. She’s never met a stuffed animal she didn’t like, and her room proves it; I’m certain that she has more stuffed animals then my wife has shoes. She’s constantly on the lookout for new stuffed animals, because she knows that adding a new, unique member to her over-ripe family tree is exciting! She can coddle this new addition and show it off to her friends and family. When the newness wears off, it takes it’s place in the panoply of her collection where it is no less loved then it was when she first acquired it.
She’ll never turn down the opportunity to acquire another dog, another cat, another bird, bear, panda, koala, lion or tiger. She’ll see a stuffed animal in the store and will be drawn to it, regardless of it’s pedigree, and she’ll want it. If she has the money, she’ll buy it. She’ll bring it home and she’ll love it like she loves any other of her stuffed animals. She doesn’t nitpick; I’ve never heard her complain that this animals eyes are too big, or the yarn mouth on that one is crooked, or that the fur on that one isn’t as soft as the fur on this one. Each animal stands on it’s own two (or four) feet regardless of how it stacks up to the animals that she already owns.
She plays with all of these animals. She plays with them by lining them up and pretending they’re in school, or on some kind of anthropomorphic adventure together. I got yelled at last night because I stopped by to tell her it was time to take her shower; I had interrupted her, had pulled her from the imaginary world that she had immersed herself in…where she was having fun. She always has fun playing with any and all of her animals, no matter how many cats she has, no matter how many have large eyes, or small eyes, or crooked yarn mouths, because she loves stuffed animals, regardless of their sameness, or their differences.
I’m not keeping up with news out of Gamescom this week in a blogging fashion, but I absolutely, positively had to mention this, not because of the game attached, but because this teaser trailer totally blew me away. At the same time, it made me sad this is probably the only bit of animation we’ll get from this story.
Someone make this an animated series!
Late last week we saw the massive rollout of the Games button for Google Plus. Considering how slow G generally ships it’s betas, it was pretty impressive that they got this one out to at least the majority of the user-base in one fell swoop.
There is currently only a handful of games on the service, and from what I’m skimming off the top of other’s conversations, they’re all ports from Facebook. Before the button appeared for good, though, it popped up and then mysteriously vanished, but not before a shockwave was sent through the community with everyone reporting that they had they button! The wacky thing was, once the button vanished, many people were vocal about wanting it back. Furthermore, it wasn’t a surprise that the games on tap wouldn’t be any different then those on FB, so we had a situation where people were waiting with baited breath for the content that many of them – myself included – had been down on when FB was the only game in town. What changed?
The first thing is how G+ handles the “spam” that these games generate. It’s on it’s own page, so you only see it once you enter the games ecosystem. All the requests have their own tab on the left (although there’s no waiting message indicator there), and the games are presented via a carousel at the top of the page. Simple! If you never want to see the spam in your stream, or if you have no interest in games on G+, you’ll never, ever see any of it. I haven’t heard anyone complain, only compliment to muted degrees, so it sounds like something people can live with.
The second thing is permanence. FB games might have appealed to me if I had actually spent more then 10 seconds on the service in a given week. I generally popped in, checked up on certain people, and then closed down. Contrast that to G+, which I have open every day, and which has become my de facto network. It seems to have taken on the same responsibility for many of the people I had found originally through Twitter, which means that there’s more activity that I participate in on a daily basis on G+ then I have in FB. Because of the *ahem* social nature of these games, and because I’m always on G+, the games have a greater gravity here then on FB. I can make requests of people, and they’ll see them…on their own schedules, and without feeling put out that I’m waving a pamphlet in their faces. It’s more a feeling of good will all around with G+ then it ever was with FB.
The downside is that the games still really aren’t that compelling. I’ve been trying Dragon Age Legends and Edgeworld, and I’m not totally sure I’d classify either as a “game” in a traditional sense*. Both are more like stop-watches, where you engage in some kind of assembly-line activity for a short amount of time (basically, glorified maintenance work), and then are told to take a mandatory coffee-break, measured in hours. It’s odd, because I often do, and see others, bemoan the fact that there’s not enough time in the day to play our games, yet these games force you to play in short bursts. I think the disconnect is that in “real” games, we’re following a thread of narrative, driven by action and adventure, in the hopes of reaching the climax of the story, while in these “social” games, we’re pulling levers as directed by a never-ending tutorial agent without a real sense of why.
I’ve decided to get this caravan on the road and start a MFing online game of good old-fashioned Dungeons & Dragons (actually, less old-fashioned, as it’s the oft reviled 4e system).
Seems like more than a few people pined for a gaming group, but didn’t have one local. I’m in this boat myself, so thanks to the Power Of Teh Intarweb™, we don’t need to be local to one another. Huzzah!
If you’re interested in giving this grand experiment a go, read on!
The Setup – What You Need
Although I prefer the power and grace of Fantasy Grounds II as a virtual tabletop, it’s ~$25 for a client license, and since there’s other costs involved for participants, that’s a log we need not throw on the fire. I’ve been evaluating RPTools.net’s MapTool, a free and powerful Java v-table that will handle map and image sharing duties, and I think it’ll swing quite nicely for our purposes. Unlike FGII, though, MapTool only has rudimentary text chat, so we’d be employing VoIP to supplement this in-game chat. I pay for a hosted Ventrilo server already which can be employed, although G+ Hangouts are also an option.
Of course, anyone wanting to take part will need their own copy of The Player’s Handbook. If you want a little more rounded info, you can get the cool new “Cliffs Notes” Rules Compendium for only $19.95. If you’d like to maybe DM games yourself in the future, the new 4e version of the original Red Box Starter Kit is also an option. Bare minimum, though, would be the PHB. If you want to go nuts and get PHB2, or the Heroes pocket-books (here and here), be my guest, but we won’t be relying on the data therein (I may pick up the 2 Heroes books, so that may change).
You won’t need dice! Dice rolls will be handled through MapTool! You will, however, need to create your own 1st level character.
Obviously, if we’re using VoIP, you’ll need a reliable mic at least. Again, if we want to go nuts, we can bling out the show with full-on Hangout video, but people can get squirrely about that, so we’ll put a pin in it for now.
Birth of a Hero
The first step would be to have participants roll their characters. The PHB has 3 ways of generating your abilities, but to keep everything on an even keel, we’ll stick to method 2: customizing scores. This way, everyone who participates can be on roughly the same page. Beyond that, follow the instructions in the manual for fleshing out your characters. We’re all Good People™ here, so everyone can do their own prep-work…or we could use G+ Hangouts to have a collaborative creation session, if that’s what people want to do.
I Haz A Flava
Back in My Youth™ (lots of trademarks here), our PnP games where horribly informal. We had the time to spend hours deviating from the main plot, to talk about non-game stuff, go to the bathroom, order and consume food, etc. Needless to say (though I shall), my PnP heritage is one of informality: our DM wasn’t a rules lawyer, didn’t use all of the rules, and wasn’t above fudging things in favor of an enjoyable (but always in the service of edge-of-the-seat) gameplay session.
I expect to follow in this tradition (the informality, not the 7 hour gaming session), especially since A) this is a new game system (to me), and B) I haven’t done this in 20 years, so I’m a wee bit out of practice and don’t have the stamina or mental capacity to commit the entire sweep of the 4th Edition rule-set to memory. I’d like the games to be fun, with opportunities to exercise creative solutions, but always in the service of progressing the adventure. Furthermore, Olde English is not a requirement, but IC RP, involved backstories, and playing to type will be certainly welcomed, appreciated, and applauded by all.
Because it has been a while since I’ve done this, I’m going to be running an out-of-the-box adventure. Not just any out-of-the-box adventure, but the out-of-the-box adventure: H1: Keep on the Shadowfell. I’ve seen this module in various forms, so if you have access to it, for the love of Pelor, don’t read it if you plan on participating!
Do You Plan On Participating?
Depending on the interest, we’ll hash out a night, probably once a week, GMT –5, to do this thing. Depending on how many people are interested…really, really interested…we might need to break people up into groups. If that’s the case, it may end up running on multiple nights, one for each group. Maybe. We’ll see.
So the schedule going forward would be a little something like this:
1. Raise your hand if you want to take part. That’s it to start. We’ll hash out schedules once we get people expressing their desire to play, and have everyone able to contribute to a schedule.
2. Get your materials. The PHB, or the short form books or starter kits.
3. Roll your character. Again, we can do it in our own cells, via Hangout, or have a discussion thread somewhere so we don’t end up with 20 clerics and 1 warrior.
4. Somewhere between 1 and 3, we’ll hash out a schedule. Also, it’d be appreciated if you took this time to get acquainted with MapTool. If you want to go the distance and set yourself up with a custom token for use with MapTool (you can make one with RPTools free TokenTool!), get on that and I’ll be more than happy to accommodate your artistic side.
Also, during this time we’ll have a discussion on the rules, the etiquette, and the atmosphere we want to have in the game, just so we can get that crap out of the way.
Not really, but just an OOC disclaimer:
This has the potential to be the most glorious use of Internet technology since GOPHER; or it could be another Pets.com. I think this will be a learning experience for anyone who opts in – including myself. It’s all part of the fun! or so they tell me, so keep in mind that there may be stumbling around in the dark, with or without of the presence of a grue.
I’m currently in the phase of getting KotS in usable, online form and familiarizing myself with the rules and with the adventure itself, so the prep phase will be measured in weeks, not days (but not months!). This should give participants enough time to gather their materials, read up, create characters and get the KP from work, spouses, or other assorted Evil Overlords™
So that’s it! The gates are open below! Leave a comment if you’d like to participate.
Just to ensure that no communiqué is lost, only hand-raises logged in the comments to this post will be recognized. A Tweet or a comment to the inevitable post on G+ in response won’t be considered legit until it shows up here. That way, everyone can see who’s in, and we can have one Location To Rule Them All ™
(I’d better put the ™ on that last one).
By now we’re hopefully all familiar with the Diablo III “always online” requirements. Yes? Good.
So late last week, VB of Online Tech at Blizzard Robert Bridenbecker casually sidled up to the mic to proclaim that Blizzard was shocked – SHOCKED! – at the feedback that The Internet was upset at having to maintain a constant connection to itself in order to play the game. Sure, Bridenbecker says that solo play is still an option, but the way he goes about saying it, and the way he chooses to address the community concern in general, makes me wonder if Blizzard was really taken aback…or if they’re trying to backhand the community.
To quote Bridenbecker:
I’m actually kind of surprised in terms of there even being a question in today’s age around online play and the requirement around that…it really is just the nature of how things are going, the nature of the industry.
The thought was that this online-only move was to combat piracy, but Bridenbecker claims that DRM never entered into the equation:
Internally I don’t think [DRM] ever actually came up when we talked about how we want connections to operate.
The real twist of the knife is this quote:
There seem to be folks that believe that because you have to be connected…you have to socialize with people.
OK, so aside from boiling down the original article, here’s the take home: to me, it doesn’t sound like Bridenbecker actually understands the issues people were raising over this “always connected” scenario. He is basically telling us that it’s not for security reasons. Blizzard is only following “the industry” by “offering” this always-on feature, and that everyone who thinks this means they’re being forced to play with others should know that they can still play solo if they want.
Is it me, or did he totally not get the memo on what the naysayers had issues with?
From what I gather, the biggest issue that people have raised is centered around the fact that if someone loses power at home, but has a laptop, they can’t play the game even though their laptop is charged up and ready to rock.
But wait! World of Warcraft is online only! And so is Guild Wars, which can totally be played as a single player game! Yes, but we knew this going in to both of these. We also know that going in to Diablo III, but the key to remember here is that Diablo and Diablo II were off-line, occasionally on-line titles.
What’s happening here is that legions of Diablo fans, who have been waiting for more of the same experience that made them rabid fans, are being leashed in the name of “following the industry”. It’s not about anyone feeling that they’re being pressured to play with others (although you’d have to be blind to not to actually see that kind of pressure), and it’s certainly not about cheaters. It’s about changing the rules, pulling the rug out from under expectations, and adding more restrictions which a lot of gamers probably see as two steps backwards instead of the giant leap forward that they hoped to receive with Diablo III.
So I don’t know if Bridenbecker is really surprised, whether he totally misread the outcry, or if he’s trying to make the community look stupid by spinning the arguments back against the itself. If it’s #1, then Blizzard needs to spend more time amongst it’s community, because I really doubt any gamer at street level didn’t see this backlash coming the second it was made public. If it’s #2, then maybe Bridenbecker should find another line of work that isn’t involved in interfacing with a community. If it’s #3 – which certainly appeals to the conspiracy theorist and hater of Big Business Practices in me – then Blizzard and Bridenbecker are a bunch of shysters who are trying to weasel out of being responsible for making an unpopular decision.