Thursday, March 27, 2008


So last weekend (Easter) there was a big Sci-Fi conference called Conjuction held here in Wellington. I did not go. It was freaking $100 and then you got to add in costs for everything else you wanted to do. While it did look interesting, I did not find out about it with enough time to really plan for it. It did have a writing contest I was somewhat interested in and several writer workshops. But still... $100. Once I get in a better swing of things here I may hit it next year.

So there is another gamey type con coming up in April called Armaggedoncon. Details at This one is only $15 to get in with no contests or workshops. The most exciting thing is a VIP dinner with one of the guest celebrities for $120. Now dinner with a working film star (even if they are small ones) would be pretty cool.

Pulp expo looks nice for Gabe too. I think it will be a fun thing to try out. It is a easy walk from the train too. Mostly it looks like a swap meet. The other fun notable is the "world's largest" Star Wars costume club will be attending. I've always secretly wanted a Storm Trooper costume. I mean... who doesn't? I scoff at all those loser trekkies with their pansy spandex. Give me full-on body armor, baby! No limp wrist palm-sized stun gun. I want the big FU blaster rifle! Ahem... anyways... I think the kiddo will like it.

On game news... WoW interest is fading. EVE is meh. I got the kid Godzilla for the Game Cube--it is pretty cool. For True20 tabletop gaming I have worked up a pulpy 1935 campaign idea based on Indiana Jones and just general World War II coolness. Gabe wants to be a ninja... perfect. *grin*

Game On!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not Happy Camping

So I decided to focus my game time on Eve again. I have two computers running fairly well and using both accounts helps to make ISK (credits). While I have been attempting to kill rats for bounties, this rate of income is slow and getting boring. I thought I'd go back to some industry and mining. The problem here was that I didn't have all the right ships or modules to re-fit for industry. I then decided to use a good sized chunk of my remaining 200 million ISK for a new tech 2 hauler, the Impel.

The Impel is an Amarrian vessel and one of the better haulers in the game. With a good module fit (seven Cargo Expander II's) the total payload is 27,400 cubic meters--just 100 m3 short of a full jettison container. I bought one off a fellow corp-mate and proceeded to pilot it back to my main base of operation where I was close to the resources I would be mining. Porter Thorne is my industrial based character and while she has a good 10 million skill points, virtually none of it is in combat. On the way back the server lagged horribly. I was basically stuck 2 systems out from the safety of the station. I couldn't log in. No problem really as I could always come back later. Well about 2 hours later I did come back. I logged in with no issue. Porter loaded okay and my ship appeared on screen... right in the middle of a huge attack fleet. She was instantly killed and podded. I lost the 60 million Impel and the 40 million cover ops ship and modules I was carrying in the Impel... Nothing like a little 100 million ISK set back over a server issue... I am not amused.

Later I did manage to get mining set up. It was riskier and slower because I didn't have the Impel, but I did manage to pull out about 40 million ISK in minerals. Annoying and unsatisfying. But it if my luck improves then I can make ISK faster than ratting... but we'll see. I forgot to mention that I lost my battleship in an PvP engagement the day before... another 100 million ISK set back. Tough week in EVE.

I almost decided to drop out of the alliance I'm in and move back to safer Empire space. But I know that if I did that, my income potential would plummet. Even so... I've also been considering dropping the accounts. It's a gaming lull at the moment.

Game On!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What am I playing?

I still plunk around with World of Warcraft. I'm going between two servers. A long while ago I ran up my wife's Horde Shaman to 60th level on a PvP server (Nazjatar). She (the toon, not my wife) whomps buttock. I like the dual-wield Enhance-o-shammy. She's a glass tank, but I'm addicted to the occasional sudden death this build can produce. The other character I'm playing is on a PvE server, Muradin. Bicklefitch is now a 22nd level Draenai Mage. Mostly I just like the nice graphics and exploratory nature of WoW with a little combat challenge mixed it. It's like reading a trash romance novel. It passes the time without profoundly altering the reader.

I'm keeping up with EVE. That is I'm keeping skills in training. I do try to rat now and then, but I tend to spend ISK about as fast as I earn it. I'm considering letting the accounts drop again. I wish there was a way to lease them out or something. Perhaps as an omen, EVE has been down for over 12 hours due to a patch. A more and more common occurance. I do not think the system can scale up anymore which continues to hinder it's long term life span.

Complicating the computer game play is a flaky video card. So when the lack of new/interesting game content combine with spontaneous reboot frustration... I retreat back to tabletop rpg stuff. I say "stuff" cuz I'm not really playing anything... just thinking about playing. I make sketch characters and think about game world concepts. Sorta sad really. Like watching a kid try to play baseball by himself. I'm focusing on True20. It looks fast to play and easy to use. I may steal a few elements from the not fast and not easy to use Spycraft. But I plan to be careful with that. Too much Spycraft would ruin the whole point, but SC has some nice self-scaling bits. Plus the "dramatic scenes" are too awesome to exclude especially for things too mechanically complex to work out like vehicle combat.

Play safe out there! Game On!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Alpha and Omega

Something in the long dark decays… A machine is dying. With emotionless panic the failover routines all attempt to re-route and self-repair, but the eon of neglect has finally eroded the last protocol. With a flurry of alarm messages sent to long dead watchdog systems the containment field drops. An amber warning light on the vault door changes to blinking red. An alarm klaxon sounds feebly sounds then trails off to silence.

Behind the door, if there were any being left to hear it, is a sound like a million million cockroaches clacking on dry paper. Within seconds a hole opens in the vault’s 200 mm thick door. The rest of the meter wide portal disintegrated in to a grey fog that floated down to the floor. In the span of a few seconds the fog swirls in to a disconcerting metal humanoid form.

Despite appearing like a robot, for lack of a better term, it moved erratically as if it were a swarm which is exactly what it was. Its face blurred forming a series of backlit eyes that seemed to emerge from inside its "head". The eyes floated along the surface of its body sweeping completely around a full 360 degrees. An "arm" stretched out, drew thinner and long than the other arm. A multi-fingered appendage glided over several keys blanking the screens on the alarm monitors.

The figure became completely still as if mercury could freeze. It sat inert before the blank terminal. One minute stretched to ten then over an hour. Nothing moved, no sounds echoed down the long empty subterranean halls. The solid state emergency "everglo" lighting designed to remain dimly lit for several millenia never wavered.

Exactly 24 hours after dropping in to passive state, the nanite colony Search And Destroy Omega (SADO) 9160, activated its final program—establish a ten kilometer perimeter and destroy all threats until an appropriate Alpha security device was presented. The still figure suddenly animated again. Eyes sprung forth from all parts of its body and SADO-9160 moved down the first cell block. At every one of the vault doors it pressed the amber buttons and punched an access code moving on to the next vault. Behind it vault doors melted and gray fogs emerged. There were 50 vaults in this block… and more blocks inside the target perimeter… The sounds of faint clacking drifted down the halls echoing louder with each passing second… if there had been any being left to hear it, they would have screamed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

First there was the Apple

Having posted about the ultra-new, not even released yet, Starcraft, I thought I might spare a few pixels to post about a game so old that it only had 8 colors. While not the oldest game I played, it does goes way back.

When I was in school the best computers were all Apples. Not Mac's... Apples. The good old Apple II was one of the first computers that schools were given. My Junior High school had 2 in the library. They had no hard-drives, only floppy disks. A disk held 512 kilobytes of data. You stuck your disk in the drive and flipped on the computer. Sometimes (rarely) you had to swap disks.

Oregon Trail was one the first programs designed to teach kids while still having a bit of fun. It was really a very simplified simulation of migrating West on the Oregon Trail. You started somewhere in the East and bought your supplies and then struck out for the West coast. You chose in what month you would start. At various points throughout the game random events would occur for you to deal with. Sometimes members of your family turned sick and you had to rest. Sometimes your wagon broke down. On the way you could buy more provisions (if you weren't broke and if there was a place to buy them) or occasionally fate would be kind and give you some discovered supplies. There were some 16 landmarks on the way. These were forts or rivers. You have to decide where and when to cross. The whole journey is a race to make it before you and your family starve or the winter sets in.

While completely simple, the program does a lot to make you think about walking across a place as big as the United States. It makes you remember that medicine was not advanced and diseases common. Personally, I can't imagine now how someone then could strike out across so much unknown land. They risked their wives and children. Lots did not make it. And they just did it.

Anyways, it is good to remember that a fun game doesn't have to be intensely graphical. The world of game emulators is out there for the gamer on a budget. Perhaps from time to time I'll post about one I'm playing... But for now... I have to hunt up some more food while my family rests with cholera. It's 187 miles to Green River Crossing and might be 20' deep this time of year. Time to chaulk up that wagon and float her across--hope the oxen can swim.

Game On!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Starcraft II

I just found out that Blizzard is teasing Starcraft II on its website. My feelings are mixed.

When Starcraft first came out, Blizzard had already released Warcraft and Diablo. They were already showing off how good they could be. Starcraft hit the game market like a flaming, runaway truck in to a lake of gasoline. It was HOT. It redefined real-time-strategy in to a serious mass market DOOM killer. I would say Starcraft catapulted Blizzard upwards allowing it to launch the now "most revenue generating ever" title of World of Warcraft.

I played the zergy guts out of Starcraft. I played in the Brood War beta. I played the Brood War beta so much that when the damn thing finally launched I was nearly sick of it. But I played anyway. It was a great, great game. Wonderful game play and beautifully done cinematics. It set the bar well above what any other code shop could deliver. I'd say that Starcraft and Brood War are still the benchmark that all real-time-strats are measured.

So... now we have Starcraft II, another real-time-strategy. Of course... the problem now is that RTS is damn near cliche... It has been done, re-done, over-done, done badly and done some more. What can Blizzard possibly do to make it fresh again? I have no idea. I suppose if anyone can, the Blizzard Wizards can. But still I'm skeptical.

Not long after Diablo II, Blizzard announced a console spin-off title called Ghost. It never launched. The Starcraft line has sat unloved for more than 5 years now. That's like a century in game-years. The game teaser cinematic was a thing of beauty. Blizzard has really pushed the limits of animatics. No question that whatever they produce will be visually appealing. I'm sure that will be enough to eek a few million dollars in revenue. But a small game-dreamer part of me is excitedly restrained that maybe... just maybe... Blizzard can deliver another awe inspiring, story adventure combined with the very best game playing experience. Blizzard has some mighty big shoes to fill. Let's all hope...

Game On!

Pirates of Carpathia

**Game setting... probably True 20**

Great spaceships sail through space with a blend of super-science and ancient technology. The sentient humanoid races of the galaxy are connected by slip stream portals that connect the populated systems to each other. The technology resembles clock-works and steam engines, but progressed to the most advanced stages.

The primary ship propulsion is the lightsail. These are massive solar collecting sheets that catch light and solar winds to drive ships to sub-light speeds. But lightsails only work within the near planets of a solar system. Farther out arcanite drives are required. Larger, more dangerous and less manoeuvrable arcanite drives are mostly used on large freighters or capital ships. Smaller versions of the drives can be fitted to lightsail ships, but at a great speed sacrifice. Towing lightsail ships behind arcanite barges is generally more common.

Lightsail ships resemble small to massive 17th century galleys where the sails often circle the entire hull. Generally, gravity is simulated with a “right side up” approach. There is usually an open main deck with a gunnery deck immediately underneath. Nostalgic features are common—even simulated wood finish. Under full sail, a light ship is a beautiful blend of wood, gold cog works and brilliantly lit sails.

Ships generate air bubble force fields from aft and bow terminals. The field is specifically tuned to gaseous molecules and is permeable to other objects. Usually the gravity mechanisms of the ship keep crew solidly on deck. If a crew member “falls overboard” the gravity well of the ship will pull the crew member back to the hull. However, occasionally systems fail or remarkable force throws somebody clear in to the void—certain doom. Large ships travelling at sub-light speeds just can not turn quickly enough to save unprotected crewmen. There are enviro-suits on most ships, but they are so bulky that rarely more than six are ever carried. Most ships carry none. Air bubbles are redundant. If the main bubble fails the crew can retreat to the interior of the ship. Open portals will have mini-bubbles. The lowest decks of the ship will be hard-sealed and form the last crew refuge on a failing ship.

Projectile weapons are not favoured in the void—they consume oxygen and foul air recirculation systems. Ships and crew are generally armed with plasma weapons, but the weapons tend to be unreliable or unwieldy. Boarding parties will often carry single shot plasma weapons while using martial weapons in close combat. However, planet militias, reverse the preference. Projectile weapons are common, reliable and effective. Plasma weapons generate too much hard radiation and are universally banned on civilized planets.

The Fringe space system of Carpathia lies far from the seat of the Telos Empire. While still connected by a Portal in to the slip stream, Carpathia is too remote and too poor to be anything other than a backwater system and a home for pirates, smugglers, treasure hunters and zealots.

The Portals are the mysterious gates control by the powerful Harbourmaster’s Guild. Each gate can connect to virtually any other gate. But only a guild pilot can navigate the Portals. Exactly what and how the Portals operate are closely guarded guild secrets. Those fool-hearty souls who enter the Portals without a Pilot universally never emerge. Portals resemble large oil spills in space. Difficult to see or locate, most are marked with beacons. Natural trade centres, they usually have supporting space ports.

The Harbourmasters are reclusive, rich, eccentric and generally not to be trifled with. They control commerce to all regions of the galaxy. More than one system has been exiled by the guild. Exiles can last from days to years to hundreds of years to permanent.

Aging factories continue to build the Mechane technology from static blueprints which by themselves are ancient artefacts. Control of factories is a primary function of the various craft halls. Each craft hall fills a niche producing all manner of common and uncommon goods. Factories can be enormous incomprehensible machines or tiny black boxes. Their exact nature and operation are known only to the artisans high in the orders.

Mechane technology forms the basis of life throughout the galaxy. Who the Mechanites were has long been lost in endless time and space. Some legends say the Mechanites died off, some say they simply moved on to another galaxy, some claim that they are still here watching over the new races. The function of mechane devices appears to be almost entirely mechanical. Each item is a mass of whirling gears and springs with no immediately understandable purpose. Close examination reveals even smaller machines embedded in larger parts. Some devices seem to produce energy from nothing, others require vast quantities of various fuels, but in all cases the technology simply works—with or without explanation.

Cog Work Adepts:
Some of the Mechane devices “morph” to bond to the user. The end result is a something like a cog-work cyborg. Using the various modules requires attunement to the device. Once attuned, the devices are either permanently bonded to the user or (in the case of a detachable device) only usable by the owner. Using this type of Mechane is permanently physically altering and generally impossible to conceal—although there are specific Mechane devices to mask the wielder. Untuned devices are manufactured by various guilds. Once acquired, the adept holds the device against the body and mentally activates it. The process of assimilation only takes a few seconds. The power granted by the device is immediately available to the adept.

Cog work implants integrate with the flesh. Visual enhancements are the most noticeable replacing one or both eyes. Whole limbs disappear replaced by perfectly (yet normally) functioning mechanical replacements. These implants sense heat and cold the same way as normal flesh and are damaged in the same manner. Despite being apparently metal in construction the fine parts are still damaged by heat, cold, etc. The process of assimilation is painless, but irreversible. Cog work devices are wearable and thus removable. Similar device will morph together in to slightly more ornate device. For example, two glove based devices merge to form one set of gloves with a new configuration of lenses, springs and gears. Devices only be removed (involuntarily) from unconscious adepts. Devices can not be used by anyone other than the owners, even other adepts.

Under the banner of the Benders Guild are the mentalist devotees. Biological purists, the mentalists study the mind and mental focus. They often function as spies, advisors and investigators. The source of the mentalist power is entirely internal. Typically, Benders are mind readers, far speakers and rarely (but frighteningly effective) interrogators.

The Sisters of Pheris:
The Sisters are both a philosophical and political organization. Devotees study the physical body and the natural flow of life. One aspect of this study is complete and dramatic control of hormones and pheromones. These combine to create a variety of effects. Initiates can influence emotions and generally elicit forced responses. Where they significantly differ from the Benders is in their connection to Nature. The Sisters can also commune with plants and animals. Some are said to be able to physically transform.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gary Gygax fails Fort Save

By EMILY FREDRIX, Associated Press Writer

MILWAUKEE - Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.
Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game's legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family's home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

"It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gail Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that's still growing in popularity.
Born Ernest Gary Gygax, he grew up in Chicago and moved to Lake Geneva at the age of 8. Gygax's father, a Swiss immigrant who played violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, read fantasy books to his only son and hooked him on the genre, Gail Gygax said.

Gygax dropped out of high school but took anthropology classes at the University of Chicago for a while, she said. He was working as an insurance underwriter in the 1960s, when he began playing war-themed board games.

But Gygax wanted to create a game that involved more fantasy. To free up time to work on that, he left the insurance business and became a shoe repairman, she said.

Gygax also was a prolific writer and wrote dozens of fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of adventure novels.

Gary Sandelin, 32, a Manhattan attorney, said his weekly Dungeons & Dragons game will be a bit sadder on Wednesday night because of Gygax's passing. The beauty of the game is that it's never quite the same, he said.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Besides his wife, Gygax is survived by six children.

I have had made life long friends with this game. At times, I have found purpose and joy in life because of this game and this creator. Thank you, Mr. Gygax. Thank you, Mrs. Gygax. While much too short, Gary did indeed leave the world a much better place. ~Masada

Monday, March 3, 2008


Well it took massive effort and countless hours but I have successfully acquired a Game Cube. Actually... all it really took was a few iterations of "place bid" and $119. Altho one crafty bugger did try to outbid me at 2 minutes. So theoretically I own one...




His caps, not mine.... yet still I feel the urge for some superiority dancing.
**Masada dances like a drunken Stay-Puft marshmallow man... "My wallet's bigger than your wallet!!"**
I will not pause to ponder the $119 investment in a system I already owned for $50. I kilt it and now I gots to drag it home. Hopefully, the bloke that posted it will actually mail it to me and hopefully, it is actually all it claims to be. E-bay works awesome in the states... I hope trademe is similarly reliable.
If all things go well, before the weekend, I shall be kicking my son's ass at Madden 2004 like... well like a 40 year old playing football with an 8 year old. It may hurt me more, but I can fake it better.
Game On!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More True 20

I've been reading the rules in more detail trying to get a better feel for the game. I like the simplicity. I think about 30% of any table-top game session is just figuring out the rules. A more simple rule-set will make this easier, but then there is more pressure on the GM for content!

I'm interested in testing the combat system. It has shades of the original system, but has cut out a lot of the extra crap that slowed it down. My only concern is that combat might suddenly become deadly. Always a bummer when you accidentally kill off your players. But then I can also see combat becoming meaningless too. True 20 has a very short combat scale... your bruised, your wounded, your dying. That's it. You get hurt by failing "toughness saves" (roll a 20 sided and beat a specific number). So if you get shot, roll a toughness save. If you beat the target number, you shrug it off or perhaps it just nicked you. If you don't, depending on how badly you miss the target number you could end up dead or at least out of combat and wounded. But of course the game isn't all about combat.

The system is extremely generic. New players are going to have to be guided by the GM about what makes sense. I am loathe to draft specific classes. You can do it endlessly, but with no structure the characters may end up a bit odd. But with a little work, I'm sure you can work out great stuff. I kind of like the "no limits" aspect of it. Often a rigid class just serves to restrict the player's creativity. I do not like sticking character concepts in pre-defined roles. But what that does mean is that it is somewhat hard to just roll a character and go. A player is going to have ponder what is possible and navigate the options or let the GM decide (or at least suggest).

Looks like fun though. I'm going to mess around with character generation and sample interactions soon. Have fun y'all!

Game On!