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Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, March 25, 2006

V for Vendetta is D for Disappointing

If any of you had been considering seeing V for Vendetta -- don’t bother, it's C for Crap. It's the first time Trish and I have been able to go out together and see a movie in 4 months or so, and it was A for Awful.

The plot was M for Mediocre, and Hugo Weaving as Vendetta was P for Passable, as he's very good at the cultured, metered monologues. But there were far too many of these P for Pedantic monologues, delivered in a D for Dry manner. The action scenes were A for Adequate but were few and far between.

Natalie Portman was U for Uninspired, but this was her best work in quite some time. The whole unveiling of the plot was P for Predictable, while still offering enough conflicting and confusing twists to turn a C for Clever concept into a J for Joke.

Save your M for Money and steer clear of V for Vendetta. The best thing about the movie was the trailer for X-Men III.

Oblivion... A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there

(finally looks up from playing the new Oblivion CRPG from Bethesda to log onto his blog)

Hmm? Huh? If I didn't need to eat or go to the bathroom, I probably would be playing Oblivion 24/7... It's pretty addictive.

As is my usual CRPG modus operandi, though, I've created at least 4 different race/class combos, run them through the tutorial and a bit of exploration, then deleted them. I'm overwhelmed by the number of options and types of possible gameplay -- I can't decide what sort of character I'd enjoy playing the most. It's certainly going to be a different sort than my tabletop RPG tastes, given the limitations of the interface, etc.

The graphics are gorgeous, but I had to turn textures and detail down considerably (just up from the lowest end possible). I've got a 2.5 GHz PIV processor, 1 GB of RAM and a Radeon 9700 256 MB video card and the game is still sluggish -- especially when facing multiple opponents, or for some of the high end special effects (when these certain bad guys die, they explode out in this rippling warp effect, which drops me to literally 5 fps or so).

Also, the controls are horrible... I'm so used to World of Warcraft and other first person shooters that I was hoping I could configure the controls to mimic what I was comfortable with -- but no such luck. Even though you can remap some of the controls, not all of them are mappable, and there are horrible few available. For example, there is no "rotate view" option. You can sidestep left or right, but not pivot/rotate -- that can only be done via Mouselook. Grrrr.

And instead of having 6 trays of 12 mappable buttons/hotkeys like in World of Warcraft for commonly accessed spells or items, you get 8 -- that's it. By the time you're done with the tutorial, you'll already have 12 or more items you'll want quick access to (torch/shield to swap out, several potions, a few spells) which you just can't do. Very frustrating.

But despite these quirks, I'm still enamored, and see myself being sucked in for quite some time. These things keep it from initially blowing me away like World of Warcraft did, or even Sacred or Neverwinter Nights, but the promise of what lies beyond these issues is far too tempting to let that stand in my way.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sarcasm, Thy Name Is... Me?

I'm just in one of those brooding moods today. I'm usually a pretty chipper guy (all things considered) but some recent postings and comments by my fellow geeks got my inner jerk all riled up. Society is so hypersensitive that things are easily taken out of context -- people read between the lines and try to be offended.

It's a personal version of the litigious nature of life: if someone does something you would normally be indifferent toward, make a big stink about it and turn the tables so it's suddenly all about you. Crikey. It really gets under my skin.

I don't go out of my way to offend people. I'm not that sort of jerk. But I do get frustrated at how ridiculous some people are... Seeing gender bias, racism or other prejudices were there simply aren't any. Recently, I've seen this trend in boardgaming, where people get all up in arms about perceived problems (sometimes having to really stretch to get that sleight in there).

I've sounded off on this in my recent GeekList, titled The Darker Side of Gaming >> Insensitive, Controversial and Morally Reprehensible Games. It is my most ambitious and purely selfish posting in a while. It was a heckuva lot of fun to write, and more than a little cathartic.

Here's the lead-in blurbage:

I like to think that I'm a fairly cultured, well-educated and contemporary person. That I'm socially conscious, spiritually grounded and make efforts to empathize with my fellow. As such, I am shocked (and slightly embarrassed) by the huge number of incredulously insensitive, politically incorrect and downright reprehensible games that eat away at the moral fabric of the boardgaming community. I can't possibly be the only person who feels this way.

Please, share my outrage.

I am baffled. How publishers can sleep at night while developing and distributing these social diseases and value-crippling pathogens. What ever happened to pride, dignity and compassion? What do you think?

Geekway on the Brain

With the Geekway to the West boardgaming "mini-con" I'm coordinating coming up quickly (April 28-29th), I'm starting to get a bit frazzled. Aside from juggling all my other responsibilities, I'm feverishly working to pump up attendance, trying to solicit donations and schedule different events.

But it's certainly a labor of love. I'm really excited about the Geekway this year, and can't wait for the end of April to roll around.

The one event I'm most interested and excited about would have to be the life-size, "live action" Mall of Horror game we're setting up. I'm a big fan of Mall of Horror, and we're going to take it to the next level.

Instead of just one player per "color" we'll have three people, one for each of the character's present on the team. One player will be nominated the team captain, and will be responsible for consulting with the other members of the team and finalize their voting. If the weather is nice, this is going to be set up outside so folks will move around to the different locations.

We've got team sandwich boards planned out, fake badges for the Security Officer, chairs at different locations to represent maximum occupancy, and other tweaks to make it a more immersive experience and make the most out of having so many people. To ensure things will run smoothly and stay on track, we're going to have a moderator timing negotiations.

I've been in touch with Asmodee, the developers of Mall of Horror, to let them know what we're doing and see if they have any tips or suggestions on running a large scale game. They seem interested in our plans, so hopefully I can encourage them to donate a copy of the game for the winning team. Regardless, this'll be a great event for lots of photos and hopefully some video.

We're also going to run a large Werewolf game or two (18 players + moderator) over the course of the day, and I'm trying to figure out some Boardgame Trivia to include for prizes -- something low key but interesting that folks can play in the background... Right now I'm thinking about taking super-duper closeups of different gameboards & bits and having players identify the game. We'll have to see how things pan out.

I've still got more donations to sift through/solicit, as well as nail down what we're going to do foodwise (cater, just do food runs, etc) and then try to schedule some volunteers to help demo and teach games to new players. One of the exciting prospects for the Geekway will be introducing this great hobby to new players who aren't familiar with Eurogames or (gasp) don't know about BoardGameGeek.com!

So if you're going to be in St. Louis in April, drop me a line... We'd love to have you at the Geekway! Until then, I'm off to do some more planning and prep.

Monday, March 20, 2006

New Horizons >> Recent Game Innovations OTHER Than Mechanics/Gameplay

I know, I know, I've been ignoring my blog. Shame on me. I wish I could say that it's because I've been so busy gaming, or have gotten a new job, or won the lottery and didn't have time for all this nonsense. Nope, I've just been busy with lots of boring things, and hadn't felt the spark of inspiration for a while.

But I'm back in the saddle today, and just finished writing a new GeekList over on BoardGameGeek titled New Horizons >> Recent Game Innovations OTHER Than Mechanics/Gameplay. Here's the lead-in blurbage and first entry. Boy I love thinking about games. Why couldn't someone pay me for that?

...

As I look at my growing collection, I am constantly amazed at the variety found in games today. Especially when looking at the creativity and ingenuity shown in the gaming industry that goes beyond the gameplay or mechanics. Over the last 15-odd years, there have been countless innovations that have dramatically changed (though I hesitate to say "improved" in all cases) the landscape of modern gaming. Some of these innovations are physical in nature -- a new way to develop components, for example. Others are intangible, such as an innovation of marketing or accessibility.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Also, please note that I'm not necessarily listing games that were the "first" of its kind to bear a particular innovation -- merely a game that comes to mind as a strong example. If you can share some information about the first game to adopt a certain innovation, please share it with us. Oddly enough, many of the things I thought of as innovations can trace their roots back, one way or another, to collectable/customizable gaming, or more specifically to Magic The Gathering.

What do you think?
What other non-gameplay related innovations have come into the scene in the last 10-15 years? What games were heavily influenced by these innovations? Are these innovations here to stay, or simply a fad that will fade?

...

Innovation: Collectible/Customizable Format

I can't think of a single other game that changed the landscape of modern gaming over the last 15 or so years as greatly as MTG. It introduced many brand new concepts and innovations, but I'll focus on the collectable/customization innovation. Developing a game that offers several tiers of immersion and interaction. There's the collection fix, where you acquire new pieces and expand your game base. There's the construction fix, when you wile away the hours tinkering with combinations. There's the actual game itself.

MTG created a new genre of gaming, but also ushered in a new mode of thinking about games -- a game can become much more than a single box purchased once. It can become an ever expanding, ever evolving experience that grows as the user grows.

Games That Followed Suit: A countless stream of CCGs following MTG's lead (Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, AGOT, you name it), and numerous other formats. WizKids click games, ChiZo Rising, Blue Moon, Battlegrounds, Navia Dratp the list goes on.

...

You can read the rest of this GeekList over at BGG.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Now *that's* a lot of games! Sadly, unplayed.

Wow. I have a ton of games. My collection right now hovers around 500 or so boardgames and card games. If I threw in unique role playing game settings (not just supplements), that would probably add another 75 or so titles to the mix.

Sadly, I have a large number of unplayed games in my collection.

Every time I sift through my games, I stumble across games I ought to get to the table, games I know will never see the light of day again, and every once in a while, a game I totally forgot I even owned.

With so many games to choose from, a game really has to impress me to see the table more than once, but I'd like to make a greater effort to set aside some table time for some of these unplayed games in my collection. Some will be easier to get to the table than others, but I really need to lobby for some of these.

I started listing all my unplayed games over on BoardGameGeek. Being the thing I do, I put them together in a GeekList. But I have so damn many of them, I'm going to have to break it inot several lists... I started listing them alphabetically, and cut off the first GeekList after just getting through A-D in my collection -- with a staggering 38 games unplayed in that range alone!

I've got the feeling that by the time I'm done, I may discover that a full 20-25% of my collection is unplayed. Yikes.

In case you're interested, here's a link to my GeekList of games unplayed in my collection (A-D).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gone Gaming Guest Spot >> Games that Tamper with the Space-Time Continuum

Last week I was struggling to find something to occupy my mind. Thankfully (sodaklady), one of my GeekBuddies from BoardGameGeek, came to the rescue! She's a regular contributor to the Gone Gaming blog, a great gaming blog featuring a host of savvy, well-written and interesting game nerds just like me. Well, not just like me. After all, DWTripp is a regular there... :)

Anyhoo, due to some scheduling quirks, sodaklady was looking for someone to fill her next contribution. I was pleased as punch when she asked if I'd be interested in writing something for the Gone Gaming blog. So I happily went about trying to settle on a good topic.

I had it narrowed down to two possibilities:

1) Games that Tamper with the Space-Time Continuum. Those games that bend the fabric of reality and let time slip past, turning hours into seconds... or those dreadful games where time stands still and you feel you're trapped in some bizarrio Twilight Zone episode.

2) Confessions of a Collectaholic. I like to say I'm an avid game collector, but that's not quite accurate. I'm an obsessive collector. Some of what I collect happens to be good games, but there's a lot of crap in my collection, as well. It was to be a humorous look through my horrible habits.

I ended up setting on Option 1, the Space-Time Continuum thingie. The latter is still pretty interesting, but will take some more thought to pull off properly. And it's a bit disheartening to see just how pathetic I am with my game purchasing trends... Why oh why did I pick up a copy of Clout Fantasy? Paranoia the Card Game? Sigh...

Anyway, please feel free to hop on over to Gone Gaming to read by guest entry: Games that Tamper with the Space-Time Continuum. Enjoy!