Category: Games

I write about games! I write a LOT about games! Everything I do about games is here, in this tab, in some way.

Game Pile: Eco Quest

Since a part of my time this year was dedicated to revisiting some of the Lucasarts classics, and complaining at length about the way Sierra hecked everything up in their development of the point-and-click genre, I thought it was important to take a moment to draw attention to a time that Sierra made a better Lucasarts games than Lucasarts made… within some constraints.

Let’s talk about some 1990s Environmentalist Kids’ Culture, in the story of Eco Quest.

Continue reading

Decemberween: Ex Manus Studios!

This year has been our most active convention-going year. We have gone to almost a convention every two months – and every time, this year, we have done it with the company of Pendix, of Ex Manus Studios.

Now obviously I like Pendix. We’ve been friends for years, almost since high school. But it isn’t just that Pendix is reliable, and kind, and thoughtful – gee, I like a lot of people with those traits. What I want to highlight here is that Pendix is a person who craves to create.

If you sit around Pendix, idly, if there’s a table on hand and there’s just free time, he will have plastescine in his hand, and he will be sculpting. There’s a drive, an energy, a want to create going on there and I really admire and respect that. I work with fast media, I can see the results of what I do, and yet at the same time I can save almost everything I do. Pendix works in a medium that is slow and at times impermanent. If something goes wrong, the entire thing has to be destroyed.

It might just be that the man is patient beyond the measures of saints. I mean, he’s put up with me for years.

There is however, a lesson from him I want to impart: Wanting to create is enough reason to create. Pendix spent a lot of time practicing his craft before he started making models he could sell – I mean, like a decade of just hobby practice, doing things to see if he could do them. Your hobbies grow, and help you grow. They give you skills. And if you want to make things, you can just make them. Maybe one day they’ll take you places, but it’s okay if they never do.

It’s enough to love, for now, the doing of the act itself.

Decemberween: Ettin!

I am loath to be too nice, too quickly. I worry sometimes if this means that my first impression to Ettin was that I was a standoffish dick. In my defence, Ettin likes Death Note and FATE, two things I’ve been noisome about making fun of.

As a peer, Ettin is impressive. He has built community, and interest and fanbase for his work; he’s monetised it successfully, and he’s proven that he’s capable of repeating the success. He’s got good advice for anyone trying to do that and he expresses himself directly, honestly, and fairly.

He’s also done sterling work pushing back against pro-harrassment elements of the tabletop games industry. Without going into specifics, Ettin has tried to get rid of broken stairs in the industry as best he can, even when that involves endangering his own online space and infringing on his own potential for success. No, not everything is fixed, but I at least know where Ettin falls when there comes a time to Say Nothing And Get By or Tell Evil To Go Fuck Itself.

When I approached Ettin with ‘I’m thinking about X-‘ his immediate response was to try and set up a plan. He wanted to enable what I was trying – and even when it wound up not working out with the timetable we had in mind, it was still done helpfully and enthusiastically.

Ettin may have this form of deliberately self-deprecating humour that resists praise, but seriously, I’m glad Ettin helped me out this year.

Game Pile: Sorcery!

I wrote once about the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston ouvre of gamebooks while working on my own designs. When I did it, I was struck momentarily with the thought: I wonder how hard it’d be to convert one of these gamebooks to Twine. It’d be an interesting little project, wouldn’t it? I can even see now the kind of way that you can make the combat system work, Twine can store a handful of variables – it should be okay, right?

Anyway, turns out someone else took one of the best examples in this library of gamebooks and went absolutely hambones on it. Continue reading

Decemberween: Rachel Stevens

And okay, while I have an older sister, I kinda have a younger sister, too.

Rachel Stevens is a writer and designer, though much more world design than game design. Rachel’s writing work is over on Women Write About Comics,  a website which kind of explains itself just fine.

What I love about Rachel – well there’s a lot about Rachel I love, but one of the things I love about Rachel is she’s an enthusiast. She cares about books and movies and pulp and webcomics and transformer toys and gunpla and about her Vivian and about people being kind, and about fighting Nazis and about – even considering the state of things – doing an okay job.

Rachel is a modern tragedy in that if we had universal basic income, if she wasn’t stuck working the way she is for the work she’s got, she’d be running five goddamn series and making TV shows and graphic novels and videogames and so on. There is no meritocracy where Rachel is doing anything but being able to effortlessly, constantly create the visions of a better future she wants the world to have.

I got help from Rachel this year. In Sector 86, I asked her to name all the spaceships. Not all of the names she gave me got used – you might know if you recognise them – but here’s the sheet of initial notes she gave me.

Hey Rachel. I love you, and you are wonderful, and you matter. Thank you for being part of my life, you gigantically hopeless lesbian with teen tiny hands.

Decemberween: My Nephews

I don’t do a lot of information leaking on the internet. I don’t put things out there that can connect you to People Around Me. If I take photos of people it’s either at an event with their permission and permission to share, or it’s without identifying marks. I have been, therefore, pretty careful about giving out information about my family as much as I can. It may be news somewhat to some of you that I have an older sister.

My older sister has a pair of sons.

Those sons, my nephews, are great.

They are not remarkably great. Alright? I have to level with you. They do exactly what kids do, which is they shout and they jump from idea to idea, and they don’t listen to you and they’re prone to forgetting what they’re doing in that way that, let me tell you, I would be super annoyed if a coworker did it, I mean just my word how irritating. Their fashion sense is also just awful, and they haven’t read any of the classics. Shout out to my sister for having the stamina to support the little goons.

On the other hand, they love games.

I have told this story and will tell this story many times more, but I’m putting it here. There are three games in our catalogue that I made explicitly because I went to my parents’ place and hung out with my nephews and they learned I made games. We talked about it, we talked about what that meant, and they talked about things they thought games should be about, what games should do.

Then I went home and I made those games.

Some games I couldn’t make. I couldn’t make the game called GOOD COP, LOLLY COP – which conspicuously, came about when I told them we couldn’t play GOOD COP, BEAR COP, because they were too young and wouldn’t understand it. But these kids are part of my life and I am happy to be part of theirs.

This year I made a protracted plan to try and visit my family every month – at least once. I didn’t do it every month – but the point we knew was we tried. We knew we wanted to go every month, we knew we expected to. There was one embarassing day when I turned up at my parents’ place and nobody was home, and I just piled into the bus and went home.

This year has featured an effort to draw together tighter the love and the need of my family to be connected. To shoulder the people closest to me and to know they are willing to shoulder me. There are unfortunate choices ahead of us, but I’d rather face it together.

MTG: Jund Vomit Part 1

MTGO recently – like, around August – decided to decouple themselves from the EDH Council for online play, based on players primarily focusing on 1v1 commander on MTGO. I’ve not been very interested in Standard right now – not sure why, I think it’s the loss of Eldritch Moon and the failure of Ixalan to excite me for constructed – so instead I’ve been playing Commander 1v1.

The two things about Commander 1v1 that appeal to me the most are that it’s a high-variance format, and its card pool is well, kinda-vintage. It’s wide enough that I can play with some old favourites that had already left Standard by the time I saw them, but the investment to get involved isn’t like getting into canlander, legacy or vintage. Continue reading

Decemberween: Oh, Cae!

I have this friend – Caelyn – who is an absolute sweetheart. She’s thoughtful and smart, and willing to share her experiences and her storytelling whenever. Her stories, the things she wants to tell are often about change, in some way, but the content of the stories aside, she has this wonderful sense of technological possibility. Cae spends her time, when she’s working on things, testing the limits of what she can do with a form. Sometimes that’s just a document, sometimes it’s Twine, sometimes it’s moving things from format to another. Sometimes she’ll write fanfic of games, and sometimes she writes games that are fanfic – and she does it all, with this endless, wonderful sense of exploration

Cae is a good friend, but even that aside, she is creative. She makes things I like to try out and look at and even those things she makes that don’t click with me hard – because hey, let’s face it, I am still always going to be a Cis Boy Who’s Never Had An Attack Of The Genders – are always worth experiencing because they are interesting. Cae is a person who tries things, and when they don’t work perfectly, looks at what she got out of what she tries.

Cae is great and you should check out her stuff:

Game Pile: Rise of the Triad (2013)

As a gamer who went through the bulk of the period known as the golden era of the FPS and the rise of the console to the impoverishment of the PC in the cultural cachet of gamer culture, I have childhood memories of plumbing my way through the games media of the time that wasn’t focused on control sticks and how great the Playstation or Nintendo were, and that means that when people talk about ‘hey remember when’ I almost always have a bunch of ridiculous examples that nobody else, largely remembers. I’m that annoying guy who bothered to memorise the lineage of film history that leads from Hitchcock to Tarantino and wants to take any opportunity to tell you about it, only for PC shareware videogames, a field that could not matter any less but still has a direct line in it from Marcus Fenix back to furry porn then back further to sticking a fish in a door.

For the majority of you, this isn’t the case, so let’s talk about Rise of the Triad.

Continue reading