Prototype 22.12 — The 2022 Prototypeapalooza

Just wait someone’s going to tell me ‘palooza’ is racist or something.

This year each month I dedicated some time – varying in scope and effort – to prototyping a new game. Of these games, two of them got to what I consider ‘made prototype’ stage, where I have a physical game that I can hold in my hand and share with people for proper playtesting. And that’s cool!

But I decided what I wanted to do this month, this December, was to look at the games I got, in what stages they are at, and determine what can I do with them in this last month to place orders for the rest in the hopes they’ll be available and my decks will be clear for next year to continue this process.

Presented then is a list of the games, based on the order I want to talk about them.

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Decemberween 2022!

It’s been a year. It’s been a full year. There’s been a lot of losses and there’s been a lot of gains and there’s been some really, really good memes. It’s been a complex year of navigating a new example of normal; I’ve seen a lot of people mourning for the ways that a world momentarily made more understanding of disability whipped back into its hateful norm. And you may be coming to this blog for a day this week thinking ‘it’s time for my daily dose of semi-intellectual academic complaining about how tube tops are racist’ or something, but no!

No, it’s Decemberween!

Named after the holiday represented in Strong Bad Emails, as a sort of generic season-of-Christmas-and-adjacent stuff, Decemberween is the term I use for the entire month of december when I change the kind of content I make here. Instead of my usual content, where I want to do researched posts into histories and contexts, or talk about specific ideas I can use in games or you know, just a few posts about screaming about my feelings into a void, every post this month is going to be about promoting or sharing something I like, usually someone I like, and just posts about my friends, about content channels I engage with, and most importantly, I aim to make sure it’s stuff you can partake in for free.

See, right now a lot of people are going to be advertising their thing because Christmas sales are super important. But those Christmas sales are about getting things in time for Christmas. It’s about ‘order this and we’ll get it to your door in n time’ and all that. Also, odds are good it’s time when your work is either super busy, or your work is super relaxed and everyone’s kinda chill, so you need stuff to fill in time.

What I want to use December to do is to talk to you about things that you can enjoy that make no demands of you. Things that are interesting and things that are sweet and things that are big and time consuming but also, importantly, things that are present. It’s a time where I can point you to a friend and their work, and just talk about how much I like them and like the things they do, and put them on your radar, try to make you aware of them. It’s a kind of gratitude journaling I guess, where I want to make sure you understand that there are people in my life who I am grateful to know and connect to.

Game Pile and Story Pile posts are going to try and focus on things you can have for free or cheap. There will also be some end-of-year posts about ‘articles of the year you might want to check out,’ in the Game and Story Piles, and a summary of stuff that you might have missed, because – I mean I don’t know if you noticed, but I make a lot of free content!

Prototype 22.11 – DIY Touhou

Doing something different this time.

I am first up going to tell you what I wound up making and show you some examples of it. I’m going to explain where it’s at, and that’s all going to come before the fold. The full diary, which is a repost of material written over on my Cohost, is going to follow after. And we’re going to talk about sites like Cohost at some point in the next month or so, wew lord.

What I made this month is a prototype game design for a simple card game with a homogenous play form, focusing on hand management built on a classic mathematical puzzle you might see in the games Spot It and Dobble. The game has room to expand mechanically if it needs it, with each card having room for a rule or game mechanic to add to each character.

The game is composed of a deck of functionally similar cards; each card has a unique front and back. Each front face shows an alchemical summoning circle that describes a reading of a calamitous time, and a description of that in a set of keywords. The back face shows a magical girl from a mystical other realm (with art from the Touhou AI art bot) who represen two of those alchemical symbols and two of those key words.

The first turn of the game, you deal a number of these cards so their summoning circle faces are visible to the table, then deal each player a hand of magical girls, back-face-up. The deck is passed around from player to player, who get to do things to manage their hands, while they try and build a hand of cards that lets them ‘claim’ one of the quests as done.

That’s the game play experience, and cycle. I like that this needs no special components, and if it’s put in to a tuck box, it won’t need tons of setup. I also like that this prototype has room to develop: Each card could have a unique mechanical rule, a flavour or name joke, and the list of adjectives and alchemical symbols gives a lot of room for non-meaningful differentation.

Good idea, I like it, I did not get the time to order a prototype, but thanks to practice on Straight Outta Tucson, I have a tool available to me that can make turning this from ‘list of filenames’ to the actual cards very conveniently.

Dev diary follows!

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Story Pile: The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated

There’s this genre, called isekai, about a person winding up in a magical world after some major event. Then there’s this other genre based on that, called reverse isekai, where a character from a magical world winds up in a normal world after some major event. And while we can absolutely argue about whether or not Ranma 1/2 is a reverse Isekai (it is), I’d like to talk about a really fun example, with a minimal expansive plot that’s basically just a fun, half-size sitcom about a character who is so much like one of my friends I kinda am concerned she’s not getting royalties.

You can argue amongst yourselves about whom I mean.

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T-Shirt: List Jokes

It’s November, we’re all tired, have some shirt designs I dreamt up while I was doing the shopping and picking through cauliflower

Here’s a joke about how Final Fantasy 14 kills off cool women characters for no good reason. Here’s a version with white text, and one with black text!

Here’s a joke about Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Here’s a version with white text, and one with black text!

Here’s a joke about how we must sound to people outside of the fandom! Here’s a version with white text, and one with black text!

Black Friday Isn’t A Thing

I feel the need to let you understand, in a generic sense, that here, in Australia, Black Friday isn’t a thing.

For those of you unfamiliar, in my own country, Black Friday is an American shopping ‘tradition’ or ‘event’ that is fast approaching ‘recognised occasion,’ and it’s the first Friday after they have Thanksgiving, which is to say, American Thanksgiving, which is to say, a single holiday Americans and three other countries have, most of which are directly connected to or heavily dependent on America.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in the fourth weekend of November, which means it moves around but it’s late in the month. Then, the first Friday after that, since it’s the first shopping day for Christmas that falls after they’ve recovered from Thanksgiving, stores tend to present sales. A lot of the stores banded together and made an event of it. The name as I understand it comes from it being seen as a plagued or cursed day by retail staff, who would talk about it as ‘black Friday,’ and then oh wait now the stores are calling it that too, because, ha ha ha, huge presses of retail shoppers are the worst.

Er.

Anyway, when it comes to American media, typically speaking if they have it and they screen it, we get it, which means we’re treated to American Christmas TV shows, where everyone’s dealing with snow and the like in the middle of what is, to us, Summer. We get your Halloween advertising, and we even get the yearly tradition of someone who’s an adult saying in a public space where people can hear him ‘well yeah, I wonder why people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the rest of the world.’ Because America is amazing at not realising the rest of the world is a different place.

Despite this, though, despite the fact we do not have a Thanksgiving to be the starter pistol on Christmas shopping and indeed, our stores tend to try and get you buying Christmas junk in like, early November, despite that, our stores have been trying, with very little, if not no success, to convince us here in Australia to attend ‘black friday sales.’

Last year, I was advertised a Black Friday sale at my local mall that did not happen on Friday.

This is a really stupid thing and if you’re wondering why you’re hearing about it, this is why. American media is damp and it moistens everything near it.

Game Pile: Straight Outta Tucson

Desert Bus was last week! It’s a cool event that raises money for the Childs Play charity, by playing the game Desert Bus. The more you donate to the event, the longer the event runs, and that means they have to play the game longer and if you weren’t aware, Desert Bus is a shockingly boring game.

What this means is that the whole streaming event is someone playing a dreadfully boring game and doing anything they can to be less bored – with their friends in the room. It’s a festival of events of busking, comedy performances, dramatic readings, a few D&D games, quiz games and also kinda a long-reaching slow-rolling combination of a con and a podcast. And mixed in amongst that there’s other events, including a game jam!

And I submitted a game to it this year!

The game is called Straight Outta Tucson, and it’s a simple little affair; it’s completely free to download and play, and we may be seeing about putting it up on some print-on-demand services as a cost-and-shipping-only option if you want a professionally made copy.

And I wanted to talk a little bit about what was involved in making it.

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Saving The Galaxy By Doing An Abortion

I like Star Control 2, a lot. I like it so much I like to talk about it in terms of the vastness of its world and individual factions and events rather than like a whole game. It’s too big, it’s too fast, there are too many little science fiction stories woven together that you can engage with — and some of those stories can be completely missed if you play the game non-exhaustively.

But when I talk about Star Control there’s this unfortunate cousin of it, the dead end sequel that did so badly it killed the franchise. I don’t like Star Control 3 nearly as much as I do 2 – but there’s still a lot of weird ideas that I like and you may never experience if you play the game.

Because you won’t play the game.

Because Star Control 3 isn’t a lot of fun, and it’s kinda hard to extract the interesting bits.

Let me then present to you one of these threads that makes up Star Control 3, where you Do An Abortion For The Good Of The Galaxy.

Content Warning: The subject kinda sets this one up? It’s a sci-fi context, but if Abortion is a heated topic for you I’m going to continue using it to describe something when talking about this 90s game full of angry muppets.

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Big Pile Of Bookkeeping

I make a point of trying to write about what I’m experiencing and thinking about and feeling, not because it’s some grand pcinriple but because it’s a lot easier and I’m not particularly creative about why I write, just that I write. The result is that when I’m not partaking of much that I think makes interesting writing subject matter (‘not making content’) I tend to trail off about it. Sometimes that’s things that I think ethically, I should not share, like spending a lot of time taking care of my niblings, or students’ work and input.

Sometimes it’s like what happened today.

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Story Pile: The Engine Of A Million Plots

The Engine of A Million Plots is the 2013 album by Five Iron Frenzy, their sixth album, released ten years after the previous album, The End Is Near, which was an album about, amongst other things, the band ending. Part of what precipitated the end of the band at that point was a serious contention from amongst the members about their relationship to their faith, which, given that Five Iron Frenzy are explicitly a Christian band signed to Christian labels, was something of a concern.

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How To Be: The Very Best, Like No-one Ever Was (Dun Dun D-Dun) (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You know, it might just be because I’ve been thinking about pets and subordinate characters, what if the inspiration for your character in a 4e campaign is being someone who has for some reason, a monster that works at their side? What kind of character can produce monsters out of nowhere – like they can just pull them out of their pocket?

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CoX: Hellfrost

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.


It’s natural that things evolve responses to predators. The Circle of Thorns have been preying on humans for generations. Most of the time the evolution preserving humans from it was things like a general population move away from magical influences and spaces, and surviving better without it. But in the 21st century, when mutations could take abrupt jumps, sometimes more severe things happened.

When Hayes Rosten was captured by the thorns and stabbed with a knife as a teen, his mutation kicked in, and his body swallowed the magic that was meant to corrupt him. Stealing from the thorns, it flowed through him – and let him take on the form of their own horse-shark-ice-things, the Hellfrosts.

What matters more, what it looks like or what it is?

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Game Pile: The Disney Animated Canonball Tier List

Man this was a worrrrk. For this No-Effort-November game video, I thought I’d do a tier list and talk a bit about how playing with ideas like this is, itself, a game. And anyway, turns out it was a huge pile of effort to do it the way I did, with a video that wound up with over 120 levels of media and 90 minutes of audio…

But hey, here it is! Enjoy!

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What to Write About

Tonight, I sat down to make, in the organiser I use to track the things I post on this blog, a google sheets function to pick a random topic I’d like to write more about and share it.

That function by the way is:

=INDEX(A:A, RANDBETWEEN(1, COUNTA(A:A)))

Fill up column A with ideas, and then this field will just go ‘hey, picked one at random.’ Really handy. I use it for randomising things like who to call on in a subject, for example. Set it up, put it down, then immediately couldn’t think of anything to put in that column.

This is annoying. I also have to accept that this tool – which by now I may have been using all year – may get made at one day, but populated another day.

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4e: Building Organisations

Organisations are one of those things that most editions of D&D have but they all seem to have weird ideas about how to relate to them. In 3rd edition, for example, a lot of organisations had you spending feats to learn specific mechanical options that marked you as a member of that organisation. This led to a lot of killer feats but also meant that if you didn’t have a feat slot to spare, there was no reason to care about these organisations.

I’ve been thinking about organisations, especially in my campaign setting, because I do keep using ‘people choosing to arrange things’ as an important part of the cultural landscape. For this reason I’ve been thinking about ways to represent organisations that people can join at any time without it consuming a limited number of player build slots. Themes and Paragon paths are fine – but what if you want to be a member of the church of Amaunator without being a Morninglord?

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Story Pile: The Bear

Coming up later on FX’s The Bear: join Carmy, Richie, Sydney and Marcus, as they learn how to give a care! But first…

The Bear is filed as a ‘comedy-drama’ which I think is perhaps coming from a different definition of comedy than I’m used to. It’s definitely got some funny stuff, after you get past the immense downer of a subject material and the way the whole series is about feeling tense in your gut as you follow the exploits of Carmy, The Bestest Chef Boy, who Chefed The Best until he couldn’t Chef No More because his Chef Brother stopped Chefing to a Permanent End. Now he’s no longer in the fancy restaurants that demand his skills and in his Chef Brother’s mere sandwich shop.

It’s pretty good!

I’m going to go into this with a mild spoiler warning – a discussion not of specific events but to let you know things that are structural to the story, but while I’m doling out warnings, this show kicks off with a character committing suicide, and a huge chunk of the story is about characters left behind that event confronting that trauma. There’s also workplace abuse trauma, money anxiety, suicidal ideation (though they really, really don’t address it like that), support groups, a lot of stuff around drugs and some kids getting their hands on drugs. Oh and guns being discharged. Also there’s an outside chance there’s some racial workplace coding stuff that I’m not quite aware of.

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Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming, i27 — Page 5

I was not expecting this! I was not expecting to get two Homecoming updates this year, which may sound a little sarcastic but please remember Homecoming is a free game maintained by fans for the love of it, so the updates (known as ‘Pages’) are things I try not to expect. I’m a super-invested player, with a huge cast of characters all at the level cap, so I try not to get involved in beta discussions of how the game ‘should’ be — I know that my experience is extremely atypical to most players. That means that new pages arrive in my life like a delightful little fairy sprinkling dust.

This page was definitely lots of little stuff but not lots of #content, so I’m going to run through what it is and what it means, to me, and why you might care about it.

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Blorboundaries

Earlier this year, in my Final Fantasy XIV video, which I still think is really good and you should go check it out and comment and like it and tell me I’m a good good internet boy, I deployed the term blorbo. Coined first in 2021 on Tumblr (best source I could find), it was used to refer to a habit for how Tumblr behaviour often involves a kind of public conversation (dare I say discourse) that often involves such shredding of available context that things look incoherent, without the faintest anchoring detail. Blorbo is a word that didn’t seem to exist until December last year but it so perfectly encapsulates a concept that has been omnipresent since two fans were able to bicker over their opinions of a god, and having it available presents an enormously useful way to discuss a fandom behaviour agnostic of a particular fandom.

When I described a blorbo in the video I referred to them as ‘a term for how fandom terminology looks like from the outside.’ And while yeah, you can low-key use blorbo as a way to make fun of people’s particularly weird fandom discourse, it can serve as a useful example for the consideration of how fandoms necessarily compartmentalise, how the nature of these spaces is to develop language and concepts that are specialised for operation within that fandom space.

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A Giant Paradigm

I’ve talked about the Goblin and Kobold cultures in the context of Cobrin’Seil, and done some fairly deep delves into what I think of as the framing context of the other player character options, but the thing is, when you start looking at these cultures as like, cultures, you kind of run into a problem.

Art Source

See, like if Goblins and Kobolds and Orcs merit that deeper context, then that kind of brings up the question of what about gnolls? What about grimlocks? What about derros, and tareks and hobgoblins and bugbears and shifters and duergars and bladelings and —

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Story Pile: Air America

You know what the kids are into these days? Political action dramas set in 1960s Laos featuring a terrifying antisemite!

Oh don’t worry about it, this is a movie about a CIA-owned former Taiwanese air company that was used to finance the drug trade under the auspices of the Nixon white house, the fact it’s got Robert Downey Jr in it getting extremely inebriated and Mel Gibson expressing fringe religious ideologies just kind of blends in.

Minor spoilers for Air America follows, but honestly, I don’t plan on digging into the events of the movie, but rather talk about the movie and its framing.

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CoX: Adjusting to Hover

I have over a hundred City of Heroes characters, in aggregate. Back on Live, I had something like eighty characters, and now I have about sixty-four on Homecoming. At one point I thought it’d be interesting to graph up and see what the most common power across all my characters was, figuring that my reliance on things like Fire Armour would mean it was one of the early powers from that powerset.

But that assumption meant I wasn’t remembering travel pools, where for example, every character who flies probably has the power Fly. So then the competition is about which travel powers out of Super Speed, Fly or Super Jump, or the other, less good power pools.

Yeah I said it Teleport.

Point is I assumed that since the majority of my characters travel by flying (I think?) then that means Fly should be my most common power.

And no.

I was wrong.

The most common power across all my characters, the power literally every character on Homecoming has is this one.

Combat Jumping.

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Game Pile: Bart Vs The Space Mutants (Video!)

I thought it’d be a good time to go back to some older stuff I made that talks about an interesting idea, and this time it was the way that Bart Vs The Space Mutants is a game constructed entirely out of how the ads feel. So I found my old article and made a video out of it!

And now, some space and the thumbnail after the fold:

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Asset Brainstorm #11 — Big Stacks

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


When I started on this project, there was something happening that I wasn’t paying that much attention to. I was aware AI art was a thing but it wasn’t something that showed up in my streams. And now we’re in this super weird position where now there’s this type of asset that’s available, cheap, affordable and in many cases being made by an interesting new type of artist, and where just engaging with them at all is going to open a giant can of worms and result in a category of people being mad at me.

This is especially fraught because I don’t think AI art is ethically free and clear but I also don’t think it’s the black spot, and that’s a conversation that has gotten people very snappy very quickly.

So, content warning: I’m going to examine an art asset pack made by an artist using an AI package and post-processed. I’m going to talk about it agnostically, addressing the art asset pack as what it is, without delving into the question of whether or not it should exist.

Cool?

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