Monthly Archives: January 2022

Story Pile: Are Columbos A Bastards?

Is Columbo, a cop?

And is that copness, itself, inherently transferring the property of being A Bastard?

And how does this apply to the narrative of the media that depicts notorious Short King and Actually Definitely A Police Detective Columbo?

Let us briefly examine the phrase All Cops Are Bastards and its cousin phrases No Really, All Cops and the subsequent phrase Even Whatever Dumb Bastard Cop You’re Related To.

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January 2022 Wrapup!

January has come and gone, a new start for a new year, and also a bunch of free articles that are either retrospective, or update you on things that have been happening for a while. It’s also something like a holiday month for me, a month of preparation for the new semester and a time to refocus on important, big projects.

Like, you know, a PhD, or games.

It’s also a time when I would have, hypothetically, been heading down to Canberra, to be part of CanCaon, which after much agonising, we decided to abandon, because of panini concerns. More on that later.

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Prototype 22.01 — Adventure Town

Halfway through this month, I sat down with my supervisor and we discussed the idea of what this year is going to look like for the PhD. One of the things that we discussed was that large projects were slow and hard to move, and the material I had access to was harder to access thanks to the global shipping crisis. Services like Gamecrafter and DriveThruCards were unreliable, sometimes simply refusing to ship to Australia at all. Anyway, point is that I’m trying to make a print-and-play game each month this year.

But I decided this with ten days left in the month.


I was not going to get this done. Not properly done, not done in a way I’d be happy with. But I do have a game where the core idea of it is something I’ve been turning over and over in my head for years now in the idea of making a print-and-play game for the year.

Therefore, here, I am just going to provide an honest accounting of what I did, this month, to work on Adventure Town and how close it is to being complete.

Every month of 2022, I am trying, as part of both my PhD project and my all-purpose general game development, develop if not a whole game for game development, a project start, such that I can make playtest prototypes. This is a sort of report of the process throughout the month.

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Inquagnito Mode!

You know how I wrote about how there was a chance that cool design I had of a Quagsire sneaking around in a mask wouldn’t ever be able to be published because discoverability was functionally broken?

Well turns out I lied.

Here’s this month’s design. I recommend getting it on a sticker (cheap) or a hat (pricey), but as always, you can get it on a shirt.

Writing Between Christmas and New Years

Something that I still have difficulty processing is writing in summer, in that particular little period between Christmas day and New Years, and then, as an Australian, kiiiinda for the bulk of January because hey look over there, Invasion Day is right around the corner. Like, for the past few years now, Summer has been the season when I am, largely, off work. It is the time when the holidays land, so after a bunch of extremely high-impact days of associating the fuck out with people, I am largely, not under a lot of pressure.

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3e: Challenge Ratings Are Hot Garbage

Sometimes an article is just a big tweet, and this is one of them. In this case, the bigness of the big tweet is however, beyond the boundaries of a mere tweet, so let’s go. The 3rd edition Challenge Rating system, which was replaced in 4th edition by the XP budget of each encounter, was hot garbage and nostalgia for it is at best rose-tinted glasses, and at worst a signal of complete mechanical illiteracy.

Let’s talk about the 3rd edition system for creating* balanced** combat*** encounters****, the Challenge Rating system.

* Sort of.
** Sort of.
*** Sometimes.
**** Sort of?

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Story Pile: Star Trek Prodigy

I don’t know at what point in my life I went from ‘never watched any Star Trek‘ to ‘keeping up with multiple ongoing Star Trek shows,’ but here we are. And this time, rather than the seemingly divisive ‘comedy’ of Lower Decks that I definitely didn’t pirate or the equally divisive space-travel adventure of Discovery, I’m instead talking about the divisive children’s cartoon of Star Trek Prodigy.

If you want the simplest opinion on it: I like it. It’s very much a kid’s cartoon, and that means the central characters are kids, but that works out okay for the premise of the show. If you just want to know if there are landmines to look out for, I haven’t encountered any so far, and I like all of the show I’ve watched so far, even if it’s just cresting the heights of ‘pretty good.’

Now, on to more detail.

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How To Be: Some Jojo (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.

And now, it’s time to engage with something that is a challenge on two axes: First, the challenge presented by unpicking what it even means to make it, and second, the challenge of dealing with the standard memetic conversation that unrolls when you bring it up.

We’ve been a Touhou. We’ve been an Ukyou. And it’s time, now finally, it’s time, to be a Jojo.

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Unstrapping Jetpack

I have been using the Jetpack plugin on my blog for about five years. It comes as a default tool available to free wordpress accounts, you see, and I installed it on my blog when I realised that I really did care about how much or how little attention my work was getting. There’s a long ongoing story that starts with the Long Live The Queen Game Pile review (which, really, isn’t that good, and for all I know the soundcloud has long since been shut down), but which has steadily progressed through a yearning burning nerding over feedback.

I got rid of it because it was doing some things to maintain its own statistics but also in case it maybe sorta wanted to serve ads of its own, or maybe just putting graphics on the page without telling me, but the important thing is that a proper web developer looked at this useful package of tools and recoiled, hissing, like I’d tried to bring a Domovoi over the threshold of the family home it protects.

Jetpack has problems, see.

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Game Pile: Silver & Gold

If your full time job is ‘cares about board games,’ for the past few years, pretty much since That’s So Clever hit the scene, you’ve probably developed a distaste for the continued and widespread promulgation of the genre of x-and-write. Roll and write, flip and write, draft and write, pass and write. Basically I think that a German developer made a design that meant you could get those cheap marker pens at a price that worked for scale and suddenly the industry was off to the races.

One of these games is Silver & Gold, a 2019 German-made game that was pretty easy to play even if you didn’t speak German. It got popular, then it got translated and exported, then it got even more popular, and I can see why.

I really enjoyed playing it.

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Mental Diet

It’s like, 1.30 in the morning, a November night, and I didn’t write anything today, until now. I worked on some projects – a little bit in a few places – but the main thing that happened today was that around 4 pm, I told my friends ‘I think I’ll lie down, but I have my phone,’ as if I would chat to them while in bed, then woke up four hours later to find everyone asleep.

This is because in the morning, I woke up bolt awake, holding on to Fox and the dog because I’d had a nightmare about the Rapture. These are not uncommon things for me, like I’m not surprised by them, but they do pretty badly exhaust me. It meant that I just didn’t get much sleep – I was asleep, but it wasn’t restful sleep – and when I was tired, I didn’t want to go back to sleep, because I didn’t want to return to the nightmares. The fear that I would fall back into that place, as if the dream is a place I was going to go, not a dumb trick my brain plays on me for thirty years.

But that meant I was exhausted today. I shambled around a little, I watched some Youtube videos, I planned for dinner – I did some laundry! Hey, go me, that’s a chore I easily would forget. But then I went to bid at four twenty nap time, and whumph did not wake up until 8.30.

Then I watched a movie with Fox, and we recorded a podcast about it, and we went to bed. She watched AmberCyprian and Argick play a game about balls on a string – Argick’s channel is really top tier balls content – and I kid you not I spent about a half hour watching minute and two minute clips of things like capybaras jumping into water.

It’s been a bit of a rough day.

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CoX — Hexcalibre

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.

The witch, it’s said, is someone who knows things. She’s some usually-a-woman, usually old, usually removed, who has Ways of making magic happen. It’s curses and potions and strange, ancient rituals or the turning of the stars, knowledge that the witch has, and you don’t. The witch, it’s said, is the woman who Knows Things.

She’s Bridgitte on her forms, Jett to her friends, to the city that knows her as a heroine, she’s Hexcalibre, and she knows what swords know.

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Choking Discovery Channels

Heyyyy, uh

How do you find my stuff?

I know a lot of people find my stuff from google. But the google searches that bring them here bring them to a single post about Death Note, and then they leave forever, sometimes after pooping in a comments section that I steadfastly refuse to allow to expand. Go find someplace meaningful to holler. But broadly speaking, if you read this, it’s because you read something else I said, probably yesterday.

There are dozens of you. At least more than two dozens of you.

Today, I got up and had an idea, a vision, a creative drive for my work, and I decided today, I would do the t-shirt design for January. Yeah I know. Anyway, I did a design which I thought up before I went to bed, it made me laugh, and I went and set it up. Like, sure, it’s up there with ‘Groverwatch’ for ‘two things mashed together,’ but whatever. Here’s the design.

Now, I did something very silly once I had this design made. See, I put it up on Redbubble, and when I posted it, despite it being an artwork of basically a thumb with a smile and a top hat, and being composed of elements I drew entirely by myself, using a digital art program I have the right to use, I decided to add the tag ‘quagsire’ to the artwork when I put it on Redbubble.

Five minutes later, I got a note from Redbubble saying, hey, we’re suspending this item until we can review it. And hey, maybe that’ll happen. Maybe this design will, in fact, get reviewed, and everything will be fine, in the morning, or in a week, or in a month. I have no idea. I can’t have any idea. This is something they do because they need to make sure that certain copyright stakeholders aren’t going to get mad at them for selling things (though there absolutely are more infringing works that are absolutely still available on their site, and they’re hard for me to report).

I’m not complaining here, not really. I mean not in any way that I think will fix anything so I’m just having a grouse at having a day of work producing nothing I can use, which is a bummer and puts me further behind. But anyway, the thing is, if I hadn’t tagged my work as an artwork of a quagsire, then odds are good it’d just go up and Redbubble would investigate it when it made a big pile of money, and that would never happen. Inexplicably, something like that happened with my set of Steven Universe two-tone designs, which were made to work with the way Redbubble handles default background colours, where three of the four were taken down just because I mentioned the Crystal Gems on them, but the fourth one was left alone and made the most money.

I do not understand it at all.

But here’s the result: Do you ever think, if you searched for my work, on Redbubble, you’d be able to find the fandoms I’m related to?

Do you think if you searched for a fandom I have made artwork for, that you’d be readily able to find me even if my work is something you know you’d like?

There’s a great lie we tell ourselves about making things on the internet, that you do your thing and you put yourselves in the path of attention and you find the people who care about your work and that’ll be your audience. But that operates on the idea that ‘discovery’ is a thing that happens naturally.

Every bump in the road, every point of resistance, every algorithmic check is something that, typically, is going to work against you to get that audience. By default, the fantasy of discovery is at odds with the needs of existing on the internet.

Find your people, but be careful about how you go looking.

Story Pile: Crackerjack

Okay, I need you to trust me on this one.

This movie is a sports drama movie about winning a tournament to save the clubhouse from a greedy real estate developer who wants to turn it into a casino. Uh, the sport in question is lawn bowls. And uh, the cast is primarily Australian and New Zealand actors from the 1960s, many of whom are unheard of outside of Australia even though they’ve done tons of work. Oh oh and the person who wrote the movie was primarily known at the time as a evening radio presenters.

Wait no, it’s good tho.

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Secret Sequence

It’s weird to be working on things in secret.

I try to do work in public when it comes to game design, and I try to account for the process of things like making videos at least after the fact. I think the biggest hurdle for me doing some of these things, myself, was seeing that the process was like, attainable and wasn’t the result of some complicated tool or commitment but really did just come down to ‘make a thing’ using the best tools I had for the job. And plus, as a (vomit sound) content creator, making something then explaining the making of it is basically double-dipping for a single project.

This is not how it works for everything I do.

Last year I tried some things about long-form writing, articles that had secret messages in them, or just things that required I keep a lot of long-form notes. You know, things like a PhD diary. But mixed in amongst there, there were some other details, some other things that got started… and didn’t get published.

I have been keeping secrets.

This is weird to me not because you’re entitled to everything and I feel bad for keepign secrets from you. After all, I did that for all of my playthroughs of Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 and both of those games were massively improved by not having a community of online commentators providing their input and instead just… trying things to see how they worked. What I’m saying is that the Dark Souls community is the real Dark Souls.

In this case, though, two of the things are things that require long-term, long-form engagement to see what they do. Anyone can guzzle through a game in a few days and then report that the experience made them sick, I’m trying to approach complicated ideas in good faith and take notes and also not vent about it on twitter, which is, I guess, my form of guzzling things and then complaining about it making me sick.

Hey, twitter? It’s terrible, bad site, don’t like it, but if they banned everyone except me and maybe my friends and a few hundred people providing interesting general content, and then just let me use it as a searchable scratch pad? I’d be okay with that. Because that is something I have found is very important to what I do in long-form experiences. Write some notes, quip about it on twitter, or even just think aloud about an idea in the same space. Then I can go back later, search for it, and revisit the same mental state.

That’s really useful.

And the impulse to take notes like that is completely lost on me when I’m sitting down with a pad of paper in my hand. I type way faster than I write! Cross-referencing handwritten notes involves taking a post-it and doing back-searches later! It’s so strange that twitter is part of the process.

What’s more, twitter being part of the process is also something that makes the whole ‘secret’ element feel tangibly different. Like, I tweet about a lot of shit and I know most people don’t read most of my tweets. It’s just the weird nature of the fake and hollow internet of now. I’m not trying to shame you or anything, but if I mentioned ‘that tweet last month about the Gummi bears’ you’d have no idea what it was unless it was somehow a banger, and I don’t really do a bangers any more.

Must be somethign in the water, the youths don’t like my tweets as much any more.

Point is, I could tweet publically about all sorts of dumb shit and nobody would notice because the math of things is that just getting tweets noticed on purpose is hard. Getting them noticed on accident isn’t easier, it’s just more likely than happening on purpose, because I dunno, the cringe, let’s say. It’s searchable, too, and if I was really into it I could use Rot13, so Irenes could follow it and nobody else would care.

Which is almost fun sounding.

Anyway, point is, there’s a strangeness involved in creating and not being able to share the way I normally would, and an added dimension to all that is that it means here I am, up late at night, with a blank page in front of me, that is frustrating to fill because the entire day I have been thinking about stuff I shouldn’t talk about yet, because it’s a secret.

4e — Dwarfeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is a game system built around giving players a useful, handleable group of tools to build a character. You have the simplest two lego pieces to snap together; what you do (your class), and how you were born (your heritage/race). A elf fighter is not the same as a half-elf fighter is not the same thing as an orc fighter, for example. These cultural groups then let you inform the world; after all, if there are elves and orcs in the world, there are probably places that those elves and orcs grow up. And thus the player options build the world, and the world building feeds into how the player options feel.

If you have crystal cities of a floating city state full of elves, the players will get ideas for that, and how they interact with the world, based on that. If the elves live in great green forest villages that hang from the branches, that’s going to give them different ideas. And if the elves, I don’t know, come from an elf mine, that’s going to give you a different perspective.

It’s a great system. I love it. I honestly think it’s one of the best things about the game, and the fact that it gives you a pair of dials to spin serves as an onramp that almost any player can get engaged with quickly, and that serves to anchor your decisions going forwards. Great system, I think it does a great job.

Anyway, I don’t like the the Dwarf and the Dragonborn in 4th edition D&D.

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Asset Brainstorm #2 — Kenny Sci-Fi RTS

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.

Still no, uh, still no catchier name than that huh?

Oh well.

This time, we’re looking at the endless well of wonderful stuff that is Kenney Assets, focusing on the ‘Sci-Fi RTS’ bundle.

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MTG: The 2021 Mechanic Toybox

2021 was a big year for Magic: The Gathering product. There was a truly stunning amount of new stuff put out there, including the MTG: Alchemy digital-only product.

Largely, I played none.

I played some! I have some commons-only starter decks for playing with my niblings, to teach them how to play the game, but I haven’t bought anything new from the company. I don’t know, it’s not a high priority to me to buy cards, to get the physical things. I think my MTGO collection has swelled a little, a few dollars dropped on a few cheap cards from recent sets to play around with them.

I did, however, also make 365 (and more) custom magic cards, one a day, shared to Reddit, and that was the thing that represented my main engagement with, my main play of Magic: The Gathering. That meant every time a new set dropped, it presented me with a bunch of new mechanics, new ways to format cards, and new card faces, that I could use to play with creatively.

What tools did I get to play like this, in the year of 2021?

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Announcing: The Disney Animated Canonball, Season Four!

The Disney Animated Canonball continues on, without relent, without mercy, as Fox and I push onwards through watching every single Disney Animated Canon movie. And now we’ve hit this

See, Fox and I have watched all of the Disney Animated Canon, by volume. But we recorded our reactions and opinions on each, resulting in four (four!) seasons of a podcast where we talk one-by-one about each movie, putting it into context, with a conversation about what it’s like to be a long-term fan of these movies, and comments about missing things because you grew up in a cult.

This is Season 4, which covers us from The Little Mermaid all the way to the end of the 90s, through the period we call conventionally the Disney Rennaisance. It’s the culture of our childhoods, it’s the background radiation of all sorts of (white) millenials. This time around it’s eleven hours of podcast, so good for a long trip or just to pack out over time. Binge content!

Plus, this is the important bit, right? This is when they make huge movies, movies that set the culture in motion right? Well surely this should be non-stop praise and admiration. Right? Right?

You can get the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and any other good podcasting service that’s checking the standard RSS feeds? And failing that, you can head to the website.

Story Pile: Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden is a 2018 anime about a young woman recovering from the experience of being one of the best soldiers in a war that doesn’t matter any more, and finding ways to fill the hollowness that follows. Based on a set of light novels written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase, it was turned into an anime by Kyoto Animation, written by industry veteran and kind of titanic presence, Reiko Yoshida.

This is really wild, by the way – this is basically the main work done by Akatsuki and Takase, but Yoshida wrote the screenplay for The Cat Returns, Digimon The Movie, the OAV series Saiyuki, Scrapped Princess, School Rumble, Genshiken, A Silent Voice and she was the script supervisor for K-On! and this is just the stuff I think you’re most likely to recognise by name. Like, this is someone’s first-major-success light novel that got picked up by a big studio for a Netflix release with the writing being handled by a twenty-five year veteran of the anime industry.

What resulted was a visually sumptuous anime, with worldbuilding that sought to explain uneasy peace between city-states negotiationg the aftermath of a war, and how people in those places were both affected, and unaffected by it. I found it challenging to watch, and even more challenging to explain — you might notice, so far, I’ve mostly pointed out things that aren’t very difficult to justify (this is an anime that has a lot of pretty visual work in it), or is just accounting the vital statistics.

One of the easiest ways to talk about media, especially in the format churn this blog asks, is to speak about what other people think as a thing to disagree with. To let people voice their opinions (as I curate them) and then speak against them, or concur with their better, more well formed words. It is an act of synthesis; to listen and to restate, perhaps with subtly different words, perhaps with violently different. It lets me turn a consideration into an argument, or an exhortation. Not just ‘here’s what I think,’ but ‘here’s what I think about what this person thinks,’ as opposed to spending my energy on stating wholly and sincerely what I feel, and letting these words impart in your mind my feelings.

It seems churlish to do that when it comes to this anime about a woman whose job is to do exactly that.

I wish to speak of Violet Evergarden.

And importantly, I want you to understand how this anime made me feel; what I thought of it; why I love it, even with the unpleasantness.

Nonetheless, a content warning for the series;

  • this is a series that overwhelmingly features grief and tragedy, in very personal ways.
  • There is parental bereavement,
  • dead children,
  • suicide attempts,
  • a number of episodes show clear violence with guns.
  • There is also a theme of age differences in romantic relationships, which while never sexualised (it’s kind of a sexless series), is still present in the series at several points and not exactly handled in a way that I would trust.
  • This is a series where people cry a lot.
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Kickstarter 2021 Autopsy

In December 2021, Kickstarter mentioned a plan in Bloomburg business to pivot to NFTs, putting their previous existing system onto a blockchain technology. With that in mind, I made a serious decision to simply divest myself of Kickstarter until I heard definitively that they absolutely weren’t fucking doing that, because the last thing I want is a trust-based crowdfunding system to tie itself to a thing that makes scams a lot easier.

Which is a bummer for me, because Kickstarter is a system I really like, and I really like using it, in my particularly privileged position. See, I have spending money I can dump on modest purchases throughout a month and it’ll just, you know, be something my budget can handle, between Patreon money and just, you know, one of the weird effects of working for a university.

And… well, what did that look like, in 2021?

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First They Must Catch Us: Reconcepting Halflings

The fire crackled, sat in the centre of the group. Four sets of boots, three large, one small, glimmered orange as the campfire’s light licked over them in pinions of orange and gold, contrasting with the deep dark of the woods, and the deep, suffusing blue of the glass-dusted sky.

“So the story goes, the story goes,” the creaky-voiced half-elf said. “Shipwrecked, they say. A crew of fifty survivors, and food enough for twenty five. They drew lots, and half the number accepted their end – casting themselves from the rocks to save the survivors the cost of them.”

“We have a story like it.” The orc said. “The strongest half went into the jungle, without any supplies, to show they were strong, and to give the weaker half the best chance to survive.”

The human pushed a stick into the fire, and shook her head. “Grim stories.”

“Stupid stories.” The fourth said. They sat forwards, their hands waving animatedly. “I don’t know about the folk of yours, but for us? We’d all find a way to do with half as much.”

“You can say that,” the half-elf started.

“Yeah. I can. And then I live it. We live it.” The Halfling gave a grim smile. “We are the ones who always survive.

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Game Pile: Zeliard

If you listen to a PC Retro Gamer, and since you’re reading this, you are, then you may be familiar with certain gaming studios that were responsible for the enduring blocks of the media landscape of the 90s videogame scene. More than people may intuitively realise, companies often made an engine then made a host of games off that engine, meaning that Bullfrog Software made Magic Carpet and Gene Wars even though those are two seemingly very different games.

One of these landscape markers was Sierra Software, later Sierra On-Line, over in the PC-dominant format of Narrative Adventure. Now, it was a mistake to think of Sierra games as just the Kings Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Mixed Up Mother Goose genre that they were, since Sierra also published ports from other consoles, like Atari Games’ Oil’s Well, and they imported a number of French games like the Gobliiins games which were also obscure narrative adventures, so you know, that’s not helpful. Point is, Sierra published a lot of games, including real-time strategy games (like Caesar), shooters (like Nova 9: The Return of Gir Draxon), business managers (Jones In The Fast Lane), and even mecha war games (the Earthsiege games).

But people mean ‘narrative adventures’ when they say ‘Sierra games.’

Wanna see when they released a Japanese action-RPG?

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The best of 2021, Part 2 – Game Making

Alright, so yesterday I established we’re going to talk about some ‘best of’ writing in 2021, but then I went and banged on about some nerd stuff like elves and dragonborn (two things that actually didn’t come up but you’re not going to go check, not really, who cares). Today we’re going to push that nerd crap off the table and instead focus on the much more interesting question of hey, what about making games?

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The best of 2021, Part 1 – D&D

I wrote some bangers last year.

I sat down at first to give a sort of top ten articles of my own last year, that weren’t covered by specifically the header of How To Be, Game Pile or Story Pile. I tried it, and found that I had run out of slots for ‘absolute banger of an article’ in two months of summarising posts. Then I realised there were whole trends of things to write about and then I realised, hell, this is my blog, you’re here for my content, and unless you’re Vincent or Tab or Kate (hi, you three), odds are good you miss an article or three I write.

We’re going to do three of these this week. A whole bunch of bangers, divided up by the type of writing it is, and why I might want you to go reread it. First we’re going to talk about general content – stuff that I think you should link to other people outside the blog, posts that explain some complex concept in a way I’m proud, but also which doesn’t necessarily fit the other stuff.

And so here, I’m just going to bring your attention to a big pile of things I’d already written that are really good and which I know have escaped your attention, yes you, and today, it’s going to be about the Dungeons & Dragons, DMing and Worldbuilding articles.

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Story Pile: The Unpiled of 2021

Not everything I watch becomes part of the Story Pile. Sometimes, I’ll watch something and ask myself if I have anything interesting to say, and determine the answer to that is nah. I start things, decide I’m bored, and stop. While everything is interesting, and you can always connect things that don’t interest you into complicated, interesting, intersecting things, that doesn’t mean it’s always worth the effort, certainly for someone like me.

I’m still bitter that people seemed to think Schitt’s Creek was worth all that fuss after all.

Here then is a list of different stuff I watched that I didn’t think was worth a proper Story Pile article for some reason or another.

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Big Blog Reorganisation

Hey, you probably don’t pay attention to this stuff, but I sure as shit do and I’ve been ignoring it for a long time.

Here’s the TL, DR: I have restructured the categories of the blog. Now there are clear descriptions for each category. The tag system is going to get used too, to group types of blog material like Audio, Video, How To Be segments or major subjects I like to revisit.

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The Press Plan: 2022

With 2021 behind us, we have some developments and we have a plan to enact.

First up, we’re going to do some things that I think worked. There’s the theme months:

  • February is SMOOCH MONTH
  • April is TALEN MONTH
  • June is PRIDE MONTH
  • August is TRICKS MONTH
  • October is DREAD MONTH
  • December is DECEMBERWEEN

These have proven to give me enough sinew to work with throughout the course of the year and they also help to break up content. One month of spooky-and-grim content is a lot better than you just getting whatever unhappy brain droppings spurt out of my ear at any given point. A month dedicated to paying attention to smooch media is an important thing that I would otherwise completely ignore. Plus, Talen Month gives me time I can feel I have the right to air some fucking grievances without it being the whole purpose of the blog.

We’re going to keep going with the two Piles:

  • Every Friday is a Game Pile
  • Every Monday is a Story Pile

These features work out well, and we’ll talk more about the Game Pile in a bit.

Something I want to work on further this year is to try and stop using ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as much as I do. These terms are ones I’ve had beef with for a while, and I’ve taken to using them in an almost sarcastic way. You know, I’ll say something like ‘look, if you’re asking if this is ‘good’ thing, sure, it is, but now I want to talk about what’s more interesting.’ And that feels more and more like it’s a concession I shouldn’t be making. I’d rather tell you what I liked and why I disliked it, and give an overall positive or negative impression: “I enjoyed this” instead of “It’s a good show.”

This is gunna be hard. I honestly think that the basic toolbox of ‘this sucks’ is something I need and need to rely on, but that’s kind of the point of setting itself as a challenge. I know already that I have an article that was going to go up in four months that was meant to open with ‘this story sucks’ and like, time to go back to the drawing board on that.

There are a few other features that I have found going well, which I want to treat as sort of ‘hypothetical maximums.’

  • A maximum of one article about the topics of The Transformers, 3.5 D&D, 4e D&D, and Magic The Gathering. I like having this constraint because it means that if I get a wild hair to cover a bunch of these, I have to space them out.
  • At the start of each month, there’ll be a post showing you the full spoiler and notes of the previous month’s custom magic cards. That way you don’t get a full spoiler of the cards before the end of the month, if you’re following them day to day, Tabs.
  • One How To Be post. I still like doing these and I especially like how they show the way that a game system like 4e is still able to do a lot of interesting character designs, and also give you room to see how I would approach asking for DMs these kinds of interesting ways to represent characters.
  • One T-Shirt design post. I’m growing to think of these as also including ‘sticker and mask’ designs as well.
  • One Asset Brainstorm post. I am trying this out, but a regular feature just looking at some art assets (or even mechanical pieces) would be good practice. These aren’t the same as when I jot down a game idea, this is specifically about looking at tools that I can use and you can use and hopefully inspire you.
  • Each month, depending on PhD demands, I’m aiming to provide a single post explaining a diary of work on a game that month. Each month I’ll be changing it up. I meant to do this in 2021, but the game development was somewhat choked by transport restrictions and shipping problems coming out of the US!
  • I’m going to try to make a Story Pile about one Anime a month. Anime requires me to slow down a little in my watching – I watch them subtitled after all. I fell out of watching anime for a while there and I really like the art movement, especially given how silly and varied it can be. I watched more anime in 2021 than I had in multiple years prior and it made me remember how much I loved it.

Something that happened in 2021 that you may not realise is that I managed to maintain a fortnightly schedule of posting a video Game Pile. That involved learning a lot about fast production (which I can more readily do when I’ mnot just so exhausted all the time). There were more videos with more interesting varied topics and yes, using other people’s video recording. More chat, more long-form slow plays, and more, I hope, variety without necessarily being boring.

This kind of video schedule is doable especially with a variety of video types. Hypothetically, a regular schedule is part of what helps a channel grow (and it hasn’t worked out that way). It has however been good for my skills and also made the task of making each video a little easier.

I’m still very jealous of content creators whose structure and template lets them do things like appear on camera and talk about things, but we may be developing technology there too.


(It’s the pngtuber avatar, I’ve shown you before.)

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