hey, if you’re not here for a cis dude talking about a trans thing from the outside, good time to bounce.
Ho boy, this month is a great time for me to be advertising products eh.
Well, look, these shirts are, as always, made to be fun and decorative. You are not making a political statement by buying my shirts. In fact, if you have Politicking Money floating around, hey, why not uh, hey, why not spend that on people’s bail funds, rather than on my silly shirts.
If you have money that will help you feel less constantly anxious, or you want to buy this shirt because, I don’t know, it’s a work expense or something, hey, cool, go for it.
Here’s this week’s design:
No stickers of this one, because, uh, the sticker would say trans rights, and then I’d need to redo the design. I can do that if you want.
Writing about visual novels is hard.
Writing about queer themes is hard.
Writing about queer adjacent stuff is hard.
Writing about anything at all right now is hard.
Let’s crack on.
Hey, this one’s been in the hopper for
Almost two years.
Okay, so some time ago, someone posted in my CuriousCat asking:
I first became aware of you and your tweets from your “Amerimanga cover” posts, and also apparently you’re a cis man. The ways that repressed trans feminine people can express their gender feelings is an easy enough thing for allies pick up on, but I’m curious if you have more of a relationship to queerness than just knowing people.
I provided an answer, which I’m now going to reframe a little bit, for archival purposes, and also, to flex here where the word count isn’t so weirdly limited and maybe clean up some typos I was realllly embarrassed to not notice the first time around.
I spent what was, I think, a week of my life or maybe two, watching Riverdale through to the end of the first season.
Science fiction, fantasy, and the hyper-reality of genre media lets us explore things that aren’t real, or true, but make sense to humans who are used to things that are. We can set rules for the way a world is, and the audience is just going to go for it while you get around to explaining it.
Burnwillow is a superhero who I’ve had around for a while; first created back in the original City of Heroes, then expanded in the Generation 4 roleplaying space, and then remade in the new City of Heroes Homecoming, she’s had a lot of time to have her backstory revised. The person who made her story to start with and the person I am now are two very different people and know very different kinds of things about the kind of person she is. Tracing her origin, I think she may have been created as early as 2007, when the term ‘Burnwillow’ came up from the Magic: The Gathering set Future Sight.
You know what, I’m not going to unpack for you the incredibly obvious idea that I, me, the person I am that writes this blog, loves the hell out of John Wick. Right? And okay, the series of movies are moody and atmospheric and they’re excellently made and full of deeply thoughtful imagery and they’re created primarily by the people who normally don’t get power to make movies like this, so you’re seeing the expertise of a niche group expressed in the medium they’re best at and so you get this fricking amazing movie of practical stunts put together by stunt crew who know their discipline down to the the bottom of the floor. Excellently made, brilliantly compelling, fantastically fun, and full of all these actors who are great doing a great job, nobody needs to hear this because as a mediocre millenial white guy of course I love John Wick movies you can just kind of assume and even if you were wrong it wouldn’t be offensive or anything.
There’s your basics.
No real spoiler warning, I’m going to talk about one character and they show up early.
You know, it’s pretty rare to be able to mention tabletop games these days that overlap well with my expertise. The history of D&D and queer themes are kinda mutedly embarrassing, videogames so commonly fuck it up, and even in the wild west of board and card games, most high-production value games are struggling with the idea of including women.
In that context it can be downright surprising to look at how Magic: The Gathering, a big budget high production value game that dedicated time and resources on its primary, important platform, to promote and spotlight an important and meaningful trans character and then didn’t colossally heck that character up.
In 2015, to go with the release of the set Fate Reforged, Wizards released a story called The Truth Of Names, by James Wyatt. Completely unironically, I think this is a great story, it’s tight, it’s short, it does world building, you don’t need to know what a Mardu is, but it communicates what they are. It focuses on our protagonist of this story, Alesha, a trans woman warrior who is also the kind of person who can shank a dragon.
Okay, look, this isn’t going to follow the normal template. Part of why is because there are too many options.
Check this out.
Presented here is the first Pride design, called Diceheart. This presents you with seven different queer banners, including rainbow, bi, lesbian, pan, trans, genderqueer and ace, and five different dice colours.
It’s so much work to upload and manage allllll these files.
I’m reluctant to talk about Final Fantasy. Five in particular. On the topic of Pride Month especially.
One of the people I respect and admire in my field is something of an expert in Final Fantasy, particularly in the way that literally nobody is right about it. Two of my friends are experts at the game, and they’ll both go ‘oh, no, I’m not an expert’ but they’re both fucking liars, they are experts. Neither of them, bonus, are cis boys, which means that suddenly opening the genders door puts me at the intersection of a lot of spotlights.
Nonetheless, this is Pride Month, and there are not a lot of games that land in this space, accidentally or deliberately, so le’s go.
One of the strangest things to do is to describe a Final Fantasy game without treating it as if knowledge of the game is a foregone conclusion, because sometimes doing so makes the game sound very different to how it plays. For example, Final Fantasy 5 is the story of three lost princesses and the men in their lives as they work to prevent an evil tree from smashing two planets together like clacker balls. And this sounds like nonsense, but also, it could be described as a long, wandering epic story from a random wandering to rescuing an old man to befriending women and pirates and becoming empowered by the nature of reality itself to eventually deal with the reawakening of old gods and new deaths all in the hands of a dude named Buttz. It’s a story that’s somehow epic but only really expresses that in being long, vast but happening to mostly six people.
It is a land of contrasts, and also, a society.
Hey, you know how I talk about flags?
God, it’s hard to have a coherent, clear brand. Anyway, yeah, I talk about flags? Sometimes? But when I do talk about them I tend to talk about them a lot because people are really bad at making good flags, even though ‘good flags’ is a category that’s super easy to work on. Anyway, there are a bunch of pride flags, and I’ve worked with them – you may remember my Captain America Pride Shields, for example.
Hey, I said I wouldn’t.
And I won’t.
Welcome to the month of June, where it’s Pride Month!
You weren’t aware? This is why all the corporate icons have got rainbow flags for exactly no more than the duration of this one month. Pride Month, the Month where we’re all allowed to have some Pride and answer questions like ‘uhh when’s straight pride month,’ because fuck you.
Hm, maybe a bit confrontationl.
Pride Month, thanks to the fact the English Speaking Internet Is Kinda American, set in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, an event kicked off by a trans woman throwing a brick at a cop, and the event oriented around it is because a bisexual woman chose it, and that seriously is as much as we need.
For this blog, that means it’s a time to talk about Queer Stuff! last year it was fantastically hard, because lots of queer games are alienating and lots of queer media falls into the same problem space as Smooch Month media. We’re going to talk about queerness, in games and media, and that mostly means me trying to promote stuff I like, talk about queer subtextualisation, the importance of fanfiction, the way media relates to queerness, and the way I relate to that queer media.
There’s also going to be some shirt giveaways, unless something dire happens to my finances in this month. Fingers crossed.
Also, as seems to be traditional, my current plan is to not talk about:
- Steven Universe
We’ll see what the month has coming for us!
“Hey, Talen,” I tell myself.
“We’re going to do Pride month, right?”
“And that means you’re going to prioritise the queer articles you mean to write, but they’re kinda hard or need research, or you feel that the nature of the work means it’s best to put them all together, so while you’re doing a lot of related research, it can all kinda reference together, and you don’t wind up switching gears from a mindset of, say, magic tricks and knife crime to trying to talk thoughtfully about gender and our relationship to our bodies, resulting in some horrifying wording problem?”
“Yeah, that, that, and-”
“Story Pile then, what are we going to do? Watch some Netflix queer movies that show up when you mash the LGBTQ button? Bust out some old classic texts? Revisit Dragon Prince and go in on the Claudia issue?”
“Well um, I figured I’d,”
“Why are you trying to spin the anticipation here, you are me,”
“Rhetorically, I’m not.”
“You know what, forget it. Point is, I’m going to start by talking about the first anime I remembered watching because there was a hot boy in it.”
Martha, another month trails by in the grasp of this strangest of years of my life. We stand here at the precipice of June, with a word pit opening beneath me and my reaffirming in my most sincere belief that students, are good. I look forward to seeing you again upon my return to public transport.
Hey, that was fast. May just whizzed by, perhaps because we’ve all gotten really good at frittering away our home time. In fact, my home time has been preeeetty stretched so I kind of feel like I haven’t had much free time, as much as I’ve mostly been doing things to destress. Still had some time for some blog experiments, woop woop.
What’s wild is that I don’t feel like I did a lot of stuff this month, like somehow there are fewer articles, but I check the scheduler and yep, sure did do one every day this month. I’ve been rebuilding the backlog, and if you track this kind of thing, I had one day this month where I didn’t write at least one article. This is good. I did write about How To Be A Gardevoir in a D&D game, which was received really well. I vented at length about Deep Space 9 and even included a page of memes which did absolutely stunning numbers.
This month’s shirt design was waiting in the wings for a while, but I’m happy it came out so well. I mean look at that on black.
This month’s video was going to be one of two. I made a tiny video explaining something I made in Mincraft, which made the video making process fast and easy and I was very happy with it. One practice run, one run at the video, boom, it got made.
I was going to do a Lets-Play-And-Chat, but it didn’t line up with any of my friends, time-wise, and I got under a crunch for work at the end of the month. So be it, that sucks but this is why we build contingencies. Pretty happy with what I did regardless.
I’ve talked about friction in the past. The idea is that in any given action, some energy is lost. When I brought it up, I was talking about the energy lost on interfaces – paying attention to the way the game works, or how you’re going to make the game work in a particular way. It’s one of the reasons why a lot of great games get designed within genres once someone establishes a really good control scheme – check out how many classic platformers use B to run and A to jump (or the other way around, I’m not a NES dude, c’mon).
I’ve also talked about how genre is a library of tools. When you know what a genre is and what a genre does, you can use that genre to do things. Draft lets you have players make competing choices at the same time, it lets you hide information. Deck builders let you take game actions that result in something growing, and that thing is itself unreliable, so once you know the mechanisms of thata, when you understand the genre, you can use that to do things like the fog of war or the unreliability of galactic economies or even things like unreliable children or confused storytelling. These are all options once you understand what a Deck Builder is, or how it works.
What I’ve been thinking about – a lot, lately – is the friction not in game play, but in making.
My computer was in a pretty sorry state last week. Thanks to a failure of hardware, I’d had to replace one part of it, and that had meant a bunch of hardware had been standing around going hey, things are different now. One of the big tricky parts was that my hard drives were all convinced they’d been made by some other Talen Lee. This meant I had to transfer files around, format the hard drive, and then, go through my various files and update and reinstall things. I had to reinstall all my editing software. Had to set up a bunch of interface and system tools, had to get my shortcuts all set up, had to make sure file associations were working, and this also meant that there were whole directories of stuff that I wasn’t using any more that I hadn’t cleaned up.
It was pretty pleasant as an experience, but something it made me realise was how much of what I was doing prior to the shakeup was spending time and effort maintaining a lot of unorganised stuff. I didn’t need to have a correct filing system, because, as long as I was always working on it, I was pretty sure I knew which files were important to what I was doing. In some cases, this cleanup was like archaeology.
This isn’t some paean about the importance of cleaning up. Right now, I think there are a lot of us who are Cleaning Up Everything. But it did put me in mind of how much time we spend putting up with poor tools rather than getting proper ones, how many times we create something new rather than build a template, and how much time we spend reinventing things in our creative process.
I am, once again, thinking about friction.
Oh hey, this game, this atmospheric and thoughtful and meaningful game that’s really good and looks really good and it’s full of execution-based skillful exploration and look we’re talking about Dark Souls and then we’re talking about the statements the author made about the game being about living with a terminal condition and it’s ten dollars and here have a review score, pick the one you like, 7/10, 90% and 5 stars.
Oh and hey here’s the image for the thumbnail, that’ll make people intrigued enough to click.
A thing I should know better than to do is make something because someone on Twitter says ‘oh, I need this on a shirt.’ I did it this time and did they buy a shirt? Did they flipptertegibbets. But that’s life.
This was an exercise in playing with masks and layers with a nice set of new paintbrushes that look like spatters, rotation and randomisation, as well as lookaliking fonts and styles! Aslo there’s nothing wrong with using childish axes of engagement to solidify meaningful ideas like ‘gender is chosen’ and ‘the uber-wealthy will kill the planet if they are not removed from their unearned position of privilege.’
Here’s the design:
And here the design is on our friendly gormless supposedly unisex Redbubble model:
And here’s the design being modelled by the Teepublic ghost:
This design is available on a host of shirts and styles. Particularly, strangely right now, Redbubble are offering it on two-inch badges and on masks.
If you were paying attention to me on twitter, you’ll know I was making memes of Deep Space 9 as I watched it. Well, with those ten thousand words vomited out of my soul and put on the page, I want those pictures where you can search and put them in some context. They also serve as a first draft of my thoughts and feelings as I watched the show – which is helpful for reconstructing my thoughts later for some project so big.
This one was short, I hadn’t gotten in the groove of it yet. Also, three of these are just dril tweets overlaid on the image.
I thought this season was largely pretty good, thought the Maquis and Bajoran storylines were handled pretty well, Jake and Nog weren’t inexcrable, I even tolerated some Ferengi shit.
The series had found its voice, characters were pretty set, O’Brien kept getting stomped on. No special notes here.
This season introduced Worf and I’m afraid it’s where I started running out of second chances.
Oh yeah, this season had Eddington eps, it had the Garak Gets High And Kills People ep (which I like, even though the actor didn’t), a bunch of good Odo stuff, Julian’s… revelation and the amazing Troubles and Tribble-lations. Good stuff, really.
I think this is the point where I got really fed up with the weakest parts of this series. There’s a lot of episodes that are just there, or built around something I hate, like Vic or Quark or Worf. The Pah’wraiths are really explored here but knowing there’s no payoff for all the buildup makes all of their scenes feel like a drudge.
When I watched it, I said the shrinking episode was probably going to be one of the best of the season. In the Pale Moonlight lives here, and turns out that, if that wasn’t here, the shrinking episode might be the best episode of this season.
And that’s that, the last of our Deep Space 9 Jokey Notesies. Hope it’s convenient having them all in one place!
This is more work on Hunter’s Dream, a 4th Edition D&D-compatible mod made to enable a Bloodborne style of game, where players take on the role of hunters, who have to first research their prey before going out to the tactical combat stage of things where players get to have cool fights with werewolves and whatnot.
Content warning! I dig into the Cardassians a little bit later on in this, and that means there’s going to be a mention of Nazis and stuff Nazis like in media. Tap out at the end of Take Me Out To The Holosuite if you wanna skip it!
Like I said last time, I actually like Deep Space 9. It may be a bit of a surprise that someone can have four thousand words (good god) of non-stop complaining about a show they liked, but I was trying to avoid being toxic about it. It’s one thing to criticise a show’s direction and story structure and its narrative priorities, and another thing to talk about how people are idiots for liking something. And hell, since I like it, I get to be one of those idiots.
We’ve talked about the death of the author in the past, and we’ve talked about wrestling as live theatre, and I’ve talked about the idea of the Ghost of the Author, an occluded identity of someone who ‘made’ the story and ‘made’ the choices that went into it. In the case of Deep Space 9, though, there’s a clear, fracticious and well-documented explanation for why things were weird.
Rick Berman sucks.
Well, this is an interesting one.
I was asked to blog about this, and that means that this is going to be approached as a blog post and not as specific advice to the person who asked.
Hey, I like a bunch of stuff other people don’t like. But sometimes they don’t like those things, out loud, and it can make me feel bad about liking it! What do?
This can be one of two problems: One, people do not like the thing I like, and I want them to enjoy the thing I like. The solution to this is to share with your friends, talk about what you’re engaging with, and see if that interests them, and if it doesn’t, you can either discard them as friends because of their opinion of a piece of media (which is a weirdo thing to do) or accept that your friends and you don’t have to all like the same thing.
Or two, people actively dislike the thing I like, and talk about disliking it, and I do not feel okay about liking the thing. This is a little trickier because the solution to this is to respect people. Specifically, respect that they have tastes and wants and opinions and you can recognise those tastes and wants and opinions without them having to align with or change yours.
That is, however, hard.
Instead, let’s look at some strategies for this.
Other people don’t like the thing you like! That’s a real bummer. Of course, there are spaces where you can like your thing and and they can dislike their thing, provided neither you nor they are forcing one another to engage with one another’s opinions, you should be absolutely fine.
But that’s not what’s happening, is it.
What’s happening is that you’re probably in some general space, like facebook or twitter, and there, you find that the people who are important to your life, shit on something you like, and maybe do it in a way that’s hard for you to avoid. The most important skill here is to take control over your space: You get to choose what you see in your social media space. If people are being rude, refusing your requests, avoiding your mutes or blocks, to talk to you about the thing, then that’s not an opinions-on-media thing, that’s people-being-an-asshole thing.
Reject False Dichotomies
Odds are really good this is about something that has ‘problematic elements’ in it, where you’re upset by people pointing out problems the thing has. The notion is that if this media is ‘bad’ and I like it, am I ‘bad?’
This is an incorrect way to view it, and most people, even media critics, aren’t framing it this way. This is you making analysis of a media object – criticism of a thing – into criticism of you. If they’re framing it as criticism of you because you like the thing, then again: that’s people being assholes. That has nothing to do with criticism.
Still, the other thing here is that your opinions on media aren’t you, they’re things you relate to. I don’t know how many ways to restate the idea that other people not liking things doesn’t affect you liking things. The idea that these things are both that simple and binary – liking ‘bad things’ makes you ‘bad’ – is a simplified view of reality that turns everyone who ever ate bread into Hitler.
Accepting The Infinite
Nothing is perfect. For anything you like, there’s a better version of it that doesn’t exist yet. You can point to almost every piece of media and talk about ways in which it, as a product of a flawed, corrupt, capitalist society, fails to completely decouple itself from it. This isn’t even an attempt at a joke, this isn’t hyperbole: There is always going to be a potentially better version of the best thing.
What this means is that even for criticisms of work that are completely valid, are much more about how to remake the thing if it were to be made again. They’re not useful arguments about the thing that exists before you. It’s okay to know that a thing could be better while still respecting what it is. There’s almost no alternative.
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 authoritive 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 this time, because you on the Twitters voted for it (whether or not you realised you were voting for it specifically), this month’s choice is the elegant mind dancer Pokemon, Gardevoir.
I got this game from a Ding-And-Dent at Cancon2020, with an initial idea that it would make a good pickup for my mum, who’d enjoy it, because it was about detectives and cats, and you know, so on. Then when I got it home, I considered that I needed to make sure it was a good gift for her (since, you know, when does my mum get to play games like this), and if it was kid-valid, so I decided instead of making a gift of it, I’d play it with the family a bit, and see what she thought before handing it over, rather than just impose it on her and assume everything would be fine.
Then we played it.
And we played it again because the first thing someone said after we finished it was let’s play again.
And anyway now I’m keeping it.
D&D worlds don’t have to suck.
You know what’s really hard?
Oh, there’s the challenge in naming people, that stuff’s probably always there. Maybe if you’re the author of a book or you like naming OCs or the like, you’ve seen the difficulty involved in giving your characters names that work well for who they are, that maybe convey a bit of meaning, that don’t tend to recur in particular ways. I know DMing D&D gave me insight into the ways that I reuse certain name components; in one game, I had NPCs, in unrelated spaces, named Buto, Bruno, and Brutus, and what those NPCs did has long been lost to my players’ memories, but I am still periodically teased about choosing such similar names. Those were to me, useful workhorse names that stood apart from one another just enough to be easily grasped, but I didn’t consider that players were going to have conversations with them, in the same session. Players see patterns, and they saw the pattern in those names, assumed they were connected, and were deeply annoyed to find that they weren’t. In that, I messed up – there was a chance for a link and I wasted it.
People names are hard, even fake people names, of course. All the names in One Stone, for example, came after much agonising over different texts, trying to find things that could obliquely reference where they came from or had some linking purpose that made the story space of the world make sense, or stuff like that. I understand there’s some fuss right now about an asshole naming a baby, which I’m kind of not inclined to give any air to, because one, they’re an asshole, but two, it necessarily involves bringing up the baby, and look, that baby didn’t do anything to deserve being tweeted about. Twitter is a bad enough website, let’s leave babies out of it.
Naming places is also hard. I did a whole thing about how for ten years in my D&D setting, I had a kingdom called Kyngdom, and resisted every effort to deal with how obviously stupid that was. Many names were first drafts that I just never addressed because I was too embarrassed to admit they’d literally been pulled out of the air, and my worldbuilding was as much about grab-bagging things on the fly and pretending I had a plan than it was in any way about foresight and a meaningful narrative underpinning the world.
What else is hard is naming game mechanics. Game mechanics need to be named in a way that’s easy and coherent and referential. Words want to be long enough to convey what they do – ideally in a way that you never need to explain them beyond naming them – and short enough that players can talk about them twice in one sentence. They need to change tenses for clarity – imagine if you had a game mechanic named ‘sheep,’ the hassle in dealing with whether this sheep sheeps your sheeps or sheep. There’s also an urge to name some mechanics for the setting, like how Exalted tries to rename ‘player group’ for every different type of Exalt, as if bands and circles and leagues and coracles are all terms that people are going to use properly like the collective nouns for types of vole.
Then there’s the challenge in naming games at all. Our best game names seem to be things that we came up with as a pun, or where stand-in names that never got replaced. Fabricators was just a name for the file I was using to make the cards. Murder Most Fowl was made as a pun name while killing time at a convention. Good Cop, Bear Cop was mishearing someone. Many of our worst game names tend to be the ones that I spent some serious time on – like the Domains of Meh was iterated on multiple times. The Roads to Springdell is a name I like a lot because it conveys the idea that players are on the way to something but not there yet, but it has done absolutely nothing to move the game itself, in all of its tight and charming glory.
I think about this a lot as I try to name some game mechanics, as I look at work of other people asking for my input and I read rulebooks, trying hard to grapple with the difficulty we have in just giving the components we’re talking about names.
There’s this story about Tracer, from Overwatch.
The story runs that once upon atime, Tracer had a butt pose, and there was a huge outcry, and then Blizzard, the SJW cucktopians that they are, bowed to massive public pressure, and got rid of the Butt Pose, because people were offended. If you go looking for Tracer pictures for research purposes, literally this time, you’ll find people drawing her, showing off her butt, with a catch cry ‘sorry luv, you offended?’ like the problem was Tracer having a butt.
This dialogue about what happened is one of those stories I see being vaguely mentioned as if it was true and it’s interesting to me because it’s not only not true, but the story as framed puts the oppressed people in the wrong box and gives Blizzard a kind of credit it doesn’t deserve while focusing on something else, entirely, which is almost weirder.
No pictures for butt poses here, c’mon, what do you think this blog is.
Anyway, the butt pose was criticised not for being offensive at first; a small number of players noticed the butt pose victory pose, and focused on how out of character it seemed to be for Tracer. Not that Tracer doesn’t have a butt, or indeed, like having a butt. I don’t imagine she’d wear leggings like that if she wasn’t at least okay with having a butt. The issue was that the pose wasn’t really ‘her,’ and this was during the beta development phase of the game where players’ input on expressions of the characters was being taken on board pretty well.
The butt pose was pretty simple; she turned around, then turned to look over her shoulder. With the way she stood and her default outfit structure, it did pretty much centre her butt in the middle of the pose. It wasn’t as dynamic or movement-driven as Tracer’s other poses. It felt, the audience said, out of character, which checks out, because character in these spaces is being defined as much by the limited way people feel out these characters as they learn about them. Overwatch doesn’t have much character, it’s just got a lot of character in potentia, characterisation that’s kind of hovering in an indefinite space, waiting for people to collapse it, but trying very hard to not say no to anyone.
The pose that replaced it was a nosecone pinup; for anyone not familiar, these are the poses you’d see of girly posters on the nosecones of planes during World War 2, and now sometimes done as a reference to World War 2. Mostly, people don’t get to paint big paintings on their planes any more, for some reason. This tracked, of course – Tracer’s a pilot, she likes planes, those poses are pretty common association between that kind of femme and planes, it tracks easily.
The thing about this narrative, and the reason I’m putting this down here is to underscore that Blizzard weren’t responding to a moral outrage, but to one of those things they actually care about: They were trying to express the character design better. If it was a moral outrage issue, we wouldn’t have been teased for a year to learn that Tracer was gay like ‘surprise, we included a lesbian’ was some kind of gacha prize event, or we wouldn’t be… what, how many years before a playable black woman?
The events happen, but how we remember the events really matters.
And hey, I got to title a post ‘Tracer’s bum.’
I think if you ask me about my general impression of Deep Space 9, it’s going to come across as extremely negative. That’s pretty reasonable, I think because if you bring something up to me about the series, on pure statistics, it’s probably going to be one of the long, large threads that runs throughout the story that really fucking irritates me.
I try to avoid making item elevators in builds, because I find them extremely easy to mess up. Sometimes they can jam up if the thing they’re meant to pass through produces too quickly, for example.
I also don’t like designs that take up lots of space, because it limits what they can be used for, and I don’t like designs that rely on clocks that are meant to keep running. Servers can handle that, but I run Minecraft on my home computer, and sometimes you can get this thing where an ongoing clock, if you log out while it’s doing its thing, can just forget what it’s meant to be doing, and be left ‘turned off.’ Not great. Clocks can just also consume a lot of computer time.
I’ve done some item elevators that rely on a sticky piston pulse to dump goods, into fires, but they have a problem when they’re fed a hopper full of stuff – they tend to flick on and off, meaning you can get some loud piston chunking when really, they should just turn on, empty the vessel they’re meant to be emptying, then turn off.
This design is something I finally put together that has managed to do that.
It’s an item clock that waits until it has a ‘full load’ as you define it, then, when it has that full load, it turns on the clock, dispenses items until it’s empty, and then, when it is empty, it turns off again, waiting to fill up once more.
If you want an itemised list of what goes into it, you need:
- The thing you want the clock to affect (dropper or dispenser)
- two redstone repeaters
- three redstone comparators
- four observers
- two non-sticky pistons
- one barrel
There’s no need to manage overlapping redstone wiring, and it doesn’t radiate signal much so it’s not likely to turn off hoppers around it (though be careful of the two sides).
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Boy, hasn’t it been a recent time for board game talk? because suddenly, this year, people have spent a lot of time hanging around the same people, and getting lots of stuff delivered to their homes and I’m trying to circle around mentioning the andemic-pay, but basically, we’ve had a lot of people talking about board games that you can play solo, and board games that you can get access to without going to a store and board games that you can maybe even try out cheaply because right now people are a bit pinched for money because andemic-pay.
Perfect time, then, for me to put up a piece on Spaceshipped, which is another Button Shy game, a cheap game, a game that jams on 18 cards, that’s a solo game, and, it’s available for $10 from Button Shy, and $3 at PNP Arcade. I know it’s a bit weird to lead like that? But it feels like I should get all that basic stuff out of the way first, because, as with Sprawlopolis and Tussie Mussie and Handsome before them, I just freaking love Button Shy games and there’s a sort of inherently dull status to being so consistently excellent. The article follows a pattern, a sort of sloughed out, well damnit it’s amazing and what am I going to do around that?
What Space Shipped is is a space trader game. In eighteen cards. And if you’re like me, and a game designer, you might have an immediate moment of hang on, wait, what? It’s eighteen cards, print and playable, no specialised equipment or dice, and there’s a full space trader game about travelling from planet to planet trying to buy goods low, sell them high and deal with the random events that make that particular kind of job hard. Your aim is to buy two Xeno Crystals, rare and expensive properties, before space pirates steal two, and lose you the contract to acquire the crystals. So far so boilerplate.
This kind of game is something I’ve tried to capture on cards in the past because I like these games and space ships are cool and all, but it’s often very difficult to emulate a market and space – like, an actual movable zone where you transition from point to point, not outerspace specifically – when you have limited resources like card design. Videogames handle this really well because if there’s one thing videogames can generate really easily, it’s spreadsheets and vast distance between doing your accountancy homework. My go-to work for this kind of game is always Lavamind’s Gazillionaire, a game that I wouldn’t go so far as to describe as good but definitely a game that was influential, in that it influenced me, with its ugly Windows 3.1 ass interface and resolute, unfailing, absolute demand that we continue doing things exactly the same way, forever, and ever, which is why even though that game is on Steam right now, despite being thirty years old, it’s still expecting you to pay like, forty bucks.
Anyway, what happens in this genre of game is you load up your pockets with stuff you can afford to buy, go somewhere you think you can sell it for a profit, and something along the way either gives you a candy or kicks you in the teeth. The gameplay loop of buy low sell high is mastered pretty quickly especially in games where you can learn things like supply and demand in other neighbouring places, but you play them because there’s this pachinko-ass effect where if you were just making sensible economic deicions, you’d be fine but the game mixes that up by periodically punching you in the face.
Spaceshipped doesn’t have a great sense of space to it, but it does do a great job of jamming that same feeling where you load your ship up anticipating the demand for your supply next turn, or two turns later, and then hope like hell it’s not going to go terribly for you on the way. The way it does this is through the kind of card face design that makes me disgustedly happy.
A single card in Spaceshipped is used in three different zones. You’re looking here at one card, both sides. The first face, with the encounters and market on it, is one of three cards that represent the travel from market to market. Each card shows you what happens when you arrive in the orbit, then on the planet, then the market – but crucially, the three cards together show this combined. That is, you get the orbital effect of card 1, the planetary of card 2, and then the marketplace of card 3 is what you have to care about. This means you can anticipate some things going to happen in your future, and you can compare the marketplaces of your current card and future cards. But sometimes orbital encounters will transform the effect of the planet encounter.
What you then get to do is make purchasing decisions based on what’s available in the market, what prices you can get them for, what future prices you can get for those goods, and upgrades and all that. You don’t have a sense of freedom – not really – you don’t get to pick the planet you go to, so the part of the space-faring trader fantasy the game exchanges is a the freedom of going where you want to try what you want. Instead, you’re given a sort of ghost train experience, where you ride in the cart as the game flings things at you, and that’s okay.
I mean you’re fitting a space trader wallet game on something that fits in your pocket and costs a tenner. It’s easily more playable while you wait for things than Solitaire, and I’ve talked about how that game is pretty good, too.
If you want to check out the rules and play through, here’s a helpful video they shared on the PNParcade page for it:
I think one of the most damning things about my mind as a developer is that my reaction to playing with Spaceshipped was realising how much I wanted to use the card face template for something else. It’s not like the game is perfect; there are some wrinkles about it I wish were a bit better. I rarely ever bother buying upgrades or ships – I just find myself too financially desperate for that. The upgrades and ship changes are too visually indistinct to stick in the memory, and the fact the game is more like a ghost train than an explorer makes it feel like the game narrative could use a little more room to flex in the rules (but how are you going to do that!?).
Still, once again, this game’s excellent, you can have it for cheap and it’s good enough that as with many Button Shy games, I’m kind of mad I didn’t think of how to do something like this myself.