2015 is going to be completely insane.

I just finished up the early 2015 planning session for Open Form Games. Our 2015 strategy is a pretty aggressive release schedule of episodic games. The general goal is about a release per month, give or take. Let me introduce you to the first round of games!

 

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The third installment of the Xamalga series, we are making it 3d and an MMO. Everyone collaborates to take down Xamalga as it makes its way to destroy Earth. Players progress through “sector space,” transmitting their consciousness to remote battle groups through a system called the Xamalga Defense Array.

 

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Data Burst is a cyberpunk inspired episode of the Vegas Prime Retrograde series. In Data Burst, the player discovers the background for VPR’s main heroes, while competing with an opponent hacker to collect data bundles deposited around Vegas Prime.

 

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The Gatherer is the first episode in the Transmission Alpha series. You play a deep space resource miner, called a Gatherer, as you gather resources from the surface of a once living planet. While you gather resources to sell at Vegas Prime, you explore the remnants of a dead civilization, experiencing the final thoughts as they prepared for the end of their culture.

 

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You play rock and roll badass E.V. as she battles swarms of evil robots, collecting mojo to summon her giant robotic counterpart Jett to do battle with various grotesque kaiju bosses. E.V. and her band battle through gritty city streets, evil volcano lairs, moon bases, and crazy martian landscapes, as the thwart the evil Dr. Badstuff.

 

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The player navigates a nightmarish dream state, as they look for clues as to the nature and reason for the tragic disappearance of Clara Moore. The tone of the game is driven by a sense of mystery, exploration, and malaise.

Retro-Gaming: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness

TMNT coverOne of my favorite RPG discoveries was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. Before stumbling upon this game, I had only really been exposed to the 1990 film and the subsequent tv show. For me, this game gave the otherwise cartoony franchise teeth and made them cool, ultimately pushing me toward discovering what would become one of my all-time favorite comic book series. Like most games based on other licensed media, though, it had some flaws.

Palladium’s Megaversal System

I didn’t really like this system very much. It felt heavy in the wrong places and tepid in the others. The system itself wasn’t horrible or anything, it just wasn’t my bag. It was a little too detailed sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I like detailed systems, but only if they get out of the way of the storytelling. I always felt like the Palladium system tried to define the storytelling. I hated that.

Classic shot.
Classic shot.

 

Making Characters

Making characters in TMNT was probably the best part of the game. The universe supported so much creativity and variety that wild and insane mutations were still on the table.  The game had a huge bestiary to base your mutations off of, not just the classic TMNT staples. It also had a comprehensive list of martial arts and general combat styles to go with the genre. It went into detail in defining the mutation and how traumatic it was, opening the door for some interesting character personality quirks. You really got to create an interesting character that would be at home in that bizarre and somewhat messed-up universe. Unfortunately, character creation was so intense that when you were done, you were kinda burnt out.

mutation example

 

It was hard to get people to play.

Getting people to make characters was easy! But playing? Not so much. By the time I was trying to get people to play this, both the TMNT film and television cartoon were popular. Everyone had this cartoony vision of what a TMNT game would be like, but the game was much darker. Fans of the comic had basically already walked away from TMNT because of the direction it was going and the new fans of the franchise were there for something a little lighter.

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Retro-Gaming: Cyberpunk RPG of the Dark Future

Cyberpunk 2020 holds a special place in my retro-gaming heart. I grew up in a gaming household, playing D&D and Rolemaster, and all manner of board games. It was pretty great, for sure, but there’s this quality of discovery with roleplaying that a lot of my friends had that I just didn’t have; It was all given to me. It wasn’t until I played Cyberpunk 2013 at GenCon/Origins in ’92 (I was like 14) that I really found MY game. It didn’t match the tastes of my parents and it certainly wasn’t a family game. It was gritty, irreverent, sexy, and it spoke more to me as a genre than stuffy D&D.

Art from the Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook.
Art from the Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook.

 

Cyberpunk 2013, 1st ed.
Cyberpunk 2013, 1st ed.

The Rules vs. The Setting

One of the cool aspects of Cyberpunk that, in my mind, set it apart from everything else I was playing was the distinction between the importance of the rules versus the setting. It took the rules seriously, anyone who used their combat system will tell you, but it placed much more importance on the genre and setting. It was about playing a character that lives in a world where high fashion and “being cool” were currency. Where the street-smart setting was its own character.

01 CP
Night City source book.

Characters and Lifepaths

There was a lot of good in this system. Like, a lot. It used the Interlock System, which later combined with the Hero system to become Fuzion. Most of the rules were simple and got out of the way. It felt very complete. It introduced a lot of cool character ideas, like hackers and media personalities, and made them important. Probably the coolest addition was the Lifepath mechanism, which used dice rolls to steer your character creation to a meaningful, and generally rich character. A lot of games use things like this now, but at the time, it was pretty great. When you finished, you had a character that had a history that would directly impact the gaming group’s future.

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Hackers and cyberspace were important, even during combat.
FNFF was brutal.
FNFF was brutal.

Friday Night Firefight

The combat system, Friday Night Firefight, was a bit cumbersome. It was meant to be deadly, and it succeeded. It was well conceived, from a rule standpoint, but from a gaming standpoint it was just too heavy.  It was one of the things that I always stripped out and replaced or just fudged around. I think it was simultaneously the coolest part of the ruleset and the number one thing that drove people away.

I always opted for a simplified version – I used the base skill checks with crits and fumbles, and I borrowed from the Rolemaster/Spacemaster Arms Law style crit charts for storytelling. Combat was deadly, as intended, but didn’t consume the majority of a session.

What’s next?

Going back is a bit weird and whatever is next has to deal with that. Some of the really edgy technology and concepts are either common-place or a bit dated. Some of the world events were strangely prophetic, while some just weren’t as chaotic and horrific enough as real life ended up being. That’s why most of the updates happened, though, like 2020 and v3, to update the timeline. I’m excited to see the MMO come out, though. I think a lot of the cyberpunk genre narrative stands up… it just looks different, now. I think that’s true about roleplaying games, too.

Cyberpunk 2077.
Cyberpunk 2077.

Need Some Holiday Fear?

Tis the season where everyone is complaining about the campy, feel-good movies taking over TV and our Netflix queues. I like holiday movies as much as the next guy, but you can really only watch Love Actually so many times before things get dark. So, here are a handful of movies that I like that should put you in the holiday spirit!

 

Black Christmas (2006)

So, you can (and should) watch the 1974 film — it falls somewhere between remake and sequel. You don’t have to. I just happen to really enjoy Michelle Trachtenberg’s stuff, post-Buffy.  It’s a fairly traditional slasher film that was released on Christmas day and was less than loved by religious groups for it.

BlackChristmas

 

Salvage (2009)

Salvage was a low budget horror film that didn’t have a very wide distribution. It’s violent and disturbing, and takes place during some type of emergency that has a neighborhood isolated.

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Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

If you’re looking for something a little more classy, here’s another slasher film for your holiday viewing pleasure. This one is a bit of a cult classic. It’s all about a holiday murder spree. Who can really argue with that?

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Gremlins (1984)

Dude. This might be one of the finest horror/comedy holiday films *ever*. It’s suitable for children and old people, and serves as a cautionary tale about not being an idiot and killing everyone.

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There are more that people love to bring up, like Jack Frost and Silent Night, Bloody Night or Christmas Slay. Most of those don’t really do it for me, though.

I Love You Coffee – Being Crafty!

I had some free time today and wanted to do some black and white sketching, so I decided to sketch, ink, and cut a new graphic for my beloved coffee cup. The graphic in it right now is water damaged and old. It was made with love as part of a gift from my girlfriend, so I wanted to do something to spruce it up. A NEW GRAPHIC!

I love you, coffee. --- I know.
I love you, coffee. — I know.

The first thing I did was actually draw up the image. I wanted an image of a girl hugging the coffee cup, so I gave her slightly disproportionate arms that stretched out. I blocked off the actual size of the image — I just traced the edge of the paper that I was replacing.

Snip!
Snip!

Once I got the sketch how I liked, I cut the image down and tested it out. It looked pretty good, but had some weird paper overlapping at the hands. The cup is tapered, while the page is not. So, I cut just enough to give the illusion that maybe her hands *are* overlapping.  Why fight it?

Coffee deserves hugs!
Coffee deserves hugs!

Here’s the end result! It took about 20 minutes to work out the image and artwork, which wasn’t super complex. Now, I have a coffee mug with my own art on it. Not too bad for a Friday afternoon!

Time for another cup!
Time for another cup!

:)

Only Lovers Left Alive

In the spirit of #ThrowbackThursday, here’s a movie about nostalgia and immortality.

The reason I watch so many bad movies is to find hidden moments of beauty like this.  Horror films and artistic, romantic attempts to explore humanity rarely seem to intersect without being accompanied by cheesy velvet capes and plastic teeth, but Only Lovers Left Alive feels more like a bittersweet memory recalled on a dreary day. It feels honest.

The kind of moment that burns itself into your memory.
The kind of moment that burns itself into your memory.

The film is cast with a skeleton crew of amazing performers, with Tilda Swinton’s sinister, yet angelic Eve, playing against Hiddleston’s broody, mopey, and tragically empathetic Adam, a very echo of Gaiman’s beautifully regretful Sandman.

The death of our past.
The death of our past.

Tangiers, artist havens, and a romantic, throwback bohemia litter the movie like memories in a box of old, youthful photographs, and Adam sees the deep weight of his own immortality in humanity’s artists and creators, in much the same way.

Finding inspiration.
Finding inspiration.

Putting people in space isn’t a burden. IT’S A TRIUMPH.

Someone, it seems, is always trying to cut funding to space programs, arguing that we have too much to deal with HERE. Putting people in space isn’t a burden. IT’S A TRIUMPH. The distribution of wealth is a burden. Debt. Loans. Banks. War. Economic and social injustice. Those are burdens to the spirit of humanity. Cut funding to those.

The AMS, just hangin' out. Spectrometering. Like ya do.
The AMS, just hangin’ out. Spectrometering. Like ya do.

A song for #ThrowbackThursday! SPIT AND SOUL!

I wrote Spit and Soul ages ago with my friends in Terminal Ready while dealing with a lot of frustrating changes in our personal lives as well as the local music scene.  This track made it into our repertoire and stuck with our stage show until the end.

Love, you’ve got something over me.
Silver, gold, spit and soul.

One of the things I like most about it is the stark difference between the heavy guitar and the almost Psychedelic Furs rolling synth line that adorns the chorus.

The song is an echo of my frustration with a touch of despair and hopelessness.  There’s a cyclic element to life that I don’t think I understood before then, and this is probably the first song that captures that. This was the realization that I will probably always be angry.

Video Game Date Night: Borderlands 2

So, Borderlands2 is pretty cool, it turns out.  My girlfriend and I have been playing it a lot this week as part of our video game date night. It is cross-platform multiplayer, so long as you match versions which can be tricky.  We are doing LAN play, going through the campaign as best as we can.

I like the toon shader graphics style.
I like the toon shader graphics style.

When you play co-op, it has an MMORPG feel to it, with the ability to bring your characters into your friends games, but it doesn’t lose its FPS edge. It’s a good change of pace from our previous video game date nights, where we played more story driven stuff like Gone Home and The Stanley Parable.  I tend to like artsy games, and she tends to like stuff-blows-up games.

This gun sets stuff on fire. So that I can punch it to death.
This gun sets stuff on fire. So that I can punch it to death.

My favorite thing so far is setting things on fire and then punching them to death. That’s just how I roll.

We’re fucking Starfleet.

So I accidentally transported a murderous shapeshifter from Vulcan to P’Jem, today. You know. Like ya do…

It was only my 3rd mission as acting Captain of the U.S.S. Hakata. She’s not a particularly great ship. In fact she’s downright terrible, but we still kicked some Orion ass.

Vulcan is a pretty place, if you're into things that aren't pretty.
Vulcan is a pretty place, if you’re into things that aren’t pretty.

The first leg of our diplomatic mission to P’Jem was to pick up Vulcan Ambassador Sokketh. What a dick. I really should have known he was a goddamn shapeshifter. New website idea: Vulcan or Asshole.

This is about where we fucked it all up.
This is about where we fucked it all up.

Once we had finally hit the surface of P’Jem and were balls deep in some Klingon patrols, we figured out he was a shapeshifter. Well, we didn’t figure shit out, but Starfleet filled us in.  We chased him off planet and killed some mother fuckers in space. Because that’s what we do. We’re fucking Starfleet.

Even Texas showed up. Texas is so fucking lazy.
Even Texas showed up. Texas is so fucking lazy.

I’m kind of amazed every time I pick up Star Trek Online. Even the early missions have the feel of an episode from any number of the TV series. Each mission chain takes about 30 minutes or so, depending on how familiar you are. Pretty cool, as a long-time Trek fan.