Thursday, May 31, 2012

More on Fun vs. Time

Here's a very quick, unproofed post. Admitting that makes me feel a little dirty inside.

I think the fun vs. time aspect is a way people tend to measure things. That's why demos and shareware were so great back in the 90s. You could actually try before you buy. Blockbuster, for awhile, made an entire business model out of that. Now, we get very few free trials. Games that do give them out tend to be few and far between, or games like Diablo III that know they've got it made no matter what. This builds off of yesterday's post.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How Long Does a Game Have to Be to be a Worthy Investment?

That's a question I wrestle with. Here, they argue that Minecraft is a good example of a game you get your money's worth from. I don't play Minecraft, so I don't know. On the other hand, I also felt like I got my money's worth out of several short games I've played too. The sweet spot for pricing a game is difficult. This is going to be a bit of pseudo-theory, and it is also relatively light, but, long.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Diablo III: Picture Update

I try to be fair to games (or newspapers) when I beat up on them. So, in the spirit of fairness: Monks are starting to look like monks. Magic knight-y wizards are looking like magic knight-y wizards. Barbarians... well, they always look like the bums of the world. Tomorrow, a discussion on getting your money's worth from games. Provided sitcoms do not distract. Pictures of proof of classes starting to look right below the fold.

Second Banannas

This is not a post about fruit. Recently, the Washington Post published an article saying that Dan Quayle may have been right. First, let's all stop and take that in. Yes. They're talking about Dan Quayle. Ok, let's process that. Ready?

Good. I found the link via Althouse, and the first thing I thought is the same that we all thought. Surely, the WaPo is being tongue in cheek. But no, the article was in all seriousness (with real arguments and everything!) Maybe, WaPo posited, maybe Quayle was right about Murphy Brown. A sentence that I am sure no one ever thought they would read.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Nations, as a rule, honor those who have laid down their lives in service of their country. National Geographic has a decent article explaining how that evolved into Memorial Day in America. The Department of Veterans Affairs also has a site for your research and curiosity. So, before you go do any thing too exciting today, remember Memorial Day, and all the people who have sacrificed to bring us to where we are now from Lexington and Concord to Afghanistan and Iraq. Rolling Thunder is also in town, and so are a variety of museums and memorials, so there is no reason not to take a few minutes and remember.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Diablo III: Something's Wrong

This is wrong.
I'm a Monk.

See a problem? Blizzard, please, talk to me about character design.

The Rules Writing Process: ForMatting

As I go through the Dragon Dice rules to put it into nicer, neater language, I've been finding what I want to propose as best practices for game rules. These are ForMatting notes, to help you be like me. What do you mean it is not awesome? I'll be applying these to other games I work on. Once I'm done this side project, I'll go back to my other diversionary games (check the Sablan Games tag!) to clean up their rules.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Weekly Things Matt Links May 25

First, today is Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day. I think that Stranahan and others posts explain the story better than I can, so instead, I blogged about the ethical and law aspects of the story. That's the most important link today.

I gave in and bought Diablo III and Mice and Mystics. It promises to be a beautiful game; it being Mice and Mystics. I am a Barbarian. I jump at things and sometimes yell "Get over here!" when I throw my spear.

I don't know how often I'll promote things on Kickstarter, but here's Two Guys From Andromeda's latest offering. I'm a backer; if you liked Space Quest, you should be too.

If you play Munchkin, have you considered also supporting The Guild?

I have a theory on this WaPo piece. I think that school begins way, way too easy for students in college. This is because they are reading books meant for high school students and math meant for them too, if that high. Not everywhere, but in plenty of places. What this means is that when they get to their real meat and potato courses, they have not cultivated good study habits. They never needed it before then, so why do it now? This is before we get into the fact that, another quote I can't remember the source, teachers are often running after students on the last day of class yelling things like: "Hitler lost!"

Now, finally, as promised, a link to my secret project. I'm Zarron in that thread, and I'll be helping SFR with the wording and cleaning up of their rule book. You can follow the progress in that thread or on Google Docs. That's going to be an awesome project, once it is done.

Abuse of Law is Unacceptable

The law is an important, valuable tool in the arsenal of sane, normal men and women everywhere. When people corrupt it to their own ends, either from within the system, such as a corrupt judge or officer, or from without, such as a corrupt businessman bribing an official, it weakens our society as a whole. When people act under the color of authority, it weakens the ability of any authority, even a just one. When citizens would use law as a weapon to dishonestly deprive others of their freedom, that should be (and honestly, I think it is) criminal.

First, you need to read here, here and here. Ignore all political things you may think when reading this. Crazy is not a political party, and that's what the people in those links are going to be talking to you about. Because these people are crazy, and that is the most important thing to take away from this.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ongoing Projects and Updates

I realize that I have not been entirely clear. Excluding the things I actually have to do to, you know, live, I do have a variety of side-projects going on that, I think, people may find interesting. So here, in no particular order:
  • Page of fiction a day
    • Currently writing: A homeless man finds himself in a hopeless situation. Supernatural. Character driven.
    • Previously completed stories:
      • A man investigates his wife's murder using his supernatural power
      • Multiple short stories involving a disenchanted lawyer
      • A story about a boy and a graveyard.
      • A story about a girl and a desert.
    • Stories started, but not completed:
      • A little girl's school is haunted by the ghost of her parents' classmate. Abandoned because... just because.
  • Write d20 Ideas
  • Dragon Dice Army Evolutions
  • Write More History
  • Secret Project (... and Diablo III), which I promise to talk about (and link to!) on Friday. The project, not Diablo III. You should be able to find that on your own.
  • Counts As, a terrible idea you can watch me refine into an even more terrible idea
  • Take more pictures (but no more goose poetry)


Unless you all want more goose poetry. You weirdos.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Four Player Dragon Dice | Further Counting

This post is divided into two parts, because I am aiming for a very quick set of posts. I played two four-player games of Dragon Dice. I lost the first, won the second with a slow, steady come from behind victory and judicious placement of dragons by people who were not me. I think a four-player game is a bit too much for me. It was interesting, and I think the Amazon player could have won the second game with a bit more aggression; instead of taking my Flatlands home, I would have gone for the central Flatlands, even if it meant exposing himself. No guts, no glory.

Then again, I won by being a coward and hiding. So, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tell Me If You've Heard This Before

A man, a parrot and a zebra walk into a bar. But, the owner says the animals aren't allowed.

At least the Associated Press has a sense of humor about it: "He says he was about to let a passenger, a person, begin driving."

This was too good to save for Friday. I have bad ideas, but at least I don't get behind the wheel drunk when a perfectly good par- er, person could begin driving.

Counts As: A Digital Game Idea

I read this article. Now, I don't own a smartphone, so, maybe I don't get the infographic, but... why isn't "calling people" on it?
Smartphone Usage Infographic
Source: Tatango Mass Text Messaging

Monday, May 21, 2012

Demon Hunters...

One, is a debonair, dashing rogue...

He wears gloves, but no sleeves.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Secret Project; Also, Diablo III

So, I have a secret that, once I have something I can show off, I will. But I promise you, it is a good secret. In other news, I have been persuaded to buy Diablo III. Combining that with my recent Dragon Dice addiction is a bad thing, I think. As much as I knock Diablo III, I do know that Blizzard knows what they are doing when it comes to game design, so, it shouldn't be that painful. Especially since I'll primarily be playing with others.

In addition to all of that nebulous nothingness, I finally have a copy of Microsoft Office. Which, as a writer, let me tell you: Open Office is great, but I grew up using Microsoft Office. This means that I just know it more intuitively. It's easier to write in, and I don't have any issues converting files from other people.

The running theme on all of this? I am horribly behind the times on every thing. Happy Sunday people.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Google+ Graveyard

There's, right now, a conversation going on Google+ about how it is a graveyard, in two places. One place is here. There's some concerns due to the loss of engagement, even among people with lots more followers than yours truly, who is ALSO talking about it. In fact, I shared the same post.

I have an explanation. Look st Jay's thread (the first link). Notice how we've got a decent conversation going? Now, look at my thread. That conversation is gone. In fact, completely unprompted, one of my friends (who writes here and has a blog) popped in to contribute to my post. Jay, and everyone else talking about it? They will never see his post without coming to my page.

The reason for that is that shares start a new thread, I think. That means, when I share this, our conversation is lost. It should point back to the main post so that the conversation doesn't get diluted.

So, if you share my blog post, my followers won't see that the conversation is continuing elsewhere. They just see a fresh post (originally I said blank form, that's kind of wrong), and can +1, share or comment on that. But the rest of the conversation is lost. Each share dilutes the conversation more and more.

Sometimes, for example with Chris Pirillo, I'll see five or six shares of his latest Video Log. There's now way I'm hunting to find one where people actually talk about it. So, Google+, that's how you can increase engagement. Have a share share to the original post. Let people actually contribute to a conversation.



Sometimes... sometimes I write about social media. Then I feel dirty.

Evolving My Dragon Dice Army

I played several games today; I learned that I do need magic. I managed to win a few games, due to an excellent alpha strike with the wolf pack and vindicators smashing 15-18 points of my opponent's army. That is not something I can rely on every game, sayeth Charrlie. I decided to branch out a little and settled on Fire Walkers, since they share a color. Here is the current collection:

Monsters:  1 Wolf Pack; 1 Remorhaz; 1 Cryohydra | 1 Phoenix; 1 Genie
Melee: 3 Vindicators; 2 Defenders; 4 Advocates | 1 Expeditioner; 3 Explorers; 1 Adventurer; 1 Guardian
Cavalry: 2 Wolf Masters; 1 Hound Master | 2 Shadowchasers
Missile:  1 Assaulter; 1 Dispatcher; 3 Destroyers; 2 Attackers | 2 Fire Masters; 1 Fire Starter
Magic: 2 Apprentice | 1 Ashbringer; 1 Sunflare; 1 Sunburst

As before, melee, cavalry, missile, magic.
Join me below as we get down to business of paring these 75 points of dice down to a lean 36.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dragon Dice: Frostwings

I mentioned that some Dragon Dice were coming in. I got my three kickers of Frostwings. I opened them, indexed them, and now, I want you to join me as we go through the process of building myself a 36-point army out of the three kickers. There.... will not be much that is fun for non-Dragon Dice players and/or gamers. Except for this picture of my current collection.

Melee on the left, maneuver/missile in the middle... magic on the right.

Weekly Things Matt Links: May 18

Hello, and welcome to another edition of things Matt links! This week was a pretty slow week, but I still was able to find some new things on the internet.

First, something that Ann Althouse linked. Lazy harp seal lacks in business acumen. That's the second most fun one. The rest are below the jump. This is the most fun one, and it is slightly more trippy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Sorts of Characters Do You Play?

So yesterday or the day before, I mentioned that my fiction tends to have an archetype of a scholar warrior. Which got me thinking to the kinds of characters I generally write and generally play. You all probably have someone at the table who says that they'll play any thing. That may be true. But, for most people, there's a kind of character that draws you. It might say something about your personality. So, what do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

History as People & Interactions

One way of looking at history is to focus on events. Things that happened. Another take on history is to study great men and women to learn from their lives. One way to view this method is to think of history as a series of character arcs, from whatever early man you can find records of to whoever the most powerful, important person is at your time. This doesn't have to be in a political sense, or a military sense. If you want to study the history of technology, you may go from someone like Eli Whitney to Steve Jobs. This view of history is about humanizing it to understand it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is the Filibuster Unconstitutional?

That is the question the Washington Post asks, and which the subject of their article answers in the affirmative. Now, I have some questions. Asking questions is good. First, let's sit down and read the article. Come back after the jump when you are done.

Failing Is Not Fun

In some cases, it is OK to fail. Some of the better scenes in adventure games is finding unique ways to kill our hero. I doubt they enjoy it, but whatever. Table top games are the same way, if the heroes easily triumph over every thing, that's not really fun. In real life, failure isn't ideal. Though, some endeavors take longer to get the hint. We played a game awhile back where winning was fun, but losing? Losing was just a slow, unbearable grind. I'm not sure how you make losing fun though.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Online Shopping: Compare, Contrast

I normally try to avoid two posts so close in a day, but this was too rich to pass up. Compare. Contrast. One is a recent article from Time Moneyland, the other is from LockerGnome. We know online shopping is picking up, just think about Cyber Monday and the online deals every year around Christmas. But, all is not roses and candies. Go read them both, then let's come back.

Using Your Design Notes

Effective fiction is world building. Pre-writing helps almost any fiction or campaign. Knowing what your bad guys did ten years ago and what the Adventurer's Guild considers its greatest accomplishment help you build a world. Those design notes also help you build some fictional bridges; if you dislike an idea, you can scrap it. If you like an idea, you can tinker with it.

Let's look at some examples.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Veritech Model

They turn into robots.
I wanted a new picture to be on the front when I linked to the front page, as the Charr was boring me. So, now we have this Veritech. Before you go look at a few other pictures of Veritechs, have you called your mom yet?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Applying History to Your Fiction

Before you read this, you need to read this. Then, possibly, this. You'll also be fairly lost when I reach my examples if you don't read this (which is still in a draft form, so don't consider it final!) For the rest of this post, focus on my story, and how we used our world and characters' histories to flesh out a world. If you don't want spoilers for the draft story, don't jump below.

Initially, I wanted to capture the same feeling as one of my favorite RPG series. At least, when it came to atmosphere. I wanted to stay away from the supernatural elements, a shift I'm not normally comfortable making. I like magic, gosh darn it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Defining History for Fiction

Fiction needs a strong sense of history to it. However, let us not confuse ourselves. The history we're normally talking about when asking "How much history does my fiction need" involves history completely outside the stated canon of a given work. For example, the fact Charr are jerks is not part of Guild Wars' history, as we explore their jerkish tendencies in Prophecies.

Some Charr even learned how to use computers.

Weekly Things Matt Links: May 11

Good morning! I woke up early today, and so I thought I would go ahead and do this run down before I left for work, to give me more time after work to write something else. First off, on May 4 and May 5 there were some interesting events at the Art of Video Games exhibit I visited back in April. From what I saw in Twitter, it was a hit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

People, Don't Be Suckers.

So, apparently, people really believed that Lincoln somehow envisioned a sort of proto-Facebook. You see, when I say that out loud, it sounds ridiculous. Because it is. In part, I blame journalists and bloggers for getting snookered and repeating the false claims. For most hoaxes, has no one heard of Snopes? You can't put your ATM pin backwards to call for help, that kid does not need you to forward this email and there are no friendly Nigerian princes looking to give people money.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bragging and Boasting: It Is Science!

Ann Althouse linked to this story. Now, as you can tell from my Google+ page, I don't brag. Anyway, the thrust of the article, like any good article, is right in the front: "Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money, researchers reported Monday." Which clearly means that I should try and blog more frequently.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wired on Fanfiction

So, as I was looking around for things that interested me, I came across this post on Wired. On the one hand, there is a certain stigma associated with fanfiction. But I think that is because when most people hear it, they immediately think of the most horrendous, horrible stuff imaginable. They don't think back to when little kids think they are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I think is the sort of play that Thompson is talking about here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Much History Does My Fiction Need?

This is a question that I just had tonight before I went to bed. Later this week, I intend to answer it more fully than I will here. But, here is the thrust of my question: "How much history does my fictional world need to maintain realism, allow the audience to suspend disbelief and give me enough material to write fluidly?"

In my longer post, I plan to take a look at different kinds of fiction, different audiences and different purposes for writing. Right now, I want to outline a few general rules.

History as Case Study

People always ask why you study whatever you chose to study in school (or will choose). People have lots of reasons for why they make their choices, and too often, we make the mistake of assuming any singular reason is the primary motivating factor for a choice. One of the main reasons that I chose to study history is that it is one of the disciplines where you can take its lessons and apply it elsewhere. History is basically the world's largest case study.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Unexpected Geese!

Apparently, Macy's at Fair Oaks Mall did not get the memo about meter sockets. Some geese have apparently decided that, much like zombies, they will hunker down at the mall to multiply and hope for free eats (provided by people!) As before, here are some goose-y couplets.

A goose took wing and sought savings and deals.

History, as events and actions

Probably the most famous definition of politics, in part because of its vagueness, is Lasswell's definition that politics is "Who gets what, when and how." Politics is tethered to history, something that one of my teachers at Marymount drilled into me. Any firm grasp of history has to start with understanding the basics at the political level of the time in question.

By twisting Lasswell's wording, we can also get a good, basic definition of history: "Who does what, when and how." In short, one of the keys to understanding history is actions (which include major events, such as battles and wars.) Basic doesn't make it wrong, and in fact, is probably the best way to get your bearings on history.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tinner Hill Monument

Today, I was on my way to Victory Comics for Free Comic Book Day. I actually used to work at a building near by, so I know the area pretty well. One day while I was getting off the work, I noticed a stone arch. Since I was early that day, I swung by to take a closer look. Today, when I was going by, I had my camera, so I took a picture.

It's a monument.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Super Moon and Meteor Shower

Not the name of a comic book hero and sidekick duo. Rather, the name of an upcoming awesome nighttime sky event. Which is something that everyone should try and see. Though, no one should try and make them into a comic book. Solely because I cannot imagine it ending well. Because, writing comic books is hard.

Weekly Things Matt Links: May 4

As always, here's a quick run down of the things I've come across this week that I feel like sharing. And remember kids, sharing is caring. Also, I finished reading Nocturnal, which I recommend to anyone who looks at the trailer and is on the fence. I was too; it was a worthy investment. I heard about it on Sword and Laser. Wow! Two links I didn't even consider to count as links.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

GM Secrets: Challenges are More Than CRs

Most games have a reasonably good threat-to-excitement curve. During the early game, you are dealing with minor threats, then you save the world in the end. In fiction, challenging your heroes is important. Long running series (or table top adventures) often run into the problem where the new threat is only novel; not actually dangerous. You can take a breather episode or session to deal with a minor nuisance, build character or whatever. But, don't have threats vary as wildly as the stock market.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random People Random Places: Wrong Numbers

I hate answering the phone when a number I don't recognize comes up. You never know who it will be. It is very stressful. So, I try to make it easy on everyone involved.

People: If you call, I answer with my name and asking how I can help you. Do not respond with something like: "Is this Irene?" Do I sound like a woman? Did I say my name was Irene? I am not Irene. You can acknowledge you have a wrong number. I will not be offended, mistakes happen.

Don't just fumble with your phone to hang up. I dial the wrong number occasionally too. It's only human; it will be OK. It's just rude to call, then hang up right away. Even though I am not Irene. Look, I understand you need to get in touch with Irene, right away. And, we don't want to waste each others' time. But, take a few seconds, apologize and move on with our lives.

One last thing. Don't ask if I am sure Irene is not here. I am not hiding Irene anywhere. It is a wrong number. There is no Irene.

Robots: Taking Our Jobs!

Today, CNN had a post about whether robots should take our jobs. First, let me say, that I doubt we will see, even in a few generations, mechanization and robotics at a high enough level that we will realistically be losing droves of repetitive jobs to robots. Because, without jobs, who is going to buy the robots? On a more serious matter, we simply don't have a self-perpetuating economy strong enough to survive without a large percentage of the population employed. A robotic workforce will require a revolutionary new economic model, one that I don't think can exist.

So, basically, self-checkout lanes, for example, can only replace so many tellers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Great Books, Great History: The Great Gatsby

If you want to understand a culture, you often try to get a good grasp of some of their stories and myths. When I was growing up, for example, I remember reading myths as we progressed through history. I think the same is true for getting a good grasp of historical context of an era. Some of the literature you read may be nonfiction (for example, Frederick Douglass' autobiography).

The Great Gatsby is probably one of the best examples of American fiction that ties perfectly into what is supposed to be this blog's driving theme: the marriage of literature, myth and history. Gatsby is an enigma; he captures not just Nick's imagination, but the spirit of what we've come to associate with the 1920s. Like Paul Revere's poetic ride, the myth is different than the actual history, but the story itself informs us in ways that a straight history does not.

I Need an Editor; So Do You

This is a truism for every writer, ever. You need an editor; I need an editor. There was an article I read years ago about how Stephen King needed an editor (an awesome article I wish I was not too lazy to look up). Now, the main reason I'm writing this is because, as I was working over the next few pages of my page-a-day challenge, I realized that my writing is choppy, unfocused and just plain bad.

You know what would help that? An editor. It will help almost any piece of writing to put it in front of critical eyes to have them look at it and tell you it stinks.