Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Far Planet

It's been a while since I did any Flash work professionally, almost a year in fact, but I'm now back onto that after spending the rest of the time in .Net and JQuery. Anyway, picking up Flash at work to fix and extend other people's projects got me loading it back up at home in the evening, and so I began going through some of my old home brew projects, loading them up and running them.

Most of these projects are unfinished but some are in very well developed states. I tend to produce code the builds an engine, get really enthusiastic about how to solve all of the problems that need to be overcome to make it, then forget to layer the game on top of the engine. As a developer, most of the fun of writing code is solving problems, and by the time that the engine has been built, all of the really difficult problems have been solved. There are exceptions to this, of course, but a consequence of this way of working leads to lots of unfinished projects. Time is the other factor that works against you when you do things for yourself.

So there I was, loading them up and looking at them, realising how close to being a game some of them are, when it occurred to me, why don't I link some of these together, using a story of my own devising, to make a single game. Each of these unfinished projects would form a 'chapter' in the story of the overall game. This would provide a unique experience for the player; one chapter might be a flight sim while another could be strategy, for example.

And so the idea for 'The Far Planet' was born...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A new campaign!

Well, I ceased running the old Labyrinth Lord campaign after it reached a logical conclusion and put down the role of DM for a few months.

Recently, I decided to take a look at the D&D Cyclopedia, which I've had ever since I was at school but have never actually used as a ruleset by itself. Seeing that the levels rose all the way up to 36 got me thinking... perhaps a campaign, using the Cyclopedia as the ruleset, would be fun!

So I began cataloging which optional rules we would use and made a decision early on; to try and run the rules as they were written with no house rules at all. I made this clear to the original two players of my Labyrinth Lord campaign and asked if they would like to take part. Both of them replied saying, yes, they'd missed the adventuring, and would love to.

Three sessions have now passed. I was originally thinking of running one session every two weeks, but so far, it's been one a week, although I may reduce it to one every two weeks in attempt to avoid any feelings of grinding (which would only really occur on my part). So ... it's a an early success! A one session experiment has led to three sessions... and I'm thinking of now starting the design of a mega dungeon to turn this into a fully fledged campaign.

I already have the setting: a desert area with the party members based in the City of Vultures, which is proving to be very flavoursome and unlike anything we've tried in the past. We've had more roleplaying going on that in the past, and the random encounter reaction tables certainly spice things up a bit, playing strictly by the rule set. The setting too is rich in content to explore, giving me ample space to insert the party guilds into the political groups and start the intrigue off. The party consists of a cleric and a thief, an interesting combination, and they'll be getting reinforcements from their guilds shortly. The thief has yet to find his guild, as finding your guild is one of the mini adventures that I put in for first level characters.

Anyway, ... the adventure is on!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The information age: What happens next

Well it has been a very long time since I posted anything up here, but the other day, I realised what the future held for society and so I figured it might be a good idea to share that with others. It can be useful from time to time to stop and take stock of the rapid changes around us and see where we are heading; this post is that reflection.

Efforts are currently underway to digitise all books. They started years ago with Google and Microsoft but Microsoft pulled out of the endeavor citing costs. The idea is to create a digital archive of all books, works of art and so on so that future generations may enjoy them. A noble effort, to be sure.

There has recently been a change in the concept of ownership to licensing. Digital Rights Management has allowed middlemen who run store fronts to restrict the use of the goods that they sell, moving away from citizens owning the items they pay for and instead replacing it with a model where they are licensing it. This actually began much earlier, with software end user license agreements, but was originally unenforcable except through the law. Now, there is a direct mechanism in place that allows the very thing that transferred from the store to the citizen to disable itself if the company running the store orders it. An example of this is sort of arrangement occurs with the Apple iTunes store and with Sky and its HD boxes (if you cancel your account, they disable everything you recorded on the box so you can no longer watch it - thats because you never owned it only a right to watch it, as part of the subscription model).

Once all works have been digitised, which will take a long time yet, digitised versions and physical (real) versions will exist side by side for quite a while. Perhaps fifty years later, or maybe a hundred, the physical versions will be destroyed.

They'll be destroyed in two ways. The top down approach to their destruction will likely occur in secret, as big swatches of physical media are selected by those in power and incinerated, without anybody really noticing. There may be a few that voice complaints but it will be too late by then to recover them, but because electronic versions will exist, there will not be a strong argument to prevent this from happening.

The second way that physical media will be destroyed is via the bottom up approach, in other words, by the comman man. Books will become so cheap they will become worthless. People will no longer desire them a few generations after everything is digital and the publishers have figured out how to hook people into the new formats. Think about how the iPad today has convinced so many that it is a must buy with its flashy interface, the same goal being applied to electronic books. They'll eventually crack it and then the newer generations will only desire the newer electronic formats. Today, as I write this, selling videos is very much like this scenario that I am decribing. You can take video casettes to a second hand store and they'll give you a penny each. A penny! It's not worth the bother any more. So, instead of trying to sell them, people are simply thrown away into landfills. This is the second way that physical media will be destroyed; a natural process, if you will, caused by simple economics.

Once all physical works are destroyed and nobody owns hard copies of the words that are in these books, and merely rents them instead, the books themselves will be changed at the source to suit the needs of those in power. Being centralised, they will be able to be update them at will in order to censor, to subtly change meanings or even to insert new meanings. Who will know any different? Scientists will come out and talk about the fallibility of the human memory based on the latest research into psychology for anyone that swears that, for example, Darwin's origins of species did not say evolution through war is inevitable no matter what his eReader is telling him. The vast majority will believe the scientists especially when they rent their copy and their reader tells them it /does/ say that.

So, to summarise, once an entire civilisation's culture is digitised, it's hard copies will be destroyed and its culture edited at will by those in power. Perhaps its culture will even be deleted and replaced with something else; or simply deleted altogether by a hostile, foreign power as part of a future step by step genocidal process.

Welcome to what happens next, after the information age...

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Seven Leagues - First impressions

I fancied a change of game for our weekly sunday sessions and so parked our existing Labyrinth Lord campaign, with its array of tweaks, house rules and 8-th level characters and took a break for a few weeks. During this time, I looked at a number of different game systems and even started compiling my own house rules into a roleplaying game of my own.

I was wanting to do something a little less dark. I'd spent over sixty game sessions (a year and half) creating and running adventures that took my players into dank and dangerous ruins, sewers, pitch black caverns and so forth and it had reached the point where I wanted to do something quite different to that.

The idea of injecting colour into a dark and dreary scene was a strong motivation to do something different. Switching out the dungeon for a forest was one such idea and a lot of other ideas  began to flow out from that simple tweak. I began writing up custom classes based on mythical beasts, collating house rules and so forth, and that got me part way to making my own roleplaying game.

And then I came across Seven Leagues.

Seven Leagues is an intriguing roleplaying game based around the idea of shared story telling, something we are all actively engaged in, to various degrees, when we roleplay anyway. The setting was fairy tale which matched somewhat with where I was going in my own mind anyway, as I was wanting more enchantment and colour in the world I was taking my players to. As I read the rules, I became even more interested: How can players play anything they want and the game not be just not broken, but that's how its supposed to work? Some very unique and innovative mechanics support this.

I have yet to play a game, because, alas, the session I set aside for this was taken up by character creation. Imagine sitting down with a group of players who are very familiar with D&D, World of Warcraft, Whitewolf games etc and telling them... right, you can play anything you want... all you've got to do is to decide what! As a consequence, character creation took a long time and became a bit of a collaborative process, not just with me (as DM, or in the case of Seven Leagues, the Narrator) and the player in question but between the players themselves. It was very interesting.

We ended up with a party of a Scottish Dragon, an English Alchemachanic and a ghostly Necromancer. Quite a mix... and highly original!

I can't wait for the next session when I throw them into my story, set in a faerie land of dream!

Friday, 25 June 2010

I wish I may, I wish I might... Wizards and wishes

A quick post this one as I have something on my mind to put out there: do mages really need any spells other than Wish?

With wish, magic can do anything... and is... well magical again! Perhaps throw in minor wish for low level mages and restrict it to once per day per level (or once per week per level, or something of that ilk).

Perhaps this is all that's ever needed in a magic system....?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Fantasy magazine about to disappear...'s looking for more lifeblood with some new subscribers or it may shut down for good. I stumbled across this story on Blackgate about Realms of Fantasy, a magazine for fantasy fiction, and feel it is a real shame if it comes to pass that it disappears.

I cannot recommend the magazine personally as I have not yet read it, but I've plumped down the money for a subscription because I did not even know that there were magazines offering new fantasy fiction still left.  Perhaps it's because I am in the UK, or maybe I'm just a bit out of touch with these things. Anyhow if you think about many of the famous authors in the past that helped define the genre, they were writing their stories for magazines (Howard's Conan, Burrough's John Carter of Mars).

If like me, you enjoy original fantasy fiction, why not give it a try. It'd be shame for these things to disappear, we may just miss them when they're gone...

The Black Gate story about Realms of Fantasy.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Myth vs the Machines

I had an idea at the weekend for a game where mankind is under attack by machines and its greatest heroes and mythical beasts assemble to fight them off.

I'd make this as a computer roleplaying game, throwing together a raytracer I have with a pixel graphic single screen battle engine for the fights and have it run through a web browser. It would be an old school type game at heart, but instead of utilising the familiar classes or their variants (e.g. fighter, mage, cleric, thief) you'd recruit from heroes of legend and mythical beasts.

Of course, I'd probably need testers for it.

The idea of android villians being melted by dragon fire and turned into scrap is strangely appealing to me ;-)