Wednesday, November 21, 2012

News Filter: The Resurrection Of TSR?

  • Found by way of James Maliszewski of Grognardia, there was the recent discovery of a company calling itself TSR Games. Even more interesting, the first product of the new company will be Gygax Magazine. Tim Kask, one of the primaries on the magazine, tells us that it will be a quarterly that covers both old and new games, and has a plethora of great talent contributing to the first issue.

  • I signed up to be notified with the first issue is ready. I like the idea of high quality quarterlies. I did subscribe to the defunct WoW Magazine for this very reason. Kill Screen seems to be doing this very thing for video games to great acclaim. So I'm willing to see what they put out.

  • And there is a little part of me that is happy there is a TSR again. Let's hope that they live up to the name.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Random Shots: Another Shot Across The Bow Of MMOs

  • Another vote for the "Syncaine was right" camp. Wired Game Life's Andrew Groen has an article up today titled "Star Wars’ Stumble Points to Free, Open Future for Online Worlds."

  • Modern MMOs are broken and there is nothing to convince me that this line of thinking is wrong. Everyone has taken the wrong lessons from World of Warcraft. Yes, accessibility is a good thing for MMOs. But it needs to be the on ramp to something bigger, not the MMO itself. What worked about WoW is that Blizzard made a big, hard game, then let everyone else play anyway. And I know that the elites don't want to hear it, but EVE Online works because anyone can play, even if a bunch of them play in Empire space.

  • There is no core to SWTOR or any number of failed experiments. I'm the biggest care bear there is, but I still want to be where the action is. Without that hardcore center, without that major challenge to strive for, there is no action. There are no stories to tell. Why play a mediocre RPG when there are plenty of better single player games on the market.

  • The verdict is still out on Guild Wars 2. The systems are all kinds of decent, but I'm not hearing any stories yet.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

News Filter: Grand Theft Auto V Trailer II

  • A little late, but here is the second trailer for Grand Theft Auto V.
  • Like the first trailer, watching this has me crazy excited. I suspect that GTAV will be the big game I'm looking forward to this coming year. Sure, Rockstar didn't take a chance by including a female protagonist (actually, now I want them to do that in a new Bully game), but that won't stop me from picking this up day one.

  • As a side note, I'm glad that Rockstar is moving back to Los Santos. Since they want to use the current economic problems as a backdrop, there is no better way to show that than in their Los Angeles analogue. There is few other places in the world where glamour and desperation stand alongside one another so starkly. There is a reason Raymond Chandler wrote about the place. And I can't wait to get in their and play.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Random Shots: When Is A Game No Longer A Game

  • An independent game development company called The Astronauts has posted a blog surely intended to provoke discussion. In the post titled "Why we need to kill gameplay to make better games", they posit that the best parts of many games are the parts that are not what would be called gameplay. Instead, the memorable moments are things at fall between the action. Furthey, the author posits that by removing the gameplay, one might make a more memorable game. This is horse hockey, but I'm sure they are well aware of that.

  • People play games for various reasons. But the main reason we all play them is because they are games. Games come in all shapes and sizes, from pure mechanics and elaborate simulations and experiences. But at their foundations, they are still games. If you strip that out, if you remove the interactivity that underpins the medium, you are left with nothing more than a movie.

  • I hope that this was a purely intellectual exercise on the part of the author. But if not, we will be safe to write off any game that company creates in the future. But who knows, maybe their movies will be pretty good.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

News Filter: Grand Theft Auto V: Oops, all dudes!

  • Game Informer revealed their December cover today featuring the lead story on Grand Theft Auto V. As part of the reveal, Rockstar announced that there will be three protagonists in this edition, all of them dudes. That means there is a tiny uproar on the internet about the lack of a female protagonist.

  • While I'm not going to yell or cry over their decision, I do think that this is a missed opportunity. Looking at their website, their only game that has a female protagonist is Oni, and it was originally developed by Bungie. I would love to see Rockstar stretch their boundaries a little. For as much as people complain about the ludonarrative dissonance of their games, I think they can be very effective storytellers. This is something I know they can do.

  • How about it, Rockstar? Are you up to the challenge?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

News Filter: 2012 Windhammer Prize Results

  • Well, I did not win. But I did take one of the two Merit Prizes in this year's competition, which is beyond belief to me! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for my gamebook. I know in my heart that I would not be in this position without each of you.

  • Academy of Magic: The First Term is going to be included in a Tin Man Games app? This is just surreal.

  • Here is the announcement, just so you can see that I'm telling the truth:
2012 Windhammer Prize winners announced.

Arborell.com is proud to announce that the winner of the 2012 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction is Zachary Carango for his futuristic sci-fi adventure, Final Payment. Merit awards have also been awarded to Marty Runyon for his magical fantasy adventure, Academy of Magic - The First Term, and to Ashton Saylor for his exciting sci-fi adventure, Legacy of the Zendari. Well done to all participants and congratulations to this year's winners.

This year's competition has been particularly hard-fought. With 22 quality entries, more than 4000 visitors to the competition webpage over the voting period, and greater than 8500 downloads considered, it proved the most competitive of competitions in the history of the prize.

It is no small thing to ask entrants to write original gamebooks for the Windhammer Prize. This year the quality of the entries submitted has been exceptional. I would like to thank all readers who voted this year for their commitment in evaluating such an extensive entry list. Special thanks must also go to those who provided feedback for authors. The amount of comment forwarded has also been the largest given in any competition year and all is greatly appreciated.

All entries have now been placed into the Windhammer Prize gamebook archive and can be accessed from that page along with all other gamebooks submitted since 2008.

All Information regarding the Windhammer Prize can be found at : http://www.arborell.com/windhammer_prize.html
All entries can be found in the gamebook archive at: http://www.arborell.com/gamebook_archive.html
Information regarding the sponsor of this competition can be found at http://www.arborell.com/

May Glory and Renown follow all who have found success in this year's Windhammer Prize.


© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Random Shots: Games Journalism

  • It all started with a picture.
  • A carefully selected screengrab of Geoff Keighley, sitting amongst the paraphernalia of capitalism: Doritos, Mountain Dew, and Halo 4. It was quickly passed around the internet with much derision. It is an odd thing to see, but the internet didn't actually blow up until the issue was tackled by Eurogamer columnist Robert Florence.

  • You see, Florence is concerned about the state of games journalism. He has been for some time. He's especially concerned about the uneasy relationship between games writers and PR for the game companies. There is no shortage stories about how PR tries to influence reviews, with anything from fancy press kits to this amazingly crass presentation of the 3DS to Giant Bomb. The CGW crew talked about how PR so often crosses the line on this podcast about the firing of Jeff Gerstmann. And just recently, a disgustingly tone deaf letter was sent to reviews from the VP of PR for Ubisoft thanking journalists for their help promoting Assassin's Creed III.

  • Florence's main contention in the article is that it looks really bad if journalists are seen as promoting a product. Any product from a game down to a bag of chips. So when he pointed out that Lauren Wainwright's Twitter feed and page are covered with Tomb Raider, it's difficult to take what she writes about the game seriously. Then Eurogamer took that section out of article, Florence quit, and the internet exploded.

  • On his blog, John Walker of Rock Paper Shotgun discusses the situation in three separate posts and also hosts Florence's guest post about his firing. At the moment, probably the best review of all that has happened was written by Stephen Totilo of Kotaku.

  • Games journalism is in a crazy place. Kotaku quotes Florence saying "I think we're in a horrible position right now, where most games coverage is almost indistinguishable from PR." It is hard to disagree with that.

  • Integrity is important. I am not a games journalist and probably will never be. I would like to think that I uphold my own integrity here as best I can, but there is little temptation otherwise. Nonetheless, I find it important to write from a place of honesty so that there is no mistaking my intentions. Everyone we read should be held to that standard.

  • Not everyone is corrupt, and we do everyone is disservice by chasing down that intellectual rabbit hole. Even worse, we become the problem when we lash out at reviews with hateful, homophobic, or misogynistic comments in an attempt to silence opinions we don't agree with. Where we see corruption or dishonesty, we need to point it out and let them know that they are doing wrong.

  • But even more, we need to reward those writers and sites that do display integrity and intellectual honesty. That's why I focus primarily on sites like Giant Bomb and Polygon who are upfront about their policies and biases. Find the writers you can trust and stick with them. There is good games writing going on out there, no matter how much doom and gloom people perceive. You just have to look.

  • Credit where credit is due: a lot of these links are pulled directly from the mega thread over at NeoGAF. The posters there have done some amazing work pulling together the various pieces of the topic.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Watched Lately: Macross Frontier

  • Although I like anime, I don't follow everything out there. It's the same with video games. I don't buy the annual Madden or Call Of Duty just because they are games. So when I come across something I like, I tend to like it very much. That is how I feel about Macross Frontier, an anime that isn't even available in the United States.

  • I watched it the first time a couple of years ago and fell in love. Since it had been a while since I'd seen it, I went back this week to see if it held up. And it total does.
  • Macross Frontier is about the conflict between the Macross Frontier colony fleet and the insect-like alien Vajra. Alto Saotome, a student pilot, ends up in the cockpit of one the series' hallmark transforming fighter mecha and eventually joins a primary military company to fight in the war. His personal life is no less complicated as he is torn between the cute and musically talented Ranka Lee and the galactic singing idol, Sheryl Nome.

  • The series has so many ups and downs that it is hard to talk about anything more without spoiling something. The ups and downs come from the excellent pacing of the show. The tension will ratchet up for a couple of episodes, then back off to give a little breathing room before coming back with something bigger. And there are several parallel storylines that all interrelate in interesting ways. By the time I reached the final episode, there are so many storylines that I was invested in coming together that I had tears running down my cheeks, the experience was so overwhelming.

  • I come at this series with my only Macross experience being its bastardized inclusion in Robotech, my gateway to anime. Even then, I did not have any trouble getting into the new series. It did help me to catch several of the callbacks to the original Macross. (Not that you would miss anything if you haven't.)
  • Finally, it would be a mistake to avoid talking about the animation and music. Music plays a huge role in Macross and it is the same in Frontier. Your tolerance for J-Pop will determine how much you enjoy it, but the music is so fitting for the series. I quite liked how well animated the show is, but the standout is the CGI mecha. You can still tell it is computer generated, but it merges with the traditional animation without looking so different.

  • If there was one thing I notice upon watching again was the overly sexist portrayals of many of the women. I know it's a function of its country of origin and the intended audience. But even though the titillation factor is lower than other anime, it's still enough to make me wince a time or two.

  • Upon rewatching the series, I can say that it absolutely belongs among my favorite anime, alongside Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Cowboy Bebop.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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