Monthly Archives: September 2008

Love Transcending Death: Challenge Versus Story in Calamity Annie

My first column for GameSetWatch was just posted at their site. It’s called “Love Transcending Death: Challenge Versus Story in Calamity Annie,” and it’s about how that game does something very interesting to help bridge the gap between players who play for challenge, and those who play for story.

The plan is for me to write every two weeks on GameSetWatch. I’m quite excited about being able to contribute to their great site.

The Interactive Fiction Genre

In my last podcast, I didn’t even bring up interactive fiction, which suffers from genre staleness as much or more than other types of games. If you have a text game, you’re almost guaranteed that you’ve got a nonviolent, turn-based game where you solve puzzles in a game with a specific sort of world model. Sure, there are a few exceptions: C.E.J. Pacian‘s Gun Mute, Robb Sherwin‘s Necrotic Drift, and Adam Cadre‘s Lock & Key, to name a few. But by and large, interactive fiction is cerebral and derivative of the seminal works: Colossal Cave Adventure, Zork, and Graham Nelson’s Curses.

Where is the interactive fiction that simulates colonizing space? Where are the text games that have the same playful feeling as Katamari Damacy? Why are text adventures always either puzzle-filled exploration games or highbrow, slow-paced stories?

I’m being a bit cruel, I think. But I still can’t think of a single piece of interactive fiction that I’d pick up and play for fun after finishing it once. There’s no gameplay to most IF except puzzle solving and figuring out what happens next. A good friend of mine once pointed out that in interactive fiction, you never really do stuff.

I’d like to see that change.

Ludus Novus 012: Genre Fiction

In this podcast, I discuss digital games genres and how I think they’re silly. They’re arbitrary niches based on a few popular games, and using them to describe games limits the way we think about making and playing games. I discuss the evolution of our genre system, from Crawford in 1984 to the modern overstuffed action adventure, and explain how Madden ’08 and Rainbow Six are in the same genre.


The music for this episode is “Unforgiven” by spinmeister and featuring TheJoe & Kaer Trouz, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license.

Morbus 1 – The Attack on Furrowcross

I’m currently running a campaign of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition that I have dubbed Morbus, for reasons not yet disclosed to the players. I’ve decided to share my campaign planning with the readers of this blog, for those who are curious to see how Fourth Edition encounters work, or for GMs who are interested in an adventure to run.

I intend to make each adventure “episode” wrap up a little story as well as being part of the larger campaign plot. For the players in my campaign, each adventure will take their characters up a single experience level, but I’m doubling experience point rewards in my game. Normally, it takes ten encounters of the party’s level to level up, but I’m aiming for just five. Because of that, if any GMs are following along with my campaign, they will need to add more encounters to keep the PCs at an appropriate level for these adventures. On this blog, I will report the normal, non-doubled experience rewards for encounters. The adventures will, however, dispense all of the appropriate treasure parcels for a four-person party, so you may want to change that.

I’ll try to present each adventure independently of the larger plot. I’ll tie them together periodically with summary posts explaining their larger context. This particular adventure, The Attack on Furrowcross, is appropriate for four first-level characters who have not yet formed a party with each other. It features a goblin raid on a market town. The details, with full spoilers, are after the break.

Continue reading Morbus 1 – The Attack on Furrowcross

The YoYo Games Slush Pile

And another Ludus Novus hiatus comes to an end. I left my previous job, and just a few days before my final work day, my computer was stolen. Everything’s straightened out now, and I’m working on some personal projects and living on savings while I figure out where to go next. I just need to figure out how to make my first million making and discussing video games.

Over at the YoYo Games “glog”, the creators of Game Maker put out a call to rate all unrated games. I’ve spent a few hours this afternoon combing through the chaff. A natural consequence of a system like Game Maker — where it’s so easy to make a video game with minimal programming experience — is that most of the games seem to be made by nine-year-olds. I’ve played games that were distributed as uncompiled .gmk files, games that crash on startup, games that do nothing on startup, racist games, and about 712 versions of Pong, Breakout, and Pac-Man.

When sifting through trash, you do sometimes find a treasure or two. I didn’t find any hidden masterpieces, but I did come across a handful of very solid games. You can check out my list after the fold.

Continue reading The YoYo Games Slush Pile