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Archive for the ‘Game Studios’ Category

Evangeline-Lilly-The-Hobbi

Its old news that Evangeline Lilly plays an elf warrior in the second Hobbit (The Desolation of Smaug) movie, but photos of her started renewed discussion between side A (excited about adding some stronger female roles to the story) and side B (Tolkien traditionalists) over on RPG.net

I’m actually for adding a bit to the story, and I think there’s plenty of room to focus more on the elf characters (when you have three movies). Not sure how I feel about the romance angle to it all, though. evangeline_lilly_as_elf_warrior_tauriel

Best part – reading up on the argument led to a rather amusing threads on what the heck Bilbo Baggins actually did for a living, and Tolkien inspired rap (Lord of the Rymes).

While Hollywood continues put out movies with women archers I’ve been putting off writing about DnDNext. Summary is that I’m looking forward to getting my copy of Ghosts of Dragonspear at Gencon in a few months. In the meantime Mike Mearls has been pontificating about dragonborns, the elemental planes and going all Moorcock in the next update. I’m not all that excited about dragonborns but the rest sounds promising. The latest playtest update came out Friday with new adventures, spell updates, and half-elf, the half-orc, and the gnome races.

Speaking of DnD here is a reminder that you only have about a day to support Jeff Dee’s latest effort recreating classic DnD art (including the cover of Isle of Dread):

isle_of_dread

In other Kickstarter news the Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter campaign is here. Play cult factions trying to awaken your own elder god in this gorgeous looking strategic board game from the designer of the original Cthulhu RPG which is already gnashing through funding levels like a malevolent entity hibernating within an underwater city in the South Pacific.

cthulhu_wars_2

Its pricey, and due to popularity you probably already missed the first come early supporter slots, but it looks amazing.

Finally, Disney’s slew of acquisitions has opened the door for various franchise mashups and at least one is coming to screen this summer that I (and my kids) can hardly wait for:

Phineas_and_Ferb_avengers

Happy Wanderings!

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Continuation of part 1 here, our best and worst of 2012 in RPG stuff. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

Computer Games

Best RPG Computer Game: The Walking Dead

Here we have IP done right. Using Telltale as a studio was a risk for the franchise in and of itself, and then they took several risks with the game (episodic releases, point and click, storytelling over-all-else) but managed to pull off a wonderful, poignant and emotional experience that shines brightly over all the other first person shooting crud that seems to dominate the market.

telltales-the-walking-dead-on-disc-december-4

Worst RPG Computer Game: The Game of Thrones RPG

Fantasy is finally cool again, but Martin’s books, and the terrific HBO series, deserve better than this mediocre effort. Shoddy gameplay, unpolished presentation, and meh graphics at best.

Biggest RPG Game Disappointment: Diablo III

On the one hand, Diablo III was a decent, fun to play action-RPG, but DRM and over-design drained the joy out of it, and even with a decade of polish it’s half the game Torchlight 2 is.

Honorable Mention: Knights of Pen&Paper

An indie turn-based retro style pixel-art RPG where you control the playing characters and the dungeon master in a simulation of a traditional pen and paper RPG.

Knights_of_pen_&_paper

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Best Fantasy Book: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed)

Detail, humor, and one thousand and one nights inspired – the book is simply great storytelling in that classic swashbuckling sense as you follow a charismatic thief that leads a revolt in a magical and political city.

Best Sci-fi Book: Pirate Cinema (Cory Doctorow)

Still not tired of brilliant, passionate kids taking on the oppressive system in a dystopian near future. Keep these coming, Doctorow.

cory_doctorow_pirate_cinema

Best debut: vN (Madeline Ashby)

Some love and hate from critics but this is a great first novel and a wonderfully dark story about a rogue artificial woman becoming dangerous.

Biggest Sci-Fi Loss: Ray Bradbury

We lost some great storytellers (Harry Harrison) and story makers (Neil Armstrong) but the passing of Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451) is one of the year’s biggest blows. A muse for Steven Spielberg, Neil Gaiman, and Steven King, Ray’s storytelling gift has expanded minds for nearly a century now, and although he resisted the label of science fiction writer he is credited as the one most responsible for bringing sci-fi into the literary mainstream.

Stupidest Comic Book Death: Spider man #700.

In an obviously not-permanent brain mind meld switch the body of Spider Man is now housing Dr. Octopus, Peter Parker has died in Dr. Octopi’s body and fans everywhere sigh their collective sighs.

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Best Sci-Fiction Becomes Reality: NASA’s Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive

What can be cooler than FTL made possible by donuts?

300px-Star_Trek_Warp_Field

Most Amazing Robot Monster: DARPA’s Running Cheetah

DARPA’s Maximum Mobility Program revved up their Cheetah Robot this year. The previous iteration ran at a speed of 18 mph, but the new version clocked upwards of 28.8 mph. Finally, what we’ve always needed – robots that can outrun humans.

Movies

Biggest Movie Winner: Decent Geek Movies

Great geek movies are everywhere nowadays. Go Avengers! Go Hobbit! Go Batman!

Biggest Movie Loser: Nostalgic Franchise Reboots

Promethius (Ugh), Dark Shadows (Huh?), Men in Black III (Really?) and Total Recall (Yawn)

Best CGI Character: The Hulk

Puny God. ‘Nuff said.

Most disappointing CGI Character: The Hobbit’s Goblin King

The very definition of CGI overacting.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Best CGI actor in a CGI Scene: The Hobbit’s Golum

The Riddle Me This interchange was perhaps the best CGI scene ever produced in film (don’t see it in 48p though)

Golum

Golum is basically amazing

Movie Weapon of the Year: Bows

Let’s get Hawkeye, Katniss and Merida together in a hunting super hero party. Really. With these guys.

Finally, Monster of the Year goes to: Giant Spiders

Not only have spiders been effective hunters for over 100 million years but new, undiscovered species keep propping up (like this one that builds web dopplegangers). This year giant spiders were sighted both in Germany and in Seattle under the Space Needle – hats off and a happy new year to our giant, hairy, eight legged brethren.

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Here’s our best and worst of 2012 in RPGs. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

Tabletop RPGs

Best Adventure: Streets of Zobeck

Burglary, mad science, demons – really, it’s all covered in these 7 awesome adventures for the anti-hero.

midgard_zobeck_map

Best Setting: Midgard

Wolfgang Baur’s home campaign brought to life over the years but most substantially with this year’s RPG campaign guide of the same name. Seemingly inspired by old school campaign guides and real world mythology (Norse, fey) there’s great depth and world variety here especially with the pantheon (love how Midgard handles clerical domains), status rules, dragon kings, Leylines, unique takes on races – really, what isn’t there to love?

midgard_cover

Best Supplement: Gamemastery Chase Cards

Another great example of Paizo innovation, these cards help expand on something that’s normally poorly documented in RPG rules (surprising considering chases are common happenstance in play). These cards help make the chase scenes more dramatic, more  interesting for players, and easier for game masters to run. Well done.

Best Tabletop RPG Innovation: Google Hangouts

Networking and play seem to be growing online due to this not so recent tech – it will be interesting to see if this continues to grow or fatigue out.

Best RPG Kickstarter: Monte Cook’s Numenera

Funding new IP that traditional publishers would skirt past is exactly what Kickstarter is for, and Numenera is a perfect example of the fans and a creator coming together like peanut butter and chocolate. It blew past it’s initial 20k goal hitting half a mil and many stretch goals, and without Kickstarter fans may not have the chance to see this upcoming campaign setting in all its glory.

Best RPG Hobby Mashup: Crochet and RPGs

This:

crochet-Goblin

And this:

crochet_dwarf_beard

Quite possibly the best mashup of all time.

Best Beta: DnDNext

Love it or hate (and there’s many on both sides) Mike Mearls is certainly getting buzz aplenty and players invested in the latest iteration of the classic game.

Best RPG Craiglist Ad: The Infamous DnD Bachelor Party Ad

Requirements from the actual ad:

  • Dungeon Master experience in Dungeons and Dragons (preferably in 3rd or 3.5 Editions)
  • Must be able to provide a picture including the face and body…
  • It is preferable that cup size be at least C or greater.
  • If books are needed it must be stated ahead of time however it would be preferable if the DM had her own.

“I ensure you that nothing else is expect of you other than an exciting adventure.”- Uh huh. Catch the original here:

Board Games

Best Board game of the Year: Lords of Waterdeep

Finally an approachable Waterdeep, a Waterdeep even the geekiest among us can share with glee with friends who didn’t spend their adolescent nose deep in a Forgotten Realms module.  A simple, strategic and competitive game with high quality components and  great art that even your non-geek friends will like playing. Thank you WotC.

Lords_of_waterdeep_board_game

Biggest Board Game disappointment: The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul

All the  potential (a co-op game where you can play as Nazguls, I mean come on) and all the power and popularity of the biggest RPG franchise behind it. Sadly it seems more money was put into licensing than the game art, components, rule writing or into playtesting this awkward  co-op cube pulling experience – and it’s by no means the worse LOTR game ever printed.

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part 2 coming shortly…

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I was shocked this morning when I found out that Boware’s Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk both announced their retirement from game development. I’ve always romanticized the whole story around them being in medical school together in Edmonton before leaving the medical practice to pursue their true passion: games.

It’s an even better story since they then turned out such wonderful RPG franchises (Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age) – they’ve always been, well, role models. Its painful to hear that now, when so many great RPGs are coming out (some based on games these guys brought so successfully to market) that they seem to have lost their passion for the genre.

From Ray: ” I’ve largely personally achieved what I wanted in videogames…”

From Greg: “I’ve reached an unexpected point in my life where I no longer have the passion that I once did for the company, for the games, and for the challenge of creation.”
Ray is apparently moving on to champion social impact investing, and Greg is moving on to… beer

The cynic in me wonders what EA has done to push these two out, but honestly I wish them and Bioware the best. I’ve been a loyal fan since the company was founded in 95 and will continue to be a loyal fan.

Most telling, I think, of how great these two were as leaders, and what a loss this is for the industry, is the twitter and blog commentary from Bioware employees:

“Love of games, respect for the players, teamwork and integrity – those are the hallmarks of a culture built by Ray and Greg. “ – Aaryn Flynn

“That was the most emotional meeting ever. Nearly cried like…8 times.”- Michael Gamble

“I will say I’m very excited to be a part of BioWare in the Montréal office and continue the legacy of quality that Ray & Greg helped set up.” – Manveer Heir

“Thank you, @doktorzee and @RayMuzyka for giving me the best opportunity of my life. We’ll make you proud.” -John Epler

“@DoktorZee @RayMuzyka Thank you. Thank you because I love my job, thanks to what you two have helped build. Thank you” – Chris Priestly

“No! Say it is not so! We will no longer fight evil together? Boo will miss you, . Forever shall we hang our heads in sadness in remembrance of our great butt-kicking friend” – Minsc
Thanks to both Ray and Greg for nearly 20 years of adventuring goodness.

 

 

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First Baldur’s Gate Enhanced edition coming to tablets, then Black Isle’s resurrection – now it’s Project Eternity by Obsidian Entertainment — Kickstarter – it’s the Return of the classic RPGs.

“Project Eternity (working title) pays homage to the great Infinity Engine games of years past: Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment.”Project Eternity (working title)

Sounds good – and Obsidian has the talent to pull off a decent tactical, mature, isometric rpg-style game, but a million seems like a tiny budget for the project (I’m sure its a fraction of what their games usually cost to develop) – maybe if they focused the money solely on the in-house content and not tech at all…I’m still looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

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ImageIn case you don’t remember Black Isle was a Division of interplay that focused on role playing games (Feargus Urquhart of Obsidian fame was a founder)- they had a great streak:

Fallout
Planescape: Torment,
Icewind Dale series
Baldur’s Gate series

Until Interplay closed the doors in 2003.

The studio’s website (registered to Interplay) is now taking subscribers.

What they are up too (besides RPGs) is a mystery, although it seems Obsidian folks aren’t involved in any way, and Interplay CEO and entrepreneur Herve Caen is behind the resurrection. Since much of the original talent has moved along since 2003, it will be interesting seeing what Herve and Interplay are up to.

 

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