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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.

Amazing-e1356793834433

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.

giant_space_needle_spide-2000-px-949x768

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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.

pic1208956_md

part 2 coming shortly…

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Now with levels, shadows, and new monster AI

For those of you who don’t know I’m creating a simple-ish RPG causal arcade game for NaGaDeMon – I’ve only got until the end of the month to finish it, and it’s been interesting juggling ambitions with a very strict time constraint. In the last couple days I’ve added simple gamestate + menu options to the project and worked on adding new levels and new monster AI.

Monsters now have a couple different AI modes – they have the original meandering one or they can make a straight beeline to the player. I used Oreilly’s HTML5 Canvas as a reference for the new equation:

if (monster.AImode == 1) {

                //Move in a straight line to the player

                var p1 = { x: monster.x, y: monster.y };

                var p2 = { x: 640, y: 225 }; //player ie center of screen

                var dx = p2.x – p1.x;

                var dy = p2.y – p1.y;

                var distance = Math.sqrt((dx * dx) + (dy * dy)); //distance equation

                var moves = distance / (monster.accel);

                var xunits = (p2.x – p1.x) / moves;

                var yunits = (p2.y – p1.y) / moves;

                if (moves > 0){

                    moves–;

                    ship.x += xunits;

                    ship.y += yunits;

                    }

I’d still like to build more interesting modes here (circling bats and archers that wander the edge of the screen should be quickly doable) but we’ll see how we’re doing with time towards the end of the month.

Monsters now vary in speed, damage and hitpoints, and there is a level progression where the monsters grow in number and difficulty. Here’s some shaky footage of the latest build:

Not quite where I’d like to be in the 2nd to 3rd week. My todo list for last week isn’t completely scratched off and there’s quite a bit added onto it, and there’s a lot of testing I’m skimping on to get features into the game.

The whole project is still very simple. The lack of progress is really about me getting enough free time to sit down and focus on it (I’ve only had a few hours since mid-week to play). I also took some dead-ends while learning HTML 5. For instance, I spent some time looking at the built in HTML5 canvas shadow for the player shadow, only to then instead create copies of the player images, turn them black, squish them a bit in drawimage() and render them under the regular player image because it was faster to implement (I knew I could get the look I wanted in a graphics program in a few minutes, or I could spend hours tweaking shadowBlur, shadowColor, shadow.OffsetX etc, values – I chose the former).

I also spent way too much time thinking and and prototyping a menu using several different html pages and  brilliant looking metro, only to realize I’m not going to have enough content (leaderboards) to warrant it, so instead I just shoved html5 buttons on the default page and use style.visibility now to hide them during play:

  //Set Up Menu Screen UI Elements

    function showMenu(event) {

        menuEnabled = true;

 

        txtPlayerName.style.visibility = “hidden”;

        txtScore.style.visibility = “hidden”;

        imgPlayer.style.visibility = “hidden”;

        imgMenu.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnStart.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnHelp.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnCredits.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnOptions.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnLevel1.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnLevel2.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnLevel3.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnLevel4.style.visibility = “visible”;

        btnLevel5.style.visibility = “visible”;

In my opinion there are way better ways to do this, but hey this works, and didn’t take very long.

Not pretty but functional menu buttons

Here is the updated TODO list – completed items are crossed off, new items in bold.

“Code” work:

  • Player character Hit points + health bar
  • Unique monster attributes (speed, strength, hit points)
  • Level up screens and travel to new areas
  • Powerups/dropped coins
  • Gamestate screens (intro, instructions/help, credits, etc)

“Content”

  • New AI modes (Archer and circling monster type)
  • Prettier health bar
  • Player walking on/off screen anim
  • Screen obstructions
  • Player shadow
  • Sounds

Next up – power ups and cleaning up the gamestates.

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Latest Iteration

Been busy refining my core play mechanic for this NaGaDeMon effort – updated bits include swiping that doesn’t eat up processor constantly:

//Wait till finger comes down first before doing the touchhandler thing
    function startTracking(event) {
        mousePositionX = event.x;
        mousePositionY = event.y;
        var wtf = event.x;
        canvas.addEventListener(“mousemove”, touchHandler, false);
        playPlayerAnimation = true;
    }

    function stopTracking() {
        canvas.removeEventListener(‘mousemove’, touchHandler, false);
        playPlayerAnimation = false;
        mousePositionX = 0;
        mousePositionY = 0;
    }

and a health bar using a single image and built in drawimage() functionality:

ctx.drawImage(healthBar, position.x, position.y, health_percentage, image_height);

Also content:

  • Added player anims
  • Monsters have hit points
  • Animated hit effect when monsters are swiped

Here’s short footage of the latest gameplay:

I did bit of napkin planning over the weekend, here is my current todo list. I’m pushing for code work to be completed this week, content next week.

“Code” work:

  • Player character Hit points + health bar
  • Unique monster attributes (speed, strength, hit points)
  • Level up screens and travel to new areas
  • Powerups/dropped coins
  • Gamestate screens (intro, instructions/help, credits, etc)

“Content”:

  • New AI models (Archer monster type)
  • Prettier health bar
  • Player walking on/off screen anim
  • Screen obstructions

I spent some time scoping out other NagaDemon projects. There’s some exceptional projects out there. I like the way this card/hex/dice game (The Domain Game) is shaping up, and also Heaven’s Shadow, which is ambitiously listing itself on Indiegogo.

More towards the end of the week…

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This is late in the coming since both games have been around for awhile – but after spending large chunks of late night hours this summer playing both here’s a bullet list of why, although I loved DIII, I love TII even more.

Torchlight II versus Diablo III

Torchlight II versus Diablo III

  • Pets are way cooler than mercenaries. From the way they comically sniff at the ground around you to the way they run to town and sell your items for you while you adventure. Also because there’s no repetitive dialogue coming from them every time there’s a silent lull (I’m a big fan of strong voice acting, and really love Anna Graves’s Hunter in DIII for example, but the lack of variety in the mercs gets to you over time). For whatever reason, pets don’t feel as cosmetic as DIII (although they should, being that they are just pets).
  • Music by Matt Uelmen – Flavor wise TII is very different from DIII of course, and both are great, but I really enjoy the TII music (note – Matt is DII’s original composer).
  • Art  – TII is delightfully cartoonish. In contrast to Blizzard’s dark fantasy there’s less blood and a lot more color. This could be a pro or con, depending on your sensibilities.
Torchlight and Diablo art comparison

Don’t be fooled by similar screenshots – the art is really different.

  • Hands on leveling – What a concept, skill points you can actually spend on something. You can inject every available skill point into just a couple of abilities if you want, or spread it out across many. Although I can totally understand how design led to DIII’s new skill and leveling system, the design took that magic away from me, the player.  All of the skills seem to interact well with everything else, and overall the system seems just as balanced, if not more so, than DIIIs.

Note – To be fair I built not one, not two, but three characters totally “wrong” and went back for a forth in my first play of TII – AND I went back and rebuilt that 4th character after a while because I wanted to redo my pet. This is the experience I’m pretty sure DIII designers were trying to avoid. However, I love making characters. The redos were nothing but fun for me. In contrast, I don’t ever want to go back and make new characters in DIII because I can’t play them in the harder modes (unlike previous Diablos), and there’s no way to create different builds via skills (if building a new character is supposed to be a drag – mission accomplished, DIII).

  • Build Diversity – This is totally lacking in DIII where the only real diversity between character types is what items they own. TII has way more specialization so classes can be really diverse between players.
  • Rare items that are actually worth something. My opinion is that because of the auction house DIII items are overly designed and overly balanced (at least they feel overdesigned and overbalanced and thus: underwhelming). The auction house in DIII killed items in other ways too (I was able to game the auction house to always have items above what my character could find in game – this consequentially killed any joy from finding useful stuff in game, since what I could get in auction was so much better).
  • Inventory items all take up 1 spot. Torchlight doesn’t bother with item sizes in your inventory. Each item, whether a bow or sword or gem, takes up one spot.
  • Story – actually, this is a downpoint in comparison. DIII delivers on an epic dark fantasy story (albeit with multiple elements shoehorned in to tie into past iterations of the game) – TII’s storyline is a bit convoluted and the delivery isn’t as strong.
  • Mods – TII gives players access to all its development tools for modding purposes, and because of mods and a growing fanbase there’s already DLC available
  • Runic is a Seattle company (divulged – I’m a NW native – gotta support the locals)
  • There are Guns in TII (and pistols, canons, rifles, etc) – and they call them guns, not hand-crossbows.
  • Single player –It’s hard to quantify why but single player is just… better. It’s just more refined in TII. I’m guessing this is because SP was considered a core game mode for TII and for DIII SP was simply backlot to the multi-player experience.
  • You don’t need to be connected to the internet to play. I couldn’t play DIII for days when it first launched due to internet issues, and I still can’t play it on the plane or hotel or when my kids are streaming vids on the home connection and killing my bandwidth. This is just overly restrictive on Blizzard’s part.
  • Fishing – Actually, I found fishing boring so skip that one
  • Price – an honest 20$ gets it all – that’s 1/3rd the cost of DIII
  • TII is much more like Diablo I and II than Diablo III – not in terms of story or ambience, but in terms of actual play and core mechanics. This may be because TII is staffed by many of the original DI+DII guys (hats off to Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, Peter Hu, et al at Runic – can’t wait to see what you guys do next!)

Want more comparison info? try

Experience Points comic on the original Torchlight by Gabe Kruger

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