Posts Tagged ‘Game Studios’


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):


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.


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

What can be cooler than FTL made possible by donuts?


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.


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.


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 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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OK, I’m actually a few days late for the first week of National Game Design Month, but as you’ll see below I’ve been busy. I’ve never participated in any of the various do X in a month challenges, but couldn’t resist this year.  Maybe it’s all the collaboration and effort I’m seeing friends put into Nagademon and Nanowrimo. Maybe it’s the ugly mugs of random old friends with mustaches showing up on FB promoting men’s health pushing me to do something productive in November. Maybe I couldn’t resist the siren call of something that begins with Naga and ends with Demon.

I’ve worked on short indie projects before but frankly have a history of going epic and overboard with my side projects. I hope Nagademon will provide a good design constraint, help me stay grounded and keep out the feature creep. I’m severely time constrained, and have a few big projects lining up in December, so limiting the effort to 1 month and at most a few hours a day is perfect. Let’s see how the first week turned out.

Before Nov 1

I have a game concept going into the gate. Three things:

  • I want to build something for Windows 8 marketplace.
  • I wand gameplay around a simple, swipe mechanic
  • Since this is Wandering Monster Studios there needs to be wandering monsters.

That’s it.

Day 1

Went to the store, got a copy of win8 and started installing it. Signed up to be an App Developer and got an email:

Thanks MS – Email sent me here in between updates.

Looked at other Nagademon  projects spinning up (like this rpg about the Smithsonian’s “Special Antiquities Collections Division” (SACD) and this one: “Monster Tales”

Starting missing lots of stuff that was Win7 but not Win8 – maybe the new OS wasn’t such a good idea. at least if I fail miserably and Nagademon I’ll have my updated OS to show for it.

Going through some of the documentation MS sent my way and got excited about monogame. Figured this was cheating though (porting some of my previous games instead of building a new one) –  I knew I would have to cheat eventually to make the 30 day date but decided not to do it in day 1 or 2. Maybe day 3

So far I’ve put about 1.5-2 hours and all I’ve done is some reading, install stuff and run updates. Perhaps this isn’t my forte. Realized I only had 5 hours until I had to get up again, so I left the computer installing Visual Studio 2012 for Win8, running updates, and downloading a number of javascript samples and framework thingees:

Prayed my 7 + 4 year olds would sleep through the night and called it quits for day 1.

Day 1: 2.5 hours. Nada to show for it

Day 2 – Friday Nov 2nd

Machine ran through night installing stuff without hiccups, yay!


Started going through the tutorials MS had sent me on game development. Skipped day 2 + 3 tutorials. Jumped to day 5 (windows game kit) which had the first decent source code sample. Skipped ahead again after that – downloaded the Atari SDK samples. Went for other downloads in my quest for good sample code and assets.

Took a quick look at the free previews of  Gamemaker, Game Salad, Creator, etc that are advertised as helpers for Win8 development. Still cheating to some degree but picked a date (Nov 10th) where I’d start falling back to frameworks like this if I wasn’t happy with my progress – by progress I mean I want the core mechanic in place –  and it needs to be “fun” already.

Finally get space cadet from win8gamekit.codeplex.com running – whoop.

This sample is actually pretty good for what I’m looking for – but the controls seem iffy on my surface device so that’s what I’ll probably look at first.

Checked out the Space Cadet authors blog to see if he has any tips or a more thorough code explanation – He does, so I start digging in. I Listen to his game loop video tutorial.

Game loop looks like:

  • initialize
  • load resources
  • input
  • react to input + feedback, via draw loop

Also listen to the animation and touch instructions videos. I’m not seeing the Prince of Persia sample from the video on codeplex anywhere – lame, I really want to do animated sprites and hoped for a good sample.

Told myself I would focus on controls – Davedev is using Mspointerup  to catch his touch events. This isn’t what I want for my swipe mechanic, so my first actual code change in Space Cadet is to switch the mouse/touch event to this:

//Handle Touch

canvas.addEventListener(“mousemove”, touchHandler, false);

Now, instead of mouse up we can swipe to hit ships. I think swiping is much more fun than tapping – and feels more Wandering Monster-ish, and almost sword like. And now it’s easier to levelup:

Level 42 – how far did you get in space cadet?

Changing touch was easy – now I need to change the AI. Started experimenting with updateShip() but then needed close it down since the kids were getting up and I needed to get them off to school and hit the day job

Day 2: 2 hours and I have Space Cadet with a swipe.

Saturday 11/3

I was too busy –touched no game

Sunday 11/4

Ditto – today is a total wash

Monday 11/5

Downloaded paper.js because it looks like I’m not going to hit my deadline by the 10th. Remember how much I hated trig as I start to work on vector functions for AI. Skip the trig because I’m starting to feel the burn of time constrain having basically nothing to show after 5 days. Open up my standby AI book AI for Game Developers. Thumbing through it decide to start with a simple move towards the player algorithm and build more complexity later (if there’s time):

if (ship.x > middle_of_the_screen.x) {

ship.x– -ship.accel;


else if (ship.x < middle_of_the_screen.x) {

ship.x ++ -ship.accel;


if (ship.y > middle_of_the_screen.y) {

ship.y — -ship.accel;


else if (ship.y < middle_of_the_screen.y) {

ship.y ++ -ship.accel;


With Swipe and some simple AI, its starting to take shape.

Tuesday 11/6

Changed my ships to sprites that are animation capable using this article:


Discovered that the key to sprite anims are the slicing of the image. That and using a timer. Got it.
//Animation Timing (for my homebrew sprite additions)

function myTimer() {

if (animationTmer < 7) {

animationTmer = animationTmer + 1;


else {

animationTmer = 0;




ctx.drawImage(ship.img, animFrame, 0, SHIP_WIDTH, SHIP_HEIGHT, ship.x, ship.y, SHIP_WIDTH, SHIP_HEIGHT);

Want to build more and follow the tutorials gradients et al  but I’m out of time again.

Wednesday 11/7

Looked at a bunch of other cool Nagademon projects:

Decided on a rough timeline I need to adhere to:

  • End of week 1: core mechanic in place. Game is “fun” at it’s most basic.
  • Week 2: game code/ game play done (i.e. Code complete)

    Art from an earlier, yet as unpublished Wandering Monster Studios effort

  • Week 3: All art/assets done (i.e. Content complete)
  • Week 4: testing, playtesting, and marketing (marketing really should be 2-3 weeks, or as long as development, but I figure it can bleed into December)

Thursday – 11/8

Lots of polish – Replaced most assets and imported animations. Here’s where I cheat a bit and bring in art I have used in earlier, unpublished games I’ve worked on, as well as assets that I’ve either scrounged or purchased (like Wit entertainment’s fantasy character pack and Pow Studios effects).

With the art and all of the fiddling I’ve done with spawning, AI, and sprites I now have something that looks OK, uses a swipe mechanic, and has wandering monsters…. In other words, I hit my Fun goal (and just in time).

Will post more next weekend. Meantime here’s a  screenshot and video.

Screen after week 1.

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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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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:

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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