Posts Tagged ‘monster’

My 6 year old daughter is on a monster kick (not sure where she *gets* this stuff from). She’s collected dragons for years but has now stepped up to werewolves and trolls and sasquatches and such. More than anything right now she wants to travel to Scotland so we can search for Nessie, who happens to be her current favorite mythological creature.

Local Monsters support Local Produce

Local Monsters support Local Produce

Anyhoo, Scotland is not really in the family budget. Nor is it really a top travel priority for us. Its actually at the very bottom of our current travel priority list, well under such exotic locations as Portland, and Vancouver and that small strawberry festival a few blocks Down the Street from our house. Despite all of her “research” on Nessie (more on that later – did you know they teach research methods in kindergarten these days?) we aren’t funding her current exploration overseas.

However, there are local myths here in the NorthWest. While perusing her summer reading list (a fairly tall stack of well-illustrated children’s books on monsters collected from our local library) we discovered the stories of Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan, a lake which happens to be fairly close to her Grandfather’s current place of residence.

Actual apparent photo of the Ogopogo

Actual apparent photo of the Ogopogo

Long story short, we aren’t travelling to Scotland this year. But we are planning an expedition, an adventure really, to Lake Okanagan, on a quest to find Ogopogo himself. My 6 year old daughter, her dubious older brother, myself, and my somewhat reluctant wife.

Anyone ever been?


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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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My four your old is deep into dragons right now, with a large collection of dragon toys and several imaginary dragon friends. From my perspective (being a proud parent) she seems to come up with wonderfully interesting an imaginative stories around her dragons. Generally I think children are a wellspring of great ideas (at least, until institutions undermines their sense of creativity).

This is her Pine Dragon. A creature that lives in the giant, swaying northwest pines prominent in our neighborhood.

Pine Dragon

Pine Dragon


Prefers evergreen forests by the sea (likes to comb beaches consuming driftwood) and a mild climate. Loves fog and rainy days and smaller islands.


Will occasionally dive for seafood that’s deeper in the waters, catching shark and octopi, but brings them back to the beach to consume. Also eats other seafood (fish, hermit crabs, jellyfish) and pinecones and tree bark.


Their necks and tails are extremely long to reach seafood. They like to wrap their extremely long necks and tails around the giant, swaying pines for sleeping (the rocking of the tree soothes them and puts them to sleep). They are mostly green but can have purple and black hues. Their talons are golden, their bellies yellow. Females are more colorful.

They have no wings but are fast runners and great jumpers and can stay underwater for long stretches of time.

Wood fires their breath. They can swallow a bunch of deadfall to fire up something fierce, but even a pinecone would help. They like the hang out on beaches and nibble on freshly caught seafood. They will sometimes build fire pits like humans do and then curl up near them.


They have a weakness for popcorn and apples, and love the smell of these.

They sleep in the trees – building eagle like ness for their small young, and then wrap their long tails in the high branches, the trees swaying in the wind, soothing them and rocking them to sleep.

They will collect lost treasures or jewels, but focus on small, shiny trinkets like seaglass, colorful beads and marbles. They put these in their nests with their eggs, in the highest of treetops. Their green eggs are small (smaller than bird sized) and they start off as really tiny dragons.

They will be awake for weeks at a time, and then sleep for weeks at a time. Really old ones may sleep for ages in their trees, the bark slowly overtaking and growing over and around them. They stay warm and still in their tress during the winter / snowfall, and rest in their shade during the hottest summers.

Dragon toy collection

A few of my daughter’s dragons

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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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Part one is here.

The little things

It’s the little details of the film that draw you into the setting. Gandalf alludes to the small when talking about fighting evil in a “I’m pretty sure this wasn’t in the book” monologue.

“I’ve found it is the small things, every act of normal folk that keeps the darkness of at bay — simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”
Gandalf says Hi

Clever hobbit mailbox design, Gandalf’s rune on the door that alludes to a thieves sign language,  authentic looking hobbit dishes in the pantry,  how Bilbo’s clothes slowly drain of color and gain cuts and stains to them as the film progresses – all these little details draw you into the story.

It’s often not about the big things, but about small people doing small things. It’s the pieces of flavor in a story that allude to the larger world that lead to adventure and wonder, not the larger world in itself.

The Action Railroad

The original book reads very much like an exploration and, even though stories are very much the definition of rails, the book feels like a party having several random encounters en-route to a dragon’s lair. It reads more like a sandbox, with the trolls, goblin caves, giants, etc. all wandering monsters as opposed to planned encounters. Unlike the book the movie links all of these into one very long action sequence (with a short elf interlude), taking additional steps to tie them into an arching story around the pale orc.

Hobbit Adventure

This railed sequence, with stakes constantly upgrading, gets to be so amazing and deaf defying that you can no longer suspend disbelief. It breaks after a while, and you lose the sense of story in the continually mounting action. Action is necessary, but gets carried away in the film locking the characters into one long flight scene.

There are times to run in Middle earth, but it’s a realm that is meant to be explored in depth at a walking pace, not from a treadmill. The special effects-heavy sequences also look pretty cheesy. How many precarious unstable chasm crossing bridges could one clan of goblins possibly create?

Running this way so fast you lose the important, smaller details that makes the story rich. I’m not advocating for more slow moments in the film (we spend plenty of time gazing into characters eyes in long close-ups while they oh-so-slowly smile knowingly, and it does seem to spend too much time prepping) – but there’s action aplenty without turning each scene into a mini armageddon.

In a campaign the action is important. Constant action without strong story and detail becomes a drag.

One great play can make all the difference

Martin freeman was excellent. I was expecting to see Watson throughout but I can’t imagine a better Bilbo now. His facial expressions are what really did it. My understanding is that Jackson halted the shooting of this film and waited while Freeman was finishing Sherlock. Thorin and Gandalf deserve call-outs here as well – (and Radagast, although many others found him annoying).

It’s the funny rogue, the adamant paladin or noble dwarf- it’s the player who totally gets it right and whose character rings true and draws the other players into the campaign. One player who is really into it can make all the difference in a campaign. Those guys are gold.

Magic should be mysterious and powerful but not all powerful

I like a Gandalf with limits, one who has to get by with simple illusions and tricks (although the movie messes with the troll encounter) and has to leverage his long nurtured friendships with various Middle Earth communities in order to get the party through alive.

Gandalf and his fellow wizards feel very human and fallible here. Magic items are interesting, historic and with simple, useful functions. Love it.

What makes a Good boss?

Les play Good Boss, Bad Boss.

  • Goblin King:Bad Boss – The whole scene was really too much and was the CGI equivalent of overacting. Nice try Jackson, but Bowie remains the undisputed best goblin king

    Bowie is still the undisputed king

    Bowie is still the undisputed king

  • Pale Orc:Bad Boss –  Again too much. Evil for the sake of evil. This conflict doesn’t even belong in the original story and it’s hammered and wedged into the plot. All of these scenes could have been dropped and the whole movie would have been more concise and enjoyable
  • Golum: Good Boss – Excellent, here we have interesting conflict and a villain with character and motive
  • The Trolls: Good Boss-  Some overacting here, but still a fun and interesting encounter. There’s humor, that sandbox feel, and you need to use your wits and brawn to get out of it

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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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TSR was all about work for hire and held on to all the art they commissioned. Eventually TSR was taken over by Wizards, who had a policy of returning the art to their artists – However, Jeff Dee’s art was destroyed before wizards ever got their hands on it. The story is that a “clueless functionary” dumped all of the files to make room at TSR for other, more important things (although rumors persist of some of these originals existing in private collections).

Jeff Dee's Brain Devourer - once lost, is now being recreated

Jeff Dee’s Brain Devourer – once lost, is now being recreated

In case you are unfamiliar with Jeff and his work, he’s one of the iconic artists associated with early TSR products and other RPGs like Villains and Vigilantes (which he co-designed). He’s also worked on computer games like Wing Commander and the Ultima series.  Jeff started working for TSR when he was 18 (apparently by drawing Snits  for Dragon Magazine) while still in art school. He was inspired to some degree by comic book artists like John Byrne and Terry Austin, which shows in his early art.

So far Jeff has successfully funded seven Kickstarter projects to faithfully reproduce the lost art, which then will become available on his Deviant Art page. He’s also partnered with another lost art artist Diesel LaForce (who he occasionally still games with).

Reproduction in progress from Jeff Dee's Deviant Art site

Reproduction in progress from Jeff Dee’s Deviant Art site

Much like Erol Otis, Dee’s art really defined the genre for me – even more so than some of the more “famous” artists (like Todd Lockwood or Larry Elmore). I especially loved his work in Deities and Demigods, his renderings of unique DnD monsters, and most of all when he drew adventurers in various crazy scenes (I would love a compilation of those, they were littered throughout multiple early DnD publications).

Jeff's Vampire Ambush

Jeff’s Vampire Ambush

Little known fact – Jeff’s signature (D with two dots) is a twist on Thror’s map from Tolkien’s The Hobbit and mirrors Durin’s signature.

Jeff still stays busy these day with a new project called Cavemaster – an interesting RPG take with very simple mechanics – among other things:

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