Posts Tagged ‘Video Games’

Mech Retriever

Gaming, Update | Posted by davidludwig
Aug 05 2016

I know I’ve been gone for a long time at this point–and I’m still not really back yet. But if anyone coming by here wants to know what I’ve been up to part of the answer to that is the latest App venture by Llux Studios, Mech Retriever, for which I am a play tester and a writer. Frankly I wouldn’t say my part is very large, mostly auxiliary, but the project is VERY cool and worth a look if you enjoy giant robots, good game design and/or retro sensibilities with modern implementation.

 

You can find more details on the project over at Mech Retriever.com and the actual fundraising campaign to make it a full app on Kickstarter.

 

My hope is anyone reading this will at least give Mech Retriever a look, and I promise someday I will return to this site more properly once I get my personal affairs more in order. (Also apologies if anyone’s comment has been buried in the spam filter during my long absence, there’s a good chance it’s lost now.)

Mobile Collectible Genre

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Apr 21 2014

[Mobile Mondays were previously My Phone Mondays, but I expanded the term now that most of my mobile gaming is on my iPad tablet]

There are a few prominent genres that currently dominate the landscape of mobile gaming, so with my breadth of experimentation I have some familiarity with several of them. Today I’d like to look at what I call the Mobile Collectible Genre, I’ve also seen it referred to as the Card Battle Genre but given a few use more like figurines than cards and most have terrible battle mechanics I think my label is more informative. Eventually I’ll segue into Square-Enix’s Deadman’s Cross and Guardian Cross games more specifically.

From my perspective the genre sort of started with Rage of Bahamut, previously reviewed on this site, which was for a long time the high point of the genre–which REALLY isn’t saying much. Eventually I swore off the mobile collectible genre entirely because I’d spent enough time in the “good” ones to establish the entire genre was total garbage–though of course that can benefit from the “one man’s trash” principle, and as all free games the overall risk involved in trying them out and forming your own opinion is appropriately low.

Pretty much all of these games boil down to;

  • Spend energy to advance in a single player mode. This energy replenishes over time, but effectively limits the amount of time that can be spent in the game at once. Generally possible to pay real money for immediate energy restoration.
  • Collect cards/figurines/warriors to assemble into a deck/battle-group to use against other players and sometimes the computer. Biggest number wins, and the rarest collectibles have the biggest numbers. The collectibles that aren’t at least rare are virtually worthless, and that’s what you’ll get the most of. Generally possible to pay real money for better odds at getting better cards–which in some cases means the chance to get them at all.

The good apps in the genre (and even those don’t deserve to be called games, because the user basically just watches the app, there isn’t much ‘play’ to speak of) offer amazing artwork that can make them worth the free price of admission if the experience of suffering through the app isn’t too off-putting. And the biggest problem with all of them is that they aren’t games. Collecting is great, lots of people–myself included–love collecting things and the generally high art quality makes the collection fun to enjoy. But it ends up being hollow and without value if there’s nothing to do with that collection–and I personally believe it’ll be easier to get people to continue to invest money if your app has value. As the physical Collectible Card Game, Magic the Gathering, showed and continues to show, a really solid game to play with the collectibles is perfect for ensuring consumer engagement–promoting them from collectors to players.

Eventually I came to the realization that my odds of collecting the art I wanted from these apps were too low to justify the time invested when they so quickly become boring to just sit there and watch–or worse, frustrating to sit and watch when the game decides that you lose instead of win. I swore I’d never play another one again.

My vow of abstinence held up through Square-Enix‘s entry to the field with Guardian Cross–as interested as I was in what such a legendary company might have done with the genre, that interest was not enough to break my vow of ‘never again’. But then came Square-Enix’s second entry in the field, Deadman’s Cross, which caught my attention just enough that I decided it wouldn’t hurt to give the genre another shot–though my expectations remained low.

The very first thing that happens in most of these collectible games is the game asks for the Invite Code of the player who invited you to the game–and whether you were invited or not it’s worth finding and entering a code to get the associated bonus, plus it really helps the person whose code you used. My code for Deadman’s Cross is UFV2RGC should anyone decide to give Deadman’s Cross a try–use it and get to level 5 in the game and you get a limited edition Rare card, and help me toward more limited edition cards of my own, which I really want.

Now, what sets Guardian Cross and Deadman’s Cross apart from the other Mobile Collectible apps is their Hunts. Both allow you to “hunt” for new cards using a sniper scope and rifle, introducing an element of skill to new card acquisition that adds considerable interest to the game and rewards players who develop their skill in that regard.

 

In the case of Guardian Cross the scope pans much more slowly than the player’s own finger movements and monsters easily outrun the blasts from the rifle making it obnoxiously difficult to hit anything–this does set Guardian Cross apart from other mobile collectible games, but unfortunately it sets it far below the rest of the field.
I know I said I didn’t fall for Guardian Cross, but after enjoying Deadman’s Cross I went back and tried Guardian Cross as well. Both are free, so nothing really lost there except for some respect for Square-Enix.

Deadman’s Cross really polished the hunt system though–and in its case the hunt mechanics set it apart and above the rest of the field. The speed you move your finger at is now the speed your scope moves at, and the zombies are not faster than the bullets–though they are generally still faster than your trigger finger. There’s a real sense of reward for skill, and I’ve been very happy overall with the number of cards I’ve been able to get per hunt in Deadman’s Cross.
The only things I’d say need fixing is bullets should consistently come out of the gun when the player taps the Shoot button and the gun’s loaded–because right now the bullets currently come out when you take your finger off of the Shoot button, most of the time. Also, any time the bullet visually passes through a zombie that should count as a hit–even if to balance things out the times the bullet doesn’t visually pass through the zombie never counted as hits.

Now, my initial impression of Deadman’s Cross as the height of the genre and actually worth playing turned out to be a little too rosy. See, I got some very good cards very early in my play experience–and I thought, “Hey, Square-Enix is such an experienced developer, they probably realized purely random drops were bad game design and have a complex algorithm going on here to guarantee the ability of all players to reasonably compete in the game.” The reason I thought that is because most in Mobile Collectible apps what you get from card packs–or however you get new collectibles–is more purely random, and randomness is not my friend. If there’s an element of luck involved in anything I do, I can pretty consistently count on not having any luck myself. Don’t know why, I just have bad luck when luck is given too much weight in the equation.

So, having a couple weeks of good luck in Deadman’s Cross–over two accounts no less–led me to believe it wasn’t really luck and rather clever game design on Square-Enix’s part. The 1 in 100 chance of getting a Legendary card must have been implemented so that after 100 attempts every player would have a Legendary and the random element was which one in the hundred it was–or whatever, the numbers are just to illustrate the concept. Turns out, I actually was having good luck–as improbable as that seems–and Square-Enix had similarly banked on lucking into a decent game rather than putting in the design work to ensure one.
Was very disappointing when my luck returned to zero, and I read the online accounts of others with no luck in Deadman’s Cross. I’d thought Square-Enix could deliver better than that, but even that hefty blow only dropped them even with the rest of the field–which coupled with their hunt mechanic remained a net advantage for Deadman’s Cross.

Now, I’ve got plenty of ideas how the hunt system in Deadman’s Cross could be improved–but given their console record I’m pretty confident that if Square-Enix had wanted to make a game out of Deadman’s Cross they would have done so. A few things like the 60 second time limit seem arbitrary, and the whole thing could use a little more polish–even improved as it is from Guardian Cross. But ultimately the Hunt for new cards is one thing in favor of Deadman’s Cross that I think does put it ahead of the rest of the field–which isn’t saying much, but is worth mentioning.

It doesn’t take long to get to the point in the game where if you’re using anything less than Epic cards (the progression being Common->Uncommon->Rare->Epic->Legendary) then you cannot win against other players–and anything less than Rare will leave you losing to the computer as well. This isn’t any different from other apps in the genre, but is unfortunate because new Commons, Uncommons and Rares continue to become available well after there is no reason (other than their artwork) to want them. Some rarity limited brackets would help players find matches they could compete in according to the cards they actually possessed–and make a lot more sense than the current level limited brackets that have far less bearing on the actual strength of the hordes the player can field, not to mention it would provide an application for getting and developing the lower rarity cards instead of just raging about not being able to find any of the highest rarity cards.

Now, one thing that Square-Enix has continued to do well on the mobile market that I always respected them for on the consoles is write. The writing in Deadman’s Cross is far beyond anything else in the collectible genre, and pretty well positioned for mobile games in general. I really enjoy the story and the characters, and wish I could get the whole thing–unfortunately it seems unlikely Square-Enix will wrap up the major plot-line any time soon, since they still want to milk the in-app purchases for years if they can.
Aside from the interactions with townspeople, Guardian Cross also featured similarly strong writing–though in that case most of the townspeople were painfully badly written, which I can’t explain. Nor can I explain why every single towns-person in Guardian Cross had a stable of Guardians they wanted to pit against the player’s. Deadman’s Cross takes a much more reasonable approach of a lot of people having deadman–aka zombie–hordes, but a lot of people don’t have them too.

Still, both Guardian Cross and Deadman’s Cross offer just a little more in the card to card contests that define the player-versus-player element as well as much of the player-versus-computer experience. The standard for the genre is “Which number is bigger?” Which as you may be able to guess, doesn’t amount to much of a game and doesn’t leave the player with anything to do but watch the computer figure out whether 500 is bigger than 900 or not. Once you’ve got the biggest number (which also happens to be the most rare) card you can, there’s not much else for you to do.
Square-Enix added on to the biggest number contest–though I wish they’d replaced it–so that when the numbers are close there’s actually more the player can do to swing things in their own favor. It falls short of being a matter of skill, the player does still just watch during the actual battles, but adds a few granules more strategy to the deck construction preparation part of the app. But I highly respect Square-Enix’s decision not to include evolutions based on multiple copies of the same card, as that quickly became the most tedious part of the rest of the field–especially as the rarity of the card in question increased. There’s no reason not to strengthen a card you want to strengthen as soon as you are able to do so and while some methods are more efficient than others all can get to the same end point, and that is much more user friendly.

Furthermore, the deadman cards have 3 ability slots that fill as they gain levels–but each deadman has more than 3 abilities they can learn. Choosing which ability to keep and which to lose allows players to customize how their deadmen play and adds a little more strategy to the game. Ultimately it’s still the biggest number comparison, but the accents put on top of that provide some consolation and that’s not nothing.

I really wish I could recommend Deadman’s Cross, because it is in my experience the best Mobile Collectible game on the market, because it’s Square-Enix, and because it would really help me to have 6 more devices use my Invite Code of UFV2RGC and then get to level 5. Unfortunately, my actual recommendation is to stay away from Deadman’s Cross. I’m probably giving up on the game myself if I don’t get those 6 more Invites by April 30–the cutoff for getting the Cleopatra card I would very much like in my collection.

Now, if I could go back and reevaluate the other Mobile Collectible games I’ve rated on this site I’d probably give them much lower marks now that I’ve seen the full ugliness of the genre, but I feel it would be unfair to punish them too severely for my distaste for the genre without giving them more play time for the reevaluation–which I have no intention of doing. So keep that in mind when I say my final rating for Deadman’s Cross is 3 out of 5 stars and it is the best mobile collectible game I’m aware of.

A lot of apps get higher marks from me for being free, because I’m not going to hold a free handout to the same standard as an expensive purchase. That said, be wary of the in-app purchases offered by most free apps and intended to be the developer’s source of profit. I’m in favor of making in-app purchases from free apps that prove themselves, because I want to see good developers succeed, but I’m not nearly as interested in supporting developers’ attempts to bleed their consumers without offering any kind of reasonable return for that capital–not even developers with long histories including good titles like EA Games or Square-Enix.
If you choose to purchase from Deadman’s Cross it’s worth noting that the $13.99 Coin Pack offers the best in-game return for real-world investment–otherwise your best bet is investing in increments of $0.99. But do note that as satisfied as I was with my $13.99 investment at the time, I am coming to regret it as I see the app rapidly dead-ending with my art collection still woefully far from completion.

If you’re willing to help me out, or if a free Square-Enix game with zombies sounds worth checking out even if it isn’t their best work then do try Deadman’s Cross with my invite code of UFV2RGC and get to level 5 to give the app a good go. But I advise stinginess when it comes to spending money on the game, and maybe wait until level 10 to have a better grasp of what the game really offers.

Or if you’re just looking to learn a little more–or find the artwork posted online–there’s always the Deadman’s Cross Wiki as a pretty good repository of the cards from the game with their pictures, statistics and even some more general game information. If you’re already in the game or just looking to go deeper then the Deadman’s Cross Forum seems to be a good place to go for more in depth information and to arrange trades, since the in-game trading feature is very nearly unusable.

 

Finally, I was thinking of mentioning Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft in this review–but I think it’s gone on long enough as is, so I’ll save that for another post.

Finally Back!

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Mar 30 2014

Well… Someday I’ll be back on top of updating the site. Seriously, I’m making good progress on my other obligations that have kept me away and the end of a couple of them is in sight. Though, for now, no breath holding. Updates will remain rare for a while yet.

This one should have come in January, commemorating the success of the Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Kickstarter by WayForward–which also reached the Costume Swap Stretch Goal I was personally excited about. Not a lot more to say on that topic that hasn’t already been said in previous posts–though for anyone interested in a compelling platforming/exploration experience with cute characters, humor, attitude, magic and belly dancing WayForward is still accepting donations over at their website.

The cool thing about the Paypal option over at WayForward, is that it still counts toward reaching Stretch Goals for the completed Kickstarter campaign. You can basically pre-order the game for $15 on the platform of your choice (and there are a lot of options, enough to make good odds if you play video games you can get this one) and have that investment count toward getting even more content into the game for you and everyone! As of writing this we’re really close to the Hero Modes–which will add a whopping 3 additional playable characters to a series previously known for having 1. With enough investment we could even still see additional game chapters, full voice acting or way at the outside TV quality animated cutscenes!

The Harem and Pirate outfits were clear winners in the vote for which additional costumes the Lost Girls Society should try on–I made an executive tie-break to get Horera in Shantae’s pajamas though, because I thought it would be cute. Thanks to everyone who helped make the Costume Swap a reality!

 

My other news at this time concerns a lot of mobile gaming I’ve been doing in my free moments. Since last I wrote I’ve gone through some good like Royal Revolt 2 and Castle Doombad, some bad like Bloodmasque, and some ugly like Supreme Heroes and Guardian Cross. Mobile gaming has really changed the landscape of games, but at this point it seems like developers should be embarrassed they haven’t gotten their acts together yet for the most part. There are some brilliant gems out there (like Angry Birds before the addition of in-App purchases), and an overwhelming number that if they just got their pricing remotely under control could be games instead of garbage, but all of that will likely require its own post to discuss.

Given the opportunity I’d love to make a mobile game and show the market how it’s done, because as hard as it is, it really isn’t as impossible as the market currently makes it look.

One specific one I do want to call attention to now though is Square-Enix’s Deadman’s Cross. Yeah, the makers of such legendary role-playing games as Final Fantasy have a significant presence in the mobile market, and disappointingly they aren’t handling it any better than their competition from giants like Electronic Arts to random single person developers in their parents’ basement.

Deadman’s Cross is noteworthy in my opinion though, because it’s a mobile collectible game–or as I generally call them a Rage of Bahamut clone–and I swore I’d never play another one because I’d played enough to feel confident that there isn’t nor would there be a single good game in the entire genre. Deadman’s Cross looked intriguing enough to get me to revisit that position and actually give it a shot.

Square-Enix delivers on the quality of the writing throughout, and the art is fantastic as is the trend with the genre. What sets Deadman’s Cross (and its predecessor, Guardian Cross) apart from the field though are their hunt mechanics that introduce a real element of skill to getting new cards–which means that you can get better at the game and get increased benefits accordingly. On top of that there is actually an element of strategy to deck composition and card development, and no sign of the frustrating evolution system the rest of the field uses to hold players back.

Don’t get me wrong, they still fall short of being games–too much is out of the player’s control to really legitimately say that one ‘played’ these games so much as admired the artwork, but the hunt mechanics and compelling story do put Deadman’s Cross head and shoulders above the entire rest of the field and for now I am continuing to play it–or, admire the artwork anyway.

So if anyone with an iOS device or an Android one wants to see what Square-Enix can do in the mobile collectible market, I am currently recommending giving Deadman’s Cross a try (though stay away from Guardian Cross, Square-Enix had no idea what they were doing with that one, and polished the formula a lot for Deadman’s Cross).

 

If you do try Deadman’s Cross, please help me fill out my card/art collection and use my invite code when starting the game, UFV2RGC.

After using the code UFV2RGC you’ll need to get to level 5 in the game–which shouldn’t take much time or effort, and is a good way to develop your own opinion of the game–at which point you’ll get a limited Rare Card for using my code, and I’ll get to count the invite toward getting additional cards of my own.

If you’re willing to do it on multiple devices you can do so and have them count separately, though if you decide you like the game you may want to use your own invite code to help yourself along. Though I will advise against spending any money for Deadman Coins in the game until about level 10 or so, to be sure you really want to invest in the game. Once you are sure, the $13.99 Coin Pack is actually the first good deal after the initial $0.99 Coin Pack–so spend in increments of $0.99 or if you’re inclined $13.99 for best return, I didn’t do the math on the $49.99 Coin Pack, but the rest are actually poor deals.

And for good measure, my invite code again is UFV2RGC

The Succubus’ Harem: Prologue

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 15 2012

So as a little something different (yes I found an opportunity to get online after all!) I thought maybe I’d share some really rough flash fictions that are coming to mind as I play Rage of Bahamut. No sooner had I deleted Zombie Jombie from my phone (see the My Phone Monday of this week) than I discovered Rage of Bahamut, which seems to be everything I expect Zombie Jombie wanted to be. Collectable Card game for the iPhone and Android, which is fun and addicting–and very deserving of its own more positive review one of these days.

Anyway, I’ve been so inspired playing it that I’m just naturally developing characters based on my cards blending them with the storyline from the game–so obviously I could never actually publish these with large elements not being original to me, but this seems like a good forum for a sort of ‘fan fiction’.

The story is titled “The Succubus’ Harem”

 

 

*Prologue*

Rage.

Pain.

Hatred.

Thirst.

A clawed hand breaks the surface of the rain soaked field. Fresh dirt erupts in a muddy fountain as the hand’s owner emerges from the loam. The sudden disturbance and wash of tangy earth scent interrupts a pair of worgs from wrestling over the leg of an unfortunate traveler.

Mud and dirt tumble from the ribcage of the mysterious figure. Age has picked clean flesh and organs. Though yellowed, the bones seem preserved by unnatural power. Only the metal scales of an armored skirt remain of any clothing the figure may have once had, and those are corroded and falling apart.

The skeleton’s ragged blackened blade is in little better condition than its mail skirt, yet proves sufficient to lop the head from the shoulders of the first curious wolf-like creature. The second howls in fury and lunges for the skeleton’s boney throat, only to share the fate of the first worg.

Blood running from its blade, the skeleton turns its face to the roiling clouds and releases an ear splitting wail of rage. Pain. Hatred. Thirst.

 

 

 

If you have a smartphone (both iPhone and Android supported) then Rage of Bahamut is a free download and even if you decide it isn’t your thing you could help me a lot by playing through the tutorial and entering the code lrq89881 at the end. On the other hand if electronic collectible fantasy card games that you can kill some free time with while enjoying a lot of the best of the fantasy genre does sound good to you, that same code will start you off with an impressive 100,000 extra Rupies (as in you will not have money issues) and an Angelic Knight rare card–and still help me.

They do a good job with getting you to promote them by offering excellent incentives to do so–but for fantasy fans with smartphones I’m inclined to say it is VERY worth it. Of course, you can also potentially get the gist of my impressions of the game just by reading my flash fiction on the subject–which may be the new Friday Feature.

Phillipa

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 12 2011

Phillipa – Eden

“W-who are you?!” the pathetic scum needed both trembling arms to keep his handgun pointed at Phillipa.

Phillipa laughed and shook her head. She wasn’t sure why her mother had thought Phillipa was needed for this job—sure there’d only been one way in, but the scum only had five body-guards and only two of those even had guns. Oh, but maybe all the regular enforcers were already busy? In spite of her ability, Phillipa had definitely noticed she didn’t get first pick of jobs. It sucked being nine. Just because she was the youngest they treated her like she didn’t know anything, even though she was probably the best enforcer her dad had—after her mom of course.

“I said who are you?!” the scum screamed louder, like it would make a difference. “What do you want from me?!”

Curling some of her purple-white hair around a finger, Phillipa shook her head again. “You’re behind on your payments. It’s a dangerous world we live in, what did you think would happen if you fell behind on paying your protection money?”

Was this guy already injured or did the loser actually think he was positioned the way he wanted to be? Sitting on his butt, back to the wall and legs pointing straight at Phillipa. In that position he couldn’t get out of the way if she wanted to do anything to him, and the way his arms were shaking without a brace-point for the gun, he’d probably miss her if he fired anyway. This wasn’t even going to be fun! Phillipa actually liked it when they fought back; it was like those pre-Reclamation video-games her dad kept in his safe-room. And she was good!

“What are you going to do?” the scum actually sounded confused.

The heavy wash of ozone from behind her should’ve given him a pretty good idea, even if it had already gone to his head. Phillipa actually felt sorry for him.

LGS

Last Post Before Challenge

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Aug 01 2011

So this week is dedicated to individual character Epilogues for the now complete Niar Saga. They will be posting as Level 29 of the story in order to keep things in order on the Pages navigation to the right, though these are just parting shots of the characters since the story itself really was done with Level 28. I will keep working to keep current Previous/Next links at the bottom of the story pages, though I do request some patience with that since I have to add them manually.

In other news, I started a game in Twilight Princess for the Wii, and that has regrettably consumed my life–I haven’t been this into a video-game in a long time, and there are a lot of pleasant reminders of Ocarina of Time. So that’s put me behind a few things I’d like to be more ahead on, but I’m optimistic about getting caught up this week. Since there will be an epilogue every day for the next 6 days including today the epilogues of Niar Saga will be a little bumpy for me, then we have a week of the 7 Holy Virtues blog challenge–see previous post–and then we get into the beginning of the Lost Girls’ Society.

Things will be busy on this end, but there’s a lot of opportunity to pick up momentum and then coast through the coming months if things go well. Anyway, the Epilogues will be posting as Pages in Niar Saga and there will be no further front-page posts until the Start of the 7 Holy Virtues Challenge.

Andrew into Darkness

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
May 02 2011

Andrew level 16 is now up and accessible via the Pages navigation to the right or the main Niar Saga story page (also available to the right or above). Anyone who’s caught up on the posts may have noticed that Vixie’s segment from last week left off on a bit of a cliff-hanger, and part of that is that this week will finish the Descent Into Darkness Phase of Niar Saga, after which is the Versus the Evil God Phase–which will bring us to level 20. Hopefully some of you have ideas about what that could mean.

In other site related news, please consider voting in the current poll. There are no wrong answers, I’m just curious what people think and it’s totally anonymous anyway–even I can’t tell who’s voted let alone what their choices were. Also the square check boxes instead of the circular mean that you’re allowed to select more than one answer since in cases like this the answers aren’t all necessarily mutually exclusive.

Update on the state of things with me in general, I have a triumph and a failure to report. To open with the triumph for a positive upbeat; I finally beat Phantasy Star! I played the Phantasy Star series back on the Sega Genesis and to this day still consider it one of the best RPG (or maybe video-game in general, but I’m biased in favor of RPGs) series I’ve ever played. The Shining Series (particularly Shining Force, not counting that junky excuse for a game Shining Force Neo) is the only RPG series I can think of that I would consider as possibly being better than Phantasy Star (on the topic of junky excuses for games though, I was not impressed with Phantasy Star Online and so my experience and praise are really just for the Genesis era games). But a big hang-up for me was that the Master System was dead and gone by the time I started playing video-games, so I never had access to the original Phantasy Star. And I haven’t had a portable gaming system since the original Gameboy, so when Phantasy Star came out for I don’t remember which Gameboy I couldn’t take advantage of that either. Finally though I got a Wii and Phantasy Star was available for download from the Wii Store. I have to say the game was definitely worth the wait. The graphics, sound and gameplay were all decidedly dated (1988 game), but in spite of all of that it was a really awesome game. It was really clear how it was the foundation for the rest of the original Phantasy Star games, and answered all sorts of questions I had about the setting and story that I hadn’t even expected to be answered (like how you end up with a horse-sized winged cat, or the reason the holy flame is called the Eclipse Torch). I may have to play through the other three again soon, even though the game-play didn’t really get good until IV (before that sooner or later in the first three the random battles started to feel like a real drag).

And then my failure. Last month I committed to writing the script for the strategy/RPG “Yamatai War”, which will tell the story of the legend frequently referenced in my series, “Maze Warrior”… Well as of today I have the scene heading for the first scene written into the script… So, yeah… I did get the whole thing outlined, but ultimately keeping up with the 2 story updates and Wednesday features on this site takes a lot more of my time than I’d expect. And since I can’t very well take time out of my job-search/application process, and find myself perhaps over-attached to my “me time” with games or whatever, I just didn’t get it done. So I no longer have a deadline, but I remain committed to getting the script written. Just kind of embarassing that I fell so far short of a personal goal there.

Vixie Hart

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Apr 27 2011

A young and capable traveler originally from the Viura Mountains. She claims to just be looking for a good time but carries a dark secret with her. She is a master of many skills, as well as incredibly acrobatic and athletic. She also has a good heart and cannot ignore people in need.
Brings to the Story – fun, she’s the unapologetically flip and flamboyant character who can liven any situation and keep spirits up in the darkest moments.
Brings to the Team – speed and agility, she can get where she needs to be and do what needs to be done when the mission requires the highest levels of finesse.
Wields – claws on each hand (Heart and Ghost her first enchanted pair)
Primary Sense – Scent and taste
Missions About- Freedom, Vixie fights to protect her or others’ freedom when it’s her mission

TOOLS:
Cat’s Leap – A standing leap to reach great heights.
Free-Run – Agile movement over surfaces others can’t traverse.
Tamper – Open locks or disable traps.

Target Audiences

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Apr 22 2011

Sheya level 14 continued is now up and accessible via the Pages Navigation to the right (that’s getting kind of big, isn’t it? Wonder if there’s some way to make the lists collapseable and expandable?) or via the Niar Saga main story page. Also in honor of reaching 3,000 page views I’ve added a page about Yuki, the family movie I wrote previously mentioned as one of my other works on the About page. So now when we reach 4,000 page views I’ll have to put up a page for another of my stories that I haven’t previously mentioned on this site.

I’m thinking probably either Leona Banisher or Team Neo-Shield Front… Both are series, the first being a fantasy set in Niar (same world as Niar Saga) and the second being more of a sci-fi/fantasy.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about today was D&D. So if you’re just here for the story go read that instead. If you care about my thoughts on D&D and target audiences though that’s what the rest of this post is going to be.

See, I was really disappointed with D&D 4th Edition when it came out–my opinion has since mellowed but at the time I actually was vehemently opposed to everything it stood for. Now it seems that D&D 4th Edition has shifted over to the 4.5 edition that Wizards of the Coast committed to not doing when 4th Edition first came out. See back in 3rd Edition (my edition of choice, though I also have significant experience with 2nd Edition, and at least have some of the books for 1st Edition though I haven’t played) after the system had been out for a while they found there were a lot of problems with it and things they could have done better. So they re-released the core books in a new 3.5 format that addressed those problems while still being essentially the same edition. I strongly feel the changes there were improvements, and since the new books were released before I switched over to 3rd edition I was able to just start with them. Overall worked quite well for me, but understandably a lot of people were distressed about having the same three core books released over again with rule changes but for practical purposes the same content.

Then we get to 4th Edition and they commit to using websites and errata in the back of new books to keep the rules current instead of doing a 4.5 Edition. Good publicity if nothing else, and I figured they could probably pull it off. But then they release “D&D Essentials”, which seems to in fact be the 4.5 Edition they committed to not doing–granted under a different name. All statements by Wizards say this is not the case, that regular 4th Ed will continue and that Essentials is a purely optional alternate way into D&D. I see no evidence to support that though. The new Heroes of Shadow Book (not marked as an Essentials product) seems to use the Essentials rules, and honestly I couldn’t understand most of it with not being familiar with Essentials, so I picked up some of the Essentials Books.

Bottomline, I think that Essentials actually makes regular 4th Ed look good in comparison–and I still consider regular 4th Ed inferior to 3rd Ed. Having given it a lot of thought I think the issue is that D&D started as a Role-Playing Game, where the rules weren’t always clear and play required imagination from everyone involved. The emphasis was on the Role-Playing, because honestly without that there were probably better games out there. That’s what got me into D&D though, is the superior Role-Playing experience, because I can easily get ahold of other games if I just want a game. The depth of the Role-Playing is what made D&D special.
By 3rd Edition I think it was a Role-Playing Game, where the rules had been fine-tuned and developed to the point that they were an equal part of the game to the Role-Playing. This was the perfect edition for me, because it was fun to play as a game but still left you with the freedom and vagary to really focus on Role-Playing in an environment where it still felt like if you could justify it you could do it–in contrast to say 2nd Edition where in my experience it was more if you could think of it you could do it because the rules were even less defined there. So 3rd Edition (or 3.5 if you want to be specific) was my edition.

Now we’re on the 4th Edition and “Essentials” (aka 4.5), and D&D has become a Role-Playing Game. The rules are so tightly refined and balanced, and your options are so clearly and neatly laid out for you they introduce a mental block to doing anything not covered by the rules, not to mention difficulty running the game knowing it’s addicted to its perfect character balance where some of the crazier ideas I’ve seen implemented in past editions are not only not directly supported by the rules but potentially game-breaking because they would let a character do something that isn’t written on their character sheet. 4th Edition is very approachable, easy to pick up and play, very beginner and busy-individual friendly… But it feels like the Role-Playing is being phased out to make it more of a game. Essentials continues this trend, to where your character is virtually built for you with very little opportunity for customization let alone creative thinking once you get them out on an adventure. It’s still a good game, but is getting closer and closer to something that could be programmed into a video-game and no longer require live players.

Heck, Essentials maybe could work just as well as a video-game. All of this is a valid choice on the part of Wizards of the Coast, but frustrating for me because it’s not what I personally want. They’re drawing in new players (presumably) and making the game more generally accessible, but there’s nothing there anymore for people like me who want a game system that defines how a world works for you then leaves you free to play in it. Anymore the rules seem to have rather little to do with the world, that’s no longer relevant, now they’re just what you can do. A finite, specific, and clear list of what you can do. That’s no longer Role-Playing to me.

So I’ve finally figured out that I’m no longer the target audience for Dungeons and Dragons, they want to draw new players in who aren’t necessarily as into the whole Role-Playing thing. But for us story-tellers and role-players of bygone generations… Well we’re getting old and probably going to die out anyway, so they don’t care if they lose us now or later. It’s a sad truth, but seems to be the case. Still, it’s good to actually know that I’m no longer the target audience for D&D so I can start putting what little money I have toward things that might make me happy.

It does bring into question who the target audience for my writing is though… Because the disappointment with D&D does make me think I need to know who my audience is and take pains not to betray them or their expectations. I’m guessing that my writing probably resonates most with the young adult fantasy/anime crowd, and that by keeping vibrant characters, cool action and attention to plot and character development I can keep my audience happy.

Though please let me know in comments if I do something right or wrong so I can factor that into the ongoing process.

April Suchness

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Apr 08 2011

Andrew level 12 continued is now up and accessible via the Pages navigation to the right, or the main Niar Saga story page–the latter of which is also slowly accumulating behind the scenes info on the world and characters from my recent Wednesday post series. This concludes The Quest phase of Niar Saga, and on Monday we begin Descent into Darkness. Updates of course continuing before noon on Mondays and Fridays, with fun but non-essential posts on Wednesdays when I get to them.

Then I’m happy to say we got 6 votes on the last poll concerning Favorite Character. Andrew won (with two votes), but I was happy that everyone got at least one vote (including an unspecified side character). I’m not sure if those were 6 unique votes or if anyone voted more than once, but it was nice to see more activity than the last poll either way. The new poll is up and like the others will stay up 2 weeks before moving on to the next one. Until one of these gets at least 10 votes though it probably won’t be worth adding an Archive page for viewing past polls.

About the only other news I have is that I’m pretty sure I heard from one of my friends (whose blog is linked on my links page in fact) that this month was some sort of write 100 pages of script month or something like that. I didn’t officially sign on with it, but in a spirit of solidarity I figured I’d try and hammer out the script for the Strategy RPG detailing the legend to which my super-hero series, Maze Warrior, regularly references. The game is called “Yamatai War” with the possibility of having “Maze Warrior:” attached to the front to clarify the relationship to the series. I have the whole thing outlined now and intend to get writing this weekend. One thing I haven’t totally figured out how I’m going to handle though is the branching paths, player choices and for example just talking to people in town. Seems like video-game scripts could have some key differences from movie/stage/tv scripts I hadn’t fully considered before.