Archive for May, 2014

So You Think You Can RPG: Gamer’s Origins

31 May

Let me talk about how I came to Dungeons and Dragons.

When I was six, seven, eight years old, I did not have a good time in school. I had a very few friends I worked hard to keep and a lot of enemies I just seemed to pick up. New kids just sort of got the memo on day one–“For Pete’s sake, stay away from that kid. He once spent, like, twenty minutes trying to explain what a hobbit is.”

Every kid needs to feel cool, liked, and respected occasionally, and I tried–I really did. I think I sometimes downplay how hard I tried. At that age I really wanted to grow up to be that leather-jacket, motorcycle, sunglasses cool–the sort of guy who could spend a whole evening not talking about the wicked scar right over his eye. The sort of man who never voluntarily strays more than a few meters from a broadsword. I trust I’m shocking nobody by relating this is did not turn out to be the case. I don’t want to pay for leather, I’m certain I’d crash a motorcycle, I can’t wear sunglasses over my regular prescription glasses, the only scar I’ve got on my face is from mishandling one of those inflatable balance balls, and as for broadsword, I doubt the plastic one I LARP with counts. What I am now is exactly the sort of worst-case-scenario disaster area that my Marlon Brando larval form would be ashamed to tote in his sidecar.

But on the bright side, I make an excellent found-footage horror protagonist. Random webcam shot unrelated.

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The Altered Scrolls: Arena (Part 1: Storyline and Worldbuilding)

26 May

I’m not going to give you the full development history of The Elder Scrolls: Arena, because as a rule of thumb I don’t bother offering any service that Wikipedia’s better at, but a relevant bit of trivia is that Arena wasn’t supposed to be an open-world RPG at all. It was a gladiatorial combat game that would see the player character and a stalwart team of fighters on a whirlwind tour of the continent’s fighting circuit. The game’s status as an open-world title is by all accounts a case of enthusiastic feature creep–to the point where the game had to keep the name long past its relevance, since that’s what was printed on all their distribution stuff.

Gamers everywhere should be thankful that the developers laid aside their modest dreams of making a combat-focused first-person pit fighting game. Not only because it allowed them to found one of the most breathtaking, epic, and history-making franchises in the history of videogaming—but also, because Arena’s first-person combat frankly sucked monkey shit.

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Uncle Rutsky’s So You Think You Can RPG (And You Really Should): Introduction

23 May

Yes, we’re in intros week–a boring but necessary part of relaunching the regular content cycle. Monday’s entry on TES: Arena will mark a transition to weightier posts.

I’d actually planned to start this series cold, but after giving it some thought I decided I wanted to take a survey first. This is going to be a series on tabletop roleplaying games aimed at beginning, prospective, or potential players–an attempt to spread the gospel to people who’ve never had access to an established group. So I’d like to start out by asking a couple questions of those of you who have never played or even seen a tabletop RPG in action:

1.) How good an idea do you have of what a tabletop RPG is, how it plays, or what it’s like?

2.) How interested are you in trying one?

3.) If you did play a tabletop game, would you prefer to play one of the famous classic experiences (like Dungeons and Dragons) or something a little more modern and cutting-edge?

4.) Have you read any novels based on tabletop games (the Drizzt books, the Dragonlance series, etc)?

5.) How capable would you guess you’d be of running a tabletop game without having someone else demonstrate or directly teach you how–just from buying a game off the shelf and reading the materials?

Answering one or all of these in the comments will help considerably. Again–only if you’ve never done it before. The series will be aimed at a wide audience, but I need answers from that group in particular to get my thesis totally finagled.

Thanks in advance, peoples.


The Altered Scrolls: Introduction

20 May

Introduction: The Ill-Advised Marathon

I think we’ve established that nobody in the world–gamer, developer, marketer, games journalist, games “journalist,” Peter Molyneux—gives one dessicated ferret turd about Arena or Daggerfall. They’re the first two entries in one of the most critically acclaimed and universally successful gaming series in history, and I’d say the vast majority of people who talk about that series haven’t played ’em and never want to. Gaming history is odd like that; as a rule of thumb, anything more than two tech generations away might as well exist only in a stack of cuneiform punchcards in a museum’s long-term storage. It’s easy to forget that both games can be downloaded, free and legally, by anyone with an internet connection and played by anybody with some patience for obsolete software and an equal measure of patience for byzantine game design.

Long-term readers will know I’ve had a fascination with the Elder Scrolls franchise. That kind of fascination, plus the public and free availability of the first two relatively-uncharted games in the franchise, plus the other three titles in my Steam library, plus a measure of the right kind of patience plus a larger measure of stubbornness, promised that sooner or later a month or two was going to drop straight out of my life never to be seen again. And sure enough—that’s exactly what happened. Somewhere towards the end of last year, I played through every Elder Scrolls game back-to-back, start to finish, “what’s your name asshole” to “congratulations, asshole.” One through five.

And what did this marathon teach me? A lot of grim personal lessons that we needn’t dwell on–and that I was completely wrong about the Elder Scrolls franchise. In fact, that everyone was wrong about the Elder Scrolls franchise.

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An Accurate Summary of Four Hours of Bioshock: Infinite

16 May

I really liked Bioshock: Infinite, but upon replaying it with an audience, I have noticed one thing. When you aren’t hypnotized by the constant combats and strong visuals, and when you break apart from those to share your observations with somebody else, you perceive the interplay of dialogue and gameplay very differently. By which I mean you realize how award-winning game-changing Nobel-peace-prize-getting they really are.
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The Return of the Chocolate Standard

16 May

I really don’t want to make this post about anxiety. For one thing, my case–though it did have a serious effect on my happiness and productivity, and absolutely still will if I let it–is by no means a medically extraordinary or particularly severe one. For another thing, using this space to grouse has always seemed like a profound waste of digital real estate. It’s like buying up a vacant lot and posting up the latest X-rays of your impacted wisdom teeth on sandwich boards. Why not put something cool there instead?

But if you need some kind of bridge between this site one year ago and this site today, it’s this: for a while, it became harder and harder to think about producing content for the site. I really want to punch this out in one snappy sentence–so I can get back to the cool stuff–so let me put it this way: I never felt like I had time for anything, so instead of doing anything, I spent my free time doing nothing.

There. So now let’s talk about what I’m doing in the immediate future. This does not include “cleaning out my broken-ass categories system,” so for now, I heartily recommend any archive explorers just go by date. Seriously. Those categories are like shoeboxes full of stagnant water, marbles, and broken glass.

There’s two series I’ve been tapping at, Dwarven-smith-like, for a couple of months.  These will represent the new content coming out for my website. One-offs might get posted, but not according to any kind of schedule or anything–that’s down to daily mood and the luck of the draw.

The two series are:

The Altered Scrolls: A Retrographical Histori-ganza

(Mondays at 11:59 PM PST)

I really don’t think enough people are talking about how bizarre, checkered, and wildly inconsistent the design goals of Elder Scrolls games are throughout its entire history. Actually, not enough people are talking about Arena and Daggerfall at all, albeit on the altogether reasonable grounds of “nobody has played Arena or Daggerfall.” So I played Arena and Daggerfall. Then I played the other ones. Now I’m here to report back on my surprising findings (Chocolate Hammer’s Clickbait punch: This Man Played Decrepit-Ass Videogames and What He Found Will Shock Your Face-Place).

Uncle Rutsky’s So You Think You Can RPG (And You Really Should)

(Fridays at 11:59 PM PST)

You know what else not enough people are doing? Playing tabletop games…and this one of those things I’m going to fix if it absolutely kills me.