Posts Tagged ‘Random’

Is it dead yet? [Pokes with Stick]

Apparently not. But, since I’ve been working in my new job for 7 months now, I think I gravely miscalculated the amount of time I’d have to blog. I’m sure you know the drill. It’s a classic, cliched excuse I realise, but quite often I get home and all I want to do is zone out with a book or game, since I’m often sat at a screen all day these days. And then, when we’re in a weekend, I’m typically keeping social.

Anyways, I’m no longer making any guarantees about even the regularity of anime season analysis posts. Frankly, they don’t get all that much use in any case, especially when my compatriots in blogging often put alot more effort into it than I do!!

Well, thats enough about blog-no-mancy. What’s happened worthy of note in the last few months?

Lets start with Aniventure EX, shall we? Originally the goal of that was just an amalgamation of v5 and its expansion, Shimaihen. But over time, I’ve ended up tweaking this and that under the hood, and it has ended up being pretty much an entire re-write based on all the feedback I’ve received over the years, sporting a whole host of new mechanics!!

Version 5 was the first version I felt really worthy of public consumption, but I’m now really quite excited for what EX can do. It is now approaching an early alpha test. Assuming that goes well (and it doesn’t flop like Aniv v4 did to me all those years ago), then creation of the beta will continue and is probably around 3-6 months away, followed by the final version in about 6-9 months. These are also fairly optimistic estimates, so take them with a pinch of salt.

As for the changes, well the biggest is that I’ve finally dispensed with percentile rolls entirely, adding a second dice system all my own to system. We still have Aniventure 5’s Stacks in there, since they are very cool for opposed actions and always have been, but the new roll, which is currently called the “Base Roll”, replaces percentiles for rapid task resolution. As it provides a foundation for the stacks to work off too, ‘Base’ seemed like a good moniker, though its open to change right now. All of it still uses D10’s exclusively.

Anything else?

Well, I’m also rather excited for Wildstar giving me a fresh perspective on MMO’s again this year. I haven’t done much online wise since Guild Wars 2, which I went into for the same reason, but which somehow kind of flopped since there was no real motivation in that game to party up, and often it felt like you were playing alongside people, rather than with them.

Wildstar seems to have a whole bunch of new tricks that are interesting to me. Notably, the Dark Souls esq. combat system; with telegraphs, seems well thought out. Breakout from CC’s too. Nobody likes to be stunned and useless for 3 seconds in an MMO, but now button bashing can save the day! Procedurely generated boss content is a great plan too if they go ahead with that.

The Starbound beta has also grasped me recently, though I’ve given it break for new content for awhile now. It really has potential to be Ultimate Terraria IN SPACE.

I think thats about it for now. Perhaps I’ll return to doing more bemusing philosophy posts like I did in the days of yore, but we shall see.

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Yes indeed, there is now a forum for the discussion of Aniventure.

I’m taking a much more community open approach to the release of Aniventure EX, so this is good first step towards that. Over time, I will be posting up previews of features that are being worked on so that the community can comment and make suggestions, or outright shoot down my ideas and postulate their own homebrew. Post cool ideas and you will probably get mentioned in the next edition if your idea makes the cut!

It should, with luck, also increase community awareness of my books. I’ve got a fairly solid crowd of supporters already with Aniventure, but more can never hurt, eh?

Also, its a good place for me to directly answer people’s questions about the game and answer errata and rule questions for GM’s and players alike.

Finally, its a place where anime and gaming geeks can congregate and just have a good natter, and run online forum roleplaying games if they so choose.

So, if you’re an Aniventure player, or are just interested in anime and/or roleplaying and are looking for a new hangout, give it a shot. The full address is the fairly easy to remember: http://www.aniventure.boards.net/

Check it out, and cya there.

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Just another rapid art post today, including another A3 scan of doom.

Suddenly, a Wild Maiden of the Trailing Rose Appears!

Yes indeed, I play Neo-Nectar in Cardfight Vanguard; currently with a decent Maidens deck; and anticipating Blue Storm Armada’s release so I can try a Musketeers or Divine Forest Dragon Sephiroth deck as well.

Anyway, I had the idea to draw Rose basically out of nowhere; but it appealed to me straight away; she’s the apparent leader of their nation and has a rather awesome Persona Blast (when you can get it to go off) which allows you to effectively throw out 4 attacks in a turn.

As for the picture, she has very beautiful artwork on her card and I tried to capture that (though obviously not as well). Although unlike her card she’s not in a combat pose here; but rather walking through and inspecting her lands. The background ended up a bit sketchy with that fort ending up a slightly crazy angle, but ah well.

Anyway, here’s the Wallpaper size-version:

The Two-Week Anime reviews should be up soon (about 5-6 days once everything has had its second episode as usual).

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A lightning fast post to inform everyone of the release of my 2013 calendar of sketches on Lulu, if you’re interested.

Available for Purchase at LULU by CLICKING HERE.

Its including 7 sketches that have not been posted here as of yet, so exclusive content again or something, yay!

As an aside, please use the special halloween discount code “BRAINFOOD” without the quotation marks if you would like a 20% discount (and I’m sure you would). This discount applies to everything at Lulu, not just my calendar, so if you’d like to pick up a copy of my Aniventure RPG as well then now is the time. 😀 This code applies only until the end of tommorow (1st Nov) so don’t delay.

EDIT: Preview of what you’re getting:
Happy Halloween, by and the by, and stay tuned.

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Heh… its been a heck of a while since I’ve actually made a fresh wallpaper that doesn’t use any of my own artwork, but what do we have here if not that? Check it out:

As per usual, click to see it full sized.

Yes indeed, its the Scarlet Sisters again. I was browsing danbooru to see if mochi.f had updated his artworks of late, and indeed as part of the selection found these two new grown up versions of Remi and Flan in their Chinadresses. Smokin’ hot if I may say so myself. And I figured, I had to make something with them, so I did.

I had to draw in a few extra bits, notably Flan’s leg and hat, and a bit of the wings for both vampire girls, and then extract/interspose them with this nice fisheye panorama of the Scarlet Devil Mansion Reception Hall.

Its then darkened overall, with posterisation added. Not typically a filter I use often, but it actually works very well here. I also extracted masks of their eyes and gave them a subtle red glow effect, as I expect them to have (scary!), and threw a few shadows around to aid with the atmosphere.

“The Sisters will See You Now” immediately then came to mind as a fun title. But will you survive the audience, son? Hehe…

Not alot else to say for today. Aniventure Shimaihen is proceeding smoothly and it might well be possible for me to release it before the end of the year if I can keep the pace up. The entire customised race section has been completed and is undergoing a litmus test, a new border was completed, and I also recently put together an interesting Superior Items & Loot Customisation ruleset.

Actually, speaking of Aniventure, there’s currently 20% off at Lulu until the 10th of August by entering the code ASTOUND20 at your checkout. So nows the time to pick stuff up!

Anyway, stay tuned and cya soon.

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Well, here’s someting a bit weird, proving that I probably have too much time on my hands at the moment. But if you find yourself as a Pen and Paper RPG Games Master, it might provide you with some interesting thoughts, at least. (also, theres a sketch at the end for you if you finish!) Without further ado:

Your Story in Motion… A GM’ing techniques essay

Q: What is a ‘Plot on Rails?

A: It’s a common (sadly) GM’s trap, a plot that forces players to act upon it or suffer some equivalent of a rocks fall everyone dies scenario. It is when, no matter what they do, the same things will always occur.

Anyway, this, at its core form, is terrible practice. After all, you are lording over the game, and saying ‘this is my story, my game, so follow it, bitches’.

This is wrong, I’m afraid to say. Yes, it is your story. But it is a joint one, crafted in happy union with your team. Your actors get their say, and you should appreciate that.

Of course, it’s not to say you absolutely can’t learn anything from using rails; they focus a tale in way not easily mimicked, and sometimes can give direction to a party that have no normal adventuring spirit. Some GM’s and parties swear by them, and that’s fine. Most D&D campaigns assume rails, and that’s ok. If you don’t want to think, then you get the train and let someone else do the driving.

But lets assume you want to escape the rails. What can you do? Over my years of GM experience, I’ve found the following alternatives:

A) The Plot is on Rails. The Players are not.

The ideal solution in any story where you want to give the players a chance to ignore the main line, but they do so perhaps at their own peril. Basically, you start the plot and players off on the same ‘track’ but almost immediately they can choose to go other directions.

This requires you to improvise on several occasions, or have pre-prepared possibilities for basically everything (even if they’re just bullet points).

It helps a lot if you do this whilst already in an established world setting you’re familiar with. Having maps, prepared side quests, and knowledge of the setting in advance means that when you’re caught with your pants down, you can make sure the game doesn’t fall on its face, and also make the players feel like their divulgence means something: they may lose ground on the Big Bad, for example, but in return gain some knowledge that will help them defeat him.

However, the core point of this is that the plot always keeps moving, even if they do nothing. It doesn’t stop for their convenience. Keep a note in the background of the progress of the big bad’s plans, and tick off his/her objectives as they’re achieved. Consider the players actions as they happen and how these affect the main train of plot… their actions may change fundamental issues and slow the irrepressible progress of evil.

This method is the one I frequently utilise for my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. I keep track of what’s going on behind stage, so to speak, and my players can trip various plot alteration ‘flags’ that alter the stories trajectory depending on how they handle the situations they come across. Additionally, their choices add Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic points to a party total, and these affect what options for progression they have, their eventual ending situation, and which MacGuffins they need to acquire for a given objective.

Don’t be afraid to slow the plot for the players in this setup, even if they don’t deserve it. You’re not supposed to be using a continually moving plot as an excuse for ‘bwahaha, you missed the demon summoning on isle X and now you’re fucked’. If they’ve realised they need to be somewhere, don’t punish them for being a day late, or whatever. In this case, consider the main plot train to work on a schedule resembling British public transport. It’ll get there, just rarely at the time specified.

Also, I would say the level of planning, foresight and improvisation in equal measure required to make this work means that doing this method properly is going to be difficult on a new GM. I’m never one to say that new GM’s can’t do certain techniques, because they can, it’s just that experience allows you to multitask far more effectively.

B) The Illusion of Choice

I’m not really a fan of this, but it has its uses. It basically is a plot that’s still on rails, but the players seem to get free choice to ignore the rails. Only… they aren’t. They will wander and investigate something apparently unrelated only to find a slightly re-fluffed alternative with a different but suspiciously similar reward.

There’s not a lot to say about this technique. You prepare a scenario that is mostly vague on its description, and then as they actually reach that point, you add in an environment-relevant ‘skin’, as if the scenario were a customisable computer programme with alternate looks.

This is actually good if you’re a GM that hates to make extensive notes prior to their session. You instead prepare a set list of bullet points, and expound on them on the fly.

The most memorable usage of this technique for me was a moment when my players could follow two equally important and distinct plot choices (swamp or village), and the lead-up would be entirely different. However, the resulting dungeon was always going to be same. Just… it would have been a twisting forest in one circumstance, and a set of catacombs in the other (they ended up with the latter, by and the by). Cheeky, but it saved a lot of time!

C) Triggered Event Flags!

My most recently refined technique that emulates a Japanese visual novel, and was designed to fit in with Aniventure campaigns. If you’re unaware, a visual novel typically has the player decide a schedule or have specific decision points, and their daily life proceeds around these choices. Every so often, though, their specific collection of choices, such as ‘let’s go to the park to exercise at 5pm’ will suddenly trigger a special event with unique dialogue and consequences on the plot or the player’s relationships.

Basically, I prepare several specific scripted ‘events’ that trigger based on locations, times and other circumstances. These events are crucial to the main plotlines, and have a few decision points in them, however (unlike an actual VN).

The rest of the game is entirely improvised.

Yes, that’s right. Whatever else the players do I react entirely on the fly to and wing it. Core to this improvisation is a well developed setting, vast imagination or an easily accessible random generator (perhaps all of the above).

I’ve been using this for the last two Aniventure campaigns (it underwent its initial first trial with my Space Opera, and is really now finding its feet in my new School based campaign).

Again, this is a deep end technique that requires quick thinking on your part, though I guess you can combine it with technique D.

D) Cloud Processing

A single person is not infallible, and this is all the moreso for you, as a GM. It is very hard to consider every single approach and option.

But, much like Cloud Computing, why not delegate some of the plot details to your players? They may have some awesome idea you wouldn’t have thought of in a million years, and often might come up with a creative solution to a problem that would clearly work in retrospect but which you hadn’t have foresight to consider the implications of.

Some might call this a lazy technique, but it’s actually a very effective one that I tend to use as a secondary in a lot of my games. If a player has a great suggestion that you like, it’s fine to plagiarise it on the fly. If you do this right, they’ll feel clever about ‘guessing the plot’ (haha) and won’t feel cheated in the slightest when you reveal their suggestion was correct.

And indeed, you can use this as a prime technique. It halves your workload in some respects, but it has a couple of its own unique problems. The key is not let the players figure out they’re doing cloud processing for you, so you absolutely MUST entirely prove their suggestions wrong on a few occasions and select some scenarios that will always be unaltered by their ideas.

This technique is like playing a comic or manga author when utilised correctly, as you set the frame, the characters, and the conclusion, but you let your art and dialogue (part-generated by your players!) connect the dots, so to speak.

This is probably the easiest first non-rails technique for a newer GM to try, though I can’t say I did so myself (I jumped straight of the deep end and learnt to deal with it!).

E) The World Outside is Gray

Now, actually, I’ve never used this, but rather it’s something I’ve observed, most notably in western ‘free-form’ Computer RPG’s. It refers to the idea that only with the players presence does a place become lively and colourful.

Basically, in this solution, there however many hundreds of interweaved plots and side-plots on rails. But the cars on the tracks can only move based on the players input. This is more frequently understood as ‘the plot waits for you’ and whilst it doesn’t make much narrative sense, it is the best way to make the player in such a game feel important.

Frankly, it’s going to be a bit unlikely that you can easily adapt this to PNP RPGs due to numerous problems, like party splits and people who love to deliberately ignore the plot. So really, this is for comparison sake.

Finally, it has to be said again: there is no right and wrong in GM’ing. What works for one group will fail for another. As already noted, sometimes, plain rail-track games where there is little player choice on the narrative level is what some people like. This is especially the case with groups of power-gamers who don’t care about the ‘why are we cracking heads in?’ and merely want to get down and prove that they can crack heads.

I hope this little essay helps some GM’s understand the trains of storytelling.

Anyway, as a reward for facing down (or scrolling past~ I’m onto you!) 😀 that wall of text, you can also have another new sketch:

This is Aya Oshino-Date, whom I don’t believe has actually been previously seen on the blog. Originally created two Aniventure campaigns ago (Tachiban Yagyo campaign), she has recently returned to haunt my new school based (Ukushima) campaign, as the president of the occult society, resident school vampire, and demon hunter extraordinairre. This is her sitting in the pouring rain in the park, awaiting the arrival of some ghouls which she proceeded to cut down, but in the meantime our school newspaper photographer came across her in this rather unladylike pose. Sadly, his photos didn’t develop… as photos of the undead don’t… hehe…

Her Katana (the seventh sword of Masamune Date, her father, lol*) ended up a bit wonky, but other than that I think it came out pretty well. It’s nice to draw a proper background when I do it so rarely these days. She’s in a rather fanservice-y setup here, eh? Soaked to the bone and all that. Still, ended up an amusing exercise for me.

*= She didn’t actually originally have this association. But after I played Masamune in Shogun Total War II, and his first randomly generated daughter turned out to be called Aya, it just suddenly made so much sense! And then I linked her further to Sengoku Basara, decided that Masamune in that actually originally wanted to Septawield rather than Hexwield katanas, and silliness was born.

Here’s a quick rotated and cleaned up wallpaper version as well:
And that’s all for today. Enjoy!

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And, erm… wait what?

Perhaps it’s just me, but nothing I wasn’t already expecting really came out of left field and smacked me in the forehead.

Certainly, what I was expecting continued to whet my appetite, namely, more stuff on the WiiU and the Trailer for the new X-COM game.

Which you should watch, by the way, it’s freakin’ awesome:

Now, that is how you remake an X-COM game. Long time affectionados like myself might recognise that this trailer partially mirrors the actual intro of the original game, which is a nice touch. I’m beginning to be swayed more; although I’m still suspicious about some of the changes, we shall have to see.

Also, stuff about the WiiU was clarified. Alot of people were somewhat confused that the controller was actually the system and it was going to be some kind of tablet; but not so (even I was when the first news about it came out, even though the months since the initial announcement have cleared that up). It acts as a game inside a game for rather unique multiplayer effects: the main console is always streaming data to the WiiU GamePad (it’s official moniker). For example, in a Zelda play-by-rails game demonstrated, three people used WiiMotes to slash with swords whilst the fourth player used the second screen to aid in archery support. The ZombieU game allows the fourth player to tactically use the GamePad as a map to drop zombies on the others trying to survive. Things like that.

It’s certainly got some interesting potential; and as usual for Nintendo of late, is stirring up the meaning of a games console. If you still don’t get the idea behind the WiiU GamePad, check out this video:

As an interesting aside, Sony have basically confirmed in not so few words that there is no chance of seeing the PS4 this year; and that they’re watching the competition before making a move. The XBOX 720 is also looking like 2013 release. So the WiiU, which is due this Christmas, will be the opening shot of the 6th console generation.

Sony’s conference was… really not very inspiring. They’re trying out a Smash Bros clone of sorts. And there’s more violent shooter crap. And more cinematic action games (argh!). And sequels up the wazoo. No, frankly I don’t care about another Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed III.

I think people forget that was a stage in PC gaming; back with the introduction of the CD-ROM and its (at the time) massive storage space, where “Interactive Movies” came into being; typically terrible games lampshaded by their inclusion of loads of pretty Full Motion Video. But now there are games coming out that are precisely like that again, even touted as ‘cinematic experiences’ (see, for example, Max Payne III) and people are praising them. They’re games bereft of choices and free will that set you on a static path to the end, with no nail-biting difficulty, no real brain teasers, and lumps of instant gratification and simplification. That’s right, they’re not games at all, people. Wake up already!

I also heard ‘exclusive DLC’ in there. Somebody kill that man. DLC is the cancer of the game’s industry. I can deal with Steam. I can deal with cheap and free bonuses with legitimate and actual upgrades to game content (anyone remember the days when you’d buy proper add-on discs a year later?). But when I have to pay £3.99 for half-a-dozen hairstyles? When I get distinct advantages because I pre-ordered? That’s stupid.

And Microsoft’s SmartGlass wants to make me groan. Do I really want to see information about the movie I watch on my tablet whilst I watch it? Gods no… Guys, immersion, have you heard of it? Use my phone as a controller for the internet? Why the hell?

But I’ve never been a fan of device intergration. It’s almost as stupid an idea as social networking sites. I hate smartphones; I still have an antique LG clamshell mobile. An orange is an orange. It doesn’t have to have functions of a banana and grapes. My camera is a camera. My console is a console. My phone is a phone. Do not mix them.

And before you shout ‘hypocracy!’ at me for denouncing Smartglass when I’ve said WiiU is okay; think again. I was also very hostile towards WiiU when I thought it was Nintendo’s attempt at a multifunction tablet device. But nope, its a controller, specifically for the console. So its okay if it sticks to that. Though it might not be; Reggie was going on about video integration or something. That’s not so good. But as long as the game is the main part of it and I can ignore the integration, it’s less of a foul.

So yeah, anyway nothing much inspiring. Bring on the apocalypse. 😀

That’s all for today. Cya soon.

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