15 August 2005

August's Reading

Here's this month's batch. Here is what Make Tea Not War read (no overlap this time).

Monthly score: 10, Year so far: 112.

Beyond the Reef
, The Darkening Sea and For My Country's Freedom by Alexander Kent. Still going strong on the Bolitho novels, and the end is now in sight (although he just wrote a new one, apparently). Still good.

A Sheltered Life by Paul Chambers. A light but interesting history of giant tortoises. Not a good story for the tortoises but many of the people involved with them on the way were fascinating.

Sin City: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller. Well written but totally grim comic. I can see why people like it, but personally I'll stick to things where I might have some sympathy for some of the characters. If you want to see bad things happen to bad people, you can't go wrong with this.

Point Blank by Ed Brubaker and Colin Wilson. Lead in to the Sleeper comics. Great stuff, although not quite as good as Sleeper. Nicely reminiscent of the Lee Marvin trippy action film.

Proof of Concept by Larry Young. A selection of trials for possible graphic novels by the author of Astronauts In Trouble. Interesting. Several of them look like they'd be as good as the astronauts stories, too.

Losers: Trifecta by Andy Diggle. Part three of the story carries on the main plot and also reveals a lot of the team's history. Good stuff, can't wait for part four.

To Rule The Waves by Arthur Herman. A history of how the British Royal Navy shaped the course of world events. Interesting, but has two flaws. Firstly, I think he gets into too much detail about individual events. Secondly, I think there's a lot of overstating the influence of the Royal Navy on world events (presumably because he's looking for that in particular). Neither flaw should prevent you from reading it, it's still a fine history.

Black Jade by David Zindell. Finally the third of the Ea stories is published, and it is good. Initially I did not like Zindell's fantasy as much as the SF Neverness books, but the characters have grown on me a lot. And it's basically about the same issues. The only problem with this is that it takes him so long to write each volume, I expect it will be two or three years before I find out what happens next.

The Devil & The Deep: Update

I was pleased that the ConFusion playtest went really well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the game played out as intended. Lots of scheming, daredevil plans and - as in the playtest - the game ended with the British and French ships engaging each other and finally the British winning after a climactic swordfight between the captains. Huzzah!

There were a few bumps to do with deferring narration. One was that a character had set up a watch for nefarious Frenchmen, and we went into Crisis mode to resolve what happened - I said that some were coming and we'd roll to see what happened. Of course, at this stage where they are coming from and even what they have planned is undefined. This only gets firmly established after the Crisis is resolved - at this stage it's just "A boat full of Frenchmen is threatening your ship." I guess I'll need to make that all very explicit - the Crisis when originally presented is just a more or less defined danger. When the player and gamemaster decide what is at risk, it gets defined some more. But only when the roll (and any follow on rolls, possibly) are done do we finally have an authoritative version of what happened.

Also, it's difficult to play troupe-style games in a convention. I should have planned for this and had a bunch of other crew members on small cards or something - just a name and description probably would have been enough. On the other hand, one player seemed to prefer the sailor who disliked another character's officer more than his main guy.

I'm planning to run another playtest with the regular group starting tonight. Rather than doing a full revision of the rules, I'm running off a new version of the two (now four) page summary that I made for convention players. This is much easier to handle and I think I'll stick with that until everything is settled.

09 August 2005

Research on MMORPGs

Interesting stuff on demographics and preferences in MMORPGs (mainly World of Warcraft) at the Daedalus Project.

(Also a survey that you can fill in to add to their dataset).

03 August 2005

Good interview with Joss Whedon

Covers most stuff he has done or is doing... here. Serenity gets a fair chunk of it.

02 August 2005

Game Design Update

Oh well, I didn't win (or even place) in the Game Chef competition. Too bad. Announcement is here. I am currently planning to revise and publish The Gentlemen's Entomology Club after I have The Devil & The Deep sorted out.

Speaking of which, I ran a playtest of my latest revisions last night with the regular guys. Revisions were good, the game ran much more smoothly and the story ran true to genre... right down to a climactic naval engagement that our heroes won by the skin of their teeth. I'm going to be running the same scenario at ConFusion on Saturday, if any other Wellingtonians want to try it out. (I tried to link but the ConFusion website is down - here's a summary).