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17 May 2007 @ 06:11 pm
The following was prompted by revelations concerning advertising being shoe-horned into Counter-Strike, and the "Grand Future of Gaming" as envisaged by the Grand Viziers at Valve, makers of the mildly successful Half-Life games.

You can find all of that here.

My thoughts on the subject commence below the cut, and go on for a great while, so grab a cup of tea.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: none today
09 May 2007 @ 05:28 pm

This is what I did for work today.
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: Intergalactic Planetary - The Beastie Boys
20 April 2007 @ 12:04 pm
Sometimes in life, it all comes down to having the right skills to cope with an unforeseen change, a tipping of the playing field.

Paizo and Wizards of the Coast have announced the winding down of the popular D20 magazines Dragon and Dungeon. It's an interesting move, and all signs indicate that it's a decision by WotC, and Paizo are suddenly without a flagship product. That's the front page story, anyway. I imagine there was a certain aspect of panic when the board at Paizo learned they were about to lose the official sanction of Wizards, but fortunately the Open Gaming Licence (OGL) rides to the rescue, and this might be the best thing to happen to roleplaying periodicals since Future Publishing released Arcane all those moons ago.

The real story today isn't that fantasy roleplayers have lost a resource, but look set to gain two.

Pathfinder is the publication Paizo plans to fill the hole in their ranks with, and on paper it looks like a very interesting prospect. A monthly, 96 page full colour perfect-bound adventure module, with back-up material, published with the sort of gloss and finish we have come to expect from Paizo is an interesting prospect. Their previous adventure path output has been very well received in the goblin-spitting circles, 'Shackled City' being the one I keep hearing about.

There are some very interesting business decisions being made in choosing to go this route. One of the most obvious is that they are retiring from the business of industry reportage wholesale, something that makes a certain amount of sense in light of the rising costs of producing such content, the limited amount of news generated by the industry and the delay in getting that news to an audience that has already digested and discussed it online for nearly a month. It's largely the same dilemma that faces the computer gaming magazines, and the next couple of years are going to see a lot of them cease to be going concerns on the magazine rack. Wizards and Paizo are smart to see that for what it is, and migrate accordingly.

The format Paizo have chosen for Pathfinder is probably the bravest decision they have made regarding this new move. While some might see it as making lemonade when all you have is lemons, it's the difference between good lemonade and bad that will really matter. Maintaining their usual high quality presentation (Check out those sweet Wayne Reynolds covers.) indicates that they intend to keep on trucking in that mode for the time being. You'll know you're in good hands as long as that continues. If the art drops or goes black and white in six months time, say your goodbyes and start thinking up your next campaign world.

Staying monthly, but putting all their efforts into one big serial adventure, rather than three discreet scenarios for different levels of character is risky. They are no longer offering a handy pick-up-and-play collection that people can plug into their game when they need a break from creating content for a week. Instead they are asking readers/users to commit on a per month basis, and hoping to hook them with the first installment, or run the risk or losing them for the 6 month cycle. Ballsy. Personally I can see a great deal about this that would be tempting for anyone running a gaming group, with fresh content and a definite, coherent, story mapped out and waiting to be used. Your mileage may vary.

Then there is the issue of price. This side of the pond an issue of Dungeon is something like 7 or 8 quid, but it has the advantage of being in the bigger newsagents, and besides White Dwarf, is just about the only Gaming material occupying conventional shelf space. With a move to this format and a significant increase in price, (20 dollars over there, it will be interesting to see how that translates.) does this mean that Pathfinder will retreat into the specialist shops, gaming and comic book stores? Paizo might have some hard work ahead of them convincing conventional bricks and mortar newsagents to put a 20+ euro magazine on their shelves, and maintaining the small number of orders they currently entertain. Are Gamers willing to pay what this material is worth?

Another question linked to price is this; Will a 'waiting for the trade' mentality develop amongst the audience? The 'Shackled City' and 'Savage Tides' adventure paths appeared as a series of linked adventures in 'Dungeon', and proved popular enough to warrant collecting into hardbound editions, which is a format which has gained traction with this generation of roleplayers and offers very real practical benefits for the person running the group. These collections currently run to 60 dollars a pop and offer about 400 pages worth of material. How will the new Pathfinder series stack up against this? Will there be a collected edition every 6 months and what form will it take? If Paizo offer six 96 page modules at 20 dollars a piece, that comes to 120 greenbacks for just under 600 pages of content. You see how this presents a problem once the question of collections arises.

My bet is that the answer lies in the backup material that Paizo are offering. It will be pushed as the incentive offered to encourage people to buy the monthly, and it's exclusion from the collected book will keep the page count and associated printing costs down, and place the Pathfinder 'trade' in the same arena as their existing adventure collections. Not a bad idea, just ask Warren Ellis, who's owes as much of his success in the comic writing game to clever reformatting and a willingness to experiment with formula as he does his undeniably entertaining stories. Kieron Gillen (Phonogram) reports similar success.

So that's Paizo's reaction to this development. I mentioned that Gamers were in for not one, but two new resources. So what's the second?

It's Whatever-WotC-Do-Next, which is a bit of a mystery at the moment. They seem to indicate that they have no interest in continuing Dungeon or Dragon, or launching a replacement, which is fair considering magazine publishing is not something to be entered into lightly, and as their Senior Brand Manager, Scott Rouse says, "Today the internet is where people go to get this kind of information." Fair point. Whether this means more web enhancements for print products, or a new magazine-style news site dedicated to D20 (And hopefully other OGL) content or if they even have something in mind at all remains to be seen.

Is there anything in this move by Wizards to signal their intentions going forward regarding D20 as a whole? Someone is going to read this as the first steps of a company looking to withdraw from the roleplaying industry, but I'm sure we'll see another cycle of D&D before that happens. The product is quite mature at this point, and 4th Ed. may well be the last piece of the pie WotC are willing to cut. Even if it's their last, it's more than likely they'll look to hand it all off to an interested buyer as a tidy package. Who knows, Paizo might even be sitting on a Pathfinder-derived revenue mountain big enough to invest at that point.
Current Mood: analytical
Current Music: We Care A Lot - Faith No More
17 April 2007 @ 04:00 pm
Like the vast majority of the humans graced with the good fortune to be online, I too pay for my privileged lifestyle by engaging in that most ignominious waste of human life; an office-bound career. However, like Messers. Durden and Jack, of the Soap Street Cosmetics & Demolitions Company, it is a lifestyle that affords me certain opportunities. Chiefly, spending all day online.

(Wow, I wonder if it's not too late to become a forester?)

Still, if that's my lot, then I'm morally obliged to make the best of it that I can, and where possible, share the fruits of my browsing with my fellows. It's still called browsing isn't it?

First off is the TED Talks (Technology Entertainment Design), which happen every year in Monterey. Started in 1984, they represent an effort to bring together the worlds best and brightest, from disciplines as diverse as Comedy, Statistical Analysis and Particle Physics, for two days of non-stop presentations on the worlds most pressing problems and illuminating ideas. They've been putting videos of these talks online for a while now, and there is a rich deposit of short, pointed and thought-provoking lectures to be enjoyed by anyone who is willing to sit through the odd BMW advert. (They're the sponsors.) This one, by the Slam poet Rives, is one of the more whimsical entries, but one which illustrates that there is a lyrical and ultimately human aspect to our bright and shiny future that some of us could do with reminding of.

Staying in a lyrical & poetical mode there is the current voice of the street, the prime-time fighting duo, Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip, and they're current underground smash, 'Thou Shalt Always Kill'. Picture it as Beat poetry over an 8Bit video-game jingle. Better yet, just check it out. Pronouncements have never been so groovy. Warren Ellis picked them up earlier today, but credit goes to Zane Lowe on Radio 1. Check out his new music show, especially good for a Monday morning.(Realplayer req.)

I have to admit it's been a while since I played a World of Darkness game. If my memory is unblemished it was sometime in the late 90's, which was around the time that you couldn't change the channel without finding a vampire, or slayer of such, or Blade. Vampires in the 90's were kind of like Orks in the 80's; after a while you just started to trip over them. They were underfoot, if not the actual firmament on which fantasy was built at the time. One of the main culprits, of course, was White Wolf, who had a lot to do with convincing just about everybody that all the cool kids were dead and loving it.

But like me, White Wolf have gotten all grown up, and since their initial success with the undead have branched out into other territories. Maybe they've even found their spiritual side? Who knows?

Well one indicator is their new game, Scion, due for release this April. The basic premise, as far as I can tell, is that you play one of the offspring of a god, kind of like Hercules, or that chick from Dogma. And you fight Globalisation! Hmm...

They've been running previews for a while now, to get everyone up to speed, including this piece, which makes the whole thing sound like a celestial 'Animal House'. An interesting prospect.

Well, we'll see how it all kicks off in April, but considering the kind of ruckus the Bible Belt used to kick up over the original WOD (Not that the more 'enthusiastic' players helped things much.), I'm hoping for a media circus.

Is it just me, or does that logo scream "Mighty Morphing Power Prophets!"?

28 March 2007 @ 10:25 am

Mongoose Publishing have some news that is sure to excite if, like me, you spent your formative years with a pencil, a couple of dice and most of your fingers marking paragraphs in a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book. It seems they're gearing up to re-release the original Lone Wolf adventure books (All 30 of them!) with new covers, and more importantly, new material by the original author, Joe Dever.

Holy Branching Pathways, Batman!

It's also worth noting that you can play the original books online thanks to the kind folks at Project Aon.

Press release from Mongoose after the jump!


Current Location: Mining the GamingSphere
Current Mood: geeky
Current Music: 'Thou Shalt Always Kill' - Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip
13 March 2007 @ 01:06 pm

I cannot die! If you kill me and pierce my organs with jagged bottles and brick, and nail me to the earth, I will simply rise, tearing the stakes from my limbs and shower you with a killing spray of ground glass and grave dirt!

Which is my way of saying I'm back. After a brief respite (For you, not me.) I have returned to productive life.

I have a Plan. A Mandate. A Vision
I also have Powerful and Shadowy Backers.

This year I'm going to bring the Citizen-Journalist to the Gaming table. And everyone gets a Press Pass.

If you thought Leprecon was an interesting occasion, and want to get on-board for Codename: DireWeasel, drop me a line. Doesn't matter if you know me or not, doesn't matter if you reside on this great lump of emerald rock, whatever. If you want to be part of my next raid/party/riot get in touch.

In other news, Spring is sprung and Savages everywhere are feeling the music. This one just about sums it all up.
Current Location: The brink of Greatness
Current Mood: Potent
Current Music: Zane Lowe's New Music Show - BBC Radio 1
07 February 2007 @ 02:05 pm
I am so high after smokin' that 'O'.

...it will burn, fall down and sink into the swamp. But apparently this is par for the course in the run-up to Leprecon.  The site, www.leprecon.ie has fallen over and might get up soon, but not quite yet.

At least I haven't been hospitalised, unlike some previous Con Directors. Still early days though. I think I'll go review my Safe Cross Code.

In the meantime, here is a very provisional timetable, cavat emptor, and such:
08 December 2006 @ 12:59 pm
It’s the page you’ve all been waiting for!

You can now pre-order Leprecon 28 tickets and merchandise from the on-line shop.
The site is powered by Paypal, to ensure the most secure shopping experience possible, and accepts all major credit cards, so no need for an account.


14 November 2006 @ 03:06 pm
It doesn't get much better than this. Brian May and Patrick Moore jamming together (Courtesy of Bad Science):

Yes! Axe-wielding glam rock astronomy PhD hero Brian May has written a new popular science book on space, time, and the history of the universe, and more than that, he has recorded a soaring multi-tracked guitar solo promo for it with Patrick Moore on drums. Epic genius, play loud: