Rob and I Get Gravely

The Independent Insurgency and Shock: Social Science Fiction

 Rob Bohl, podcaster of The Independent Insurgency, just put up (well, OK, a few days ago, but I forgot to announce then) Independent Insurgency #6. We had a fun time talking about stuff from about 2 AM until around 4 at Dreamation 2008. You can hear us get gravelier and gravelier over the course of the conversation.

We talk about all sorts of fun stuff! We talk about publishing, we talk about giving and receiving critique, we talk about making design decisions and why I made some of mine. Give it a listen. It’s about an hour long, and you should count your blessings, because that’s edited down from about two.

Calling All Sarahs

Renowned game designator and enthusiologist Malcolm Craig has just posted his groundbreaking thespio-entertron based on the above audio-visual stimulon entitled “I Lost My Heart To a Starship Trooper.”

It saddens me that the science fiction game experience of Shock: is so totally overshadowed by this incredible piece of interactive speculative fiction, but I have to bow out graciously.

Gentlemen, If You Need Me, I’ll Be Down By The River.

Dorodango by Bruce Gardner

The object above in made of dirt. It is made by Bruce Gardner using some dirt he found, some water, and his hands. There were no further tools but his ability to synthesize the playtime activity of children in the mud with the scientific exploration of Dr. Fumio Kayo.

Hands, dirt, water, time. The four elements of art.

This Makes Me So Happy!

This is what I love about the Internet. People create for the sheer human joy of it.

INFEST WISELY

Independent sci fi film!

I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but Infest Wisely is a series of 12 minute episodes in a 7 episode sci fi arc. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that we’re living in a bright period of independent media, but the world really is full of things, and this looks like it might be good.

Let’s watch it together and discuss!

The Professor Bros. play Shock:

Bearstronauts!

From the genius that brought us George Washington and Babycakes comes Future Thoughts, a thought-provoking piece on The Future.

Be sure to check out  the other Brad Neely works. He really makes you think.

So it goes.

Kurt.

These words and the ones that followed meant a lot to me. They highlighted the difference between “equal” and “the same” by showing what it meant to conflate them.

Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut, for giving me these words.

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

[Edit: It’s a little sad, losing RAW and Kurt Vonnegut in such rapid succession. They helped me form a lot of who I am and make up a good bit of my formative thought in my teenage years.]

All the Excitement!

Ngheeeeeerrr!

I’ve been playing Formula Dé Mini since last Chanukah and I really like it. I love how the game’s all about modulating risk, and the game is won by hovering on the knife edge between falling behind and blowing up your car.

The full version (Formula Dé Maxi, we’ll call it. Or Formula Dé Biggie.) retains that element, but you have some other interesting choices to make. Most of the time, these choices come down to, “Should I brake going into this corner, costing me a space and brake wear, but saving some tires, or should I blast through to get in the rhythm again?” It’s a fun decision to make. It adds to the tension. Downshifting dramatically also costs you more, the more you over-rev. So you have to consider the effects of speed at a given corner.There are a couple of random events that I’m not that pleased with, however:

  • The “You might have a shitty start or a great start!” roll is still in place. In Super Mario Cart, this is a matter of skill. You learn to synchronize your thumb with the sounds and lights to get a great start. But in FDé, there’s just a 5% chance you’ll stall the car, a 5% chance you’ll take off at a fast clip, and a 90% chance that the dice will work normally. It doesn’t do anything to break up the pack (because the person in pole position is as likely to stall as anyone else), it doesn’t add tension (because there’s nothing you can do to affect the outcome). It’s just sort of an “Oh, great, I get to move 4 on the first turn.” We play without the rule because it doesn’t plug into any other rule; it sits alone, giving a player a random advantage every so often, or screwing someone over.
  • Collisions are less likely in Maxi, occurring on a 1 on the Black Die. That’s a 5% chance. Despite being next to each other for half the race, my brother and I never once actually collided. It makes the roll a little silly. I don’t like mechanics where the outcome of the roll is probably nothing, but maybe something a little bad. It doesn’t seem really worth it. To be fair, we only played 1-lap races, so maybe it happens more in longer races.

There are car design rules that I’m really excited to try out, and they’re pleasantly abstract. I’m a real sucker for that stuff. One of the optional rules is “Suspension”, which has implicitly within it “deforming damage”. That is, when I blow through a corner or knock into somebody and take a point of damage, I leave a piece behind where it happened. Damage from hitting that stuff is taken on Suspension by those behind you. … I wonder if Suspension damage leaves behind bits, too? In any event, that’s damage that leads to damage. If you’re in the lead, it might be worth it to damage your car so the cars behind you wind up taking multiple hits.

All told, I enjoyed the game quite a bit and look forward to exploring its rules further (though I think the rules for weather might have an obvious solution if I’m reading them right). Greenfieldies, I’d love to play this with you guys. It can take up to 10 players, but I think that might make for a very long game.

Checkin’ in at the Gem

Wild Bill Gets It.

I’m watching Deadwood right now. I’ve been watching for almost three hours. I can’t stop. It’s a terrible problem.

Calamity Jane is fantastic. Probably my favorite character. I want to see her let loose sometime soon — she sure fucking needs it. And you know what’s neat? Knowing a certain amount of the history doesn’t decrease my enjoyment; knowing how things (at least certain things) turn out adds tension. Let’s consider that as a model for fiction games, shall we, cocksuckers?