Weekly Wyrm ~ Virtual Reality And A New eSports League

video game art
This week NVidia caught a big bid on Wall Street, with buzz and upgraded outlooks for Virtual Reality plus new products, on top of a VR demonstration at EGX in Europe.

Netflix showed off a new app letting you watch movies in a virtual living room. I’m skeptical. You’re still wearing a heavy thing on your head. You can’t move your head without the room and screen jiggling. You can’t sip your wine without knocking it over or dribbling it down your chin.

VR-enabled PCs are expected from both NVidia and AMD. Some new benchmarks came out comparing NVidia and AMD cards this week, and they are running equal.

While the Wall Street boys have tent poles for VR possibilities, Turner Broadcasting has a new tent pole for eSports, announcing this week a new industry leading league featuring Counter-Strike.

“We are proud to establish a leadership position in this rapidly growing arena, which I see as a tent pole for the next chapter of TBS,” said Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, chief creative officer for Turner.

We’ll see if a cable network can actually establish a “leadership position” in the industry. This kitty is skeptical. Who has cable anymore? Who watches TBS? I’m a PC mole, so I barely relate to TV watching anymore, much less in a living room.

TBS is a traditional broadcaster of basketball. eSports going prime time is worth notice, but I watch eSports every night primetime already on Twitch. So. I don’t need TBS, and that’s the challenge PCWorld points out.


This week I battled to rank 15 in Hearthstone for the rare golden card reward, plus golden common. I’m not super motivated at the moment to try for rank 10, earning a second golden common.

I’ve improved my game by playing more, but I can hardly put together any real decks since I don’t have the cards, even after playing for a year and a half. I made a list of all the cards I would like, or need, and it’s really long. I almost want to play WoW again because of Hearthstone.

Otherwise, I was doing art this week for my game project, shown in the image. This image shows the Greeting/Gift House in the Acacia Courtyard. You can talk with the trees.

Weekly Wyrm: Hey Kids – Buy This Shiny Pixel Rocket Bike

champions online

This week video game stocks continue to be very strong. As Blizzard broke out again, I put one foot back in again, hopefully this time for good. There is also a growing awareness on Wall Street of eSports and the dollars involved.

Meanwhile, Sony put out a statement this week that their launch of PS4 into China wasn’t going so well due to censorship.

China’s head of the Ministry of Culture, Cai Wu, compared Grand Theft Auto and similar games to “flies and mosquitoes”, not in conformity to the government’s vision for culture:

“Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed. We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes.”

Today I got an advertisement in my email for a new feature in Champions Online (developed by Cryptic, owned by the Chinese company Perfect World).

Apparently we are finished transitioning to a games-as-shopping-malls model, and now it’s time to transition game advertising to a full-on Wednesday flier.

This kitty now understands that she can use tokens to get more special gear, and NEW lockboxes, and more items in the store – oh wait, there are TWO stores now! One store is not enough!

Thankfully, Massively clarifies today that I can earn tokens to participate in this new activity in the first place. So much clearer, and just what I always wanted. To earn tokens to play to earn different tokens to spend in two different stores.

I think I’ll just stick with Hearthstone and Pillars of Eternity this week. This kitty understands gold and copper pieces. Everything else is just head-hurting, and Cryptic’s Neverwinter is probably worse, which is why I’ll never play Neverwinter.

Europeans make fun of the U.S. for bathing in the blood of violence, but being prudish about sex. In what sort of world do the Chinese people live where both sex and violence are bad in games, but gambling mechanics, advertising, and psychological buying coercion in games is somehow considered benign for children?

So I live in this supposedly super-violent and capitalistic American culture that needs to be censored, yet I’m disgusted and repelled at the manipulation and greed pushed in particular by Chinese F2P MMOs. These games bombard kids with all sorts of tactics to shake them for their lunch money.

Hearthstone Team League Championships: Day One

The Hearthstone Team League Championships are this weekend in the final event before Blizzcon. Today’s matches were done before a lot of people even got off work, but they are re-broadcasting this evening on Twitch. The next round of matches resumes this morning (Saturday 12th) at 10 am Pacific time and will run through the weekend.

Strangely, the event seems to be taking place at a player’s (Amaz’s) house. It’s an impressive house, but it’s still a strange venue with dogs barking outside and people cheering from downstairs.

At its peak, the Twitch stream today had over 100k viewers to take over the top spot in popularity, and many of those viewers stuck around to watch a fun post-game HS Jeopardy/Trivia match between the announcers.

I thought Lifecoach (or Kolento) was the most dominant player on the first day, burning his rope with almost every turn to consider the math and combinations. Unfortunately his team Nihilum succumbed by only one point to Trump’s Value Town team.

Value Town also includes Dog, who played well and is held in high regard by some Twitter-goers, and Kibler.

I’m mostly a Priest player, so I was interested to watch Kibler’s Priest deck do well, including a game-winning play with Confessor Paletress. As Kripp commentated, however, he could have done just as well with Ysera.

Someone painted wonderful custom character portraits for the competitors (see image). Blizzard knows characters win, and the personalities of the streaming stars are an important part of Hearthstone’s success.

hearthstone lifecoach and dog tournament images


This week, after a year and half of playing off and on, I finally opened my first pack with a legendary card. I disenchanted it and cobbled together enough dust to craft a Doctor Boom.

For several months I’ve been turned off to Hearthstone because it’s just not fun to lose, or win, by the drop of an overwhelming card. After finally getting one of those cards, I realize it isn’t personal. I just want to try to rank up (for the first time, really) to get the new gold card rewards.

This weekend I plan to get back into Pillars of Eternity a little bit. I’m also working on the character panel design and code for rolling up a character for my game project, but that’s boring.

Gender-swapping game satire posted tonight on VG247 is much more fun. What happens when you switch a male model into a sexist female scene? Good times, and TGIF.

Kobold’s Corner: Luck As An RPG Stat – Good Or Bad

meadowToday I painted a cursed wizard school, where every time you miss a quiz question, your life force is drained a bit more until you pass out and awake in the infirmary.

Why does the headmaster allow this awful thing to happen? Well, there’s a vampire curse, you see, and maybe some Snape-ish professors actually like the curse.

It weeds out the weak.

I was also looking today at more Tunnels and Trolls stuff (for my browser-based game project). I downloaded and played Crusaders of Khazan, a T&T CRPG from 1990, on a PC emulator from Emuparadise.

They’re calling this “abandonware”, so it was free. The kitty likes free, but I couldn’t handle navigating that little low-resolution tile world for long. My eyes glazed over. Bleep. Bloop. Bloop. Bleep.

Saving rolls are an interesting part of T&T for me. I want to do lots of rolls, but I’m skeptical about Luck as a stat. Like someone commented in a game forum, Luck is already a real part of the game.

You as a player want to be lucky – with dice rolls.

Ken St. Andre pared D&D down to the barest essentials to make T&T back in the 1970s. When Ken explains why he took out Wisdom and added Luck, I agree with his reasoning. You need Luck to survive a dungeon. If you were wise, you wouldn’t set foot in that infested hole in the first place. Thinking it over though, I wonder if he added an almost-as-worthless stat.

I perused one of St. Andre’s dungeons today in the new deluxe T&T rulebook (“Chambers of the Mad Dwarf“). He is recommending IQ or Luck saving rolls to spot hidden doors and secrets in a few places. So you can be Sherlock Holmes to spot something, or just thrust your sword accidentally into the exact tree knot to open the door.

Which admittedly is fun – the best counter-argument for using Luck. On the other hand, novelist sages say fiction has to be even more real than reality to be believable. If a character wins the big lottery out of the blue in a book of fiction and then lives happily ever after, the reader will feel cheated. That’s no story.

Using the same logic as Luck, I also wonder about Intelligence. Intelligence is how you as the player win the game, whether solving the puzzle or orchestrating combat cleverly. Perception seems like a better stat to put on characters, since you as a player can’t perceive what the GM didn’t tell you?

Perception can also be used as a attribute for dialog option checks, while Luck can’t. (Perceiving whether someone is lying to you, or wants something a lot more than they are letting on.) So my thought is to get rid of INT and LK. I could use Perception instead of LK, and Talents/Subject Knowledge instead of INT.

So to quote a scientific formula, build and use a cannon, or tap philosophical principles, maybe you’d need Science, Military, and Philosophy subject knowledge (talents) instead of INT. While it’s much more work for less resource usage than using a catch-all INT stat, it’s more characterizing.

I’m not doing Charisma either. Here is my current list:

Willpower :: spell power, intimidate
Agility :: defense, avoid danger
Toughness :: health, resistances

Perception :: find hidden, diplomacy
Cunning :: diplomacy, persuasion
Allure :: persuasion, intimidate

It seems like I’m missing something, but I don’t have a Strength stat because the setting is the Dream World, the amorphous, illusory connective tissue between the emotional world (Hell), the mental world (Heaven), and Earth, where vampires, succubi, witches, shifters, and shamans roam.

I also looked at some review articles from Chester at CRPG Addict on T&T’s vintage Crusaders of Khazan. His idea of a perfect RPG happens to be the same as mine, and basically the low-budget game I’m trying to make:

I guess my idea of a perfect RPG has always been something along the lines of a CYOA book with all the other RPG mechanics surrounding it.

Chester suggests Crusaders approaches this ideal relatively well for an old game, offering a lot of dialogue-based encounters. There are also the usual sudden forced scenarios though. In another article, Chester consequently creates a hierarchy of encounter types.

Level 0: Completely random, a surprise forced encounter.
Level 1: Encounter with context. There is some sort of lead-in or build up, with a chance to make a plan and decide whether to engage or retreat. I.e. you know there is an ambush just ahead.
Level 2: Encounter with conversation and/or choice. There are some sort of options or choices allowing roleplay, but you’re still ending up with a pre-determined continuation of some kind(?).
Level 3: Consummate encounter. Roleplay dictates an entire gamut of violent or non-violent outcomes, blending context, conversation, and choice.

Chester notes that in his experience, many players in discussion forums would rather stick to puzzles, gear, gold, and gushing arteries however, and challenges his readers to think of their own best “encounter” experiences. So.

Some Of My Favorite/Most Memorable Encounters:

  • The Vampire Bodhi in Baldur’s Gate – deciding whether to join or kill the vampires. I played through both ways.
  • The werewolf lair in Dragon Age: Origins – deciding whether to join or kill the Lady of the Forest. Played through both ways. The decisions at the ending of the game were good too, but somehow I cared less about those people.
  • Philosophy with Dak’kon – A lot of players go gaga over Fall-From-Grace, but I really enjoyed talking with this Gith in Planescape Torment. It was just really exotic, religious, and left my head spinning.
  • Children of the Cathedral in Fallout. Again, this was sort of a situation where I had to wipe out a church.
  • Mages and demons, the mage tower tryst, and continuing story of Jowan in Dragon Age: Origins.
  • Skyrim: the dragon cult. I wanted to join the cult to worship the dragons, not fight against them. So I literally quit the game two or three times, and never got far, because I didn’t want to become the anointed dragonslayer, and the main story had no choice.
  • Tribunal vs. Imperial. The religious conflict in Morrowind was fascinating. I’m using a Tribunal-like situation of three founding demigods in my dark wizard school, which is similar.

There are so many characters and situations, and I still haven’t completed DA2 or Pillars, or played DA3 or Divinity:Original Sin. Strangely all of the favorites coming to mind are in single player RPGs and not MMOs. That suggests the importance of affecting meaningful change to the people and factions in the story.

I need to go to sleep, but the favorite recurring themes are starting to be clear: major moral choices involving good vs. evil and attitude towards entire factions, and exotic philosophical people and factions. If you read this far, what are your favorite/most memorable encounters in RPGs?

Tunnels And Trolls: RPG History Revisited

deluxe tunnels and trolls rulebook

This last Saturday I went to the release party for the new Tunnels and Trolls rulebook, which was funded via a Kickstarter. I purchased a copy and got autographs from the whole gang (except for Bear Peters, who was busy running a game.)

T&T was the first RPG I played. I got a box set for Christmas when I was twelve years old, and I loved it. A couple years later I was playing Dungeons and Dragons, mainly because I’d run out of solitaire adventures to buy and AD&D had a random dungeon generator.

So when I heard about the release party for the new book at Game Depot just a few blocks away, I had to go!

For five years I’ve shopped at the Sprouts farmers market in the same plaza, and never even knew I was living in the same town and getting my groceries a few doors down from the veritable birthplace of Tunnels and Trolls. Crazy.

Ken St.Andre asked if I played “that other game”. I playfully half-fibbed and said negatory. I was worried he was still bitter, or he would rip up my book or something. Now I wonder what might have happened if I’d said yes.

I’d chosen my answer, and I’d turned my adventure book to page 7b, and I still wish I could peek and see the result of choosing 9c instead – “Yes, I’m a filthy dragon whore.” Tonight I watched a Youtube interview with Ken as a consolation for not having more insistent social skills.

I really do hate dragons and prefer trolls, and I could have said so.

So Ken wrote “Abandon your scruples ye who enter here” in my book. What does that mean? Did I pay too much? Was he calling me on my polite B.S.? I don’t know. I fear I’ll never know the answer to his cryptic enigma.

I’m happy with the book. I’ve read a good part of it, trying to glean ideas for my own RPG. T&T was created as a simpler D&D, but the bell curves and limitations of only using six-sided dice are the real challenge of the system. The doubles, triples, and spite damage are all improvements over the original as I remember it.

Looking at the list of modules published to date, it looks like I’ve played most of those as a teenager over 30 years ago. The old spiral-bound books, which I purchased from Boardroom games in Indianapolis, were much cooler than the new slick printed material.

I love the antique pen-art style in T&T, as shown above! Rob Carver is my favorite T&T artist, but it was a pleasure to meet the talented Steve Crompton and Liz Danforth. I’m following some T&T blogs now, so if a Phoenix rises higher from the ashes, I’ll hope to hear about it.

At first I was put off by the shortage of newer art in the new deluxe rulebook, but I finally decided I like their decision to make the book a more classic, through-the-years presentation. I’m also wondering if I might like a pen and paper game more these days than an MMO.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers