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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Thanks to VueScan I can actually scan my alters. The scans should show in a better way how they actually look like.

This was an experiment with dry (sometimes not that dry) brush (I killed it on some metal miniatures). It did not go as expected but IRL it looks quite nice. I need to do this more often...and maybe it will look good in the near future^^. (oh crap...google and its upload...I will relink the photo...EDIT: new link added)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Smash Up

At Worldcon I saw a game called Smash Up. The box looked pretty neat. It was obviously a card game and looked pretty simple but fun. It caught my eye and I was interested in what the game can offer. Seeing AEG logo on it made me a bit sceptical about the game but without trying the game out I can't say if it is good or not. But the game certainly was popular. (unfortunately I did not take any photos of the actual game)

The thing with AEG is well... When playing AEG games I often get the impression that the game is unfinished. Each game has some flaws and things that one would think that should be figured out while play testing. That is why I'm sceptical about anything with AEG logo on it. But I like their games and systems and I wish that the games would be truly finalized and the rules would be 'complete' and without problems (AEG is 'expert' on handling delayed triggers). And you will experience some holes in the rules during the game. But just agree with the group how to handle that and everything will be fine. Back to the game...

So what's the game about? Smash Up is a shufflebuilding game. That means that each player creates one deck out of two 20 card faction decks. With this (shuffled) deck each player attacks enemy bases and earns victory points. The first player to gain 15 victory points wins the game. That sounds easy enough, right?

Each faction has some kind of theme and when combined with a different deck it usually can make it more powerful, but there are combinations that don't work well. In each deck there are Minion cards and Actions cards (it's usually 10/10). In the base game there are 8 factions. (the game has expansions, bringing new strange factions into the game)

One of them is Aliens. This faction is good at removing cards from the game.
Dinosaurs are big and strong.
Ninjas are stealthy. They can play cards at a moment you would not expect and they can move around
Pirates are also good at moving and they also can kill opposing minions.
In the Robots deck there are only two action cards. The more robots you play the more power you can get, they boost each other but well..that's about it.
Tricksters try to hinder the game. Some action cards are really powerfull.
Wizards are weak minions but they can play more actions or minions per turn or draw cards. One of the few decks that give you control over your deck.
Zombies aren't usually strong but they reccur. They are coming back from the graveyard ... well zombies...

After the players chose their decks base cards are shown (number of players + 1). Base cards have power, victory points values (will be divided in between players after the base is scored) and an ability.

At the beginning of a player's turn effects that happen at that time are resolved. Next the active player can play one action and/or one minion or pass both actions. Minions are played at a base. Actions can affect cards in play (one time effect) or can be attached to a minion or base. At the end of turn that player draws two cards.

At the end of each players turn the total power of minions at a base is added up. If it is at least the same value as the one printed on the card the base is scored. The player with highest power among minions at that base gets victory points based on the leftmost VP value. The second one gets the middle value, the third player gets the rightmost and the fourth player won't get anything. (The ability on the card resolves). The base card is discarded and replaced with a new base.

The game is very simple and can be taught in about a minute and it is a fast pacing game. It is not that 'simple' as it might seem. There are actually many interactions and the game is more about combos that can score a base in one turn. I'd like put emphasis on the combo part but not really sure how. But it is really great to see something like this happen in a game and this can teach a newcomer what can be done with cards and what kind of complexity a card game can offer. Anyway it's a hand management/resource game and if a player is not familiar with that he'll learn fast enough what it is and does not need to spend ages on trying to learn certain card game.

The cards are nicely designed, the card stock is actually good, each faction has its own theme but overall it looks nice together. The game is primarily fun as the overall design suggests that. The game does not really give much space for complexity but mainly this game is for fun and can be used as an entry level for either new (card game/board game)players or children (it is a fun family game).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Super Dungeon Explore - Hearthsworn Fighter

Worldcon - Day 4

Getting up was getting harder and harder especially when I couldn't really sleep much during the night. But that's normal I guess^_~. My first thing on the programme of the day was a science talk about the cosmos dark ages.

Katie Mack started her talk with explaining what the big bang was. That was followed by Planck-era in which the temperature was so high that the four fundamental forces (gravitation, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear interaction) where one unified force. The universe was expanding and cooling down and eventually the forces seperated. When gravitation separated - Grand Unification era. Later on the universe got into electro weak era in which possibly the Higgs boson was created. Few minutes after the big bang (before some particles were created, later on first nucleos was formed)a nucleosynthesis. The universe was cooled down enough for a nuclear fusion in which protons and neutrons started to combine to from deuterium -> helium-4. ...um...recombination...-> Dark Ages (neutral gas absorbs light) -> reionization era in which stars and quasars are fromed from gravitational collapse. Radiation from the stars reionizes the surrounding area. At this point the universe was filled with hot plazma which was REALLY hot at first but later started to cool down -> formation of stars -> formation of galaxies -> formation of groups, clusters -> formation of solar system -> nowadays.

This talk was quite intensive but I appreciated it even though I'm even too lazy to type what I wrote down during the presentation. I headed to Lizards Wizards in Space! next, I did not expect a good panel discussion or anything but in the end I had SO MUCH fun at this particular panel.

The moderator Jenni Hill was a nice lady who came up prepared for the panel. The panel was about deciding who is better either Bioware or Bethesda. To decide that Jenni brought some 'quests' - questions to be answered and they would either be in Bioware's or Bethesda's favor. For me if anyone would ask me about Bioware vs Bethesda I would certainly reply Bioware without thinking much about it. So what makes some people like Bioware's games and other people to like Bethesda games? Well the main difference is that...Bioware games are story-driven and the game system is much more apparent. In Bethesda games the player is given freedom to roam the world and create his own stories/experiences.

At this panel I listened to the panelist talking about DA, SW: Kotor, NWN, Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim and Fallout 3 and wondered about how many different and powerful experiences the players had. There's not much I can type here but I have to say that I haven't seen so lively people in quite a long time. These people were talking about something they like, about what they experienced and how much fun it was. They were so carefree. Maybe I should start playing games once again to feel like this...remembering experiences from RPGs both paper-based or computer ones is something that actually makes me smile and laugh. This was the only panel in which commercialization and marketing wasn't discussed even though sexual relationships and one's (character's) sexuality was discussed too much for my taste. But it seems that's how it is in the society nowadays. Gamers are just more open to non-hetero relationships (even though imagining some players actually being in relationship is quite hard^_^).

After this cool panel I went to listen some people talking about RPG design and presentation of the game to companies. I did not learn much about RPG design but there were things told that were of interested. The most interesting thing to hear though was this...many people start gaming, later GMing and then become writers. At this point - being writers - they don't go back to game. Storytelling and keeping players engaged in the story (bioware comes to mind) is something that needs certain skills. And these skills are also required when one wants to become a writer. After creating a whole world, playing many games and creating a whole history or the world one has the urge to make profit of it somehow. I'm not sure if I would use the word profit, for me I would be glad that what I went through, created ad experienced would be stored somewhere - so I could read it when I want to. But it seems that many people want to share it and profit from it as well. (is that true? is that what Erikson and Esselmont are doing?).

Also RPG systems change. Players want something easy, they do not want to study many rules and tables. Also there is quite many universal RPG systems so why would the players need a new one?

At noon I wanted to go see George R.R. Martin but the whole thing was cancelled. Not entirely sure what I was doing instead...it's quite possible that I went to fetch something to eat. At 13:30 I wanted to attend Milenium Effects SFX Make up Presentation but that was also cancelled. So I tried to fit in Capital Suite 14 to listen more about interstellar travel - this time it was about SF Starships and real engineering and the reason why we should start planning for an interstellar future. (see http://www.i4is.org/)

After that it was time to do something more relaxing. I went to the game tent and managed to join a group of players playing Smash Up (I was interested in all AEG games there). This game is intended for 2-4 players I guess but we managed to play it in 6 players. It was kinda long but still very playable. Smash up is 'shufflebuilding' game. It means that each player takes two faction decks and shuffles them up. Each faction has different theme/mechanics. There are for example Ninjas that are kinda stealthy and kill, zombies that crawl out of the graves, wizards that draw cards and play more spells, pirates that move cards etc. Then there are bases. Each base has a certain number. When this number is reached (total power of the minions on the base) the base is scored. The player with most power gets the most victory points, the second and third player also get points. Each base also has a reward be it for the winner or the runner-ups. The first player to get 15 victory points wins the game. The game is simply but there can be some pretty awesome plays done and one base can be scored in one turn. One turn consists of playing a minion (putting him at one of the bases) and/or a action (can be attached to a base, a minion or have a immediate effect on the game - ie. kill a minion [condition]) or doing nothing, at the end of turn a player draws two cards. Each player starts with 5 cards and the maximum cards in hand is 10. Simple as that...

When it was almost 5pm I moved to Second Stage. Cosmonaut Anatolii Artsebarskii would be giving a speech. Anatolii told us about the history of (USSR) Russian cosmonautic and later told us about his Soyuz TM-12 Mission. He was a commander of this mission and he went there with Sergei Krikalev and Helen Sharman. He spent 144 days at the MIR space station. It seems he was quite a fan of coca-cola and fire^_^.

We watched a shortened version of a documentary about the mission and then we listened to more commentary about the mission. Anatolii was then answering our question and was telling us how difficult (and fun sometimes) is to adapt to a low-gravity environment. The brain is used to something but then has to adapt to new conditions, that is not that easy as it might seem. (I was glad this wasn't cancelled and was glad I managed to find out about this. Without G. Webb telling us about it I wouldn't be able to find out about it, as this is not listed in the programme guide I used.)

Next there was nothing I really wanted to attend to. So I stopped by the game tent where few people were building something out of lego pieces. So I joined and build 'something'.

In the meantime a big game of werewolves started. I guess it took ages to finish.

Worldcon was really awesome and I thank all those people who made it possible for me to attend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sword of Feast and Famine

I decided to open 3dsmax and try to do something...well that something was supposed to be Sword of Feast and Famine...erh ugh...a failure once again. Gained some XP but otherwise...nothing good came out of it...*sniff*

Worldcon 2014 - Some Photos

I wasn't taking too many pictures as it was mainly forbidden and there are many pictures that I had to delete due to being blurry or something. So here's a link to some really random photos. (hopefully the link works)

https://plus.google.com/photos/104289965641999745418/albums/6049101635106103553

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pump it Up Infinity

When in London I really wanted to visit Las Vegas Arcade Soho so on Monday before leaving Great Britain I decided to venture there. (I actually headed to Troc but then I facepalm'ed myself and headed in the right direction)

The place is a heaven^_^ and I would play a lot of pump there. This experience was VERY embarassing though. It all started with me not being able to operate PIU Fiesta 2 machine, but hopefully Rhys Haley showed up and hepled me with that. He showed me how to get in Full Mode and I had to ask about 5 times to put those few arrows in my head. My legs were incapable of entering the mode so he had to do it for me and then I could finally play on Nightmare (maybe I should have stayed with level 10 songs^_^). I never managed to set the right speed mod then so it was either too slow or too fast (usually too slow so I couldn't even play the song...ok it usually ended up in a bad A). So I tried something on 3x which was slow, 3.5x was also slow and 4x seemed too fast. Anyway it was fun. Then the PIU Infinity Machine was turned on so I went to try it out. It's HUGE! Might look like DDRX but is actually pretty cool. (it does not feel like you can easily pick up the platform and run away with it^_^)

After putting 1 pound in it and stepping on the center panel everything froze and I stared at a blank screen for some time...but the game eventually continued on. I entered the full mode code now successfully and probably accidentally stepped on something. Later I managed to figure out how to operate the machine and everything was fine. So I tried some songs from Fiesta, Fiesta2, Infinity, Piu Pro2 etc. This machine is kind of a hybrid of PIU Pro series and classic PIU, but has even more stuff and features. I tried different mods and perspective but still the speed felt completely different as well.

Pump it up Infinity though was a surprise to me! I was wondering what PIU Infinity is. At first I thought that it is a fans project for fans, but it seems that it is not. It is a game meant for American, Canadian and UK (Europe kinda). It looks like PIU Pro but it is not an attempt at something like PIU Pro but is rather a really nice combination of classic PIU and something that can satisfy both PIU and ITG players that are used to custom songs, theme and many functions Korean pump does not feature. It contains songs directed at American/European audience. In total there is over 400 songs. There are four play modes - Easy Mode, Arcade Mode (normal mode), Music Train (courses) and Mission Mode (some fun^^). On the machine I could see the full mode code (1759339571), wish this would be shown somewhere on Fiesta2 because I did not figure this out myself and was stuck with level 10 songs erm for a while.

The interface is totally awesome. It allows the player to modify everything he or she needs (from speed, speed mod, perspective, bga brightness to system judgment). The nice thing is that classic piu judgment windows and PIU Pro ones can be set in between songs. In game you can see your progress (to the end result). The final screen actually shows the difficulty, grade, score, percentage and such. It is clean and understandable. That's nice^_^

There is also more charts per song, the normal/hard/crazy/freestyle/nightmare difficulties are dropped. (this changed with Fiesta). PIU Pro charts are marked (their difficulty is kind of different, they feel easier in general and are more ITG like...).

THe CX/TX cabinets are huge things o_O. And I have to say that they are actually pretty cool.

When playing some charts I and seeing what the notes do on the screen I reminded myself that pump has some really gimmicky charts but that many charts are simply fun and the effects scripted there actually make it nice more lively and fun. It can mess up Superb rating but still I always played pump to enjoy the game and the movement not to get perfect score.

I was also quite surprised when the machine announced 'Absolutely perfect!' I was like WUT? (then checked my score seeing all Perfects and zeros everywhere else...that felt weird...^^). Here's a video of me playing Canon-D Full Song NM. I just love the stepchart...even though I could hardly follow...(I played the song with 4 blisters on my feet so that's kind of an achievement^_^ you don't want to see how my feet look like now...)

After this I had to suffer three more stages^_^. I tried playing but I couldn't, either my eyes did not follow or my legs (rather my arms). After that I had to quite hurry to the airport. On my way down to the tube I heard a japanese pop song and I was wondering who would sing and play that underground... It was nice to listen to so I gave her some money. It was quite calming to hear Japanese language.

At Heathrow Airport there was yet another surprise. Someone flying to Prague played Revolutionary Etude on the piano there (there were several at the airport, and there was one in ExCel - or at least I discovered only one. I'm quite glad to see this and glad to hear people play as well).

More suprises awaited our flight to Prague but eventually we ended up in the air (actually we were the lucky ones).

It was a really strange day, thanks to many things that sort of... happened ... I really had a great day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Worldcon - Day 3

note that this and previous posts from Worldcon might change. So if you want to read everything at once and more or less finished wait till I get back home.

I expected this day to be the best one, but it wasn't. So far this day was really bad for me for various reasons. During the day I also managed to lose my programme guide and notes so this post will be a bit simpler...but it's more due to my mood being rather strange than because I don't have my notes (the information is in my head anyway).

There are few points I wanted to address since the first day of Worldcon but I did not do it. The first one is that I've been seeing people staring into their mobile devices during the whole convention. I understand some people that read in the conference rooms but those being on Facebook, twitter or playing some games I don't understand. Staring into the programme guide is fine but this? I also don't really like when I have to suffer all the lights from the devices when in not well lit room and that is a reason I often felt dizzy.

The second...throughout the whole conventions at talks, panels etc there is a heated debate about gender/sex/sexual orientation in games, literature and such. The next thing that comes up is relationships (also sexual). The last thing...the most annoying one is...commercialization. That is the reason I did not even bother going to panels with names like 'Art in the 21st Century?' or 'The future of professional artists?'.

As for games the main discussed thing is simplification, cooperation and friendship (I thinkt hat I have kind of explained this in one of the previous posts or this one? not sure)

Also we live in the era of internet so I understand that being seen or saying stuff on the internet is important. But WHY THE HELL should I pretend that everything is ok or act in a certain way? I, on the internet am the same person as in real life and I want to stay that way. Whatever...

On a sidenote I'd like to note that at this convention people were dressed rather casually and the level of cosplay costumes was much lower than at the last Worldcon I attended. Just an observation... To those who do not know it. I planned to sew or create a costume of Liliana of the Veil and wear it at this year's Worldcon, but I don't have the money to buy even just the fabric. So I decided leave it for some time later. Also I wasn't sure how I'd end up looking in something like that, as I'm quite overweight. But after what I've seen here...I wouldn't really need to worry about that^_^.

The first panel I attended was 'Getting Kickstarted in Games'. As you can see I try to go to every panel or talk that is dedicated to game design, playtesting, production, funding and marketing. That is because I might actually need that in the future. I'd like to help Zdenek with his game and listening to designers talking about how they started their business is a good way to go. Even though I did not manage to go to some I wanted to attend. Anyway these panels and talks already helped to sort my thoughts, but will this help me start thinking about the games from the perspective I need?

Back to kickstarter. We were told about various projects the panelist started on Kickstarter and what problems they encountered. From not realizing what the shipping costs to bad planning (for over-success). It seems that Kickstarter is the best place to start a project but the people running it still did not realize that and that is why their interface is not the best one and does not allow edits after one backer sends money for example. Or that the page cannot really be edited well, video cannot be uploaded after you click that you do not wish to submit a video etc. Well, it was nice listening to Steve Jackson talking about Ogre project and other panelists about smaller projects. The difference might be big but the problems encountered the same.

When creating a Kickstarted project one needs to know what the money is for, should also take in an account that Kickstarter and Amazon will take some money of it (for example 4% each) and that also not all the transactions from the backers will go through.

Also Kickstarter does not seem to deal with images well...etc.

There were many things said and not sure if they will come handy. Kickstarted is only for US based people and I clearly am not. So if I will want to start a project it won't be on this server.

Then I headed to London Suite 2 which I had no idea where it was. But I was shown the way and attended Costuming Off the Rack. When entering the room I was sure that this won't be for me. (High percentage of women). Anyway the panelists where talking about how to make a costume off bought items be it garments, coax cable or animal bones. Some problems were addressed - people who need to wear glasses and what to do then..., people covering their hair etc. Actually the stories of the people were interesting and it certainly inspired me.

After this I went to buy something to eat which was a mistake. I was hungry the whole day afterwards. I got a burrito that was good but rather expensive. I went to buy a coffee and encountered my sister discussing lifeforms with Gert van Dijk. They left then for whatever programme they wanted to attend. I headed to Capital Suite 15 and was reminded that in many cases I did not manage to get there or was thrown out of the Suite. So after getting there I found out that my panel is elsewhere and then later I found out that it's full. So I tried a different one and also encountered problem with 'too many people inside'. So I ended up at 'Where Have All the Clerics Gone?' This wasn't good. I arrived late so I did not really know what was said earlier. Anyway when a question was asked it was hardly answered and I heard more about religion then clerics or priests. Anyway there was distinction between literature cleric and game cleric and I can see why. But no one bother saying why and no one bothered wondering about ... where the hell went those clerics? Not to mention that one of the panelists was hardly heard and even though people asked him to speak up (it was out problem obviously)

I left when the public started asking even weirder questions and headed to games tent. I wasn't really sure what I was doing there. I took photos of the games, people playing the games. Went up to the Exhibition Hall, took some pics there, went back down to the games tent... I bothered some Magic players for a while (because I really had no idea what to do), had a game of magic Mono Blue vs. Mono Blue and then left for exhibition hall once again.

I watched Steve Crisp airbrush on a white background and then black background. That was a nice demonstration. We could hardly hear anything, but we could try using the airbrush pistol. I'll link you to the pics later.

Then I came back down to the games tent watched a game of modern and then left to attend 'From Tsundere to Deredere: Understanding Characters.'This was yet another panel that did not really go that well. We did not really get much information about the types but we at least learned that some exist. They got stuck on trying to figure out if there is something like samurai in the western culture. This turned into a discussion if someone actually captured Seven Samurai well (ooh that might have happened at a different panel). So well...I did not get much relevant information but I was glad that Michaele Jordan was present, because she has something to say and usually information actually makes sense.

Some time later I moved to 'From page to screen'. This was about adaptations of novels into movies or series like True Blood, Game of Thrones. We also got some information about mangas being turned into anime and Walking Dead. We learned that adapting something into a series or movie is actually difficult. One need to capture the spirit of the original and then figure out what is the best way to do it. This sometimes means that the whole point of view or narrative changes but that doesn't mean that the series/movie won't be successful. We should also note that some movies or series are just based on something and thus we should not expect that such movies/series follow the original book/comic etc. In most cases the author does not have the right to say anything to the director about it. But in some cases (see HBO and Game of Thrones) this is different.

We were also once again warned about anime that are manga adaptations that are produced faster than the manga. Such series don't usually end up well (see Full metal Alchemists).

etc etc etc...What I write might not seem very positive but I actually enjoyed this panel.

Black Holes in Close-up. Yes, this was a presentation I really appreciated. Not that I would not know what a black hole is...We listened to Dr Robert Laing telling us about the discovery of black holes (with that I mean even the assumption that something like this has to exist), their parameters, types and observation. In the second part we got information about a project that wants to capture Event Horizon if that is even possible and how this can be achieved. (thus we learned about the technique and about ALMA).

At 8pm the Masquerade started. It was spectacular o_O. I don't have a photos, but my sister will certainly have many.

After the masquerade I went outside to eat something finding out that I lost my stuff and I'm left without money. Probably my bad mood was what caused this. I spent several days at a convention with thousands of people but I did not actually talk to anyone nor did anyone talk to me. Isn't that strange? At the last Worldcon I attended this wasn't the case. There were many people talking to me and were interested in who I am or what the hell I do there. It is true that I was in cosplay and I was a Czech delegation member (so some people had to talk to me and I had to talk to them). But still... how can someone be so lonely even at a place where everyone shares a passion?

I also don't really feel well when there is too many people around me and for a longer time (3 days is kinda maximum) so that might be one of the reasons too. Anyway this day showed to be rather chaotic and hectic. Today there were problems with organization - delay, technical problems, too many people somewhere etc. One would not expect this to happen at such a large event. But well it obviously happens.

When I get back to Czech Republic there are things I'd like to process, some things to ponder about and some things to try. If I manage all this there will be more posts related to Worldcon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Worldcon - Day 2

After arriving to ExCel this morning I watched the crowd with which I arrived. Many people overweight, many much older than I would expect. I continued watching people at different panels and it was quite interesting to see the change in audience. I might make some comments about this in the following text if I manage not to forget about it...There is so much I would like to write and probably won't be able to come up with everything I wanted to write down.

(searching for page 1 out of 22) Science of Discworld by Ian Stewart. I guess that majority of you who know me read a Terry Pratchett book from Discworld, a bit less of you might have read the whole Science of Disworld series. I personally read this because there was nothing else to read (meaning anything new to read) in our house. But soon I realized that this book written by three different authors - mathematician, biologist and a writer - is actually good and fun.

Ian started with 'How to make a world'. There are two ways - sensible way in which everything is simple and makes sense (that is Discworld) and the 'stupid way' which is roundworld. In this case it is a giant lump of rock floating in the space for no reason...there are many things that don't make sense and need to be explained by let's say nuclear physics. Even there has to be something like gravity so everything on the roundworld could stay on the surface ...you get the idea. On Discworld we have Magic and Narrativum to make things happen on Roundworld we have Technology that sometimes make things happen (and it takes ages) and science or rather the rules of science.

So how to write a book about Science of Discworld when there is none? Anyway one day Terry, Ian and Jack were debating over this topic and came up with a solution. They simply need to put the science somewhere...and there it was a Roundworld created by wizards of the Unseen University.

The first book was a success. Terry did not want a second book but after about 18 different stories from Jack and Ian Terry decided to give it a try and there it was a second Science of Discworld.

[...] Listening to Ian was wonderful. He is wonderful person and certainly knows how to entertain people and experienced quite a lot that can be told. So after this awesome talk I wasn't sure if anything could beat it.

Social Media and New Authors was a panel discussion I attended in order to see what authors do to promote their work or if they even do it. Some think it is a necessity. One should give information, be friendly. It's being a part of a community (reading/writing community). Most see twitter as the best social platform and see facebook as something more let's say commercial or something that can be used to persuade your 'friends' to read your book etc. It seems that one should have a webpage with at least some basic information that can be found, but be active on some social networks. Blog is also a possibility but it is something more personal.

Anyway it came down to - be an identity online, have a good image, never say anything you would not say in public, control what you post, never reply to a flamewar, ignore negative review. But FIRST you should have already written something that you can advertise and sell or let people discover. And that is also where the marketing aspect comes in. Some people do it themselves some have other people to do it for them....Anyway if you want your posts to be read... what sells is 'sex, violence and shock'. ^_^

Future of the Board Games

I wasn't even sure if I wanted to come here but in the end I'm really greatful that I did. The first surprise is...TSR Designer o_O or Steve Jackson o_O? Well, I've written several papers on board games, TCGs, RPGs and wargaming in the past...so there was initial boom of all this and certain games were invented and then other games replaced them. There was a decline in certain types of these games followed by a new boom of these games. Board games are now in their third boom. So what is new or so succesful about the new games?
The learning curve for the games is different, the games are more simple and more 'family friendly'.
Cooperative games came to existence and are popular (you want to play a game with your child not against him/her, right?). Co-op games are easier to introduce and can become extremely viral fast.

The games in general are now accepted (it was looked down upon in the past, no one was taking games or rather the gaming industry seriously either).
The games are also quicker (take shorter time to play). When a game takes less time to play it can be played casually (thus more players...that might become hardcore gamers).

Is this all due to people having access to all kind of devices on which one can play games (I mean cellphone, tablets etc)? Probably not. But if it is a pushback from electronic games it's most probably because playing MMOs can be a really frustrating experience - running into a teenager that all he can do is swear, be rude and even kill you (your character that is) is not something one would like. That can be a reason why to gather around a table and play a table top game with real people in real life.

It also seems that games nowadays are more versatile/variable. For example choosing different aspects in the game randomly (see Smallworld) can mean a completely different game (strategy/tactic). Interactions in the game can create a completely new experience unlike in older games in which the game usually is the same all the time (no matter how good the game is). (personally not sure about this)

It seems that games are finally being accepted. So what now? Will the market be saturated? What kind of games are we gonna play? Will they be digital? Will the games as we know them today even survive (see many TCGs, d20). The games might start to be ported to mobile devices...might be projected on the table, played on several devices, even virtual reality could be used? Anyway what would still make these games different from computer games? Their simplicity, social aspect.

The games would have to keep their simplicity and aspect but something new could be added - for example some kind of timing efect. (even though there are games that already work with time....who builds this or that pattern the first wins a round, or answer in certain amount of time or games in which you need to rely on your reflexes.) Digital board games could also be played in several sessions not at one. Games like Risk for example.

Anyway many people play certain games online already, some over skype some over an app someone wrote.

Now we have a mass-market, geek-market and a even smaller market. Some games can be competitively some not, it all depends on the target group.

We also learned about some new games coming like Mars Attacks dice game or Munchkin Pathfinder (what happens when companies cooperate?).

After this (I think) I went to the Art Demonstration and Art Exhibition. I went through the exhibition studying the illustrator's styles and sometimes I was in awe what some can achieve with certain medium notably Anne Sudworth or Lisa Conrad. I also stopped looked at Martina Pilcerova work once again and this time I actually appreciated her work. I never really liked her work but after seeing it today she has my appreciation because even some of those illustration I did not really enjoy in some games look actually way better on the original painting.

Anyway I spend some time watching and listening to two painters talking about acrylics. I did not really discover anything new. I still don't really understand why acrylics should be a difficult medium to use. For me it's the perfect medium as with it I can achieve what I want which cannot be said about any other medium. Anyway it inspired me quite a bit so I'd like to buy something I can paint on and paint something. But not sure if I'll come up with something^_^. I have a blank playmat laying on the floor and still did not figure out what to paint on it.

After this I participated in the Open Sketching Class. I have the pics on me so when I get back I'll add them here as well some photos (it is forbidden to take photos almost everywhere...so there might not be much). During the class I really felt like a complete loser^_^. I just can't draw something that stands in front of me o_O.

So after all those disappointments I went to a game tent to find out that I won't be able to participate a RPG Design workshop so after some going wandering around I went back up to listen to Ian Stewart - this time talking about himself.

I won't write down the stories of his life, but I'll only say that I enjoyed it. He was lucky in his life as it seems. He had a good math's teacher unlike me which is kinda unfortunate. Anyway I'm glad that some people can actually have a good life and the opportunities to become what they want to. (oh he even played in a band! - lead guitarist)

After two hours of Ian Stewart I moved to another room just to listen to him for one more hour. It was about news in maths and the importance of mathematics in our lives. It was interesting to listen to and there were theories described that I would like to check but I won't do that now as that will require much more time. Anyway it also seems that string theory is not dead so I might check for some news there.

7pm and I could go to a panel that wouldn't be flooded with people (I have to say that I did not feel well, the air is not good when there is too many people in the room). Playtesting board games was another interesting with Steve Jackson, Ric Bretschneider and Sebastian Bleasdale among others. My flatmate is trying to come up with a game and asks me to give him some feedback and to playtest. So I was wondering if I could find out what we do wrong...

Anyway it seems that each designer has its own approach to designing games. But well the basis of a game is usually a mechanic (concept - first draft).

During playtesting one should interview the players after the game, why did they do such a thing in a game why they changed a strategy, should take notes of what is going on, both casual players and hard core gamers should test. More casual players are capable of doing 'silly' things and this way can sometimes discover holes in rules etc. More experience player might discover something else (a mechanic not working, something broken in the game, something else that can be exploited etc). Some games that are more specialized should be tested by players of the target group (miniature games/wargaming).

If a game takes long...usually this means that there is something wrong with the game and it is usually the fun aspect missing.

If a playtester encounters a problem he or she should announce it. He or she does not need to solve it but the designers should know about it so they could fix it.

Testing problems - can you reach a win con? is the game balanced? (if players have equal chances of winning, thus not a single strategy being favorized, equal power of cards/units etc if not symetrical - asymetrical for example in StarCraft where we have Protos, Zerg and Terran forces...), are the rules clear? is it fun? how people react to the theme? see how the game behaves when someone starts doing something unexpected (unexpected with that I mean even hatepicking does not need to be something that is unusual or a bad choice in a game), speed of play?

One should think about algorithms for occurences or cards etc. number of resources, actions in a turn.

If a player wants to play again, you did something good. Players should go deep (even during one game), explore the game, this way you can see more patterns that you might not see or expected yourself. (oh yeah Jace, the Mind Sculptor...anyone?)

If one wants to start designing he or she should start with what they are passionate about and see how this works in different games.

This panel was awesome as well and my mood was good once again. After this I wasn't entirely sure where I want to go so I went to talks about the BIS projects and such. I wasn't really aware of British Interplanetary Society so I did not really know what to expect but Gerry Webb is not unknown to me (nor Stephen Baxter). From space societies and growing into a interstellar civilisation, to World Ships and actual colonisation. In those four hours I was given so much information that I will need some time to digest. I won't try to do a summary of BIS projects so I will rather let you read some info about them, simply go to http://www.bis-space.com/.

With this my day was at an end. Exhausted and hungry it was time for some dinner. I forgot to mention the people. I was practically among people more scientific oriented and games oriented. The age groups were different, at all the games/anime panels males were predominant and the audience was younger but still older than I expected. And seeing Steam punk costumes alongside cosplay and lolitas is kinda fun. ^^

Anyway this concludes my today's post...I don't even know what I'm going to do tomorrow^_^.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Worldcon - Day 1

Personal blah blah blah

Few years ago I decided that when the next Worldcon would be held in Europe I'd go, but in that time I did not expect to be in a financial situation that can be considered bad. My family and Peter Konings made coming to this year's Worldcon possible and for that I greatly thank them.

Two weeks before Worldcon I started to feel really depressed about all this. I did not have the money to enjoy the convention and it simply did not feel right (as I can hardly pay the rent). I had the same feeling when deciding if I want to participate in Prague Eternal or not. Winning Plateau and Scalding Tarn though payed for all the fees and I still could keep a dual land 'free'. But in this case the money spend in London will just disappear... it will turn into memories. 'Will those be worth it?' I asked myself...Certainly it would be worth it if I would have the money, but the real fact is that we did not pay the rent nor really have much money to spare...So after few days of having a wonderful time and coming back to reality, how will I feel?

So I started to sell a bit more cards and hoped to sell some altered cards. In those two weeks I actually managed to amass a bit greater amount of money. I sold Force of Will alter, Talrand alter, Call of the Herd and some non-altered cards. Thanks the commissioners for this. It is a great help and the money will be used for something good and something that I can actually enjoy. (I forgot that I still need to pay for the hotel.)

The week before Worldcon I was ill and few days before it I felt pretty sick. But I hoped that all this would go away and I would feel great during those few days in London. On Wednesday I felt really terrible. Together with my flatmate we participated in EDH tournament that for me went HORRIBLE (going there was really bad idea, but I needed both the money and GBPs - main reason why venturing there) and for him hopefully better. What did not really help my mood was a player who arrived late and received a bye instead of game loss and then won the tournament. That wasn't fair. I even if I would have won the last round I wouldn't get anything due to this. So I wasn't particularly happy about it, but well I felt like crap and during my flatmate's bye he was the one to fetch me some (GB) pounds. I'm thankful for that because at that time I wouldn't even be able to walk there and back...

At 8am I was woken up by my sister's cell phone (my phone got stolen a week ago) trying to tell me that it received an sms. I got up because I couldn't sleep the whole night so staying in bed made no sense. I collected my stuff and run to catch the subway train to Zlicin. I managed it^_^. At the airport everything went fine. Our flight was delayed but I did not really care. When turning the phone on when we landed it asked for a PIN code. I did not know it at that time. I didn't care much...but later I started to care a bit. And somewhere halfway to Shadwell I finally realized where the hell I am and why. So it was time for me to have some fun.

I bought a ticket to Shadwell and arrived to the hotel without problems (the only problem was a storm that just started). I managed to call my sister from here, get the PIN and later arrive at ExCel. During all those trips from one point to another I managed to read 1/4 of Assail from Esselmont.

During the little walks between tube lines I noticed that many people are either asian or muslim (arab or something - no offense meant). English was hardly present ... Where the hell did I end up? In Great Britain? End of blah blah
Worldcon - Day 1

I arrived at the registration desk around quarter past 3. They had some problems figuring where my badge is but after some time they managed to find it. Then I called my sister to find out where she is. I was told that she's somewhere named 'Capital Suite 11' listening to Introduction to Speculative Biology. It sounded good enough for me so I went there.

Speculative biology refers to a really hypothetical field of science that tries to predict evolution of species be it alternative evolution or future evolution. Science-Fiction worlds' biology can also be considered as speculative biology. Why speculative biology exists? Well, humans have desire to create new life forms or worlds. They like to see grotesque forms and also wonder about 'what if' questions (what if humans did not evolve? what species would rule the world?). We can see many forms of speculative biology in the past be it in religious scripts/art, maps, cave paintings etc. We also see it in art but there it often is more fiction (that would hardly work on Earth). Speculative Biology is something that is part of the SF/F movies, books, worlds - it entertains and it also sells. (see the movie Avatar for example)

Via speculative biology people can also express themselves, their feelings or problems. This will be reflected in their work. In the future speculative biology could become art - a distict genre of art.

After this introduction I wasn't really sure if I want to hear more but I'll see if I have some time for more of this. Anyway next I moved to Anime Canon.

Is there something as Anime Canon? What anime should be on that list? Is the list personal or we can pick series or movies that really stand out. Is it possible that in the upcoming decade certain works will be taught at school? Everyone has read, seen or heard about Legend of Arthur. It is considered something that everyone should know. This more or less happened to Tolkien as well. Will this happen to Anime?

Many agreed that the most influential work sometimes is not something that someone would want to see but it is still something one should see. But if introducing a friend to anime he or she should start with something more contemporary and something groundbreaking nonetheless. Anime that does not really need anyone to have prior knowledge of something (be it history of Japan, anime or whatever) is the best. That can be for example Mahou Shoujo Madoka or Gurren Lagan. I did not really find anything new her at this panel, but it is true that I learned a bit about anime/manga in UK. The thing is that some anime was licensed here, but mostly brutal and not really good anime in general. This was a bad idea. Those people watching it or hearing about this will have this in mind and won't be open for something else that is actually good and non-violent for example. Other countries don't have this problem, for example in France there's kind of everything and people know that they can choose. Anime is of all kinds be it fantasy, cyberpunk, high school love story or giant robots beating each other. Anyway anime that were mentioned were for example FLCL, FMAB, Sidonia no kishi, Hotaru no haka, GitS SAC, Azumanga, InuYasha, XXXHolic, Gunslinger Girl, Elfen Lied, Utena...

Next was Tropes and Players. This did not turn out well. But well...we did not get to what a trope actually is and what ended up as a cliche or what starts to be turned back into a trope. General problems in games is - portrayal of gender and the fact that the online player is anonymous and does not need to give you the information about his/her gender. The game developers are mainly male and thus produce games that are also viewed from the male perspective. If female characters appear they are either bad ass heroine type or damsel in distress.

When it was announced that 49% of players are actually female everything started to go wrong because many simply disagree. In general there are hard core gamers, casual gamers those that consider both groups equivalent. In hard core gamers we won't find many female players I guess but in overall I guess the percentage can be pretty high...because well anyone playing Angry Birds now and then would count. Ubisoft's silly answer to why there isn't a female character playable at Assassin's Creed SP (but is in MP) was also commented. I personally don't care much. But well there are many issues with all this. Even though the male players seem to acknowledge that there are female players they sometimes just can't accept the fact that 'this male'character in a game is actually a female in real life and I don't speak about stuff like competitiveness and other things. I could actually write an essay on this topic...We also got back to the topic of marketing (at the previous panel we got into fanservice and marketing anime). Games being marketed for 18-24 (or whatever...but young) males does not really help anything and in online environment there are no consequences for behaviour.

Fermi Paradox. Fermi wondered in 50s if there is an intelligent life our there and if there is where it is. This panel was actually good, all the present had different views on the topic and in a way all makes sense. We are either alone, or not and the intelligent race just hides its presence (but if there are more then at least one would want to contact us). Not being able to find intelligent life can also be a question of 'bad' timing. Simply it takes too long for a civilization to evolve. The problem can be simple statistics...
Anyway this panel was good. Unfortunately there were too many people, some fainted and some left because there was no air at the back of the small room.

I went outside just to realize that the next panel discussion takes place in the same room I got out of. Unfortunately I did not manage to fit in so I went to a different one - Communicating risk and uncertainty. When communicating risk - probability of occurence (of something) and its consequences - people use different methods, some work better some work worse. People in general have mistrust in authorities when they announce something about certain risks and media also try to make things fuzzy and less understandable. Many people just don't understand what the percentage of the risk actually means. People anyway decide emotionally and rationally can't find a reason why they decided this way or other. What approach is the best? Who knows, sometimes a family member's presence helps, sometimes speaking in non-native language helps someone to make more reasonable decision. The information can be conveyed in many ways and good graphical even though not that precise interpretation can be much more understandable for some then pure figures...

I wish this discussion went on but we were asked to leave the room and could go to a different one.

Neither of us wanted to go anywhere so we went to eat something - I got some spicy lamb curry and rice for 10GBP. It was delicious^_^.

After that we got back to our hotel and we are looking forward to today's programme. At 10am we have about 6 different things each of us would want to attend...but we can only attend one. It seems that for me it will be 'Artistic' day. I'll probably visit some acrylic paints sessions/workshops and see the art gallery. But who knows where my legs will lead me...

That's for it folks. Thanks for reading, not sure if it makes much sense, but for me it is something that will help keep all this in my mind.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Unfortunate Savannah

A friend of mine altered one day a unlimited Savannah for some reason (be it because of damage or something else). He altered it in a way I just couldn't stand watching it even though with quite some tweaks it could actually look awesome. I was getting him a black bordered Savannah and in return I received (except money) the altered Savannah. My plan was to save it somehow. I did not plan altering his illustration though. If I could get rid of the paint without damaging the card I would be happy (this works on some cards that were not damaged prior altering). I knew the risk (would end up with destroyed Savannah) but it seemed worth trying. This time it did not go well. I found out that there were damaged areas on the card and the black border is something I couldn't get rid of. I also managed to damage the card at one place by myself...so I was pretty angry about that.

So after completely destroying the card...I was up to a new task...make it look at least passable. In the end it looks like ...an OK proxy, but the card is actually real.

I apologize thus to JK for destroying his Savannah and painting over it. I will treasure the card dearly though. It will find its place in my Phelddagrif deck.

Now here is the destroyed card and the alter ^_^

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hearthstone - Curse of Naxxramas

disclaimer: don't expect something like a review or something, it's my personal experience with HS after 8 months or so.

Yesterday after a Magic: The Gathering group being a bit flooded with Hearthstone posts I decided to write one as well. As you may well know already I'm not such a great fan of Hearthstone. It simply does not satisfy my needs in terms of a good game. This game certainly excels in GUI. MODO is horrible, SolForge client is eh..still horrible. Hearthstone GUI is fun, nice, flashy ..it's genial. But that won't change my attitude to the game. Anyway I haven't played the game for quite a long time so I decided to run it and see if I would be able to have some fun games or games that I would consider 'games'.

I ran Battle.net and waited for HS to be patched. I then tried to enter the Adventure mode and chose the first encounter. I picked a wrong deck (a deck I build to complete some daily quest) and died horribly. But seeing new cards with deathrattle was good. I wasn't playing against something I played against already. After my defeat I picked my mage deck and went to beat the Anub'Rekhan. My deck could handle this and I was able to win by simply attacking with my creatures. Anub'Rekhan's ability seemed annoying but at that time I did not know about the Heroic mode's ability. In that case he was creating 4/4 creatures I couldn't deal with unlike in the normal mode. What was worse was the fact he got the possibility to clear the whole board that...that wasn't good.

Faerlina was much tougher. She killed me in the first game by using 3 times her ability. First one hit me for 11, second for 7 and the last one for lethal. I should have read the ability before starting to play anything but I was too busy figuring out where are my Tarmogoyfs. During the whole adventure I was trying to process all orders and build a deck for that day's modern tournament in Najada (otherwise I wouldn't even bother playing the game). For game two I decided to get rid of all card drawing effects in my deck and put some creatures that either leave behind something or can survive the Rain of whatever ability. (I added some spiders^^). After this beating her was piece of cake.

Next the big boss Maexxna. Well not much of a boss I guess? Or was I simply lucky? She was bouncing my minions and trying to deal some damage but in the end dealt none and I easily won. I have to say that some cards were really annoying especially those having Stealth. I don't have a way how to deal with big creatures in my deck so I have to outrace. Sometimes it gets difficult but in this case...it was fine. Two Frost Bolts and Two Frost Novae did the job. (Maexxna was going easy on me?)

After beating Maexxna I was hoping for more action but was notified that I have to pay 700gold in order to continue or pay some real money. With my 200 gold I couldn't do much. So I proceeded to Class challenges. I picked the first one. Rogue vs Maexxna yet once again.

Both of the challenges were fun. I got a deck with cards I did not play before. With cards that could deal with anything my opponent played. In between actual plays that were relevant Maexxna was producing spiders and I was producing oozes^_^.

When she played something bigger I killed it with some creature that can deal with that and in the meantime I was killing smaller threats with one creature I always bounced back and played again (it was 3/5 or something being able to kill a little minion). Then something wierd happened^_^ I drew a legendary card. The only legendary card I ever had in my deck was Alexstrasza but it was usually my opponents who killed me with her. Anyway I played the legendary card (making spells cost 5 more next turn) and it got bounced back 4 times before it finally died. After the board was relatively wiped out ... I managed to play some minions and deal some damage with them. 1 life remained to Maexxna. I top decked the One shot, one kill elf and killed Maexxna with that (even though I could have just attacked^^ with my hero or minion).

Then it was time for some druid challenge. Malfurion had to outrace Faerlina which was quite ok. Just needed my creatures to survive. Marks of Nature were great^_^. But the card that actually gave the finishing blow was different. Malfurion got +2Atk +2Armor and swung for the victory. This time I had no creatures in play and it would take me two turns to finish her off. This match leveled Malfurion up - up to level 2!

Now it was time to try the Heroic mode. I still hadn't finished my orders and hardly found anything for my deck. After reading/hearing the warning that this will take many deckbuilding attempts to actually pass I chose the first encounter. At first I thought that only the heroes life total changed but when he started spawning 4/4 each turn I wasn't really sure if I can handle it. At some points in the game it looked like I could actually win but top deck mode was inevitable and my 1 dmg for 2 mana couldn't really stand up to 4/4 each turn. So I tried to deal as much damage I could with my trolls and and hope for something like Fireball to the head and GG and that's what exactly happened.

So well Heroic mode is difficult I managed to get through the beginning (I don't have gold...for the rest) with my basic mage deck (without blizzard and pyroblast).

After this I was halfway through putting together my twin deck. All I needed to figure out is where I have some fetchlands, serum visions and sideboard. I also had some daily quests almost finished so I decided to try to finish them. I clicked on ranked and played 4 matches. In the first one I totally crushed some poor guy. In the second one I had to listen to some taunting guy that actually assembled something like a deck but died to my creatures anyway. The third match was more difficult, but after seeing the Coin being played on T1, followed by 1/1 recruit my opponent did not seem as someone I should lose to. By this time I still haven't finished my daily quests so I chose the ranked for the last time to earn some gold finally. I played against combo rogue that wanted to comment each mistake done (even if it wasn't a mistake but rather a desperate 'best' play I could do not to kill a turn), fizzled in midgame and died later in late game because he ran out of cards and I still could survive, deal some damage and wait for him to die. After this I FINALLY managed to get the gold from the quests and I could close the game because I could not stand another game.

So now comes the question...will I be willing to grind some gold to be able to finish Curse of Naxxramas or not? I need 500 more and that seems like ages in the game...no matter what there are no series to watch and I have nothing to do when processing orders or sorting cards. I was thinking about playing Duels of the Planeswalkers. Get all 900+ cards, build a deck and play online because that would actually make sense. But playing DotP15 takes even more time then HS and my eyes don't like it much (I feel dizzy after playing the game). In this case of dotp15 vs HS, HS wins.^_~

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Real Edition WIP

I tried opening 3dsmax and doing something...I certainly don't know how to do anything^_^ I'll try to finish this later...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Talrand, Sky Summoner

Maybe when I do this next time it will look better...the colors are intentionally off but I'm not sure if that helped anything...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Academy Rector

Sometimes there are Magic Alters that are really bad. Sometimes someone has a good idea but fails. It is sad to look at such alters and I certainly produced some when I was starting with altering. Sometimes it's better to fix such alters if one can. I would certainly do that with my alters (I have Meddling Mage next to me...and I think nothing can save it^_^ but some cards can be saved).

I got my hands on an altered Academy Rector. Someone tried to paint Ram Singh's Kaurwaki on Academy Rector. I don't like the idea but well someone thought this would be cool. Unfortunately the person did not manage to copy the image well. Kaurwaki was deformed, PT/card name box was really badly outlined with black felt-tip pen. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of how it looked like before but it was really atrocious (and probably I wouldn't show it no matter what). Here's a part of the card how it looked like so you get the idea...

The alter alone probably took the person a really long time to do but in the end it wasn't something one would want to have in a deck. I wanted to fix that if that would be possible (I was asked to by the owner of the card).

So after looking at it I realized what's wrong and tried to fix it, sometimes with more success sometimes with less. But in the end it looks way better and now one can actually look at it. The original alterist put quite too much paint on it and his/her brush strokes were in all directions...I tried to hide it but the texture on the card is really 'deep'. I tried getting rid of the paint but it did not really work well. At some places I used exacto knife to get rid of excess and repaint it, somewhere I just painted over. So well here's Kaurwaki, Academy Rector^_^