August 17

10 tips on how to be a Lousy Game Master

  1. Treat your player’s characters like puppets. After all, they are only there to act out your grand vision and story.
  2. Delight in the death of your player’s characters. This leads to a reputation as being the killer GM, and that is a position of awe and respect.
  3. Throw monsters and villains at your players that seriously out power them. Let them know exactly who is in control! There is nothing like the look on a fresh half-elf ranger’s face when encountering Latharious, God-Emperor of the Liches.
  4. Accept real world bribes from players. Food, money, favors, weed… whatever they are willing to give in sacrifice for their character. If they don’t give enough, make their players suffer.
  5. Reward cross-talk with instant death. Preferably to only one of the people talking. Make sure you show favoritism!
  6. If your significant other is playing, make sure that they are given all of the lucky breaks and fortunate turns. If not, hit on all of the players that are attractive to you.
  7. Make sure to take every phone call, turn on the TV, and sneak off with your “special friend” during the game. Always remember the players are there for your pleasure!
  8. Hide your dice rolls. Consider the results to be suggestions. Randomly roll the dice, and pretend like it is something serious.
  9. Don’t bother investing in the game financially. Don’t provide food, figures, maps, a board, or even a table if you can help it.
  10. Be unprepared! Don’t bother anticipating your player’s actions, don’t take notes, heck, don’t even bother knowing the rules of the game! Make it up as you go along! It will add an air of mystery and suspense to your game.
March 5

EA did NOT kill Maxis

Maxis Logo. Copyright EA Games.
Maxis Logo. Copyright EA Games.

Well, the news hit the streets today.

Many long time gamers will be mourning the loss of Maxis, the nearly thirty year old game studio that brought us a slew of amazing games, such as SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 64, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, SimCity Social, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimLife, SimFarm, SimRefinery, SimTower, SimCopter
Streets of SimCity, SimHealth, SimIsle, SimTown, SimPark, SimGolf, SimTunes, SimSafari, Sim Theme Park, SimCoaster, SimGolf, SimAnimals, and other games that did not contain the word “Sim” in the title.

However, I will not be joining my fellow Maxis fans with pitchforks and burning torches at the castle gates of EA to demand a blood sacrifice for the death of EA, as I know that Maxis was poisoned long before EA got a hold of them. I even have a picture of the poison. Would you like to see? Here you are!

Simcity 1 Copyright Protection Sheet
Simcity Copyright Protection Sheet

This is the copyright protection sheet from the original SimCity game. Years before DRM, Maxis was paranoid about game piracy. Don’t get me wrong, they had a perfect right to be. In the late 1980s, early 1990s, although the spread of pirate copies of software was slower that now, it still existed. Heck, even I did it.

But the issue is that they focused so much on protecting their IP that they neglected their customers. Take a look at the sheet to the right. What do you see? Well, first, it says nothing about copyright protection. That’s because they never once said that is what it was.

A prompt would appear when you started the game, asking for the three symbols after the city name. If you did not enter them correctly, it gave you two more chances. After the third chance, the prompt would vanish, and the game would run, apparently normally. You would start building your city. Time would pass. and that is when the disasters would start.

Depending on how good a player you were, your city might end up a flooded tornado alley, a radioactive alien infested wasteland, or a flaming mass protest. And it would not stop. With midi sound effects, the descending buzz of disaster became nearly constant.

Cute, right? Sure, save for a few things.

First, the deception from the game not telling what the prompts were for left quite a few legal owners frustrated with burning cities they could not control, and their games ended up in yard sales. That was how I eventually got a legal copy.

Second, the dark red sheet, designed to make photocopying impossible, made reading it difficult and did not make photocopying it impossible, just more difficult. I played the pirated copy at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Took us about a half hour to get a decent photocopy of the sheet, and, from that copy, a dozen more were made. We slipped one under each monitor.

Finally, the entire experience made it clear that it was the company versus the user, a feeling that continues to this day with most DRM. It may make piracy slightly more difficult, but at the same time, makes the pirate feel more like Robin Hood and less like a common thief.

Do you know why Minecraft sold millions of copies and has such a loyal fan base? They didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about DRM. Sure, they put in certain protections, but playing single player and one could play with a pirated copy indefinitely. But, I would be surprised if Notch did not read up on Singer Sewing Machines.

First, he offered upgrades and new versions for free to registered users. Pirating over and over again is difficult. Dropping the cash for the full version is more convenient. And the upgrades were actual upgrades, with new, fresh content that did not detract from previous content and expanded gameplay.

Second, he didn’t need to entice people with DLC; all he needed to do was make skinning your character dependent on being logged in, legally, to the Minecraft ID server.

Finally, there was humor in the game, and not in the developer making fun of forcing the player to enter in a silly code every time they wanted to play.

But the problems were deeper that just an attitude of distrust of the end user. Over the past few years, it was clear that Maxis, under the guidance of EA, was trying to combine the standard gaming business model of buy once and play with micropayment add ons traditionally found in free-to-play games. Take Sims 3 for example.

The base game currently retails for between $20 and $25 on Amazon. Not bad for a game… until you consider that it is six years old. The majority of other games of the same age retail for half the price, with a few exceptions.

But, it doesn’t stop there. There are a total of twenty expansions and add on packs, each retailing for $20. On Steam, you can get the whole kit and kaboodle for $384. You read that right. $384 for a game.

But wait! There’s still more! That does not include all of the stuff you can buy online! Not only can you buy additional content a piece at a time or in packs online from inside the game, the game actively encourages you to do so. Enter the editor, and a window pops up declaring how wonderful it would be if your family had something from the online store.

Now, I understand trying to make a profit off of something one has developed, but this is utterly shameless. Especially for a six year old game. And this is what killed Maxis. Sure, itmay have been pushed over the edge by EA, but it walked up to the cliff on its own.

Category: Gaming | LEAVE A COMMENT
February 9

Down the Orange Rabbit Hole

Ubuntu Logo
Ubuntu Logo, owned by http://www.ubuntu.com

I have had an on again, off again affair with Linux, and Ubuntu to be specific. Sure, I’ve tried other flavors, such as Mint, Suse, Mandriva, Fedora, and Debian, with a few smaller distros thrown in for fun. I’ve done some neat things, like set up an enterprise level Asterisk system, pissed off a former employer by hobbling together a workstation for a client out of spare parts and Linux because all they needed was a web terminal (So sorry you could not sell them on a full, new computer), pushed versions onto all sorts of devices, and even used actual Unix on a laptop.

But, the time has come to once again try to install Ubuntu on my desktop machine.

One of my favorite games, Kerbal Space Program, will be finally releasing a full version. Alas, they are cutting off the 64 bit version on the Windows branch, because the 64 bit version of Unity is horribly unstable on Windows. I have a lot of plugins, and it crashes a lot in Windows due to the effective 3.5 GB memory limit for 32 bit programs.

So, it is time to try and get everything working on Linux, yet again.

Last time, it tried to eat my RAID array, being a hardware based RAID 5. Linux didn’t like the partition, and tried to “fix” it. Bad idea.

Not to mention my main drive is a bit, well, “special”. This could go well, or go spectacularly wrong. We shall see which it is, very soon. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Three hours later, and my system is now a dual boot.

The only major issue thus far is that Windows and Ubuntu handle BIOS time differently. Going to have to work that out. Ubuntu adjusts the time at the software level and sets the BIOS to GMT. Windows sets the BIOS to Eastern. Here’s the fix!

Minor issue is that Linux does not recognize the RAID. No biggie. Don’t need much on the RAID when I am in Linux anyway, so I can put that project off until a later date.

Graphic and sound drivers work. Installed Steam and KSP without issue. It looks like I am going to have to recode for my messy mouse buttons myself. Well, no one said using Linux would be easy…

January 27

Week #1, Day #2

The 7th Guest
The cover art copyright is believed to belong to Virgin Interactive.

Sorry about the delay, my pretties. Bit of an IRL issue, I’ll go into it later.

So, 7th Guest.

Getting past the fact that the game is more than twenty years old, and the graphics make me have flashbacks to when I was a teenager.

I tried to reduce it to a window, so I could continue to write this. Instead, I ended up irrevocably exiting my game, which meant I had to sit through the VGA resolution five minute intro movie, which could not be exited out of. Thankfully, I can run it in the background while writing, and just listen to the story.

Here’s the gist of it. Old drifter who is a right bastard (robbing stores to survive) robs and apparently kills a woman coming home from choir practice. He then has a dream about a creepy doll. He whittles the doll. He has another drteam, making another toy. He makes the new toy. He opens a shop selling toys, and becomes rich. Everyone wants one of his toys! But then the children start dying. He builds a house, and then invites a bunch of people to the house. They all criticize the house when they get there.

It appears to be a series of basic puzzles. The first one I encountered was a cake game, where the player has to divvy up a cake by the symbols on each piece. Two skulls, two tombstones, and one piece with just icing. One done, the player is treated to a small cut scene of the young woman and the older married guy, with her hitting on him, and his head exploding. Not gross blood exploding, but stretchy cartoony exploding.

So far, the acting has been amateur community theater level. Not surprised. The game industry of the 1990s was tiny. They did not have the budgets for decent acting (or writers, apparently)

Okay, that was good for about an hour’s amusement. Now, in 1993, I was 15, and this might have been interesting for a few hours, but, to be honest, the cut scenes you cannot exit out of and that are painfully long are a deal killer for me. I know I was going to spend a week on this one, but I’m throwing in the towel. For a twenty two year old game, it just cannot stand up. Maybe a revamped version would be better, but with all of the issues this one has, it just isn’t interesting to me. But, while I was playing, I was wondering what audience would be interested in it these days. I am not sure any would be.

Tomorrow, I will start 8BitMMO.

Category: Steam | LEAVE A COMMENT
January 18

Week #1, Day #1 – The 7th Guest

The 7th Guest
The cover art copyright is believed to belong to Virgin Interactive.

First off, yes, I know this is a older game. I am a big fan of game bundles, and this came in one some time ago. Deal with it.

A bit of history. The 7th Guest was released by Virgin Games in 1993, about twenty two years ago. At the time, I was in high school, rocking a 486DX2/66. My computer could have handled this came well at the time, back before there were too many titles that required massive hardware to run. Currently, my computer has over 10,000 times the hard drive space, over 1,000 times the memory, and over 300 times the processor power of that little machine. We won’t go into screen real estate or video cards right now.

The game was widely hailed as an amazing game, accelerating CD-ROM drive sales (If you are under the age of 20, those are like DVD drives, only with much lower capacity), and even Bill Gates praised in as “the new standard of interactive entertainment.” If you want to read more, here is the wiki on it.

The thing is, I wasn’t really into spooky games.

The closest thing to this was that my mom had a copy of Myst, and I liked it.

Well, I will be endeavoring to play this game, and will review it at the end of the week. Yes, there will be spoilers. Guess what. It is a game that, if human, would be legally able to drink, so, get over it.