Current work…writing scripts

For the last few months, on top of travelling and attending a bazillion courses, I’ve been writing.

I’ve written five short scripts in the world of THE 23RD LETTER. I’ve written two more in the world of STATUS: REFUGEE. I’ve written one horror script. And I’m looking at writing some scripts based on FRONTIER and QABAL very soon. And there’s one very special property that I would love to pitch to the BBC…

Two of my scripts are going into production in 2017 and I’ll be doing a “mobile phone” shoot of one of my scripts probably over the upcoming holidays.

So, all change.

Where and back again…

It’s been a while since I updated anything here. Partially because of “situation” but also partly because the blog got infected with some malware (the curse of WordPress) and I needed to shut it down. But it’s back now and I’m going to update it a bit more.

Lategaming started out as a game journal with a bit of design and ideas and reviews thrown in. It grew into way more than that and the future holds even more.

I’m currently studying Performing Arts full time in my home town of Lisburn. Over the last 18 months, I’ve attended courses in Photovoltaic Solar Panel Installation and Maintenance (qualified top of my class), Woodworking, VHF Radio operation (qualified), Day Skipper (Tidal) (qualified), Creative Writing, Acting and I’ve been to Gibraltar, Spain, Portugal, the US, Mexico, Cuba, Croatia and sailed a bit of Ireland and Scotland.

I’ve discovered that I don’t suck at acting and I really don’t suck at singing. I was always a good wordsmith but I’ve had that confirmed.

I’ve found myself out the other end of a toxic relationship, at the “stupid idiot” end of breaking someones heart, at the “fuck it, I have to be alive to survive” end of 2015 and my resolution to say yes to new adventure in 2016. 2017 will be a new dawn with at least two active productions of scripts I have written.

I’ll tell you all about my next writing adventures shortly.

So, if you’re still reading this after all of these years, say Hi. I’d love to keep in touch.

Games Development Seminar – Belfast, 14th Sept

Last chance to register for a games technology development seminar here in Belfast.

Wed, 14 September from 10:00 to 12:00 at Radisson Blu, Gasworks, Belfast

The speaker is Paul Durrant, Abertay University’s Director of Business Development. He has been instrumental in developing a range of projects to support digital media IP generation, business start-up, incubation, and skills development particularly in the video games area. He developed Dare to be Digital and Dare ProtoPlay to become significant international events including a partnership with BAFTA to recognise talented young developers and the development of the Channel 4 Crunchtime TV series. He also raised £2m to establish a prototype fund for small games developers and has recently launched a partnership with the Technology Strategy Board to fund novel games applications.

In this seminar, Paul will describe the Scottish experience in digital content, the contribution from Abertay and the funding opportunities available through Abertay which are available to companies in Northern Ireland. In particular, he will describe the Abertay University Prototype Fund (http://prototypefund.abertay.ac.uk/) and the Future Games Contest ( https://ktn.innovateuk.org/web/future-games-contest )

Email sent to gaming group

The plan is to have a Plan B game to turn to.

I’m happy to run one though you’d have to choose between:

  1. Ars Magica (campaigns over years, trouple play, multiple characters – what’s not to like?)
  2. Smallville (I’d love to try this out with the Batman legend or maybe
  3. Traveller (No ideas here but sure I could think of something)

I might be convinced to run something like Dr Who again or maybe GODLIKE.

God Willt

Another book arrived in the post that I’d forgotten about. Deus Vult by Mongoose Publishing is essentially playing the bad guys from The Da Vinci Code but back in the Middle Ages. It’s like Ars Magica re-told from the point of view of the Church.

It uses a variant of BRP which will please some but not all. I’ve certainly had a lot of experience with people heavily into BRP – most notably a guy called Neil who maximised the experience point system of the original RuneQuest II by carrying one of every desirable weapon for a battle and swapping as soon as he got an XP checkbox.

I’m enjoying reading it – mostly because it’s a dead tree edition and a lot easier to read than the eBook versions of Clockwork and Chivalry and The One Ring which I received earlier this week.

New Haul: from Cromwell to Cthulhu via Mirkwood

Today I got a new haul of stuff. Some of these were PDF bundles so at some point the dead tree version of the book will arrive in the post.

These are:

Back again

I’ve been on a holiday-and-work-fueled hiatus. Two weeks driving in France and Spain and then two weeks spent helping people access seed funding for new ventures in “digital” as part of the CIIF programme.

The latter has been frustrating because essentially as I am part of the process, I am unable to apply for any personal ventures. It’s not because of any impropriety – it is possible to do these things and remain above board – it’s more because of the perception that it would bring. I am, technically, best placed to design something more likely to be funded. And as it is a competitive fund and I’m paid to help people compete, I’d have an automatic conflict of interest.

On the other hand, it ends up being one more excuse piled onto the other excuses about what’s stopping me doing something. I feel burned out at the moment – the impact of working with the fund (and the companies applying) after a holiday seemed to remove all the good work the holiday had done.

So – anyway – I’ve killed off updates on my Twitter for a while and disabled my ‘work’ blog for the time being. I need to spend some time just repairing myself. Doing stuff I enjoy like reading, writing and sailing is going to make life that bit more fun. Thanks for listening.

The Laundry is here

On Thursday I received ‘The Laundry‘ in the post. The announcement came back in March so I was really excited to get the book in the post this week. I have now spent a few hours reading it (all but most of the rules – which is another flavour of BRP, familiar to any CoC player). The game is based on Charles Stross’ Laundry Files – which is a series of novels set in a world where fighting unseen menaces from beyond our universe is left to a civil service department not dissimilar to MI5.

“The books are Lovecraftian spy thrillers. The best elements from both genres are thrown together with a sprinkling of long lost Nazis, terrorist cultists, other foreign governments wanting a piece of the action, as well as Her Majesty’s Civil Service.” added Cubicle 7’s Angus Abranson.

The Laundry is a branch of the British secret service, tasked to prevent hideous alien gods from wiping out all life on Earth. Players take the part of Laundry agents, cleaning up the mess after things go wrong or, sometimes, even managing to prevent the manifestation of ultimate evil. Agents have access to the best equipment they can get their superiors to approve, from Basilisk Guns to portable containment grids to a PDA loaded up with Category A countermeasure invocations.

I’ve only read “The Atrocity Archives” so far in the Laundry series (I’ve also read Glasshouse and Accelerando by Stross – they’re more straight sci-fi – the former very similar to Culture novels, the latter very cyberpunk. Both great.)
so I’ve added “The Jennifer Morgue” and “The Fuller Memorandum” to my Amazon wishlist. I’ll be taking The Atrocity Archives with me on my trip to Paris – Lord knows there’s going to be a lot of downtime.

If you’re not sure if you’ll like them, then you can get a taster with some of the Laundry short stories.

Overall, it seems enchantingly similar to Delta Green but without the feeling of hopelessness that comes from being mostly alone in a universe that is cold, dark and hostile. It’s gotten me interested again.

The Final Frontier. No, really.

Ian Sales writes on his blog:

And sometimes those imaginations run a little too free. A lot of science fiction is set in outer space, or on worlds which orbit other stars. Or, indeed, other types of celestial objects, both natural and artificial. In these stories, much of the difficulties associated with space travel are blithely ignored. Spaceships magically travel out of gravity wells. Spaceships magically provide interior gravity. Spaceship hulls magically protect occupants from all manner of spaceborne hazards. And, of course, spaceships magically travel unimaginable distances within days or weeks.

As Sir Arthur Eddington, an astronomer, said, “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine”. And yet sf writers seem content to refight historical wars in some sanitised and romanticised and safe imaginery place which is supposed to resemble the universe around us. They’re ignoring the unimaginable strangeness and the mind-boggling vastness of it all. They turned the Orion Arm into a shopping mall, and the Milky Way into Smallville. They’ve taken the wonder out of the real universe.

It’s time to put it back. Please.

My reply:

There’s a non-sequitur here that adding interstellar travel to a setting takes the wonder out of the universe?

Is science-fiction/fantasy really about the locations? Or is it about the plots and the drama and the characters? I can take MacBeth to the Interstellar Court where the Zanifraxians rule and the Darkness Syndicate seeks to destroy humanity before it can be accepted into the court, but at the end of the day, it’s still MacBeth.

For some science-fantasy it may be important to be in a galaxy far far away but yes, these stories could be set nearer to home – but why restrict ourselves?

My own writing is more about the interactions between a Earth human culture which is as alien to our 21st Century minds as anything I can conjure for interstellar aliens. That’s the sort of stuff that interests me and it’s why I enjoy reading Charlie Stross and Iain M Banks.

Is there a difference between a science-fiction tale of a lone cosmonaut on a supralight scout ship meeting strange new species or a pulp-fantasy take of a Venusian farmboy deciding to join the AetherCorps? Not really. But all of these stories elicit wonder in this reader.

Just because we cannot travel these distances, doesn’t mean we cannot dream these distances.

Setting Riff: Oa versus Krypton

A thousand years ago, on the planet Krypton, there was a technologically advanced, cruel and nihilistic race which carved a vast stellar empire, subjugating thousands of civilisations under their regime. Only one planet managed to overthrow the grip of the empire, Oa, but their rebellion only served to free their own planet.

Their thirst for power eventually cost the destruction of their own homeworld. In the dying moments, one of their top scientists sent his offspring to one of their genetic stock planets in the hope that he would revenge them by breeding a new race of soldiers. The spacecraft travelled for a thousand years until it reached the small blue marble orbiting a yellow sun. The primitive present on the planet were seeded millions of years before and would be almost completely genetically compatible with the offspring. The scientist had not realised that these primitives would had evolved rapidly in their culture in the intervening years. The Kryptonian offspring would fail in his mission, living as one of the primitives, becoming their protector.

But the offspring was not the only survivor. Thousands of their genetically superior supersoldiers had survived the destruction of the planet and were now warlords over the planets they had subjugated reporting to a military command structure engineered to survive a cataclysm – their commanders reside on Kandor, previously a planet not dissimilar to Earth, whose population were also seeded by the Kryptonian war machine.

The rebellion would be slow, it would be thorough and it originated from Oa. Their agents would spread through the shattered Kryptonian empires and recruit forces of rebellion from their own people. Oan scientists had discovered that fragments of the destroyed planet were toxic to the survivors. Each type would cause a different effect, but only one could be used as more than a poison, only one would be able to take the fight to the stars: green kryptonite.

And from these fragments, they fashioned their weapons.

Cold-Blooded Killers

Lizaur on TheRPGSite commented:

Well, the vast majority of RPG has leeengty chapters just about how to kill people, so what do you expect my players do?

Being a bunch of cold-blooder killer bastards, that’s. The fuckers.

Which stands to reason that if you want a game that is violence-free (though not necessarily conflict-free) then you need to reduce the number of pages allocated to killing and maiming in the game. And, to be honest, it also stands to reason that games traditionally appeal to a small section of the population.

The traditional game, D&D, brings you a setting where it is assumed that you will wander the cuntryside, robbing tombs, killing wildlife and murdering other intelligent beings. It’s no wonder that I never liked it.

Digital Games can be Social Experiences

Professor Mark Durkin from the University of Ulster suggested:

“For customers, the constant and often simultaneous use of laptop, MP3 player, smart phone and TV, especially by our young people, has serious implications in terms of attention and focus, he says.
“Of note is the fact that such stimulating multi-tasking makes the necessary recovery time needed by the brain for consolidating daily thoughts increasingly absent.
“Time once available for reflection, thought and consideration is being eroded by the constant noise of electronic devices demanding our attention.

“In actuality, society has become enslaved by what we still view to be liberating technology.
“What needs to be realised is that the technological capability that purports to enable the ‘social’ in ‘social networking’ simply creates a sleepy virtual environment populated by discrete interactions that are often narcissistic, superficial and ephemeral.
“As a society we are actually connected only in our collective belief that the Internet ‘connects’ us socially”.

In the 1950s, this would have been about rock and roll music.

The article is mainly about how businesses cannot interact using internet-based social marketing in a half-hearted way. And I think h’s inferring that this alone is where the enslavement appears. By the same token we are enslaved by the television (it forces us to turn it on and watch it if we want to see our favoured shows), we are enslaved by the kettle (we are forced to turn it on and wait for it to boil if we want a cup of tea) and we’re enslaved by the very air around us (which we are forced to breathe or else we die). As Professor Durkin is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Ulster and professionals in marketing education are reeling from the effects of the Internet, technology and social networking, it’s not entirely surprising to see this reaction. It’s not possible to just teach the 4 Ps “Marketing Mix” and hope that’s enough to educate tomorrows marketing experts. It fails to take into account the social effects (unless you count individual and mass communications under Promotion).

Personally I find that technology is liberating. Yes, we become complacent about it and maybe dependent to a degree but we can re-learn if the technology is not available. But technology is liberating, it is social and it can cause interactions which were not present before. For example, check this video out.

From single user devices, we find that multi-user devices are better at enabling interactions. Especially at 0:07 when Jacob ditches the Nintendo DS.

Are either of these individuals enslaved or has the technology advanced to the point where they can share an experience.

Once, Twice, Three Times a Detective

Dolgion Chuluunbaatar of Gamasutra writes about non-linear adventure games:

As I was on vacation, I picked up my sister’s copy of Sherlock Holmes stories, and quickly I got caught up in the really really beautifully narrated and well thought-out plots. As I had my phase of obsessively playing the classic LucasArts adventure games, the very first Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet” led me to think about the adventure game genre.

In “A Study in Scarlet”, Sherlock Holmes is first introduced to the reader by the narrator and companion Dr. Watson. It is through his eyes that we perceive the story and Holmes’ actions, not counting in the second part that explains some of the necessary background of the plot.

It’s almost always the question of “What did the game designer want me to understand so that I can find the trigger to advance the narrative?”. It’s trigger that sometimes puts me off, because in a badly designed game, it can end up in senseless actions being asked of the player and therefore he/she gets stuck for no valid reason. With good puzzle design, this can be minimized, but still, it all puts the player’s range of action into an uncomfortable corset.

This design paradigm consists of the basic idea that the player should be able to solve a problem by using their own brain power instead of hunting for triggers. Triggers are a more primitive way of the designer forcing the player to think, sadly resulting in use-everything-with-everything orgies if badly done.

A non-linear approach allows the player to make mistakes and encourages the player to make their own conclusions and gives them the power to execute on them. Of course a autonomous world to do that in is awesome already by itself and it should allow for pretty new motivation to replay an actually linear plot line if it was not for the player :D.

Of course, as a gamer I’ve run many detective games. These range from the high thrill, high horror, low schlock games like SLA Industries to the low key, psychic conspiracy thrillers like The 23rd Letter.

In the 80s, I remember playing Consulting Detective with the older kids and thoroughly enjoyed the level of detail, the requirement for immersion and visualisation and the reliance on observation and deduction. But it was not a popular game because to the average teenager, the game was hard. We were smart kids (most of us anyway), and yet we seemed more stupid in a group. Smart as we were, we were no Sherlock Holmes.

It is my belief that when running a detective game, you have to remember that the players are often less than the sum of their parts (due to confusion, interrupted narrative, last night’s football results and the imminent arrival of spicy food and naan bread).

This means that even smart individuals may miss important clues, may not see the allusions and the inferences in the newspaper clippings, fag ends and hastily scrawled dying notes which litter the genre. We all have day jobs and families and we’re not the super-obsessive compulsive consulting detective that the game might assume so the designer has to take the step of telling us once, telling us twice and telling us a third time to make sure we get the clue. We might misremember small facts, forget to keep copious notes (which, in my opinion, spoils the enjoyment of the game) or simply we may not be wired to think that way. Kevin Beimers of Straandlooper spoke about this aspect of game design at an event we held at Belfast Metropolitan College earlier this year. Clues need to be logical and discoverable.

There is also the problem when this translates into a video game that the game will often, by necessity, highlight items which are important. Games like Myst and Hector: Badge of Carnage thankfully escape much of this but it can be maddening to be tapping around trying to figure out exactly how to get something to work as a fan belt.

But we enjoy the discovery, even as it frustrates and confounds us. I’ve had almost as much fun watching someone play an engaging game as I have had playing it. So, why are there so few multiplayer detective games?

Are there any?

Current Inspirations

Portal – for the non-violent nature of it and the neat teleportation physics puzzles. And removing half of the stupid ways to die. And for this.

Mirror’s Edge on iPad – for the simple swipe-based mechanics, showing us a new way to do a simple platformer. For showing us how to convert a FPS for touch. And for this.

Left4Dead – for uncompromising 4 player co-op on both sides. For re-inventing the entire zombie genre. For much fun and great instakills. And for this.

Myth – for showing us that you don’t need to spend two hours building an army for a 10 minute fight. And building a kick-ass story around it. And for this.

And two movies.

Primer – for providing an all-round mind-fuck of a movie. and it’s available for free (linked here) on low-resolution web video and of course, available as a DVD.

Inception – only just out and not long out of the cinemas so there’s not a lot that I can say without introducing spoilers. So go and look at the trailer here and then go watch the movie. All I can add is “BRRRRANNNNNGGGGGGG”. You’ll know what I mean after you watch it.

8 Bit Demakes

This article describes 8 bit de-makes – remaking some of todays popular games in 8 bit and 16 bit forms. Some of them still look amazing such as Little Big Planet and Mirrors Edge.

All of them are great but these two – you can see why I like them – they’d work really well on a 3.5 inch screen if you know what I mean 🙂 Mirrors Edge is almost already there but looking at LBP – that would, could be a lot of fun.

Runnin and Jumpin genre mash

Earlier this week, we had a meeting of local iOS developers and we segued into a conversation about the development of game ideas ahead of a ‘gamestorming’ event we have planned for next week.

We talked about the development of game ideas and there was a look at the Mirror’s Edge game in the context of being a game which essentially involves running and jumping. I decided to add a little pastiche here using the powers of Youtube. All of the games listed below bring different perspectives to the running and jumping genre.

The first running and jumping game was Donkey Kong (1981):

but possibly the most famous running and jumping game is Super Mario Bros.

A recent game by an Irish developer is Into the Twilight (iTunes link). It shows a different theme for running and jumping games.

and finally, I present Mirror’s Edge for iPad which I personally think is streets ahead of the FPS released on consoles and PC. But where it wins is in the interface. Touch interface is perfect in this game.

I would not have played if…

From Wired:

A federal judge is allowing a negligence lawsuit to proceed against the publisher of the online virtual-world game Lineage II, amid allegations that a Hawaii man became so addicted he is “unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing or communicating with family and friends.”

Smallwood claims to have played Lineage II for 20,000 hours between 2004 and 2009. Among other things, he alleges he would not have begun playing if he was aware “that he would become addicted to the game.”

Take some personal responsibility, lard-ass.

Reunited

Today I moved about 150 kgs of my gaming collection to my house from my parents house. Keen-eyed geeks will be able to easily identify some of the game books here and some of you will even be upset at my organisation of the collection which, at the moment, is very coarse and will be improved as more of the collection is moved here. There’s easily another 150 kgs over there.

My bookshelf

You should be able to spot Traveller, Godlike, Star Trek, Blue Planet, Rolemaster, Middle Earth Roleplaying, Doctor Who, James Bond, Ars Magica, Call of Cthulhu maybe more.

I posted this pic on my Tech blog but when I think about it, it’s just as appropriate here.

The Doctor has arrived!

The new Dr Who RPG from Cubicle 7
The new Dr Who RPG from Cubicle 7

It arrived. And I’ve been preparing.

I’ved watched five episodes of Torchwood (the Children of Earth miniseries) as well as four episodes of Tom Baker’s Doctor (Robot) and a few episodes of Tennant’s Doctor (Silence in the Library, Stolen Earth). I’ve got plans to watch all of Eccleston’s Doctor over the weekend. I’d avoided most of the Doctor Who new stuff – having been soured of the Doctor by successively Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann and to be honest I’d never really warmed to David Tennant’s portrayal – it just seemed a little madcap, a little too camp.

So, it’s looking like Delta Green may be on hold for a while due to the holidays and some folks personal situations so I’m kinda keen to see what the fuss is all about.

I may have also ordered a copy of the Dr Who Technical Manual from Noble Knight Games. I already own a copy somewhere in the depths of my parents house – which, interestingly enough, I won when I was a kid from a competition which ran in the Daily Mail. It’s the sort of fanboi hardback that every kid in the world should have. It even included things I’d never heard of – Movellans, CyberMats and other things from earlier in the many series that make up the canon. With over seven hundred episodes out there – it’s a lot for anyone to take in and I’d previously only really watched part of Tom Baker, most of Peter Davidson and part of Colin Baker’s runs on the role. But you can also view the contents of it right here:

The Doctor Who Technical Manual

Places to go for extra fun?

How about the Official Cubicle 7 Dr Who: Adventures in Time and Space online forum? There’s already heaps of adventure seeds, character and kit writeups and discussions of campaigns that could be run.

Or maybe the Vortex Oracle for quick generation of Dr Who adventure seeds?

QABAL – a brief history of Magic

The beginning of time
In those days giants walked the earth and fought with the gods. Secrets were passed
from the gods to man through Thoth, Prometheus and Hermes Trismegistus – Secrets
of fire, science and magic.

350 BC
Plato describes Atlantis. It symbolises the origin of all knowledge. Believed to
be a myth, certain mystics claim it is a cipher for the location of the biblical
Eden. It has become apparent that there is a link between the ancient gods, Atlantis,
Eden and the biblical Flood that rid the earth of evil.

62 BC
Magi congregate at the court of Antiochus. They have foreseen a great conflict and
a divine peacemaker. The meeting is called to a sudden end after heated arguments
on how to deal with this matter. They depart undecided as to whether they should
welcome this new king or oppose him.

30 AD
Jesus of Nazareth, member of the Essene cult, is arrested and executed. Though he
was crucified by Roman hands it was the desire of his enemies, the Hebrew sorcerers,
that he die as a criminal. His chief disciple, Peter, defeats the sorcerer Simon
Magus in a magical duel and moves the cult of Christ into secrecy to avoid further
persecution.

685 AD
Khalid ibn Yazid, an arab prince, refuses his crown and leaves his court in order
to pursue his studies. He is taught by Morienus, a sorcerer and alchemist, but his
subsequent actions, purging his lands of other sects, have tainted his tradition
so that they are no longer known as holders of a secret wisdom but regarded as butchers.

930 AD
Sabbatai Donnolo unearths the hidden Sefir Yetsira or Book of Creation, a major work
of theology and also of magic and miracles. It is prolific during the Middle Ages
but later passes almost into the realm of myth. Whether or not the work is authentic,
passages from it survive and describe the magic used to create the earth.

1224 AD
A covenant is drawn up between two cults to ensure mutual protection til the end
of the millennium. In their desire to consolidate their agreement they alienate many
of the other cults extant at this time. Fortunately for them, most of these other
cults are destroyed by the fires of the Inquisition but some survive and remember
the betrayal.

1314 AD
Established in 1118 AD, the Knights Templar are destroyed on account of possessing
too much political and economic power. The charges brought upon them, however, were
idolatry and sedition.

1520 AD
In his key work De Occulta, Agrippa lays down his Unity of Traditions, a desire to
unite all religion. His intention was that his magical brethren should unite under
one purpose. His attempt fails but his works were widely distributed and have become
one of the main inspirations on magical thought.

1785 AD
Claude Louis, Count of Saint-Germain reappears to his pupil Etteila. Though his claim
that he is 325 years old is disputed, he surfaces several times in the next eighty
years. The last time he is seen is in 1875.

1850 AD
Eliphas Levi alleges Vintras and his Institute of Pity are an "absurd, anarchic
sect". This may have been true but it also has the effect of endearing Vintras
to Levi’s enemies. The depravity of the time also drew attention back to occult philosophy.
This was received with mixed blessings among the Masters.

1875 AD
The Great Purge Several Masters are slain along with hundreds of their followers.
Their groups were small and their followers weak so there were no retributions. This
highlights the encroaching end of the millennium and the end of the covenant and
thus an attempt to regulate the members of the covenant is made.

1900 AD
Crowley expelled from the Golden Dawn for ‘extreme practices’. He, and some of his
more loyal acolytes, form the Order of the Silver Star.

NOW
The Covenant is ending. An ancient alliance is ending. The future and untold riches
await those with knowledge and power enough to take it
 

 

The Books

A few days ago I received some chilling and frankly angering news.

We’d been distributed through Key20 for the last 18 months (and previous to that as well) and we’d sent them the vast majority of our stock. As of last week, they couldn’t pay so they’re sending back the remaining books and the only money we’re getting is likely going to be paying for shipping back to us.

This is angering me because they received nearly all of our copies of Zombi, for which we’re getting diddlysquat – and that leaves us up the creek without the proverbial paddle.

To this end, we’re just going to offer fulfillment directly through Paypal and work on getting the PDFs done. It’d hard to find the time to do all of this especially when you consider that we’re out a lot of money.

We’ve got a few books of each variety and we’ll be receiving the shipping of the remainders coming soon and aiming for a second printing as soon as we can afford it.

  

SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO

A self contained game set in a world filled with beautiful cyborgs, cute robots, superfast cyberbikes, powered exoskeletons, giant mechanoids, speed lines, comical pets, strange aliens, maniacal villains and demons with amazing groinal powers. The perfect bound A5 book is introduced by a four page comic drawn by the artist is P.J.Holden, known for professional comics work (DNA Swamp, Caliber Comics, 200AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, Fearless).

ISBN: 1-901042-02-2

Stock currently 100+

Reviews:

SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO – Review

Its not often that we do role-playing reviews in the SF&F newsletter but since this game was right up our street we thought what the hell!. SNCC XDO is the new game from Crucible Design, the same team that brought us The 23rd Letter last year (which, incidentally, has just gone into its 2nd edition and is well worth a look), and the standard of this game is at least as high. Like its predecessor, it is designed for the more mature gamer (although there is nothing preventing a beginner from enjoying the game at least as much) and is geared more towards storyline and character than rules. This is not to detract from the system in either game, since both work very smoothly. The point is that the game is left more in the hands of the GM to do with as he sees fit.
The background to SNCC XDO is one immediately familiar to fans of the anime/ manga genre. For the uninitiated, these are Japanese animations and comics dealing with frankly bizarre subjects (and Im a fan!). However, whilst it helps if one has seen at least one or two of the items on the recommended list at the back of the book, it is not necessary. The world is complete in itself and further reading/ viewing only adds flavour. Briefly, the game is set in the year 2019 after humanity has discovered MekaTek, advanced technology allowing mankind to do cool stuff like design whopping great suits of powered armour, space craft and so on. The setting concentrates on San Metro, immediately recognisable to fans of the genre. The citys main landmarks are described as well as a clever section about what Joe Average does in San Metro (a favourite of mine because it proves that they have football in the future). The different power groups in San Metro are described in some detail (handily giving plot hooks to the GM and showing how they fit into the scheme of things) and a brief history is also given. The background is very entertaining and there is plenty for characters to do. There are demons, aliens, cops, robbers, vigilantes, religious whackos, prophesies and too many other things to mention. Suffice it to say, you wont get bored.
Moving back to the system briefly, I have to say it is very, very quick indeed. Characters have ten traits which all start at 3 and are then added to with starting points. MekaTek is also a statistic which begins at 0 – players must spend points to increase it if they want to start out with mad techno gear. Some people might moan about the fact that they cant flesh out the charcter because of the limited skill list; I went through it as an experiment and I could not find anything theyd left out. If a character vitally needs to have a skill in Aardvark Tickling then he can bloody well talk to the GM about it. There is more than enough breadth and depth to allow such variation in the game. The point is that characters are about exactly that – character. Your history and personality should mean a lot more than numbers on a page. Besides which, the game has its tongue very much in its cheek. This is why I like the idea of the Life Notes. Apart from being very funny and setting the tone of the game nicely, they do give players a nice framework to build around. To add to the fun, there are both positive and negative notes which have to balance – for each roll on the positive table, you must also roll on ther negative table. The system itself is devastatingly simple. Roll 2d6 and try to get under your trait. I mean, the old Fighting Fantasy books were harder to suss than that! In short, the system is designed to be simple and quick, and it achieves this very well.
To finish up, you may have guessed that I am quite impressed with this game. Guilty as charged, Im afraid. What can I say? I mean, Im a fan of manga, I like the sense of humour that the game has (I challenge anyone to find a better tag line for a game than one that includes … demons with amazing groinal powers…), I was very impressed with the system and background detail… suffice it to say, you get the picture. As if all of this wasnt enough, the new Crucible Design format of perfect-binding their games is very nice, and theyve even thrown in some art work. This is of a very high standard (I dont know much about art, but I know what I like) and includes a 4-page comic at the start of the book. Were there any faults with the game? Not really. More extensive playing might reveal a few hiccups, but I would be very surprised if there are any. It is designed to be a very fun game so my advice would be that if you like manga or you want to get a game that you can enjoy rather than endure, you should seriously think about buying SNCC XDO.

•REC (spoilers! beware!)

Last night, due to the absence of Jim, we watched movies up at Graham’s rather than gaming. When I arrived (a little late due to teleconferences with NBC), they were just finishing off Dead Set. Michael’s opinion was that it didn’t add anything to the genre and although I think it was excellent, I am inclined to agree.

Afterwards we settled down to watch •REC. And there are spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “•REC (spoilers! beware!)”

Our First Glimpse of an Alien World

Discover Magazine writes about our first glimpse of an alien world.

Achieving a feat that seemed impossible not so long ago, a team of scientists working with the Hubble Space Telescope captured the first visible-light image of a planet orbiting another star.

This stuff inspires me. It makes me wonder about what’s out there – other worlds, other suns, other houses, other dinner plates. We’ll never know, of course, because Fomalhaut b is 25 light years away and that means flying for 25 years at light speed just to get there – and maybe to find nothing. Any transmission we make will take 50 years minimum to get a reply. And as we all know, long distance relationships never work.

But still. Somewhere out there….beneath the pale moonlight….

Oh. That’s a lyric. Sorry.