You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Gaming’ category.

I have written this post a number of times now and it has been difficult how to approach it. I really want to discuss this issue, but I have been worrying about how to broach it without inadvertently hurting feelings. That’s one of the negatives of a close gaming community I guess.

So first with the bomb and then the fallout.

I pulled out of the 2011 Kapcon LARP.

I know that a lot of people are going to say “so what. What makes you think we care?” Well it’s big for me because I REALLY wanted to play in an Arabian Nights LARP. But a number of factors caused my enthusiasm to wane and then a final personal issue with the character basically cinched my decision to leave.

Before I continue, the actual deciding factor was not one that the organisers could have predicted. They could have avoided the problem, but that would have required them changing a formulaic system that has been followed for Kapcon LARPs for a while now.

Which plays into my main beef. While I have enjoyed many Kapcon, there has been a habit of sticking to a formula that works for some but not all players. I had hoped after the brilliant Sanctuary game that we would see more innovation in the formula, but it has gradually drifted back to business as usual.

My first issue that I’m willing to discuss is the survey and character options. I get that organising a LARP is a big challenge. I’ve done it, and it takes a lot of work.

Sanctuary introduced the idea of a survey. This was used to guide the planning of the LARP and to help make characters that suited the players. The key point is that the survey guided creation.

Unfortunately, post Sanctuary, it has been used only as a guideline for casting AFTER the story and characters have been made. Meaning that players are possible offered character choices that have no relationship to their survey answers.

Another formulaic habit is to use character secrets to drive the story. This leads to a reticence to reveal too much about the characters when offering options to a player. So usually you get two or three vague choices that may or may not relate to the actual character offered. On two occasions I have found the character prΓ©cis and the actual write up have ended up contradicting each other.

In the survey you can list the people you would like to play with. When the options are provided, you aren’t told which character option is in the same faction as the people you opted to play with.

Given that this partially plays into my main issue I won’t talk about in detail, this actually annoys me. I received two choices that did not feel anything like what I had asked for and had no indication of which choice was with the people I wanted to play with – who all had received their characters ahead of me.

I took a stab at the choice closest – but not actually – matching my survey and ended up in a situation that could have been avoided if I had been told a bit more information about what faction my friends were in.

Instead I ended up with a character who had a situation I was not comfortable roleplaying. If the organisers had given me more information prior to choosing, that could have been avoided.

My other beef is that for me, Arabian Nights is a fantastical, exotic and mysterious setting. The material I was provided hinted at this being in the past of the game but that it was going to be just another political LARP with a Vampire Prince – er, Sultan. Etc etc.

Sorry, but removing Djinni’s and other mystical creatures and providing a rumour of a roc spoiled the setting for me. I am tired of mystical = GM. Oh look, the AI’s – sorry – Djinni’s have vanished only to return as guides for the players.

Yawn.

Sanctuary had no problems making PCs who were mystical beings. The GMs were mostly just minor characters.

Al Shir-Ma’s setting comes across as a reskinned Kapcon every-LARP and not fantastical Arabia.

Now I could have gotten past that if my character issue not been the one it was, but that was not to be.

Oddly, and this is a bit irrational of me, the one sentence thanks for my quick response to say I’m pulling out has also aggravated me because I wrote a fairly long explanation of why I was pulling out and it felt very dismissive of my issues as if I never really wanted to play.

I know that there is a long waiting list. I also know that a game that can’t adjust for size might be too tightly written.

Ultimately, this experience has soured my enthusiasm for LARPing in general and especially playing in Kapcon LARPs in the future. I appreciate the work and stress going into Al Shir-Ma and I suspect much of the negatives are more an artefact of years of formula than this single year.

I can only say that next LARP organisers need to take more cues from Sanctuary and the excellent lessons those organisers learned through the process they followed.

Hopefully some great ideas will arise in comments here that we can suggest for the future.

Conan

Advertisements

Today I am taking annual leave as I have a specialist’s appointment tomorrow in relation to the strange pain I got a month or two ago.

Last night Nick and I watched The Grudge 2 – Japanese version – and spent a good part of the evening scaring ourselves silly. The director of The Grudge really knows how to wind his audience up.

I do feel that the best horror builds on your fears by faking you out. The Grudge franchise is all about the fake out. It is a sign on the director’s skill that even knowing what’s coming doesn’t protect you from being freaked out by creepy reflections and cruel misdirection.

In other news, just as I was planning to shelve Setting it Straight, another actor contacted me regarding the show. I’m still fleshing out the changes – but it looks to me that everything will still be go.

I’ve been having a bit of an inner struggle recently regarding dating. Some of you may be aware that my last date was nearly a year ago. I seem to suffer from perpetual fussiness and a but of low self-esteem lately.

Not super depressed, just not feeling that I’d be that attractive to the kind of guys I’m attracted to. Le sigh.

Last night kind of brought these feelings up again, because as much as I do love Nick’s company, sometimes you need more than a mate to shoot the shit with. Would have been nice to have someone to snuggle up with while watching a great horror movie. πŸ™‚

I think part of SiS is my way of showing what it’s like to be gay and single in your early to mid thirties. Lots of guys my age either want younger bfs or want to just settle for whatever they can get.

Love seems to be not based on the person, but the exterior or physical need.

Maybe I am over thinking it all. Wouldn’t be the first time. πŸ™‚

I have to admit, walking in from home everyday is helping. I feel fitter, and I am losing weight, which is good. Not quite ready to return to the gym, but making baby steps to get there. πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’m in town now- catch you all later.

Conan

Okay, so I caved in to flatmate pressure and got myself an Xbox 360. What can I say? Overlord, Oblivion, Gears of War – over the last few months Microsoft and Xbox 360 have been doing a good job at being an enticing console purchase.

Now before some people decry “hypocrite” for my PC/Mac debate – this is a different issue. I’m looking at consoles, not PCs.

Well firstly, as much as I love Sony they have been just flubbing things up with the PS3. The long wait for decent games – still waiting – the high pricing and general lack of appeal has made Xbox 360 an attractive and affordable alternative.

So how is the Xbox 360? Currently, it is a lot of fun – but not without flaws. The first and foremost is the lack of proper instructions. The PS2 came with both a fantastic guide to how everything worked along with a very intuitive control interface.

Xbox’s control interface isn’t that difficult – but some things are just a little esoteric to understand, and the guide book is a bit light.

On the other hand, it is a very fun console gameswise. This is where Microsoft have really stepped up to the plate. They have clearly learnt a lot of lessons from the Xbox/PS2 battle, and by releasing the 360 a year ahead, it has had time to build up quite an arsenal of good games.

It is unusual to now, a year down the track, look in a games shop and find title after title of 360 games I want to play, but no ps3. Sony have better get their act together soon with their releases, or they may see themselves losing the console wars.

Not that I’m ruling the PS3 out, Metal Gear looks freaking awesome, and there is still Final Fantasy XIII to consider. (Although there are rumours that FFXIV will be on Xbox 360, and not PS3…)

In regards to games – I’ve been playing Overlord, which is a freaking fantastic little game. But more on that later. πŸ™‚

Until then…

Love and Huggles

Conan

Currently Reading: REIGN
Currently Playing: REIGN, WFRP
Mood: Loving my 360 fix!

It has proven to be quite a week for gaming, this week. I’ve been following an interesting debate on RPGnet regarding GNS theory being considered elitist, and some very interesting points have been made during the course of the discussion.

One of the key things to come out of the discussion was that GNS theory and its successor Big Model theory aren’t intrinsically elitist, but that there have been proponents of the theories who have used them in a fairly elitist manner.

This was an interesting observation, given the general vitriol and flamebait that discussing Forge-based theory tends to generate. The debate has actually been pretty level headed, with the various people managing to keep things pretty civil.

For me the upshot of the discussion has been that most people in the industry and hobby tend to see GNS and Big Model as poorly constructed theories. The blunt reality is that the methodology used to construct the theories, and the ensuing essays discussing them have been poorly planned and constructed – a view that I have held for some time now.

I’ve had a mixed opinion on game theory – for a while I was rabidly anti-theory because I found that many of the essayists from Forge (who were the more prominent theorists of the time) produced sloppy theories based around obscure terminology and a tendancy to borrow terminology from other disciplines without using the proper definitions.

All in all, it came across to me as a group of people who were thinking about gaming, but not using proper critical thinking skills in the process. Rather they used poor argumentation and their approach to any criticism was a near evangelical denial of rebuttals.

This has changed somewhat over the last year and a bit. Part of it has been through watching Luke’s changing views on gaming. (See Gametime in the blog links) While I don’t share some of his insights – I think he is allowing himself to be drawn into some flawed approaches to gaming, I am seeing how parts of his exploration has led him to finding a better way of articulating what it is that he is looking for in a game.

So I find the goal of gaming theory to be an admirable one – to create a common framework to discuss our hobby and what it is capable of. The problem is that for this to be truly effective on a broader scale, it needs proper research and a solid methodology to back up the theory.

This is where the current discussion has made interesting revelations. Ryan Dancey’s research into the hobby produced a much better model of how to look at the various people in the hobby and how to approach game design.

Consider the Wizards of the Coast research into roleplaying

Now compare how this methodology looks next to GNS. While the WoTC study no doubt gets some things incorrect – there is some debate about Dancey’s assertion of a perfect 22% in each of the four quandrants – the methodology is sound, and the argument both valid and well constructed.

I recently wrote a bit of a rant against GNS, I still remain unconvinced regarding it’s reliability, applicability and validity. As pointed out in the RPGnet discussion, much of GNS and Big Model theory misuses common social science terminology, twisting the meaning to suit the theory, and even sometimes missing the meaning altogether. (My personal bugbear being the abusive use of Social Contract without any material or definition of what the theory means by using that term, because the implied “contract” is nothing like an actual social contract as laid out in social philosophy, sociology, psychology or political theory.)

It has been suggested by such influential writers on the hobby and Robin Laws and John Wick that there is a schism due to hit the indie game market, brought about by the methodologies instigated by the Forge theorists. It is becoming more and more apparent that the GNS model has, as an influence on the greater hobby, been very little – contrary to what many indie gamers would like to believe.

This predicted schism within the indie market has already begun, with the formation of such groups as Gamecraft, started by one of my favourite modern gaming theorists, Levi in conjunction with TonyLB – the creator of Capes, of all things.

Gamecraft’s approach is much closer to how I envisage game theory being used. It aims to be practical, open, clear and focused on actual results. The methodology is improved on and building towards gentler discoveries. The key thing is that it isn’t buying into a single theory and trying to prove it, but rather looks at the actual craft of gaming and game design.

If I had the time and patience I would possibly go into research myself on the topic. But there are some good minds out there aiming to bring positive developments to the hobby. Some of these people cut their teeth in the Forge when it was developing theory, but they are now moving into more productive areas.

The last couple of years saw a boom in the indie market as far as products produced, but that bubble is about to burst. The greater industry has not stood up and listened – it has developed at its own pace, and with more non-GNS focused indie businesses entering the market, the Forge and GNS are likely to become footnotes in the industry.

The problem that the indie industry faces is one of longevity. Most indie games are short lived wonders – popular for a while, but ultimately not as widely played or used as the more traditional games. Look at products like Wushu and PTA – people play them from time to time, but they are not the preferred games for a majority of hobbyists.

This is not to denigrate such games – some indie games have done some very cool and interesting things that give me reason to pause and consider how I can improve my more traditional games. They are fun to play occassionally, and they have some cool structures.

But they have been built on a theory that argues one should focus a game on a single axis. WoTC’s theory argues that a well-designed and successful game uses more than one axis in its design. Consider Promethean – it is built on a mix of indie and traditional design ethics, and as such is a lot more successful than, say, Capes or Primetime Adventures.

It isn’t merely because it is produced by White Wolf – remember, White Wolf was once an indie game design company – rather, it is because White Wolf’s staff know how to produce quality products.

The same goes for WoTC. While I’m not a big d20 fan, I have come to realise that I *do* like it. I bought d20 Modern, and Dark*Matter and I love them. Sure it is a clunky set of rules, but there is something about them that I also like. The same goes for D&D.

I don’t think I’m particularly unique in this respect. I’m beginning to better understand why these games are successful and why people end up going back to them. Why Shadowrun 4e is so good. And why an indie game like Wild Talents can be so popular. Because all these traditional games have much more to offer in the long run…

Love and Huggles

Conan

Currently Reading: Eberron
Currently Playing: Exalted: Nexus of the Sun; Orpheus: Shades of Gray
Mood: Taking on gaming theory!

September 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Tweeting away

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Top Posts

Blog Stats

  • 13,379 hits

Pages