Happy Halloween (Sales!)

Just another short post to bring you all up to speed on some of my favorite Halloween digital game sales found around the ‘net today!

Steam has several games on sale including 80% off the best digital laxative ever:

Amnesia: The Dark Decent is survival horror done right. You have no weapons so you best run, Nancy. Tired of running? There’s hiding. Tired of hiding? There’s puzzles. Tired of puzzles? There’s unsettling… creatures that A) Want to taste you and B) Will drive you insane if you so much as look at them. Good times! Go get it.

Good Old Games offers a number of classic spine tingling horrors including the classic series:

That’s right, Sierra’s classic supernatural psyhco-thriller trilogy, Gabriel Knight is on sale for $2.99 an episode. It’ll set you back 10 bucks, but it’ll be good for you. Go on it’ll put hair on your chest and gibblies in your shivers.

Finally, there’s Direct2Drive’s sale that… sorta has the same stuff on sale that Steam does. But! You can save five cents on another bowel opener:

I think that image says it all, really. So Happy Halloween all, and enjoy your scare!

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

Play Abandonware

Previously, I’ve ranted about how much it costs to be a modern gamer. Well being a modern gamer doesn’t mean you can only play the newest releases. You can also play great games from yester-year that are currently available free-of-charge due to copyright confusion or abandonment.

Games in this category are commonly refered to as abandonware, and exist in a legal grey-area. I’m as capitalist as the next guy, but when a company stops enforcing its own copyrights, hey! Them’s free eats.

Mmmm, that MicroProse flavor!

I’d like to bring two great resources to your attention when it comes to obtaining abandonware: Abandonia and Free Game Empire. Typically all you need is the time to search through their archives, the reading comprehension and finger dexterity to download a game, and the willpower to grab a copy of DOSBox. Why it’s such a fun an easy process that I think I’ll feature one piece of abandonware a week. They’re just that much fun.

In closing, let me just say that we’ve got a long and storied history of video games behind us. You have no excuse other than ‘I’m too lazy to play great games from the past.’ or ‘Dear god the graphics/sound effects/story elements make me want to die.’

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

WotC Digital Day Dreaming

Last week I talked about the dangers of Wizards of the Coast going all digital too soon. Today I want to sit here and dream up a perfect world in which Wizards of the Coast reads my note in class and invites me to sit under the bleachers and make out.

Dear WotC, I think you're dreamy! Do you like me? Yes ( ) No ( )

That went to sort of a weird place. Anyway, here’s what I’d love to see Wizards of the Coast do with digital.

•Create an online, cloud-based content management system with an attractive front end like Steam and include the other elements of the DDI.
•Through this UI, sell content for all editions of D&D. Not just the current stuff, anything you own, throw it up there.
• Make the books cheap. I’m not talking about making them $5.00 off the cover price, I’m talking making them $5.00.
•Have sales often like DriveThru RPG.
•Use a specific file type that can’t be opened outside of the application. Make it so users can’t copy the content out of the UI, but can copy the content within the UI, and share it with friends who also have the application. Give users the ability lend books to each other for an hour or three with a 24 hour cool down so that friends can access the books during games.
•Sell 3rd party content, and take a percentage of the profits in return for hosting and marketing.
•Make this application an App for iPads, Color Nooks, and Kindle Fires.
•Work with a tablet manufacturer to create a dedicated tablet with this Application front-and-center and sell that in retail stores.
•Sell gift cards for the application in retail stores.
•Continue to sell hardback limited editions of core rule books, tokens, minis, and map tiles in retail stores.
•Kill off Wizbook, and buy Obsidian Portal for godsakes, they know how to get players involved in their games digitally.

There. That would be awesome. It would also be expensive as hell, and probably not worth the return. But a man can dream though. A man can dream… What would your ideal Wizards of the Coast digital strategy look like?

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

Website Spotlight: Tabletop Gaming News

Short post today. the purpose of this post is to make you aware of one of my favorite gaming news sources that you’ve probably never heard of. Tabletop Gaming News. Tabletop Gaming News, recently purchased by Cool Mini Or Not, is the best source I’ve found for news about board games, rpgs, tabletop war games, and the companies that make them. It’s the first thing I read in the morning with my coffee, and the last thing I read before going to bed. Check it out, won’t you?

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

P.S. I added an RSS widget. Enjoy!

Guest Blogger Wyatt Salazar

Wyatt Salazar is one of my favorite bloggers. He owns a little corner of the internet called The Spirits of Eden. Not only is he a good writer getting better (that alone is enough reason to keep tabs on his blog) but he’s like a physical manifestation of the 4chan boards /a/, /v/, /tg/, and /lit/… But without all the idiocy and torture porn. Following him on Twitter (@WyattSalazar) is recommended if you’re looking for humorous observations that you can later claim where your own. Anyway, Wyatt was kind enough to write a the following post for Low On XP all about his Sci-Fi/Fantasy RPG setting, The World of Adel.

For me, writing The World of Adel on my blog, The Spirits of Eden, is its own hobby. For most GMs, a setting should be the barest bones that they can run a session from, and they don’t have time for more detail.  And I could run World of Adel without even three quarters of the material I have written for it. But I love to go down one layer deeper than before and look at certain elements more closely. I’ll probably never get the chance to use half the things I write, but just exploring that world is intensely entertaining for me. So in my spare time, for the past few years, I’ve expanded my campaign setting a lot. I’ve also destroyed it and rebooted it once with new ideas and a fresh take.

When I started Adel, I wanted a different take on fantasy settings. My inspirations are really varied. Hindu and Asian mythology forms a part of it. Modern geopolitics are there a bit. There’s some japanese Anime aesthetics (people with tails, martial artists, capacity for child heroes and such). Polytheistic religion is a big one. Adelians are animists and true polytheists, and their gods, the Spirits, walk the world too.

Adel is, essentially, the post-apocalypse of an older world. The Cataclysm brought destruction to the Lost World, but also revitalization. The new Adel is beautiful and somewhat peaceful, with Five Nations that keep order and provide protection and services to people. I modeled these nations more after real political units, rather than the usually despotic and essentially helpless nations that exist in common D&D-type games. Adel’s Spirits are needed for the ravaged world to stay lush and beautiful. Without spirits, the world would be dead.

However, that’s not to say everything in Adel is well. Though it is a more livable place than typical “points of light” style settings that are beset every day by horrors, Adel has problems of its own. The center of the continent is a dead wasteland filled with demons and insane beings. Buried beneath the world are ruins and relics of the Lost World, ancient technology that will periodically come to life and ruin someone’s day. As well as the ravages of nature – things like dragons and sabertooth tigers and whatnot – there is plenty of conflict.

My mindset when I’m building the world is to write things in layers. There’s the layer that typical readers and GMs would need: a map, the names of places, and generalized information about religion and other customs. I put all of that in one section, a superficial look at the world. From there I go deeper. What is the Adelian view on technology? On sexuality and gender? What is their food like, what are their homes like? What kinds of traditions and communities do they have? All of this lets me create ideas for adventures and to give more texture to the world, and to give stuff for interested players to mine for ideas. I wanted to give a sense that these people aren’t “fantasy Europeans” or “fantasy Hindus” but rather their own people who think about their problems and culture in their own way.

One thing I wanted to do was to create a setting that isn’t trapped by a medieval European mindset about society. In the World of Adel men and women are equal and can do any task. What’s more most people in Adel are very tolerant of bisexuality or homosexuality. Bisexuality can be considered to be “normal” for the Adelians, except for the really elitist rich folk who are staunchly about heterosexual marriages to beget heirs and consolidate wealth. I’m bisexual myself so this reflects me. But I also wanted to include some room for romantic conflict in a part of the setting that usually works for that: monied heirs.

There is no racism. None of the characters are really human though, but their features can accord to any human culture you want to be. A lot of people have told me this sacrifices conflict, but I disagree. The conflict in the World of Adel is the enemies and monsters that exist, the mysterious dungeons of the Lost World, and human problems such as thievery, intrigue, jealousy that create antagonistic character interactions. Widespread bigotry isn’t necessary.

One problem I ran into with the first incarnation of the setting, was that I had included too many ideas that expanded the scope too much. There were too many races, too much space, too many nations and places. It even went into outer space! I didn’t want it to be this huge and convoluted, so that’s when I rebooted it. I took out the old index and made a new one, with a new plan. From there I’ve been much more satisfied with my output, because I’ve refocused my ideas with a new mindset. You can have a big setting without having twenty nations, twelve different races and five systems of magic. What really matters is that the elements you do include are each interesting and expandable, and that they can be used in different ways. I focused more on having interesting elements than having lots of elements.

The World of Adel started off in D&D 3.5, migrated to D&D 4e, but ultimately, I felt constrained by game systems. So I just write now, and I try to give tips or hints on how you can adapt the material to your own games. It’s still essentially a world for fantasy adventures, but it has its own melange of elements that I hope set it apart and make it an interesting place to draw inspiration from.

Thanks again to Wyatt for taking the time to make this happen. I look forward to more news from Adel in the future. You know, I can’t help but smile at the potential of playing in the setting. Until next week, Good Gaming!

-Dan

Dealing with Gamers Block

Gamers Block is that odd thing that sometimes happens when you’ve got all the time in the world, a handful or more of great video games you’ve been dying to play, and suddenly you don’t feel like playing any of them. It’s the damnedest thing. Some of these games you scrimped and saved to buy. Others you borrowed from a friend. Still others are gems from yesteryear that you picked up at a yard sale for a song. So what do you do when you have all that undisputed ‘me’ time, enough games to choke a small dog, and no desire to dip into any of them? Just follow my handy guide, and you’ll be on your way to gaming bliss in no time.

Step 1) Cull the herd. Look at all those games, goddamn. It’s a whole wall covered in brand names, logos, and carefully planed out box art. How can you possibly make a decision? Well your first step should be to cull the herd my friend. Make a decision on what kind of game you’re going to play. wRPG, jRPG, FPS, RTS, 4X, Platformer, Driving, Fishing, Fighting, Sim, Casual, Puzzle, a short game, a long game, Xbox, PC, PS3, Wii, iOS, 3DS, male protagonist, female protagonist, dog protagonist, whatever. Just pick a category and make a quick list of the games you own in your chosen category. Now that you’ve culled the heard, it’s time to…

Step 2) Choose: Continue a game, or start a game. Ok so you’ve got your titles all laid out. Don’t wuss out here and pick a different category, go with what you got. Now it comes time for another round of decisions. Separate your list of games into games you’ve started, but haven’t finished, and games you haven’t started. Now for each game in the continue list, close your eyes and ask yourself ‘Do I ever want to continue (insert name of game here)?’ If the first answer that comes to mind is ‘no’ then cross it off the list. If the answer is ‘YES! GOD YES!’ Then get to playing, son! If, however the answer is a drawn-out ‘maaaaybe’ then keep it on the list for now. Do the same with the list of games you haven’t started, only ask yourself ‘Do I ever want to start (insert name of game here)?’ Again, no’s go away, yes’ you play, and maybes get to stay.

Step 3) Make the marketing work for you. Chances are that there’s been some sort of marketing for the games that remain on your list. And you can probably find it on the internet without a lot of effort. Well, go forth and get excited, fool! You have the game for some damn reason or another. Rekindle the magic! Hit up YouTube or the ancient, abandoned website for each game, and see what sparked your interest in the first place! Who knows, after that second official trailer or dev diary, you’ll finally be ready to transform and roll out, crack heads into urinals, or get that blessing from Saint Cuthbert.

If you’re still having trouble getting into the game, then maybe you’re just not in the gaming mood. It’s cool, it happens to everyone from time to time. Go take a walk in the sunshine. You know, get some Vitamin D 20 minutes a day cures what ails ya! Or go listen to some music, read a book, watch a movie. Do some laundry… Anything! Just don’t sit there paralyzed with indecision or you’ll waste your whole day.

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

The Dangers of Going Digital for Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast are the makers of my favorite tabletop RPG game, and the grand-daddy of them all, Dungeons and Dragons. They’re owned by Hasbro, in case you didn’t know. They’re also up shit creek without a paddle when it comes to digital offerings. This post is the result of a conversation I had with a friend of mine about digital RPG content, and it represents my opinions and outside assumptions on the business of D&D. A lot of this is speculation, so feel free to argue with me and tell me I’m not just wrong, but also dumb. Anyway, here we go.

The Dungeons and Dragons Insider monthly subscription program (in which I participate) leaves much to be desired by anyone even remotely aware of available web, content management, and cloud based technologies. The bit torrents are rife with pirated copies of every D&D book ever made in multiple languages. And whenever they try to make a change for the better with their digital initiatives, they enrage neckbeards and grognards from here to Helsinki. And everyday, more and more folks are discovering completely serviceable alternatives like Pathfinder or DriveThru RPG. But why is that? Why would the company with the most to lose be so slow in going digital? The answers may surprise you.

Firstly, who do you think the primary customer for D&D is? When Wizards of the Coast counts up its D&D recipts at the end of the day, what demographic is their biggest spender? Believe it or not, it’s not gamers. It’s retail stores. Be it local mom-and-pop stores, or retail giants like Barnes and Nobles or Books-a-million. And it’s been that way for a long, long time. Wizards of the Coast has only recently gotten into the racket of direct customer sales, much to the chagrin of their best customers, the retail chains. In the eyes of the people who cook the books at Wizards, going fully digital would lose them their best customers.

Secondly, when it comes to D&D, Wizards of the Coast is in the business of making and selling physical books. It’s how they measure success and brand health, and a meaningful percentage of their workforce is dedicated to the process of acquiring physical materials, printing the books, performing book QA, and physical shipping of product. If they went all digital, that portion of their workforce would either become unnecessary or need to learn new skills in a hurry.

Finally, there’s the expectations of the majority of their secondary audience, us. As much as I would love digital content, books are easier to pass around a table. Plus, I like seeing them sitting there behind the glass in the gaming room. I guess I could put a USB stick in there, but it just wouldn’t look the same, call me an old softy. So what can Wizards of the Coast do? Honestly, I think they just need to keep on trucking. They may be slow with the digital initiatives, but they have a precarious and unenviable balancing act they need to keep up. And we should wish them the best of luck.

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan