Chris and Mike got out to Gen Con Indy this year, as you’ve already seen from the set of audio interviews. But what did they really think? We sat down a few days back and discussed everything that came to mind, rational thought or not, which resulted in our Gen Con ’06 impressions show. As always, tremble in fear.
Archive for August, 2006
OMG OMG OMG. “‘The Goblin Game’ is a Web-based game that can be played using any standard Web browser (EG: Internet Explorer or Firefox) that supports the Flash plug-in. [...] This is a competitive strategy game not unlike a board game. No collecting is involved, although there is a great deal of depth to the game and there are many different ways to play it and win. [...] Rather than a monthly fee, Wizards plans to require a one- time fee to join in or start a new game. Each game should last from 2 to 3 months.”
Please don’t let my little found sounds distract you from the gravity and awesomeness of our talks with Ben Lehman of Polaris, Clinton R. Nixon and Emily Care Boss of The Shadow of Yesterday and Breaking the Ice respectively, and Jonathan Walton of Push. We did get audio from some non-story-gamey stuff, but I wanted to deliver these as a triple threat. Let us know what you think below.
Via Penny Arcade, the story: Microsoft is to offer some heavy hitters of Eurogaming on the paid-downloads Xbox Live Arcade service by the end of the year. The only title announced thus far besides the big two is Alhambra, but speculation is of course running where it always runs: rampant. Also, I have no Xbox and I must scream. I wonder if these are 360 only or backward-compatible.
I’m surprised our gamebook specialist Demian never posted about this, but then again, he’s adjusting to being a newlywed (congrats, man!): the first Choose Your Own Adventure animated DVD. This thing is being pushed hard – I keep running into online ads and TV commercials for The Abominable Snowman, which is based one of the classic interactive books. In fact, the big marketing push for the DVD has encouraged big bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble to stock up on Choose Your Own Adventure books, introducing them to a new generation of gamebook players. Now, if we can just get the Lone Wolf books stocked right next to them, we can convert more youth into the fine, upstanding gamers of tomorrow.
Finally found the info on this: Perplex City: The Board Game will feature fairly simple puzzles by PPC standards, Trivial Pursuit-esque gameplay (here’s hoping that play on the board gets a little more fun than that), and a $40-esque price tag according to Funagain. Neat-looking product, but it isn’t clear how it’ll key into the story given that Season 1 is in its final stages. I suppose it doesn’t have to.
Information concerning the big Perplex City live event in San Francisco this past Saturday is frustratingly scarce on our friend the internet. The perplexcity tag on Flickr has a paltry few photos so far, and even the normally hopping Unfiction forums just have a few dribs and drabs. It looks like it really was a mistake on Mind Candy‘s part to schedule this event concurrent with Gen Con… or at least to promote it the way they did. But here’s what I’ve gathered so far.
A few days before the event, the existing link between Earth and Perplex City was severed – we got email to that effect – and the celebration of a new connection was redubbed an emergency rescue mission. Once the event was on, a new website appeared with two progress bars: one for onsite progress towards reestablishing the link, and one for online progress. Online players could help nudge progress forward by answering questions about PXC trivia and other puzzles, as well as simply hitting certain pages a lot. Players on the ground in SF… well, it isn’t clear, but we know they were advised to have transportation ready, so maybe their challenges involved info gathering throughout the city. In the end, the link was established with minutes to spare, and players were rewarded with a video message of congratulations from the cube hunt’s head honcho (obviously posted to Google by someone who can’t spell under pressure). However, players watching the video in SF were interrupted by a phone call from baddies The Third Power (here’s another variation that some got) just before they got buzzed by not one (as in a previous event in London), but two (oooohhhh) black helicopters.
So there’s a lot missing here. I had a couple of friends present but they haven’t reported in yet. Mind Candy might be thinking that documenting their live events incompletely or slowly incentivizes people to show up and participate, but I think the history (short as it is) of ARGs so far shows that not to be the case. You need to make room for a passive audience, especially when your sense of urgency is already a little bit lacking. They will probably get some nice details up on the official site eventually; we’ll let you know when.
(Incidentally, some of the most interesting talks I had at Gen Con concerned the ways in which RPGs and story games could benefit by making more explicit room for a “home audience” that doesn’t participate directly. More on that soon, maybe.)
As expected, the ENnies Award winners were announced Friday night at Gen Con. Among those taking away the prize were Green Ronin Publishing (Best Game, Best d20/OGL Product – Mutants & Masterminds 2e; Fan’s Choice Best Publisher; multiple others), Paizo Publishing (Best Campaign Setting/Setting Supplement, Best Adventure – The Shackled City Adventure Path; multiple others), and our friends over at Yog-Sothoth.com for Best Fan Site. Click the link for the full list of winners.
- Pieces of Eight rocks. It’s simple and plays fast, but it still has a lot of depth and even some bluff. No, it isn’t collectible – fixed sets. Above all, it has figured out how to take one of those much-vaunted things that tabletop games can do and digital games can’t – namely, being tactile – and really make it a decisive advantage. It just feels great to hold and use these coins. Highly recommended.
- Did a demo of The Spoils. It feels a great deal like Magic – like, a great deal. Not even that large of a variation on Magic, really. The one thing it really has going for it in my opinion is stylishness – sorry, Allan, but Hidden Sniper is not nearly as good an example of this game’s flavor as Dragon Catheter. It’s mildly silly, in other words, but still manages to have a lot of hipness in the design and overall look. But yeah, I don’t see this taking off except possibly on the strength of its big cash prizes driving more players to gradually get familiar with it.
- We recorded our demo of Veritas Games‘ Power Storm customizable game – again, fixed sets, but with the option of buying randomly sorted Draft Packs should you want to rock it tournament style. (Also, if I understood correctly, every full box of Draft Packs represents a full, consistent set of cards. So there’s a non-collectible option there too.) Veritas’ Lee Valentine is a sometime denizen of our comments, and God help him, he’s been listening to us – he’s been doing a lot to make the game accessible not just to players but to retailers. Besides there being three different complexity levels to which you can dial the game, the simplest (which we played) has considerable depth without bogging down. It’s like a fast Euro card game, only with more guys in tights smacking each other in the face. People who like CCG-style play but haven’t got time for the pain, or just want a game with a great superhero feel, need to look for this one. When we get the audio up from our demo, it’ll be a great listen for those who want to know how to sell the game, or just want a raw slice of the Gen Con experience.
Another game is preparing to enter the collectible card game market: Tenacious Games’ The Spoils. The game setting strikes me as a blend of steampunk and fantasy, with some sci-fi anime influences as well. The early art from beta samples we’ve received are high quality, and occasional hardcore combat scenes pop up now and then to get players’ blood flowing (watch for the Hidden Sniper card, for one). Tenacious Games is holding an Open Beta tournament (at Gen Con Indy right now, of course), with all sorts of prizes offered up in events all the way through October 29th, including a $10,000 tournament in New York. The Spoils has its true launch in November, but these tournaments will surely hold importance for the game’s chances. Without enough pre-existing buzz, most retailers will be hesitant to risk stocking another collectible product.
Stage one of WizKids’ regrouping after its recent layoffs and product cancellations appears to be bringing in new talent. In a press release today (see below), WizKids announced that Mike Elliott, formerly of Wizards of the Coast, has been brought aboard as the new Senior Designer of R&D. Elliott, who has worked on games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon and Duelmasters, will focus on “developing new game lines as well assist in fine-tuning our existing games.”
WizKids has announced a partnership with MMO-sters Worlds Apart (now apparently known as Sony Online Entertainment Denver) to release an online version of the Pirates of the (Insert Thing That’s Not The Carribbean) CMG in the fall. Coincidentally, the fall is also around when the bulk of retailers will be able to order any new Pirates packs. So… yeah. On the one hand, this is a game that it totally makes sense to play online and I am psyched to try it. On the other, I wonder if it doesn’t take a property the size of Magic to really make a straight online conversion of a CCG sustain itself.
Twice today I’ve played very, very enjoyable subsets (meaning demo games calibrated to different levels of complexity) of John Harper’s combatty RPG Agon. This is the last kind of RPG I thought I would be having a blast playing at the show. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly an indie game that challenges assumptions, but it’s also a crunchy game focused on Greek heroes fighting monsters. The book is gorgeous – look for the big helmet! – and no bigger than it needs to be. Even better is the character sheet, which literally puts absolutely every option a player will ever need to consider right there in front of you, in an incredibly elegant and learnable structure. No tedious poring over the rule catalogs! Death to roleplaying as shopping, just cut to the chase! Piles of awesome. And even if your character dies there’s still character advancement.
Random starting notes:
- True Dungeon seems to be less of a big deal in the con culture this time out. Maybe due to the poor position of the Tavern. Or maybe just because I am hopped up on goofballs. I will probably start hearing more about it when Chris has his run.
- People are coming away from the IPR/Forge/Wicked Dead booth with big, big handfuls of books. At one point the line was exactly half as long as the line to buy stuff at the WotC booth – I counted. (The only really impressive lines were at Privateer for Superiority, FanPro for I assume CBT Total Warfare, and – this one shocked me – the Order of the Stick guy for his new board game.)
- People seem to be buying and playing Dreamblade at an impressive clip. Some booths are even selling singles already.
- I still haven’t gotten to play Mechaton. DAMMIT
- Also haven’t seen the Viktory II guy. I don’t remember if we linked to this fellow’s exhaustive documentation, floated on the net a few weeks ago, about what-all went into the garage production of his combat game. [Edit: we have now.] Will have to look for him more carefully tomorrow.
- Already a much stronger presence of video game companies. Pirates of the Burning Seas, yay.
- “Preorder the Deluxe Edition of Kill Doctor Lucky from Titanic Games and get a limited edition Dr. Lucky miniature!” !!!???
More soon, naturally.
The Diana Jones Award has gone to Irish gamer charity auctions. I am posting from my phone, which sucks. More later.
[EDIT: Official press release below]
So, to recap: the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, another one of those trade shows that can’t seem to remember they’re trade shows and not cons, recently got smacked down by all of its largest exhibitors. As a result, it is ceasing to exist in recognizable form. Along comes Gen Con, which will expand its Indy operations in ’07 and move the ’07 So Cal show to Los Angeles from Anaheim. So, look for next year’s Indy show to have a lot more digital action, and for next year’s So Cal to resemble the inside of a pinball machine. Provided that video game manufacturers give Gen Con their business, that is. Have a great time at the con tomorrow, everyone! Try not to panic! (Press release after the jump.)
In which we call out a mess of Gen Con releases to which we look forward, and include a review from the 2d6 Feet crew of our Ogre’s Choice honoree True 20. And as always, a whole mess of other crap. Talk about it below.
Originally announced as a Spring ’06 release, Upper Deck’s World of Warcraft TCG will be shown off at Gen Con Indy next week (according to the official site, titled WoW TCG Online as if to entice existing MMORPG players). Will this be the next Yu-Gi-Oh!-sized sensation? Not if the depressed CCG market has anything to say about it. Still, the WoW TCG skews to a slightly older demographic, and the once-promised online tie-in cards, if still planned, might help sales as well. We’ll see how things shake out as the game’s October release approaches.
Guardians of Order has posted its own announcement of closure, the timing partly due to George R.R. Martin’s posting a summary of the situation last Friday on his website. GoO President Mark MacKinnon mentions continued efforts to rectify the remaining problems caused by the company “going dark” weeks ago, which many (correctly) saw as the beginning of the end for GoO. The full press release is copied below.