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br0kenrabbit Blog

10 years at GS

Damn, time flies. A decade ago I started posting on GS in System Wars, back when System Wars was less angry and more 'Jab jab wink wink'. I eventually migrated to OT and, well, here I am.

OT may be a shadow of its former glory, but I'm here till the lights go out. For those of you who have stuck around, thanks for the debates and whimsical batshit insane conspiracy're a hoot.

So, let's get this party started. Drinks are on the house (ID required).

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The DJ takes requests, just don't mention Keyboard Cat or he'll scratch your eyes out.

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Retro games in the back.

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And yes, there's food.

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For our non-pork eating members there's these delicious things:

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10 freaking years! Booyah!

What will the next decade bring us? Continuing technological convergence, shifting political tides and more bad SNL skits are assured, but hopefully the next 10 years find you and yours in good health and I hope you stick around to keep this place alive. There really is a special charm about OT that keeps me coming back, so drink up, chow down, and keep posting!

Making the game

As a young boy I used to draw maps of fictional lands, carefully placing the geography and developments so as to fit some piece of lore or economic needs of the civilization that was taking shape under my pen. I would imagine the adventures and lives of the people in the world I created, and wrote just as many stories to support these maps.

That experience helped tremendously when I became the DM of my AD&D group in the early-to-mid 90's, but I learned some hard lessons from my players: you HAVE to control the player. If you give a player a wide-open world to adventure around in, he'll do just that, and whatever story arc you may have laid out becomes a forgotten piece of advice from a bartender in...some town or another a while back.

I've been thinking about my DM days a lot here lately, having just taken the plunge into RPG-development land. RPGMaker VX Ace is my first attempt beyond some FPS maps at making anything resembling a computer game, and I find myself thinking less about my days with Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy I/II (US versions) than I do recalling the hard lessons of DMing a group of rowdy players who wanted nothing more than to put the sword (or dagger, or fireball) to the beast.

And so I've found myself in lands of my own making, with lore and characters whose beginnings reach all the way back to my elementary school days a few decades back. Unlike those days behind the DM screen, staring out across eager faces I knew so well, I have no idea who will take up the sword in this world of mine and explore whatever fantasy lands I manage to create. Warrior or mage? Male or female? Expert or nascent gamer?


Arder Island, the place that isn't that other place.

As I learn the subtleties of the program I find myself thinking less about HOW to do something, and more about whether or not I should. It easy to throw everything at the player at once, show him all you've got and make him think "wow, that's interesting."

It's something else entirely to make the player want to keep playing.

We've all had those games that, as much as we wanted to enjoy them, just didn't draw us in. They became a chore to finish, if we ever even finished them. They were a task to get out of the way rather than a work of fiction to be enjoyed from one cover to the other.

DMing for a group of friends had the advantage of immediate feedback. Are people starting to doze off and lose interest? An unsuspected attack or a magic spell gone wrong could always bring everyone back to their feet, ready to join the fray and fight over the booty. In between the die-rolling and stat-checking, I could be behind my screen tweaking and adjusting the overall arc to be a bit more lively from that point forward, the players never suspecting that I had dropped the ball.

So here I find myself, a DM to players unseen and known, and I have to keep them interested.

I have to control them in the sense that I need them to want to do the things I've laid out before them. This isn't a Bethesda game, you don't get to make your own story, you get to play mine. But, as with any good RPG, I want it to become your story, as well.


Ancient temples always mean a badass boss at the end, right?

It's not just about interesting locations and characters, lots of weapons and enemies to stick those weapons into, but rather its about anticipating what the player expects and wants. And, despite that, you can't just give it to them. One must, at times, defy the players expectations or desires. Show him what he wants and then take it away. Lead him on that chase, through temples and mines and towns and places he has no other business being in. Give it to him in pieces, and let him think that the ultimate goal is just out of reach.


That box of swag back there would be a nice start.

The truth is, the mechanics of gamemaking isn't taking up as much of my time as I thought it would. The lore, characters and locations have long existed in my mind. It's the player that's the dynamic variable that I've got to pin down and hold on to; the one thing that makes the world run is the one thing that's so easy to lose.

So as the player begins his journey on Arder Island and starts hearing tales of the mainland, I have to consider "how do I make him want to do whatever it takes to get off this island and explore the rest of the world without the island feeling like an obstacle in the path to greater freedom?"

And then, once on the mainland, that question will evolve again to "now that the player is here, how do I get him to want to go elsewhere, instead?"

I'm in the very beginnings of my ultimate DM campaign. Many months from now I hope to invite you all on an adventure I've lived many times in my own mind, but first, I have to make sure all the strings go to the right limbs and that if you look up, you can't see me.


Ignore the man behind the curtain; this means nothing.

The winter of discontent

Am I ever glad winter is over, even if spring is taking it's time getting here. Being dark as midnight at 6pm just doesn't jive with me, as I'm usually not getting up till 2pm or later.

A lot of bad things happened this winter, but one consistent theme has been PC problems. My computer completly crapped out Thanksgiving morning, the motherboard taking a turn for dead. I ordered a new mobo, CPU, and RAM, PSU, and a new copy of Windows XP from Tigerdirect and it was here within days, but alas the mobo failed to boot and I had to RMA. Got the second mobo and it failed to boot as well. At that point I was tired of waiting for my PC to work and just got a refund from TigerDirect (which took a few weeks) and went and paid retail prices at a local PC shop.

My PC crapped out Nov. 27th and it took me till Jan. 13 to get it back up and running, waiting on parts sux. December was a terrible month for many reasons, but having no PC to game on and constantly fearing the old backup PC I was using to surf the net (it was sooooo slow) would go out any moment really made my anxiety worse.

I didn't want to spend the money to build a super-gaming machine just yet, Quad Cores are too expensive and the ones that are reasonably prices are too slow. I decided to get an AM2+ Mobo so I would have the option of upgrading to a Quad Core CPU in the future, but for now I went for the modest X2 5600+ Brisbane. It performs well enough for gaming and I don't see any real reason to get anything more at the moment.

For the video card, I went with the Sapphire HD 3870 512MB. I considered a 1GB HD 4870 but I don't think I need that much since my monitors native resolution is only 1280x1024, I'm not using DirectX 10 because I'm using Windows XP, and I wanted a single-slot card. It was only $90 and I can always pick up a better card when I upgrade my CPU.

So I got all that taken care of, using my old 100GB HDD and my old DVD drive, having replaced everything else. Everything worked fine for about two months when my DVD drives door stopped opening. Really, I've got the Oblivion DVD in there and can't get it out. There's no 'eject hole' in this drive to stick a paper clip into. I'm going to have to disassemble the drive to get the DVD out or out-right break the loading tray. I'm leaving it as-is for now, I'm going to order a new DVD burner at the first of the month when my money rolls in.

And since the HDD is the only old part left (apart from the case), I'm going to preempt it failing and go ahead and replace it. There's a 1TB SATA/300 7200rpm drive on Tiger for $89.99 and the reviews are positive, so I think I'm going to jump on it.

Which means a reformat. I'm not going to slave it to this drive, I'm just going to switch over completely since the 1TB is SATA300 and my old 100GB drive is only SATA150.

Since I have to reinstall Windows, I considered upgrading to Vista, but decided against it since Vista drops support for the classic Joystick Port and I love my venerable Microsoft Force Feedback Pro, I'm going to stick with XP until Widows 7 releases. I've held out this long, why jump onto Vista for a period of maybe a year before it's outdated by a better-performing OS?

But yeah, not having a gaming PC for the deepest, darkest part of the year and not being able to go outside because it was cold and dark (and it rained, and rained) left me just so absolutely bored I feared going insane.

So I'm glad spring is here. The extra sunlight helps, and I can get outside now. I just wish all this computer stuff was done and over with so I can settle down and game happily, and start buying games again instead of PC parts.

But at least with the 1TB drive I'll be able to install every game I have with room left over.


I still haven't built a new PC. I have too much of a backlog of games right now. If I buy a new PC, I'll buy NEW games and neglect the ones I've got now that I still need to finish.

Not that such logic prevents me from buying new games. I picked up World in Conflict Collectors Edition the other day, got my own piece of the Berlin Wall with it. So now I'm fighting time trying to finish Stalker, trying to finish Nighfall (I've got all the campaigns and EoTN but have only completed Prophesies. I did get my Vabbian Armor, though :) ), and now WiC.

I also heard that Day of Defeat: Source is getting a bullet-spread fix to make it more like DoD. If so, I may get addicted to DoD:S like I did DoD back in the day. I'll have to re-install it and check it out.

I'll have to rebuild by the end of the year regardless, what with all the awesome PC games coming out around then. Not to mention all the new announced titles lately. I really hope the Diablo3 rumor is true.

And crap I haven't finished NWN2 yet, either...and there's one expansion already out and another on the way. Getting that Vabbian Armor sucked up a hell of a lot of time (and gold)!

And along comes winter

Getting cold real fast here after a record-setting brutal summer. I thought those 96+ temps 80%+ humidity were never going to end. So you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna build a new PC. My current one isn't top-of-the-line anymore, but it's certainly not having a problem running any of my games right up to Supreme Commander, and I built it three years ago with a RAM upgrade in-between. She's been a good system...still awesome, but I want to play Crysis at full, mostly for whatever mods are coming (and you know they are). So...I'm dropping almost all my entertainment money into 'The Fund' until March. I'll give myself a nice birthday present then. I'm thinking of spending between $1200-2000, two-thousand being treating myself to all-out luxury, which I usually talk myself out of (for various good reasons). But no shame, for I have many great games in various genre, some of which I haven't completed yet. I'm sure I can keep myself busy until March, the problem is going to be not spending the money on 'other' activities. When I have a few hundred sitting around that's not earmarked by bills, it often burns a hole in my pocket. I'm a spender, not a saver. I just gotta keep telling myself: "Quad core! YAAAR!"

Must stop buying games

I wish I had more time to play. I still haven't touched Supreme Commander, Medieval II, Quake4, Neverwinter Nights 2, or Sin and now I've just bought The Orange Box and Nightfall.

I hadn't realized I'd pumped 77 hours into Guild Wars already, but I checked last night so yeah, 77 hours. I'm still flying IL2 in hyperlobby most nights as well. Played through Half-Life 2 and Episode One concurrently in preparation for Ep2 next week *so excited*.

And then there's Team Fortress 2. I've been playing it for about 40 hours over the past two weeks. Being one of the people who fell in love with the Team Fortress mod for Quake way back when (before TFC for Half-Life), I've been anxiously awaiting this game. I'm holding off on reviewing it until official release, but I would like to voice one complaint: NOT ENOUGH CTF MAPS!

So there.

I don't hate consoles

I just don't desire any of the games on them. I grew up on consoles: Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, N64, PS, PS2...I've owned many. But after the 16-bit era they never really caught my attention. I had moved on from super-fantastic games to more reality-bound games like Flight Sims, Grognard (classic wargamming), strategic TBS games, RTS and so on. I have no care for cars, ninjas, anime babes, or sports. That's what...3/4 of the console games out there? I'm not saying they're bad games, I'm just saying I'm not interested. Maybe someday when the niche markets move to consoles I'll get another, but I doubt that'll happen until alternative forms of control appear on the consoles. It can happen: look at Steel Battalion. But it'll take more than one game to win me over, because there's a plethora of games available in those niche markets on the PC. I don't hate consoles, they just aren't targeted to people like me.

Back to MMOs?

I'm a bit late picking up Guild Wars, but I'm enjoying it immensely. I started with MMO's dabbling in MUDs and MOOs, and then jumped into UO on release day. UO was great, despite a few bugs, for the first six months or so. I don't know if it was the griefers or the over-population, but it went downhill fast. Not to mention the economy getting screwed by dupe bugs. I still have fond memories of the game, and nothing has really captured that 'You can be anything you want' feeling like UO. I played MMO's religiously after that, going through Everquest, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot and so on, but got tired of the same old level-grind. I was a miner/smith in UO who would only fight if someone tried to take my ore. No other MMO has given me the freedom to do that and not worry about a level grind. Guild Wars is more like Diablo than anything, and since I loved Diablo, I'm pretty much liking this. But I still wish another MMO with the scope of UO would come out. I'd love to get back to running my own shop, making weapons and armor for guilds, and generally making myself useful instead of being 'yet another hero'.

I hate summer

I'm taking this slow time in gaming to make an historic-based dynamic campaign for IL2 Sturmovik 1946. I've decided to focus on the southern half of Operation Citadel, around the Belgorod area. I've been doing the historic research and having quite a bit of fun doing it. I already have parts of the campaign up and running, but I've got a ways to go yet. Doesn't seem to be much coming out this summer I'm interested in. The 'Beyond the Sword' expansion for Civ4, and I guess that's it till HL2:EP2 and TF2. ...TeamFortress. I used to play the original Quake I version on Quakeworld at some unimaginably low resolution, like 480x320 or something like that. On a 13" monitor. It'll be nice to have this classic updated. I don't mind the slow release schedule of games during the summer. Usually by late spring I've quite a few games I haven't had a chance to play through yet, and this year is no different. I've barely touched Supreme Commander, Company of Heroes and Medieval II: Total War. I guess I need to get busy playing.

Dag Dangit

I'm going to stop buying games for a little while. I really do need to catch up on the ones I have. I haven't even touched Supreme Commander, Shivering Isles or Knights of the Nine. Only about 20 hours into NWN2, nearing the end of a long campaign in Rome: Total War, and so on and so forth.

I just can't stop playing Civ IV long enough to finish any other game. Now that I have IL2: 1946, maybe I can break that addiction. Just to feed another one, hoo-rah!