Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Anime North :: The Aftermath

Every year I've gone to Anime North to do the gaming stuff there, and boy has it come a long long way. The first year I went, as a company, was in 2003 and it was my very first con. It is a very good con to have as your very first con because a lot of people are there for anime, and when the find a game company there, they're all surprised. Good surprised, like "Oh! I didn't know that was here," rather than, "Oooooh. A game company. What are you doing here?"

The first year we had a table in the dealer's room, which was crazy, and then we were running stuff almost non stop. It was all in the TCC (Toronto Congress Centre) and we had to compete with the noise coming from things like Anime Karaoke and Dance competitions. Nothing against them in general, but have you ever tried to run a game next to white guys who are singing in a language that they don't speak? It's not a fun experience, at all. You have to yell to be heard, and you're trying hard not to laugh and be angry at the situation.

The next year we were moved to the Doubletree Hotel which is right across the street from the convention centre. It was good, quieter and a lot more comfortable than sitting in the huge box that is a convention centre. The bad news was that the organizer wasn't much of one, and they MOVED THE KARAOKE OVER RIGHT NEXT TO US AGAIN!

But I'm only bitter, that's okay.

Last year we got moved again, but this time to the Renaissance Hotel, which is across the bridge and through the woods from Grandmother's house away from the Convention Centre. Which is great because it's even cozier, we have our own rooms, the organizer is far better than the last one and the karaoke stuff is nowhere to be found. The bad news is that it's across the bridge, through the woods and a Gradmother's house away from the Convention Centre. Not a lot of foot traffic, and it still had the feel of being thrown together at the last minute.

Much to my surprise it was. Huh. Imagine that.

Now gaming at Anime North is getting a lot bigger. We consistently filled up the rooms that we were using and only had a few, minor hiccups that kept all of us on staff (yes, I did volunteer this year) hopping about the place.

Now for the really cool things at Anime North. Every year we have a group of people, a lot of whom are from that first year so many moons ago, who come to Anime North and spend a large bulk of their time hanging out with us. In fact, most of all my con stories here involve these people who are all phenomenal roleplayers. Seriously, all the good RP people come to Anime North and I have the distinct privilege of having most of them love CyberGen. It's a kind of heady experience.

The other awesome thing is that I got to meet Jess Hartley, who is a phenomenal writer and individual who was willing to grace us with her patience as we fumbled her about from one event to another. I put a link to her blog over there on the right, not that many people are going to see it, but it's still there. She put up with our lack of organization and structure and enjoyed herself this weekend.

In the end we got to run Dark and Stormy, which is my most favourite CyberGen scenario ever and I ran it for 15 people who had a blast. Biggest group of people who I've run in a large group that didn't have people getting bored. That's because they are the most awesome RPers ever.

Note to self, make sure that I take better care in owning that portfolio at AN Gaming next year.

All in all a very successful weekend.

-Anime-d Out

Monday, May 19, 2008

Parody in Games

I’m working on a new game. That’s not entirely true. I’ve been working on this game for a while, but it’s mostly been in my head. A somewhat inside joke that a lot of people would get if I only took the time to sit down and write it. Before the end of the new year I thought that’s what I’d do.

It’s a Parody game. I’d tell you the title, but then I’d have to get it done faster.

Parody is nothing particularly new, especially within the gaming Industry. We have a habit of being incredibly self-referential and meta-cultural (we refer to ourselves and geek culture a lot) because that’s where a lot of our humour lies. This means that we tend to lean towards parody for cheap laughs.

Culprit number one of this is Steve Jackson Games’ Munchkin series. Not the original series, which is genre parody (which I’ll get into a little later), but the expansion set Munchkin Bites! The reason why this whole game has any sort of humour value is because it uses the meta-cultural parody paradigm. Basically, referencing another game and game company, and their game, Munchkin Bites! relies on the players knowledge of another game in order to make with the funny. Take the card to my left, “Invisible, Invisible, Invisible,” it’s only funny when you know that in the LARP rules for the World of Darkness (WoD) you’re “invisible” if you cross your arms in front of you. The same goes for other such cards in the game that are immediately referential (like “Invisible, Invisible, Invisible) which immediately draw upon a reference, or like “Clereitousness” (image on the right) where it plays with the spelling of a common ability found in the Vampire WoD games.

Ultimately what I’m trying to say is that the game industry is pretty rampant with this kind of thing. I’m pretty sure that to people who have no idea what the hell White Wolf is, or what the WoD is, they wouldn’t get this game at all. I don’t know of too many other industries where this kind of stuff happens, and is commercially viable. Munchkin Bites! was successful enough that it got its own expansion.

Some games go beyond this level of humour. An example could be Slug Fest Games’ Red Dragon Inn which uses the fantasy setting for a humour game, but doesn’t refer to geek culture or another game or manufacturer to get the laughs. Here the humour is a parody of a genre and not the meta-parody shown above. You don’t need to really know a specific game or a specific company in order to get the jokes. Heck, to be fair you don’t really need to even get fantasy to get the jokes, the cards are pretty self-explanatory and funny.

The trick for me, when trying to write this game, is that I have to really understand which one I’m doing. What type of humour am I going for? Do I want to stick to the meta-cultural and self-reflexive, or do I want to dabble with genre humour as well? Do I want to try to expand the horizons of the jokes, or do I strictly stick with the cheap easy gags because it’s easy?

Ideally I’d like to have a little bit of both. However, I think it’s going to lean towards the self-reflexive rather than anything else since it’s really parodying a game type. But now that I’m more aware of the whole situations I can at least include a bit that goes beyond the scope of the original idea.

I’ll have to tell you that story another time, because it’s not that relevant to this little bit. Also, it would give up the name of the book, which is something I don’t quite want to do just yet.

- Iron-y

General Introduction Post

I thought I’d start the blog by going over the general introduction post.

A good general introduction post should have the following things: A stated goal, A general feel for what should be in the blog, An obvious typo, an overview of the structure, some sort of snarky comment, and a “What I’m working on now” expose. I’ll do my best to make sure that I cover as many of these areas as possible.

What I want to do is create a blog that covers my idea on the creative process of game design. Particularly, my creative process.1 This will give me a way to watch my own methods when it comes to designing a game. I’ll cover games that I’ve done, games that I’m working on, games that are already published by other people. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do game reviews, I’m going to do game design reviews. There is a difference.2

I should try to breake3 things up so there’s a bit of cohesion to what people are reading. I’ll try to break it down into: Current Games, Future Games, Other’s Games, General Design notes. It’s general enough, with a catch-all in case things don’t work out.4 That is if anyone actually decides to read this thing. I know I wouldn’t.5

As for what I’m doing this second, that book says it all. A while ago we got a contract with R. Talsorian to be working on a series of books for them that revolve around their Cyberpunk line.6 No, we didn’t get line license, and to be fair I wouldn’t want it. Cyberpunk is an awesome game but it’s not at the level we’re ready for yet, to do something like that on our own. CyberGeneration is far more my pace and style, and I love it.

Nope, what we’re doing is working on some books as a team with R. Talsorian. We’re doing a lot of the grunt writing work and artist gathering, they’re doing all the higher level publishing and printing. They’re taking a rather large risk on us, and we really appreciate them for it. That means, back to reading up my dog-eared copy of Home of the Brave.

-Cyberpunk v2 1/2

1 - There was my Stated Goal
2 - There goes my general feel for the blog
3 - There’s the typo. I knew it was going to haunt me.
4 - How I hope the structure stays. Nothing worse then having to go over a blog structure, again.
5 - Snarky enough for you?
6 - We are really doing that. I just don’t look pretty with that book.


So here I am starting this thing again. Hopefully I'll actually post to it, though I'll probably post the more interesting version of this over at the other blog on the company website (firestorm-ink.com) with images and stuff. iWeb is good for a couple of things, wysiwig formatting for images is one of them. I'm sure I can get some advice from anyone who desires to read this thing on how to do this properly so that I can make it all cool and stuff, but that's in the future!

I feel like I've broken several internet rules already by having a stupidly huge URL. Well, to that I have only one thing to say ... at least its memorable. A lot better than if I threw it together as an acronym. Not that I didn't try, but aigd was already taken by the L'Associazione Italiana Giuoco Dama
. Love to tell you what they are, but I don't speak Italian.

Anyway, I'll get on putting the stuff from the other blog over here to make it look like I was doing a lot of work tonight when in reality it's all just a cut and paste job.

Wait, I shouldn't have told you that. Pretend this never happened.

- Fixing an Opportunity

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