Imported From Epistula RPG

Press Play

It started slowly.

“I will not”, I said, “under any circumstances run an RPG

And then, with the snowball set rolling, it sort of changed:

“I will not”, I repeated like a mantra, “under any circumstances run an RPG under GURPS

So I stopped reading the GURPS basic set, and read Snow Crash instead.

“I will not”, I noted, with increasing exactness, “under any circumstances run a GURPS RPG set in a Snow Crash like world with a Metaverse I can put subquests in.”

At this point, almost admitting my doom, I opened a text file and wrote in it all the things I was not, under any circumstances, going to do with this idea. I’m still not going to do it, you understand, it’s just that I’m planning exactly what it is I’m not going to do.

Y’see, I started this RPG thing a while ago. My Aunty Ann returned from the states with a present for the 12 year old me. It was a large box containing a basic D&D manual (Original, TSR D&D. I’ve no idea of the rules edition), a board like something out of a Hasbro game, marked out with squares as a castle, and a series of cardboard figures for playing. Oh, and a full set of dice, which I’ve now lost.

Over the next few years I spend every-so-often trying to convince my friends to give this a go, and they refused. Eventually me, the older of my younger brothers, and his friend actually got to play this game, sat around my desk in my room.

It was fun. The amount of actual Role-playing being done was absolutely minimal (Having absolutely no idea about the game, we moved by the tried and tested method of rolling dice) and we played though the set adventure in a couple of hours. I seem to remember a second session where I tried to make it up as I went along, but that didn’t work. Anyway, we moved on, and what with one thing and another the set didn’t really get used again.

Over the last few years I’ve hung around with a lot of people who do Role Playing, spend several evenings in deep discussion over several jugs of ale over the best way to be evil to players without them stopping having fun, and how to run a game. Then a group of my friends started playing a game and I watched, then the Site they were using to play went offline for weeks without any warning or apology, and I wrote PFD4 in about three days flat. (PFD4 stands for “Point First D4”, proof positive that the set of dice I’ve had since I was 12 isn’t quite as lost as I sometimes assume). Now that game has been put on indefinite hold (GM and Real Life Stuff) I see a Great Void.

I’m not going to go anywhere near this. At all. Under Any Circumstances. I Will Not Run A Game.

Well, not until I have more of it worked out, anyway.

“I’m going to sing the doomed song now…” – Gir.

Gaming Imported From Epistula

Catrion Towers as The Sims

Gaming Imported From Epistula Personal

Aquarion and the Tactical Error

As of 12:00 this afternoon, I am officially part of the Great Unwashed. I, too, can look upon the unemployment statistics of this great nation, and feel that I’m a part of something. Something large, Something with a lot of people in it. Something with absolutly no money in it what-so-ever.

The rant about Job Seekers Allowance is going to have to wait for another day, because I can’t do it justice right now. It begins with the process of actually getting the benifit, goes though the six to eight weeks for delivery of said benefit, and how people without work are made to feel like third class citizens, ranking somewhere below pond-scum.

But that isn’t todays thing, oh no. Today I walked into the Job Centre Plus (Which I can only assume is like a normal job centre, but with more objects) and walked to the reception.

“I have an interview in about five minutes” I said to the blonde girl on reception, who was somewhat inadvisably dressed in bright red with enough gold jewelry to make Scrooge McDuck want to go swimming in her.
“Right,” she said “Hand me your forms, and we’ll get this started”
I handed her the forms and went to sit down whilst she sorted them out. I was given a new form to fill in, filled it in, and gave it back. This is important, watch the birdy.

I was called to a desk by a middle-aged man named Roger, who was to be my Claim Adviser on this sunny day, and we went though the forms and put it on the computer piece by piece. He gave me a booklet to get signed when I sign on, and we agreed a “Job Seeker’s Agreement” which basically codifies what I have to fail to do to get my beneifit taken away. I introduce him to the fact that Web Developer is different from Web Designer, and convince him that ability to touch-type neither marks me for secretarial or data-entry work (Which would send my RSI back in full force), and then the system fails to let him say I attended my interview.

Now, when you enter the Job Centre Plus for an interview, you sign a piece of paper to say you’ve arrived, hand in the forms, and wait for your turn, possibly whilst filling in another form they find, roughly in the same way some doctor’s waiting rooms have colouring books. In this case, the brain-dead moronette behind her castored desk had taken my form and given me my colouring book replacement without signing me in, meaning that some other Enterprising (Enterprising: Adjective, Deserving of being shot into space to seek out new life and new civilizations, and go where no one has ever gone before) indervidual had looked at the interview list, looked at the sign-in, and entered me into the computer as a No-show within the two minutes of me sitting down.

This means that at the start of my Job Seeking career I already have a black mark against me for not turning up to an interview. Gah.

Since then I’ve had more phone calls from recruiters in the last eight hours than the previous six weeks (ie, two), been sent a couple of jobs that appear to be tailor-made for me (One as an emailed link, One as an emailed 8mb Tiff-file scan of a want-ad, thanks mum) to which I’ve applied, and made the tactical error to which this entry title refers.

You see, today I introduced LoneCat – my Girlfriend – to The Sims, a game which will not run on her laptop, and only on my desktop. This has earnt me a certian amount of Quality Reading Time, and may have been a Tactical Error on my part. Oh well.

Gaming Imported From Epistula


One of the nicest things about my current computer is that the following things work:

As I type, I’m listening to Pulp, f.e.e.l.i.n.g.c.a.l.l.e.d.l.o.v.e. You won’t see this in the “Now Playing” box because I’m having an argument with the doSomething plugin for winamp over the correct definition of “ID Tag”. Yet I digress.

Whilst I do this, I’m installing SuSE in a virtual machine, just for kicks, whilst playing the old Amiga game Top Hat Willy in a UAE window (Currently paused while I type diary entry). Earlier this afternoon I was playing the original “Jet Set Willy and almost impossible to complete to boot. Not because of bad mechanics, but the fact the game is a) huge, and b) difficult. Yet – once again – I digress) to which Top Hat Willy is a remake/sequel/2040 of. This involved getting a Spectum emulator and making it work, always fun.

Anyway, there was a point to all this, and it goes as follows: I was reminded of a game called “Valhalla” which I played over at least a decade on the Commodore 64. It was an adventure game, where you interacted with all these random people (Well, less random, more Viking Mythology) in the form of “Ask Thor buy hammer” “Thor refuses to sell you the hammer” “Throw fireball at Thor” “You throw the fireball at Thor, Thor dies” “Take Hammer” “You take the hammer” “Thor enters” “Thor attacks you” “Thor Kills you” “Say ‘Fuck’” “Mary enters.” “Mary hits you” “Mary Leaves”. That was it. Well, there were some things like having to discover the great sword of sommat or other, and the helm of mit, Ring of Phyre, etc etc. It had about a hundred differant locations on many many levels (If you jump, you go up a level. If you die and there is a level below you, you go down, otherwise you get randomly put in a new location. Same goes for the AI).

The reason for all this drawn-out nostalgia? Someone has done Atari Adventure in Flash.

aqcom epistula Gaming Imported From Epistula Metablog Projects


Various things have happened to me, and to Epistula, while I’ve been away. Also to the blogroll. So once more, it’s time for:

While You Were Out

  • Epistula got Textiled so I can write all my entries in english and the computer does the hard part. Yay.
  • Aqcom got a new Projects section. It’s currently a flat HTML thing mainly as a list (As much for my benifit as yours) as to what I’m working on. Eventually it’ll become fully Epistulated.
  • I got a new project, or more accuratly a reactivation of an older idea. It’s a full Geek Thing review system, which I’m building as generic as I can, and exploring all the things I learnt while doing Epistula. Plus the kind of detailed cookie-based login system I haven’t done since StoryVille (Ex fiction project. Died of code-deletion). Interesting thing about it right now is that users select a licence for user-submitted reviews & comments to be released under. This allows – for example – someone to licence all their reviews under a CC(Creative Commons) thing. The two things I would like to happen to this idea would be for reviews to be editable based on licence (So if someone releases a GDL review, someone else can edit it), but that could get too complicated, and also lead to the possibility of someone going though and replacing all GPL‘d reviews with a string of spaces. So, Freedom of Information verses Fuckwittery Of Idiots. Round one, ding ding.
  • Funcom have announced a sequel to the game I was raving about last month: The Longest Journey
  • I applied for jobs. I got phone calls from recruiters, I still haven’t had a single interview. I wait patiently.
  • And then there is the World of Ends stuff. My response is somewhat like Stavros wrote, only less amusing. The internet is* complicated. Not in spite of, but because the idea is so simple. ”[T]he Internet was designed to hold smaller networks together, turning them into one big network” lies up there with “They’re only words written down, how much damage can they do?” in tales of “Points, Missing thereof”. The thing isn’t that the idea of The Internet is complicated, it’s that the consequences are quite so far-reaching. The document appears to be doing the classic thing of arguing about what it originally was, as opposed to what it means now. Because the internet *isn’t the simple network of networks that once it was, not in the public mindset. It’s the far more complicated idea of the people using the network of networks. From granny on AOL though to Luke The L33t Hacksaw burning though a 1024 bit/sec connection. We need a new name either for this new thing, or for the old one. Then we can have this discussion without terminology getting in the way.
  • Cam returned with a well formed rant about Americanism. The US Administration still scares me, even more so now it appears to be running England as well. Blessings of any deities listening to anyone caught up in this fucking mess. That’s all of us, by the way.
  • Still not king yet.
Gaming Imported From Epistula social

Today's Quote

Ahh well, seems like I’m back now.

From Dave Taylor’s (ex-ID, ex-Transmeta, ported Quake to Linux, founded (with American McGee (also ex-ID, and also creator of AM’s Alice, one of my favourite FPS‘s ever)) & worked for C6, then left it in December) Blog[1]:

[T]here will be no laws in Davetopia unless they can be programmed in a standardlized legal programming language and implemented literally into code.

This way, lawyers will be replaced by a sophisticated web interface available to everyone, for nothing. So it’s basically gauranteed that every member has free access to the actual code governing his life. Instead of having to pay $300/hr to interpret a tiny piece of it.

Anything that doesn’t suit the programming language basically becomes a kind of useless case law, completely unenforcable, nothing more than a code of ethics that some people choose to follow. Most likely, several different codes of ethics will emerge. The system will be corrupted by coders that start incorporating the citizen’s membership within a particular code of ethics into the coded law, which will break the legal system by letting the inputs become subjective, leading to complete failure: lawyers. But that’s OK, because by then, as soon as we spot the first lawyer and realize we’ve hit a losing condition, we’ll know how to start over and make society even better.

On the down side, programmers will now be the most powerful, corruptable politicians in society. But on the bright side, programmers will now be the most powerful, corruptable politicians in society.

XMLaw, anyone?

[1] One day, I will follow though on my idea to create the worlds greatest Games site, so I have somewhere to store all this useless information I have without burdening future generations with it. However, before that I should really finish Epistula. And Nomical. And Project Alice and Toffia and Ceavern and Albertross and Forever and Afphrid[2b|!2b] and… and… and… gamabase will have to wait.

Gaming Imported From Epistula

On worlds and writing

I’ve finished another computer game, which makes the second this week, and indeed the second this year, and third in the past two. Generally, I either don’t buy games that get “Completed” (SimCity, for example, where you just play until you stop) or play games until a) I get bored and buy a new game (common when I have an income) or b) I get to a point/mission I can’t pass without cheating. Since I won’t cheat on any game I paid for unless it’s just fate (For example, saving when I have 5% health and no ammo, then encountering a room full of enemies just before the save) or bad design (If I get stuck on a puzzle with absolutly no progress for over 45 minutes, I find out what I do next. This is Game Enjoyment rather than cheating). So tend not to cheat at games.

That wasn’t the point of the post. This could be, it depends on how the digressions go:

I have this affinity for worlds outside stories. This may be a common thing – I don’t know, most of my social circle I met though literary preference which means they tend to share this trait, so isn’t a random sample – but I tend to enjoy any book with a complete world outside the story more than I do worlds that live around the story in progress. A case in point would be my own stuff – unhelpful, since nobody besides LoneCat has ever read any of my worlds-based stories, but nevertheless – where I have two interconnected worlds, distantly related, one of which has a couple of thousands of years history, with absolutly no stories that touch upon any of it.

Er, better example. David Eddings’ Belgariad and Elenium worlds both had histories, worlds, stories within stories and fine detail down to the grain. He published an entire book of his writings about the world that he had used for writing the histories. The history bore the ten books of the tales well, and a volume of prehistory excellently. (Polgara The Sorceress, fact fans, doesn’t exist in this timeline. I’m charitably ignoring it) (It’s not that I hate PtS with a passion unholy, or anything, it’s just that… ahh..).

Robert Jordan’s universe is holding up nicely, too. Or was, the last time I looked at it, which may have been book six. If Jordan’s going to die before finishing the bloody saga, I’m not going to start it. If he doesn’t, I’ll read it if I can get back to book six without wanting to strangle the female characters (Don’t care which one, they’re all the same).

But the plot has to hold up too. The Eddings’ last-book-but-one was a five book epic in a single volume, and managed to get through an entire epic plot without touching the sides. Somewhere behind it was a detailed, well-thought-out magic system, a rather interesting prophacy system, some nice politics and some great battles. None of which you saw in the book, because they had a macguffin to save Eddings writing the “wandering along travelling” bits that he did so well the previous 19 books.

That wasn’t the point of the post either, hang on a second, it’ll get here. Wrong sort of digressions on the lines, apparently.

So, I just completed The Longest Journey, which was hailed (as every Adventure Game for the five years previously and the three years – so far – since have been) as the Final Swan-Song Of The Dying Point And Click Adventure Genre. This time, however, they could have been right. TLJ was the last (As far as I’ve seen, and I’ve been looking damn hard) true point-and-click adventure game professionally published, which it was in 2000. Adventure games since then have been 3D turn-and-point (Escape From Monkey Island) or 3D turn-and-click (Syberia, Cryo’s entire hateful catalogue), and this doesn’t seem to be likely to change (Full Throttle 2 and Sam & Max 2 will both use the Grime (Grim Fandango-style, sucessor to Scumm (Script creation utility for Maniac Mansion) which powered every Lucasarts adventure game from 1987 to 1998) engine (Fear the brackets in that sentance)), and (We’re back to TLJ now) enjoyed every minute of it.

Partly (Warning, fast point approaching, please step away from the pointer) because it mixed an engrossing and very much classic fantasy-style storyline (Overuse of words “Destiny” and “Prophacy”) with a less classic future-based storyline and a overarcing world architecture that made everything fit logically at the end. Which it didn’t.

Oh, the story ended. Role resolved, apocalypse averted, Plot pointed, heroine hooray, but the world was left open for more stories within it, and hints of the story that wasn’t told, and possibly never will be. That’s kinda an interesting point, there. It has everything beyond a notice at the end saying “We’ll make a sequel if this sells”, whilst leaving you satisfied that the story is over, almost. And they will make a sequel. They (FunCom, who later created Anarchy Online) have said they want to. And they can, because the world didn’t close with the story like it does in most games.

Gaming Imported From Epistula


And the prophacies were made of those threads of time that will certianly be woven, and the time when the veil will be lifted and threads past the veil seen again, and the prophacies speak of a savior, as prophacies usually do….

(Spoken in the middle of one of the most clichd explainationary monologues I’ve ever had read at me, in The Longest Journey)

Gaming Imported From Epistula weblog

Politics, Geekdom and a little Comic Relief

So, Mr Bush gave his speech on the state of the union, and I watched the BBC news report of it, in which it pointed out that it sounded more like a sermon than a political speech.

George W Bush is a problem, because he is quite plainly going to go to war no matter what happens. My problem with this is that someone we didn’t elect appears to be dictating British policy (Whether the country who have him as Grand High Poobah did is another matter). My problem is also with the person we did elect, whose next job is to convince the 94% of the country that don’t believe Mr Bu^Hlair’s position is correct. Note that word. Convince. Less than 6% of the country think it’s a good idea to go to war without UN backing, and our leader is trying to convince us otherwise. I have a feeling this should be the other way around, this being a democracy and everything, the idea is for us – the people – to put them – the politicions – in charge. When the Minister for Technology is able to install a new hard-drive, when the Minister for Sport has managed a sports club, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a degree in finantial theory, then I might start trusting the political system again (Oh, and yes, there are geeks who meddle in politics. Watch Debian-[devel|legal] if you don’t believe me…).

Why are we fighting Saddam? Because he might still have the Weapons of Mass Distruction (Argh!! Irradiated Wafers! Poisoned Wine!) the US (and us) sold him a dozen years back? Because we as Englightened countries have the right to enforce our views on politics? For fucks sake, the UKs last prime minister was recently raked over hot coals for an affair with a co-worker, the last US president too, both have suffered major economic crises in the last few years, the UK has unemployment levels that are just scary and a system for dealing with it that is just as much so (As LoneCat says, if she had been relying on the Jobseeker’s Allowance for food and rent she’d have starved to death long ago). This mythical Freedom of Speech thing? The UK doesn’t have a divine freedom of speech, though it has the Human Rights act, which says we do, and libel, slander and other laws that say we can’t. The legal system is like an os code-base that’s been in use and development for decades without a rewrite, There are function calls never used, deprecated (but still occsionally used so we can’t lose them) updated to buggery and new functionality tacked onto the end, and enough loopholes for the thing to crash every so often.

Is our system any better? We don’t stone people to death, but we do send them to prison for three years of a life sentance before we decide they didn’t do it. Personally, I’d prefer the government to put more money into things like the Transport Network, but that’s just me.

The argument about archives goes on, too, so it’s time to bring out the real guns. I mean, are people still using serif fonts on calenders? I mean, it’s so passe, darlings. Go for the sans-serif, or I’ll remove you from my blogroll. All of you. That’ll learn all y’all.

Comic Relief then. I read too many comics. There is my neatocool Today’s Comics thing at my start page which shows you exactly how bad my addiction is. The newest two are a couple I’ve been meaning to catch up with for some time. The first is Angst Tech, and the second is Polymer City Chronicles. Both are computer-gamer orienated, but I *think* they are both good enough to sustain you though the bits you don’t understand if you arn’t a gamer. Oh, and Jeff Minter not only has a new game in development, but also a weblog. Yay.

computing Gaming Imported From Epistula

Killer Games

I am a gamer.

That is, I spend much of my spare time (as much – if not more – as I spend Writing, Coding and reading) playing computer games. At the moment, I am playing Unreal 2003, Medieval: Total War, Warcraft III and Age of Mythology. Over Christmas I will probably go back to Battlefield 1942 and cycle back in GTA3. I understand the jokes in Penny Arcade, I am a FilePlanet subscriber, I even work at a company that develops mobile games.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am 21 years old, and I am a gamer.

That doesn’t just mean computer games, of course. I’ve been a DM (Always was a better GM than player, it’s the world creation stuff I adore), I play Fluxx often, and have an obsession with playing cards which is scary. I know most of the rules of the Game We Cannot Name, and have spent hours locked in a fierce game of Mornington Crescent. Games – whether they be computer, card, role-play or meta – are what I do, and I really should let more of that into this site. Lets start now.

The worst thing to hit gaming for as long as I’ve been doing it is probably the Columbine thing, when two social outcast kids walked into their school wearing trenchcoats and carrying automatic weapons and opened fire on fellow students and also teachers. The parents sued the people who made the games they played, blamed the Internet for hypnotising them, blamed the videos they watched for forcing them into violence and generally decided it was the media’s fault for making these evil things.

I disagree.

The shooters were members of a close-knit group of “loners” known as the “trenchcoat mafia (BBC News, April 99). Close-knit loners, oh? Neat. They were part of a typical gang of teenagers who hated the society that worshipped the people who were popular. The people who worship the most become the most worshipped. I could point out that I know what they mean, but point me at someone who doesn’t and I’ll show you someone who was on the inside of it. This is all, however, beside the point. The claim wasn’t that they weren’t insane, the point was that media had driven them to violence.

This I actually agree with, there is a certain mindset that will see violence on TV, or on Monitor, and think Oooh, cool! Can I do that?, but equally there are people who don’t follow that branch line. I can spend several hours a day shooting the shit out of people with huge guns in UT, or in tanks in Battlefield, or firing rotting corpses at buildings in Warcraft (Warcraft isn’t that graphic about it, for those of you going “Eww”, but that’s what the undead catapults do) without feeling the need to construct a rail-gun out of paper-maché and LEDs and kill my family with it, nor do I want to buy a tank and flatten Cambridge, Nor do I feel the need to make the undead rise and do my bidding. Likewise, playing AD&D didn’t make me dress up in a robe and memorise books in my sleep (Though I did take up archery); Fluxx doesn’t make me want to collect the Sun and the Moon; and GTA hasn’t taught me how to club a policeman, steal his gun and car, and ride off into the sunset with a police helicopter on my tail. There is a line between games and reality. Games like Assassins (“Killer”) and paintball may blur it, but it’s still there, and trying to reenact Doom II with a semi-automatic you stole from your parents is quite a bit on the wrong side of it.

So how do we stop the people with a distorted sense of reality from being inspired by this blatant filth, whilst letting those with a functioning reality switch get filthy? I suppose there is some kind of mileage in some sort of system whereby the creators of media entertainment put some kind of recommendation on the box for who should be able to buy or rent this item. If we really wanted to go into pipe-dream mode we could imagine some kind of governing body that assigns these rating things, and were people who sold them could make sure that the more explicit material wasn’t rented to anyone who couldn’t see it!

Oh, Hang about!

Yes, the system exists, it just doesn’t work. Games have ratings. Most games in the UK at least have the ELSPA rating, at least. Videos have ratings, even the bloody internet has ratings, but parents have to try to enforce them. Everyone has to enforce them, otherwise they don’t work. And thats where we are at the moment. Also, ratings are quite a bit more lax than they used to be. Battlefield 1942, a game where your job is to run around shooting people and thats it is rated 15+, so the kids mentioned above would have got it no problem. The only real way around it is for parents to vet everything there kids do, even if it’s round a friend’s house, or for compulsary morality tests to happen. Censoring media isn’t currently terribly effective, mostly because it surrounds us and buries us. You can no more avoid the media than you can the water, short of finding a mountian to hide up. And you’d be terribly bored.

So, whats the alterntive? Well, the UKs answer to it (after Dunblane) was to ban guns. Gun licence laws got stricter. The US doesn’t have that kind of thing, because owning a gun is a much more traditional thing to them, and they see it as being a Divine Right. I disagree, but then I’m British. My solution would be for licences of guns to be licenced, heavily, probably by the NRA. People with traceablity don’t kill people.

Of course, it isn’t society blaming the games completely unjustly. There can be little justification for the moral enrichement that Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball or XXX BMX Racing provide, nor really for Grand Theft Auto other than that it’s fun.

And that’s supposed to be what playing games is all about.