Top 10 – Elves

GeekOut Top 10s

Elves are a strange category to cover, when you think about how much difference there is between the term. Some people just see the pointy ears and immediately call them an elf. Other people believe there must be some innate magical property in order for them to be elves. Whatever you believe, today we’re going to look at our Top 10 Elves in film, literature, video games and more. Continue reading “Top 10 – Elves”

NaNoWriMo 2019 Officially Finishes Tomorrow

Take a guess at how busy I was last month? You know, before NaNoWriMo? Not very; I was just typing up a lot of words at an alarming rate. I will probably need to invest in a new keyboard at some point; I reckon I’ve done so much typing that the membrane inside of this keyboard is weakening, but enough about the problems of my keyboard! We’re here to talk about NaNoWriMo, how the event has gone and my progress – After all, tomorrow is delivery day, so how well did I do?

Take a guess at how busy I was last month? You know, before NaNoWriMo? Not very; I was just typing up a lot of words at an alarming rate. I will probably need to invest in a new keyboard at some point; I reckon I’ve done so much typing that the membrane inside of this keyboard is weakening, but enough about the problems of my keyboard! We’re here to talk about NaNoWriMo, how the event has gone and my progress – After all, tomorrow is delivery day, so how well did I do?

Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2019 Officially Finishes Tomorrow”

Those Bad Creative Habits

While Tim brings a close to his NaNoWriMo efforts (well done man), and as the year heralds the end of GeekOut, I’m coming to realise that a few of my bad habits have reared their ugly heads. Perhaps it’s brought about by the sedentary lifestyle of a self-employed writer and entertainer, destined to only travel for work once or twice a week for the foreseeable future. I’m stuck in front of my computer far more often, clawing and reaching for excuses to get out of the house for a few hours. Fortunately running GeekOut events have afforded me a far wider social circle, so I’m certainly not short of people whose times I can encroach upon. But in between coffees and gigs, I sit, a slave to my keyboard and microphone.

I recently used Skyrim as a means of pulling myself out of an unpleasant mental spiral. It worked, and I’ve built up a rather brutal sneaky barbarian and necromancer who I’m rather pleased with. Built a house at staggering speed, took part in the civil war for the first time ever (disappointing cycle of quick mission and dull fort sieges to be honest), and then realised how much time I’d been pouring into the game… and all of the games I’d neglected.

Understand that I am not saying Skyrim was a bad choice, nor am I particularly saying that the amount of time I’ve been spending playing games has been particularly negative, but there is a definite need to dig into the untapped well of unplayed games, and not give in to the temptations of the Autumn sale! That well is not running dry any time soon.

And it’s not just Skyrim, I’ve been watching the same cycle of YouTube videos, watching the same old films and TV shows that make me a little over-comfortable, and while they do just that, I come to face a blank page and find myself with nothing new to say. I sit and drive at old projects, progress definitely slowed, but I’m definitely not going to give into the temptation of starting a new project and consigning the current ones to the archive of half-finished trash.

To be fair I’m rather proud of some of that trash, pieces of it are constantly being rolled into the next thing, and onwards to the next thing, so that my entire library of unfinished products can be charted like sedimentary strata, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s very little finished work in it. It’s a terrible cycle, but there’s some positive side-effects.

We’re creatures of habit, life is a series of cycles, good and bad. Hells, I’m almost entirely certain I’ve written this article before, perhaps not with the same words or the same examples, just something to consciously break the loop and to drive me back into doing something positive with my work, and maybe to encourage others too, to recognise what are positive habits and what are destructive cycles, how to promote some and break others.

Sometimes one requires a kick up the idiom, and as perverse as it sounds, I tend to use the same YouTube videos every time I need one, because it’s advice I need to hear, and sometimes need to be reminded of.

Next on the to-do list, play a different game, prepare for Christmas, and the start of a new chapter, get some new working routines, and try and get back into the habits that GeekOut has fostered in me for the last six years.

Live for the positive takeaway.

GeekOut Bristol Meet December 31st: The Final Countdown

18+ Event

It’s the final countdown! *Insert trumpet noises here.*

Our last ever event will take place on December 31st, in case you’re crazy enough to spend New Years Eve in a pub with some geeks.

18+ Event

It’s the final countdown! *Insert trumpet noises here.*

Our last ever event will take place on December 31st, in case you’re crazy enough to spend New Years Eve in a pub with some geeks.

Continue reading “GeekOut Bristol Meet December 31st: The Final Countdown”

Review – Eberron: Rising From the Last War

Hmm… ok…

Eberron is certainly the first and may be the only campaign setting to see a physical print in fifth edition. While the edition as a whole has held up Forgotten Realms for campaigns, and of course draws a great deal upon Dragonlance and Greyhawk to build a “core” of information, cosmology, gods, and history, the big settings have received little supportive nods here and there in sidebars and appendices and the like, but Eberron has also seen some pretty thorough Unearthed Arcana support, followed by a small, cheapish pdf publication late last year… or maybe early this year? I forget, I’ve been busy.

Rising from the Last War is double the length in terms of pages, with written content padded out with artificer rules only slightly modified from the last playtest edition, some pretty artwork, a few rule ideas, monster statblocks, and a few extended descriptions of factions, regions, history, and essential details.

Which begs the question… is it worth it?

 

Financially, that’s a maybe, the books aren’t cheap, let’s be realistic here. If you bought the Wayfinder’s Guide (the pdf I was talking about) you might have enough, but it’s better if you have access to some of the third edition lore books that can help pad out Keith Baker’s world with locations and people, although it’s not strictly necessary, just interesting.

In terms of content, well certainly the new book has some rules updates, and while I haven’t been through everything yet there’s certainly a few notable examples I’ve picked out.

Warforged rules have been altered, although I might argue that the rules from either book are balanced sufficiently to use, and given the manufactured nature of warforged I’d also make the case that you could use either rule-set in any given game, rather than choosing one or the other. Changelings have been simplified, perhaps diminished having lost an ability that makes them a little harder to hit, Kalashtar don’t appear changed from a quick once-over, and Shifters have been altered a little to make them notably more diverse depending on the subtype. On the subject of racial rules, the rules for building dragonmarked characters have been altered, and certainly the new rules seem simplified, but I’m still undecided on which rules I prefer.

So far as the artificer goes, I have to say that the artwork really helps bring the subclasses to life, I wasn’t entirely certain about translating some of the rules into narrative components. Seeing things like the alchemical homunculus and the artillerist’s collection of wands given artwork is far more evocative, and I say this as someone who loves artificers whatever the edition.

Points of interest, there is a section on choosing a patron that reads as advice for players and dungeon masters alike, and I love the notion of using it as part of a session zero character building discussion because it gives players ideas on the kind of games available to them and what kind of world they’re stepping into. If you run a game that’s faction-heavy it’s easily worth a read for ideas on how to market those factions to your players.

In terms of building the themes of the major continent, Khorvairre, I love the flavour texts. Where previous books have included annotations from famous NPCs, here we have newspaper cuttings to drive home the modernity of Eberron life. Propaganda pieces, inflammatory and fear-mongering snippets that read like they were written to panic the populus, but instead give the DMs and players some twisted ideas. Tales of drug abuse in the city of towers, living weapons and armour forged in the dwarven annex – the Mror Holds – painted as grotesque abominations, but written in a paper sold to the nation that raised its own dead in the last war.

Certainly the book goes into far greater detail than the Wayfinder’s Guide, and presumably it supersedes the majority of the content being the newer publication, and while I’ll never be satisfied with the amount of detail (having read most of the Eberron companion books from 3.5) it’s certainly quite a thorough volume, and to go properly in-depth would have required a far bigger, and more expensive book. I was also saddened by the absence of psionic rules, however…

A new Unearthed Arcana came out recently giving subclass options for fighters, rogues, and wizards, that focus on psionic power, and Eberron is not the only major campaign setting that could warrant a full-sized publication. There is another for whom psionics are a far bigger deal…

Being Unable To Start in Game Development

Last week, I went into a couple of articles talking about how next year, I’ll be getting back into game development. I’m currently in the midst of NaNoWriMo, but yet I’ve found myself some time to start practicing my Unity skills once again. It’s been a very long time since the last time I used Unity and Blender, however I hear from a lot of people that they don’t have the skills to make video games. I always challenge people on that; we’re in an era where we have the resources at our fingertips. So today, for anyone who says they’re unable to start in game development, I’m going to share a few channels I’ve been watching, as well as a few quick tips to get started in game development (and how you can apply this logic elsewhere).

Last week, I went into a couple of articles talking about how next year, I’ll be getting back into game development. I’m currently in the midst of NaNoWriMo, but yet I’ve found myself some time to start practicing my Unity skills once again. It’s been a very long time since the last time I used Unity and Blender, however I hear from a lot of people that they don’t have the skills to make video games. I always challenge people on that; we’re in an era where we have the resources at our fingertips. So today, for anyone who says they’re unable to start in game development, I’m going to share a few channels I’ve been watching, as well as a few quick tips to get started in game development (and how you can apply this logic elsewhere).

Continue reading “Being Unable To Start in Game Development”

Top 10 – Virtual Pets

GeekOut Top 10s

What strange beings these humans are, to designate species of their own planet – seemingly arbitrarily – as beloved companions to be invited into their homes, tended to and cared for, for no solid reason other than “they’re freakin’ adorable”. And when we can’t do that… or even if we can’t cram enough creatures into our home, we found a way to create artificial pets that fill the void that our three dogs, eight fish, two birds and half a cat simply can’t.

Here we gather some of the more adorable critters we’ve decided to take care of in our computer games, our Top 10 virtual pets… Continue reading “Top 10 – Virtual Pets”

Getting Back Into Blender

So on Wednesday, I told you all that I was getting back into Unity as my goal for next year. Naturally, this has led to me going onto using Blender as well. If you’re not aware of Blender, this is a free and open-source 3D graphics application. You can create simple models, or even fully fledged complex ones. You can create textures, animations and much more through Blender. Using Blender and Unity together makes perfect sense; Blender is in fact fairly easy to use, once you’ve given yourself some time. However in the time I’ve been away, a lot has changed.

So on Wednesday, I told you all that I was getting back into Unity as my goal for next year. Naturally, this has led to me going onto using Blender as well. If you’re not aware of Blender, this is a free and open-source 3D graphics application. You can create simple models, or even fully fledged complex ones. You can create textures, animations and much more through Blender. Using Blender and Unity together makes perfect sense; Blender is in fact fairly easy to use, once you’ve given yourself some time. However in the time I’ve been away, a lot has changed.

Continue reading “Getting Back Into Blender”

Pyst – There Aren’t Enough Parody Games

I’m sure this can’t just be me. The games design industry is getting ever better at metacommentary and self reflection, we’ve developed a pretty wide array of habits and design fallbacks that we’re aware of our own foibles and the like, and it’s not like we don’t have parodies of games on YouTube, gods there must be thousands of skit comedy groups producing jokes that only make sense to gamers. We talk our own language, we have our own jokes, and we have a community and culture that is ripe for parody.

What we don’t invest in, are parody games.

Weirdly I have fond memories of a Myst parody that I found long before I found the original game. It was crude, barely a game, more of an interactive comic strip of sorts, but if featured John Goodman as King Mattress, a mockery of Atrus, who appears as a floating head in a pool, much as he did in the original game funnily enough. The Parroty Interactive rendition paints the island of Myst as a lousy tourist attraction that has fallen on hard times, is falling apart, and is being taken over by a big corporation with radical ideas on how to run a theme park. Everything is viewed through postcards, so that the writing on the back of each snapshot becomes a mockery of the reading that forms the backbone of Myst’s puzzle solving.

Fun fact, one of the biggest producers of parody games is PETA, an organisation that has become a mockery of its own purpose, who produce games about animal cruelty. There we go, that’s something you now know. And they’re not the only people to produce pokemon parodies either but… well we’ve got a month left but we’re going to keep things above board, let’s not delve too deep into pokemon parodies.

We have the likes of Braid which is a non-comedic lens shone on classic gaming tropes, we have the likes of Knight of Pen and Paper, which is a great game filled with jokes for tabletop role-players, same as Bard’s Tale, and Goat Simulator which is a madman’s idea of a simulator game, but I think we lack direct parodies. We don’t want for material, but we seem to turn all of that material into sketch comedy rather than full titles, and to be fair, that is one hell of an investment in time, money, and resources for an extra-long joke, but it’s not like we’re lacking a sense of humour about ourselves.

I genuinely think that a proper parody is required, something that points a mocking finger at a specific title like Skyrim that’s been a titan of gaming history for the last eight years, or Final Fantasy which seems shockingly lacking in parodies given how it has dominated the last decade or two. Small-time producers used to flood the likes of Newgrounds with Flash games that were mocking takes on the big titles of the day, but it’s been many a year since that was common practice.

Perhaps I’m longing for a time long gone, or perhaps parody lends a formality to the art form, and that without analytical pystakes (see, ’cause…. ahh, you get it) games can’t take themselves seriously enough. It’s a logical paradox, but if we can’t laugh at ourselves can we analyse ourselves enough to grow, and to take another step forward. We need to break a few old habits. If we don’t, we’ll never break them, and we’ll be making variations on the same game for years.

Returning to Unity

In the new year, I decided I needed to get into a new hobby to keep myself occupied. Naturally, my mind immediately went “Well, I’ll just play a lot of games”. That doesn’t really sit well with me. I’m always wanting to tinker, to explore and create. So I decided that I would have to go back to Unity, something I dabbled in quite a bit when I was younger. Having returned to the software, it’s amazing how much was foreign to me again… But I find the unknown to be pretty exciting. Here’s what my gripes have been since returning, as well as what I found still so intuitive and fun.

In the new year, I decided I needed to get into a new hobby to keep myself occupied. Naturally, my mind immediately went “Well, I’ll just play a lot of games”. That doesn’t really sit well with me. I’m always wanting to tinker, to explore and create. So I decided that I would have to go back to Unity, something I dabbled in quite a bit when I was younger. Having returned to the software, it’s amazing how much was foreign to me again… But I find the unknown to be pretty exciting. Here’s what my gripes have been since returning, as well as what I found still so intuitive and fun.

Continue reading “Returning to Unity”