Let’s Play Dwarf Fortress

dwarffort

Are you ready for a grand adventure in architecture, engineering, dwarven culture, and 101 exciting ways to kill off a dwarven civilisation?

Dwarf Fortress is a free, notoriously complex simulation game in which a handful of dwarves set off from the Mountainhome to construct a new dwarven paradise. The dwarves themselves are somewhat autonomous – they have names and personalities, can enter into romances with each other, and you can give each one instructions; but don’t be surprised if they interpret them in unexpected ways. Imagine a cross between The Sims, a roguelike, and Sim City, but rather more complex than any of them. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s an inspirational(?) story about one of the most infamous dwarven fortresses of all time – Boatmurdered. This particular game was played as a succession game, with different players taking charge of the fortress for each year of game time.

Because it is such a fully featured simulation, DF also seems to generate the best stories of any game I know. Every game is different, and some of them are a bit mad.This is another reason I’m determined to try to make some headway with it.

A new version of the game was released this year. And although it is likely to still be a bit buggy, this is the version I plan to use.

Strike the Earth!

World is made of cheese, for you to carve.

It is clear from very early on that I’m going to need a good tutorial to hold my hand with this one. If you are interested in playing along, here’s one I found for DF2010. It’s by capnduck and comes with a half-built dwarf fortress to practice on, and a bunch of awesome youtube tutorial videos.

Captain Duck’s video tutorial play along page

My goal for this week is to get this thing set up, and play alongside the first tutorial which mostly involves loading the pre-packaged fortress and exploring the part built section.

I notice immediately that this game involves some control keys which don’t seem to be listed on the help page. So to assist with figuring this dratted thing out, I enlisted another (text based) tutorial by Abalieno which is for the old version of the game, but they seem to have kept the same key binds. There is also a very fully featured DF wiki.

Useful control things I have learned so far:

  • To go down a level, use SHIFT + >
  • To go up a level, use SHIFT + <
  • To return to origin, use F1
  • when the game asks for + or –, it often means to use the ones on the numpad
  • it’s also space bar to pause or unpause the game. Depending on which menu you have up, the screen will not always tell you whether the game is paused.

Good luck!

Gaming News: Elections! Infinity Ward Respawns, DDO slams into a wall, and sparkly horses again

And it’s Sunday and time for some weekly news from the world of gaming (and possibly the world of the UK election but bear with me, we don’t do this very often.)

Election Debate PvP

This week marks the first time that leaders of the three main UK political parties have held a live television debate. It was very successful in the sense that it got a lot more people talking about politics. Our media went crazy for it, naturally. So did twitter.

The Guardian sums up US media reactions – which thought it was pretty staid compared to the US version. But I beg to differ. It was exciting in the same way that the first series of Big Brother was exciting; because the people taking part weren’t yet sure what they were getting into. And also, because as every DaoC player knows, PvP is always better when you have three sides (wait till they start ganging up on each other in the next two debates).

I did see a TV documentary about the history of TV debates and the reason this is the first one in the UK is because the incumbent prime ministers kept turning it down, Brown accepted. In any case, one of the Tory advisers said excitedly, “It’ll be like ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly!”. I preferred twitter’s version: “It’s like playing snog, marry, avoid.” (Twitter, btw, settled on ‘snog Clegg, marry Brown (?!), kill Cameron’).

Infinity Ward and Respawn

The studio which made chart topping Modern Warfare 2 continues to bleed more staff and is beginning to sound as though it is on a downward spiral. Gossip Gamer sums up, saying that the studio’s future is uncertain.

And meanwhile, the original two Infinity Ward developers who walked out have founded a new studio (Respawn Entertainment) and signed a deal for distribution with EA. Apparently EA also lent them some seed capital. There’s a Games Industry.biz interview with them here although you have to join the site to see it. They say that they anticipate making big blockbuster titles but haven’t decided on a project yet. MCV analyses their first press release.

I haven’t seen any reports yet that staff leaving Infinity Ward are joining Respawn but  … well duh. Of course those are the people they’ll want to recruit, and who probably will want to work with them again. EA are certainly getting some mileage out of gloating about Activision right now. How the wheel turns.

Bear in mind, this is (or was) the studio which created one of the biggest selling titles of all time. The fallout from this debate about who should own the IP of a franchise and what they do with it, will echo far across the industry.

DDO flirts with the offer wall

This is a great story.

Free to Play darling, Dungeons and Dragons Online surprised players this week by setting up an offer wall. This is the kind of thing people may be used to on facebook games, where you can sign up for various free offers from a variety of companies in return for some game points. Unfortunately these offer walls have a poor (and more to the point, well publicised) reputation, mostly from past abuses by Zynga.

Bloggers were shocked, if only because this implies that the much loved ‘pay for content’ F2P scheme which has been highly praised simply isn’t making enough money. Is this the slippery slope for all F2P games? Once you have one good avenue for cash, it’s never enough? You have to explore every monetisation method available?  And as if that wasn’t enough, there were also some privacy issues with the offer wall.

In any case, Turbine acted with remarkable swiftness and pulled the offer wall a couple of days later. That’s an impressive level of responsiveness, whichever way you cut it.

While you can make the point that lots of players would probably like the opportunity to get some game points ‘for free’ by signing up for offers, if the developer actually wanted to give away game points for free they would just do it. Nothing really comes ‘for free.’

Offer wall type schemes can easily manipulate the more naive players who aren’t savvy about stuff like giving away their mobile phone numbers etc – I don’t believe that this is something an ethical developer should be doing. Design your game and charge for it however you want, but don’t throw your customers (who may include minors) to the wolves.

And more on the sparkle pony

If anyone missed the story that Blizzard started selling a $25 mount for WoW this week, then I have a sparkleflyingbridge to sell you.

Predictably, the blogosphere went crazy. But not as crazy as you might expect. Although I was amused that openedge1 has a campaign for people to give their $25 to charity instead. (I don’t see why people shouldn’t spend their money on fun things without being made to feel like shit, though. They can always give money to charity as well.)

The post which caught my attention was Sera@Massively wondering why people go apeshit about some virtual goods schemes, but most people have been fairly positive about the sparkle pony. She calls hypocrisy. The main difference, to my mind, is that Blizzard has earned more trust from the player base by operating their polished and hugely  successful subscription game for years. It just will look different when a new game announces a cash shop just after launch, and before they’ve earned that level of trust.

I really think the key points to take away are:

  • People need to be really invested in a game to throw $25 on a mount, however cool. This only works at all because WoW is a good enough game to have earned those players. You can’t just throw up sparkle ponies on any MMO and expect that many people to throw that much money at you …
  • … or can you? There are a LOT of web based games which make decent money from selling virtual goods. Is the player base just getting used to it now?
  • Ignore everyone who says that this mount is purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect gameplay. It IS purely cosmetic, but this surely is a change in game design for Blizzard. It’s a change in how rewards can be offered, and the player base is right to wonder whether in future the best fluff will be reserved for those who will pay. (I leave the question open as to whether that’s fairer than reserving it for those who raid or grind hardcore.) And the magic circle is forever thrown open, which is sad for those of us who love our virtual worlds.
  • The budget people are spending on sparklyponies is most likely their mad money, which would have been spent on something fun and silly anyway. People spend their money on all sorts of shit in the real world, never mind the virtual one. (I am not trying to say that the new doctor who sonic screwdriver which my husband bought this week is shit, by the way, if you’re reading :) I’m looking forwards to zapping him with it when I need to wake him up).
  • We have no real way to evaluate how much a virtual good is ‘worth’, except by how much people are willing to pay. (This is probably true of real goods too, but it’s not as obvious how easy it would be for the producer to just change the price.) Comparing the price of the sparkle horse to beer, games (is a DS game really worth that much more than an iPhone game? Is a PS3 game worth more than a PC game?), or anything else is not answering the basic question, “Do people want this enough to spend $X on it,” to which the answer for many people is clearly yes.
  • People love sparkly flying ponies, oh yes they do.

My adventures at eastercon: admissions of a convention noob

So, last weekend was the big adventure. I went to Eastercon, held this year at a hotel near Heathrow, which was my first experience of a SF convention. It wasn’t a lone expedition; I went with my sister and our respective partners for moral support. This is one of the larger UK SF conventions (from what I understand), and had about 1250 attendees – just so you get an idea of the scale. It is fan run, which means that the panels and events reflect what the fans are interested in and also what people were able and willing to organise.

If you have read Larisa’s poignant memories of her years of con attendance, you may wonder (as I did) whether she was looking back with rose coloured glasses. And even if she was right in all respects, had the conventions moved on? It took about 2 seconds from walking through the front door of the hotel into the reception area for me to understand that some things will NEVER change.

Two things that caught my eye immediately:

  • Lots of women around! (I’ve been to gaming conventions where the men: women ratio is about 10:1. This was closer to 1:1.)
  • It was all very well organised (again, comparing with gaming conventions). We queued briefly at reception, picked up our delegate badges and goodie bags (free mug! free easter egg! and a couple of books and more assorted useful con information … ) Even in retrospect, every part of the con I saw was very well organised. Panels started on time (give or take the odd 5 minutes), people were where they were supposed to be, sound/lighting was fine.

The whole convention and the other attendees were terrifically friendly. I was impressed at the range and variety of the panels – there were some on hard science, some litcrit type panels on speculative fiction, some about writing and getting published, a couple on games, some on social media,  some fun geek-oriented crafty activities, some family based sessions, film screenings. Plus people wandering around in a wide variety of costumes, cabaret, and a solid set from Mitch Benn.

And a room full of board games too. It shows what the atmosphere was like that when we sat down to play a game, friendly people asked politely if they could join in as they wandered through. (Again, this does not really happen at gaming conventions, oddly enough.)

It’s not often that you are torn between the possibility of watching the first episode of the new Doctor Who in a large screening room with 200+ other fans or going to a panel on ‘The Occult in Modern Urban Fantasy.’ One day, there will be cloning so we can do all of them at once …

Another highlight for me was the video game charades session, where we were wisely advised to form into teams with a variety of age groups represented. I don’t know who had more fun, the under tens who had a ball miming out Lego Star Wars or our husbands acting out Tron. I just know that it was a room full of video game geeks of all ages … and laughter. And it makes me think about how rarely I do get to hang out with mixed age groups. It’s a shame in many ways that it has become so taboo to hang out socially with kids (unless they are relatives) or with older people, because it can be a very positive experience all around.

I thoroughly enjoyed the more serious panels that I attended as well. People were generally well behaved, very engaged, and there were some animated, interesting discussions. As a fan, it’s also a privilege to be able to talk to authors you admire, or hear them discussing their writing and how they work in panels or interviews. I thought Iain Banks was an awesome writer before this weekend, I still think that but I also now think he’s a dude. And Arb did tweet me at least once to let me know that someone we were chatting to in a panel/ event had won a Nebula award (so congrats!)

I get the feeling that the local writer community is very supportive of the con scene – because I don’t really know that you’ll get enough sales from 1250 people to make it worth giving up a weekend otherwise.

It is glaring to me that the con fanbase is very predominantly white in the UK (not sure about the rest of the world), and the programming reflects that. There were panels on feminist issues, disability issues (disability in comic book villains), gay and alternative sexuality issues. But nothing on race.

To Sum Up

We had a brilliant time. The con was a friendly, supportive, fun atmosphere full of fellow geeks who were also having a good time. And some very hard working fans who made the whole thing run so smoothly (so props to you all, and thank you very much.) I do understand now why people say that going to a SF con feels like coming home. Also, if someone offers you some 100% cocoa chocolate, only take a very small piece.

We already booked our spots for 2012!

Surviving April Fools Day

In the interests of allowing people to make total tits of themselves, I won’t post up links to any of the bloggy April Fools I’ve found so far until this afternoon. Feel free to suggest good April Fool links in comments.

(Big admission, I was going to write an April Fool about some big game company apologising for not including EU participants in something or other, because we know that never happens. But Bioware actually did that yesterday.)

Until then:

Guardian reports on Gordon Brown’s new electoral campaign

The Brown team has been buoyed by focus group results suggesting that an outbreak of physical fighting during the campaign, preferably involving bloodshed and broken limbs, could re-engage an electorate increasingly apathetic about politics.

In other election related news, BMW debuts its new Political Roundel Attachment Tag (PRAT) technology. They have some pictures of it on the homepage. (Thanks, Twoo.)

Kotaku is linking gaming related April Fools as they find them here.

Google introduces a new Animal Translator, bridging the gap between species.

A few more April Fools

Tobold reports that we’ll soon be able to play WoW on Facebook

And We Fly Spitfires has news of paid class changes in the works

TAGN reports on all the official Blizzard April Fools

Tanking Tips has news about a new legendary shield in WoW (about time too!)

Kill Ten Rats offers the one off chance to send ten dead rats to your favourite developer

Troll Racials are Overpowered has seen the light! He’s starting a new incarnation as a gnome paladin.

wow.com has had a change in direction to become Mass Effect Insider (or Leer at Taylor Lautner Insider?) (note: I will laugh if the Twilight stuff sends their hits through the roof.)

More from Bioware: They’ve announced a new 9th class for SWTOR, the Sarlacc Enforcer

Massively.com introduced new premium member services (Thanks, Wilhelm2451)

And props to Andrew Doull who totally had me fooled with his series of posts about Dwarf Fortress 2

As he says himself:

The typical reaction to falling for a hoax is outrage. I want you to put aside that emotion as much as you are capable of and celebrate another – imagination. If you fell for my story, it is because the seeds I planted fell on the cherished soil of fertile and optimistic dreamworld. This should be something you should be proud of. You have the capability to rise above the mundane and cynical, escape the clay around your boots and float away on boundless escapism. You are a gamer.

LOTRO update, Final Fantasy screws the pacing, and can SWTOR really get 2 million subs?

mirkwoodbynight

Mirkwood by Night (not sure how well this will come out)

The first time Arbitrary showed me around the daily quests in Mirkwood, I was scrambling along behind her hoping not to get lost. Although there are paths and roads through the zone, it’s also a big dark scary forest without obvious road signs all over the place. Strange as this sounds, obvious road signs (for no obvious reason) do feature in a few of the latter WoW zones. I never understood why Horde/ Alliance didn’t go mess with the signs in order to throw off the opposing armies.

A couple of the quests are scouting missions, in which you have to check out four different locations in order, and then report back to base. There are maps which help navigation, but still, when I started doing these dailies on my own I used to have to keep stopping (in stealth, naturally) to check my map like some kind of lost tourist.

No longer. I was able to save up enough daily tokens to buy a new horse for my character – a nice study black creature which seems fitting for a burglar. And I noticed that I was smoothly completing my scouting missions without having to stop and check maps any more. I feel like a veteran of the Mirkwood front!

goalsblackhorse

I took a screenshot of the new smoky black horse in Bree, since a screenie of a black-clad burglar on a black horse in a black forest might fail to impress. Whereas in WoW, your basic horse will do the job but the more expensive epic mount is faster, in LOTRO the advanced horse runs at the same speed as the basic one but it is a bit sturdier. Or in other words, you don’t fall off it every time a monster looks at you funny. Acquiring one was one of my in-game goals, and I’m pleased that the black one was the more accessible to me from the Mirkwood elves.

The other picture is a demonstration of why glowy daggers and stealthy burglars don’t really mix. Gosh, I wonder where the stealther is in this picture? Fortunately orcs are very very short sighted … or something.

In which I want to slap final fantasy 13

A couple of people commented on my affection for the extremely on-rails presentation of FF13. What can I say? I wouldn’t want every game I play to be linear like this but it’s refreshing to see it done well, like a palate cleanser. In general, the games I have most enjoyed on the PS3 so far have had strongly directed, well designed gameplay. It seems to be a general strength of console games.

Or in other words, I like smoked salmon and could probably eat it for every meal, but I also like other foods and some of them don’t go well with salmon. Ultra-linear, highly directed gameplay is not really what I look for in a MMO, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun in its own right.

Having said that, the pacing of FF13 became glacial during chapter 6. I don’t expect to actually feel bored during a Final Fantasy setting. Interestingly, it was the gameplay pacing that was off, the narrative pacing was fine. It’s perfectly OK to have a long sequence in which two characters who didn’t get along have to travel together, and along the course they learn to trust each other.

Just usually in films you’d go to a travelogue or montage sequence to show the passage of time without boring the pants off people via a sequence of forgettable fights.

odinlightning

But I am a mercurial gamer and the game picked up massively in chapter 7. So now I love it again, I genuinely enjoy all of the characters and their development arcs, and can’t wait for our next session. It’s quite a feat of storytelling to show such marked character development for all of the main characters. They don’t quite pull off the marriage of gameplay with narrative, but I still love what they are trying to do.

Also, Lightning is awesome.

Can SWTOR really get 2 million subs?

A few bloggers have picked up on a report that EA chiefs have high hopes for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and are shooting for 2 million+ subs. I’m not linking to them all because what everyone says is, “Is that realistic?”

Yes. Star Wars is a big and very well known franchise. But if that was all it took, then why isn’t LOTRO larger than World of Warcraft? Still, it certainly helps to get word out of the door, and Bioware’s stonking recent record of story based games (Dragon Age, Mass Effect et al) surely doesn’t hurt either.

I can only conclude that:

  1. Bioware have a lot on their plate at the moment. They’re known to be working on Mass Effect 3, and almost certainly on a Dragon Age 2 (sequel). On top of that, SWTOR is a vast undertaking and also the most expensive project in EA’s stable at the moment.
  2. SWTOR is an incredibly risky project. I’m still amazed that both EA and Bioware chose to go the AAA MMO route at this point in time.
  3. SWTOR rather failed to blow reporters away when they tried a demo at GDC. People liked it, but no one came away saying, “Oh my god this is the next big thing, give it to me now etc etc.” Having said that, the trooper sounds quite fun – a dps class which can switch from ranged to melee and has big guns.
  4. I think they will get their 2 million subscribers. They may end up redefining what a subscriber means, especially if they go with a hybrid pricing model but they’ll get the numbers.
  5. I’ll play it! So now they only have to find 1,999,999 other people and they’re golden.
  6. But I’ll still wish it was Mass Effect Online rather than Star Wars …

And the gratuitous female fighter in platemail picture

alg_alice_wonderland_vid

From Alice in Wonderland, of all things. But now I wish Tim Burton would take on The Faerie Queene as a project — I’d pay just to see the visualisations.

It came from GDC: Sid Meier is my hero, or player psychology and game design

People who play games are egomaniacs. It says on the box you get to control armies, discover new technology, and create entire civilizations. So, right away, you’re an egomaniac.

-Sid Meier

If there is one law of computer gamers, it is that everybody loves Civilisation. So when the game’s designer, Sid Meier, gives a talk about game design, it’s worth listening to what he has to say.

Kotaku has a good summary of the legendary designer’s keynote speech from GDC. He touches on how he designs around the idea that every player likes to win, and how he views the psychological effects of rewarding or punishing players. This is Venturebeat’s coverage of the same talk.

The other part that caught my eye was the comment on protecting the player from themselves. Or in other words, players tend to be risk averse which doesn’t always help them learn better strategies. For example, when saves are freely available, players often save their progress before every battle and just reload and try again until they win. This can make it harder for them to see where an improved strategy could help them in the bigger picture.

Sid also plays WoW, incidentally. But sadly he doesn’t take the opportunity here to make a few suggestions to Blizzard.

We need bigger links!

  1. In a week where Blizzard announced their plans for upgrading Battle.net to support online Starcraft 2 play, RPS asks whether people really want to play online RTS. If you’re a casual player, do you want to be thrown in amongst the hardcore even if the vaunted ‘skill matching’ works as intended? Do you even see them as PvP games, or prefer your strategy to be player vs environment?
  2. Farmville sells its most expensive item, would you spend $42 on a ‘cheat code’?
  3. Would older gamers rather play together than die alone? wired.com asks whether shooters with the associated hyper-competitive online posturing are really a young man/woman’s game. (Note: this is why it could be a mistake for MMOs to drift to more shootery gameplay, do they not know the age of their demographic?)
  4. Tamarind@Righteous Orbs has an unfortunately named alt (but at least people will remember his name!)
  5. Tanking class comparisons? We got ‘em. Big Bear Butt Blogger has been playing both a paladin and druid tank lately and has written a couple of posts comparing them. Shintar has another angle on paladin vs druid tanking – I wonder if she’s more objective because neither is her main. Gameldar also writes about paladin tanking for warriors (ie. if you’re switching), but again he steers clear of actually making any value judgements.
  6. evizaer has been playing and writing about Global Agenda recently and in this post he explains why DPS Medics are a design failure. This will be a familiar argument to anyone who has ever played or whined about healers who don’t heal in PvP.
  7. Nerf the Cat plays through the Dragon Age DLCs, Warden’s Keep and Return to Ostagar.
  8. James Wallis proposes a new standard for distinguishing between games and … non-games (eg. software toys.)
  9. Locke Webster on the MTV blog looks at how Mass Effect changed the way he roleplays. (I have a longer post planned on this.)
  10. We like stories about good vs evil, but what is evil anyway? Jon Evans on the tor.com blog argues that every society has its own, changing notions of evil. And fantasy or futuristic societies even moreso. It’s an interesting thought for roleplayers.
  11. Syp explains why no one cares about Taris, referring to the latest SW:TOR infosnippet. I think the SW:TOR team should hire some cricket commentators, they have plenty of experience in filling airtime with chatter while raid stops play.
  12. And finally Mattel unveils … Computer Engineer Barbie. I’ve heard complaints that the laptop is Bismuth Pink but I think they miss the actual subversive nature of the new career — it shows that computer engineers can be girly too, and that’s the point.

Eurogamer Expo

I went up to town (note for non brits: ‘up to town’ means ‘to London’ if you live in the Home Counties*) for the Eurogamer Expo on Friday. It was great to touch base with some bloggers and podcasters I really admire – here’s the shout out to Van Hemlock, Shuttler, and dmosbon (and please leave comments for links to anyone else, ‘fraid I was a bit foggy with whatever mild lurgy I’ve had over the last few days.)

It was also the first time in many years that I’ve been to a computer consumer exhibition. And boy have they changed! One thing that hasn’t changed is the ratio of men to women among the punters. When I arrived at the venue and joined the queue I estimated it as roughly 10000:1, later revised to about 150:1 when I was bored enough to start counting.

This particular expo was very much for gamers to come and try out new and upcoming games. The main floor of the exhibition was filled with huge widescreen monitors, several of which were assigned to each game demo. People were being quite polite about moving on after their 10-15 mins was up so there was plenty of opportunity to check the games out. Upstairs were the indie games, and booths for devs, along with cubicles where people could get advice on breaking into the industry (presumably having people pick over their portfolios). Then further up the meeting rooms where you could attend lectures.  It’s a long long way from the computer expos I remember when I was a kid, full of stalls selling anything from hardware, consumables, software, just about anything remotely interesting to geeks, or plugging fanzines or bboards.

Anyway, the layout meant that all the non flash-bang-whizzo games content was relegated to the top of the hall, where it was easy to ignore them and most people did.

What Caught My Eye

It had never occurred to me before that console games were designed so that they were fun to watch even if you weren’t the person actually playing them. It was very noticeable that the PC games just weren’t that eyecatching from a distance.

Most standout for me was God of War 3, where I (with many many others) was staring open mouthed at the ultra-crazy and over the top stunts, so it wins my whizz-bang award. Also gave me my best laugh of the show – I was watching the main character have a big fight with a centaur. At the end, the hero slashes the centaur’s stomach and all the guts spill out, gratuitously. After a moment’s pause from the crowd, I heard a plummy voice behind me comment, “Oh how absolutely awesome.”

But when I’d blinked the virtual gore and explosions away from my eyes, it was Uncharted 2 that held my attention for the longest. Even when I wasn’t the person playing the game, I thought it was absolutely spellbinding. I’ve not seen a game that made me think so much of actually playing through a Bond movie. The other thing I noticed, just from watching, is how brilliant the storytelling is in that game. I saw a segment (from near the beginning, I think), where our hero has been in a train where the front two coaches have gone over a cliff and he has to climb up them onto solid ground. I don’t know how hard that was to play (it looked vaguely platformish, with some running, jumping, and swinging) but the game made it feel like a very exciting cliffhanger action scene. My heart was in my mouth as I watched the carriages lurch as the character swung in through a carriage window.

It was also clear, even without sound, that the story was being told through flashbacks. I was just thoroughly impressed.

Also a sidenote to Army of Two because they gave me a free T-Shirt of swag+1.

PC Games of Note

I snuck a few minutes alone with the Star Trek Online demo and I’ll be writing up my impressions of that later this week. Dragon Age was also being displayed on both PC and PS3, and it looked very sleek indeed. I guessed immediately which screen showed Dragon Age because all the characters were covered in a fine speckle of blood.

The indie games were fun and weird and different and cool, which is pretty much what you want to see. They were also much more likely to have some of the dev team turn up to chat to players about the game and where they were going with it.

Particularly eye catching for me were:

(*Geek Aside: Looking at that map of the Home Counties, I’m reminded of the Golden Circle of shadows closest to Amber.)

This Post Contains Spoilers

  1. The martians all die from catching the common cold.
  2. In The Wasp Factory, Frank is a girl.
  3. In Sleepaway Camp, Angela is actually a boy, and the killer. (therivs)
  4. Soylent Green is people! (Hawley)
  5. Vader is Luke’s father. (Slurms)
  6. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie) is interesting because the narrator is the murderer (arbitrary)
  7. ET phones home. (Scott)
  8. Old Yeller dies. (Slurms)
  9. Holmes didn’t fall off Reichenbach falls; he climbed up the rocks and hid to feign his death. (foolsage)
  10. On the Orient Express, everyone did it. (foolsage)
  11. Rosebud is the sled. (foolsage)
  12. Rhett gets fed up with Scarlett’s whining and leaves her. (foolsage)
  13. Norman Bates is the killer (Mister K)
  14. Norman Bates plays the role of his own mother. (Wilhelm2451)
  15. (A Boy and His Dog) the boy chooses his dog over his girlfriend, and now his dog is well-fed. (Tipa)
  16. (Ubiq) Chip’s dead boss is dreaming that Chip &amp; co are dead, but believe they are alive and that Chip’s boss is dead. (Tipa)
  17. Those battle simulations Ender runs are real battles. (Tipa)
  18. (Time Out of Joint): Raul’s entire existence is a fabrication and everyone in his city is in on it. (Tipa)
  19. (Through a Scanner Darkly): The main character is spying on himself. (Tipa)
  20. (Blade Runner): Decker is a replicant. (This differs from the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, where he isn’t. Two spoilers in one!) (Tipa)
  21. (Suspicion): Cary Grant is not really a killer. (Tipa)
  22. The One Ring ends up being cast into Mount Doom (Ysharros)
  23. Farm Boy is the Dread Pirate Roberts. (Ysharros)
  24. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are the same person! (AndyH)
  25. Paris shoots Achilles in the heel with a poisoned arrow.  Troy burns. (foolsage)
  26. Odysseus makes it home. (foolsage)
  27. Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves. (foolsage)
  28. Hamlet gets revenge then dies. (foolsage)
  29. Ilsa and Victor escape.  Rick stays in Casablanca. (foolsage)
  30. Michael becomes the new Godfather.  Fredo betrays the family.  Michael has him killed.  (2 in one!) (foolsage)
  31. (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold) Mundt really *was* a double agent, and Leamas allows himself to be killed rather than escape after his girlfriend is killed. (Xbalanque)
  32. (Minority Report — the short story) The three precogs reports were all different, so they were *all* minority reports, and Anderton murders General Kaplan so that Precrime won’t be dissolved. (Xbalanque)
  33. (Anubis Gates ) The body of Ashbless discovered on what Doyle knows to be the date of Ashbless’s death was actually a ka. (Xbalanque)
  34. Kristen shot J.R. (xJane)
  35. Spock isn’t dead dead. He’s in McCoy’s brain. (xJane)
  36. The Ark of the Covenant is now in a secret government warehouse, and if you close your eyes, the stuff in the Ark won’t kill you. (xJane)
  37. Psst Oedipus, that’s your mom. (xJane) ((Jocasta is Oedipus’ mother.))
  38. (Glengarry Glen Ross.)  Shelly Levine (Jack Lemmon) is the thief. (Tipa)
  39. (The Third Man.)  Orson Welles faked his death. (Tipa)
  40. On the 7th day he just slacks. Oh and they eat the apple. Lots wife looks backwards. Pillar of salt. (Uzi)
  41. Slim Pickens’s bomber destroys the world by triggering the Russian Doomsday device. (canazza)
  42. In the end, the farmers win rather than the seven gunfighters. They lose. They always lose. (AndyH)
  43. The wizard is just an old man from Omaha. (scrusi)
  44. In Len Deighton’s Bernard Sampson series (Berlin Game onward), Bernard’s wife’s defection to East Germany was staged by the British without his knowledge. (Wilhelm2451)

Feel free to comment with more spoilers from media that is at least 20 years old (I’ll delete anything more recent) and I’ll add it to the list.

Links, Reviews, Roundups

Last week was a first for me with the blog. First time I’ve written a whole week of blog posts in advance and pre-scheduled them, because I was off visiting Arb (not that I didn’t have net access, we are civilised folks after all).

I’m not sure how other bloggers organise their writing but I usually note down ideas when I have them and write one up either the evening before or early in the morning. So that was my brief flirtation with being organised, I promise it won’t happen again :) And if I was a bit slower with replies then that’s why.

So Champions Online and Aion have been out for about a month now. How are people finding them?

Melf has a great Aion review up at Word of Shadow. I prefer reviews where people list both good and bad things about the game, especially when the reviewer basically liked the game, because that means they probably ‘got’ whatever it is supposed to be about and can hopefully explain it to readers. Evizaer also had a look at Aion and gave it a straight no.

Girl Unplugged posts a Champions Online review, again this is a review from someone who likes the game and can explain why.  And Syp has a solid point by point comparison between CO and City of Heroes. I do find it interesting that people who have bought a lifetime subscription are much more likely to take a longterm view of a game – ie. Oh it’s a bit rough now but it’ll be great in a year’s time. If I’d paid $200 up front, I don’t think I’d be too thrilled about having to wait a year for greatness.

And still on the superhero theme, I have a basic disagreement with Muckbeast in the comments on his post about attracting women gamers, about whether the superhero genre is more popular with women than fantasy or sci-fi. (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight … I’m just sayin’.)

Other Stuff to Read: Twelve of the Best

  1. Make Your Own Zombie Game – the zombie game experience gives you a chance to throw in $10 and participate in some game design. I’ll be curious to see what they come up with.
  2. Wolfshead explains why scaling content should be our future! Why do we have to stick to group and raid sizes that are predetermined? Couldn’t the content just scale, like it does in CoH or Diablo?
  3. tor.com is a blog that deserves a spot on any geek’s newsreader. This month is Steampunk month and they post a Steampunk 101 guide with an incredible shot at the bottom of a steampunked up laptop that has instantly become my object of desire.
  4. Jaye at Journeys with Jaye explains why his exercise bike is an MMO and the scary thing is … he isn’t entirely kidding. Edited to add: Mea Culpa and sorry Jaye for getting the gender wrong, that should read SHE.
  5. Jormundgard tries to psychoanalyse Garrosh Hellscream and explains why he’s disappointed with how that character has been developed.
  6. Andrew Doull finds Puzzlequest quite traumatic and a lot of his reactions could apply equally to any quest based game. What does it mean if we’ll go commit (virtual) genocide just because an NPC in a position of authority told us to do it?
  7. And although this may possibly be the least subtle link between links ever, I thought it was absolutely fascinating that The Anne Frank House were able to post up an actual video of Anne Frank on youtube this week. This is (obviously) from before the family went into hiding.
  8. Keen writes a sharp, well observed post asking whether MMOs are being designed for too many players these days. And what do you lose when you decide to go for the mainstream?
  9. And two thematically related posts: Tobold wonders how people like their games to be paced – if it’s all excitement all of the time then there’s never any downtime in which to socialise after all. And Andrew@Of Tooth and Claw asks how people feel about difficulty in games, and particularly about ‘cheating’ to sidestep the difficulty if it is getting in the way.
  10. Hudson splits the CO community into two parts, conceptualists who try to stay true to a character concept and minmaxers who design their character concept around whichever powers work best at the time. Which are you?
  11. Larisa wonders if it’s OK to apply to another guild while you are still guilded. After all, it’s OK to apply for new jobs while you’re still employed (at least until your employer finds out).
  12. And another tor.com link, this time to a fantastic report on a reading and Q&A session with Michael Chabon (another of my favourite ever living authors) who is a dyed in the wool geek and proud of it. I’ll end with a quote from him:

… he goes on to describe the way fandom binds people together:

“For in playing, or writing, or drawing, or simply talking oneself deep into the world of a popular artwork that invites the regard of the amateur, the fan, one is seeking above all to connect, not only with the world of the show, comic book, or film, but with the encircling, embracing metaworld of all those who love it as much as you do.”