30 April 2009

Battletech Pods at ORIGINS and GENCON

News flash: An anonymous poster writes in response to my post about Battletech virtual reality pods:

Anonymous said...

The BattleTech pods are sceduled to hit Anime Central (ACEN) in Chicago May 9-11. 6 of them will be on hand.

Also, Origins and Gencon are in the works.

Origins is 90% certain.

There is no official announcement from Virtual World yet, just this on their web site:

The Tesla II cockpits, featuring the BattleTech: Firestorm software, are fully enclosed military style simulators that feature 7 screens, over 90 control systems, and a 12 speaker surround sound system. When seated in the cockpit or 'pod', the player will pilot his or her own walking tank known as a BattleMech onto the virtual landscape to compete for battlefield superiority with those seated in surrounding cockpits.

This is the first, but not the last, major convention appearance for the Kalamazoo operation this season. These cockpits are slated to appear at other major entertainment conventions in the Midwest later this Summer. [emphasis added]
The official response from Giant Battling Robots is YAHOO!!!!

It's looks like more of my expendable income is going to be expended at ORIGINS this year. I can't wait. I will post updates as news become available.

[PS to anonymous: I would be happy to credit you, if you like.]

UPDATE [5/19/09] - it appears ORIGINS is a go:

Peter Smith Writes:
I was just informed that the Origins Crew is now being formed, as the VWE pods will be there. The plan is to bring twelve pods out, the price is going to be three game tokens (six bucks).

However, these details may change. And per VGL policy, harassment by staff is always free and will be in stock the entire convention.

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27 April 2009

Game Design Class

How would you like to take a class in game design? Ian Schreiber is offering a class called Game Design Concepts, and it's free [except for the optional books, which are not at all expensive].

[From Game Developers Conference 2009 Speakers] Ian Schreiber has been in the industry for eight years, first as a programmer and then as a game designer. He has worked on five published game titles and two serious game projects. Ian has taught game design and development courses at Ohio University, Columbus State Community College, and Savannah College of Art and Design.
Ian also has a blog: Teaching Game Design.

So I signed up for the class, my books should arrive via Amazon tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to meeting Ian at ORIGINS is summer. Maybe this will help me get some of my game ideas into a form where they could actually be played.

[Found on Applied Game Design]
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25 April 2009

Plastic Miniatures, Resurrected

Warseer plastic battletech miniatures
There is a good thread at Warseer where a collection of plastic minis are being reworked and resurrected. An ambitious project, but it is off to a good start.

Warseer plastic battletech miniatures shadowhawk
It's about time I broke out my minis again and get back to work. I have a huge backlog of projects to finish.

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21 April 2009

Tumblin' Dice

My life has been a bit complicated recently and blogging has not been my first concern, but things may soon go back to something resembling normal. I just heard back from Chessex about my custom dice though, and wanted to show the pictures!
Joseph is back from GAMA and set up some sample dice with my custom dice graphic. What do you think?

I am rather partial to the orange swirl (vortex orange) myself. Now I need to figure out how many to order. Decisions, decisions!

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16 April 2009

Visit Scenic Hakodate

Visit scenic Hakodate, Japan, a city well known for its frequent alien attacks, and witness the rampaging mechanical squid battling the gigantic guardian robot! ... OK, so this is kinda weird, and perhaps a few details are in order:
The invaders here are alien cephalopods from the planet Ikaaru, who seek revenge on the people of Hakodate for eating too much squid. The aliens hijack an enlarged version of Hakodate’s tourism mascot — a mechanical squid named “Ikabo,” which was built by Future University-Hakodate (FUN) in 2007 — and send it on a rampage through the city.
No, it's still weird. Watch the video, then go read the full story behind it at Pink Tentacle. It's good fun.

On second thought, maybe go read about it FIRST, then it might make a little more sense (a very little).
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14 April 2009

Business Cards for a Games Blog

In preparation for ORIGINS 2009, which I will be attending, I though I might get some business cards to hand out while I am there to advertise the blog. Except this being a blog about games, business cards don't really send the right message. What I need is something that gamers appreciate. Something like ...

business dice.

Custom Dice Chessex Singapore Longshoremen sharkI wrote about the custom dice our local Battletech group recently had made up. Something like this would be great, but I need to fit text for the whole blog URL onto one face of a die, which might be tricky. I am in contact with Joseph at Chessex to try to work out the details. Featured below is the graphic I came up with:

Giant Battling Robots business dice graphic GBR
I'm think of getting either solid yellow dice with black paint, or perhaps a speckled yellow (or wait ... maybe vortex orange!). This page shows the available options.

If anyone out there disapproves of my selection of style and color, this is your chance to do something about it. Post your comments and suggestions before next week, when I hope to finalize the order. [update: fixed the graphic]
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13 April 2009

Bikini Bottom Battletech

From the Lords of the Battlefield gallery ...

Fritz Haas Bikini Bottom Battletech LOTB Lords Battlefield... the Bikini Bottom Lance!

Some very creative painting by artist Fritz Haas. The original image can be found here.

Fritz Haas Bikini Bottom Battletech LOTB Lords Battlefield Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob Squarepants!

Fritz Haas Bikini Bottom Battletech LOTB Lords Battlefield Patrick Star
Patrick Star!

Fritz Haas Bikini Bottom Battletech LOTB Lords Battlefield Mr. Crabs
Mister Crabs!

Fritz Haas Bikini Bottom Battletech LOTB Lords Battlefield Sandy

Sandy Cheeks!

But where is Squidward?

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11 April 2009

Gygax and Arneson, in Memorium

In the spring of 1978, I began a most interesting journey. One of those journeys that changes your life. Two of them actually.

Wideview Utah desertOne was a school trip, with about 40 kids and chaperons packed into 8 station wagons, setting off on an 11-day tour of Wyoming and Utah. Great fun. Memories to last a lifetime. A story for another day, perhaps. [Image Wideview]

Then there was the other journey. Five 13-year-old boys in a car on a long drive across the desert do get bored. There were two pretty girls in the car too (S and J), but we hadn't figured that stuff out yet. What we did have was a box. A game in a blue box that none of had seen before.

Basic D&D Dungeons and Dragons AcaeumWell, that's not exactly right; one of us had. Matt pulled this blue box out of his knapsack and introduced us to a game that had no board and no pieces to move. It used pencil and paper, but we had that in abundant supply (school trip, you know). It also used some dice I'd never seen before, with 4, 8, 12, and 20 sides, in addition to the usual 6 sided dice. We created "characters" by rolling attributes and decided what classes they should be. [Image Acaeum]

Characters needed names, and fortunately we had all recently seen the Ralph Bakshi movie Wizards which provided a lot of inspiration.
Sean had high wisdom and became a Leric? the cleric. Manus got high intelligence and was a magic user (name?) with a unique fashion sense. Taylor got the highest dexterity and was Avatar the thief. John and I got good strength and constitution and took the fighter roles of Elric? the elf and Peace the dwarf. Matt ran the show as the game master.
[Image IMDB, and if you are an RP gamer and have never seen Wizards, shame on you!]

Wideview Utah Glenn canyon damAnd so we passed the time on the long long drives between stops on our trip. Battling skeletons, stirges, and other perils, and gathering up all the loot we could carry. I have a lot of good memories of that trip, which was really extraordinary by any measure. Some of those memories happened in the back of a station wagon, rolling down the Utah highway. [Image Wideview]

In the past 13 months we have lost Gary Gygax and David Arneson, the two people who created Dungeons & Dragons, and who enabled a lot of those good memories I've been writing about. That is the way of things; people pass on leaving only memories.
Though I gave up this particular game long ago, gaming remains a part of my life. I am not alone, because a lot of other people have been drawn to role playing games as a pastime and hobby. A lot of them started with the blue box or something very like it, just like my friends and I did in the back of that station wagon. Somehow I think the influence these two men had on so many people will not be forgotten any time soon.
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[Update: With some help from Matt, we determined this must have been the spring of 1978, not 1977. Therefore most of us were actually 14 years old, not 13. There are some additional comments on Facebook.]

10 April 2009

History through Battletech

Fraggmented has an interesting interpretation of the Battletech storyline, as a reinterpretation of modern civilization.

I'm not saying anything particularly new when I say that science fiction is rarely about the actual future. It's really more about the present, translated into an allegorical form, and the venerable "Battletech" franchise is no exception. It doesn't even really disguise it, with the various Great Houses of the Inner Sphere being clear analogies of various Earth nations--it doesn't really make much sense when you sit down and analyze it that these lines of sheer demarcation between a Japanese monoculture, a Chinese monoculture, et cetera would actually translate across hundreds of light years and centuries into the future, but it makes emotional sense to us because it's a recognizable allegory for our world.

The big surprise is when the historically familiar Houses are attacked by the unknown Clans, which quite literally set the Battletech universe on it's ear ... but I'll let John Seavey finish the story.

09 April 2009

Dave Arneson, RIP

via Critical Hits

Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, passed away on April 7th at the age of 61.

08 April 2009

Congratulations, it's a Gamer!

Baby Gamer Tshirt art d'artSean and Melissa Brady have 7 pounds and 10 ounces of good news to report.

On the down side, Sean may not be blogging as regularly for a while.

[Image Tshirt d'Art]

Gravity Pods 2, Part II

On Monday I wrote about a browser game that replicates (and more) a game I made up as a teenager.
SpaceAnimations.org gravity wellWhen I was 14 or so, a friend and I played a game with magnets and steel ball bearing. The idea was to launch you ball bearing at the right speed and direction to navigate a series of magnetic barriers, and finally hit the final target, which represented the other players "base". I don't think we ever had a name for it, but the idea in our heads was that this represented a battle in space, launching a missiles of into a complex gravity well to attack the enemy. Very low tech, but we had a great time with it. [Image SpaceAnimations.org]
While I really like the browser game, I think there is something to be said to the old fashioned approach, because that was a good game too. If you want to try the low tech approach, here is how you can do it:

You need the following materials-
  • At least 4 large (~1 inch) ring magnets (gravity wells and player bases)
  • 4 to 8 small (~1/4 inch) button magnets (defensive satellites).
  • A few steel ball bearings (missiles).
  • 2 plastic straws (these make ideal "missile launchers").
  • Any convenient smooth and level surface as a play area.
Actually, any shape magnets will probably do just as well, but different sizes add interest. Cheap ceramic magnet will work just fine.

The rules are simple, and you may modify them to your hearts desire:
  1. Each player starts with an equal number of each kind of magnet.
  2. The players place their base (a large ring magnet) on opposite sides of the play area.
  3. Players take turns placing large ring magnets between their bases, creating the "gravity well".
  4. Players place small button magnets around their base as "defensive satellites".
Note: It's important to place all the magnets with the same pole up so they repel each other rather than attract. The reason for this will soon become obvious.

  1. Players take turns launching their ball bearings (BB's) at each other. BB's must be launched from nearby the players base or satellites, but may be launched far enough away so that their own magnets do not interfere. Suggestion: Roll the BB's down through a plastic straw. This makes aiming and controlling launch speed much easier.
  2. If a BB contacts a player's base, that is a "hit".
  3. If a BB strikes a defensive satellite (of either player), that defensive satellite is considered destroyed and is removed. Sometimes a "chain reaction" may occur causing defensive satellite to contact each other. These should also be considered as destroyed, and removed from play. If through a chain reaction a defensive satellite contacts a player base, do not count that as a hit (though it is an interesting variation).
  4. The first player to 3 hits wins.
That's it. I recall carrying the magnets around with me so we could play or the lunch table at school. Let me know if you try it, and have fun!

06 April 2009

Gravity Pods 2, Part I

Wicked Pissah Games Gravity Pods 2When I was 14 or so, a friend and I made up a game a game with magnets and steel ball bearings. The idea was to launch you ball bearing at the right speed and direction to navigate a series of magnetic barriers, and finally hit the target, which represented the other players "base". I don't think we ever had a name for it, but the idea in our heads was that this represented a battle in space, launching a missiles of into a complex gravity well to attack the enemy. Very low tech, but we had a great time with it.

Wicked Pissah Games Gravity Pods 2Now you can get a very similar game right in your own browser, and it adds even more difficulty. Gravity Pods (not functional in my browser) has been out for several years, and now Gravity Pods 2 has recently been released.

Wicked Pissah Games Gravity Pods 2This game lets you use gravity, repulsion, and reflection to guide a projectile from the launcher to the target. This forms a sort of puzzle where you use the laws of physics to guide your missile through a maze.

Wicked Pissah Games Gravity Pods 2The game offers 50 levels, starting from the easy-introductory and working up to fiendishly-difficult. Some levels involve moving obstacles and wormholes that require precise timing as well as clever use of the available tools to solve.

Wicked Pissah Games Gravity Pods 2The Gravity and Repulsion objects are particularly useful, but they have long range effects, so what at first seems to be the perfect placement can foul you up later. Some levels that at first appear very difficult turn out to have very limited ways they can be solved, and so are much easier than they appear. Of course, so that look easy, are not.

Wicked Pissah Games Gravity Pods 2It's good fun, just don't start playing Gravity Pods 2 if you have something important to do, because you might be at it for a while. :-)

[Hat Tip to the Sciencepunk]

05 April 2009

The Greatest Game, EVER

Question: What is the greatest game, ever?

The answer, of course, is that there is no best spaghetti sauce.

That link will take you to 17 minute TED video with Malcolm Gladwell (and his hair) explaining how market researcher Howard R. Moskowitz realized that offering more variety allowed more people to be happier with the product they chose. It wasn't that one type of spaghetti sauce was better than any other, it was that people have differing preferences.

I think the same sort of argument can be made for games. Once you get past the basic mechanics of how the game is presented, it comes down to what the player wants. Simple or complex. Platform type (computer,box,tabletop,etc.). Solo or social. Stand alone or "collectible".
I could probably list a lot of other aspects of games, but I think you get the idea.

This post is inspired by a comment someone made to my November post about Netrek being the greatest Star Trek game ever. This might tell you something about how long I tend to sit on ideas, and that I am a terrible procrastinator.

03 April 2009

Battletech Videos

On the Critical Hits I found a Youtube video titled "Hitler's Battletech Game Goes Awry", which was fairly amusing. However, between the time I found it anf the time I could post about it the video has been pulled (possibly due to copyright issues or verbal naughyness in German). Fortunately, not all is lost, because I hit on a cool Battletech video in the process. Enjoy the Large Embattled Mecha (and Aerotech too).