Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Eight Is Just Too Many

First day of actual gaming with the school group today. It went . . . adequately. There were some problems, but it wasn't a disaster.

We only had about two and a half hours. An extra person showed up, so we had eight players in total. We had to spend entirely too much time at the beginning getting everyone's characters finished. The GM is showing signs of getting attached to his plot. Given all that, it really went about as well as could be expected.

The biggest problem for me was just the number of people involved. I've GMed a party of that size, that didn't work too well. The party just sort of waltzed through the game as an amorphous mass; this game looks like it's heading in the same generation. I'm sure there are some GMs, and some players, who can handle and enjoy that size of party. I'm just not one of them.

I tend to like a game that integrates the characters fairly tightly into the game. That's what I go for, anyway. I don't know how well I succeed. But my goal is to give every character specific reasons to be involved with the game, and specific things to do that only they can. I take their specific qualities into account when I'm planning; their styles inform the themes.

It's hard for me to do that in a game with more than four or five characters. Add in the difficulty I have managing that many people at the table, and the grinding hell that combat becomes when you have eight initiative spots to resolve, and it just gets unpleasant.

And that many people is bad for me on the player side, because I'm easily distracted. If there's not something shiny going on right now, and I'm not involved with it, I tend to start thinking about something else. I'll start reading a book, or come up with weird and counterproductive conspiracy theories. Then I'll be totally off track whenever I am back in the spotlight, and I slow the game down trying to figure out what's happening.

So. Current verdict: not bad, but too many people. And too many of them are freshmen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Idiocy Is Not The Answer

Pet peeve: stories that hinge on stupidity.

Romeo and Juliet is a good example of this kind of thing. All the problems, all the escalations, are based on characters doing stupid things for no good reason. People feud, get into fights, and kill themselves, because they can't just sit down and think for five minutes.

"The characters do something stupid" is a really lame way to kick it up a notch. Horror movies, sitcoms, (I can't stand Seinfield, because it's really bad about this.) all do it, and it's really, really annoying, because it's usually totally transparent. It's either out of character, or the character is built around doing stupid stuff in the first place.

Sure, if it's grounded in the character, it can work. People have flaws; that's interesting. But not if those flaws are "impulsive" or "poor judgment" or "prone to stupidity." That's just writerly laziness.

There are other ways to drive the action. Get yourself a good antagonist, give your characters interesting flaws, make fate really mean. Anything. Just don't make them prone to random stupidity at inconvenient moments.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Stupid, But Not Crazy

Used to be, I'd describe myself as crazy. Thought of myself that way. But I don't, anymore, because I'm actually fairly sane. To my lights. And I've discovered that people who describe themselves as mentally disturbed are (usually) somewhat pretentious.

Sure, there are people who have a disease, and are aware of that disease. I used to be one of those people. Depression is one of those things that you notice, when you have it. You might not care, but you know that there's something wrong. That's part of the point, really.

But most people who call themselves crazy aren't. There's just this romantic attraction to the idea. Makes you seem unusual, mysterious. There is a sort of a comfort in the idea that your brain works differently than the common folk, that the structure of your mentality is unique.

The thing is, it doesn't matter what goes in inside your head. No one else can see that; there's no confirmation. To everyone else, it doesn't exist, except by vague inference. And most people who call themselves crazy, they act fairly normal. To my eyes, anyway. Maybe I have a broad definition of the world normal. They act functional, at least.

So, with that in mind, I no longer consider myself crazy. Maybe I am anyway, but I don't think of myself that way. Because I'm fairly functional. Some people describe me as crazy, maybe, but my eccentricities don't interfere with my ability to interact with the world, do what I want to do.

I'm sane, because I act sane. The interface is stable. The matrix behind that, well, it's background, it doesn't figure into the equations. But, on the whole, I'm fairly stable, because I'm okay with the idea of being unstable. And with the idea of being stable. My identity doesn't rest on my disease.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Inspirational Lunacy

We're going to pretend that I actually posted this on time yesterday, instead of today, half an hour late. I got distracted -- first by Diablo 2, then by the Oscars.

Mostly, I blame the snow, and the general irritation that it has caused. Because I didn't get to play D&D today, which means I didn't get to GM, which means I didn't get my weekly fix. And I need that, man. If I'm going to play with people I don't like, I at least need to get the GMing out of my system. I need the outlet. That's something I learned, a while ago. I play better when I'm GMing my own game.

But that's not what I'm writing about, today. Well, I am, but it wasn't my intention. My intention was (and is) to post about this excellent new comic that I found. (Link through Dr. McNinja, if anyone cares.)

Scary Go Round
. I'm only about halfway through the archives, but so far it's been excellent enough to be worth recommending. Even if that first half is the only part worth reading, you should read it, because it's really good. It starts out as a comic about British college students, and turns into this weird, surreal thing that involves robots and architectural disasters and bad science. Mind you, it turns weird pretty quickly, but at least it starts out looking normal.

It's also got wacky inventors. How can you not love a comic with wacky inventors?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Someday I Will Explain, Maybe

I found an awesome thing. It was hiding in my mind.

I knew it was there, but I didn't know that I knew. Every time I would sit down to do campaign prep, I would get frustrated, and distracted. It was because the awesome thing was hiding, and I could not find it, and I was wasting my time with boring things that were not awesome.

So now I have found the excellent, awesome thing. Many excellent, awesome things. An entire trove of them, an entire tribe of them. The shadings were there, the signs, and for some reason I never put it together. But now I have. And it's awesome.

My mind does funny things sometimes, without my knowing about it. And then I find all the shiny things that it has made, and I am very, very happy. Because it did this while I was going to school, and playing Diablo 2

Friday, February 23, 2007

Too Many Thoughts To Think

I have way too many things zipping around inside my head right now.

The campaign I'm running. The character I'm working on for the school campaign. The school campaign itself, since I've been helping the GM brainstorm. Lord of the Rings, which I'm reading. A fantasy novel of my own

It's that last item that's been causing the trouble. I came up with this concept for how magic would work while I was watching the Lord of the Rings movies. It combines some things I came up with years ago, going back to fourth grade, with some ideas I had earlier this year. And then I started really thinking about it, and the implications of it, and I threw in some characters, and it just sort of obviously led to this neat climax. Well, not climax, because it doesn't come at the end. It comes towards the beginning, and it's what makes everything else that comes after it really bad.

So now when I sit down to do campaign prep, I keep getting distracted by this fantasy novel. Or fantasy something, anyway. It demands to be written. And I've already got a lot going on.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Willful Squirrel Tangent

I was going to write a continuation of yesterday's rant. Well, not a continuation, exactly. More inspired by than continuing. I even wrote the whole thing up. It's sitting in the "edit posts" section of this blog right now, as a draft.

Then I read it, and I said to myself, "this is really serious." Way, way too serious. This blog has gotten too serious, lately. Too much philosophy, too much ranting, too much literary theory.

So, today, I'm going to link to Dr. Vagn Flyger, world authority on squirrels. It's an obituary, sadly, but if I hadn't read the obituary I would never have known that someone this awesome once existed in the world. I cannot describe the joy that learning of his existence has brought me.

I'll probably post the serious thing at some point. Maybe once I've actually played some of the school game. Or maybe I won't, ever. There are a couple of other drafts on this blog that are guaranteed never to see the light of day.

For now, I'm just going to stick with the squirrels.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Matrix

I love it when I run into a bunch of new ideas, all at once. A rich seam of the imagination, as it were.

It's not like coming up with new ideas. They're not new, I've just never noticed them before. Or, rather, I've found a new way of organizing them, that grants them some meaning I've never realized they had. It produces a sort of ripple effect, because that meaning allows me to put other ideas together in new ways, and that produces new meanings.

It opens a new corner of the matrix. That's how I think of my mind, when I'm in the mood. A collection of data, connected by links that are themselves data. The whole structure is prone to shifts of meaning when new ideas are added to it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Half-Complete Musings

It occurs to me that the dramatic/iconic distinction could be a powerful GM tool. Because when I'm GMing, everything becomes a powerful GM tool. Video games, old GURPS books, random poems -- my first thought is always, "How can I game with that?"

But, basically, treating player characters as iconic characters would be an interesting way to marry traditional storytelling principles with the wild and woolly world of tabletop gaming.

Definition time: Theme is revealed through the interaction between world and character. A dramatic character reveals theme by changing in response to the world. An iconic character reveals theme by the changes their actions cause in the world. (I really need to find a better phrase for this, because a character can have the property I'm describing without being an icon.)

Okay, so those are more like theses than definitions. Anyway, the point is that, since a GM controls the world rather than the characters, it's easier for a GM to build a story on iconic principles than on dramatic principles. (Watch me stretch the definitions past their breaking point!) If the player characters are the main characters, anyway. If an NPC is the main character, then using dramatic principles are a piece of cake, but PCs tend to get snippy if they figure out they've been relegated to supporting character status.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just Like Batman!

So, Robin D. Laws wrote this review type thing on Casino Royale. He says that it treats Bond as a dramatic character rather than an iconic character. This is a concept that I've never formally considered; I was always sort of vaguely aware of it, but not in any specific way.

It got me to thinking. Maybe the distinction that the Oblivion main quest makes is not between main character and non-main character, as I had previously surmised, but between dramatic character and iconic character. You are an iconic character in that you embody the theme; you express it through your actions. You don't have to learn it, because you already know it.

It works in Oblivion because of the particular nature of the theme: it is not the intentions of gods but the actions of mortals that shape the world and its fate. (At least, that's the theme I picked out of it.) In a video game, that works pretty well, since as the player character you're automatically the only character with any real control over your destiny. It might not work so well if you had to embody some other principle.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

NPC Design Basics

Have I mentioned that Martin is a really cool character? I could go into my reasons for this, at length, and probably will at some point. For now all I'll say is this: I was terrified that he was going to be Deckard Cain.

I swear. I was expecting some old guy, constantly giving me history lessons that I neither needed nor cared about. Instead, I got a guy who was (a) less annoying in combat than the town guard I'd just had to babysit and (b) inexplicably angry at me.

At first I thought it was just because I wasn't very good at aiming. Then I played through the scenario with a couple of characters, and discovered that, no, he's just constantly scowling through that first section.

So, I guess that's actually two basic reasons why I like Martin: Not Deckard Cain, and constant scowling. Two qualities you really can't go wrong with.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tolkien Was A Wacky, Wacky Guy

I've started reading The Lord of the Rings. It's something I've meant to do for a long time, because I really love the movies, and I really loved the book back when I was a kid and my dad read it to me. I've just never really gotten around to it.

The idea occurred to me as I was re-watching the movies, in all their four-hour extended cut glory. I was thinking to myself, "Boromir is really, really awesome." And I basically figured that there'd be even more awesome in the books, those kinds of random character bits that they don't include in movies because they need to move things along.

More generally, I've been thinking for a while that I want to get back into the habit of reading. I used to be a real, serious reader. I used to read every night, before going to bed. But I stopped, somewhere, and I worry about that. I really enjoyed being a reader, and I need to get back into that habit.

So, a chapter a night. That's the plan. Hopefully this'll last more than a week.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Too Smart For Stupid

Hey, more Monte Cook.

I've been thinking about this article a lot, lately. Partially because of what I wrote about Obama, partially because it's been in the back of my mind as a blog topic for a while now.

For a long time, my natural response to basically everything was "I like it." I liked every movie I saw, every book I read. Then I turned thirteen. I started hanging out with people who talked about how stupid things were. Things like DragonballZ, and Animorphs; things I'd liked for a long time, things I'd been a huge fan of for as long as I could remember.

I got much more conservative about the things I liked. I would check, first, to make sure that it wasn't just me who liked something. I got used to being embarrassed about liking things, things like Hellboy or Jak 2, and I got used to defending them to my friends. Or just not mentioning them at all.

Then, finally, I figured out that liking things was okay. It was allowed. Even if everyone else thinks it's stupid, or if I think everyone else is going to think it's stupid. I figured out that if I think the Animorphs are good books, then that's enough. I don't need anyone's permission to like them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hopeless Romantic

Unlike some people, I don't have anything against Valentine's Day. Or Christmas. Or the concept of holidays, generally. I like holidays.

And I like Valentine's Day. Even though I'm "single," even though I've only ever been on one date, even though my romantic life centers around video game characters and crushes that never go anywhere. I like being reminded that dating is an option. I don't date, but that's not because I get turned down, or because I'm against it on principle. It's mostly a matter of obliviousness.

I used to think it was because I'm afraid of messing with relationships that are working alright to begin with. Then I realized that there are a lot of people in the world, a lot of interesting people who I'm not already friends with. I tend not to notice, because I tend not to notice basically everything.

And I realized this partially because it was close to Valentine's Day, and on account of that, I'd been thinking about "romance." Or whatever it is that the kids call it these days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Facebook is, generally, pretty cool. Better than I thought it'd be. It makes it easier for me to keep touch with some of my friends who have gone off to college, and that's good. There is one thing that I don't like about it, though. One feature that really rubs me the wrong way.

Why, oh why, do they use the word "friends" to describe people who you've let see your stuff? Because there's a big difference between people I'm comfortable friending on Facebook, and people I would actually use the word "friend" to describe.

Monday, February 12, 2007


If you've played through the main quest of Oblivion, and were paying very close attention, you may have noticed something odd: You aren't the main character.

Oh, sure. You look like the main character. You're the hero, right? But that's not what the main character is. The main character, roughly speaking, is the character who drives the conflict, whose evolution reveals the theme. The character whose qualities define the story.

That's not you. That's Martin.

He's the character with an arc. He's the character who figures out what the theme is. He's the character you have to pay attention to, if you want to know what the theme is. Without him, there's no story; and if he were a different kind of person, the story would be different.

It's actually a really elegant technique. If a game has you controlling the main character, it either has to take some control of that character away from you, or it has to have a really basic story. Shift the thematic focus to an NPC, and you can be whatever wacky person you want, have whatever motivation suits you, and the game can still have a coherent thematic conflict.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Not on the Bandwagon

I don't trust Barack Obama.

I don't know much about him. I checked out his senate page, I checked out his campaign page. I've been reading the papers, but I haven't been following the political coverage real closely.

What I do know pushes some very serious warning buttons.

He's always smiling. He says he's in favor of "hope," and against "cynicism." Everyone likes him. He wants to save the union, change the political discourse, rescue Washington itself and America from Washington.

Why does this make me uneasy? Because I know people like this. I know people who are always friendly, who are nice to everyone, who want to make everyone happy. People who are always trying to fix everybody's problems, to improve things, to lead things. Invariably, they end up wrecking something that I thought was pretty good to begin with by trying to make it better.

On a more general level, I don't relate to them. I'm a geek. I get along with introverts, with people who like science and shiny things. My idea of a good time involves using really weird dice and a bunch of textbooks to pretend to be in a fantasy world, fighting evil and exploring ancient kingdoms. Obama doesn't feel like "one of us." He feels like "one of them." Those people who think that they've got better things to do than invent languages and act like pirates. They have important things to do: play basketball, go to law school, become President.

I also don't trust people who say they want to save the country. Or anything, really. Because I remember what I was like when I felt that way. I went through a period where I felt like I had to save the world -- or that someone did, at least. I'd read Ishmael. Nowadays, I feel more like there are some specific things about the world that could use some improvement, but that it doesn't need "saving," per se. And I don't trust anyone who says it does, because they always have an agenda. Even if it's just "look at me, I feel special."


You are Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze
Dark Phoenix
Dr. Doom
The Joker
Poison Ivy
Lex Luthor
Green Goblin

You are cold and think everyone else should be also, literally.

Click here to take the "Which Super Villain are you?" quiz...

Mr. Freeze. I can dig that. But how can I also be 1% away from being Dark Phoenix? The quiz describes her as "A prime example of emotional extremes: Passion and fury incarnate."

I suppose it works if interpreted as "like Mr. Freeze, until she goes crazy." Except that Mr. Freeze is crazy already, so that doesn't really work so well.

I should start introducing myself by telling people that I'm "A cross between Mr. Freeze, Dark Phoenix, and Dr. Doom."

On a not-entirely-unrelated note, why does Blogger always destroy whatever "put this in your website" code I try to make it use? I had to fix it by taking the bits and putting them in by hand. Still doesn't look that great.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Plot Twists and Foreshadowing

If you've played Oblivion, or are even remotely interested in the idea, and haven't finished the main quest, you need to do that now. Then you can come back so I can annoy you by obsessing over it.

Another issue that occurred to me, as I was thinking about the main quest ending in a general way, is the foreshadowing.

Because there's this big twist. Short version: Your goal on the main quest is to reforge the boundary between Tamriel, where mortals live, and Oblivion, where Daedra live. To do that, you need the Amulet of Kings, and you need a "dragonborn," in this case Martin Septim, the illegitimate son of the Emperor. So everything you do revolves around keeping Martin from getting killed, and getting the Amulet back, because Jauffre let it get stolen.

Only it turns out, at the very end of the game, that it was all useless, nothing you did mattered, because it was too late, and now the daedra have gotten enough Oblivion portals open that Mehrunes Dagon is here and there's no way to stop him. No one ever says anything that indicates that this would even be possible. There's no mention of any kind of time limit. Sure, there's urgency, because the longer you wait the more likely it is that the bad guys will figure out some way to kill Martin, and then you're all doomed.

But there's no mention of any other kind of time limit. It's logical enough--daedra have to open a number of smaller gates before than can open a big gate, so it makes sense that if they get enough gates open, their leader can get through. However, no one tells you that if Mehrunes Dagon gets through, there's no hope of getting the barrier back in place.

The game did do a pretty good job of telegraphing that something bad was going to happen. Mostly because minor NPCs kept saying that there was no way anything could possibly go wrong. And any mention of the Mehrunes Dagon thing would have made it clear that this was going to happen, so it's understandable that the designers wouldn't mention it. On the other hand, it's not like that was the only twist, because there's still the, "Wait! We're not doomed after all!" moment that comes right after that.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thoughts on the Release Cycle

Fixing the Knights of the Old Republic II ending: a worthy project.

I've never played the game, but have heard from people who have how horribly bizarre the ending was. Not the only game to get wrecked in the holiday rush, but one of the more glaring examples of why the phenomenon is a bad thing.

Honestly, I'd rather that summer was the major release time. Early in the summer. I have time in the summer.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Pirate I Was Meant to Be!

YouTube! Includes the set-up. Sort of explains what they're singing about.

Another version. This one is sound only, but it has the lyric sheet.

Monkey Island is a most excellent game.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Back to the Wackiness

You know how I said, yesterday, that this was going to be a post about the plot of the Oblivion main quest? And that would include a summary?

That was a vicious, vicious lie.

Today's post is about How to destroy the Earth, because more people should have this goal, and this is the best guide to it I've found.

Also, because I've gotten literally nothing done today. First there was sleeping, and then there was hanging out with friends, and then there was Star Trek, and in between all those things there was Penny Arcade. (Which is, basically, better than I expected it to be.)

On Friday, there will be gaming. So as much as I want to write an essay on Oblivion, and how it takes a standard "road trip for the mystical dingus" quest and makes it so much more, it's going to have to wait. I have scheming to do.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Game Endings

If you're playing Oblivion, or think you ever might in the future, and haven't finished the main quest, shouldn't be reading this. You should be finishing the main quest, because it's AWESOME.

As I said yesterday, once I'd gotten over the sheer, awesome brilliance of the Oblivion ending, I started really thinking about it. It was awesome, sure, but did it really work? Could it have been better?

The first question is: does it work as a game? That's the presentation, and if the presentation doesn't work, none of it's going to work. If the game itself is bad, nothing else matters, because no one's going to play it long enough to experience the story.

Oblivion itself is a really great game, but endings have some special considerations. One is participation. Games often do the cut scene thing when they're getting across vital story-related information. This is bad. No matter how awesome a ten minute cut scene may be, it's not a game, and it shouldn't be in a game. If a story can't be explained without a ten minute cut scene, it should be a movie, not a game.

does pretty well here. There is a cut scene, but it's really awesome, really short, and it makes sense that your character can't really do anything. It wouldn't have been nearly so awesome if it had been on a scale you could interact with. Mostly, though, what makes this work is that you're too caught up in the "wow" to be frustrated.

It's not enough to just have game play in the ending. The quality matters, too. It shouldn't be just another level. It should really feel like it meant something--and generally, that means that it should be a bit harder than the rest of the game, for the right sense of achievement. However, this can be taken too far. It shouldn't be so hard to get to the ending that the players quit caring, because they're too busy taking an ax to their controllers.

On this point, Oblivion is a bit troublesome. The final mission is to keep Martin, the other main character, alive, and this is supposed to be hard because there are Daedra invading the Imperial City, which you're currently in. However, when I played it, I basically just followed him around and let him do his thing. We were never bothered. I've heard tell from people who finished the game at a higher level that, eventually, the Daedra do become a problem, but that they're mostly attacking you, not Martin.

This isn't a huge problem, because my main focus was on the plot, and Oblivion is an easy enough game that people who really care about difficulty will have modded their games to the point where it is a challenge. But it does produce some odd thoughts, especially in the aftermath of the quest, because now whenever I meet someone their first words are usually on how awesome I was in the final battle. And I'm thinking, "I did all my saving way before that. Final battle? I mostly just watched."

It doesn't bother me that everyone's really impressed, because I did a lot of stuff before that, and it was all really awesome. It just annoys me, because I shouldn't be getting credit for all the awesome that was in the final battle. I sort of wonder if they didn't quite test that sequence properly. They may have been expecting that players would actually fight, even if they didn't have to, or that they wouldn't realize they didn't have to. I literally just ran through, and ignored the bad guys completely.

In a general way, though, the ending works. Oblivion handles its ending better than many games I've played, (if the number of games I've played qualifies as "many") and the problems didn't become obvious until I'd really started thinking about them. They're nowhere near serious enough to mar the story itself. Which I'm going to talk about tomorrow, because this foolishness has gone on long enough.

Monday, February 05, 2007


How do I describe Oblivion?

It's fun. It's really, really pretty. It has just the right amount of wackiness. It's fairly accepting of my complete lack of skill. The voice acting is good. It has the Best. Road Trip. Ever.

And then there's the main quest.

I freaked out when I finished it. Kept having these flashbacks. Eyes glazed over, zoning out, thinking about that last cut-scene. My friends thought that I was crazy. Or that I'd started dating. (Which ought to give you an idea of how weird I was acting. Any wacky theory started to sound good.)

It's not like this hadn't happened before. I still have to be careful about DragonballZ stuff. But that's because it reminds me of being twelve, and how I spent the first two days of the California-Virginia move in a fugue state. Oblivion flashbacks at least make sense. The Oblivion ending is awesome.

How awesome, you say? Two hundred foot tall dragon awesome, you should say. And it's ON FIRE. Which is pretty awesome.

What I haven't decided is if it's actually good. As in, is this the best possible ending? Was it the right ending? I've been thinking about it a lot. Sure, it's awesome, but there are other issues to consider. Thematic relevance. Plausibility compared to other possible endings. Emotional resonance. Game play experience. Set up and foreshadowing.

All of which I'd like to expand on, but it's late. And this way, I have material for at least a week. So, I'm going to discuss all those things, and probably a few more I think up along the way, in future posts.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Behold: More Random Quiz

You are 56% geek

You are a geek. Good for you! Considering the endless complexity of the universe, as well as whatever discipline you happen to be most interested in, you'll never be bored as long as you have a good book store, a net connection, and thousands of dollars worth of expensive equipment. Assuming you're a technical geek, you'll be able to afford it, too. If you're not a technical geek, you're geek enough to mate with a technical geek and thereby get the needed dough. Dating tip: Don't date a geek of the same persuasion as you. You'll constantly try to out-geek the other.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at


Have I mentioned that I don't like Technorati?

I use it, sure. I go through the hassle of pinging it every time I update the blog. Because if I didn't, its information on this would probably be on about the same level as the blogs that I link to: it thinks two of them don't exist, and thinks the other two haven't been updated in months.

It thinks that no other blogs have linked to this one, which is clearly untrue. I know of four blogs that link here, two of which Technorati knows about, and it hasn't realized that they link here. It knows that this blog links to them, but it's been so long since it checked that it thinks they're in a list of links that include "Spore." Which I'm no longer all that interested in.

Oh, and it uses Alexa to track web traffic. Alexa is useless, because it's only sampling people who have downloaded their tool bar, a self-selected group. Not random, not scientific. I can't even get what limited use this technique provides, because this blog isn't in the "top 100,000." I get my data from Statcounter, and occasionally Google Analytics when I remember about it, neither of those are useful for Technorati because they require putting a bit of code into the website.

On the other hand . . . Technorati gives me hits. Not a whole lot of hits, but having the site in the listings has steered a few visitors this way. Mostly from the Oblivion tags. Mind you, the traffic here is overwhelmingly from the handful of people who I know and who read it regularly, not random walk-ons. Still, the idea that random people have read my witless ranting amuses me.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Oblivion Voices

One thing I don't like about Oblivion is the Dark Elf male voice. (Provided by Craig Sechler, who is brilliantly creepy and annoying in a good way as the Adoring Fan.) The voice acting itself is good; it just lacks the dark, grating quality that really made Dark Elves for me in Morrowind.

Except for that one minor point, though, I like the voice acting. It's good, it's interesting to listen to, the writing's good. My favorite voice in the game (excluding characters with specific voices) is the Redguard male voice, by Michael Mack. He does some of my favorite main-ish characters, Owyn and Baurus. Owyn's just cool, and Baurus is the only main quest secondary character who doesn't at some point become irritating. (I'm looking at you, Jauffre.) And I just generally find it the most interesting voice; whenever multiple races have the same rumor script, I'll typically like the Redguard version best.

Also a plus: after you finish the main quest, Redguards don't sing at you.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Fun With the TES Construction Set

The Elder Scrolls Construction set is fun to play with. I haven't actually done anything with it, but I've found some interesting things.

I went through all of Martin's dialog, and all of Jauffre's dialog, and I read the script notes. Most of it is only interesting if you're as obsessive about character motivation as I am, but some of it is just funny. Like how all of Martin's early notes include the word "bitter."

I looked through all the scripts for the main quest. Again, only really interesting to me, because I'm compulsive, but there's some entertaining stuff. Like "Mankar has left the building." And "CloudRulerMartinStudyClutterMaster.enable." Finding these is left as an exercise for the reader.

"Open Ended"

I mentioned a few days ago (in the long, rambling post that I don't expect anyone to have read) that I didn't really like Morrowind. Not when I first played it.

I plan on going back to it. Not right now, maybe not even for a while, since I'm currently playing Oblivion when I'm not busy with homework or Game Mastering. But eventually, because I keep thinking that I'd probably really like it.

My reaction to Morrowind was mostly a matter of timing. I'd just started playing Dungeons and Dragons, a game that had struck me with this overwhelming sense of rightness. I'd always wanted to play a game like D&D, even if I hadn't known about it. It was awesome.

Now, a couple of my D&D friends were serious gamers. They played Morrowind, and they talked about it a lot. It sounded cool, so I borrowed it from one of them. And I played it. And honestly, I wasn't that impressed.

Yeah, it was cool. And it was fun. But I was focusing on what it wasn't. It wasn't open-ended. You couldn't "do anything." Everyone was talking about how it was totally free-form, and you could play it however you wanted, but I was a newly converted tabletop gamer, and there is no mere computer game that can touch a tabletop game for open-endedness.

The thing is, "open ended" really isn't the point. I don't play video games because they're open ended. I don't play D&D because it's open ended. It's nice when games are somewhat open ended, when there are a lots of things to see and explore and do. But it's not a requirement, and it's not the main reason I play games.

I play games for their stories. I play games for the hero kick. I play games to be someone else. I play games because they're fun.

I don't play them because I can do anything I could think of, or even everything I can do in the real world. Because that's not the point. The point is that I can do things I normally can't, and that they're fun and interesting things.