Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why Tabletop RPGs Collapsed & Continue To Do So

When it comes to tabletop RPGs, there's a metric fuckload of delusion and incompetency going on. It's been there for years, and the Dunning-Krueger Effect is so strong here that you'll go mad if you try to make sense of the stupidity. The people running the TRPG companies don't know what the fuck they are doing, and can't be convinced that they don't. So they keep repeating the same mistakes, year on year, and wonder why their commercial sector keeps collapsing.

As I noted yesterday, gamers that got into tabletop RPGs did so because at that time the tabletop RPG medium was the only viable means to scratch the itch. As soon as a viable alternative arose, gamers immediately jumped ship. What can we conclude from this? Tabletop RPGs, for most gamers, were only a temporary measure AT BEST. The TRPG medium did well enough for the moment, but were never truly satisfying the demand those gamers had; this is why they quit the medium as soon as those very alternatives arose.

The people, and companies, that made tabletop RPGs never properly understood what their product did and few had any idea how they actually worked. They had no real idea what their audience--their customers--was, how that audience perceived what the games were or now the games worked, or had any idea as to what they wanted, and to this day few (if any) actually give a shit about either of those issues. We see this with every D&D edition, especially the last two, listening too much to the forums and the letters and not to their own analytics (if they even had such data, and I doubt they did). Publishers display business incompetence that would get them fired and blackballed in any other gaming subsector.

Quite frankly, I am astounded that tabletop RPGs are still commercially viable now that the technology has caught up and routinely produces gameplay experiences that--while often narrower than what TRPGs can do--are superior within that niche to the TRPG in delivering those experiences and do so with superior convenience and reliability.

What this means is that, first and foremost, there must be a recognition that the formerly-huge TRPG player audience only existed because the TRPG medium was the only game in town for most of those playing them. They played TRPGs because, even if they couldn't give a shit about the rest, the medium did deliver what they wanted out of gameplay at a time when no other option existed. As I noted with the horror gamers, as soon as those gamers could get what they wanted without putting up with the stuff they hated from TRPGs, those gamers bailed and never came back, nor want to.

Until the following is actually addressed, tabletop RPGs will remain on a tailspin to irrelevance.

  • A complete and comprehensive investigation into how the machine actually works. Not how it's said to work. Not how it's reported to work. But actually how it works, with a focus on comparing the claims made against the results produced. This is where the Mech Pilots actually are helpful, as this is the source of their behavioral methodology. If you're wanting to make a commercially-viable product, this is necessary. (Home hobbyist use is another category entirely, beyond this scope.)
  • A complete and comprehensive survey, like what WOTC did in 1999, of both current and former players that compares their reported preferences of what they want out of TRPGs to how their behavior reveals their true preferences in TRPGs. Purchases and usage of products need to be accounted for seperately, so as to separate collectors from actual users.
  • Identification of the salient qualities of tabletop RPGs that distinguish them from competing RPG media, and then comparison of those distinct qualities against competing RPG media (boardgames, videogames, etc.) to produce a constrast that's actually useful in product design going forward.
  • Identification of the target audience that actually wants the qualities that TRPGs are good at, and the elimination of those previously targeted but either do not respond or respond negatively to marketing aimed at them.

Right off the bat, I will tell you a HUGE reason people quit TRPGs for other competing alternatives: scheduling your fun. No one likes the idea of scheduling time to play RPGs, and the revealed preference of gamers over the decades shows this; the power to play what, when, where, and how you like is a HUGE draw away from TRPGs and towards alternatives. Related to that is long-term commitments; revealed preferences show that gamers want to come and go as they please, with no obligations to others, and when an alternative arises that allows this it's a HUGE pull.

Why? Because scheduling and commitment is too much like work, and gamers will not work for their entertainment unless they have no other choice. TRPGs were tolerated because that was exactly the case: they had no other option to scratch the itch. As soon as that changed, they bailed. Simple as that.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: The Changing Face of Horror Gaming

Horror fans who got into gaming to scratch their horror itch once only had one viable option to satisfy it: tabletop RPGs. If it wasn't Call of Cthulhu, it was usually Chill or some hackup of Dungeons & Dragons. While we had horror-themed videogames during the '80s and into the '90s, it wasn't until "survival horror" got coined with Biohazard (better known in the West as "Resident Evil") that horror gamers really had a viable alternative. Since then, the bleeding that fantasy and science fiction TRPGs suffered for decades started happening in earnest to horror TRPGs.

The bleeding came by genre or similar preference. "Survival Horror" bled off the zombie fans, and not even the notable All Flesh Must Be Eaten could staunch that flow. Successive Aliens and Predator titles bled off those fans. The Half-Life franchise bled off more. While the post-2000 launch of Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition had some impact, it wasn't enough to stop the tide- nevermind reverse it.

Though others may disagree, I find the critical success of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem to be the Point of No Return. Why? Because Cthuloid gaming, i.e. psychology-heavy horror, had a successful Proof of Concept outside of tabletop RPGs and that changed everything. This would be proven when Cthulhu fans had their own videogame: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (While not a commercial success, it was another Proof of Concept that videogames were now a viable alternative.)

But the core of a horror scenario is Monster vs. Victims. This is an asymmetric scenario, and tabletop games--both RPGs and boardgames--did this very well indeed. The boardgame world produced several such games, some explicitly horror and some not, with some form of asymmetry involved and used it to great effect. That sector of the gaming economy benefited accordingly, bleeding off yet more people from tabletop RPGs because a competing medium did what they wanted better.

It would not be long before videogames caught up. Something like this has been a popular gameplay option for horror-themed shooters for years. (e.g. Lead 4 Dead, Aliens: Colonial Marines) What's new is that it's sold as a product to itself, and what it means to the larger world of horror gaming.

The first attempt that got noticed was Evolve, where one player was the monster and the others were the monster hunters out to get it. The second to do so was Dead By Daylight, where one player plays a horror movie monster and the others are the survivors trying to escape it. In the past few days (as of this post), another game of this genre released. This is Friday the 13th: The Game.

For most horror gamers, they're after the experience of the scenario premise. They want to see if they could hack it if put in that situation; some want to be the monsters. The characters are fungible pawns, and Mech Piloting is very much the norm in terms of attitude; boardgames and videogames are far superior to what the majority of horror gamers want out of their experiences than what tabletop RPGs offer.

To say that the tabletop RPG world is oblivious to this development is to state that water is wet. You know how irrelevant they are to most horror gamers? (Or to most fantasy gamers, or to most science-fiction gamers?) Go into a livestream chat where one of these horror videogames get played, mention Call of Cthulhu by name. Wait. If you don't get crickets, you'll get "What's that?" or "That's still around?" Hey, you tabletop RPG folks, that response means one thing: IRRELEVANCE!

That's right: when the audience you claim to serve neither knows nor cares about your game, you're irrelevant. The future for horror gaming--Chaosium, I'm looking at you--is not in courting an audience that abandoned you because you can't deliver on what they want. You need an audience that does want what tabletop RPGs offer, so stop being dumb- seek them instead.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Memorial Day - The Borders Are Not Just Those of Geography

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. For many, it is a solemn day to celebrate the Honored Dead. Then there's shit like this:

That's not a mistake. That's the official Spongebob Squarepants account mocking the dead, and the day, for some reason I can only place between Virtue-Signaling Faggotry and Bone-Headed Retarded. I went with the latter in my response:

If this fuckstick is merely fired for this, that's being merciful. If I were his boss, not only would he be fired, but he'd soon count himself lucky to only be blackballed from the industry altogether. I'd be far more inclined to beat him to a pulp, and then toss his bloody carcass into the dumpster conveniently outside my office window. (Especially if said office is several stories above the ground.)

Yes, it's personal to me. My father's buried at Fort Snelling. My mother's uncle, the little brother to my maternal grandfather, is down at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with the rest of the U.S.S. Oklahoma. I've got other uncles and cousins buried with military honors, and several more that will when Death comes for them in due course. Whether they died in action, or years after the fact, they put on the uniform and performed the duties asked of them knowing that they could end up dead for their efforts. That is something too many people, especially the SocJus cultists and the rabbits that travel with them in common cause, disrespect and it's about damn time that the fear of God be put into them- as was once commonly done when I was a child.

There are lines in this life that you do not cross, and shitting on the Honored Dead is one of them. As with any other border, this line is only respected universally when it is defended and violators punished- severely and publicly. Time to make examples.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Record of Lodoss War

It may not be the best fantasy anime out of Japan, but it is one of the most recognizable in the West: Record of Lodoss War. Back in the early 1990s, when the first anime adaptation came out in OVA format, this opening hit the anime fandom good and hard due to a significant gamer overlap. It was Dungeons & Dragons brought to life, and it didn't suck.

Record Of Lodoss War Ova - Opening by Saeba56

The Western reception to this series was huge, and soon thereafter we got commercial releases of everything Central Park Media could afford to license. The only thing missing was the light novels. We got the OVA, the TV series, the spin-off film (Legend of Crystania), the comics that adapted everything up to OVA!Woodchuck's departure from the series, and even the prequel featuring the former sextet of heroes.

Then, WHAM! Collapse, and with it the property began to fade into obscurity. Quite frankly, better stuff came along and the former king of Western fantasy anime fandom got dethroned. But to this day, there's nothing quite so earnest in what Japan has to offer in terms of Western-style fantasy as Lodoss War. As the linked Infogalactic article shows, the franchise is not dead in Japan; a MMO, a series, and more have come out in recent years or are in development now. They just aren't coming to the West since the collapse of anime licensing in the West, and that's a shame.

Lodoss War possesses the same qualities that the Pulp Revolution champions, and it is friendly to the values that the Superversive Movement champions, and its continued presence in fandom at home and abroad shows that there is a lasting market for exactly this sort of thing in all entertainment media. We in the West would do well to learn from the successes and failures found herein, and going forward remember to apply what we learn as our own failures lead to our future successes- lest we repeat mistakes needlessly.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Sayonara, Samurai Jack

Last week, the final episode of Samurai Jack aired. Tonight, as I write this post, Adult Swim's running a marathon of the entire final season so that people who missed it can watch it all in one go and catch up that way. (Not that I think many will, due to the prevalence of streaming these days.) I think I'm safe in saying that this was a fantastic finale to a fantastic series, one that is so under-appreciated for being as brilliant as it is. If you want to learn visual storytelling, you won't waste your time watching Samurai Jack.

I knew that this would going to deliver when this happened, and man was this a payoff literally years in the gaming- and it wasn't even the final one. Sure, there's plenty of retarded rhesus monkeys out there that flipped their shit when it happened, but goddamn it was way overdue for Jack to finally get something good and lasting for all his efforts. And the best part? This? This was foreshadowing.

You have to see the final episode where it all comes together to truly appreciate what that picture did, on multiple levels, for we that watched it. As much as I don't care about spoilers, far too many of you do, so I'll do the dance as I explain it.

Jack's problem was always that he relied too much on himself, which put his character in conflict with his mission without need because he had no one else he could rely upon to shore up deficiencies in his capabilities. By finally surrendering to reality and accepting long-term help, he acquired the means to (a) resolve long-running character conflicts that interfere with his mission (and Genndy, crafty son-of-a-bitch that he is, symbolized this perfectly: Jack's mission-critical MacGuffin gets found only after this acceptance of aid occurs).

Man and Woman are not meant to live apart, but come together towards a greater purpose. Jack stubbornly refused this for years, and only after relenting did he succeed at his mission. Sure, this ended bittersweetly, as you'd expect about any story putting a proper samurai front-and-center, but it did end and it did end properly for everyone. This was a hero's end, and a hero's fate, fulfilling a hero's purpose. If the Star Wars prequels showed us where creators go wrong, this final season showed us where creators nail it perfectly- down to knowing when to stop and walk away. I can only end this as so many others have:

You made a story that is both Pulp and Superversive many years before we found it necessary to bring those words back, something with the quality to last for generations. Thanks, Genndy, for everything.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Farcry 5: Pathetic, Not Necessary Pozzed (Yet)

Okay, we got more info on Farcry 5.

I'm not offended. I'm bored. This nothing more than the previous two games given a trappings swap and a location change. Primal was a superior exorcise in creativity; at least playing a Stone Age hunter was an interesting variation. This? At this point, the only way you can make this interesting is to have the actual premise involve a collapse of state and Federal power to enforce the law, such as a collapse of government. Considering that Montana just elected a man that put a Fake News cunt in his place the day before, that ain't happening at the state or local level; D.C. would have to be nuked, and I doubt Ubisoft is going there.

Yes, that lameness and pathetic quality could well be due to SocJus convergence, but until I see concrete evidence of it I think I'll stick with a far easier conclusion: they got lazy as fuck and phoned this in. As badness goes, this is getting slapped instead of shot, but that's still open to revision. Do yourself a favor, Ubisoft: don't shoot yourselves in the foot at E3.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Geek Gab Talks Gaming: Game Night: Fiction to Games with Jim Desborough!

Dorrinal's gaming-specific spinoff interviews James "Grim Jim" Desborough, focusing on the man's recent publication: Tales of Gor, based on the Gor books by John Norman.

Hats off to James for this project. He's done more to rehabilitate Gor and Norman than anyone else with this project, putting the man and his work back into a proper context for reasonable discussion and enjoyment, and then finding a way to get people to engage in and enjoy this as a tabletop RPG setting. I recommend following the link to his blog above and read the reviews he posted there (and, if you want to buy, follow his link to where you can do so).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Farcry 5?

I saw the Supreme Dark Lord posted about this earlier, and then tonight's Darkstream talked about it also. When you see the poster put online today, you can see why the alarm bells rang.

It's not news to Gamergate veterans that Ubisoft is a SocJus-converged corporation, and has been so for years now. What is new is the blatant display of The Narrative here. The previous four games were exactly what SJWs whine about with their buzzword bullshit, so the pushing of The Narrative is mostly in the form of "Muh Appropriation" coupled with "Muh Colonializm" that most gamers fla out ignored because it meant jack shit to actually playing the game. I expect this to be the same here.

Furthermore, if Ubisoft's team does make the villains (the We're Totally Not Christian Identity cult) look as cool and badass as they did the villain for Farcry 3, then man are they going to totally screw the pooch exactly as the Supreme Dark Lord says. (i.e. invoke the Dark Vader Effect) Because we don't have a full trailer yet, let alone gameplay footage or a plot summary worth a damn, that's why there a question mark in the title. Once we have it, I'll revisit this with a future post. Until them, watch the teaser and see if your SocJus Death Cult sense is tingling.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Legion Hype: The (Almost) Half-Way Post

World of Warcraft: Legion is at the 9 month mark, and as we go through the last quarter of the first year I think it's time to take a moment and say my piece on the state of the game.

The Good:

  • The leveling experience is improved yet again, iterating on what worked in Warlords of Draenor.
  • The launch was a smooth one. Hardly any issues experienced.
  • The promised emphasis on player experience via the fulfillment of a power fantasy did get delivered. So long as you forgot that you needed other players for dungeons and raids, your status as "The Paragon of (Your Class), wielder of (Artifact)" worked.
  • The emphasis on putting quests for everything into the content areas--zones and instances--worked for improving player use of those content areas and the tools intended to facilitate grouping up.
  • The reskinning of Diablo 3 Nephilim Rift systems into the Mythic Plus system did work, but not quite as intended.
  • The pace of content patches has been the best since Mists of Pandaria.

The Bad:

  • Some of the systems has perverse incentives that were not addressed, or still haven't. (Maw of Souls was the best option for grinding out Artifact Power until the recent normalization of distribution in Mythic Plus.)
  • Item power inflation is ridiculous, prompting talk of a stat squish coming next expansion. The raw power between someone who just hit the cap and someone geared enough to run the current raid as of this post (Nighthold) and not be dead weight is huge; this is a persistent issue and the devs refuse to see the solution after all these years.
  • The actual content in the expansion and its patches hasn't been as much as they claimed, continuing the problem where you do end up at "Raid or Die". All that's changed is the point where you get to that; the hope the devs are after is to release patches just fast enough that 80% of the players finish up what's live when the new patch hits. They aren't there yet.
  • What they did to the economy around raiding was enough for a lot of sub-Mythic raiders to just hang it up. (I did.) When a week's raiding entertainment has a five-figure gold cost, and you're not swimming it in like you were in Warlords, that get prohibitively expensive fast- especially if gold is how you pay for your subscription.
  • Until this recent patch (7.2), the game was as alt-friendly as Kryptonite is to Superman.
  • Artifact Power became so important that even casuals felt compelled to prioritize it over all else or get benched by the entire community. The changes brought on by the release of the Broken Shore did not change that, but rather just stretched out the time until it became fucking cancer.

The Ugly:

  • Player feedback goes in one ear and out the other. Known issues have plagued the game since the expansion's Alpha, and only now have some of them been addressed and fixed. The Q&A livestreams are PR stunts and nothing more. Joke.
  • There are still dead specs in the game, meaning specializations that do not meet competitive viability and therefore don't get anywhere near the playtime by the community--especially after the theorycrafters do the math and show you what sucks--which is the continuation of a known problem since the game's launch over 10 years ago. The devs do not play the same game as the community, if they play at all. (At least one dev does, and streams on occasion.)
  • PVP remains a joke if you are at all competitive about it. Stick to Guild Wars 2, or another MMO where PVP is not an afterthought.
  • There is no hard cap to your character progression due to how Artifact Power interacts with your Artifact Weapon. Making it worse is the ridiculous amount of RNG for gear drops, meaning that you can get top-level gear from doing milk run content, and that does not include the Legendary gear that is gated by RNG and is mandatory to be taken seriously in endgame content. Player skill is seriously devalued.

It's a good thing I went from an active raider to actively feeding raiders the gear, consumables, and raw materials needed to raid properly this time around. I've gone from being stressed and scheduling my life around this game to actually enjoying it again, as I now have full and total control over when, how, and how long I play at any time. Thanks to the streamers, I don't need to raid with my guild to finish the raid-specific quests; when I'm ready, I can join a streamer-run PUG and blaze through it.

Which leads me to my conclusion: Legion is better than Warlords of Draenor, but that's like enjoying pizza after being bedridden for a month. There's a hell of a lot of room for improvement, starting with a wholesale rebuilding of the dev mindset; they need to play their own game, at the same level of the community that they purport to serve, and they need to do it right now.

Monday, May 22, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Space Battleship Yamato 2202

I've posted previously on the Space Opera goodiness that is the remake of Space Battleship Yamato. The 2199 series is one of my recommendations for anyone who has no problem with the grey streaming sites that a lot of anime fans resort to (because the Blu-Rays are expensive as fuck).

As the pick on the right shows, the follow-up I knew was coming finally arrived in Japan a few months ago. 2202 is the remake's remake of the second series, the Comet Empire arc, and so far it looks like the faithful approach is still in effect; I've only see two episodes as of this post (because they're being parceled out piecemeal as with 2199).

(Note, if you want to enhance the experience, watch Space Battleship Yamato 2199: Odyssey of the Celestial Ark first. That movie's events foreshadow the Gatlantis ascension to Antagonist and Gamillas's Heel-Face Turn that occurs as a consequence of 2199's conclusion.)

Because this is an ongoing release, and only two episodes are currently available (these are often wrongly labeled as OVAs; they're not, as this is a TV series), I can't go on about the brilliance of the series as a whole. What I can say is that, in just two episodes, I am back aboard the hype ship and I can't wait to see (a) how this series plays out and (b) to see it adapted into a future Super Robot Wars title.

One of the giants of Japanese Space Opera is off once more into outer space to save Mother Earth. Get on board now and enjoy the voyage!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Space Opera Week: Concluding Remarks

If there is one thing for certain to take away from Space Opera Week, it is this: The SocJus Death Cult has no idea what Space Opera is, how it works, or why it works- but they hate it with the fury of a thousand suns. They don't believe in it at a fundamental level, which has predictable effects.

The key element to Space Opera, regardless of presentation, is the mythic foundation upon the genre builds. This is not, has never been, and can never been a genre about ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary lives. That Literary Realism crap gets shot right out of the airlock and annihilated with a Wave Motion Gun. It's an epic genre, and it demands epic elements all around, because that's what the people want.

Star Wars remains the world's most prominent and commercially-successful Space Opera for a reason, and that reason is the mythic foundation that George Lucas wisely laid when creating the original movie- a foundation that comes from the Pulps.

Which means that Space Opera is a Pulp genre, and does not succeed outside of that sensibility. Indeed, you can reliably measure the success of a given example by how harmomious with Pulp sensibility it is- just like you can with precursor genres like Planetary Romance.

And there is one example, again out of Japan, that nails this aesthetic. First as a Planetary Romance, then as a Space Opera, Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagann is Japan's love-letter to the Pulps and nothing expresses that love like the one song from its original soundtrack that does the impossible and perfectly captures the series that perfectly captures (and laid the way for, after a fashion) the Pulp Revolution: Libera Me From Hell.

Play that video. The chorus nails what the Pulps in general, and Space Opera specifically, is about:

  • Do the impossible
  • See the invisible
  • Touch the untouchable
  • Break the unbreakable

There's a reason this show is considered one of the most manly shows Japan has ever done. This is the spirit behind it all, and it is this spirit--where "The Powah" is the same Satanic fraud behind Social Justice, the anti-Spirals, etc.--which is nailed down in a chorus in the final episode:

Nia: Even when trapped by karma's cycle...

Yoko: The dreams we left behind will open the door!

Leeron: Even if the universe stands in our way...

Viral: Our seething blood will determine what will be!

Simon: We'll break through time and space...

Team Dai-Gurren: And defy all who would stop us, to grab hold of our path!



The Anti-Spirals are the fantasy that the CHORFs prefer to believe, but we drill on past them. None of their lies stand once challenged by fearless heroes armed with the will to seek the truth and make that truth reality once more. That tag needs to be ours: WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK WE ARE?

And that spirit of suck is why they fail at Space Opera. Fuck them. Drill through them and go on to build the heavens anew.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Space Opera Week: Others That You Should Read, Watch, or Play

As I said at the beginning of the week, there's a lot of great Space Opera out there. Restricting yourself to just what comes out of the New York-London Axis of Socjus Suckage (or their Big Two comic counterparts) is just going to ensure that you'll have a bad time. Go East! Go West! Don't neglect games! I'm going to list some that I found notable, and leave the rest up to you to follow-up.

  • Valerian, the Franco-Belgian comic book from which the upcoming live-action adaptation comes from.
  • The Fifth Element, another film showing a strong rooting in the European comic book scene.
  • Babylon 5. Still the last, best hope for Space Opera in live-action Western television. (If you've seen the recent trailers for the new Trek series, or McFarlane's Trek parody, you know why.)
  • Battlestar Galactica, specifically the original series from the late '70s being more true to the spirit than the 2003 remake (too Grimdark and cynical).
  • Farscape. That show brought the memes.
  • BattleTech, mixing Giant Robots and Dune in ways that The Five Star Stories did not.
  • Space Opera, Star Frontiers, and Star Ace, bringing Star Wars to tabletop RPGs well before West End Games got the license to make an official one. (Traveller, of course, counts.)
  • Destiny, its upcoming sequel, and the Halo franchise definitely count.
  • Dairugger XV, better known to Westerners as the vehicle side of Voltron. This is another blend of Giant Robots (the super robot type, this time) with Space Opera.
  • Ulysses 31, which is what you expect: Ulysses in SPACE!
  • ExoSquad, the best homebrewed answer yet to Japan's domination in animation that isn't a DC property.

And that's hardly an exhaustive list. As the cite I'm pulling those links from shows, there's a lot out there, and I'm not adding things like Jason of Star Command (because I don't remember that being good, not even for the time). Space Opera is for all of us that yearn for adventure amongst the stars, and there's a world of material to enjoy out there, so have at it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Space Opera Week: Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers

Western Space Opera (as with Western Pulp in general) fled the printed word with the death of the Pulps and went to comics, film, and television.

In the 1980s, some American studios got the memo that Japan has this animation thing down, so they made a deal to write and do voiceovers for an original show and then have a Japanese studio animate it. This lead not only to a general boom in animation on U.S. television, but a marked increase in American productions.

In 1986, this resulted in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, and it hit at the right time for that generation. Even now, it's still got a following and you need only see the opening sequence to comprehend why. Just take a moment, watch the video below, and try not to feel the call to adventure stir in your soul. Just you try.

Long before Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagann brought forth one of the most hot-blooded anthems out of Japan's many hot-blooded anthems you had glorious '80s American rock proclaiming "No Guts, No Glory!. That may seem tame now, but back then that was a goddamn rally cry! And our heroes? It ain't just their powers; they have actual heroic character to them.

Sure, it's a television show meant to push merchandise aimed at children, but so was Mobile Suit Gundam and Star Wars, so that is not a valid complaint. This is Space Opera written and produced in the West, animated in the East, and far better than it had any right to be. Even for the time it had a significant adult fanbase, and that's because--like Batman: The Animated Series, and many anime it resembles--it didn't insult its audience or talk down to them. That degree of respect goes a long way, a very long way, such that getting your hands on a copy of the series isn't hard at all.

Don't dismiss Space Opera in animation, no matter the origin. Indeed, after the classics of the Pulp era, this is likely where you'll find many excellent examples of the genre- and the cross-cultural influence is real, substantial, and on-going. You want more? Don't wait for me, other my colleagues, to point it out to you. Go out there and look for it- or create it! You heard the Rangers: No Guts, No Glory!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Space Opera Week: The Five Star Stories

Sometimes you want a lot more Opera in your Space Opera. While not literally provided, you don't get much closer to the Romance side of Space Opera than you do with The Five Star Stories.

That pic on the side is related, and that means you get Giant Robots in your Space Opera here. You also get laser swords, larger-than-life characters, intrigues that make Soap Opera writers scream in jealously, and magnificent dramas taking place on multiple worlds that shape the fate of billions. None of this "ordinary life" bullshit that the SocJus Death Cult throws around as being desirable or necessary is even considered.

And it is a pain in the ass to get in the West, so you're hunting down fan translations of the comic while wishing someone would just cut a check to get new anime episodes made. The reason you're not hearing much about it outside of the core fandom communities is due to that lack of availability. But the online summaries alone will have you wanting to hunt down what you can find, especially the comic version (which has far more of the story; the anime cuts off early--too early--in the narrative).

As for the anime, it's around, and as a means of introduction it's fantastic. For your convenience, I embedded an upload below. This one splits the anime into two parts; part two is on the video's page at DailyMotion.

The Five Star Stories 1/2 JP[English Sub] by kyriemix

As I have said repeatedly, Japan produces a lot of excellent Space Opera, and too much of it does not come commercially to the West. This is one such example. Embrace the action, romance, and adventure of The Five Star Stories. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Space Opera Week: Tytania

Japan has a lot of good Space Opera works out there. Most of them originate as Light Novels or Manga before adaptation into a film or television series, and Tytania is no different.

The creator, Dr. Yoskiki Tanaka, is the man behind two other well-received and regarded works (one of which is now a classic Space Opera): Legend of the Galactic Heroes (which I previously recommended here and here) and The Heroic Legend of Arslan. That's your cue as to what you should expect here.

This makes the novel, and the anime series that came of it, more like Dune than anything else. Expect good and evil characters on both sides, and lots of bastards doing bastard deeds, with a side of commentary- the sort that his other works are notable for. It doesn't have the fandom of The Heroic Legend of Arslan or Legend of the Galactic Heroes, yet, but even so it's still a solid Space Opera that you can watch and enjoy. Just remember that it's a Japanese Space Opera, so expect some cultural differences.

The novel series is not in English yet, so learn Japanese or hope for a fan translation until an official ones is released, but one way to make that happen is to buy the official releases for the English versions of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes light novels.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Space Opera Week: Spacehounds of IPC

E.E. "Doc" Smith is famous for the Lensman series, but he's got plenty of other books that one rightly considers Space Opera. Most will point you to his Skylark series, but today I'm pointing you to a 1931 serialized story turned into a 1947 stand-alone novel: Spacehounds of IPC.

This is Space Opera that isn't interstellar, which doesn't change the quality at all; as with the Gundam franchise, you get all of the fantastic elements without needing to go outside the solar system. (Which is further than most Gundam shows, which don't even leave the Lunar Sphere.) The characters aren't larger-than-life like a Lensman is, but they're clearly heroic and the stakes are plenty big. The events have their reversals and diversions before finally coming to a satisfying conclusion.

The big takeaway from this book is this: Space Opera doesn't have to be an epic against a Dark Lord to be proper Space Opera. How big a story's adventure is depends on the characters concerned. Lensmen have to operate on galactic scales because they're superheroic in scale, scope, and power whereas the characters of this story are what TV Tropes calls "Badass Normal": otherwise ordinary people possessed of heroic resolve and determination. You don't need to blow up the Death Star to have a valid Space Opera; indeed, that's getting lazy about it.

The second takeaway is this: you can have a thrilling Space Opera where the plot does revolve around technical issues directly relevant to the plot, using it in place of a quest-style McGuffin to drive the plot forward. Much of this story's driving force comes from dealing with the initial incident that strands the characters in their dangerous environment, fixing what can get fixed and assembling components to solve another plot-relevant problem. How? By using each part of the problem-solving process to frame the next part of the adventure and introduce the next revelation in the narrative. You don't need to use The One Plot.

The third takeaway is this: you need not fear the technologies said to short-circuit a plot. The characters, being in a Lost In Space scenario, do the smart thing and put together a device that can allow them to call for help. Then they do so, and pass on all they know of the villains to the rescue team. No Idiot Balls Required!

Learn from the masters, because--contrary to the Pink Slime Cult's dogma of "Newer Is Better"--Culture is NOT Technology- "Progress" DOES NOT APPLY! E.E. Smith is the basis for ALL Space Opera, so learn how to do it from the man who made it. As the Gundam franchise's enduring success and popularity shows, Space Opera that isn't interstellar is still Space Opera and can easily acquire and retain a large, loyal, and global audience.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Space Opera Week is Here!

I can get behind this. Hell, I'm already behind this, and have been for a while now. Last month alone I had these posts:

There's a lot more to bring to your attention than that, and many of my fellows in the Pulp Revolution and in the Superversive Movement will have plenty to say about it over this week. That includes the fantastic folks at Castalia House and the wonderful writers at SuperversiveSF (where I will post about this in regards to gaming and the Superversive later this week). The folks in my Blog Roll will have their own contributions to make this week, so don't neglect them.

As for myself, I'm going to pull some gems off my shelf and share them with you over the week. Books, comics, television, film, old, new, Eastern, Western. I'll throw a few more in as circumstances allow.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: MegaMek Shows Harebrained How It's Done

With Car Wars enjoying a low-key revival, OGRE back in print, and BattleTech rising from the dead such that both its tabletop and videogame incarnations are getting revitalized it's time to take a moment and think about adaptations of tabletop games into videogames.

As my post on Harebrained Schemes' ongoing work to adapt BattleTech straight-up from a tabletop wargame into a videogame counterpart (i.e. do a better MegaMek than MegaMek) shows that they could not resist being clever and mess with things that did not need to be messed with.

Don't believe me? MegaMek is right there; go play it. All Harebrained had to do was a straight tabletop translation, and then make it pretty. They had no need to mess with the rules. They had no need to change the mechanics. The game works as intended as it is. NOTHING IS BROKEN! I'm embedding a video showing you how this works. When a piece of free software better fulfills a game studio's objectives than ostensible competent professionals, that's when you know they fucked up.

See how easy it is? Just translate the tabletop ruleset, then make it pretty, and add functional multiplayer. That's all that Harebrained had to do. They fucked up, but it's not too late to unfuck it; remove all of the needless rule and mechanic changes, first and foremost, and then make the maps and models pretty, and then ensure that users have access to all of the build rules and map-making tools from launch. There's enough for a $20 price point right there- something tabletop users enjoyed for years.

Fix your shit, Harebrained, and stop thinking you're smarter than the original designers. You're not, and your inability to comprehend game design is showing here.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: A Super Robot Wars V Playthrough

I'd been talking up this game enough, so here's a playthrough playlist from one of the YouTube channels I previously recommended. I'm starting the list at the actual playthrough start; the previous ones were trailers. Enjoy, and if you want your own copy then you know where to look: Amazon, PSN, Play-Asia.

Friday, May 12, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Harebrained's BattleTech is Needlessly Complex

Harebrained Schemes, the makers of three successful videogame adaptations of Shadowrun, are at work adapting BattleTech as a videogame. They had a very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund it, and they have not been slacking. Last night, at their YouTube channel, they released this gameplay preview video. It's nearly an hour long, so you may want to skip around if you're pressed for time.

Uh, yeah.

All that Harebrained Schemes needed to do was directly translate the tabletop game into a videogame format, make it look pretty, and then add multiplayer capability. There is no need whatsoever to make any changes to the rules or the mechanics to increase complexity whatsoever. Yet that is exactly what they did, and it did not make the game better at all. Hell, MegaMek already proved that doing just a straight adaptation works; all they had to do was that, but better.

Indeed, all of that needless complexity did nothing but make it harder to pick it up; you're aiming this as tabletop players, not the folks who want a new mech-pilot sim. (That's Mechwarrior 5.) Deviating at all from the tabletop ruleset means that you done goofed, and I want the Beta players to hammer that home like the fist of an angry god.

If this needless complexity goes live, you're going to see a failure of transition between tabletop and this game. Why? Because there is no audience for this game that is not a current or former tabletop player, and the last thing that BattleTech needs is yet more fracturing of its brand and the fans that suffer for it. This is especially so if there are any plans to expand the game's playable units to include infantry, vehicles, or the entire AeroSpace sub-game (and thus make playing full and proper wargame campaigns viable). Direct adaptation or Get The Fuck Out.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Geek Gab Game Night: GM Preparation and Tools Featuring Rick Stump

Dorrinal of the Geek Gab Gang has his gaming-specific spinoff live tonight at 9 PM Central time. Embedded below for your convenience, which also allows you to replay the archive immediately after the live stream concludes. Tonight's show is for all of you that run the games, or want to, so get in here and have your notepads ready. See you in the chat.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: The Idea as Framework

Following my post on Monday, here's one way to make use of that idea.

What you do with this is use the idea as a campaign--indeed, a meta-campaign--framework. You have the Lensman stand in as the Big Good, and the Big Bad be the antithesis of Civilization as Boskone was formerly. At this level, the campaign is a galaxy-wide proxy war--not Chess, but rather Go--run through agents and cutouts. It's The Great Game IN SPACE!

The galaxy is big, so using this idea as a campaign structure necessitates a fast-paced Space Opera game, and while that's good fun in its own right the real riches come from using this as a meta-frame. That's right, a framework for campaign frameworks.

Genre is not immediately relevant. (Remember, I got this idea after diving into a genre mashup game; this should be expected.) The thing to remember is that every campaign within the meta-framework is a point in the Civilization vs. Empire conflict, and yes that does include your I Can't Believe It's Not Cthulhu stories with cosmic horror and such. (Why? Because "Civilization" is Order under Natural Law, and Empire is Chaos under Arbitrary Whim, with the latter always seeking to impose asymmetrical conditions via information (and thus perception) manipulation).)

Neither does the ruleset, not right away. Hell, not for some time. Early on, each campaign will be separate and distinct. The connecting elements will be the top-level ones; the Lensman and his enemy counterpart will have direct contact with the local boss (literal or otherwise) for their cause as they seek out, recruit (literally or otherwise), and develop local assets for their network. If the (meta-)framework is The Great Game, then a specific campaign is how a local situation becomes a turn in the Great Game; the outcome of that campaign influences the Game going forward, thus influencing the overall situation.

And that is why this is a campaign framework; each play instance has consequences on future play instances, leading to an endgame state where one side or the other cannot recover and either quits or gets destroyed. Given that this is a Lensman-inspired campaign framework, quitting isn't a viable option outside of some outlier scenarios.

(Aside: This is hardly an original thought of mine. One of the ambitious failures of tabletop RPGs built an entire product line around this meta-framework example: Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth. Yes, using Joseph Campbell as inspiration.)

I'll get into some sample executions of the concept in a later post.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Krull, a Perfect Pulp Fantasy Movie


It's not just the year that others and I refer as the breakpoint for most SocJus death cultists, before which all is in a memory hole of WrongThink. Over on the film and television side of things, that year (plus or minus a few years) is the anchor point for the previous big explosion of Pulp sensibility in those media. A lot of beloved films and series first hit theaters and airwaves in that era, making big impacts and influencing future works accordingly. Star Wars is just the one that figured out how to turn that into a business empire unto itself.

One of my favorite movies came near the end of this era, in 1983: Krull. Swords, sorcery, space-faring alien conquerors, prophecy, teleporting fortresses, princesses in peril, a world in danger, and a magic giant throwing star misnamed "The Glaive"- everything a boy wants out of his films. I loved it enough to insist on renting a copy and showing it my first girlfriend; that she didn't get it should have warned me that this was not a good match.

The reason I'm pointing out this film is that it--like the more famous Raiders of the Lost Ark--is clearly a Pulp story, one that freely blends Fantasy and Science Fiction together into a coherent story that entertains first and foremost. If I were to cite examples easily found online of what the Pulps are to normies, this film is one I'd readily cite- especially for Pulp Fantasy.

The band of companions (all of them men and boys), the motivation of love for one's spouse, one's country, one's nation, for the posterity one leaves behind- things routinely derided now. The struggle against fate, against cowardice, against despair, against lust are all aspects of their struggle against the villain, The Beast. Even the magic weapon isn't without flaws, and the climax has a twist to it that is clearly Superversive in its sensibility. It's been almost 35 years, and I still have not tired of watching it; I put it on annually, at the least.

By the middle of the decade, this moment passed and with it went the surge of earnest optimism that it carried- something I would not find again until Lucas's doomed Prequels. The nihilistic taint would carry forward, and now I see that it is this quality that is the root of my discontent with much of what is published--regardless of medium--since. Even the lighter fair can't avoid a snide sneer, a mockery from the margins, that undermines what otherwise would be worthy follow-ups- and this is before the wholesale descent into the Pink Slime, the One Plot, and the Sanctioned Fanfic. To get this itch scratched, I had to go east (anime) or play games.

We need more works like Krull--new, unashamed works of heroism, romance, and adventure--and not more Sanctioned Fanfic consisting of Pink Slime stamped out using a One Plot template. That's why we need to fork without fear, and build our own platforms; the Death Cult won't do it because they can't, and they can't because they hate what we love, yet can't avoid the fact that only we can make what they require to survive.

And we will make SF/F--across ALL media----fun again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Question That Leads You To Fun: "What If?"

After partaking of a lot of Super Robot Wars V, and now revisiting the series appearing in it as I can, I had an idea:

"What If:
  • Civilization, after the final defeat of Boskone, continued to expand throughout the universe?
  • The Lensmen running Civilization found threats equal to Boskone in the other galaxies of the universe?
  • The Guardians decided that the most effective and efficient way to deal with all of these threats was to replicate the relationship between Arisia and Civilization.
  • They appointed just ONE LENSMAN, PER GALAXY to the Mentor role, and charged him with guiding the natives therein up to becoming Civilization themselves in turn?"

Congratulations, you just witnessed the key pillars of many gaming and prose projects: taking a speculative question, turning it into a fundamental framework to build from, and playing it out to conclusion.

It's the same thing that makes anthologies like the one I'm working on interesting. It's what drives fan-fiction (good, bad, and ugly), and in many cases fiction itself. For gaming--RPG, wargame, etc.--it's the first step towards creating that feedback loop that drives at-the-table gameplay, especially at the campaign level.

Yes, I'm going to do something with this idea--multiple things--in due course. See the Study later this week for one such something. For gaming, I'll post a follow-up later this week here at the Retreat. Right now, I just want you to explore how the "What If?" game and see where it takes you- because it's going to be fun.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: How Mech Piloting Became the Norm

Over at Aeoli Pera's blog, he has a post on why Austists are big on rules, by way of an anecdote about recruits in boot camp being so hidebound:

“You see,” a drill instructor explained to me, “a recruit’s in a place he doesn’t understand at all, and nothing ever works for him. Back home, he knows the rules. Maybe he’s a big dude on the block, got it made. Not here. Everybody’s yelling at him and he can’t ever do anything right.

“So he figures he’ll do exactly what he’s told. It’s his way of protecting himself. If something goes wrong, he thinks at least it’s not his fault. This is what a drill instructor’s got to learn — nothing’s too crazy for a recruit to do if he thinks it’s what you told him. And you really got to think about it. Otherwise you can get him hurt.

Folks, you just read the psychology behind the rise of Mech Piloting in tabletop gaming.

Let me transfer this to the gaming context. Someone prone to this sort of thinking is accustomed to thinking of games as being defined--and therefore bound--by their rules as it is, and cannot readily cope with the concept of the tabletop RPG as a virtual life simulator, a sandbox bound by natural language and the feedback loop I mentioned previously here. They really get bothered by the amount of control that the Game Master has, so one or two bad GMs can turn such a thinker sour right quick and push them solidly into Mech Pilot thinking.


Because the rules are what they can count upon, and they begin to insist upon their adherence above all else as a means to protect themselves from a chaotic situation that doesn't make sense and cannot be trusted. Once this took on critical mass, which about the time when my generation hit adolescence in the mid-to-late 80s, it began feeding back into the business of gaming.

This would lead through the 90s towards the new (and now established) generation of talent going this way in professional publishing. The increasing draw upon videogames for inspiration in creating rule systems now makes sense; they're drawing from proven models to bring order to what they deem a medium that otherwise is naught but horrific chaos.

TL/DR: Because they never learned the rules of ordinary interaction, they turned a medium built upon it into a weak knockoff of another medium that has such rule-bound logic as an innate quality. They should have gone into videogames. (For some, they did, to everyone's betterment.)

The way to counter this, going forward, is to check to ensure that participants (folks you don't already know) aren't left in that state of existential terror described above. Shun those that haven't yet learn the rules of ordinary everyday interaction; you're not there to teach them, and everyone is NOT entitled to sit at the table. Leave the rehabilitation to professionals.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Zeta Gundam Revisited

I've taken the opportunity provided by GundamInfo's YouTube channel to re-watch Zeta Gundam, for free, legally. They haven't uploaded the whole series yet, but as of this post they're at Episode 25 (half-way, exactly). So far, it's kept me watching.

I've enjoyed this series so far, and a large part of that is the returning characters from the original series demonstrating the effects of the One Year War (the events of the original series) had on them and how they dealt with those effects. Maybe you need to have some years on you to appreciate that, but it's been vital for me to see this in action.

The contrast with the newer, often younger, characters who have yet to undergo those trials and be initiated into maturity accordingly shows in practical performance. Many of these characters are pilots, so their ability to control their emotions directly affects them in combat; the ones who can't are the ones that get killed in action.

The plot also moves. Not quite the blistering pace of the Pulps, but still quite fast, and yet entirely believable because what happens logically and emotionally follows from one beat to the next. But the best thing? By this point, the folks funding the franchise know damn well what the audience wants--mecha action--and this series gives it to you on the regular. That can lead to a lazy production with no character development, but they managed to get it in there, get it right, and allow them to have moments outside of the mobile suits that are no less meaningful.

You can see how this sense of storytelling became institutionalized by comparing this series from the 1980s to more recent releases like Gundam Unicorn or Iron-Blooded Orphans (also available at the aforementioned channel). I think that it's here, with Zeta, that many of the tropes now iconic with Gundam shows in particular (and Real Robot shows generally) got nailed down- something that influenced many shows, games, etc. going forward. I can't wait to watch the remaining 25 episodes again. This series still delivers.

Which brings me to an aside.

R. Talsorian's Mekton series of tabletop RPGs really are "Gundam: The RPG", with the capacity to emulate other shows a welcome side-benefit. This is most obvious with the final version, Mekton Zeta, its mandatory supplement (the one with the full construction system), and its one full campaign setting (Starblade Batallion, which echoes Zeta and Double Zeta a lot). If you're going for a mecha RPG, Mekton Zeta is your go-to option. It's not a pozzed game, so that's another good thing about it. I have a post on it here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

An Incomplete Guide to Tabletop RPGs That Aren't Pozzed

Earlier this week, I got asked what tabletop RPGs publishers are converged by SJWs. It's shorter to list those that are neither converged nor otherwise amenable to them.

And that assumes you need to buy new. Buying used is a fine way to not give said backstabbing cunts your money, and so is rolling your own rules entirely- something the SJWs trying to run this show shit their pants in fear of that hitting critical mass. If you must buy a pozzed game, buy it used.

Finally, a note: what you do at your table is beyond their control- not even the infamous World of Synnibarr can do that, and McCracken actually tried to implement a Game Police function into the rules.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Life in Fandom: May The Forks Be With Us All

Recently I put out a post wherein I laid out the case that Star Wars is going downhill due to SJW convergence and needs to be forked. Imagine my surprise to find out that the Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil is already on the job. (Go to Vox's post and ready the excerpt; there's good reason to be hyped.)

Really, I should have expected that by now, especially after successfully one-upping Scalzi's latest abortion of a novel.

Yes, it's good to hear that Vox has a fork in the works. That's no excuse to not keep at forks of our own. Each of us who seek to fork what the Mouse converged have different things we want to do with the underlying pulp aesthetics, so by having as many forks as possible come forth we revitalize a moribund marketspace with a plethora of choices. Quite frankly, the more forks that come forth the better it will be for ALL of the forks going forward. We are going to satisfy a demand that is not yet aware of how badly undermet it is.

We're going to see a Big Bang explosion of creativity within a year, as more of us finish our forks and put them out for others to enjoy. Hopefully enough of us can also make enough money from our efforts that we can keep this up as more than a hobby-level sideline; the more we can get away from Convergence Corporation jobs, the better everyone will be.

Man, what a blow-up-the-Death-Star event that's going to be.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Pulp Revolution: Bring the Diaspora Home

Let me set the stage by embedding Razorfist's latest video about The Shadow, again enjoy why he should be getting far greater recognition than he's enjoyed to date. The man should have a handful of awards right now.

Okay, where am I going with this?

Here at the Retreat, by many over at the Castalia House blog, and at other blogs devoted to the history of the Pulps we've looked into where that spirit went after the proto-SJWs destroyed them. We've been looking for--and finding--the destinations for the Pulp Diaspora. The spirit went to comic books (as we see above), into feature films, into television, and later into tabletop and videogames- as well as overseas into the popular culture of other nations (notably, France and Japan), often to fantastic success.

What this means is simple. We're not trying to resurrect the dead. We're trying to bring the diaspora back to its native land, and thereby dislodge the dullards that dominate the rightful home of the Pulps. The task itself has reasons for doing: to show that this seemingly-inexorable degeneration process can be halted, reversed, and exterminated.

So, why talk about this using a Razorfist video? Go watch that again: The Shadow once dominated ALL media, prompting many a competitor to try to make something like it to satisfy demand. The Pulps were MASSIVELY popular in ALL media. What does Lucasfilm do very successfully? Spread Star Wars across ALL media, openly attempting to be just as dominant. What does the big Japanese corporations do? Spread their franchises across ALL media, openly attempting to be just as dominant. Why? To meet MASSIVE demand!

The SJWs want that for themselves because they see a gravy train and they want to ride it, but they can't maintain it because they are incapable of meeting that demand. We see this with everything that they gain control of, and now that more of us are on to the scam, pushback at all levels is increasing. Convergence reveals itself as fraud, fraud is a crime, and we know how that goes now don't we?

Yeah, like that. We're going to bring the Pulps home, where they belong, and through that rebuild a dominant culture that once was and will be once more here where it began. The demand still exists; we just have to fulfill it. Guess who knows that?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Remembering "Autoduel Quarterly"

This post by the official Castalia House Twitter account got me thinking about Car Wars again.

(And yes, that post shows the folks being Good People by helping someone trying to help someone else out.)

For me, the thing about Car Wars back then was the magazine, Autoduel Quarterly. This was the '80s, when regular gaming support had to come from publishers because the Internet wasn't a thing yet, and the way to do that was to run a magazine. TSR had Dragon and later Dungeon, GDW put out Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society, and Steve Jackson Games did ADQ.

What made it great for a gamer kid coming into adolescence was that this magazine (like Dragon) wasn't just new gear and official car designs to use in your home games. They had tournament reports (always at conventions I couldn't attend no matter how much I wanted to), other real-world news, game-world events to use as prompts for your own use, game variants (inevitably the trial run; anything sufficiently popular got build out into a full supplement), and the letters column (always the best part). I even got a letter into the column once late in the run.

This magazine will never work now, not as it was, and neither do others like it. All of them that made it past 2000 shuttered for a reason: the Internet changed everything. Today, this is what you do with a blog that has multiple authors permitted to post to it that's tied to a wiki where you make the best-performing posts into larger articles complete with all necessary A/V media and links to downloadables required for use.

If there is anything I truly miss now from ADQ, it was the occasional short fiction; this is what kept me loyal when I wasn't actively playing, and would eventually contribute to writing my own fiction later on in life. The setting of Car Wars was a great mix of auto-centric dystopias and post-collapse fiction, but with an upward trajectory of recovery and restoration of Civilization. I wouldn't call it Superversive, but I sure as hell call it Pulp- and that's why I wish SJ Games would stop sperging about Munchkin long enough to put out some licensed Car Wars stories. Otherwise, some enterprising small publisher will see the opening and hit it with the fist of an angry god- just look Fury Road as indication of an unserved audience.

If ADQ were to return now, as a blog+wiki, it would be stupid NOT to have sanctioned fiction again- the best of which sold as ebooks directly to customers (preferably) or via Amazon (easier to set up). C'mon, SJ Games, don't leave money on the table; you successfully Kickstarted a new product line. Make that revival happen.

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: "Super Robot Wars V" Delivers!

I've been enjoying the hell out of this game series when I'm able to catch Zengar streaming it. Now the first in the series to get a proper release outside of Japan--Super Robot Wars V is out and man has the reaction been a good oneThe shows mashed up in this edition of the series include several that I love, and some that I haven't seen yet, which means that I'm now searching the usual sources for playlists and so on to watch when I'm done watching Zeta Gundam and season two of Iron-Blooded Orphans over at the GundamInfo channel at YouTube.

You might want to knock this game, and the series, as sanctioned fanfic. You're not wrong, but that's okay; none of this has any meaning outside of the games themselves. This is pure fan wish fulfillment, and for gaming that's fine and dandy, but that does not mean that it has to suck balls. It doesn't. It's fun, in that enthusiastic and earnest desire to entertain that characterizes the pulp aesthetic that Japan's best anime and manga inherited from the American pulps.

The game's narrative is full of action, romance, adventure, and comic relief drawn from all of its source material and added to by plausible extrapolations of the interactions by all of the featured characters (and the original ones added to the cast). You will NOT want to skip through the dialog scenes that (a) deliver the character and plot beats, and (b) lead players into or out of the wargame scenarios that comprise the core of this series' gameplay. Nor will you want to skip the animations, drawn from all of the source material, and gleefully ignoring things like how this character breathes in space or why Dragons are a thing as being utterly contrary to known science-- "literary realism" gets wrecked by Mazinger Zero's Ultimate Attack and then obliterated by the Yamato's Wave Motion Gun.

Want a good example? Here's a long (one hour) video that has ALL of the special attacks by ALL of the playable units in the game. Because of its length, you may want to take this in smaller pieces, but if you want to swallow it all in one go then here it is for you below. It's from a channel at YouTube called Duck360Gaming2 Another channel, D180223, has other playthrough videos for this game. If you like that, check out the other videos from other games in the series; this guy's a dedicated fan.

And if you want your own copy, hit up the Playstation store, Amazon, or Play-Asia for a copy. It's for PS4/Vita only at this time, as I don't expect a PC port anytime soon. (Sad, I know.) Guess I know what's on the list for when I get a PS4 or Vita then, don't I? As for the game's sources, hit up that link to TV Tropes; the entry there has all of the source works, and believe me when I say that getting into the source works will be a good time.