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2016: The Year in (belated) Review

March 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Here it is, March already. How did that happen?

While a lot of the most popular posts on this blog are about the old days (and especially my Games Workshop days), I also like to keep readers up to date with what I’m doing now – so go to My Books and BUY! BUY! BUY!

Ahem.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at what came out in 2016.

GAMES AND BOOKS

Dawnbringer
Danish game developer Kiloo is best known for their hit mobile game Subway Surfers. They hired me to help develop the setting and characters for this high fantasy swipe-and-slash game for iOS and Android. You play a fallen angel battling demons in a ruined world, and searching for redemption along the way.
Kiloo’s Dawnbringer page
My earlier post about Dawnbringer

Of Gods and Mortals: Celts
The first army supplement for Andrea Sfiligoi’s mythological skirmish game, and yet another chapter in my ongoing love affair with Celtic history and myth.
Ganesha Games’ Of Gods and Mortals page
My earlier post about Of Gods and Mortals: Celts

The Investigators of Arkham Horror
I contributed five stories to this gorgeously-presented collection based on Fantasy Flight’s acclaimed Cthulhu Mythos boardgame.
Fantasy Flight Games’ page
My earlier post about The Investigators of Arkham Horror

Nazi Moonbase
All the Nazi super-science conspiracy theories I could find, collected and wrapped up in a unifying narrative that also explains the urgency behind the Cold War space race.
Osprey Publishing’s Nazi Moonbase page
My earlier post about Nazi Moonbase

Cthulhu Confidential
I edited the text of Robin Laws’ thought-provoking solo Cthulhupulp game, where the Mythos is arguably the least of the horrors.
Pelgrane Press’ Cthulhu Confidential page

 

ARTICLES

Pyramid 3/92: Zombies
I contributed “The Viking Dead” on Icelandic draugur and haugbui, as well as a systemless look at several varieties of “Indian Ghouls.”
Buy it here

Pyramid 3/87: Low-Tech III
“Tempered Punks” contains some systemless advice for dealing with gadget-happy players whose modern knowledge wrings unbalancing power from old-time technology.
Buy it here

Fenix, Kickstarter special edition
I contributed a systemless article titled “Mummies: A New Approach” to support this bilingual Swedish-English roleplaying magazine. It includes seven mummy sub-types based on the ancient Egyptian multiple-soul concept, along with descriptions of ancient Egyptian mummy amulets with powers to affect both the living and the undead.
Fenix Kickstarter page

Fenix #6/2016
My Call of Cthulhu adventure “Spirit of the Mountain” takes the investigators into the Wild West.
Fenix back issues page

Fenix #2/2016
“La Llorona” discusses the famous Southwestern ghost, with notes for Speltidningen’s Western RPG. I’m told that an English-language edition of Western is in the works: I’ll have more to say about that in the future.
Fenix back issues page

Aviation History, September 2016
I indulge my love of vintage aviation with “Aussie Battler,” tracing the rushed, post-Pearl-Harbor development and surprising career of Australia’s home-grown (and largely improvised) CAC Boomerang fighter.
Aviation History magazine

Freebies
I posted a couple of new pieces in 2016, including “Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic” (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and “A Green, Unpleasant Land,” which presents some previously-unpublished British Call of Cthulhu adventure seeds I wrote in early 1986 for Games Workshop’s supplement of a similar name.
Go to the Freebies page

 

 

Announcing Dawnbringer

June 16, 2016 1 comment

dawnbringer-splash

One of the more frustrating aspects of my profession is the fact that I can’t generally talk about what I’m working on until the final product is released, months or even years after my work has finished. My work on Dawnbringer ended back in August of last year, and since then the development team at Kiloo has been working very hard to bring the game over the finish line. Today, I received an email telling me that they have succeeded.

I started work on Dawnbringer almost three years ago. It all started with an email from Jeppe Bisberg, their vice-president of production, who had seen my profile on LinkedIn and remembered some of my past work. The basic story and gameplay concepts for Dawnbringer were already in place, and Jeppe was looking for an English-language writer to help develop the story, characters, and setting, and ultimately to write the quest and dialogue text.

Over the next two years, I worked very closely with the development team in Aarhus, Denmark via email and Skype. Coincidentally, I had visited the city many years ago, as a student on a Viking archaeology fieldtrip: I had fond memories of the place from that trip, many of which involved Carlsberg and aquavit consumed in dark and cosy bars.

Because of my work on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, I am mainly known as a writer of dark and gritty fantasy. Dawnbringer is at the other end of the spectrum: a mythic fantasy where the player takes the role of an angelic being fighting to save a demon-infested world and his own fallen brother.

Centuries ago, a force known only as Corruption infected the world like a supernatural pollution. It was only held at bay by the sacrifice of the Guardians, who used their own life-force to power a magical shield. Pride and ambition led to their fall, and invading demons tore their bodies apart and scattered the pieces across the land.

One of the hero’s tasks is to recover the parts and re-assemble the Guardians’ bodies on their thrones so that their tower can protect the land once again. Another is to save his brother from the clutches of Corruption, which takes over more of his body and mind as the game progresses.

unnamed

Along the way, the hero explores various kinds of terrain and encounters an endless supply of demons of different tribes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are treasures to recover, ingredients to gather, life-saving potions to brew, and gear to craft and upgrade before the blighted world of Mourngard can be saved – and as he works to do that, the hero must also learn a few things about compassion, duty, and the worth of lesser beings.

unnamed2

Dawnbringer is available now in the Google Play and iTunes stores. Like many mobile games it operates on a freemium model, which means you can try it for free and decide how much money – if any – you want to put into it. I hope you’ll give it a try.

 

 

To learn more, click on the following links:

Cinematic Trailer (2:00)

Launch Trailer (1:24)

Gameplay Trailer (0:42)

Gameplay Demo, Part 1 (11:51)

Gameplay Demo, Part 2 (45:59)

 

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

April 15, 2016 11 comments

space_invaders

Although I’m best known for my work on tabletop games, electronic games have been my bread and butter for the last 25 years. Like a lot of “names” from the golden age of tabletop RPGs – Mike Brunton, Jim Bambra, Zeb Cook, Lawrence Schick, Ken Rolston, Paul Murphy, and many more – I found in the early 90s that the electronic games industry offers writers and designers something that the tabletop games industry cannot: a chance to actually make a living.

So far, I have worked on more than 40 electronic games that made it to market, as well as quite a few that didn’t, and a handful that have not yet been announced. Below is a list of the first category.

If you are interested in finding out more about my services and availability as a game writer, a good place to start is my LinkedIn profile.

Dawnbringer (Action-RPG, iOS/Android), Kiloo 2016 – Story Designer/Writer Official Web Page

Metal Skies (Arcade, iOS/Android), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor

Blades of Excalibur (Arcade, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor

Ravenmarch (Strategy, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor Ravenmarch.com

Wartune (Strategy, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor Kabam.com

Wartune: Hall of Heroes (Strategy, iOS/Android), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor Google Play iTunes Store

Heroes of Camelot (Card Battle, iOS/Android), Kabam 2013 – Story Designer/Writer Google Play iTunes Store

Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon (Strategy, iOS/Android), Kabam 2013 – Writer Google Play iTunes Store

The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth (Strategy, Mobile), Kabam/Warner Bros. 2012 – Story Designer/Writer Google Play iTunes Store

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age (Strategy, Web), Kabam/Warner Bros. 2012 – Writer

Arcane Empires (Strategy, iOS/Android), Kabam 2012 – Story Designer/Writer

Mobile Command: Crisis in Europe (Strategy, iOS), Kabam 2012 – Story Designer/Writer

Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North (Strategy, iOS), Kabam 2012 – Story Designer/Writer Google Play iTunes Store

Imperion (Strategy, Web), Travian Games 2011 – Writer/Editor Imperion.com

Viking Tales: Mystery of Black Rock (Casual, iOS), AiLove 2011 – Writer/Editor iTunes Store

Ruse (Strategy, PC/Console), Ubisoft 2010 – Story Consultant

Empire: Total War (Strategy, PC), SEGA 2010 – Writer/Designer

Dragonica (MMORPG, PC online), THQ/ICE 2009 – Localization Editor Dragonica Online

America’s Next Top Model (Casual, Mobile), PressOK Ent. 2009 – Writer/Editor

Houdini’s Infinite Escapes (Casual, Mobile), PressOK Ent. 2008 – Writer/Editor

Parking Frenzy (Casual, Mobile), Reaxion Corp. 2008 – Writer/Editor

Parisian Puzzle Adventures (Casual, Mobile), Reaxion Corp. 2008 – Writer/Editor

Detective Puzzles (Casual, Mobile), Reaxion Corp. 2007 – Writer/Editor

Men in Black: Alien Assault (Casual, Mobile), Ojom 2006 – Writer/Editor

Online Chess Kingdoms (Casual, PSP), Konami 2006 – Design Consultant

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (RPG, Xbox/PC), Bethesda Softworks 2005 – Pickup Writer

Spartan: Total Warrior (Action, Console), SEGA 2005 – Writer

Rise of the Nile (Casual, PC/Mac), Evil Genius 2005 – Design Director

Rhiannon’s Realm: Celtic Mahjongg Solitaire (Casual, PC/Mac), Evil Genius 2005 – Design Director

Medieval: Total War – Viking Invasion (Strategy, PC), Activision 2003 – Writer/Researcher

Nightcaster (Action, Xbox), Microsoft 2002 – Voice Talent

Em@il NASCAR Racing (Casual, Email), Hasbro 2000 – Designer

Nomads of Klanth (MMO Sim, PC online), AOL 1999 – Lead Designer

The SARAC Project (MMO Sim, PC online), So-Net Japan 1999 – Writer/Designer

Microsoft Fighter Ace (MMO Sim, PC online), Microsoft 1997 – Writer/Researcher

Air Attack (MMO Sim, PC online), VR-1 1996 – Researcher

G-Police (Sim, PSX/PC), Psygnosis 1997 – Writer/Designer

Beyond the Limit: Ultimate Climb (Adventure, PC), Microsoft 1996 – Designer

Touché: The Adventures of the Fifth Musketeer (Adventure, PC), US Gold 1996 – Writer

One Small Square: Backyard (Edutainment, PC/Mac), Virgin 1995 – Writer/Designer

The Legacy (RPG, PC), MicroProse 1993 – Pickup Writer

Fields of Glory (Strategy, PC), MicroProse 1993 – Writer/Voice Talent

Harrier Jump Jet (Sim, PC), MicroProse 1992 – Writer/Designer

B-17 Flying Fortress (Sim, PC), MicroProse 1992 – Writer/Researcher

Castles: The Northern Campaign (Strategy, PC), Interplay 1991 – Writer

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Myth and Monsterography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

 

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

March 9, 2016 1 comment

gamasutra_logo

 

Ubisoft’s AAA shooter Tom Clancy’s The Division is making a big splash in the industry, and this article from Gamasutra caught my eye.

It’s a question that becomes more significant as games become more photo-realistic: how to justify the gore and high body counts that are part and parcel of a high-end shooter. Another question, asked less often, is how to develop additional and alternative ways to create tension and challenge the player so that body count is not the only leg on the stool.

the division

It reminds me of a crossroads that tabletop games faced in the mid-80s.

D&D was all about kicking in doors, slaying monsters, and collecting treasure, and then Call of Cthulhu came out, in which combat was almost never a good idea and the focus was on investigation, uncovering a backstory, and figuring out the best way to resolve a situation.

For a while, the tabletop RPG hobby was split into “irvings” (a British term of the time, equivalent to today’s “munchkin”) who loved to boast about their best kills and the obscenely high level of their character, and “rolegamers” who loved to boast about how they gamed for an entire weekend and never touched the dice once.

Wfrp_logo

One of the things we tried to do with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and the Enemy Within campaign in particular, was to take the best of both worlds. The deadliness of the combat system was a major tool in achieving this goal, since it forced players to think of more creative solutions to problems. The other vital components were a game system (range of skills, character types, spells, and equipment) and a design mindset (communicated through scenario design and, in our case, advice to GMs) that gave players a wide range of potential actions to choose from in any given situation.

Now I know that there are some fundamental differences between tabletop games and electronic games, but it is very interesting to see AAA shooters facing a choice, as a genre, that tabletop games encountered 30-odd years ago. Maybe there are some useful ideas from that time that can be used now, and maybe there will be some new solutions that leave everyone stunned. I can’t wait to see.

 

Nintendo and Smart Devices

March 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Four years after CEO Satoru Iwata urged develpers to ignore smartphones, Nicholas Lovell’s blog on Gamasutra covers Nintendo’s change of attitude toward smart devices and explores some of the challenges they will face. The article is a good read, and although it’s not possible yet to determine exactly how Nintendo will affect the app market over the next few years, it’s certain that their effect will be significant.

I’m especially gratified to see this move taking place, since I raised the possibility myself four years ago in one of this blog’s first posts. I wonder if Iwata-san read it? I know, it’s far more likely that he studied the developing app market and tracked the increasing pressure it’s been placing on the market for dedicated gaming devices, and came to the same conclusion that I did. But still: Iwata-san, if you’re reading this, thanks for all the games, and good luck!

2013 and Beyond

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Right now I’ve got four mobile games, two tabletop RPG books, and two nonfiction books at various stages of development, and I’m also trying to keep my promise to myself that I will write more fiction.

With all this going on, I haven’t had time to put together an elegant and well-reasoned thought piece or a vivid and fascinating memory of The Old Days for this update. However, there are a few bits and pieces that might be of interest:

Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North is now in its third year, and still going strong. I’m currently helping develop a great new feature that I can’t really talk about, which will be released later in the year. You’ll see some familiar faces, and I think that fans of deeper Arthurian lore will be pleasantly surprised. That’s the intention, anyway.

In other KBN news, the game is ranked #10 by worldwide revenue in App Annie’s 2013 retrospective. A year ago, it was the iTunes Store’s #1 top-grossing app of 2012. And, of course, it’s also available for Android. I’ve been involved with KBN since the very start, and I’m delighted with its continuing success.

Another Kabam title I’ve worked on also did well in 2013, according to App Annie. The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth ranked #8 by revenue in the U.S., #5 in the UK, and #6 in both France and Germany. Over the last year I worked on a narrative campaign feature that allows players to fight the Goblins of the Misty Mountains alongside heroes from the movies – and, in the most recent instalment, lets them take on the dread Necromancer from Mirkwood to Amon Lanc and beyond. Like all of Kabam’s mobile games, this is also available on Android.

Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon has just acquired a great little feature that allows your dragon to go exploring when you’re not using it in battle, and find you all kinds of interesting treasures. I wasn’t involved with that particular feature, but throughout the last year I’ve been working on new dragons, new troops, and various other expansions. More on those when I’m allowed to talk about them. Also on Android.

Beside these three, I’ve been working on localization editing for a whole bunch of games from China that are hoping to build on their success in that booming market and move into the West. Three projects down so far, and two more in progress: more when I can talk about them. There is some good stuff coming out of China, for sure, and many commentators have tagged it as a market to watch. Russia, India, and Brazil are also poised to become significant mobile-games markets in 2014, according to many analysts.

And finally in mobile gaming, I’ve been working on a new fantasy RPG for iOS. I can’t give any details at this stage, but I will say that the setting is interesting and I’ve been having a very good time developing the backstory and advising on some quite intriguing features, both in narrative and gameplay.

The two books I wrote for Osprey Adventures in 2013 have been well received, and I’ve signed up to write two more. Thor: Viking God of Thunder in the Myths and Legends line has been getting good reviews, and the new Templar conspiracy I laid out in Knights Templar: A Secret History has been well reviewed and has inspired both fiction writers and tabletop RPG designers. I’ve been contracted to write two more titles: Theseus and the Minotaur is due to be released in November this year, and I’m just starting work on a yet-to-be-announced Dark Osprey title.

I’ve also been indulging my love for historical fantasy in a few tabletop RPG projects.

Colonial Gothic, the game of horror and conspiracy at the dawn of American history, received a great boost from the release of the Second Edition Rulebook, and that was followed up with the release of the Bestiary in October.

Just open for preorders is Lost Colony, a unique two-period adventure that explores the mystery of Massachusetts’ ill-fated Popham colony in both 1607 and 1776. It is written by award-winning author Jennifer Brozek, whose previous credits for Colonial Gothic include the acclaimed Locations mini-campaigns and the groundbreaking e-book The Ross-Allen Letters, which blurs the lines between adventure and fiction.

I’m working on another Colonial Gothic supplement at the moment. I can’t talk about it yet, but it’s one that has been very long in the planning and it reunites me with a favorite collaborator from my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay days. We haven’t worked together for more than twenty years, and this project promises to be a lot of fun.

As much as I love Colonial Gothic, I am occasionally tempted by other tabletop RPG projects. When author and roleplaying luminary Robin D. Laws was recruiting talent for his Hillfolk Kickstarter campaign, I was honored to be one of the people he asked to submit an original setting for this fascinating game. I pitched Pyrates as “Firefly of the Caribbean,” and it was a lot of fun to write.

British publisher Chronicle City ran a Kickstarter campaign for their version of the Steampunk classic Space: 1889 – a favorite of mine from the 80s – and I offered an adventure for a stretch goal that, sadly, was not reached. I still hope to write it someday. Their Kickstarter campaign for Cthulhu Britannica saw me contribute to their intriguing postcard-based adventure generator. I was especially happy to be involved with this project because my first commissioned work for Games Workshop, way back in 1985, came when they were developing A Green and Pleasant Land, the first ever British sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu.

Last year I wrote a couple of articles for Steve Jackson Games’ Pyramid magazine, both about obscure guns. The Puckle Gun, a repeating heavy musket, was covered in issue 3/52 (February), while the fearsome Nock volley gun appeared in issue 3/57. I’m planning to adapt both these weapons for Colonial Gothic in the near future, possibly in an unannounced supplement that I have on the back burner. Meanwhile, I have another article – not gun-related this time – being considered for a future issue of Pyramid.

Finally, 2013 was the year I discovered the Oldhammer movement. It seems that there are a lot of folks out there who remember the Games Workshop products of the 80s with great affection, and several of them asked me to give them interviews or to share my memories of working at GW during what some regard as that golden age. I have a couple more interviews lined up, but here are links to some that have appeared so far.

So that’s what 2013 looked like for me, and what 2014 is looking like so far. As always, I’ll be covering ongoing projects in more detail just as soon as I’m allowed to talk about them. But now I’d better get back to work – there’s plenty to do.

Breaking In

September 12, 2012 6 comments

From time to time I get an email out of the blue from someone who wants to break into the games industry, usually as a writer or designer. I had another one this morning, and I thought it might be worth sharing my reply in case it can be useful to anyone else out there.

I haven’t worked as a game designer for some years, through choice. The discipline is becoming increasingly technical, requiring facility with scripting languages and 3D art packages that I don’t have. I’ve had more success as a writer, and I’d recommend these titles, written by members of the IGDA Writing Special Interest Group, as a starting point. They are a few years old, but most of the information they present is still useful:

http://amzn.to/QR2dpO
http://amzn.to/QJOHKc

The Writing SIG (http://www.igda.org/writing) is a good thing to join. You’ll be able to ask questions of other game writers and listen in on their discussions, which can be enlightening. They also have a presence on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=89330&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr). Most of the members also have blogs, which are worth checking out for more information and insights. Find your local IGDA chapter, go to meetings, and get to know people: contacts are everything in this business.

I got into the industry a long time ago. I started in the 80s writing for tabletop roleplaying games, and along with a number of other writers from that industry I made the move into video games in the 90s. Back then there were very few writers and designers in the video games industry, so it was easy. Today, things are different.

These days, I would recommend focusing on one or two game genres that appeal to you strongly. Find the websites for their developers and get to know the companies. Take any beta testing opportunity you can, and try to train yourself to see a game with the skin off. Look through the graphics and the UI to see the underlying mechanics in action. If there are opportunities to create fan content – levels or whatever – make the most of them.

Keep track of advertised vacancies in design and writing: many can be found on the respective companies’ web sites, and the Gamasutra jobs page (http://gamasutra.com/jobs/) is also a valuable resource. Pay particular attention to the requirements for the kinds of vacancy that interest you: figure out how to acquire the required skills and experience, and also how to build a portfolio that shows them off. For design, create great maps, levels, etc, using the most popular tools. For writing, create storylines and dialogue samples. Start your own blog and use it as a showcase for your talents and experience. Create a LinkedIn profile, if you haven’t already, and link to your resume and samples.

Go to conferences if you can afford to (especially GDC) and follow the design and/or writing tracks. Learn as much as you can, present your skills and experience in the best possible light, and get to know as many people in the industry as you can. Contacts with other designers and writers are always useful, but also pay attention to producers: they tend to be the ones who hand out contracts and interview job applicants, and they have good information on the kind of skills and experience they are looking for.

That’s what I’ve got so far. If anyone has any follow-up questions, just ask and I’ll answer them as best I can whenever I get the chance. And if anyone from the industry wants to weigh in with a comment or more/better advice, feel free!

Good luck!