Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Songs: Oliver - Mechanical

I heard these guys on an ad that played before a youtube video I watched. (please tell me if you hear that ad right before watching this video, because I think that would be hilarious)
They seem to be incredibly hard to research, with a name like "Oliver". It seems that they worked with the likes of Zedd over the summer, which is rad, because Zedd is pretty rad. I love the ethereal vibe combined with the '80s synths.

I honestly know nothing about these guys beyond this song.

This is their Soundcloud page where they have a bunch of other songs and remixes

End Recording,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Game: Ultralight Supers

Note to readers: I swear a lot in this one. Just the state of mind I was in while writing, sorry.

Found this song recently, been enjoying it. Not much else to say here
Hey, I was sitting at my table at the Gamerati Game Day on Saturday and I overheard some people talking about superheroes and The Dark Knight and I was thinking about The Core (because Geop and Vicas and the rest of that LP crew streamed it while riffing on it) and so I was thinking about Aaron Eckhart. It got me to his whole "you either die a hero or live to see yourself become the villain" line, and I was thinking about how that could totes be a cool death mechanic for a superheroes game.
And then I extrapolated a whole fuckin' tiny game from it over a couple days. It should be pretty obvious in reading it that I was reading my Lasers & Feelings sheet at the same time.
This is not a pretty or elegant game. It is rough and crazy untested and it exists only on 6 index cards.

Title: Ultralight Supers (fuck if I have a witty title)

Stats: There are three stats in this game, Power, Image, and Code. You have 4 points to split between them, with a maximum of three in any stat. For each point in a stat, you get a perk in that stat. Note that this isn't about actual power level or anything, but the balance of the three elements within the character.
Power Perks:
(  ) Kick Mook Ass: Add 1 to Power rolls against mooks.
(  ) Versatile: If you want to be able to do something, you probably can.
(  ) Unkillable: Any Mook that only deals one damage deals none instead.
Image Perks:
(  ) Allies: You've always got friends you can call on.
(  ) Resources: Money and stuff is at your fingertips.
(  ) Beloved: The public loves you, and you can rely on their support.
Code Perks:
(  ) Disciplined: You can fight through pain. You don't flinch or hesitate when you take damage (other than going Down or being Shattered).
(  ) Admirable: Others support your code, and are willing to help you uphold it.
(  ) Driven: When you would go Down, you don't go Down until the end of the scene.
Depending on your stat split, you also have a drawback. If your split is 3/1/0, choose a drawback from the 3 or 0 stat. If your split is 2/2/0, you have a drawback in the 0 stat. If your split is 2/1/1, you have a drawback in the 2 stat.
Power Drawbacks:
(  ) Berserker: If you ever take 2 or more damage at once, you can ignore the damage to just lose. fucking. control.
(  ) Unreliable: Your powers can cut out at any moment, especially if you're under stress.
Image Drawbacks:
(  ) Paparazzi: The media is always after you; depending on how much the public likes you, it might be angry and criticizing, or it might just be annoyingly omnipresent.
(  ) Part of a Whole: You don't do as well without the support of others. When you're totally alone, you take 1 off your rolls.
Code Drawbacks:
(  ) Restrictive: Your code is especially limiting, and you are uncompromising.
(  ) Unconventional: Your code is bizarre or unappealing to others.
Making Rolls:When you make a roll, roll a six-sided die. If you roll equal to or less than the stat you're rolling against plus two, you succeed (meaning a 3 stat succeeds on a 5-, a 0 stat succeeds on a 2-).
Roll against Power when, well, when you do powers at things.
Roll against Image when you interact with people to get what you want.
Roll against Code when you do something questionable or unlawful.

Life: Your Life Bar looks something like this:
{6}{5}{4}{3}{2}{1, Down} - {Dead}
* 6-2 are just damage, and you'll lose them like you do in any other gear, when you get smacked or something.
* Down means you're incapacitated. You black out and when you wake up, a new situation has arisen. Cross out Down and write Shattered instead. The GM will tell you how much Life you wake up with.
* Shattered means you're broken - maybe physically, maybe it's your willpower, maybe its your sterling reputation, whatever. You're on the brink, it's only now that you can be killed.
* Even the Shattered are powerful. Mooks and hazards can never kill you; only a villain can take you from Shattered to Dead. And even if they manage to get you here, you either Die A Hero or Live To See Yourself Become The Villain.
When you would take damage from mooks or hazards, roll a d6. If it is more than or equal to your current life, you are not hurt, take no damage. 
This means you get more resilient as your get more desperate - superheroes always take scratches and bruises really easy, but actually killing them is fucking ridiculous. It also means that once you're at 1, you're literally invincible to little guys.
When a Villain attacks you, you and the GM both roll a d6, but you get to add your current Life to the roll. If the GM's total is higher, you get hurt as appropriate. If you're higher, you totally resist. If they're equal, re-roll.
 Villains can wreck you once you start getting weak. However, the villain can't go after your right away or your Life bonus is going to keep you safe, so they throw their mooks and minions at you! That's sort of a pacing thing for why villains don't just immediately chase down the heroes and how you stretch the game into a whole adventure instead of just one fight.
If you would die, you have a choice to make. You can die a hero; you die, and your name will be purified and idolized in public myth. Or you can survive; but to do so, you must violate your code in a major, unrecoverable way, and are one step close to your final fall from grace. Regardless, if a Villain got you to here, they're totally getting away today, tough luck man. Your friends might still be able to chase him, but you're done for now.
 The root mechanic this game sprung from. I like it.

So we have 3 stats and when to roll them, perks and drawbacks for those stats, and a life bar that paces out the game. What your power is doesn't fuckin' matter, so go nuts as long as you can fit it to your traits. Here's some classic superheroes who I used as metrics while trying to write the stats and perks and drawbacks (for reference, the stat Image used to be Affluence, then Influence, and Code used to be Humanity. Also I considered being a giant troll and calling my stats Power, Public, and Principles, just to make your life difficult):
Batman: P1/I2/C1, Versatility, Resources, Beloved (somewhat as Batman, definitely as Bruce Wayne), Driven, Paparrazi
Beast: P1/I3/C0, Kick Mook Ass, Allies, Resources, Beloved, Paparazzi
Captain America: P1/I0/C3, Unkillable, Disciplined, Admirable, Driven, Part of a Whole (he works best as a team leader, not a solo fighter)
Daredevil: P2/I0/C2, Kick Mook Ass, Unkillable, Driven, Disciplined, Paparrazi
Green Lantern: P2/I1/C1, Versatility, Unkillable, Allies, Admirable, Unreliable
Hulk (To REALLY play Hulk, drift the rules and just give all 4 of his points to Power and make him Berserk after only 1 damage): P3/I0/C1, Kick Mook Ass, Versatility (faster than, more powerful than, able to leap tall buildings...), Unkillable, Disciplined (in Banner form, before being mad), Berserker
Human Torch: P1/I3/C0, Kick Mook Ass, Allies, Resources, Beloved, Paparazzi
Invisible Woman: P3/I1/C0, Kick Mook Ass, Versatility, Unkillable, Allies, Berserk (losing control over her powers and stuff cuz she's way strong)
Iron Man (one statting of him - this is more "Tony Stark", I could do a much more Power-based stat line too of P3/I1/C0): P1/I3/C0, Versatility, Allies, Resources, Beloved, Paparrazi
Mr. Fantastic: P1/I3/C0, Versatility, Allies, Resources, Beloved (pffft, not by anyone who actually knows him, but the public doesn't see that), Part of a Whole
Nick Fury: P0/I3/C1, Allies (well, I guess agents can be called "allies"), Resources, Beloved, Driven, Part of a Whole
Professor X: P0/I2/C2, Allies, Resources, Disciplined, Driven, Unreliable
Punisher (this fucker gets in the way, he's a high-level criminal with no powers, but I had to somehow make him "equal"): P1/I1/C2, Kick Mook Ass, Resources, Disciplined, Driven, Unconventional
Sentry: S3/I0/C1, Kick Mook Ass, Versatility, Unkillable, Admirable, Unreliable
Spider-Man: P1/I2/C1, Versatility, Allies, Beloved, Admirable, Paparrazi
Superman: P3/I1/C0, Kick Mook Ass, Versatility, Unkillable, Beloved, Restrictive
Thing: P2/I0/C2, Kick Mook Ass, Unkillable, Disciplined, Admirable, Part of a Whole
Thor: P3/I1/C0, Kick Mook Ass, Versatility, Unkillable, Allies, Unconventional
Wolverine: P2/I1/C1, Kick Mook Ass, Unkillable, Allies, Disciplined, Berserker

Sorry if those aren't perfect representations of the characters, I'm going for best approximations and I don't even read these fuckin' comics, I just like the characters.

This is the closest thing I've done to an original game mechanism ie I'm not using ApW here. I mean, there's a little Move wording in there, but it's not the structure at all really, just the rhetoric. I think it's pretty decent for a very quickly put-together game.
I figure I'll throw together a pdf or something, maybe make a little art, maybe not. It's not a complicated game (I don't think).

So, uh, what do you think? Don't take my dismissive-of-myself attitude as an indicator that I don't care about this thing, I really do like working on it. The pseudo-angry/unhappy/tired attitude you see is the reason I'm writing this and not The Old World right now, I only can work on that in the right frame of mind.
End Recording,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gamerati: The Absurdity of 11-Player Drop-In Drop-Out Lasers & Feelings

This was one of the ending songs in Psycho Pass, though I've heard it also was used in Guilty Crown. It is a good song, though it is also a very anime song.

This image probably best sums up the casual-ness of this session.
I'm on the right, in the hat, mostly obscured. This is about 2/3 of the people we had participate over the course of things. But gaming on couches, rolling dice on a cushion-y ottoman, lounging about.

 So yesterday was the Gamerati Game Day @ PLU. Things weren't perfect as far as getting games together worked; rooms were split up, RPG'ers were at the far back, etc. I ended up playing in a pair of the 13th Age games Ash ran, which were decent, and basically what I expected of 13th Age. I try to push my narrative angle as far as possible (and I think I was pretty funny with my dialogue in the latter game, given that I was mind-blowingly incompetent, which was only a little bit my fault). My first game I was a Wood Elf Ranger named Stalista who was born under the Sacred Tree on the night of the blue moon and was thus granted the ability to commune with, and at times control, plants. The second game, I was Arrran (yup, three Rs), a Dwarf Cleric of Sorpoth, the Lord of Wealth, who had given me crackled stony skin and liquid ruby for blood. He was, uh, unduly violent (but didn't believe it) and excessively incompetent (which was, of course, "never his fault"). After all, he'd held the line alone against an orc horde, and slain Narmac the Red Terror of the Diabolist's personal guard - with accomplishments like those, how could he possibly be THIS incapable?

But I'm not here to talk about 13th Age. I'm here to talk about Lasers. I'm also here to talk about Feelings. I just might be here to talk about what happens when you put the two together in a new one-page RPG released by John Harper at PAX as a tribute to The Doubleclicks and to space adventure media like Star Trek and Farscape.

It was possibly the craziest thing I've ever tried to run. Not by virtue of the game's rules; that was very VERY easy to understand and use. No, my attempted structure was the most absurd thing. I certainly didn't think I'd be doing it.

So here's the setup: I didn't come to the day planning to run L&F. I wasn't even planning to offer it. But I was setting my potential games on the table when I noticed I still had it in my binder (which I'd brought to PAX) so I took it out just to read it while I wait. That's when Joe England walked by and was all excited by it and wanted to play it, so I took it out and started looking for players.

This might surprise you, but at a day featuring wargamers, Pathfinder players, and Magic the Gathering, pitching a game called Lasers & Feelings was less than successful. Around 6pm, we camped out a spot up front where the registration tables had been, and Ed and Joe and I recruited one more. And we started making characters!
That sounds normal-ish, right? Well, we'd finished character creation in a fit in giggling because our character concepts were awesome (Binary Tangent the holographic android doctor with a number of 2, meaning it sucked at Lasers aka tech stuff, which is pretty required for a doctor to do actual medicine, and Blaster Wolf, about who I had several hilarious Metal Gear Rising jokes that no one but me understood, but I assure you, they were hilarious), when some other folks walked past and we invited 'em in, and they sat down and we made them some characters.
And as things were happening, we just kept adding people. The game doesn't actually list how many players it wants; I'd started with the assumption of 3-5 players + GM, but ended up using the lack of a list as an excuse to get more people in. More, and more people. In the end, we had at least 8 characters (as that's how many of people's character notecards I brought home, if there were more they're escaping me), me running it, and multiple spectators who were given the glorious ability of being able to end whatever scene we were in, whenever. Basically they were the "...and NOW we cut this scene!" that I'm still learning to do. I mean, seriously, this game had SPECTATORS. Do you understand how boring watching people play RPGs can be, especially without proper editing (which is how Actual Play podcasts and Tabletop are good)? A game has to be something particularly special to be watchable from the outside.

Here's the characters I had:
* Blaster Wolf, Hot-Shot (in his mind) Envoy, number 2 (great at feelings, bad at lasers)
* Binary Tangent, (holographic) Android Doctor, number 2,
* Stella Stargazer the Savvy Scientist, number 5 (great at lasers, bad at feelings),
* Tachyon Ted, the Sexy Pilot, number 4 (slightly better at Lasers),
* Sexy Sally Systems, the Engineer, number 4,
* Question Afterthought the Indefinitely Prolonged, an Alien Envoy with a number of 5,
* Bittorrent the (not-holographic) Android Soldier, number 4,
* Jack Plasma, Dangerous Explorer, number 3.
The Raptor, our ship, was Fast with Fightercraft, with Horrible Circuit Breakers.

Some highlights were an attempt to redirect the ship to a star base for treatment of Captain Darcy (rather than going directly to the Hive Armada's base with the Star Dreadnought), jumping directly under the Star Dreadnought's hanger to beam the away team in, Sally and Stella loading up Binary Tangent onto one of the phone-communicator-things which Bittorrent brought with him on the mission, Jack and Bittorrent crossing the phase batteries of the pistols with the quantum batteries of the communicators to create a mini-signularity to consume the blast doors of the bridge, and Question Afterthought waking up Darcy and the Something Else, having a discussion with the psychic thing, killing it and Darcy, killing the pilot, and fleeing the battle, leaving the away team to die (having blown up the Dreadnought and completing their mission).

People entered the story whenever, people had to go and their characters were just suddenly unimportant and we were pretty much constantly breaking for a few moments to giggle incessently. It was the funniest, craziest experience I think I've had with RPGs. I don't think I could do this with a normal game, but the sort of light weight of Lasers & Feelings, it's fabulously simple chargen, and its self-evident tone and wealth of relatable references (everyone saw something in it; Star Trek, Star Wars, Farscape, Firefly, Mass Effect) made it easy to induct players into it and easy to just push along. I'm not sure we put the game through its fair paces (it was a bit too disjointed for that; we weren't really paying attention to actually doing the space adventure), so I'd like to play again in a bit more focused group, but it was exactly the silly antidote that I needed last night. Thanks to everyone; John Harper for writing, Joe for bringing it up, Ed for helping round out the original critical mass so our play could start attracting others, all of the players (whose names I can not all remember; I know Sion and Gary were there, and I remember folks from throughout the day, but names are foggy in all the alliterative character name silliness). It was quite the experience.

I recommend playing this crazy game! It is HERE: LASERS & FEELINGS

End Recording,

Sunday Songs: BT - Never Gonna Come Back Down (Hybrid's Breaktek Remix)

If you missed yesterday's post releasing Avatar World, it is now incorporated in the header!

Not sure what I can say; I don't know BT, I love Hyrbid, I own no Hybrid albums and this came on Pandora today and I liked it a lot so here it is. I don't have any materials to link with.

In lieu of songs, have another link to my Avatar World release post.

End Recording,

Saturday, September 21, 2013



I've been saving the main theme for Legend of Korra for a while now, knowing I wanted it on my first release.
Oh, and I'm not watching the new season of Korra until it's done so I can watch 'em back-to-back, so please don't spoil it for me!

So hi. After 11 months of toiling away (off-and-on) on Avatar World, I have a complete document with which you can play the game. It's not long, it's not incredibly pretty yet, but it's got everything you need. The ZIP file includes a Rules PDF, a Basic Moves sheet, the Playbooks PDF, and a PDF containing my Con Game sheets I wrote for today, just in case you wanted to see those.


Here is a link to the files uncompressed if the zip will not open or if you only want some of the files

Rules: The rules pdf is the basic rules necessary to understand how to play Avatar World. Conatins small explanations of everything, as well as a complete breakdown of each part of the playbook. It also includes the MC's instructions.

Playbooks: The layed-out playbooks. They are meant to be printed double-sided and folded in half along the central line. For all but the warrior, the image from around the playbook name is empty. I'm creating the art myself as inspiration comes, so those will have more included over time.

Basic Moves: Simply a sheet containing all 8 basic moves. There should be several of these at a table. Future versions will likely include some peripheral moves, such as the Broken/Completed Oath moves.

Con Game Love Letters - The Red Mountain: I wrote several "love letters" (as Apocalypse World called them) for use in a con game. After my first playtest, we spent a long time figuring out why we were together and what the world was like, so I wrote these letters to delegate some world-building and provide an excuse for the characters to be together, plus provide an immediate goal. Each playbook has its own letter. If you want to run The Red Mountain go ahead, but I'm just including these because I already had them made up and you may like to see how I intend to run it for an upcoming playtest session.

Thanks for checking out the game, and I'd love to know what you think! If you've played, or even just have some general thoughts, please let me know! I'm easily contacted:
* At my blog, The Logbook Project, where all design work took place and was posted. If you'd like to know my rationale behind something, I've probably talked about it! Comment anywhere and I'll see it. (
* Through Twitter, I am @Logbook_Project.
* On the Story Games forums, in my Avatar World thread. This has been the home of most discussions, and a bunch of design work. (
Thank you so much to everyone who got me to here. Thanks to the Google+ folks, the folks who read here, the Story Games Olympia crew who've maintained strong enthusiasm, and to everyone who's read my S-G thread. Huge, extra special thanks to James_Fleming. James, if you hadn't kept commenting and keeping up interest in how things were working and how this could be great, I would've fallen off and abandoned this a long time ago.
Thanks everyone! Please download it and check it out! If you play, LET ME KNOW!

End Recording,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Songs: Kidneythieves - Lick U Clean

Here's the story of how I found Kidneythieves: they're fronted by a lady named Free Dominguez, and she was listed as the vocalist for A Stranger I Remain (Mistral's amazing battle theme from Metal Gear Rising), so I found out what else she's done. I don't know how to define Kidneythieves, but I like their sound. Their sound is just very different from others. I think the vocals give me very faint flashes of Evanescence, but pushes a lot harder than they ever do, though not quite as hard as Halestorm or Paramore do. According to Wikipedia, they're a "American alternative and industrial rock band".

Just check them out. I've been listening to their most recent 2010 album, Trypt0fanatic. They've got another album coming out late this year, so I'm excited for that. It'd be awesome if they have more songs in the vein of A Stranger I Remain, which is just stellar.

This song was kind of random choice from the album. I'm fond of most of the album about the same amount. I don't feel like I've at all prepared myself to be able to recommend other links, so just check out the album.

Comets + Violins (this is my other favorite off the album though)
Kidneythieves on Wikipedia
A Stranger I Remain (if you're waiting for the vocals, they kick in at 3:35 - this mix is one of the most faithful to the actual looping in the game)

End Recording,

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Avatar World Art: The Warrior

I really love the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance soundtrack. I only started paying attention to the game originally when Chip Cheezum did a video of the demo, and I was captured by Blade Wolf's song. When it came out, I was wowed by Rules of Nature and I realized just how crazy cool the game is. And now through Chip Cheezum and General Ironicus' Let's Play of the game, with each boss fight I've realized just how focused and awesome the songs are in context. Red Sun, Collective Consciousness, The Only Thing I Know For Real, A Stranger I Remain...this is a badass soundtrack. It, along with FFXIII-2, is setting a new bar for me with regard to vocals in video game soundtracks. Just...damn.

So I've been doing a lot of Avatar World work, but most of it isn't the sort of thing to show off right now. Come back Friday evening, because I've been doing layout (and some initial mechanical repair, but mostly layout), and I'll be releasing the complete downloadable PDF for Avatar World! You'll have a totally usable document that will allow you to play the game at your own table!
That excites me.

It won't, however, be entirely complete aesthetically - I'm not gonna be able to have all the playbook art in a state that I want. Some of it! But not all of it. I'll be adding it into the file in the following couple weeks.

For today, I did the art for The Warrior and I'm feelin' pretty good about it!
If you click it gets even bigger!

EDIT: A bit of detail about the image: It's obviously inspired by traditional imagery from samurai and such, like the top knot and two crossed swords, but it's not meant to BE a samurai, just to remind you of one. He is unarmored mostly here. I like the look of the shading I got, it reminds me of Avatar actually, and the edging design reminds me of the Earth Kingdom. It may be a bit unconventional to have the playbook image be not facing you, but I like it.

Here's what it looks like on a playbook (plus what the front of the playbook will look like, though this was tested on the template)
It looks nice. They are noticeably inspired by Monsterhearts' layout, which is convenient both in that I really like it in MH and that they are very easy to fold, compared the ApW trifolds, while taking up less space than DW sheets. I designed it for my desired intro sequence: fill out the character details on the front, mechanical details (stats, moves) in the middle, and the oaths you start with on the back. I think it's nice and simple.

End Recording,

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pixel Art Lesson: hitogata's "Pixel Chibits COM: Rayne" (Banding, Palette Optimization, Smoothness)

Lorde doesn't have a ton of music out yet (fair 'nuf, the singer's 16!), but I like them! This song in particular is really great, it speaks to me, for me its about dreaming and talking of glory and having embracing that delusional feeling of success, and at the same time being connected to the truth that it's not really like that and that that's okay.  It's like feeling like the top of the world, even with little successes.
I know that feeling quite a bit. The Logbook Project here gives me that all the time, as does the support I hear for Avatar World.
Anyway, I'm really excited for Lorde's first studio album, Pure Heroine, which releases at the end of the month.

Let's begin with a bit of explanation.


Pixel Chibits COM: Rayne is a commisioned piece, ordered by Kavaros of her original character Rayne, and pixeled by Hitogata. At the request of both of them (hitogata for it being a commision, Kavaros for wanting to maintain control over her character's appearances, both super-valid reasons), I am not posting the original piece nor any of my edits/demonstrations, which means I'm not bringing the entire critique over here. You can read the complete thing, unabridged, at that link, and I really think you should, because this is one of my better works, up there with the Kits, FreshSheet, and Jiinchu posts. There are lots of images, like, at least ten, plus the original.
(oddly enough, hitogata doesn't seem to allow edits of her pieces, which I only learned afterward - and believe me, I looked for if there were any rules - though it seems an exception is being made as this was a teaching piece done specifically for her and not for general use. I gotta say, I'm weirded out by a no-edit policy. I'll respect it, but I simply don't understand it if proper credit is done, though I guess I could understand if it applied only to the commisions)

Let's nail this down right here though: Yes, I ranted angrily on Twitter about her and the piece the night before I actually decided to do a critique. It was 95% spite, mostly because this wasn't the first I'd seen her. Her work hits the front page of deviantArt's popular section all the time, and frankly it bothers me mostly because I don't think it's as good as other stuff that goes completely unrecognized. It's powered by popularity. I absolutely do not blame hitogata for this - as I said on Twitter, she made pieces and people liked them, she was commissioned based on the skill level she displayed, she created something she was satisfied with and delivered it. Every stage of that is 100% okay. It just bothers me that repeated appearances highlights how dA really is about super-members and popularity, rather than quality. Not a surprise, but when something popped onto the front page that I was pretty sure I could do better in an afternoon it triggered me.
And so I went berserk on Twitter before realizing I was being an ass about things rather than trying to be supportive and rectify the issue. And so, helpful and thorough critique

One more thing. If you saw me and Joe's conversation on Twitter, it was about asking permission to do these things (or doing it if they actually ask for help), as unsolicited help can be interpreted as an attack or be emotionally damaging, as art can be very personal. I take measures to work with this usually! The biggest thing is, most of the time, I do ask, or aim it at those who want help (as is usually true on PJ). Unfortunately, dA is somewhat special in this case. dA is just SO BIG that if I aim something at a super-member like hitogata, the odds of being overlooked are very, very high. It's really common for popular members to put up statements along the lines of "Due to an overloaded inbox, I can't respond to everyone's comments, but I do read them all!" which is fine, but makes questions hard. As an alternative, I do two things:
* I preface it with the statement that this is just my own thoughts, and that while it looks intensive, I only mean for it to be if they desire feedback on the work, and that if they are not looking for this sort of feedback that I am completely okay with them just ignoring it. And...
* I write in the most delicate, unoffensive, supportive way possible, trying my absolute best to talk about technique over spirit of the image, and generally just trying to put out a friendly and sensitive demeanor to minimize feelings of being struck out at. The overwhelming amount of text I write is tough to make seem light, but on the plus side, it's awful hard to not notice it when it shows up in your message center!
In this particular one, I missed one piece of sensitivity: from the sounds of her reply, hitogata isn't natively english-speaking. I fell back on jargon on occasion, especially "banding", which for a super-important concept to understand for pixel art is completely non-translatable. I meant to but forgot to link to the Jiinchu post as well, because that post gives a really great translatable (and visual) explanation of banding.

Now, here's a breakdown of what I talk about:
* Palette optimization, removing excessive colors, especially "invisible" colors.
* Contrast, both dealing with too much or too little. I also wrote a great couple lines about the balance between a pixel artist's color count and the amount of contrast.
Typically, the more colors you have, the less contrast you need between colors because you can use intermediaries instead of having to balance the colors (this is an oft-overlooked reason why high-quality retro pixel art is more difficult than it looks). Of course, as I was saying, we want to have as few colors as necessary to convey our image, so we have to strike a balance between having enough colors to produce the look we want, without going over the required number. That particular balance is one of the main ways that pixel art color theory is specialized over general art color theory (though almost all of that still applies as well!)
Lots of pixel art techniques revolve around this balance. Dithering as a smoothing technique exists to trick you into thinking there's less contrast between the smaller amount of colors. Anti-aliasing is for subtly lessening stark contrast at high-contrast transitions.
* I talk about banding. I talk about banding a bunch. Hitogata has a chronic banding issue so I focused on it a bit. It was also called out afterward as something she found helpful so I really hope it didn't have much translating issue.
* Consistency in shading, meaning shading to the same degree of detail across the image, which helps with image unification.
* Rigidity and linearity versus smooth curves.
* I show off my own edit and point out a couple specific spots to show how I would fix things. (you should check it out, I think it's a great-lookin' piece and I would show it off here if they were cool with it)

So you should, uh, check it out. Click that link up top!

Seeya folks!
End Recording,

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Songs: Juno Reactor's "Golden Sun of the Great East" - Invisible

Before I jump in, I have an announcement: I have been approved for AdSense! Seeing as before I was rejected, and I've changed literally nothing, I have no idea what's going on. But I now have an ad box on the right side. If you ever feel like you'd like to support me in some way, clicking it is the way to do so. So I'm clear and I'm not violating policy: there is no compensation for doing so, and I'm not requesting you do so. That's just what's there.
Let me know if there's ever an ad that autoplays sound or is advertising any sort of problematic product (eg dieting solutions, anything racist/sexist/homophobic), or anything otherwise peddling negativity. I want those gone. You can contact me at any of my social media links on the right side (I'm very active on Twitter) or email me at "maxdxam @". Thanks for your time, on to the music!

Gosh, what does that title refer to? Well, the big phrase in quotes, "The Golden Sun of the Great East", is the name of a very recent album by Juno Reactor, and it's all I'm talking about today. Released in April, this is a Japan album, a trend that's been cropping up in a lot of bands lately. By Japan album, I mean an album focused toward and/or released exclusively in Japan, not "Japanese-sounding". Rodrigo y Gabriela had Live In Japan as one of their few albums, both of Verona and Halestorm had special editions with unique tracks available in Japan only, it's  growing trend.

Juno Reactor's latest outing is kind of a dream. See, I like more classic Juno Reactor than their recent work (ick to Gods and Monsters). I'm a Labyrinth fella. I got my dad this album for his birthday this year, since he'd asked for it, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Much to my surprise, I got some incredible stuff! Indian instruments and sounds, mixed with the intense beats of Juno Reactor's past. It's fantastic. All the songs are pretty long, but that's okay when they're this good.

This is Invisible, my favorite track off the album.

Keeping the links brief since I'm only talking about one album and it doesn't have that many songs.
Playing With Fire

End Recording,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

PAX Roundup!

This is from the Raichu Fandisc, a thing by Salvation By Faith Records. It's pretty good. I snagged a whole bunch of SBF stuff, so this is a good one.

PAX Roundup.

This was my very first PAX. It was kind of mindblowing. Let's hit some stuff and summarize my adventures:

So I had myself a 4-Day pass! Except, well, I didn't pay for it. No, Games On Demand provided me with a pass, given the stipulation that I run games in three four-hour slots. After an initial brief period of hesitation, I jumped at it, because shit, I was probably going to do that anyway.
And do it I did! And far, far, more.
Let's be very clear about this: I spent a whole two thirds of the con in the GoD rooms. I ran games in and out of my schedule, and played multiple games. Let's narrow this down:

* Friday morning I got in on a Dungeon World game! I played Theseus the Good Ranger and his companion Gar'On the bear in The Frozen South (using the dungeon starter of the same name). I, uh, murdered the fuck out of everything with lots of arrows and a fucking BEAR. Being a Good Ranger means hunting down unnatural threats, so a Frost Giant baby is unnatural, right? Snow elves are really unnatural, right? I hope so, I killed like 12 of them in their sleep. I kept acing Volley rolls and dealing around 10 damage per attack - nothing survived me. This game also had the lovely innovation of the Cuddle Puddle!

* Friday evening a guy named Don wearing a VIP badge came around looking at games, and was interested in The Quiet Year, which wasn't on anyone's menu at the time. so I decided to jump in and run the game for him. It ended up a 1-on-1 affair, and it was the fastest Quiet Year I've ever played by a lot at an hour and forty minutes. The game was by a river, and was full of ghosts and weirdness. I'm the first to admit that I seriously go for the freaky supernatural stuff in my Quiet Years.

* Saturday I showed up at 2:00 and asked for my session to be moved up to then instead of 6, because of a storm of players who wanted to play Monsterhearts and a lack of MCs, so I decided to go for it. It was a full-up five player game (which I  keep being warned against at these cons and keep running with pretty good results)! We had a Fae named Aislyn who was exiled to the human world by Perseph of the Faerie Court, a Witch named Brianna whose family was all witches, and she had a Book of Shadows that let her be the toughest one there, with a Sanctuary in the library. We had Brendan the Werewofl whose wolf was almost entirely mental, like a mind-state change that makes him feral and wild, which was super intense, since he went Darkest Self. His family also knew what he was. We had Burton the Queen and his gang of Sammy, Gina, and Rasputin. Burton was a drug dealer whose supplier was his dad, and all of the security officer, math teacher, and principal we had in the game were all buyers, it was great. We had Iggy the Ghoul, whose father had killed him and his fraternal twin sister, composed them into one person, and reanimated them, with Iggy as the dominant mind. Iggy hungered for chaos. Iggy had a bit harder of a time fitting into a lot of the action since Alex (the player) was very tired, but he came up to me today and apologized (unnecessarily, it wasn't a problem) for being tired and said that it was an incredibly fun time, plus offered to put me up when I'm going down to Portland at the beginning of October for Technicolor Dreams. The game ended with Perseph manifesting physically in Daria's sanctuary due to her meddling, Aislyn and Brendan and Iggy showing up, and Perseph dragging the whole sanctuary into the Faerie Realm, with Burton coming across the empty secret room with Aislyn's backpack outside it. Also Brendan hospitalized a Gina in full view of a ton of people while The Wolf was in control.
Saturday night I spent prepping the not-so-Secret-Idea document.

* Sunday morning I showed up bright and early for my slot to find that Secret Idea would have to wait since I was already signed up for Monsterhearts! This time I had only three players. The first was Cassidy ("Cass") the Werewolf, a cross-country runner who had been mauled by a wolf and hospitalized last year, which was pretty public. He may be an alpha jock, but he's got a pretty plain-looking brainy girlfriend Tiffany (why do I not suggest boy/girlfriends more often?!). Daria is a witch, using hodgepodge magic learned from a ton of sources, who once threw a hex that overextended and turned the former cheerleader Ashley into a quadriplegic. She has a crush on Troy, the cross-country captain. Rowan is a Selkie whose pelt was stolen by Cass, though he doesn't know it was a pelt. He was curious to a point of recklessness, without caution, and is super unaware of how people act. Rowan has a bunch of fangirls, led by Cass's younger sister Brittany, cuz he's super hot it seems. Cass got in a huge fight with Troy then had a big fight with Tiffany about it. Daria got over Troy and ended up nearly killing him, with Rowan stopping her. By the end, Rowan went Darkest Self and was going to drown the world, but Daria brought him back with love, and Daria helped put Troy and Cass back together. It was a much more uplifting ending, and felt like the story could have been left there, no major cliffhanger.

* Sunday afternoon I played Monsterhearts, run by Robert. I got to play The Doppleganger, the skin I wrote, for the very first time (after running maybe five one-shots for it at various time). Taylor functioned exactly as I wanted it to. Taylor admired Drake's confidence and social prowess. Mouse was a Sasquatch (a skin from Jackson Tegu's Second Skins), who didn't understand how people worked, and faded into the background a lot. We were pretty similar, and Taylor kinda liked her. Drake was a Queen, and a drug-connected leader. The game didn't take place at school, but afterward, as the lead-up and action of a huge party Drake threw. Taylor set up  a drug deal as Drake that went bad and he was stabbed and had a knife at his throat, but managed to get out and accidentally killed him, immediately taking the form of Drake. He brought an enormous bag of weed to the party (as Drake, since Drake was incapacitated by his own super-drug), and was hitting on Mouse (which real-Drake had done earlier too) when she gave me a love potion and we had, uh, it was basically spiritual sex. We didn't really decide if it was also real sex because we didn't need to, but I'm kinda thinking it wasn't, it's less weird and rape-y that way. I mean, it's still a little under-false-pretenses, but Mouse did drug Taylor into it. In the end, Drake was taken away by the police for lots and lots of drugs and soon will be up for murder, and stole the super-drug from his dad (and put some in my pocket), and I was at 3 harm. It was crazy and suspenseful - I would watch the show that this was a pilot for.

* Sunday evening, before I went to dinner, I played a game by Ed Turner called Synanthropes Lite. A very short game about talking animals post-Humanity. It was a 15-minute experience. I really liked it and I want to play the full version!
This is Ed's blog!
This is Synanthropes!
This is Synanthropes Lite! (business-card sized!)
I played a Gecko named Cah-Rul, and Ed played a Raccoon named Audi, and we were having a debate about this mysterious human artifact (actually a can opener Ed pulled out). Audi, as a Raccoon who loves technology, thought it was a key or component of some kind of machine and wanted to take it back and study it, and was adamant  that humans never ever hurt each other. As a gecko, I consider human technology dangerous, so I was sure that it was used as a weapon - geckos love their fingers, and the handles were were crushing fingers, with the cogs for grinding them through them.
It was really fun. check it out, Ed's got something sweet going on!

* And Sunday night, the Secret Idea manifested: I ran Avatar World. Saturday night I'd compiled the playbooks into really loose documents and there were folks really excited to try it, so knowing it was going to probably be a bumpy ride, we went for it. We played in a world not-quite like the world of avatar, but quite similar. The four characters were Haa, a female airbender tired of monotonous life at the temple, Flamio, a poor teenaged Firebender who had accidentally burned down a bunch of the city years ago, and wants to be super famous, Kai, an older earthbender who has taken some responsibility for Flamio's wellbeing, and a nomadic Waterbender named Bokonnon who wants to claim a piece of land for his family (as the Water Tribe lives on an armada of ships). I don't think Eric realized I totally know where the name came from, as a huge Vonnegut fan. The game was in the capital during the Spirit Festival, which is ruled by the Phoenix King. I totally forgot that's what Ozai called himself! In this case the name was more about the immortality of the emperor rather than the fire. No one knows what bending he has, as rumors abound of all of them, but no one has ever spoken to someone who has personally seen him bend. His second, the Phoenix Prince, is an annually selected role based on a tournament to defeat the not-current but previous Prince, and is always a firebender. The group decided to go to the Holy Mountain to gain the treasure and fame from defeating the great beasts there and claiming the treasure, but they get lost and wind up in the festival, where Flamio is put into the tournament by Haa and he fights and defeats the older Prince. He is then publicly and personally addressed by the Phoenix King, a very rare event, to task him as the first Questing Prince in many, many years. He is to go and restore the balance of the Mountain, and re-establishing the Phoenix as the dominant spirit.
There were a lot of flaws in the game! I have holes to fix up, but a LOT of the issues came from the way I presented everything. I need to learn to GM it better. the main thing is to come up with and even script the way I intro the game and build the world and stuff. I also need to examine the Basic Moves and figure out how to make them work for significant non-combat as well. A big one is I want is we tried a stealth-type thing and I should at least have some way of sneakily moving around inside of Move With Intention. A lot of the moves and most of the Oaths could use more support dictating what happens in the fiction - Robert thinks it would be better to narrow down a lot of the things into main categories rather than leaving them open-ended, and I'm inclined to agree. Also, the Airbender (which he was playing)'s moves could use some more direct link to the fiction.
I definitely need to find a good way to explain Chi.
Basically, huge learning experience, and everyone said it was really fun.
I will not be making the PAX Edition document available immediately. I want to do a bit of repairs, and then compile it into something a bit more pretty than two dozen sheets of paper covered in plain-text Times New Roman. Soon though! The goal is still to have a full document around by the Gamerati Game Day on the 21st.

* Monday morning I ran more Monsterhearts! As Jay said, I was kind of a Monsterhearts-running-machine. This time we started with four players (though one had to go a bit early), and two of them were the same people who played Daria and Rowan the day before! I had introduced them to the game, they played again later, and then came back for another game I was running this morning, so I feel pretty damn good about that. This game had an even crazier relationship map than the others. We had Mara, the flesh-hungry Ghoul, awake for only a week, living in a cemetary. I started this one off well, with a burst of action, of Mara waking up on the day and the groundskeeper coming, and she hadn't eaten since the first day. She ended up tearing him apart and it was a visceral opener. We had Abel the Infernal, minion of Hastur, and a really optimistic guy who just wants to help everyone. We had Bethany the Queen, with her gang of Cody, Annie, and AJ, and they deal drugs. She likes Cody cuz he's hot and has the best car. And lastly we had Kard, the Hollow. Give me a sec here.
Let's talk for a moment about a way I feel like I failed as an MC right here. I consistently forgot to give the Veil conversation until just before play started, and in this case, Kard was the product of a wish - a wish by middle-age Todd who wanted a hot young girlfriend, but she came out imperfect; physically, she's everything he wanted, but lacks completely the personality he wants. And there's definitely some sexual abuse going on - and the moment the player said that, my brain skipped a step and I realized triggering content had gotten its way into the game before I brought up the Veil. Everyone seemed okay with it, but I still think it's a bit of a failure on my part that it even got through, because there could have been an issue. Not everyone has the Veil already to keep the game safe. In the future, I'm gonna make it a hard and fast rule that I say the Three Things About Storygames before every game with any people I don't already know and have gamed with, regardless of the game.
Anyway, can I mention that it was actually pretty uncomfortable territory for me? Not for personal reasons, but of course I run a lot of nasty people as MC, but this one definitely made me feel the most uncomfortable. It was really strong material and I wanted to do it, and we never had any negative personal encounters with Todd, but his influence was a constant in Kard's Gazes Into The Abyss, feeling his clammy hands all over her, not gentle like they used to be... It was fucking disturbing. I feel messed up having played it. But I think it was really good material and made the story that much better. It's just an early experience for me of really pushing my villains into dark territory. Anyway, this game ended with Hastur swallowing up Mara, Abel, and like a dozen NPCs.

So to summarize: Dungeon World, Quiet Year, Monsterhearts, Monsterhearts, Monsterhearts, Synanthropes Lite, Avatar World, Monsterhearts. Sounds like a party! I loved it. I nearly doubled my required slots. The Doppleganger worked exactly how I wanted, and Avatar World was a very fun learning experience (or so I was told, I spent the whole thing with my mind spinning a million miles an hour managing and often panicking - I probably could have been even better by just relaxing).

Monday night all the GoD folks got together at the Capitol Club to debrief and discuss what went well and what needed work, and we got some good ideas coming out.

Long story short: this was a fantastic experience, thanks so much to Morgan for offering the spot to me, and I will 100% be doing this next year, and hopefully also at ECCC, and also at anything else in range of me. Hell, this thing has actually boosted my confidence in GMing by quite a bit, and I already was getting used to running in public at Story Games Olympia!

I saw some cool shit. I can make a rare claim: I stood in no lines! That basically means I skipped anything from a major developer other than Nintendo (whose lines were pleasantly short for everything but Wind Waker HD thanks to a large array of devices being used for the demos - even Pokemon X & Y had super-tiny waits). I did, however, really enjoy the Indie Megabooth! Lots of really cool stuff and brand new folks! I only actually demo'd a couple games, but there was a lot of really cool stuff. Here's some of them!
* Always Sometimes Monsters is a non-combat rpg. It looks like a bold direction to take things, and seems strongly character driven.
* Audiosurf 2 (of course) looks brilliant. I'm a huge fan of the original. I really hope Pedro Macedo Camacho is back to do the themes again.
* Barkley 2! Barkley 2 is fucking crazy, and it's going to be both amazing and gorgeous, with the pixel art done by Francis Coulombe, aka Frankiesmileshow, who is simply a brilliant artist.
* Bit.Trip Runner 2 is just great. I just talked about that like a week ago!
* Crypt of the Necrodancer is insane. Move through a dungeon to the rhythm for more points, also you're doing it on a DDR pad and fighting monsters and collecting treasure! I mean, you can do it on the computer, but fuck, why would you?
* My bro bought Electronic Super Joy and its soundtrack, which looks like a wicked hard rhythm-based platformer. Mashing up rhythm into other genres seems to be a thing.
* Even The Ocean was one I demo'd, and I was really impressed. It's tough, but has the sliding scale two-sided health bar that's a really smart idea.
* Christine Love had her visual novels Analogue: A Hate Story and its "sequel" (really more expansion apparently) Hate <3 and="" been="" befor="" both.="" bought="" bundle="" couple="" d="" ei="" first="" good.="" i="" it="" just="" lp="""" night="" of="" on="" p="" plus="" reading="" really="" screenshot="" so="" that="" the="" them="" up="" updates="" was="" went="">* Ironclad Tactics, by Zachtronics (the SpaceChem guys!), looks to be just as tough and interesting as its predecessor, this time built like a deck-building action real-time board game.
* Legend of Dungeon looked simply gorgeous, with visuals very reminiscent of Sword & Sworcery to me. It's not the Superbrothers, but it looks great still.
* I didn't stay around to check much about Tengami, but it looked neat.
* Same deal with The Stanley Parable.
* I bought They Bleed Pixels pretty much immediately. I've been telling myself to buy the damn game for months.

Outside of the Indie Megabooth, I spent a lot of time just looking and browsing. I bought a Mew-Genics shirt from Team Meat, and Tommy Refenes signed it! I'm actually really proud of that, weirdly. Edmund wasn't there though. Next time! My bro tried the Oculus Rift and said it was basically life-changing, that it was easily the coolest thing at the show.

My one let-down: I had ONE game in mind that I wanted to buy at PAX, but Monte Cook and Shanna Germain was nowhere to be found! Damn.

Overall, PAX was just super super fun and I'm ready to sleep. I start classes in a week, I have the Gamerati Game Day on the 21st, and Technicolor Dreams on the 5th and 6th of October. Things are moving!
Later folks.

End Recording,

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sunday (Monday?) Songs: Nightcore - Welcome to the Club

Predictably, I didn't quite have the energy or time to pull out a Sunday Songs post during PAX. Now PAX is done though, so here it is!

So I gave Nightcore another shot a couple days before PAX and I've been listening to a lot of it! If you don't know, Nightcore is a genre/music phenomenon spawned almost entirely from Youtube. The idea is basically a spin-off of techno, specifically trance, and related to happy hardcore, though fans like to think it's its own thing. I don't really think so because if it's a form of music comprised almost entirely of remixes homogenizing the style of songs into one form, and there exist pretty much 0 original nightcore songs, it doesn't really stand as its own thing. Anyway, the idea is to take a song (from pretty much any genre, save rap and metal usually), amp up the speed, put some pounding beats under it, and pitch-shift the vocalist like a million percent up.
You can identify a Nightcore song by the video just being a single still picture of some anime girl posted on places like Konachan and placed on the video without credit for the artist, listing the name of the song but not the original artist that was remixed. So they're pretty much devoidof attribution, which is awful. Thankfully they don't usually change the title, so you can track down the original.

This particular one is awesome. It's a remix of Manian's "Welcome to the Club" (not that the description would tell you, though the commenters did), though I definitely prefer this one over the real thing. Manian seems to be quite popular with the Nightcore crowd - Ravers in the UK is ubiquitous in compilations, and Raver's Fantasy is common too.

It's hard to describe why this appeals to me. By all rights, I should hate it. It's unoriginal, theft (usually), homogenizing, and repetitive, but for some reason it's been really good to me lately. It's great for background music.

An interesting thing is, for an awful lot of them, the pitch-shifting makes gender totally ambiguous. It's kinda interesting. Sometimes it's pretty obvious from the lyrics, but it's just an interesting change.

Me Against The World (a remix of something that's NOT Tupac's song of the same name)
My favorite 1-hour mix
A second 1-hour mix I listen a lot
And a third one
Okay, that should be good for now.

End Recording,