Straw Boss

Straw Boss by J R Evans is a novella tie-in with Straw Boss: A World of Adventure for Fate Core. A lot of times that might seem like a warning sign, as game tie-ins aren’t always so great; but this one is not only perfectly good as a stand alone without any need to know about the game, but also a well done spoopy October read in and of itself. The only thing that I didn’t get from the novella was what the title references, but the narrative quickly builds its world and premise, and explores it well, and the creepiness creeps up on you to an end that I didn’t see coming. There’s new bits of the world revealed all along the way, in a story with flashbacks, that feels very well supported and developed.

The story explores one character’s experience at a particular cult compound in the rural United States, as well as, episodically, a road trip to return a kidnapped child to her mother. But, as one says, things are not as they seem. The framing premise is that there’s a cult of Scholars, founded by John Dee, that exists around the world; and that they adopt orphans whom they train to become possessed supernatural warriors. If you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural and the idea of the Men of Letters, this cult is kinda like that, but maybe with a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Watchers and The Following mixed in. Basically, you get to conquer your demons and put them to work for you in the game while on the frontlines between dark and light in a mix of mundane reality, myth, and magic.

At one point, I was amused to see that Murmur seems to get a few cameos in places for some reason. Murmur’s seal showed up on the TV show Sleepy Hollow, back in 2013, on S01e08, as an “Egyptian hieroglyph”, which I found risible, and was pretty much the point when I gave up on that show. Then in 2016, Murmur showed up in Erwin and the Method Demons. So, as an aside, what I’m saying is that Murmur cameos are a thing. Case in point.

The Straw Boss novella does a solid, standalone job of telling an interesting story that would make a good read for October, or another time. Whenever. Murmur murmur murmur. Also, check out the game world supplement!

I made 3 highlights.

Martian Fluxx from Looney Labs available for pre-order!

Martian Fluxx from Looney Labs is now available for pre-order!

“Are you ready to conquer the earth? Martian Fluxx is a classic monster story in ever-changing card game form. It’s an Invasion from the Planet Mars! The players are the Martians determined to destroy the Pathetic Humans who are keeping them from winning. It’s got Flying Saucers, Giant Tripod War Machines, Tentacles, Ray Guns, a Mothership, and of course, a Space Modulator. Be careful – you don’t want your Humans escaping from the Abduction Chamber!”

Martian Fluxx

Routes Game – games

Ran across this odd breeding game: Breeder. It took me a bit to realize there’s a goal state that one’s trying to reach, but that makes choices more than just aesthetic.

They’ve got other stuff. And, it’s part of an 8 week long series:

“Routes is an eight week game from Channel 4 Education in association with the Wellcome Trust. Routes is live from January 26th through to March 26th, and during that time players will be invited into a world of genetics, evolution and the human genome.”

Mirror’s Edge, Parkour-Continuum

There’s a video of game play at “Mirror’s Edge: Mirror’s Edge DLC In Motion“:

“As someone who has never had occasion to play the game, this video, with its vertigo-inducing visuals and that catchy Still Alive song has certainly got me wondering what I’ve been missing. While I’m not a big fan of Time Trials, I have been known to get excited about hopping from colored box to colored box, and there’s certainly a lot of that going on here.”

It’s like a modern mash-up of Parkour and Continuum!

I had a flashback to a game I’ve sorely missed many times over the years: Continuum. I think my first dabble with emulation of DOS was for Continuum. Ah, that was a game! Er, was it a game? Like PilotWings 64 and Tranquility [also] … it’s radical singleplayer already done right!

Come to think of it, isn’t Parkour a modern athletic re-versioning of dérive? Is this strain of “radical singleplayer” another form of drift as well? I wonder what an intentionally Situationalist video game would look like, or maybe that’s an oxymoron of sorts?

Monty Python Fluxx pre-order and promo card

It’s now, finally, possible to buy Monty Python Fluxx, the newest variety of the card game Fluxx from Looney Labs:

Now taking preorders! All orders that contain this product will be held until Monty Python Fluxx is available – sometime in mid September – if you order other items, and you need them sooner, please place two orders.

And now for something completely different — it’s Monty Python Fluxx! Yes, that crazy card game where the rules keep changing has joined forces with Monty Python to create the Looneyest card game ever! Help King Arthur and his Knights find the Holy Grail. Bring a Shrubbery to the Knights Who Say Ni! Lob the Holy Hand Grenade at the Killer Rabbit with Nasty Big Teeth! Just do it quick, before the Goal changes again!

Monty Python Fluxx at

And, I got my Monty Python Fluxx promo card in the mail last night, but you can get your own too:

Monty Python Fluxx 1, 2, 5 Promo Card

The cheat code of the day is TURK

Via “Chinese Gold Farmers: Work or Fun?“:

“This relationship is an amazing tangle of play and work. The gold farmer works playing a game, so he can earn money which he spends playing the same game. The customer finds part of the game too much like work, so he works at another job to earn money to pay a gold farmer to play for him, so the customer can have more fun when he plays. Got it?”

The crux of the issue is poor design. Game designers are designing games that slow players down in order to get more subscription money, which from a player perspective is just lots of boring grind. So, the players are gaming the game design. For multiplayer games, cheat codes are not available, the players have found they can use throw a turk at the game to enable a kind of cheat for themselves.

This is Globalization’s version of, “Here, let me get you past this level and then I’ll give the controller back.”

But, it’s all about how the game design sucks in every MMORPG. World of Warcraft did change the recipe a bit, but there’s just too much grind still. I know that I quit Everquest because the idea of having to build another character from nothing made me sick and angry. I felt cheated, and when people feel cheated they start to feel entitled. When people feel entitled they take back for themselves.

So, if game companies keep designing boring grind, then they will simply re-create a market for turks. Frankly, when it comes down to it, every MMORPG these days is an economic simulation more than it is a game, so players will end up coming up with economic solutions.

If I’m going to play an RPG, then I want it to be a role simulation, about relationships and factions and not about collecting currency, whether that currency is gold or number of monster kills.

Wake me up when there’s an MMORPG that actually is about roleplaying. There’s just not enough fun in these games to make it worth the time.

Stardock has a Cosmic Encounter

I noticed Stardock’s walkthru of Dark Avatar includes a feature that is a key part of the game design of Cosmic Encounter. [also, also]

“Each civilization has its own unique super-ablity. And they’re not afraid to use it. Here, ‘someone’ has persuaded the Altarians to go to war with the Korx. Someone has the Super Manipulator ability…”

This is such a mash-up of memories for me. Stardock was originally a developer of software for OS/2. [see, also, also] Stardock’s original Galactic Civilizations was built to take advantage of the multitasking and multithreaded environment that OS/2 provided. Back in the early 90’s, I owned the original Galactic Civilizations as well as Stardock’s Object Desktop. Those were the days before I migrated to Linux as my primary environment. (Or, maybe I have my own timeline confused and I was already using Linux by that time.) It was in part on the strength of a help document I wrote about connecting OS/2 to the Internet via dial-up that I got my job at a regional ISP in Seattle where I was re-introduced to NeXTstep and for many years used a NeXTstation as my primary work computer.

There’s a comment on the wikipedia’s page about Stardock’s reliance “on the goodwill of its previous customers, who essentially purchased Windows subscriptions for Object Desktop in anticipation of the products it would consist of.” [via] I was one of those customers. I remember buying that to support them even though I had reservations about moving to Microsoft’s environment.

Well, the memories go back even further to the previous decade. The mash-up with Cosmic Encounter revives faded memories of my first gaming group sessions. Back in the early 80’s, I had a friend that convinced me to go to a gaming group that met at a local library and one of the games I was introduced to there was … Cosmic Encounter.

Cosmic Encounter is for me one of those games. It’s stuck in my memory. But, I never play it. I have a copy of the game, but every time I try to play it some other game is chosen. It feels a bit daunting to explain the rules and get people playing when other games are so much faster to start up. But, I think in large part what is really going on is that I don’t want to ruin my memories of the game by playing it and finding that I don’t like it any more. I guess, in a way, by not playing the game now I’m trying to preserve my memory of it.

A mash up of memories and decades …

Game developer gets gamed by players

So there’s a recent kerfuffle involving accusations of corruption in EVE Online, the game not the ecofeminism. There were some accusations of the developer colluding with favored players that created a stir. Then, after a delay, the game company responds that they’ve been framed; via Slashdot:

“The objective of this scheme was to permanently paint CCP as a biased and corrupt company that favors a select group of players over the rest of our community. In this particular case, instead of receiving notification of a possible problem and sufficient time to examine and address it, we faced a coordinated and hostile attack executed on our forums, Digg, Wikipedia, Slashdot, and other outlets at the beginning of a three-day weekend.”

Now, to pull in a thread: this was that game that got press back in 2005 for having a wildly deep in-game conspiracy that took 12 months to arrange. There were scanned magazine pages that are online describing the caper. [cache, also]

Back to the present, there’s a conspiracy involving a group of players that embroils the game developers of the game in which complex capers are enacted in a real life caper. Now, that’s ironic and deeply interesting.

I was pretty impressed by the 12 month quest that the players created for themselves back in 2005, but today I find myself reflecting that this is a game where the players have forced the developers to play a part in a game-related quest designed by the players. The players gamed the developers and nerfed the game and the developers in real life.

mmorpg, eve online, quests, conspiracy, irony, petard