Icebreaker 2 is new old

The pending release of Icebreaker 2, a video game that is a sequel to an old 3DO console game that features the virtual pre-cursor to Icehouse pyramids, snuck up on me and yelled, “Boo!”

Sorry for this tangent, but this is a game that might have been lost behind obsolete copy protection if that protection scheme had not been broken. Score one more for the anti-DRM team, and there’s now a poster child for the need to be able to circumvent DRM schemes to, actually, protect copyright holders and to, actually, encourage economic development. So, one of the real reasons for DRM is revealed: to kill old software behind obsolete barriers in order to create artificial scarcity and build in planned unilateral obsolescence.

Okay, now, back to the main topic:

Andy Looney included the news in this week’s weekly news, naturally:

Icebreaker 2 will make its official debut on July 28th at the tenth Classic Gaming Expo, held at the Riviera casino in Las Vegas. (Pre-orders not picked up at the show will be mailed out immediately afterwards.)

There’s a video preview of the game Andy posted:

I guess it’s time to dust off that 3DO again!

As another aside, while browsing around grabbing URLs for this, I was gandering are a page about pyramid obsession and scrolled down to find Andy’s “across” navigation:

It’s a bit synchronicity that I was browsing through some Xanadu information last night, but I like the idea of putting asynchronous navigation where there’s major tangents to the primary organization. Deep down, I feel like there the “across” that points northeast should occur before the “next” that points east, but I like it.

Using various “across” navigational icons, I might use them to mean thinks like “more general,” “more specific,” “see also,” and “see instead.” But, while it’s a good scheme, the main issue is that the navigation icons should be clear and concise and a taxonomy like I’m thinking is too complex to be represented by single icons. For example, the navigation would get immediately cluttered and confused if there were, say, two “see also” links.

Dwarf Fortress

I got a glimpse of “Dwarf Fortress” being played by one of my brothers. Since I generally don’t use Windows, this was something I hadn’t heard of. But, I have to tell you it was a bit of a shock to see my brother playing a game that appeared to be completely in ASCII.

That’s taking “old school” a little too far … or, is it? I have to admire that this is a modern implementation of a game using the style of an old terminal-based rogue-like game. It’s a fantastic effort in focused design. Much like poetry offers a way to distill words through structure into more than prose, the restriction of using ASCII seems to have created a grand experiment.

[also, also, also]

But, there seems to be a retro, minimalist movement. Like, the kingdom of loathing or xkcd. Like, uplink and defcon. Like, sketch fighter, too, I suppose.

So, are text MUDs and BBSs on the way back next?

Zombie Fluxx

It’s official! There’s a new member of the Fluxx family of card games: Zombie Fluxx.

Via The Wunderland Weekly News for 4/26/7:

“Yes, it’s Fluxx… with Zombies! The newest Fluxx features a new type of card: The Creeper. It’s like a Keeper you don’t want but must play anyway, and it usually stops you from winning. The good news is, Zombie Fluxx also includes a bunch of Keepers you can use as weapons against the Zombie-Creepers, including the Shotgun, the Chainsaw, and the Can of Gasoline. Plus you’ve got Sandwiches and Coffee and a couple of Friends to help you win. The bad news is, if your Friends become Zombies, you’ll have to destroy them. Welcome to the dark side of Fluxx!”

And, here’s Andy Looney himself, doing an introduction of Zombie Fluxx:

And, just because it’s about Looney Labs, you really should check out all their games, especially the spectacularly cool, but strangely ignored pyramids.

Politics in the Dark Ages of Online Games

Via Boing Boing:

“Can you be a citizen of a virtual world? That’s the question that I keep asking myself, whenever anyone tells me about the wonder of multiplayer online games, especially Second Life, the virtual world that is more creative playground than game.”

There’s been an online multiplayer RPG called Dark Ages for a long time. It’s old school. It’s isometric view. It’s chibi. But, it also has a functioning political system with offices, voting, laws, and political campains … and it’s a game that deserves to be noticed.

It’s called Dark Ages. I may not get this completely right, but I recall that it was a Korean game that was localized for the US by a US team headed by Dave Kennerly. Kennerly contributed to the game the political system and the system of religions, but of which have really good innovations for the game play. Over the years, Kennerly left and the US team bought the rights to their work and re-named themselves Kru Interactive.

There’s a small article on the game at wikipedia.

But, you should definitely check out the player-created guide to the political system “Politica Dominica” and one of Kennerly’s own articles on the political system “Dark Ages Politics in Theory and Practice.”

5,000 year old backgammon set found

Via Boing Boing and Neatorama, there’s a Persian Journal article about a 5,000 year old backgammon set that’s been found. Lots of interesting stuff, but this design sounds spiffy:

He added the board features an engraved serpent coiling around itself for 20 times, thus producing 20 slots for the game, more affectionately known in Persian as Nard.

I wish the article had a picture of the board design.

Some time I’m going to have to take a moment and figure out a timeline of when these games were played. Senet, at least the reconstructed rules I’ve played, was pretty fun. I still wish Tafl was fun, but have pretty much given up on that by now. I haven’t actually played Chaturanga, which might be fun sometime. I was briefly excited about the old Roman Latrunculi which seemed to solve the Tafl lack of fun problem.

Well, I wish there was a picture of the board design. Maybe it will get published some time.

More paper craft: Roman Seas

At the end of Oct, I got an e-mail from the creator of Whitewash City, the paper craft set of buildings available in PDF format for printing and building. I posted about that in relation to gaming in the universe of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity.

Apparently, they were doing some search for sites that had mentioned Whitewash City because they rand across my previous posts in the archives of the category. And, just who is “they” anyway? It’s Eric Hotz the designer and either some unnamed cohort or else it’s an organizational, royal we.

Anyhow, Hotz says:

Thought I would also point out that we now product Roman Seas, which is, ancient Roman naval models. We produce over 20 different ships with more on the way, including an entire city, all in 1/300th scale. This took us over 3 years to design. We are also working on a set of game rules (also called, Roman Seas) which should be ready to purchase within the next month or so.

So, you may want to check out the Roman Seas pages, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I was browsing around the site, and stumbled on the news page where there are posted links to gallery images and even a video of gameplay from Enfilade 2006, a convention of the Northwest Historical Miniture Gaming Society that was held right here in Olympia. And, no one invited me to come play. Obviously someone knew that was going on, but clearly I didn’t. That would have been fun to attend, I think, in a geeky kind of way. Well, there’s plenty of time to plan ahead for Enfilade 2007 which will be in Olympia again next May.

Yeah, I know, I just became a tool of advertizing. The least I could have gotten out of it was some freebies in exchange for my soul. But, no. All I got for a slice of my soul was an e-mail. I feel so dirty.

But, you know for all the work they’ve done, I just think I’ll have to wait until the greek fire expansion set is available.

Risus, the “Anything” RPG

I was browsing around, thinking about fan fiction writing within the Firefly / Serenity universe, and ended up on a website with an adaptation of Firefly to an very interesting roleplaying system called Risus: The Anything RPG by S. John Ross, who has an e-mail address at the old illuminati domain io.com … which is the kind of thing that not many people would think is as cool as I do. (Then again, I did score 47.14004% on a Geek Test.)

Risus is a very nice, quick and, in a good way, simple system. It reminds me of the feeling I had when reading the materials for Toon or Amber diceless game. One of the most compelling things about Toon is a built-in rule that if a player can manage to rationalize something in an entertaining way, that they should be allowed control outcomes. For Amber, the diceless aspect of the game allows for a straight-forward ranking of the characters based on their stats, such that a character might be the strongest, and therefore able to win in all contests of strenghth, another character might be smarter and therefore be able to outwit the first. No dice, just self-evident outcomes based on rankings.

The system in Risus is worth a look. The premise is that characters are built around clichés, which can be simple or complex. These clichés are give scores which are used to, essentially make “save” rolls for any kind of activity. In addition, these clichés are also used to record damage from conflicts, which is another surprisingly good way to simplify.

The beauty of the systems I’ve mentioned, including Risus, is that they are minimal frameworks to help contain a collective storytelling experience. I find myself thinking that Risus might be a great way for an author to keep track of characters in their work, whatever kind of work that might be. It could be a nice shorthand for keeping character notes.

Additionally, there’s a whole, amusing intentional culture around the Risus system, with a special “Order” to which fans and customers of the Risus Companion can sign-up. The writing is humorous and the extensive use of stick figure illustrations add to the overall effect.

The simplicity of Risus reminds me of Andy Looney’s Fluxx or Peter Suber’s Nomic, especially in the primary rule, articulated by the author Ross, that “there is no wrong way to play.” A completely minimal set of Nomic rules consists of the rule that “All players must agree to the rules.” And the initial rule card of Fluxx is the entire rule set at the beginning of the game: start with three cards, and draw 1, play 1.

I guess the only thing left is to wonder if, somehow, Risus could be used to finally make a variation of Tafl that makes it fun to play and whether there’s a way to combine Risus and Icehouse Pyramids in a fun way.

As I’m reading the Risus Companion, I’m realizing that this is as fun as reading the old West End Paranoia books which has apparently been re-released by Mongoose Publishing.

Whitewash City

Last night, I ran across this papercraft model of a wild west city, which can be used for multiple games. Whitewash City looks pretty wild, and sounds interesting. There is a game by the maker of the model city called Gold Town which is a non-violent game set in the wild west. Looking at this, I feel a big desire to get them all. I’ve always had a thing for little villages.

There’s a good gallery picture which shows the whole city laid out for a game.

I was doing some additional searching an ran across a pretty awesome and complex model of a sailing ship and a model of a tropical island. These two remind me of World of Warcraft, in style, color and theme.

Apparently, there a papercraft theme going on right now for me.

Via Drawn! The Illustration Blog, this morning there’s some funky cubist robot papercraft things: “Readymech Flatpack Toys

I get the feeling that this papercraft model stuff is a bit like the model chic surrounding Games Workshop games, but blissfully cheaper to do.

This is not the console game system you were thinking about …

All these video games, at home, from Target?! It’s a full size arcade machine, even.

Via “Uber-Review – BigGames Home Video Arcade Machine

“Target Stores will offer BigGames Home Video Arcade machines that will retail for less than $500 nationwide in November of 2005. Each unit plays 12 of the original arcade versions of the most popular Midway® games including: Defender®, Defender® II, Robotron®, Joust®, Bubbles®, Splatâ„¢, Sinistar®, Rampage®, Rootbeer Tapperâ„¢, Wizard of Worâ„¢, Timberâ„¢, and Satan’s Hollowâ„¢. The unit stands 62” tall and has an included, built-in, full color monitor. It comes with additional A/V inputs that allow (almost) any existing home video game system, DVD player, VCR or any other A/V product to be plugged in and viewed on the built-in monitor.”

Rootbeer Tapper?! Hot Damn! (Actually, it’s Joust, of all those, that rocks, but if they had Centipede with the trackball … now THAT would be a thing.)