A couple of weekends ago I had the great privilege of hanging out with the crew of the USS Loma Prieta (http://usslomaprieta.org/), a Star Trek-centered science fiction fan club based out of San Francisco. I attended their Battlestations event, which was a fundraiser for the club featuring game play of the Artemis star ship bridge simulator (http://www.artemis.eochu.com/
The event was held at WeWork Labs in SF, which was a nice space and perfectly suited to the event. The space allowed for two full Artemis crews to work together and co-op a mission. There was also a set up for a training bridge to help people new to the game get acquainted with the controls. The Artemis stations are very similar to the standard Star Trek bridge stations: Captain, helm, science, weapons, engineering, and communications. Each game takes 6 players on networked computers to work together with both their consoles and their physical communications to beat the game.
The simulation is awesome. That is actually the best word to describe it. Each console UI looks very different from the rest, and the game play itself is very realistic (based on my experiences as an actual starship captain). I suppose the next step in making it even more realistic would be to sync the Artemis game with a motion simulator under the bridge to simulate ship movement and enemy hits. Each crew member has a different, yet important job. Just like a real starship voyage, the crew is conducted by the captain.
One of the missions I played had my crew protecting our space stations from enemy attacks. I manned the communications station, and shouted incoming messages to the Captain through a microphone. I also participated in the Artemis version of Star Trek‘s “Kobayashi Maru” training exercise, which if you’re familiar with Star Trek, you will know is a no-win scenario. Needless to say, we didn’t win. My crew did last 7 minutes against the enemy ships, though!
The USS Loma Prieta puts on these events periodically for the public, but they also run Artemis sims as well as other Trek-related activities at their meetings. You can follow the USS Loma Prieta on Twitter at (https://twitter.com/
If you’re interested in the game but want to play at home or aren’t located in the Bay Area, you can purchase Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator for yourself! There is a free demo available on the Artemis website as well (http://www.artemis.eochu.com/
For the curious, here is a video from last year interviewing some of the USS Loma Prieta crew and showcasing some Artemis game play. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?
About a month ago, my friend asked me if I would be interested in learning how to play Magic: The Gathering with her. I excitedly said “heck yes!” for a couple of reasons. First, my friend is new to the nerd world and I’m delighted to show her around. Second, because I have wanted to play Magic for a LONG time.
Once upon a time when I was a little girl, I would hang out in my science teacher’s classroom during lunch. There was a group of boys who would play Magic in there. I would watch them sometimes. I liked the art on the cards and it looked like they were having fun. One time I suppressed my social anxiety enough to ask them if I could play. It was a big deal in that I was a seventh grade girl pioneering her way into this secret boys’ club. I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t think the answer would be anything other than, “sure, join us”. I was expecting the wedding scene from Fiddler on the Roof when the men and women started dancing together. What I got was, “No, that’s weird. This isn’t a girls’ game”. Yes, I’m serious. But, being 12 years old, I was only initially disappointed and then just took their word for it.
Fast forward to now, when basically all I do is sleep and play games of both the video and table top variety. Until a month ago, I still hadn’t played Magic. I had heard the unfortunate stereotypes of the players being angry rules-lawyers who spent way too much money and time on their hobby. I still kind of wanted to play, but I was worried that the rules might take a while to master (like Dungeons and Dragons) or that I would have to spend a lot of time studying strategy (like League of Legends). I didn’t have the time or inclination for any of that. My friend pointed me to the free Magic 2014 tablet game (also available on Steam), which actually taught me how to play really quickly. I like to describe the game play as “a more math-heavy version of chess with pretty pictures”. The full version of Magic 2014 is $10, but the free version is definitely enough to get you started. The tutorial was easy to get the hang of, and the game does a good job gradually increasing the difficulty as you play. After I’d become confident playing the tablet game, my friend and I went to our first Friday Night Magic draft.
There are a lot of comic book and game stores in the area who participate in Friday Night Magic. The reason we chose Space Cat (http://superspacecat.com/
Magic 2014 was recently released in card-form, as opposed to the tablet game, and I was able to draft with the new set this past Friday. There are some new creatures, some game-changing artifact cards, and a new group of Planeswalkers to get a hold of. It’s a great way to spend a Friday night, and I’m now on a mission to spread the good word of Magic: The Gathering to the rest of my gaming friends.
Steam’s Annual Summer Getaway Sale started on July 11th this year (great birthday present to me!) and already Mr. Doc and I have amassed 14 new PC games, the majority of which we haven’t even downloaded yet. And the sale doesn’t end until July 22nd. Both of us are trying our hardest to resist, but every day something goes on sale that we just can’t live without.
A recent article on attackofthefanboy.com called “The Psychology of Steam Sales,” details five key ways that Valve draws gamers to their sales: artificial scarcity, psychological reactance, a bias towards completion, commitment and consistency, and random rewards.
Artificial scarcity/psychological reactance: Valve knows that gamers love sales and by having different sales both everyday and flash sales that last only eight hours they instill a sense of fear that the games on sale might not be on sale again. For instance, July 17th’s sales featured Deus Ex: Human Revolution for $2.99. That is 85% of its usual price of $19.99. As Mr. Doc said, “Deals like that just don’t happen very often!” The radical price drops and time limits on sales cause many gamers to purchase more games than they usually would.
A bias towards completion: Gamers like to finish things. It’s the reason I have over 250 hours invested in Skyrim and Mr. Doc has over 1000 hours invested in Final Fantasy VII. Valve offers Steam Achievements for purchasing games during the Summer Sale and this year they have started offering trading cards. Each game awards cards which in turn fill up a progress bar. We gamers love to fill up progress bars only to have it start again each time it fills up.
Commitment and consistency: Gamers tend to be consistent. Most of us have a certain type of game that we enjoy more than others. Me, I like Role Playing Games or RPGs, preferably large ones like the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. Mr. Doc, on the other hand, loves his First Person Shooters like Call of Duty, Halo, or Borderlands. Valve recognized this and every eight hours they have a community poll. Three games are offered for voting on and the one with the most votes will be featured in the next flash sale. Voting on a game that wins sends a sense of commitment to those gamers who voted for it and they are more likely to purchase it while it’s on sale.
Random rewards: The tie in to all these is that Valve knows gamers like to be rewarded. It’s like perks in Fallout New Vegas, you only get one every other level but they change with each level up and with your play style so you never really know what perks you’ll be able to choose. By picking the games on sale at random, Valve is ensuring that gamers check back every so often to see what’s on sale. Everyday at 1 PM EST Mr. Doc pulls up Steam’s website and we Oooo and Ahhh over what’s on sale that day. He votes in every community choice poll and has purchased at least two different games that he voted for that have won the poll.
Valve is a master of manipulation and the internet is rife with memes featuring the Steam Sale. I would like to offer this gem from the Attack of the Fanboy article in closing as I feel it sums up my feelings exactly.
Planning on hitting up Stan Lee’s Comikaze this year? You should be. This year looks like it’s going to be spectacular. Just the comic, scifi, gaming, fantasy, anime, and horror expo you’d expect to see from Stan Lee. Take a look into what’s in store for this year:
I love that Dot Com will be there. I hope he gets plenty of “No one can hear you, Dot Com!” jokes.
All in all, it looks like a fantastic lineup, and tickets are now on sale. Beyond that, we have some insider info that they’re having a 72-hour sale on tickets right now. So if you’re planning on going, now’s the time to check out your options – weekend passes, in particular, are a great deal today.
How many games do you have sitting your shelf that you’ve already played through, and barely even look at anymore? And how many games are there that you’ve been wanting to play – maybe even for years – but you just can’t justify the purchase of them, perhaps even because of the collection you already have? Of course you can trade in old games to corporate companies like GameStop or Best Buy, and even purchase used games. But let’s be honest.. that’s kind of a rip. They don’t give you much for your trade-in, and turn around and sell it as used for more than twice as much.
This is exactly the conundrum a group of gamers was discussing over at Reddit a while back, and developed it into a solution. Now, you can head over to 99gamers.com to trade your games one-on-one with other gamers, and receive and pay amounts much closer to the game’s value. Personally, I love this idea. It’s a process that’s been much-needed in the gaming community for quite a while, and it’s finally here. To hear more about the service, we recently contacted Brandon Kruzeniski of 99Gamers for some questions.
NiB- What is 99gamers.com?
BK- 99Gamers is a video game trading community. Members use 99Gamers as a platform to trade directly with each other. Members add their unwanted video games and sell them to other members for a virtual currency called ‘coins’ which are valued at $1 per coin. Members can then spend their earned coins on other games.
BK- I’m one of the founders of 99Gamers with the other being my brother Jon.
BK- I originally got the idea for a video game trading site when I came across a post on Reddit about how someone would shoot darts at their game collection to choose which game they would play next. I realized that this random person had a bunch of games that I would love to play but just haven’t had the chance to. I turned to my game collection and thought that this person would probably feel the same way about my game collection.
I was also tired of getting ripped off by GameStop, knowing they would turn around and sell the game for double the next day. I knew other video game trading sites existed, but none of them were what I wanted them to be.
I wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in something like this so I decided to post it to Reddit and see what the response was like. I was thinking maybe a few hundred people would see it and I’d be able to get some feedback on the idea, but within a few hours the post was at the top of r/gaming and even hit the front page for a while, resulting in thousands of signups. I then knew enough people felt the same way I did so I went forward with the site.
BK- First, we save people a lot of money. Trading on the site is completely free so you’ll really start to see the savings add up quickly. 99Gamers is built by gamers for gamers with the sole intention of getting more value out of your game collection. We are a platform for gamers to trade directly with each other so the middle man can be cut out. Many people feel like they get ripped off when using trade-in services so 99Gamers can be used as that alternative.
I’ve also found that because you have access to such a large game library you are more inclined to try out games you may have not given a chance before. You are then more likely to purchase the sequel when it comes out. For example I hadn’t played the Dead Space series yet but after getting the games through 99Gamers I ended up buying Dead Space 3 new.
BK- We haven’t received any backlash at all. We’re still fairly new and have been mostly underground so it’s doubtful they know about us yet.
BK- We came out of beta about two months ago and we’re starting to pick up momentum. Just last week, it was nine months since I originally posted about the idea on Reddit so I did a follow up post about our progress so far. We ended up hitting the front page again which resulted in us more than doubling our user base within 24 hours. We went from having 2,300 members to now almost 6,000.
BK- Yes, I believe it has been received quite well. Both Reddit posts reached the front page which shows many people share the same feelings of not wanting to get ripped off by trade-in offers. When members trade directly with one another games can be offered at a lower value and people tend to appreciate knowing that their games will be going to a good home.
BK- Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 3 have been popular over the last few months. Now that the new Tomb Raider is out it usually gets picked up quite quickly. Pokémon games are of course always popular as everyone loves playing them. I’ve found people will often buy every game in a series together. The Mass Effect series has been very popular in the past.
BK- I actually had a list of games I had wanted when I came up with the idea and wouldn’t allow myself to get them through anywhere but 99Gamers. A few I’ve gotten are Kingdom Hearts, Max Payne 3, Pokémon SoulSilver and Assassin’s Creed II. One that I hadn’t yet received was Just Cause 2 but after the Reddit post last week I managed to grab it and it’s now on its way!
BK- Up next we’ll be adding PC games and digital codes. The search, browse and profile pages are getting a much improved new look. These will help members discover new and interesting games faster.
Down the road we plan on adding consoles and gaming accessories into the mix as well as some more exciting features. Our main goal continues to make buying and selling games as easy as possible so our members can spend more time playing games.
You can visit 99Gamers here: http://99gamers.com – Hopefully you’ll find something you’ve been wanting. Let us know how it goes!
Doncha just love The Guild? One of the best acted, funniest written, most colorful TV shows out there, and it isn’t even on TV!
The Guild‘s comic counterpart is also funny, poignant, and well written. As well as colorful. Of course, this is no doubt because the folks involved in the creation of the show are also involved in the creation of the comic. So all the back stories we get from our beloved characters is indeed canon, and I shall remember what Vork’s grandfather was like and chuckle at seeing the torrid story of Bladezz’ modeling career all over again when I watch my favorite episodes. Oh, and how Clara met her husband? Good times.
The art is as colorful, cheerful, and charming as the show, and captures the characters perfectly without needing to be photorealistic portraits of the actors. And it’s really fun to see the characters actually interacting as their avatars within game world environments. Makes me kinda wish we saw more of that in the show. I bet that’s a huge budget jump, though, huh. Well it’s great to see here.
This Guild collection is composed of several characters’, well, origin stories, framed of course with their interactions while playing The Game. It’s enriching for those who are already fans, and gives a solid foundation for anyone new to the series. This particular collection also leads right up to Episode 1. My favorite character story by far has to be Zaboo’s, because of the cute and hilarious little mini-games sprinkled throughout his journey. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could make those into actual interactive puzzles in the online version? Oo. You can steal that idea, Felicia Day.
Bottom line: I highly recommend The Guild in general, and this collection is an excellent way to start, or enrich, your Guild fandom. ~Prof. Jenn
This is a follow up to my last WoW post about the upcoming Female Panderan Models. A few weeks ago, Blizzard finally released the Female Panderan model and they look amazing! All the images are from World of Warcraft.
They aren’t just skinny pandas, they resemble the Male Panderan, but still retain that female quality. It isn’t quite a male with a bow on its head, but it isn’t that far off either. Some people might not like the models, but then they don’t have to play them. With the beta getting into full swing more people can play with both Panderan models and find any bugs that might occur. This way the designers can make the models even better. And in a complete turn around, the female models seem to have better animations than the male models, which get stuck in the frame pose from time to time. It is usually the female models that have the most issues, so it’s nice to see that Blizzard must have worked hard at making the female models even better this time around.
Dominion is a game of chance, strategy and conquer published by Rio Grande Games. Dominion is a deck building card game where you create your own deck as you play. In Magic the Gathering, you begin the game with a deck that you have already created, while in a game like Munchkin you create your spread from a deck that everyone chooses from. In Dominion, each person starts with ten cards, and purchases from the decks that are available to others.
Confused? Actually it’s quite simple once you understand the mechanics of the game.
In the magical box, there are five main classes of cards:
VICTORY cards – These are signified by green embellishment and generally have no value during the game, but the point of the game is to end up with the largest amount of land.
TREASURE cards – These are signified by gold embellishment and are used during the buy phase of your turn. They typically generate coins to spend on other cards (and sometimes they have other effects).
ACTION cards – These are often signified by parchment white embellishment. These generate effects during a player’s turn offering them bonuses. Some also issue negative effects for the other players.
CURSE cards – These are signified by purple embellishment. A curse card during play is much like a Victory card, but it has a negative point value that counts against your final tally.
REACTION cards – These are often signified by blue embellishment and can be used outside of your turn in response to a certain event, like an attack.
So , Ali… How do you play the game?
Thank you for asking, internet stranger!
Before the game begins, there is a setup phase. In the base game, there are 25 of them. The card titles are Adventurer, Bureaucrat, Cellar, Chancellor, Chapel, Council Room, Feast, Festival, Gardens, Laboratory, Library, Market, Militia, Mine, Moat, Moneylender, Remodel, Smithy, Spy, Thief, Throne Room, Village, Witch, Woodcutter, and Workshop. You have ten of most cards and they are the cards you can purchase throughout the game to create your deck.
Only TEN of the Kingdom Cards are used during each game, so game can vary greatly on the cards chosen. Some people play where someone will select the cards, but we do it this way. There is a deck consisting of an extra “Kingdom Card”. We randomly select ten of those cards and they are placed on the table in addition to stacks of Victory cards and stacks of Treasure cards (of varying values/costs). These are the stacks that you will use to build your deck.
Each player starts with 3 Estates and 7 Copper. This is your starting “deck”. You shuffle the cards and draw five cards. The first player then gets to participate in the following steps for their turn:
1. ACTION: If you have an action card in your hand you choose to play it. It can give you a bonus or screw an opponent.
2. BUY: You start with one buy for your turn. If your ACTION gives you a bonus buy, you can buy two things. You use whatever Treasure cards you have in your hand (gold embellishments) to purchase a single card from any of the decks that you can afford. The purchase price of the card is located on the bottom left of each card. You don’t need to use all of your coins, nor do you need to use multiple buys if you are granted them.
3. CLEAN-UP: At the end of your turn, all cards in your hand (and purchased card) is placed into your face-up discard pile. You then draw five new cards from your deck.
The player on your left’s turn then begins. They have their action, buy, and clean-up rounds and then it continues to you.
When your deck is all facing upwards, you shuffle it and that becomes your deck. The first few turns consist of a lot of shuffling, but once you amass a sizeable deck each time you draw you get a hand that is customized to your own strategy.
The game is over two ways:
When the stack of the highest Victory card has been depleted (in the base game that is the Province card)
When a certain amount of stacks on the table have been depleted (it varies on the amount of players).
When gameplay ends, it is each players responsibility to separate the cards of their deck (to file away for another game) and count the Victory cards they have collected. The person with the highest score is the winner.
I understand that this seems like an extremely confusing game, but I have found it to be SO much easier to deal with than Munchkin. In Munchkin there is such a variety of cards it tends to be overwhelming. In Dominion it keeps the actual action cards to a minimum and allows you a better understanding/utilization of what is available.
The best part is that with 25 different cards available, there are so many permutations of what you could actually play. It keeps the game fresh and the cards work differently together so your strategy alters during the time you spend. Also, it’s easier to keep some of the more devious* players in check. When there are three hundred different cards, it’s hard to keep some people honest.
After you’ve gotten the hang of the base system of Dominion, you may even consider adding in the expansion sets.
Intrigue pulls in the seedier side of things with the addition of Baron, Bridge, Conspirator, Coppersmith, Courtyard, Duke, Great Hall, Harem, Ironworks, Masquerade, Mining Village, Minion, Nobles, Pawn, Saboteur, Scout, Secret Chamber, Shanty Town, Steward, Swindler, Torturer, Trading Post, Tribute, Upgrade, and Wishing Well.
Seaside lets you gets you waterlogged with the addition of Ambassador, Bazaar, Caravan, Cutpurse, Embargo, Explorer, Fishing Village, Ghost Ship, Haven, Island, Lighthouse, Lookout, Merchant Ship, Native Village, Navigator, Outpost, Pearl Diver, Pirate Ship, Salvager, Sea Hag, Smugglers, Tactician, Treasure Map, Treasury, Warehouse, and Wharf.
Alchemy lets you dabble in mixology with the addition of Alchemist, Apothecary, Apprentice, Familiar, Golem, Herbalist, Philosopher’s Stone, Possession, Scrying Pool, Transmute, University, and Vineyard.
Prosperity lets you get your greed on with the addition of Bank, Bishop, City, Contraband, Counting House, Expand, Forge, Goons, Grand Market, Hoard, King’s Court, Loan, Mint, Monument, Mountebank, Peddler, Quarry, Rabble, Royal Seal, Talisman, Trade Route, Vault, Venture, Watchtower, and Worker’s Village.
Cornucopia adds more variety with the addition of Fairgrounds, Farming Village, Fortune Teller, Hamlet, Harvest, Horn of Plenty, Horse Traders, Hunting Party, Jester, Menagerie, Remake, Tournament, and Young Witch
Hinterlands encourages your wanderlust with the addition of Border Village, Cache, Cartographer, Crossroads, Develop, Duchess, Embassy, Farmland, Fool’s Gold, Haggler, Highway, Ill-Gotten Gains, Inn, Jack of All Trades, Mandarin, Margrave, Noble Brigand, Nomad Camp, Oasis, Oracle, Scheme, Silk Road, Spice Merchant, Stables, Trader, and Tunnel.
Rio Grande Games will also be releasing a replacement pack (for when your regularly used cards get oogey) in March 2012, an expansion called Dark Ages in August 2012, and an expansion called The Guilds in Spring 2013. Visit their website here.
*Devious players aren’t bad people. Some people really take gaming seriously and always want to win so they operate differently.
There is one new web series you should check out in the New Year: Standard Action. It’s based on Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy RPGs, but incorporates all kinds of pop culture. In D&D terms a “standard action” is an action that allows you to do something, i.e. attack or cast a spell. Standard Action was created by Joanna Gaskall and is shot in Vancouver. It has a small main cast, with many guest actors as the series goes on.
The cast stars Joanna Gaskall as Edda, an Elven Barbarian, Daniel Johnston as Martin, a Druid allergic to trees and who won’t heal, Edwin Perez as Fernando, an eternally optimistic half-Halfling Bard, and Tara Pratt as Wendy who prefers to be called Gwenevere and is more concerned with her looks and reputation than most other things. The series’ first four episodes are to introduce the characters to the viewers and to each other. The show then moves onto a quest to save Wendy’s and Fernando’s friends which morphs into saving the area.
Standard Action has 13 episodes (plus episode 6.5), which are all short and easily watchable in one day. The production value of the episodes are excellent. Everything from the costumes, makeup and setting are very well put together and believable. The writing is some of the funniest I’ve heard in a long time, web series or not. The dialogue is snappy and clever. There are many references to D&D, modern music, and more. If you don’t play D&D or any other type of fantasy RPGs, then some of the jokes might not make sense to you, but I don’t think that will detract from any enjoyment of the show. Each of the characters has a distinctive voice, all the while mocking (in a lovingly way) the tropes of their characters.
Speaking of characters, for a short web series the characters start off well developed and continue to evolve as the show goes on. They don’t get along at first and fumble their way through to the end, but at the end the group comes together to defeat the villain.
There were a few issues I had. First, in a few episodes the visual (mouth movements and prop sounds) didn’t match up to the audio. Secondly, I had some video stuttering where the audio kept going while the visuals were frozen. However, I am willing to blame those two things on Youtube, my internet connection, and my choice in watching it in 1080p. Perhaps with a better connection or a smaller size, those issues would not occur. My other minor problems was that sometimes the actor’s dialogue was hard to hear and the music got a little loud. Those are minor like I said and can be overlooked.
If you’d like to watch Standard Action you can watch it at the website http://watchstandardaction.com/ (which is linked above as well) which links to the videos at Youtube. Here’s the first episode to see if you want to watch the show:
Since it’s the Christmas season, and since Christmas is about sharing, I thought it would be nice to share two of my favorite Youtube channels with everyone. They are both focused (mainly) on gaming. Both channels have some swearing, so if you are sensitive to that, you should skip them. If you aren’t, you might like them! Give them a shot either way and see if they work for you.
First up is OMFGcata. It started out as a channel for commentary about the WoW Cataclysm Beta, but has since branched out into Minecraft, Skyrim, SWTOR Beta, Terraria, The Witcher 2 and more. The leading force behind the channel is Jesse Cox, a voice actor, but he has amassed other cohorts to enrich his channel. They include: Pride, Blondie, the whole Minecraft RPGMakers Crew, and many, many more.
Jesse has the habit of singing anything that comes into his head. He also has the habit of picking up anything he can in games (specifically Skyrim) and becoming overburdened. He plays through games how he normally would, if not filming, and not for fans, much to the annoyance of some viewers. Jesse does take suggestions and tips, but it never dictates his playthroughs.
The videos on OMFGcata are funny and entertaining, all one could ask for in a Youtube channel. Here’s a video of his latest Skyrim video:
The second channel is The Yogscast. It also started out with WoW videos, but has then branched out to encompass many other games including, Minecraft, Saints Row the Third, Heroes of Newerth, and more. The two main commentators are Simon and Lewis who fumble their way through many games. Occasionally accompanying them on adventures are Hannah (who has her own playthroughs on Yogscast 2), Peva, Tinman, Fumblemore, and many others.
They are best known for their Minecraft videos and especially their ongoing series, Shadow of Israphel, but many people found them because of WoW. Lewis and Simon used to make podcasts, but haven’t updated that in quite some time since they are very busy. Much like Jesse; Lewis and Simon tend to play games that they want to play, even when fans scream for more Minecraft.
Every video they make has something humorous happen, from Simon pushing Lewis into deep holes to the two men being scared by Creepers. Here’s their latest Advent Calendar video: