Browsing the blog archives for January, 2007

Command and Conquer 3

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Haven’t been posting much lately, I’ve gotten myself wrapped up in playing around with the Maya Personal Learning Edition and so most of my time has been eaten up with learning new things and trying to make some cool stuff. Anyway, I just spent a couple of minutes checking out some videos on YouTube for the new Command and Conquer game. It’s looking pretty darn cool right now, and I’m hoping this new game will solve some of the design problems that have always plagued C&C (Turtle-prone gameplay, lame harvester destroying attrition tactics). Even though I didn’t play it much, C&C Generals seemed like a step in the right direction.

Now lets just hope EA doesn’t manage to botch this thing up.

Ramblings on GMing Voice

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As I mentioned in my previous post about WoAdWriMo, I’ve been thinking about starting up my D&D campaign again in a few months, and so am starting to think a little bit about GMing topics again. Add on to that the fact that our group just started up another new campaign (Yeah…) and it’s been on my mind quite a bit lately.

One of the other guys in our group has begun his new campaign in DragonStar, which I previously talked about here, and it’s going pretty well. I’m still kind of worried about how it’s going to work out beyond these few initial steps — We’re drawing from about 20 books total, including both magic and technology, and in essence there is a counter to everything. Fantasy D&D itself is already quite problematic with the obscene number of spells in unforeseen combinations it has, adding technology into the mix just makes it that much more troublesome. Anyway, I’m starting to drift.

Playing this campaign has gotten me started on thinking about GMing voice as an important factor in the game. Now — I basically take it for granted here that “the best” campaign is one in which the GM is doing as little as possible, meaning the players are so engaged with their characters and the campaign world that they don’t need pushing and prodding. But getting to that gaming nirvana is no easy matter, and one certainly can’t expect to start there. The degree of a push any game needs to get rolling, though, is up to the players, how well everyone interacts and plays off of each other, how much each person’s creative vision overlaps with everyone else’s, and so on.

One of the things I was noticing while playing in the DragonStar campaign is how much a bad GMing “voice” so to speak, can hinder involvement in the game. Now for the purpose of structuring my thoughts I’m dividing up “voice” into three categories:

– Narrative style
– Vocabulary
– Demeanor

Narrative style refers to basically how you tell your story. How much description do you use, do you “act” out the lines NPCs say or merely describe them? My general feeling here is that if you’re running a homebrew campaign setting you definitely need to step up the description. Now I’m not advocating writing up a block of text such as you might see in a prewritten adventure (unless doing so will help you remember the description better on the fly), since nobody really listens to the block of text. The idea here is that if someone asks a question about the environment you need to be able to field that question.

On a similar note, when you are using NPCs by and large I think it’s much more immersive to “act” as the NPC rather than to describe what they say or do. I know I personally have trouble doing this, as I’m not particularly dramatically inclined. On the other hand, it really does improve the game for the players to feel like they are interacting directly with the NPC rather than through this distancing membrane. Discretion, of course, is required, as not every NPC should be so readily accessible. For mysterious characters, distancing will add to their mystique.

Vocabulary is raw word choice, and when done wrong is probably the single easiest thing that can undermine your “GM Voice” authority. I know I personally tend to use stopgaps such as “Uh”, “Um”, and “Like” too much. Controlling this tendency is something I’m always struggling with. My friend running the DragonStar campaign has a similar problem with “Basically” — The word, when used frequently in descriptions, conveys a sense of hemming-and-hawing, a sense of uncertainty that is a stumbling block for immersion.

Demeanor I’m throwing in here to indicate what I consider intangibles or extras that can affect your game. If you’re such a nice guy that you will refuse to kill off characters this will definitely affect how players interact with your campaign. The alternative is being ruthless, which can encourage competitive “Beat the GM” play.

All of these categories are rather fluid and flow into each other. For example, I think a GM’s ability to do, say, comic character voices falls into a general sense of his demeanor — But it also influences the descriptiveness of the game when used with the right intent. In the latter case this becomes acting, which is effectively character description by demonstration. Despite that the categories are fluid, in thinking about how I want to conduct my campaign in the future I find them somewhat useful to think about as they give me general areas I can focus in on and improve.

New Year, New Start

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We’re well into 2007 already, so I figure I may as well make a resolution for myself. My resolution is to get all of my computer-related effects in order. This, of course, is a monumental task that I’ll be lucky to accomplish this year, but it’s worth it. I need to do this for my peace of mind, as it’s really difficult for me to move on to new things when I feel like what I already am invested in is in disarray.

Computer organization is a pretty broad category, so I guess I’ll define some subcategories
Blog — Getting the blog here in a state that I’ll be happy with for the foreseeable future.
Images — Getting all of my images organized in a sensible way, preferably with some sort of easy tagging system for quick searching across all images on my hard drive. I have many gigabytes of images accumulated over the years, so this is probably the most substantial task.
Music — Same as with Images, but with substantial amounts of work already done. Mostly this involves copying the music from the rest of my CD collection onto my computer and then backing it all up on DVDs.
Programs and File Structure — This one isn’t all that big, but most of the work here seems to be in planning. Windows programs tend to like to install shortcuts to themselves on the Desktop and in the Start Menu… And while I have my Desktop relatively clean of extraneous program shortcuts, my Start Menu is a mess. Ideally I need to think up some good categories (e.g. “Audio Programs”, “Photography/Video Programs”, etc) and organize that way. Unfortunately it’s not quite that easy, with some programs fitting in multiple categories, or related and synergistic programs being broken up into different categories…

First task in organization? Well, I’m going to clean out my blogroll a bit and possibly add some more structure to it (although I don’t know if I’ll bother with the latter — I tend to view the blogroll as my own personal reference for sites to read). I also added a new page with an extended blogroll to it so that I can keep my frontpage blogroll short and unintimidating, but provide more links and resources for people who find they have similar tastes.