Saturday, August 20, 2016

Computer games and me

This is me.
I'm a computer game addict.  Which is why I don't play them any more.  I used to play games for hours on end and despite the lack of enjoyment, the tiredness, the headaches and the feeling of emptiness I felt after finished them, I would still come back for more.

Eventually, I decided that there were far more good things in my life that I should focus on - my wife, my friends, learning things and creating things of value.  They all contributed to a lasting feeling of happiness.  


It all started when I was very young and I was visiting my aunty and uncle, who had a computer.  This was a big thing for me at the time because the only other computer I had seen was my primary school's one RM nimbus which could play the game Snake.

Naturally, there was always a big rush to use this amazing machine.

However, this tape based computer that my aunty and uncle owned could play this great game called Tachyon Fighter.  I'm no neuroscientist, but I can imagine that the game probably gave the biggest input of information I had ever had - the lights, the colours, the sounds, the need to win.  It was hypnotic and it gave me a great rush.

Every time I visited, I would spend most of my time in front of this computer, waiting for several minutes in the hope that the tape would work and load the game properly this time.  As time went on, the tape based computer was replaced by an Atari ST with floppy discs and a wider range of games with better graphics and more addictive gameplay.

Then came the day that they upgraded to an Apple Mac.  And I got the Atari.

I remember that within ten minutes, I had put a lead in a socket incorrectly and almost broken it.  However, it was fixed and that's when my gameplaying started in earnest.

My uncle had collected all of the ST format magazines which I had read cover to cover before, but then I also got to play every game from the cover discs.  I played them all, spending thousands of hours perfecting my game playing skills.  Many school holidays would fly by in front of the little green desktop.  Sometimes, I would have a platform game day and sometimes I would have an RPG day.  I have a bit of an obsessive nature where I want to explore everything to its fullest extent and this made me a sucker for most computer games like the roguelike game Moria. 

I had the ST for about three years before it ran down and it was replaced for a really old second hand Atari cartridge console which had games with terrible graphics and simplistic gameplay before that also broke down and I received the Mac in 1999 when my uncle upgraded again.

This computer only had a couple of games, but that's when there were plenty of games on the internet.  I played a game called Archmage and a cute little RPG called Dragon Court.  I was definitely showing signs of addictive behaviour.  I never had the internet in my home, so I would spend half an hour walking into town, just to use a library or internet cafe computer to play Dragon Court.  Then I would have to walk back.  I wasted money on an internet cafe if I couldn't book a free library computer just so I could get access to my game accounts.


I never realised that I was addicted until my final year of university when I would stay up until two in the morning playing Command and Conquer, not realy enjoying it and going through the motions.  I had done this before with the game Civilization IV when I was a teenager but I could stay up all night once in a while and it didn't affect me at school etc.  This was affecting my grades and social life at university.

It never got to the stage where I missed lectures or never came out of my room for days on end, but I could have done a lot better in all fields if I hadn't been playing computer games.

NWN:  10% action,
90% trudging back and forth
After my degree, I started training as a teacher, which took up huge amounts of time.  However, I still played games.  I was now playing and creating maps for Battle for Wesnoth and trying to complete the adventure in Neverwinter Nights.

It was not until I moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife) and I was teaching as a job, that I realised that I had to prioritise my time.  I couldn't do my job well if I was playing Neverwinter Nights for two hours a night, mostly involving level grinding and getting an item in one far corner of the city and transporting it to another far corner of the city in order to get to the next stage.

She didn't mind the gaming but it
he went too far when he started
doing a poo at the console.
My girlfriend did not appreciate it either although she is too tolerant to go to extreme lengths.  I had to cut something out.  All I had to think about was how I felt after saving a game in Neverwinter Nights.  I would always think to myself 'What have I got to show for this?  A file with some code in it, a headache and a feeling of tiredness.  This is no way to spend your free time.'


Computer games did nothing for me and I had other, more fulfilling things in my life.  After a few weeks without computer games, I felt much better and I've not wanted to go back.

I put hours of effort into
getting a picture on a screen.
I find computer games to be a waste of my life.  I sunk hours into controlling some graphics on a screen, desperate to see the consequences of my actions.

For the most part, I don't remember feeling much satisfaction, I just felt a compulsion to 'get through it'.



However, there was always another level (and if the game had a level editor then I would be on that for hours too), another way of winning, another challenge I could set myself and there were an infinite number of other games to play.

The only way that I would get out of this gaming habit was that if I just said no.

Originally, I intended this post to be an introduction to how certain computer games have given me material for gamebooks, but instead, it was an account of all the hours I wasted playing them when because I couldn't get away from them.  However, I am glad that I wrote about it.

In future posts, I will write about specific computer games and what they have added to my gamebook writing and why gamebooks are better for me than computer games.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

AdvancedFighting Fantasy 2nd edition monster - Bigfoot

Funny thing, Bigfoot.  I would imagine the existence of what appears to be just another species of ape should have been proved or disproved years ago.  However, it hasn't.  some conspiracy theorists believe that this is because the Bigfoot 'race' can actually transport themselves between dimensions.  Never thought of that one. Who knows what bigfoots are really up to?

Bear in mind that not all aspects of Bigfoots are known until one is caught.  Maybe they are just big apes, or maybe they are an intelligent dimension hopping species with their own goals and desires.

Bigfoot

NUMBER ENCOUNTERED:  1

LOCATION:  Anywhere.

REACTION:  Neutral

INTELLIGENCE:  Average? High?

CREATURE TYPE:  Animal? Humanoid?

SKILL 8

STAMINA 12

LUCK 6

MAGIC: 8

MAGIC POINTS:  18

SKILLS:  Strength 4, Awareness 4, Hunting 4, Fishing 3, and possibly some knowledge based ones?

TALENTS:  Survivor, Strongarm, and possible more?

WEAPON:  Large Fist

ARMOUR:  Light

SPECIAL:

Dimensional blinking?:  Bigfoots can go from one dimension to another. This might just be a case of teleporting from one place to another or they might be able to travel through time or to different worlds.  The cost of this depends on how far they travel and whether it is through just space, or time as well and also if they want to control it precisely.  Teleporting a few metres costs 1 magic point.  Teleporting to a specific year and place would cost up to 18 magic points.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Entries now being accepted for the Windhammer Prize

Entries now being accepted for the 2016 Windhammer Prize
Arborell.com is pleased to announce the commencement of the 2016 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction. Entries are now being accepted, with the initial submission phase running from the 1st of August to the 7th of September. All prospective entrants should note that there have been some minor changes to the prize pool guidelines and these should be viewed prior to entry.
Now in its ninth year this contest is proudly sponsored by Arborell.com and continues as a means to promote the gamebook genre, and to provide exposure within a competitive environment for aspiring gamebook authors. In particular this prize values creative and original works of gamebook fiction. The challenge given to those who wish to participate the development of a full gamebook experience whilst meeting stringent requirements regarding length and original content. This competition is open to all gamebook writers and requires no entry fee or other costs.
All information regarding this year's comp including full entry guidelines, competition schedule and prize details can be found at the Windhammer Prize webpage at
http://www.arborell.com/windhammer_prize.html
For more information on the Chronicles of Arborell gamebook series, sponsors of this competition, go to http://www.arborell.com/
May Glory and Renown follow all who enter.
Regards
Wayne Densley
2016 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction
http://www.arborell.com/windhammer_prize.html

Monday, August 1, 2016

Legend of the Wayfarer in its new incarnation

Hello all! I have been tinkering with Legend of the Wayfarer again (is this how games are really made?) and I ahve come up with a new version. It is now more of a solo player hexcrawl. I am also going to tone down the combat with now specific ability for combat, but I will take every combat as it comes. This version is more story based and set in an almost medieval Eurpoe analogue (I will be borrowing from other cultures when I think it will spice things up. There is also some magick, but it is very low key and monsters but they are rare. Faeries make mischeif but usually stay away from humanity and gods roam the world, but they are very low powered compared to what you would expect. In DnD terms, the people are around 0-1st level and the gods and monsters are around 5th level at most).

Since this is moving towards story and exploration, I am working on a more gamey DnD version which will involve hexs, dungeons, wizards, orcs etc.

The new version is for you to have a look at. I will be releasing more materials as I make them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tunnels and Trolls magic weapon solo

Hello lovely gamebookers! I'm currently working on something that I've wanted to for a while - I am a fan of Tunnels and Trolls and I wanted to create a solo where you can go on quests to help make your own personalised magic weapon. This weapon would be able to gain powers as you gain in level, so it would be a weapon that you could never outgrow.

The solo would involve you questing and collecting points to spend on your magic weapon at the end of the book where you could pick powers. The powers were in levels, so higher level powers are more expensive. You are allowed to buy a power at a higher level, but you can't use it until you get to that level. So, if you buy a power that increases your adds at levels 3, 4 and 5, then as you go up in level, your adds will increase.

Here is the document so far - it is still a work in progress, so expect updates. Please feel free to leave any comments about the powers - are the levels appropriate? Will the weapon be powerful enough, but not too powerful? Are there any powers that you want to include?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tunnels and Trolls solo rules updated for Deluxe edition

Hello world! First of all, a big shout out to my readers in Russia - there seems to be loads of traffic coming from Russia in the past few days. Thanks for your attention :)

Secondly of all, I have just written some rules for Tunnels and Trolls solos using the Deluxe edition. I love that Tunnels and Trolls has so many solo adventures. I have written a few of my own (for PWYW!) and when I did, I came up with solo rules then.

I love Tunnels and Trolls solos, but most were restrictive on the level you had to play at and whether magic was allowed or not (normally it wasn't), so I made these rules for all characters to enjoy solos. I have done it again for the Deluxe edition (which is really awesome). I have another idea for a solo lined up which I hpe will come into being one day, so I updated these rules for that. However, if you want to have a look at the rules no, here they are!

So check out my solo rules.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Too much healing bad for a game?

I was reading a post on the Alex Schroeder blog about how he has No clerics in his game. He gave reasons for this, half of which involve the use of healing magic and how it makes combat longer, devalues hit points as resource, reduces the need for recovery periods and puts pressure on the player playing the cleric to heal people all the time.

This does strike a chord with me that also resonates with the philosphy in Magic the Gathering that a card that grants just life gain does nothing but buy time and does not affect the board or card advantage. In gaming terms, if you are up against an impossible opponent, then healing is just going to give you a few more rounds to lose. It is also very true of some Fighting Fantasy books where having a stamina of 24, 40 stamina points worth of provisions and a potion that restores all lost stamina will not stop you getting killed if your skill is relatively low. However, if your skill is middling-high, then all that healing will make you invincible, so we have the worst of situations where either no amount of healing will not prevent you getting killed or the healing removes all sense of tension from the game.

I guess the only time healing is actually game changing is if it saves you from a borderline loss, possibly due to bad luck. So mechanically, the best healing would be healing that happens when your hitpoints/stamina/endurance/whatever is below a certain value and then it raises it to the "safe zone" to mitigate the effects of bad dice rolls made from good decisions.

I will endeveour to do this in my gamebooks. In my Legend of the Wayfarer world, there is magick (with a k, because that's cool) which is restricted to changing the tides of fortune in a small way. Anyhting else will require rare artefacts a tome of spells and performing complex rituals. There is also mysticism which allows the character to be in touch with the natural energies of the world and so they are more in tune with the spirits and fae, so they are able to communicate with them better, resist their influence and possibly ward them for a short time. However, there is no healing magic, apart from some gods of healing (and even for them, in dnd terms they are restricted to spells of 3rd level and lower). There are also healers, but they can only restore 1 Vitality Point per day, which means that f your character is on a quest that involves a time limit (and my updated rules include time tracking partly for this purpose), then that leads to interesting decisions. Of course, it is possible to buy some portable healing that you could use as much as you like, but it costs 5 times the price of a healer per Vitality Point, so it won't be used frivolously. This leads to some interesting situations where time, money and Vitality are a limited resource that has to be used wisely, which would mean more decision making. Of course, if there were clerics wandering the land offering healing or items that restore all lost Vitality on sale for a low price then this would remove the situations.

I know removing convenient healing might sound contentious as healing items are a nice safety net against things going wrong, but it might remove a lot of tension from a game where it makes too much of a difference or give you false hope and waste your time if it cannot make any difference.