Monday, 30 April 2012

Random message board post...

 This makes me happy.

"Just spent an amazing couple of hours with the kids playing Hidden In Plain Sight.... Tears running down our faces and sides aching."

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Earth Dragon

Earth Dragon by Forrest Imel
We have new releases coming along shortly with many things in various states of editing and a whole whack of art coming in. Right now, I should be working on Monsters Unleashed but I do not like my work on the Ioun Beholder so it is time to break away from that.

One of our newest artists is Forrest Imel. You can see Forrest's work here.

The image to the right is a piece of stock art we are selling with Forrest. Forrest had created this piece for his own use but allowed us to license it for stock art sale. Currently, he doesn't have any statistics so I thought I might take a moment to do them up here.

Earth Dragon (CR 5; 1,600 XP)
NE Large dragon
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +10
[Defenses]
AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 17
(+1 Dex, +8 natural, -1 size)
hp 57 (6d12+18)
Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +6
Immune sleep, paralysis; Resist fire 10
Special Attack earthstrike (+13 trip)
[Offense]
Speed 30 ft.
Melee bite +11 (1d8+6), 2 claws +11 (1d6+6), tail slap +9 (1d8+3)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with tail slap)
Str 22, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 8, Wis 13, Cha 14
Base Atk +6; CMB +13 (+15 sunder); CMD 24 (26 vs. sunder)
Feats Multiattack, Improved Sunder, Power Attack
Skills Climb +15, Intimidate +11, Perception +10, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +6
Languages Draconic
[Ecology]
Environment warm deserts or areas with volcanism
Organization solitary
Treasure standard
[Special Abilities]
Earthstrike (Ex) As a full-round action the earth dragon can strike the ground with incredible force. It makes a trip attack CMB +13 against all opponents standing within 30 ft. of it. This action does not provoke attacks of opponent. Any creature tripped is knocked prone in the square they are in and suffer 2d6 points of nonlethal damage.

Earth Dragons, better known as World Breakers are terrible creatures who revel in the destruction of objects. They travel the desert wastes of Porphyra and shatter any settlement they come upon. It is unclear if Earth Dragons were native to Porphyra before the Grand Reconstruction or if they are a more recent immigrant. Some have suggested that the Earth Dragons are minions of The Lord of the Burning Throne, Fenris Kul. Regardless of their original, Earth Dragons present one of the most constant threats to the people of the desert wastes.




Hidden in Plain Sight getting some love...



I search for news about Hidden in Plain Sight quite often, and found this video and loved it!  It was really fun to watch them play, and especially to listen to them figure out how the game works.

One of the big challenges of HIPS was to explain a relatively complicated game in a concise way.  I really didn't want to create big instruction screen, and I obviously can't include a manual or readme.txt file.  So getting any feedback on players first walkthroughs is huge.



Watch live video from HorribleNight on TwitchTV 


Also, IndieGamerChick posted a review.  From her website, I understand that IndieGamerChick is autistic.  I know very little about autism, but I understand that personal and social interactions can be affected.  I also know that HIPS is a very social game, revolving around personal interaction.  So while she might not be the exact demographic I was going for, she still gave it a pretty decent review.
 

10 Ways to Evolve Horror Games

Introduction
Around 10 years ago, a lot of very interesting and ground breaking horror games were released. These include Silent Hill (1999), Fatal Frame (2001), Forbidden Siren (2003) and a few more. Since then not much has happened in the video-game horror genre and little has evolved. So what exactly can be done to push horror in video-games further? To answer that I will here present a list of my top 10 things I think could take horror game to the next level:


1) Normality
In most games the player usually starts out in some strange and not very normal situation. In our own game, Amnesia, the story takes place in early 19th century and has the protagonist waking up in gothic castle. Not something very easy to relate to. Other games see the player has some secret agent, has them trapped in a spooky town/village, etc. All of these are very abnormal situations, and something few of us will ever find ourselves in.

However, much of the good horror in other media starts of very mundane. They build on the having the audience strongly relating to what is taking place and being able to draw close parallels to their own lives. For horror games this would mean to establish a very familiar situation and then slowly introduce the horror there. The goal is for the terror to not just be inside the game's virtual world, but to reach into the real as well.


2) Long Build-up
Most games want to kick off the action as soon as possible. Even games with a drawn-out introduction, like Silent Hill 2, introduce the horror elements very early on. The problem is that sustaining a really high level of terror is only possible shorter bursts and the more the audience has to contrast to, the greater the peaks intensity will feel. Ring (Japanese version) is a prime example of this. While it does kick off the horror early on, the whole movie is basically one long build-up to a final scare moment. Horror video-games need to embrace this sort of thing more, but in order to do so a two common traits need to let go. First of all, the game must rely a lot less on a repeatable core mechanic, since we want the player to deal with actual horror elements as little as possible. Secondly, we must perhaps revise the game length and be satisfied with an experience lasting three hours or less, so that all focus can be on establishing a single (or just few) peaks of terror.


3) Doubt
Many of the best horror stories raise the question whether a phenomena really exists. Is the protagonist really seeing ghosts, or  is it all in her mind? Since other media like film and books are very grounded in our reality, this sort of thing comes natural (although it is still not always easy to sustain). However, in video-games the player is in a virtual world with its own rules and entities, and this leaves little room for the player to doubt if anything could really exist. Solving this is not an easy feat though, but I think a first step is to embrace the previous two entries in this list, normality and a long build-up. If the player can relate to the game as "real-life" and gets enough time to establish this idea, then she will eventually start to compare any features of the virtual world with the real. Eventually she might doubting if the ghosts, monsters or whatnot are really there. Also, some sort of sanity mechanic can also do the trick, but it must be a lot more subtle then any previous attempt. The player cannot see it as a game system, but has to view it has a feature of their own mind. This is not an easy thing to establish, but that is not the same as it is impossible.


4) Minimal Combat
I have talked plenty about this before (see here and here for instance), but it is worth stating again. The worst thing about combat is that it makes the player focus on all the wrong things, and makes them miss many of the subtle cues that are so important to an effective atmosphere. It also establishes a core game system that makes the player so much more comfortable in the game's world. And comfort is not something we want when our goal is to induce intense feelings of terror.

Still, combat is not a bad thing and one could use it in ways that evokes helplessness instead. For instance, by giving the player weapons that are ineffective the desperation of the situation is further heightened. This is a slippery slope though as once you show a weapon to the player it instantly puts them in an action game mindset. That does not mean weapons and combat should be abolished, but that one should thread very carefully, and finding the right balance is a big challenge for future horror games.


5) No Enemies
By this I do not mean that there should be no threats to the player lurking about. What I mean is that we need to stop thinking of any creatures that we put into the game as "enemies". The word enemy makes us think about war and physical conflict, which is really not the focus in a horror game. It also makes us think less about why these creatures are in our virtual world. The word enemy is such an easy label to put on other beings, and then not worry about anything except that we need to destroy or avoid them. This is how wars work after all.

If we instead think of these creatures as merely inhabitants of our virtual worlds we need to ask ourselves why they are there, what their motivations are and so forth. This brings a new depth to the game which is bound to color the player's imagination. If we can establish our hostile beings as calculating, intelligent beings with an agenda, we vastly increase the intensity of any encounter and can make the terror so much stronger.


6) Open world
By this I do not mean that horror games should strive to be GTA-like sandbox experiences, but simply that they should allow more freedom of movement. Most horror games set up a very strict path for the player to follow even if they have, like Silent Hill, a large world to explore. Instead I think the games should allow for the player to skip certain areas and to go about in the world in a free way. This increases the player's feeling of being in a real world, increasing any emotions associated with it. This is also closely related to the goal of achieving normality. Without a forced structure and more open world, it should be easier to give the sense of everyday life.


7) Agency
Horror games are so effective because they can make the player feel as they are there when the horror happens. Other media, especially in the horror genre, have to try really hard to accomplish this, but for games it comes almost automatically. It is then a waste that many horror games does not take advantage of this properly and destroy the sense of agency in all kind of ways. By far the biggest culprit are cut-scenes, especially when they take away control at scary moments when the player's actions should matter the most. Another problem is connected with the open world entry above and the player constantly being fed where to go and what to do.

The way to go forward here is to make sure that the player is involved in all actions that take place. The scenes that are so often left out (and replaced by cutscenes) are often vital aspects of the horror experience. Whenever possible, the playing should be doing instead of simply watching.


8) Reflection
The video game medium can better than any other give sense of responsibility. If something, caused by the protagonist, happens on the screen then the player has been part of that. This opens up for the game to be able to reflect itself upon the player and to make players think about themselves while playing. Games have been trying to do this in the past, but I do not think it has come very far yet. So called moral choices are very common in games, but are hampered by being obvious predefined selections (chose A, B or C) and by being connected to the game dynamics (making the choice more about what is best for the player stats wise). I think that the choices need to come out as much more organic for the player to truly feel as if they have caused them. To be able to do this a strong sense of agency (as mentioned in the previous entry) must be achieved and the player must truly feel like it was their own choice (which ties into the "open world"-entry above).

I also think that this can be taken a lot further than simply testing the player's ethics. It can put player in very uncomfortable situations and to really make them evaluate themselves as human beings. The game could also lure them into mind states that they never thought they had in them. It can explore the nature of good and evil and similar subjects in away that would be impossible other medium. In the end this can lead to some really personal and terrifying experiences.


9) Implications
What really brings some horror home is how it has some kind of implications in real life. This can be something like the fear of TV-sets that Ring manages to achieve, or the bleak and disturbing universe that Lovecraft's stories paint. Elements like these are almost entirely missing from video games and again it ties into other entries on the list. Normality is probably the most important, and if we are able to achieve that it will be much easier to tie stuff of the game into everyday life. A game that can achieve this successfully takes the horror to a new level, by being something that the player carries with them long after having put down the controller.


10) Human interaction
The final entry will also be the hardest one: to bring human drama into the game's actions. Most horror in other media does not have the phenomena/situation per se as its focus, but instead its effect on people. The Exorcist is a great example of this, and so is The Shining. However, in video-games the main actions still revolve around inanimate objects or brainless foes. By having the player's actions being directly tied to other people, the horror gets so much more personal and intense.

Achieving this is not an easy task though. My opinion is that it is not a technical problem, but one of design and to place a larger burden on the player's imagination. Simulating a fully (or at least seemingly) sentient  human being is a really hard problem. Simple solutions like dialog trees come often out as stiff and prefabricated. Instead one should go the route of simple actions, like Ico for instance, and build upon that by being vague and hinting instead of trying replicate a book or movie. Exactly how to go about is an open question, but the any steps closer to success can mean a lot of the horror experience.


End Notes
That concludes my 10 steps for better horror games. It will be fun to see if they are still valid 10 years from now or not. If you have any other ideas on how to evolve horror games, please say so in the comments!

Monday, 23 April 2012

I am a shipping fool!

All orders have been shipped!

(One order is waiting on an e-check to clear but is ready to go...)

I just wanted to say thank you and let you know the pewter miniature sale will continue through this week on all in-stock mini's.

I hope to get a few more 15mm Leviathans in stock but I do not have an exact date or qty on the remaining outstanding orders from my caster.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

15mm Scale Leviathan Crusader

I will be updating my store this weekend to add these to inventory. These are limited edition (100 models maximum but more likely 60 total kits) I have 39 on hand and these may be the only 5.5" Leviathans that will ever be produced!

New products have been entered into the store! you can see them here!

To celebrate this release, I am offering 30% off all in stock pewter miniatures!!!!

 enjoy!

I Have:
39 Crusaders  (base kit as shown)

10 Left leg advancing leg kits (kit comes with right leg advancing)
12 Left hand Vulkan cannons (kit comes with right hand cannon)

18 Capacitor cooler sets (replaces stacks on back )

14 right twist waist hydraulics (kit comes with neutral twist)
12 left twist waist hydraulics (kit comes with neutral twist)

6 Left hand Mauler claws (optional weapon)
7 Right hand Mauler claws (optional weapon)

(NOTE)These will be fairly easy to assemble but you will thank yourself if you have a dremel as the tolerances are very tight on some parts like the arms and spine and stack tops. You can make quick work with a power tool but it can be done by hand if need be. Simply use the assembled pics above and if you get stuck, see below....

Here you can see an unboxing of uncleaned raw parts randomly chosen from stock on hand. There may be some small bubbles here and there but overall these are good castings with fairly thin flash. The problem areas seem to be the fit of some components due to the tolerances being to tight and some thick flash between the upper barrel and the support bar on the Vulkan. Please note, I have pulled out the worst parts and kept the best. I cannot have more made as the caster and I have parted ways. Please be careful building your kit as there will be no replacement parts!


Senji Studios knocks it out of the park!

I have been remiss in posting... Pat sent me some pics of his painted Leviathans and I have been to busy to get to it. Sorry Pat!

Here we see two wonderfully painted Leviathans, courtesy of Pat O over at Senji Studios
I love the details Pat added to these, weathering, script work and kill markings :)

The first, a Brotherhood Mortis

The next, a Eisenkern Crusader

Awesome work brother! You should head on over to see more pics of these and other incredible work, Senji Studios.

Purple Mountain - Art

Purple Mountain is chugging along. We have several writers starting to turn material in and we are having it go through editing. As such, I need art and I need new artists. My budgets are very tight because much of Purple Duck Games runs on an almost recovery basis so I have a post up at Rpgfreelancer.com listing my art needs for Purple Mountain - Level 2.

Successful bids who meet our demands could easily extend into regular work.

http://rpgfreelancer.com/index.php?a=project&pid=61


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Monsters Unleashed


Dear Subscribers and Customers,

It is with great regret that I must inform you that changes need to be made to the Monsters Unleashed line. When Stefen and I started this line as a launch product for Purple Duck Games we had just finished working on Forgotten Foes with Tricky Owlbear Publishing and Headless Hydra Games. Pathfinder was also a relatively new system and it looked like no one was going to work on the missing 3.X monsters. Since that time, Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3 and the Complete Tome of Horrors have been released and a number of the monsters selected for conversion have already been update by other parties.

Initially, we had a listed of 105 monsters to convert from subscribers. Now that Bestiary 2, 3 and the Complete Tome of Horrors has been released we only have the thirty of forty monsters left that have been untouched by other publishers. Additionally, the 5 monsters in $1.50 packs have never been successful. Since all the art is new for this project the costs are staggering and the series has never taken off. If it weren’t for our subscribers who initially started this project I don’t think we would have been able to continue it.

Here is how I would like to proceed with this project at this time.
1) We are committed to producing conversions of 105 monsters in total for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Each of these remaining monsters will not be duplicates of those found within Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3 or the Complete Tome of Horrors.
2) Each monster will be fully illustrated with new art I will be commissioning from our artists.
3) The next release in this line will be the collected volume of all monsters. Gary Dupuis (from Monsters Unleashed V.4 and V.5) has agreed to do the art for us.
4) I will be creating a Googledoc of the work that I am doing. I will open comment access to anyone who wishes to have feedback on the design of this project going forward.
5) Commenters may also be able to suggest monsters to add to the project.  As we now have a number of duplicates in the aforementioned books.
6) I want everyone to get the best product we can produce.

If you are a subscriber and you would like a refund on this project because I am changing the parameters at this time please email me at gedakm@gmail.com and I will refund you our subscription amount.

Sincerely,

 Mark Gedak, Purple Duck Games.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Open Faiths (Project Writers Needed)

I'm looking to have Purple Duck Games design a set of 27 deities that can be used as open game content by all publishers and in your home campaign.  Over our many products, we have both created new gods and indirectly referenced other gods such as the Goddess of Valor or God of the Hunt, but I would like to have a set of gods and goddess that I can refer to by name for both our Legendary Treasure series, Purple Mountain, Monstrous Races, Fehr's Ethnology and other releases.

This is the format I'm looking at:


Name
Common Names (2 minimum)
Symbol:
Alignment:
Portfolios:
Typical Worshippers:
Cleric Alignments:
Domains:
Subdomains:
Favored Weapon:
Favored Animal:

+200 words (story of the god/goddess)
+300 words (typical follower information, rituals, spell preparation practice, temples)
+2 faith traits

The design concepts are:
- There are 27 gods; 3 for each alignment.
- All races share the same gods though they may give them different names.
- The gods did not create the world. They are interloper gods, who have come to this world after being forced from their home by their own creations.
- I will provide base details for each divine.
- Payment is a flat $10 a god (which should be close to 2 cents a word).

If you are interested in working on this project drop me line at gedakm@gmail.com 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Fehr's Ethnology


The Ith'n Ya'roo by Gary Dupuis.
Available as stock art.

Fehr's Ethnology: The Ith'n Ya'roo is the first of (hopefully) a series of racial and ecological treatments of new and strange player character races for use in the Pathfinder Roleplaying system.  The Ith'n ya'roo are a race of beings from the arctic wastes of the far north, whose limited resources have not kept them from having a thriving culture.  They use the bones of their prey and their own spirituality to survive in a harsh land.  This and each ethnology gives game statistics, traits, new feats, and even alternative racial traits to create a new and different type of player character race, or even NPCs and adversaries  in your campaign.  Your purchase comes with all of the information on how the Ith'n ya'roo function in their world, and their reasons for joining into the fantasy world at large!  A detailed picture of a member of their race allows your imagination to run wild with the fascinating race that is the Ith'n ya'roo. 


The second issue, Fehr's Ethnology: Hhundi which chronicles the underground race known as the fearsome stalker is also now out.


Or grab the 10 issue subscription at Rpgnow!