Taffer Style

This is a relatively self-indulgent post, but hey– blog!

This is fundamentally a gaming site, founded and sustained by gamers, and I was once, and remain, a rabid fan of the gaming franchise that began with Thief: The Dark Project, continued with Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows, and will soon resume with 2014's Thief. These are the high water mark in first-person, hybrid, potentially non-violent, stealth-based, story-rich games.

A recent discussion of satire, parody, and pastiche in the comment section of another thread here reminded me that I wrote a handful of Thief-themed pastiches back in the early aughties. To share them with others who might like them, to store them in our database, and to revisit them with wistful nostalgia, I reproduce them below. Each is set to the theme of a pop song. Note well: these are only meaningful if you've played the games, and they're best read with the corresponding tunes playing in the background. :) The songs are Barbie Girl, All Star, Mickey, We Didn't Start The Fire, Uptown Girl, Cheers, and U Can't Touch This.

In one sense, the message of this post in a nutshell is "Ain't I a clever chap!" But if you, too, love the Thief games, then in joining the nostalgia perhaps you'll revisit some fond memories of your own. Continue reading….


I have one of each of the following oldie-but-goodie games to give away within the Steam ecosystem:

  • Half-Life 2 (taken)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One (taken)
  • BioShock (taken)

Do you play games via Steam? Do you, for some inexplicable reason, lack one of these games? Would you like one of them?

If you have answered "Yes, Yes, Yes!" to these questions, then send an email to me, david at popehat dot com, requesting by title exactly one of the three games.

Each game will go to the first person who requests it, and each will go to a different person.


Kickstart: Torment

Do you remember with fond affection that masterpiece of PC gaming, Planescape: Torment? Have you never heard of Planescape: Torment? Do you wish you could dropstop everything right now and replay Planescape: Torment?

Well, you're not alone. But Big Publishing is too rational or terrified to make that sort of game anymore.

Happily, we can acknowledge the waning importance of what Big Publishing thinks about this or anything else, for we now have tubes full of Kickstarter. (What can change the nature of games publishing?)

Many of the folks who made Planescape: Torment now work at inXile, and they're making a new game: Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Not actually a sequel to the previous game's story, which is self-contained (and recursive), Tides of Numenera will offer the same kind of thematically rich content within the framework of Monte Cook's (already fundedNumenera RPG system.

Anyhow, the studio's Kickstarter campaign began this morning and raised its 30-day target of $900,000 in six hours. That should tell you something about how the fans of Planescape: Torment regard this franchise and these developers and this plan.

There's still plenty of time to buy in, and there are plenty of perqs for berks, so if this is the sort of thing you're likely to like, then you know what to do!


Marian Call is on a Quest

Marian Call Adventure Quest

Photo by Studio Valette, http://studiovalette.com

A Kickstarter quest! Back in 2010, with help from her many fans, the charmingly geeky Alaskan songstress Marian Call managed to pull off a tour of all 50 states and a dash of Canada. In the wake of her album Something Fierce, Marian is now aiming to play Europe.

She has the music. She has the armor and weaponry. She has the kickstarter video (see below).  She has the adorably dorky Adventure Quest game by means of which the supporters of her kickstarter may unlock cities across Europe (i.e., bring her to them to play). She has a FAQ. She even has the publicly accessible thumbnail budget, whereby she establishes herself as the most open administration in history.

All she needs is support! The initial kickstarter amount takes her, and her guitarist, to England and Wales. Resources above that level unlock other countries, as shown on the game's map. Especially if you're a Popehat reader in Europe and a fan of Marian's work, please follow the links and see whether you'd like to play her game:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mariancall/marian-call-european-adventure-quest (The kickstarter)

http://www.mariancalladventurequest.com/ (The game, rulebook, loot inventory, and adventuring opportunities)

Longtime readers of Popehat may recall my coverage of Marian's music– especially her lyrics– here (shallow) and here (deep).  I'll be supporting her quest, even though it means sending her far, far away to gives shows I won't attend. If you like her way of making, funding, spreading, and sharing art, then I invite you to join me!


Click to envidify!

Friday Will Tug at your Imagination, One Square at a Time

At least, it will if you are playing around with Dave's Mapper.  I'm not sure how he did this.  It appears Dave (and friends!) sat down and drew himself some dungeon levels, old school style.  But he drew lots.  Lots and lots.  And then he drew some more.  And he divided everything into sections, which he scanned and uploaded.  The tool randomly takes sections and splices them together, ensuring that there is a proper path through the dungeon (some areas can be blocked off, but that's good; it leaves room for  good DM to add detail).  Fans of tabletop gaming that tended towards pen-and-paper RPGs will immediately love it.  Anyone else who is curious about why we love some of the things we love is encouraged to take a look.  The maps spring off the page and tug at the imagination.

For Your Friday Time Spending Pleasure

It can't be wasting time if it feels good to do it, right?

Obey the Game is the latest flash game effort from thoughtful author John (previous interesting efforts include: Achievement Unlocked and This is the Only Level).  The other games I mentioned offered some interesting if shallow looks at certain kinds of game mechanics.  Obey the Game is cleverer and more fun to boot.  The game places you in a series of challenges, each needing to be beaten before a short timer expires.  The goal is displayed in the center of the screen (e.g. "use the stairs" on a level with several spiked platforms and, yes, a stair case).  Follow the instructions and you advance to the next level.  Consecutive wins will net extra lives.  Some of the challenges are arcadish and they get harder as you go.  Simple right?  Well, the game (randomly?  I don't know) will sometimes tell you to "disobey", which means doing the opposite.  Don't take the stairs (dying is appropriate here!).  Don't collect the coins.  Stay alive (on the suicide level, natch). The only thing that costs a life is failing to obey (or, if the game so orders it, disobey) the goal.  The challenge escalates quickly often meaning a split second decision wins or loses the level.  The game is surprisingly fun.

Secondly, we have Elona Shooter .  A castle defense game based on the fascinating rogue like of the same name.  It features different classes, leveling and skill gain, lots of structures to build up in town which do different things, loot collecting.  It's difficult but pretty fun.  Hunter and Rogue are the suggested starting classes (both get an immediate helper you'll want to replace ASAP.  The hunter gets a bow gun, they rule.  The rogue is a money making machine).  You can earn achievements to help you on the current and subsequent play-throughs (if you're a masochist; I am).

Spiderweb on game sales, part the second

Jeff Vogel has his second in a two part blog post detailing some of the cost and sales numbers for Spider Web's games (part the first). It's pretty fascinating even though he doesn't hand out every last detail. It also shows how leveraging online distribution allows a game maker to benefit from the long tail. Geneforge 4, the game detailed, is not yet profitable but is on the cusp. And is a sure thing to be a long-term money earner even if it's not spectacular by indie standards (which are irrelevant by the money-hat-making standards of someone like Blizzard or even the money-bracelet-making standards of Valve).  It costs Spiderweb software nothing to offer Geneforge 4 alongside all of its other games.  Here's hoping it sells at a steady rate from now until the stage 4 zombie outbreak Popehat has predicted for 2016, and that he and his are able to weather those trying times and begin making games anew as the remnants of society begin to pick up the pieces (we will need diversions to help ease the burden of the horrors that we came through, of course).

[Read more…]

My New Management Book: "WWMTSD?" ("What Would My Tauren Shaman Do?")

Amongst the Cheeto-stained sweat-panted ranks of hardcore MMORPG enthusiasts today, there is concern about the state of the economy and the job market. No, not the market for Greater Astral Essence at the Ironforge Auction House. The actual, meat-world economy. Specifically, can you be a hardcore MMORPG gamer, a reliable guildie, a go-to raid partner, and still get a job, pretending for the moment that you ever actually intended to in more than a theoretical sense?

A poorly-sourced rumor has some irrationally worried that the answer is no.

Forum poster Tale over on the f13 forums relates an experience with a recruiter in the online media industry, who reacted negatively to his conversational admission that he had spent too much time playing MMORPG games.

He replied that employers specifically instruct him not to send them World of Warcraft players. He said there is a belief that WoW players cannot give 100% because their focus is elsewhere, their sleeping patterns are often not great, etc. I mentioned that some people have written about MMOG leadership experience as a career positive or a way to learn project management skills, and he shook his head. He has been specifically asked to avoid WoW players.

Anecdote aside, I doubt the employers and recruiters have put out the word "no Blood Elves need apply." Do hardcore MMORPG folks suffer from sleep deprivation, impaired judgment, and dramatically divided priorities? Yes. But so does a much larger group in the employee pool. We're called parents. And our seven-year-old woke us up before six practicing the piano in his underwear, and our two-year-old woke up supernaturally grouchy and kicked us in the nads while we were taking her out of the car at day care. Some dude who stayed up until three in the morning leveling his mage is still in better shape than us to greet the day.

The anecdote does, however, illuminate a job-hunting risk for MMORPGers. If one is so immersed in MMORP culture — and so divorced from the way the rest of us talk to each other — that one thinks that it's a good idea to talk enthusiastically during interviews about "what this computer game taught me about management," then one had better not be applying anywhere else other than a hardcore gaming company.

Hat tip.

Stardock To Offer Retro Lovin'

The Big Download Blog reports that Stardock, justifiably famed for the excellent Galactic Civilizations series, is buying up classic game licenses in order to produce new installments in beloved game series. Stardock already has one leg up on this process with its Elemental: War of Magic, reputed to be a reboot of classic Simtex/Microprose favorite Master of Magic (which is in my top-ten-of-all-time games list). Big Download Blog reports that Stardock has bought the rights to makea new Master of Orion title, and is working on an crpg in the style of Baldur's Gate.

This is great news for classic gameplay fans. Master of Orion II is also in my all-time top ten; but Master of Orion III was so impenetrable and unpleasant that it actually gave me anxiety nightmares. That seemed to spell the doom of the series. Based on GalCiv II, Stardock seems to have the chops to revive the brand in a big way. (Note to Stardock: an option for turn-based tactical combat, please. One of my favorite features of MOO II — like MoM and Space Empires IV — was complex tactical combat heavily influenced by unit design and management decisions; that tactical combat option was dumbed down, real-timed, or otherwise de-nutted for "broader appeal" in sequels.)