Monday, 27 January 2014

Darker Days Presents Darkling #33 - Ravenloft

Mike and Chigg sit down to discuss Ravenloft, the campaign setting of dark fantasy and gothic horror. The nerds sit down and discuss the thematic strengths of the game world, as well as the unique design approach to the setting's domains and clusters. In particular, they also discuss what it means to be a hero or villain in Ravenloft, and how that differentiates it from other campaign worlds.

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Links For This Show:

Fraternity of Shadows Ravenloft Site:

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Going Retro with Rackham

Hey happy New Year guys. Darker Days Radio is  working on episode #55 right now, now that we have had time to read Blood and Smoke for Vampire the Requiem, and also a good amount of Demon the Descent.

Now I'm having a bit of a war games renaissance, and that has involved the excellent miniatures by Rackham. Rackham was a great war games miniature company back in the late 90s, which really just crumbled as it tried to expand the business. But at it's height the company would make what I would  call 'boutique fantasy war games figures'. Even after almost a decade of the company folding the miniatures are still unsurpassed. They just have a style and vibe that is unique to the world that they created.

The IP of Rackham, for the worlds of Confrontation (the skirmish game) and Ragnarok (the regimented war game), the rpg Cawallon, and the horror miniatures board game Hybrid.

Hybrid came out in 2003, and featured the holy warriors of the Lodge of Hod, venturing down into the vile laboratories of the alchemical empire of Dirz.

In many ways Hybrid is reminiscent of Space Hulk (by the Workshop of Games), using a grid based movement through tunnels and doors, making use of a 'I go you go' turn sequence. Other features of the game are a deck of action cards that modify your dice rolls or those of your opponents, a range of action types which allow for more skilled fighters to achieve more dramatic results, and event cards, that represent how strange things happen in the dank corridors of the underground laboratories.

Overall the game, which benefits from the fanbase having rewritten the rules to make more sense (Rackham products had interesting translations from French!), is in fact fairly simple and has a tactical element where miniatures are given a secret order of action (so in the I go you go scheme, you have no idea which of your opponents models will act next, and vice versa, meaning you could be setting up ambushes, or withdrawal).

Rackham games sort of represent design gone out of control, especially for the time. The decks of cards for the game, many of which do very simple things, are festooned  with flavour text that detail the story of the game. The gaming tiles that make up the laboratory are exquisite, and were ahead of their time when you compare them to products like Terraclips or Descent.

Future blog posts on this game will be rules overviews and battle reports. Plus of course the compulsory painting examples and perhaps even an attempt to merge the game setting with the Cawallon rpg.

Picture time.

So the work begins!

Templars of Hod

Venerable Ambrosius

Knight of Hod (from the Nemesis expansion set)

Templar of Hod Minelayer (from the Nemesis expansion set)

Dirz Hybrid Clones

Pests of Flesh

Dawn Warriors (from the Confrontation 3rd ed Starter Set - yep a lot of minis from the Confrontation/Ragnarok can be used in the game).

Ysis (also from the starter set)

Nemesis Clone (from the Nemsis expansion box)

The Aberration Prime (a plastic kit that had lots of parts as options for different weapon load outs - it's also bigger than the Aberration that came with the Hybrid game!)

Scale comparison between a Privateer Press Choir of Menoth, Knight Model's Harley Quinn, and Rackham's Ysis. Notice that Rackham use a 30mm scale and realistic proportions.

Another comparison.

And another comparison.

And one more.

From the Confrontation Starter set, Wolfen!

And another.

And another.

Scale comparison between the Wolfen and a Privateer Press Gatorman.

And a comparison with the Aberration Prime.

And the Aberration with a Privateer Press Retribution of Scyrah heavy warjack.


Nemesis (which I got brand new - lucky me!)

Character cards.

The floor tiles from Hybrid. All are double sided and the same 8 squares wide.

You have doors and passage ways (so these are not marked on the borders between rooms, meaning the maps are modified as the missions demand leading to greater flexibility). Oh and a trapdoor counter.

Game play counters. Working from the top clockwise; revealed event counter, unrevealed event counter, rocks terrain, a event counter revealed to be a booby trap, objective counter, a pillar and the round red one is a health marker.

My counters and tiles ready to punched out from the Nemesis set. So lots of doors.

New corridors and counters (you end up with plenty of spares)


And more!

The rules books.

Nice layout - shame about the weird writing in places.

Check out the art - and how close the art miniatures then replicated the art designs.

Mission - see just like Space Hulk.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

WoDMMO aka Wrath of Dorks MMO aka WHERE IS MY GAME!!!

So there has been a lot of moaning in the internet-net-net-net.. Why? Because some one trolled about CCP loosing the license to World of Darkness. Now of course, those of you in know would read that article and say "bullshit". Why? Well the writer talks about White Wolf Studios - Something that hasn't been an entity for 2+ years now. Yes we know that there have been layoffs in Atlanta, but that may be the end of a phase of development, and no ones wants to pay people to twiddle their thumbs.

So of cause, the self confessed troll article set off the WoDMMO fanatics, sending them into a shit storm the likes we have not seen since the 6th Maelstrom. Since then life for CCP and Onyx Path goes on as normal. Yeah we still have no new screen shots, video etc. But then so what? Well CCP announced the WoDMMO back in 2006. But they had too. They were merging with White Wolf. It was obvious why. It would have been dishonest not to say. But it meant they had to state what they were doing a lot earlier than most companies would normally announce making a game. So of course people on the internet-net-net-net.. are whining. "WoDMMO was announced 10 years ago!" - Um no. Saying you will make something is different from starting or doing the dev. "Show us some video/screen shots etc. or it's just vapourware". Um no. Show something clearly working yet unpolished, and gain the ire of "fans" and hack journalists because the game is already "clearly shit", even though there is still 2 years work to go.

So we here at Darker Days Radio have more faith, and trust, and well, understanding, than Joe Brujah Public. Hell I doing programming for my day job, and research is fucking hard and all about developing theory, methods, tools, and coding, and for a good few years having no results. So I sympathize with those code monkeys at CCP. Plus I have had the joy of having in my gaming group in the past, and on the podcast, my friend James, a gamer, QA, and now designer of computer games. He's worked on stuff like the Magic the Gathering Duel of the Planeswalker games, Lego games, Big Point and their MMOs.

So now let's hand over to James to tell you all why you should quit your whining!

Hi, my name is James and I’ve worked in the games industry for 6 years. I’ve done a lot of QA testing, some Games Design and a whole bunch of beta tests.
Kris has asked me to write a little post about the WoD MMO and MMO development in general so here goes.

It takes a LONG time to make an MMO.
Somewhere secret and hidden there will be teams currently planning MMO projects that aren’t even going to be announced for years. They’re having discussions about how to support their servers, what kind of systems to have form the core of the game play, maybe trying to get some idea of a visual style before committing thousands of man-hours to a projects.

A case in point is The Secret World. After rooting around on the internet it seems it was being worked on in as early as 2006 but that it was planned as a spin-off of a yet unfinished game meaning there had already been previous work establishing a theme, concept of the mechanics, planning, budgeting etc. The unfinished game, Cabal, allegedly went in to pre-production in 2002 but it took until 2009 before the studio was happy to be talking about the content of their game to the press and Beta testing only became available in August 30 2011, 11 months before its eventual release on July 3rd 2012.

As soon as it becomes public knowledge you have to maintain public interest for the whole of your super long development cycle.
The moment people hear that there’s a game coming out that they want to play people get excited. They want to know how it plays, they want to know what they’ll have to pay for it, they want to be able to reserve character names or make guild before anyone has been able to sign in.

Managing this is a mammoth task, to try and keep people interested you have to very carefully drip feed them information that’s just enticing enough to keep them excited without causing them to burn out by counting off the days until it’s released. This can go drastically wrong, especially if development hits any speed bumps as a piece of information given at the outset of the hype train might no longer be relevant when they realise they need to switch engine later in development.

Games change throughout development.
A game can start out with a clear direction only to find out systems don’t work as well as expected when put in to a playable game. Maybe resources needed are too scare and they are removed. Maybe the genre has become saturated with present day zombie survival horror games and you want to make sure yours stands out so you change to being a sci-fi zombie survival game.

When you release a game, you get one chance.
Since developing an MMO can take a long time, you want to make sure you give it the best you can do for it. You’ve carefully managed your hype engine to smoothly build up an increasing sense of anticipation for the last 6 years. You’ve settled on which features made it in to game and now it’s time to try out an Alpha of your game.
You carefully select a small group of people, probably forum members or applicants who have expressed an interest through on site registrations. You get them to sign Non Disclosure agreements stating they won’t reveal any information not available to the general public and you let them log it to your game, it’s likely not fully feature complete but you really need to test to see if your server structure can handle it.

At this point people are already judging you, if early screenshots are released then they are torn to shreds and dissected by potential consumers and opinions will be formed. You might have lost some of the player base you’ve been carefully cultivating for years.

World of Warcraft suffers from this due to data mining sites that extract data from the patches on the test realms, new models are extracted from the test data and players are absorbing this content months before it comes out.

So be patient. CCP has no publisher pushing they to deliver on a certain date. If they had that, then people would be forced into what is known as crunch time - doing extra hours, often unpaid. And that's shit. CCP have the flexibility to not have to burn out their staff, and they can take their time to make the game as good as possible on day one release.

So be patient - go play some other games, have a holiday, play some tabletop WoD if you want.