giovedì 26 aprile 2012

Le recensioni che ho ricevuto

Il mio gioco sembra avere ricevuto critiche in buona sostanza positive, almeno dal mio punto di vista. Solo uno di quelli che mi hanno recensito pare avere parecchio da ridire su una serie di elementi che personalmente credo siano derivati da incomprensioni. È però vero che, se ci sono state delle incomprensioni, è compito mio fare si che nella futura versione del gioco queste vengano del tutto dipanate.

Giusto per evitare di lasciarvi con un post gigante oltre i limiti della sopportazione ve le linko dalla discussione su Gente Che Gioca, in cui le ho ordinate in modo ben più consono:

Prossimamente farò pervenire i miei commenti alle suddette recensioni.

Fourth Review: Coyotes in Dark Alleyways by Peter Borah

In the past months I've read a discussion, on a forum, about finding out a way to create a good "story-before" role playing game. I didn't follow the discussion so much, but I'm still thinking about a way to obtain that game experience. My personal answer to the question is that it could be obtainable by playing a pre-made story (or such) which is shredded in pieces between the players. This means that every player only knows his part, and the others know theirs.

This game is interistingly similar to what I had in mind: there's a protagonist (Dr. Alex Stokes), which can't fail in what he's doing. He'll have some troubles, but he basically can never fail, because he's awesome and he's a badass. The other players will take on the role of the mysteries: they'll act more or less as a GM.

Every mystery is determined by a motif (what he is), some key scenes (scenes thanks to which they can get tokens to be spent for rolls), some key characters (NPCs that will appear and that are linked to the mystery) and a motivation (a narrative element that will emerge when possible).

Talkin' about Alex's player, he'll have to fill out a questionnaire about his character's life and talents.

Just following his own guidelines everyone will partecipate in the creation of a story described as a "thriller movie" (cit.: "you are in a thriller movie, and you are a badass!"). I'm not sure that the genre is ok: with these premises and mechanics I would expect to have a pulp-like game experience. Mysteries like that and characters that can't fail (but we want to know HOW that's possibile! :P) are typical of a pulp-like fiction.

I have also the impression that the dice mechanic has some problems: mysteries start with no tokens, and they gain them only with the scenes. The problem is that these scenes may sometimes be difficult to set, so the game could stack in a situation where there are no tokens, so no conflict between players can arise. This is a criticism not supported by actual play, so I can't say if this is true.

The ingredients could have been used better in the mechianics, but I think all is ok.

I suggest to continue the work on the game: this draft may easily be transformed in a game playable more than only one time: just let every mystery player fill out a "mystery sheet". Then everyone receives one random mystery sheet from one of the other players. This way everyone will have something unexpected in hand, and will know something about what an other player has, thanks to which he's going to be able to push the story in a more determined, yet untold, way.

Work on that one ;)

mercoledì 25 aprile 2012

Third Review: Most Likely to Succeed by Tom Lawrence and Josh Hall-Bachner

Most Likely to Succeed is a curious game where a player is going to destroy his high school yearbook in an attempt of putting his own demons to rest.

I admit that I have some serious problems in figuring out how the game works: I'm not sure to have understood what a "yearbook" actually is: our yearbooks, here in Italy, basically are a collection of photos of all the classes of the school, with no articles, columns, or other written things. So I find myself in trouble when I think about *what* of my personal accomplishments possibly could have been recorded in the yearbook, and I can't figure out what could I rip out of it. So I'll just imagine how my yearbook could be.

That said, the game is really interisting: the protagonist will live again certain events of his personal life, in an oniric-like way. His character has been imprisoned in an asylum where he's subjected to psychological torment thanks to which he's able to put his trauma back to rest. At the end of the game the Principal will decide if he's going to leave the asylum.

Every scene is set in the phantasmagoria, a dreamlike place that resembles the character's/player's high school. He'll deal with the various memories of his life (every other player is a memory, and one is the principal) and will eventually battle everyone of them.

The battles are particularly strategic and involve the use of cards. I was initially skeptical about the card thing, because every time someone attempts to add a strategic flavour to the game the incompatibility between narration needs and strategic choices arise. Anyway, I found a cool mechanic in the cards: if you can't narrate how you use a card (and every card must be narrated in a certain why), then you can't use it. What's more, in the card mechanic I found 3 of the 4 ingredients the authors used (all threads but the first one, which by the way I still can't figure out how it has been used), so I think they are ok.

I really liked the flavour and theme of the game: it reminds me of one of my favorite videogames, Rule of Rose, and it also reminds me of a movie, Jacob's Ladder, that inspired the Silent Hill series. Too bad I can't play it because of that yearbook problem.

I like the fact that all the game orbits around one player: usually I find this a poor mechanic because there is a player "playing more than the others" but this time I think that it's fine because all the game focuses on one player own experience, and the other players are just there to help him dealing with that.

I didn't playtest it, so I can't say if some problems arise during the battle. I think that, as a draft, the game is basically ok; after the Game Chef I would work on the necessity to destroy the yearbook. Yeah, it's a fundamental part of the game, but it makes it impossible to play to those who don't have an yearbook, and honestly I don't think there's plenty of people willing to destroy their's just to play a game.

domenica 22 aprile 2012

Second Review: Lantern by Alla Hoffman

The idea behind Lantern is cool. The universe is imploding into a giant black hole, and only a few planets remain. The game is about finding out what the characters do before the universe finally ends.

The game uses a particular real-time mechanic: every 5 minutes we'll have to roll to see wich planets are affected by the environmental stress caused by the black hole. After the second time a planet gets and environmental stress, it explodes. A character on that planet may spend a point from a motivation or a health point to protect the planet to get environmental stress, so that it can exist longer. If the 5 minutes end before the scene does, the players have 1 more minute to finish it. Then, as said, you roll.

The other mechanics are not so particular. Every character has his stats (the motivations), Cruelty, Loyalty, Desperation and Conviction, as well as his health points and the bucket list, a list containing the things he wants to do before death.

The gameplay is divided in scenes: at his turn every player call for a scene starring his own character. The player at his left is the antagonist, that basically acts more or less as a GM (and he has a lot of authority too, as, for example, he can set the number of rolls necessary for the character to make it to the spaceship when escaping from an exploding planet).

I have some perplexity about the setting, I admit. I'm a fatalist and I find hard to understand how could be interisting a plot that basically have a so much ineluctable end. I mean: also in Montsegur you know how it's going to end, but there are various endings available per character, and playing you find out how those characters come to that ending. Here in Lantern the ending isn't linked to what the characters do: they'll get anyway crunched in the black hole, and there isn't any way they can save themselves. The introduction says that if there is some really good reason they don't necessarily have to die, though, even if it should be a rarity, so I can imagine the players trying to save themselves in any way they can (I admit: I haven't tested the game so maybe I'm wrong about this point).

I have the impression that the system doesn't support properly the object of the game. That stat system is a lot physical, and I'm not convinced about the health points. I would have put some sort of "consequence" mechanic, where the harm was only one of the possibilities. The HP are good for games strictly based on combat, and this isn't. The stats aren't clear too in their meaning, but I think that this is a consequence of having only 3000 words to write the game; in a future version of the game I would work on these ones. And I also would try to find a way to help players to have a game based upon their character's bucket list, as I think that at the moment the real deal is surviving.

I'm not convinced at all about the cookery stuff. Maybe the theme, Last Chance, is ok, but the ingredients (the four words) are used only as feeble setting elements. The lantern is the name of the black hole, as he emits some sort of light from inside (uhm... you don't really see a black hole, I think), the mimics are people trying to record what they can of the universe before it's all lost (and what will happen to their museum-like domes as they get eaten by the lantern? I don't even see how these guys can meet the other assumptions of the setting), the doctors are scientists willing to find a way to let the planets survive a little longer (I suppose the characters will want to meet these guys as soon as possible), while the coyote is only mentioned as the beginning of the game, "The Coyote's Head", a large spaceport. I think that all of these could have been used way better rather then only being names of some setting's elements.

As said, the game have interisting premises, anyway. After the Game Chef I would completely eliminate every reference to the ingredients, and I would work on finding a way to obtain a game based more on the character's bucket list, and less on those physical stats. And I would completely eliminate the possibility to survive the crunch, because that's the real deal: the annihilation has to be final and unappealable.

giovedì 19 aprile 2012

First Review: Coyote Doctor by Julian Hyde

This year's ingredients have been able to suggest a wide variety of games based on oniric premises. Coyote Doctor makes no exception: the players take the role of godlike entities that struggle to save the universe from a threat known as the Coyote. Somewhere and sometime in the universe there's the Lantern, the only object that can destroy the Coyote. So the Coyote wants the Lantern and he's destroying the entire universe to gain it, while the players try to obtain it so that they can use it against the Coyote.

The four players have on their side six "concepts", that they'll spend to gain dice they'll throw during the conflicts that will arise when they'll find the "gates", the three (four, in reality) steps they need to cross to reach the lantern and gain it. Between them there's also the Coyote in disguise.

The setting would be, I admit, interisting, even if it gives me a sense of deja-vù; you know, the evil one disguising between the good ones so that he can reach his objective... I can think about a lot of situation like this, in videogames, cinema, literature... But that's ok.

The problems are linked to the system. First of all there are a lot of unclear situations: the characters are meant to reach the Lantern for the endgame to unlock, so what about the three previous gates? If they can't pass the first gate the game just crashes? And why is the Coyote playing against the character since the first scenes? If he wants to reach the lantern he should just stick to the party and wait for the last gate to open, isn't it?

Also the narrative authority isn't clear: who frames the scenes? Who controls the NPCs? There are only four scenes in the game (one per gate, I imagine)?

There are also some errors in the text that make the game not easy to understand, along with a series of other mysteries (why should you number your minor concepts from 1 to 4?) that sadly make this game actually incomplete.

Referring to the cookery stuff: I'm not convinced about the way the ingredients have been used. Coyote surely appears (even if just as name, I admit), and the Lantern too (good this one, as a ray-of-hope for the universe). Doctor appears only in the title and basically have no reference to the game, also because the coyote is trying to destroy the universe, not to heal it. The mimic one would have been used greatly in that disguising mechanic; I'm not sure it has been used, though, as it isn't specified in the handbook. I can't say if the author used a forge thread for the game, as also this point isn't specified in the text.

I have to say that the game's premises are cool, so not all of the work necessarily has to be trashed. I really like that disguise mechanic, if it surely need to be debugged, so I would start to work from that.

Anyway, I'll have to give a pat on the author's shoulder, 'cause I think that the game isn't fine enough to proceed in the ladder.

mercoledì 18 aprile 2012

Game Chef: nel vivo della faccenda

Si comincia oggi con le cose serie. Agli autori sono stati dati i vari giochi da recensire, e adesso non mi resta che cominciare a guardarmeli. Non credo che scriverò su RPG Shark le recensioni dei giochi in questione, dato che non si tratta in ogni caso di giochi completi (o almeno, non mi aspetto di trovare roba rifinita >.<). Le posterò piuttosto qui, in modo da permettervi di seguire gli sviluppi del Game Chef, gioco dopo gioco.

In teoria questa fase di selezione dei finalisti dovrebbe terminare tra una settimana. Io ci credo poco, visto che c'è gente che ha inviato più di un gioco e che si ritrova dunque con 8 (o 12, se ne hanno mandati 3) giochi da visionare. La vedremo.

Le recensioni le posterò in inglese.

lunedì 16 aprile 2012

True Men Don't Kill Coyotes

In extremis ho deciso di partecipare al Game Chef pure quest'anno, con un gioco ancora più onirico del solito. Per la serie "unplayed, unplayable, unplayvable!" trovate il gioco che da il titolo a questo titolo, True Men Don't Kill Coyotes, per il download nella sezione progetti. A differenza di brachininae, che non mi ha mai intrigato veramente, mi piacerebbe supportare questo gioco, pubblicando nuovi personaggi sempre più folli e drogosi. True Men Don't Kill Coyotes è un gioco di ruolo in cui vi troverete a indagare il senso che ognuno dà alle proprie azioni, a esplorare le mille interazioni, e riscoprire il relativo. È un'esperienza catartica e onirica in cui danzerete attorno a un fuoco, condividendo una virtualità alternativa. Il titolo è ovviamente ispirato dall'omonima canzone dei Red Hot Chili Peppers. Spero non esiterete a leggervelo e farmi avere le vostre opinioni: lo trovate nella sezione "Produzioni" di questo blog, per ora solo in inglese.