Sunday, June 29, 2008

[comics] Fantastic Four: Marvel super-prison protocol

Fantastic Four #558, page 11, written by Mark Millar and drawn by Bryan HitchNot to rag on the same book all over again, but this page is from Fantastic Four #558 (written by Mark Millar, drawn by Bryan Hitch), and it's a shining example of a weird, annoyingly-common phenomenon in superhero comics. Click it and take a look at the full size version.

Doctor Doom is being held (according to the next page), at the Raft, a prison facility for superhuman offenders. And, for some reason, the people running this place let him keep his goddamned armor. You know, with the lasers and the forcefields and maybe a fucking time machine, for all I know. I'm sure he'd pitch a serious fit if they tried to take it away from him--especially since he's so nuts about keeping his scarred face covered up--but I kinda think it'd be worth the trouble. Hell, even if they think they've removed all the weapons from his getup, I can't imagine it'd really be safe to leaving the evil genius walking around in a whole pile of electronic scrap.

And, of course, superhero comics do this shit all the time. And, of course, we all know why: character recognition. If a supervillain isn't wearing his brightly-colored tights, how are the readers supposed to know who he is? Well, okay, maybe through the dialog. Or even a narration box. But how are potential readers just flipping through a book to see if it contains something of interest supposed to recognize the dude? I guess that's what it's really about.

Still. I'd call this kind of a special case, here. Why not show Victor von Doom without his armor and cape and such, but with his mask? It's enough to make him recognizable, and it'd slightly imaginable that he'd be allowed to keep something he's got such a psychological dependency on. Also, he'd present a much more interesting visual, wearing just the mask with an orange prison jumpsuit.

Anyway. This silliness aside, it's a good issue. Looks like the start of a very interesting arc. Just hope it ends better than the last one did.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

An excessively longwinded update

downtown Chicago with a rainy skyOh, man, busy days.

Been helping Charlie out with the prepress stuff for the second volume of Templar, Arizona, and some related t-shirt design. Also, she's doing Wizard World Chicago this weekend, and I've been playing comics roadie for her.

We met colorist Corey Greene at Wizard World's preview night (Thursday), and he seems like a cool guy. On the train ride home, we got to horrify him with the contents of my iPod. Those who know me will not be surprised: Among all the Professor Brothers shorts and episodes of Cooking Master Boy, I also have some unspeakably horrible stuff. Interestingly, this attracted the enthusiastic attention of two total strangers, a young couple named Becky and Dallas. We watched a deeply terrifying video from BME together, and that was all they needed to guess that Charlie and I are Something Awful goons like them.

The Internet. Still with us wherever we go.

Charlie and I have both totally been neglecting Age of Conan, which is kind of tragic. Both of us basically just got off of newb island (Are we the only people who use this term for the starting region of any MMORPG?), and then immediately stopped playing. And that is dumb. We'll get back into it soon, I think. Especially if we finally her her a copy, so that we can actually play together. (Honestly, I'm not really into the "massively multiplayer" featured of MMORPGs, so unless I can play 'em with my wife or some other people I know, I get bored fast.)

Anyway, as all good humans should know, the Spore Creature Creator is finally out, and that has been taking up most of my gaming time (if you'd really call it gaming). Spore is basically going to own Charlie and me when it finally comes out for real, and even the little Creature Creator is well worth my time and money. It's just a construction kit for creatures you can't really do much with, but it is hugely, hugely fun. I've really got to make a big post sharing my creatures, soon.

We're also getting back into Team Fortress 2, lately. That is such an incredibly well-made game. Charlie and I tend to play as a Medic-Heavy team (respectively), although last time we found ourselves really loving the Scout and Pyro (separately, of course). Valve is one of those companies that can just have all my damn money right now. They're just insanely reliable. (Getting real interested in their upcoming co-op zombie game, Left4Dead, by the way.)

On the RPG front, I'm still running my Spirit of the Century campaign--Lost Worlds and Secret Histories--every week (well, theoretically every week) and loving the hell out of it. I'm also playing in a monthly Amber game with almost the same bunch of people as my LWaSH players.

I think after I finish up with arc of LWaSH, we might give In a Wicked Age a go. I told my crew about it, and they were immediately interested. (I really love this group. They are basically up for anything. We've really been playing a good variety of stuff.) I also kinda want to do something with 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, if only to try it out.

Also! Brian from my RPG group has been thinking about running a Stargate game for a while, now. I'm not generally a big supporter of licensed properties as RPG settings, but I'd totally be up for this. Stargate really strikes me as a hugely, awesomely gameable setting, and I'd just love to see what Brian does with it.

Oh, and I'm still doing photography, even if I haven't been showing it anywhere. ... Ah, what the hell. I'll post one with this update.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Do a Google image search for "concept car".

As you can probably guess, you'll see some crazy shit. I've gotta say, I'm liking the "streamlined aquatic predator" direction in some of these designs a lot more than the "consumer electronics plastic bubble" look of others. What is up with those independent wheel pods on so many of these things? Is there some new innovation that makes axles unnecessary? I'm not a car guy by any stretch of the imagination, but I do dig weird-looking machines.

concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car concept car

Monday, June 2, 2008

[video games] The whole MMORPG quest paradigm is kind of broken

quest NPC from Age of ConanRight, so Age of Conan has sucked me back into playing a more-pig again, and while there's definitely a lot of cool stuff going on with it, elements of the usual MMORPG formula that it improves or fixes, it's also doing a lot to remind me just how wrongheaded a lot of that formula really is. I've got a whole list of complaints with MMORPGs, but the biggest one is probably this: Developers are still creating quests and quest systems as if they were for single player games.

I'd assume that everybody knows what I mean by this, but there is compelling evidence that I'm the only one who actually cares, so I'll spell it out for those who don't let stuff like this bug them: Questgiver NPC Guy stands out in the middle of the town square, staying in exactly the same spot throughout all the years of the game's life cycle, endlessly telling any player characters of a certain level range about how he lost his lucky hat in the haunted forest, and would they go get it back for him? Questgiver Guy remains in that spot, collecting the lucky hats which are delivered, night and day, by an endless stream of PCs, giving each of them a fairly item (or a choice of a few items) which he has no particular reason to possess. And still he stands there, eternally hatless, eternally begging for aid from the hordes of appropriately-leveled PCs.

So, naturally, if any two player characters of similar level were to share stories of their past adventures, they'd usually find their pasts to be remarkably similar, differing only in the exact order in which they did their favors for various Questgiver Guys. Worse, in a lot of games, this means often that a player won't be able to find the goblin who stole the lucky hat because some other player has already killed it. Instead, they have to wait for the goblin (and the hat) to respawn in order to kill it all over again.

I think the tremendous popularity of these games is compelling evidence that other people don't really let implied absurdities like this bother them, but seriously, they drive me fuckin nuts.

So what kind of alternative am I looking for? Yeah, that's a tougher question. Personally, I don't think I'm so enamored of cute banter and deep dialog trees that I'd mind randomly-generated NPCs giving out randomly-generated quests along these lines:

I'm [FIRSTNAME] [LASTNAME], the [OCCUPATION] here in [TOWN]. I was attacked by [MONSTER]s over in [LOCATION], and they took my [ADJECTIVE] [OBJECT]. Could you get it back for me? I'd go after it myself, but [WEAKEXCUSE].

Hell yes I would prefer that Mad Libs shit to doing the same damn quests that every other player has already done. And, to be honest, I really think that with a flexible enough modular quest/NPC system, a big list of basic quest forms (fetch, escort, scavenger hunt, etc.), and enough attention paid to creating generators that are limited to somewhat logical results, I think this could actually be really great. And the best part might be that it would be extremely easy to add new component pieces--new OCCUPATIONs, new OBJECTs, new WEAKEXCUSEs,etc.--whenever the developers can write them up. Hell, they could even include screened submissions from the players. With enough care, I honestly think that random quest system doesn't have to result in bland and nonsensical quests.

I could keep going on about this, but I think I've played backseat game designer for enough paragraphs, already.