Monday 31 December 2012

Review: Ripper Street 1.01 - I Need Light

It becomes obvious only a few minutes in to the BBC's new period crime drama Ripper Street that creator Richard Warlow owes a slight debt to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, what with the music and bare-knuckle pit fights. However, where Ritchie created a rather goofy London, Warlow's vision is more true to the reality of 19th century Whitechapel - brutal, grim and dark. This isn't your usual crime procedural.

Set in 1889, the series follows H Division, a branch of the police who patrol London's decrepit and poor East End. It's been six months since Jack the Ripper left behind the bodies of the canonical five prostitutes in the grim streets of Whitechapel and it's a time when every murder is hyped by the media as yet another deed of old Leather Apron himself. The H Division, consisting of Detective Inspector Edmund Reid adeptly played by Matthew Macfayden, the rough Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake and freelance Pinkerton-turned-surgeon Captain Homer Jackson. The characters in this core group all have their dark hang-ups and juicy secrets, leaving us eager to find out more. Reid is the moral, upstanding copper who is trying to get over not being able to bring Jack the Ripper to justice, while Drake is a brash 'bad cop', a firm graduate from the school of hard knocks. Jackson, on the other hand, is a man of passion, frequenting the brothel owned by Long Susan, who he has a rocky relationship with.

I Need Light focuses on the body of a woman who is found to have been in the smut industry. Journalist Fred Best, a slimy guy if there ever was one, attempts to sensationalise the murder by turning it into a Jack the Ripper story, all the while Reid fights him to hold off the story until all the facts have come to light. But the newspaper man isn't the only one seeing the Ripper in this case, as Chief Inspector Fred Abberline (Sherlock Holmes alum Clive Russell), a man torn by the Ripper murders insists that this is the work of the prolific killer.

As I said before, this isn't your everyday police drama. Ripper Street is definitely for grown-ups, dealing with the early days of the adult industry, snuff and some good old bloody violence. The episode introduced the characters nicely and gave a good overall set-up for the series. The story was a good one, with twists and turns at every direction, and the acting was top notch. There's no doubt that this will leave most people coming back for seconds.


Saturday 29 December 2012

Example of play from 'USR Fantasy'

One of the projects I've been writing this year is USR Fantasy, a guide to playing in the fantasy genre with the Unbelievably Simple Role-playing game. The book is pretty much finished now, but I wanted to just share an example of play with you from the book to give you an idea of how USR plays in general.

We join the GM along with Steve as Burrow the halfling rogue, Pete as Lucan the elven druid, James as Kronk the dwarf warrior and Dave as Wenlock the human archer. The players have been sent on a quest to find a cure for the plague that has hit Bornshrike, a village in the Golden Hills. They have delved deep into a network of caves beneath a mountain where it is said the cure can be found...

GM: You enter a rocky man-made tunnel. There is moss growing on the walls and you can see tiny insects scuttling around the floor. There is a foul stench coming from the north, straight ahead of you but as you're using a torch you can only see so far.

Steve: Burrow's feeling pretty cautious. He tells the others that he has a bad feeling about this and is going to check the area for any traps. He carefully inspects the walls, floor and ceiling ahead of him for any out of place crack or hole.

GM: Cool, roll your Wits and add any Specialism that could help you. [There is a dart trap, so the GM decides it's going to be a hard difficulty of 7 on the attribute test].

Steve: I have Spot Traps! Ok, so I roll 1d10 and add 2 for my Specialism. [Rolls] I rolled a total of 8.

GM: Well done, you spot three suspect holes in the wall that you immediately recognise as a dart trap. These are triggered by stepping on a pressure pad a couple of feet ahead of you. However, you can hear someone coming!

James: Kronk draws his axe and waits to see what's coming.

Dave: Wenlock will knock and arrow and point it down the tunnel.

GM: Ahead of you appears three ugly orcs, their crude black swords drawn. They roar and charge at you. What are you going to do.

Pete: Let's retreat back a little and hopefully they'll be stupid enough to trip the dart trap.

Steve: Good plan!

[The group retreats a few metres and watches the frontmost orcs step on the pressure pad, much to the enjoyment of the group].

GM: The leading orc is peppered with darts and takes 1d6 damage [she rolls a 5]. The orcs receives one straight in the eye and collapses in a heap on the ground. The other two are running at you. Can everyone roll to see what order they fight in?

[Each player rolls the Wits die + their Action die, the highest going first and continuing to the next highest and so on]

Dave: Right, Wenlock looses an arrow at the closest orc [he rolls his Action die, which is a d8 and gets a 6 and then adds 1 for his short bow giving him a total of 7].

GM: [Rolls the orc's Action die, d6, for his defence, resulting in a 4]. Your arrow flies true and lands with a thunk in the creature's chest for 3 damage. He's not looking peachy. The other orc, however, is within stabbing distance of you. He slashes at your abdomen. [The GM rolls the orc's Action die of d6, getting a 3 and then adds 1 for his short sword, resulting in 4].

Dave: Wenlock defends with all his might! [He rolls a 2 on a d8, meaning he takes 2 damage from the attack]. Arrgh!

James: Kronk runs up to the orc attacking Wenlock and attempts to hew him in two with his axe. [He rolls a total of 10 with his Action die]. Oh yes!

GM: [Rolls a 2 for the orc's defence, meaning he takes 8 damage!] The orc's torso is separated from his legs in a red haze. The final orc drops his blade and pleads for his life.

Steve: Go on, orc, beg for mercy! Hahahaha!

Pete: Lucan raises an eyebrow at Burrow. How's about you tell us where the elixir of Avarice is, orc.

GM: The orc's not going to give the information up that easily, but I'm sure there's some way to get it out of him.

Pete: Elves are naturally charismatic, so I could use my Specialism to persuade him to show us the way.

James: Or Kronk could just intimidate him until he soils himself.

Steve: Let's try Lucan's way first. If it comes to it we threaten the bugger.

Pete: We won't hurt you, orc. In fact, you probably don't like it down here what with all the death and having to poo in the corner of a cave. If you shows us the way to the elixir then we can make sure you get out of here and live a new life in a nice place.

GM: Cunning. Ok, this is going to be a hard attribute test, requiring a 7 on an Ego roll.

Pete: [Rolls his Ego of d8 plus his Charismatic Specialism, which is another 2, resulting in 5]. Dammit!

GM: The orc laughs and tells you he actually likes it down here and he's not going to tell you where the elixir is.

Steve: Alright Kronk, you're up.

James: Kronk marches over to the orc and pins it against the wall that's covered in his kin's blood. He hold the blade at its throat and growls, “Tell us where it is or I'll turn yer gizzard into a nice fountain.”

GM: Ok, roll Ego plus any Specialism.

James: [Rolls d6 plus his Intimidate Specialism of 2, resulting in 7]. Only just!

GM: The orc whimpers and tells you to let him go and he'll give you the description of the room the elixir is in.

The story continues as the party make their way further into the mountain, fight new hideous creatures, overcome traps and find some excellent loot.

Interview with Hamnasya gamebook publisher Oliver Gavrois

It's very rare that a book trailer can blow you away, never mind a digital gamebook trailer, but when I saw the teaser for Hamnasya - Askaryl's Grimoire I was speechless. Seriously, give this a look.

Holy crap, that's insane! I'd never heard of Blue Flame Publishing before but I wanted to make damned sure I found out more about Hamnasya, so I got in touch with Oliver Gavrois from Blue Flame Publishing and talked to him about this new digital gamebook series.

Hey Oliver, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what Hamnasya's all about?
Hi Scott, I'm Oliver Gavrois, I'm French and I've been living in the UK for about (thinking and counting...) 20 years. Ouch, 20 years already ? I managed somehow to keep my strong French accent. Most people in the UK call me Ollie, which is fine by me :)

A couple of years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life and I was looking for something else to do. I picked up a gamebook from my study and I thought to myself that it would be great to revive this genre of reading and gaming in a digital format. I started to look at what was available and I thought nothing of it for a while. Everything came from an encounter I made several months later. I met Nicolas Lenain, a French unpublished author and we got talking about the novel he was working on. During the discussions we had, Nicolas revealed that everything had started several years earlier in the format of a gamebook. A little spark ignited in my mind, a gamebook? 

Nicolas shared with me his initial ideas and I liked his universe and characters. It was clear that Nicolas, like myself was a fan of the genre, so I shared the idea of converting his work into a digital format. We said let's do it ! This is how it all started really.

Hamnasya is a fantasy world, where once lived dragons. It is filled with magic and monsters. The story, as you know, is in the format of a gamebook, where the player/reader chooses the paths to follow. Hamnasya also follows a rpg structure where the player can manage several aspects of his character from his vital attributes down to his equipment.

Gamebooks have shot up in popularity in the past couple of years, with new developers cropping up all the time. What do you think is the cause for this surge in interest of what is typically seen as a dead genre?
The genre appeared to be dead but was not really. It might not have been "mainstream" but it was dormant like a sleeping dragon waiting to be awaken ;)

There might be a bit of nostalgia from people of our generation who grew up and who had their lives changed by their experiences of reading a gamebook. I think the gamebooks were just waiting for a new platform really and the new mobile devices allow us to revive the genre. 

I think the interest in interactive stories, the essence of gamebooks, has always been there. We could and we still can find it in adventure video games which were popular in the Nineties but even nowadays in the latest big name console games.

The thing that originally piqued my interest about Hamnasya was the epic live action trailer, which is surprising for an app. Can you tell me a little bit about why you wanted to go with a trailer like this?
I'm glad the trailer piqued your interest, that was the idea :) I thought it would be interesting to try to tell part of the story of our main character, Edhan from a different angle and through a different medium. If it brings people, who consider themselves as not readers, back into reading in general and reading gamebooks in particular, then it's mission accomplished. It's like what did the gamebooks to me when I was a teenager.
Regarding the trailer, I must say that I have been really lucky to meet the creative team at Delapost Paris, the guys who made this possible. When I initially approached them, my idea was a simple short story and I was enquiring about what was possible. 

When I met the film director, Frank Vroegop, I shared my ideas with him and he came up with even bigger ideas :)

From an initial storyboard where we had 5 assassins chasing the couple on foot, where the troll was not even seen but only suggested, we end up with the epic scene that you've seen.

You've impressed us with the trailer, but what does Hamnasya bring to the table that other gamebook apps don't?
Hamnasya is in the similar vein of other gamebooks apps available out there. It might offer more of an rpg element than what I may have seen but I would prefer to let our readers/players juge by themselves.
I personally love the other apps out there but we tried to be and offer something slightly different.

Design-wise, what was the most challenging aspect of creating Hamnasya?
One of the challenges was to translate everything from French into English and I think that Rebecca Smith from RL Translations has done an excellent job. The other main challenge was to take the work from Nicolas and try to adapt it so it would work better in a digital format. 

For instance, we tried to make all the if statements such as "If you have the Dragon Ring, then go to 14", disappear. The engine knows if you have it or not in your inventory, it then displays the relevant block of text or it makes the statement invisible.

Sometimes, we changed the statements to give clues to the player that he might be missing an important item. So we could end up with a block of text stating: "Unfortunately, you do not have the Dragon Ring, you have no other alternative but to run..." 

If you ask, Alison from Running in The Halls, who developed the app, she might say that one of the challenges was to code the interactions and relations between the hundreds of objects you can find in the story. I'm sure she pulled her hair more than once on that topic.

This is just the first part of the series. What can we expect in future instalments?
The story designed by Nicolas is a trilogy and Askaryl's Grimoire is the first part. So there is only one ending leading to the second part which leads to the final part where we will have multiple endings.
The idea is to follow Edhan, our hero, on his journey of discovery about himself but also about a sinister plot that could change the world of Hamnasya for ever. In the following episodes, we will try introduce some more puzzles, I'm fond of puzzles, they can be tricky to implement though. 

We also have a behaviour system where the player can loose or earn behaviour points depending on his actions. In the first part, this element of the game is active but not really used. We want to gradually introduce the different consequences based on the hero past actions. So certain characters may interact differently based on the behaviour level of the hero. For instance, a scoundrel might be more willing to interact positively with a player/reader if they have a similar behaviour level. 

The player will be able to save his stats and equipment at the end of part one so he can continue to further develop his characters in the future instalments.
Thanks for speaking to us, Oliver.
Thanks for having me and for the opportunity to present Hamnasya to your audience.

You can find more information about Hamnasya and Blue Flame on the official website

Ian Livingstone recognised by New Years Honours

Fighting Fantasy co-creator and digital evangelist Ian Livingstone is to be made a CBE as part of the New Year's Honours list.

It's been a big year for Livingstone with the 30th anniversary of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and this honour is well deserved, not only for his services to gaming but also the role he played in convincing the British government to adopt a better standard of ICT teaching in schools.

He told the BBC: ""I'm genuinely humbled to get something,"

"My life has been all about games, and I think we learn an awful lot through play.

"Writing Fighting Fantasy books with Steve Jackson in the 1980s seemed to have got a whole generation of children reading again. And I'm delighted that what we created not just manifested itself in interactive books but it's actually inspired people to join the computer games industry."

This year saw the release of Livingstone's latest Fighting Fantasy book, Blood of the Zombies, which received a positive reception from fans.

Well done Ian - hopefully we'll be calling you 'Sir' at the close of 2013.

Monday 24 December 2012

Review: Merlin 5.13 - The Diamond of the Day Part 2

Major Spoilers Ahead

This is it, the ending to the five year run of Merlin, a series that began on a bit of a wobble but culminated in an amazing ending to great last season. The brutal and well-choreographed battle of Camlann concludes at the beginning of the episode with Emrys-style Merlin laying down some serious lighting destruction on Morgana's Saxon army. Soon after Morded and Arthur come face to face in that fated showdown, both running each other through, Arthur mortally wounded and Mordred dead on the ground.

The rest of the episode is a quest of sorts. Merlin has to get the dying Arthur, pierced by a blade forged in Aithusa's breath, to the fabled Isle of Avalon for him to heal. Here we get the moment we've all been waiting for- the magic reveal. This was always going to be a huge moment for the writers, so it's good that they didn't rush this scene. At first Arthur doesn't believe Merlin at all until he gives a quick light show above the camp fire. Understandably Arthur is confused, betrayed and frustrated, leading him to shun his friend for a while. However, as Merlin helps him on his way to Avalon, casting Saxons aside with his magic and tricking them into following different paths through the forest, Arthur begins to understand Merlin's position. This is where we get some heartwarming scenes as Merlin explains how he has only ever used magic for his king and that it's always been his destiny to serve him. These moments are well-written and touching, especially as everything dawns on Arthur.

Meanwhile back in Camelot, the spy who was sleeping with Gwaine for information gets rumbled and subsequently hanged for her betrayal. Percival and Gwaine head off to find Morgana and slay her once and for all - a brave move for just the two of them. Once they find her, they effortlessly dispatch of her Saxon entourage but fall foul of Morgana's powerful magic (no duh!). Gwaine is tortured while Percival is tied to a tree, culminating in what felt like a really rushed but important scene where, after telling Morgana of Arthur's whereabouts, Gwaine dies in Percival's bulky arms. As a fan favourite, it was heartbreaking that they didn't give Gwaine a better send off, and especially one where his last deed was to give secret information away.

Soon Arthur is clearly on the verge of death as he and Merlin arrive at the lake overlooking the isle. They are confronted by Morgana, who after thinking she'd dispatched of the young warlock, proceeded to do her evil talk thing that she likes to do before getting well and truly stabbed by Merlin wielding Excalibur. Merlin summons the dragon to take them the rest of the way but it's too late, after a final "thank you" from Arthur, the once and future king expels his last breath. The dragon explains that, despite what he thinks, Merlin hasn't failed and that Arthur is destined to rise again when Avalon needs him the most. This is pretty much what the stories tell, so it's great that they didn't cop out and keep Arthur alive to run the kingdom. Instead, after legging Excalibur into the lake, where it's deftly snatched up by the Lady of the Lake, Merlin loads Arthur's body onto a boat and sends him out towards Avalon. Back in Camelot they learn of the king's death and Guineviere is sworn in as the Queen.

The final scene is one that I don't think many people will have expected, but one that I had an inkling they might run with. The camera pans on the Isle of Avalon before a truck blasts past, revealing a weary bearded Merlin in what could be fisherman's clothes stopping to gaze at the isle before walking on with a little smile. I can predict a fan backlash against the way the writers ended this, but I liked it. It brings the legend into our reality and sort of gives us some hope that in all these dark times, there may just be a chance that a true leader will rise up and bring us back into a new golden age.

The final episode did have some pacing issues but where the story and character relationships are concerned, it did everything right. The magic reveal was treated with respect and the relationship between Arthur and Merlin had never felt so close. The series, as much as it had been about adventure, has always been about these two men and their relationship that has been growing since the beginning and I'm happy to say that everything works out. There were some silly holes, like why didn't Merlin just summon the dragon in the first place and get Arthur to Avalon in like a day, but otherwise it was a top episode to end a great series.


Temple of the Hag released by Peryton

Just in time for Christmas, Peryton Publishing has released a new Tunnels & Trolls adventure in the Trollish Delver line called Temple of the Hag. It was written by the ever brilliant Tom K Loney and set in Peakvale, my campaign setting.

Here's what the blurb says:

Finding the Temple of the Hag is not as simple as getting from point A to point B. The dark spirits that live within keep their temples well hidden. Sword-bladed grass, quicksand, and the dreaded doomsday skeeters are only a few of the dangers that skulk along the haunted paths of the Swamp of Doom. Somewhere within, living in the shadow of the Bat-Winged Fiend himself, the mysterious swamp hag bottles her stolen souls.
 This scenario is set in Scott Malthouse’s Peakvale campaign setting. While it can be incorporated into any other T&T world, such as Trollworld or Elder, we recommend that you check out Trollish Delver Games for details first. The player characters should either have Combat Adds of 50 or more or be able to cast at least a couple of 3rd level spells. It is assumed that the players have survived the No Fences to Mend scenario (and possibly had a few Hot Nights in Lowhollow), but the scenario can just as easily be played as a standalone adventure.
So why not treat yourself or someone you love with a trip to Peakvale for Christmas. You can't got wrong for $2.25.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Grail Quest is coming to digital devices

It seems that not a day goes by when Tin Man Games don't announce something new and awesome. Our metallic friends have snagged the license for 80's gamebook hit Grail Quest by Herbie Brennan, further securing the developer's bid for total world domination.

Grail Quest: Castle of Darkness, the first book in the series, will drop mid-2013. The story follows the young protege of Merlin, Pip, on his adventure through Arthurian Britain. The book is a send up to the fantasy genre, poking fun at its tropes and generally not taking itself too seriously.

This is the second series of books Tin Man has taken on written by Brennan; the other being the Demonspawn series.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Watch the opening to the 90s X-Men cartoon re-created with toys

This is probably the best thing you will watch all day. After two months of animation, Kyle Roberts has created this blistering masterpiece that re-creates the epic opening to the 90s X-Men Saturday morning cartoon. This is amazing!

Monday 17 December 2012

I'm writing a new gamebook for Adventurer

Adventure Games Guild, publisher of the upcoming Adventurer solo roleplaying system, has announced the books and authors that will be releasing books next year, including my very own book called Blackstorm.

I'll be joining a list of other great authors working with the system in 2013, including Stuart Lloyd, David Walters and Shane Garvey.

You can find the announcements on the blog.

I don't think I can give many details away about Blackstorm, but it's going to be damned good. Well, that's what I'm aiming for anyway. I'll be reporting on Adventurer, Blackstorm and all the other books as more details are released.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Lovecraftian interactive fiction coming to mobile devices

As I reported yesterday, Tin Man Games are announcing a tonne of great gamebooks over the 12 days of Christmas and today's news is no exception. The developer is working on a Lovecraft-inspired interactive novel called Les Fils d'Uruzime (Sons of Urizime), a French app that will later be translated into English.

This comes at the same time as the company revealed a new line called Gamebook Adventure Choices, a series of apps that focus on interactive storytelling rather than dice-rolling gameplay. They have also announced two more games in this line: Vietnam War story La Drange '65 and a "1930's pulp adventure story".

According to the website, the story of Les Fils d'Uruzime revolves around a young professor in 1920s America during the stock market crash. One of the professor's students vanishes, a studious lad from a powerful and disapproving family, and it's up to him to uncover the mystery of his disappearance and discover how members of Arkham's elite become so very powerful.

The game will land next year in French with an English version to follow.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Review: Tropico 4 Gold Edition - Trouble in Paradise (X360)

It would be going too far to call Tropico 4 a game-changer in the city simulation genre, but it’s certainly a game that shows the rest of them how it’s done. The banana republic cultivator is back and this time coupled with hefty expansion Modern Times and while it’s not going to offer anything new to hard-bitten dictators, Tropico newcomers will get everything they need to become the El Presidente of their dreams.

Tropico 4 allows you to take on the role of the ruler of a small island nation and it is up to you to determine whether you will be the benevolent dictator, keeping your population content, or the militant tyrant who always has his finger on the trigger. As head honcho, or El Presidente, your cigar-sucking self will be in charge of pretty much everything, from making sure hospitals aren’t under-staffed to dabbling in the turbulent world of foreign policy. In fact, you will barely get any time to breathe when you’re constantly trying to keep your nation from falling apart, whether that’s the fault of the economy or the variety of random natural disasters that can occur at any given moment.

You could probably describe Tropico as a ‘light’ simulation, but that would be doing it a disservice. Sure, the layout is simple and the menus easy to navigate, but that’s not to say this isn’t a city builder that anyone can’t sink their socio-political loving teeth into. Building farms and mines will net you resources while money flows from tourist locations where foreigners flock to your island paradise in search of sun and sangria. You will also be keeping your loyal subjects happy with houses, hospitals and other buildings, but here’s where Tropico 4 gets a bit clever. The populus is split into different factions including capitalists, communists, nationalists and environmentalists, all of which have conflicting agendas and all of which need appeasing by yours truly. While the capitalists are kept satiated with a thriving industry and a free market, communists prefer farms and housing. Of course, the nationalists don’t like the country getting involved with foreigners, so you’re going to have to decide whether you’re going to marginalise a couple of groups to appease everyone else, or you’re just going to do what you want. Factions keep gameplay fresh and exciting and are a great addition to the game.

While this all sounds quite dry, Tropico boasts a humorous charm, with missions ranging from the rather mundane to whacked out scenarios like keeping a group of murderous mimes at bay until they can tour Vegas. Yes, that happens. There are 20 missions in the main campaign and the Modern Times expansion adds an extra 12 scenarios. Each mission is varied and adeptly takes you from a tiny burgeoning nation to a thriving civilisation, with a learning curve that’s not as frustrating as some other titles in the genre.

Thankfully, the console controls are very well done, using the bumpers and analogue sticks to great effect in place of keys and a mouse. In fact, this is one of the better simulations ported onto a console.
Modern Times gives you a plethora of new toys to play with in addition to the new scenarios. Set a year after the events of the main game, the expansion focuses on the rise of technology. Buildings become obsolete and have to be upgraded, you can build skyscrapers, biofarms and modernise your current architecture. You can also block people’s internet, stop people using social networks and create a police state if you’re feeling particularly despotic. There’s even a zombie invasion complete with a zombie inquisition by religious zealots. But one of the big additions Modern Times brings to the table is the metro station which allows people to quickly travel between stations, allowing you to reach new zones and plan your flag, so to speak.

As a whole, Tropico 4: Trouble in Paradise is a great package with a fantastic game. While the visuals aren’t cutting edge or anything, Tropico 4 and Modern Times presents a range of great scenarios as well as a sandbox mode allowing you to pretty much do what you want for as long as you like. Sure, you’re not getting anything new out of the gold edition if you’ve already invested previously, but for newcomers looking for a simulation that doesn’t overwhelm you with complexities, but that’s also satisfying and humorous, then look for further than this fine package.


Originally written in the December issue of Thirteen1

How to make mind-blowing paper snowflakes with maths

Vi Hart is a Youtuber who dedicates her time to blowing minds. The crafty maths whiz has created a video showing you how to make some amazing paper snowflakes using mathematical theory, and they're insanely good. So get out your scissors and paper and prepare to spend the rest of the day snipping Christmas decorations. 

Tin Man Games have ALL the announcements

Currently the guys over at Tin Man Games are running a bunch of gamebook reveals on their blog under their 12 days of gamebooks event. So far they've announced a bunch of great games, including the much speculated 80's gamebook series they teased not so long ago.

As well as having a new Judge Dredd gamebook and a sequel to An Assassin in Orlandes, the app developer has a tonne of other projects in the works, including Sagas of the Demonspawn, the 80s gamebook series, beginning with Book One: Fire*Wolf.

Not only that, they have also announced an interactive novel based on a Japanese dating sim, which will be called Shira Oka: Alice's Story, a spin-off of the Shira Oka games by Okashi Studios. This is relatively new territory for Tin Man and it's great to see they are expanding their repertoire with different genres.

Other gamebook announcements include The Spellcaster Trilogy, a series aimed at a younger audience and written by Melbourne based author Louisa Dent Pearce; and Gun Dogs, a brand new series by Lone Wolf co-creator Gary Chalk. This is part of the new Gamebook Adventures Masters line, which showcases veteran writers crafting interactive fiction in brand new worlds.

But that's not all! There are still five more announcements to go, so keep watching the Tin Man blog for more reveals.

Suffice to say, it's an exciting time to be a gamebook fan and it looks like there's going to be no stopping Tin Man Games in 2013. Roll on the New Year!

Pacific Rim trailer shows giant mechas punching giant monsters and it's awesome

The trailer for Guillermo del Toro's kaiji-bashing Pacific Rim has finally hit the internet and it looks amazing. Ok, I'll level with you: I'm a big Godzilla fan already so I was already won over at the mere announcement of this film, but holy crap look at this trailer. Did you see the Jaeger punch that huge monster in the face? Bad-ass.

The plot revolves around a dimensional fissure in the Pacific ocean that allows massive beasties to come through into our world to wreak havoc and chaos all manner of destruction. However, we humans decide to fight back by building huge whopping mechas, called Jaegers, to lay the smackdown on these giant underwater hooligans.

Pacific Rim is due out July 2013.

Monday 10 December 2012

New Tunnels & Trolls edition gets trailer

More information about Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, the upcoming edition of the venerable roleplaying game, has been released, including a teaser trailer.

The new rules will be funded via Kickstarter (like everything else nowadays) and feature the most comprehensive details about the T&T setting yet, including maps, new kindred and more information about Trollworld.

The trailer also states there will be more character options, races (kindred, surely) and weapons. The rules will also contain a solo and a GM adventure, so it sounds like you're going to get a lot for your money.

There's been some discussion among us die-hard T&T fans and creator Ken St Andre about what number edition this will be. Ken has pretty much said that this is really the 9th edition, because the 8th edition is the French edition that came out earlier in the year.

Sunday 9 December 2012

RIP Sir Patrick Moore, master of the stars

It's a sad day for both science and broadcasting as it was announced earlier that Sir Patrick Moore, presenter of The Sky at Night and renowned amateur astronomer, has died.

Moore was known for his eccentric persona, his monocle and most of all his fiery enthusiasm for astronomy. He holds the record for the world's longest presenter of a television show, having started as the face of The Sky at Night on the BBC in 1957 and carried on working on the show up until his death.

He was responsible for making the public excited about the universe and was a well-respected and much loved British institution.

Moore is a personal hero of mine and I know we will never have anyone else like him. He was a true fountain of knowledge and someone I could listen to for hours. He will be missed greatly.

Friday 7 December 2012

You Are The Hero launches on Kickstarter

I wasn't kidding when I said that 2012 would be the year that gamebooks would return to public imaginations. Fighting Fantasy author Jonathan Green today launched his Kickstarter campaign to write You Are The Hero, a book documenting the history of Fighting Fantasy. It sounds awesome.

I was disheartened when Fighting Fantasy documentary Turn to 400 failed to fund, but I perked up a bit when Green tweeted me his new blog which promised something else fans of the series could support. 

On his Kickstarter page, Green outlines his ambitions for the project:

I want YOU ARE THE HERO to be something special, a book worthy of commemorating such an extraordinary achievement and the impact Fighting Fantasy gamebooks have had on the world. I want it to look like the kind of artefact you might hope to find in the Warlock’s own treasure hoard.
As a result the first print run of YOU ARE THE HERO will be a limited edition. The book will feature brand new, specially-commissioned cover art by Martin McKenna, as well as original artwork from the series, and a foreword written by Steve and Ian themselves.
Not only will YOU ARE THE HERO tell the amazing story of how Fighting Fantasy gamebooks changed the world, it will also cover everything from spin-off novels and puzzle books, to foreign editions, board games and video games. It will even delve into such areas as the gamebooks that never were, the myths and legends surrounding the series, and how Ian Livingstone’s newest gamebook – Blood of the Zombies – almost never happened.

 With a £15,000 target and already £684 in the pot in the past few hours, this one's looking very promising.

In which I was stuck in bed (and it sucks)

I just wanted to apologise for the lack of posts. On Wednesday I contracted some whacked-out fever that's still being a real jerk to my insides, yo.

I should be back to posting regular updates over the weekend when I pass my constitution saving roll, but until then, have a happy Friday.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Review: Merlin 5.09 - With All My Heart

Copyright BBC/Shine

Minor spoilers ahead

With the announcement that this season is going to be Merlin's last, it's almost crunch time for Camelot and episode nine sets things on course for what could be a great finale.

In the opening Arthur and Merlin spy on Gwen as she meets up with Morgana in the dead of the night, giving away more of the kingdom's strategic secrets. Merlin is told to seek out the Dochraid, an ancient sorceress, who explains the only way they can reverse Morgana's brainwashing is to have Gwen willingly step into the Great Cauldron and be bathed in the light of the White Goddess. Old Merlin makes an appearance here, and as much as he usually annoys me he's actually pretty good here. He's stopped trying to sound like a shouty geriatric and now speaks in a more gravelly cadence. He's also got a take-no-crap attitude which he displays when he whips out Excalibur and starts slicing into the Dochraid, sending flecks of green blood spattering across the cave.

There's quite a bit played for laughs in this episode, some of it genuinely funny (Merlin, Gaius and Arthur staring at Gwen at the dining table, waiting for her to fall unconscious after drugging her, for example) and other parts not so much. Merlin and Arthur take a sleeping Gwen on a dangerous journey through the mountains, followed closely by Mordred, who suspects foul play on Merlin's part. However, he soon joins them on their quest and we learn that maybe he's not just putting on an act to get into the king's good books - he genuinely seems to care for both Arthur and Merlin, which is going to make the next few episodes very interesting indeed. It's good to see Mordred take a front seat again, as he's been in the background for far too long while the whole Gwen being evil storyline was going on.

We also finally see a bit of Aithusa action, the still emaciated white dragon of Morgana's that doesn't do a whole lot apart from get shouted at by Merlin. I'm still convinced we're going to see an Aithusa/Kilhgarrah brawl towards the end, which should be cool.

Oh yeah, and Merlin becomes an old woman - so there's that, and it's actually a pretty good, if campy, performance.

With All My Heart is a very simple episode, but one that pushes the series further towards the finale. Arthur's used sorcery to save someone he loves, Morgana loses a pawn in the fight against Arthur and Mordred's fate is still to be determined.


Will OUYA become the next big thing in gaming?

After one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time, funding the entire project within eight hours of going live, Boxer8 has just announced that OUYA developer consoles will be shipping just after Christmas. Already people are proclaiming the open source gaming platform to be the next big thing, but there are some who are also saying the project could end up going the way of the Dreamcast.

For those of you who aren't familiar with OUYA, it is a tiny Android-based console that's completely open to developers and hackers, with the designers encouraging creators to tinker with the console's capabilities. All games will be free in some way or another, either offering a demo, in-game paid- for upgrades or just being flat out free. In addition to having a library of exclusive OUYA games and access to Google Play, it will also be linked to Onlive, giving players access to hundreds of console titles. Big name developers like Square Enix and Namco Bandai have announced their support for the console, which adds a tonne of credibility to the fledgeling platform. Oh yeah, it's also going to be retailing at $99, meaning that if everything does go pear-shaped there's not a huge risk on the investment.

While everything is sounding fairly peachy, I do worry that it's just going to become a dumping ground for the same crap shovelware that infests Google Play at the moment. Historically, app gaming has been a very casual affair, spending a few minutes here and there on a game that you inevitably delete after only one play. Home consoles are a completely different beast to portable gaming devices, requiring more engaging storytelling, bigger games and deeper gameplay. If most of the library is made up of app games converted for the TV, then it's not going to be a particularly fulfilling experience. Console games require time investment and the ability to keep the player engaged, but the majority of stuff out there for Android at the moment isn't going to cut the console mustard.

Still, with the announcement of titles like Final Fantasy III and Shadowrun Online, as well as the possibility of Minecraft making an appearance, this little console could have some weight to it. We will have to wait and see when OUYA is released early next year.