Unplugged Preview: Kobolds in Bikinis. (My own card game)

A Brief History.

It’s been a long time since I started writing about games. My very first review was for a game called Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, written for my high school newspaper. Since then, I’ve always wanted to be a game critic. I’ve bounced between multiple personal blogs since then. Started out on MySpace, then moved to IGN, Giant Bomb, and eventually my own blogspot. I even had a couple of (barely) paying freelance positions across the net. Then one day, a few years ago, I created The Midnight Roost. Since then, I’ve made this site my home for all my game critics and ramblings. You’ll notice I’ve been inactive lately. There are a lot of reasons for that. Primarily, though, I just gave up. I’m 31 years old, I’ve never finished my creative writing degree (for all the good that would have done), and I’ve never landed a real job. The passion of discussion and critiquing games had finally worn too thin for me to really care. It felt like nobody was listening.

About two-and-a-half years ago, I started developing a card game. I had just list my job at Blizzard, and wanted to do something for myself. I still have that game, laying around here and collecting dust until I find a way to really make it something special. But in the meantime, more ideas have come and gone. Right now I’m sitting on about 5 really solid game ideas that I’ve built and prototyped to various degrees. But over the past couple months, amidst what has been one of my most savage of depressions in a long, long time, I’ve been crafting something new. I’ve decided to give up on critiquing, and start making my own games. And today, I’d like to share one with you. I present: Kobolds in Bikinis.

Yay!

Now here’s where I should have some cool art. But this isn’t a Kickstarter campaign (yet?!) so I don’t have any of those assets ready. What I do have is a demo. I’m not going to host it here, not yet anyway. But I wanted to give you an update, and a look into some of my design choices. I’m always happy to take your feedback, so please feel free to leave some in the comments section.

Why are the Kobolds in Bikinis?

This is a Kobold. It’s a reptilian critter in fantasy fiction.

My original design was fairly simple: I wanted to simplify Dungeons and Dragons, and other tabletop RPGs, into a party game. I looked to other tabletop games to see what would mix well. I was inspired by the success and simplicity of games like SuperfightCards Against Humanity, and Sheriff of Nottingham. From there I drew easy analogs to tabletop RPG’s, and thus the basis of my game was born.

But to be a party game meant that I couldn’t take this seriously. Simplifying the gameplay down to basically no gameplay at all meant that there was little room for big, dramatic storytelling. I struggled to find a theme and a name for this game, I just knew how the basic mechanics would work. I remember, quite distinctly, driving home from work when it struck me: “Kobolds in Bikinis.” It immediately brought to life what I wanted: a quirky fantasy setting. Immediately, fans of games like PathfinderDungeons and Dragons, and Warhammer would recognize their foes. And seeing them in such unusual garb would quickly set the tone I wanted.

So what’s the game?

A group of players, ideally 5-6, take turns being the Master of Dungeons (or MoD for short). To decide who goes first, everybody rolls for initiative using a 20-sided die to see who gets the highest. That person starts off as the MoD. Everybody draws cards from an Equipment deck to form their hand, while the MoD draws from a separate Encounter deck. The MoD describes the encounter written on the card, and the players must then choose two pieces of equipment to take with them to conquer the encounter.

A 20-sided die, or d20 for short.

And this is sort of the core of my game here. In a game like Cards Against Humanity, it tends to be that the person with the funniest card wins by default. (We get it, Barak Obama uses Michelle Obama’s arms to unwind!) Even in Superfight you’re usually stuck arguing how anyone could beat Superman (spoilers, they really can’t) with little wiggle room. To solve that problem, everybody is going on the same adventure, with only their own equipment. This is similar to how a player must attack an encounter in Dungeons and Dragons. They may only have what’s on them, but it’s usually enough to overcome the encounter. Also, like any good RPG, it’s about how you overcome the obstacle. Players take turns describing their actions to the MoD, and explaining why they’re clearly the ones who are best suited for the situation.

The MoD then decides who they think has the best reasoning. Ideally, this will be because it’s the funniest, but maybe one of your MoD’s likes a little more heroism or debauchery in their descriptions, so you really have to play to them as well. The chosen winner gets a token proving their victory, and a card from the Treasure Pile to be used in future rounds. The Treasure Pile is similar to how RPG’s grant the all-coveted loot. In this game, that takes the form of rare and “more powerful” items. That is to say, I generally based them on generally powerful artifacts/legendary items. In reality, they are not so much more powerful as to automatically override anybody’s decision as to why you should win, so the fight is still more or less fair.

In my original design, there was also a lot of dice rolling. I’ve since pulled back on that because a lot of it either just wasn’t funny, or seemed like I was going to start making poorly balanced cards. You’re welcome to incorporate dice rolling into this, like using the 20-sided die to help give an idea of who has the most “on point” attack, but ultimately I think leaving it up to the imagination makes for a stronger game.

I’m curious to know what you think of this idea? As of now I have 400 total cards (300 in the base set, and a 100 card “Adult” oriented set) ready to print. I should hopefully have them ready to demo by the time GenCon rolls around in a week. If you’re interested in trying it out, let me know! We can either get together and check it out or I can probably link you my PDF’s and you can print it out yourself to try.

Either way, I look forward to sharing more about my game with you in the coming weeks and months. Thank you for reading!

E3 2016 – My Top 6 Game Trailers

My Top 6 Games of E3 2016 – in Trailer Form!

This year’s E3 was surprisingly more engaging than I expected it to be. For the most part, it did feel like most companies were still playing catch-up with their half-baked announcements from last E3, but almost everybody pulled out at least one surprise on me. And that’s far more than I expected moving in.

Below are my 6 best favorite trailers and games from the show… and a few that were curiously absent from the list, and why they were.

Severed


Before the show on Tuesday, Nintendo put out a few indie game trailers, and this one caught my eye especially. Apparently it’s already out on the Playstation Vita, but it’s not a Persona game, so I didn’t notice it then.

What I notice now is a game with an absurdly eye-catching art-style, a chilling tale, and some interesting twists on typical RPG mechanics. It didn’t hurt that it’s from the people who brought me the astounding Guacamelee, now available on most platforms.

Ever Oasis


Midway through Tuesday, people started getting word that Nintendo had something new to show us on their Wednesday stream. I waited with high hopes, and unlike a lot of people in the comments, I was not disappointed. It seems that Nintendo finally gave the studio Grezzo a chance at their own title. If you don’t recognize that name, I don’t blame you, but they’ve caught my eye with their 3DS remakes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, as well as a number of Street Pass games. It’s also apparently headed up by the guy responsible for Final Fantasy III‘s job system, and a number of famous titles like the original Final Fantasy games, and the Secret of Mana series.

What we’re getting from this esteemed pedigree is a game that looks one part Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, one part Kingdom Hearts, another part Harvest Moon, and maybe even a little bit of Minecraft, to make for an awesome looking RPG. The art style seems to be putting some people off, which I can’t argue. You don’t like what you don’t like, I suppose, but I very much like this.

Titanfall 2


What astounds me the most here is that the developers of Respawn have taken the predictable approach to a Single Player story in their sequel, and thrown it out the door in favor of something a lot more interesting. The Titans are now a character in Titanfall 2, and they couldn’t be more intriguing.

Not to mention you’ll be fighting more than other dudes and robots, but crazy life forms as well. It looks like a perfect mix of Metroid PrimeCall of Duty, and The Iron Giant.

Death Stranding


I don’t know where to begin with this one. I normally despise gameplay-less trailers. A teaser at E3 is nothing more than a proof of story concept, and that can only excite me so far when a game’s play is the majority of the reason to come to it. But then comes Hideo Kojima (who should have ended Sony’s E3, not some shitty zombie game) with this mind-fuck of a trip to tell me how it’s done. I don’t know what this game is, hell I barely even understand what it’s about, but I”m on board 100%. As long as it doesn’t turn out to be some dead sea-life match-3 puzzler, creepy sky-shadow auto-runner, or a point-and-click-on-Norman-Reedus’-naked-body simulator.

I take that last one back. I’d play that.

Resident Evil VII


So what this trailer I’ve linked you doesn’t do, is what Sony did during their press conference, and that’s surprise the fuck out of me.

What they started out with is some gameplay of a dude crawling through a dark house, with no context of why or what was there. Me and my friend who was watching with me were quick to chide this game for being a PT wannabe, and some wishful developer’s Nth Scary House VR Simulator.

Admittedly, the trailer did look nice, so my chiding wasn’t entirely accurate, but I shut my damn mouth when the title of this game was revealed to be Resident Evil VII.

At this point, it was one of those “You had to be there” moments, so I decided to link you the official trailer instead of the one that was at Sony’s press conference, but rest assured, it still looks like a step in the right direction for the bloated corpse of the Resident Evil franchise.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It’s not just that this game looks gorgeous with it’s Wind-Waker inspired grapics. It’s not even that this trailer shows off the game’s impressive combat. What really inspired me with this trailer was the sheer breadth of activities covered, and the knowledge that this was only a look at the surface of the iceberg. If this didn’t excite me, spending all day watching other people play the game with extreme jealousy did. The opening minutes of the new Legend of Zelda are intriguing to me in a way that almost no other Zelda has ever been. I’m ready for this adventure, and if you see this trailer and are somehow immune to it’s awe, I don’t know that we can still be friends.

Now, The Curiously Absent

Persona 5


So here’s the thing: this isn’t a bad trailer. It’s an incredibly awesome trailer for my most hyped game. So why is it down here? Because it’s just the same trailer we got from Atlus of Japan 2 months ago, with an official set of subtitles. No English voice actors, no context to what’s actually happening in the game’s text. Just nothing I hadn’t already watched two dozen times.

That said, I’ll probably watch it many more on the game’s trip to my console, early next year. So it’s not all bad.

Paper Mario: Color Splash


Speaking of things that are not all bad, the new Paper Mario looks pretty. Unfortunately that’s where my adoration for this game ends because I am -not- going to play Sticker Star 2. The combat looks like the same we got on the DS Paper Mario game, and that was pretty awful. Complete with stupid trial-and-error boss puzzles, a lackluster setting, and no colorful sidekicks to pal around with, and there’s just nothing here I’m interested in. Paper Mario used to be one of my favorite franchises, but lately it’s just so much crumpled up refuse.

Mass Effect: Andromeda


So maybe it’s not the trailer I’m mad at, but EA in general. We have to sit through 20+ minutes of FIFA, and 2 minutes of Mass Effect. I get that FIFA makes -way- more money, but I don’t care. I wanted more aliens and guns, and I didn’t get them. So now I have little to no more information than I had going into E3, and therefore have nothing to be excited about. That’s a real damn shame, especially for a franchise that needs to prove itself to thousands of people who (wrongfully, I believe) feel burned by the end of the previous trilogy.

So that’s my overall opinion of this year’s E3. Any games catch your interest? Feel free to comment and discuss what worked and didn’t work for you.

E3 2016: Reaction to EA’s Press Conference

It’s another summer, which means it’s time again for E3. This year has been shaping up to be a rough one, with the majority of everything being revealed before the conference itself, but as we head into the show, it’s important to remember that these are just video games. And the people making them are usually doing their best to make them as good as they can. Although my reactions may not always be rosy, at the end of the day, they’re about entertainment and the people who bring us that entertainment. With all the terrible things going on the world, it seems almost frivolous to even be talking about this. But it’s what I do, so here we go.

This year’s EA press conference was a show about FIFA, and a reminder of some other things you’ve already heard about.

Granted, we didn’t know what form Titanfall 2‘s single-player campaign would take, but now we have a taste. I have to admit, the trailer was quite interesting. Considering that Titanfall was one of the best new shooters of the past few years, I was really intrigued to see how they would step it up. And as you can see from the trailer below, they’ve found a few ways.

 

Then there was Madden. They focused a lot of time on the competitive scene, which shows how little they play to implement into the new title. But that’s fine, I couldn’t care less about it, so I’m not their target audience.

I am, however, the target audience for Mass Effect Andromeda, and for the 3rd year in a row I was disappointed that they didn’t delve as deep into that as they do their regular sports franchises. I get that FIFA makes more money than Mass Effect, but at the same time, if they can make a mountain out of the molehill that is increased crowd polygons, the least they could do is show me a clear picture of a new alien race.

But oh well. This is all we got. I suppose it will have to do for now.

Beyond that, they’re pushing some original Story Mode into the next FIFA game, which seems neat. What wasn’t neat was having the actor who played the main character do a one-man show on stage. That was just awkward and weird.

Next they talked about a new initiative called EA Originals, wherein EA is partnering with indie game companies to help them bring their games to light. I think it’s telling that they called this “EA Originals,” because it implies that EA is done doing it’s own original ideas. And no where was that more true than this E3 press conference.

Jade Raymond took the stage and talked about how they’re still making Star Wars games. There’s apparently some more Star Wars in the future, so don’t worry about that. Star Wars will never leave us.

Finally was Battlefield 1 coverage, but by this point I hadn’t the energy to continue. That FIFA coverage really drained me.

And that was the show. Overall, a major disappointment from EA. No real new IP’s except a game that isn’t even technically theirs, and no real game announcements. It sets an unsettling picture that I think will befall the entire landscape of this E3: nothing new. No new game announcements, no new IP’s, and hardly a lick of new coverage. It’s a frightening reality, but all those ‘IS THIS THE DEATH OF E3″ videos on YouTube might actually be right if game companies don’t take it seriously anymore.

We’ll see what Bethesda has up it’s sleeve next.

Review – Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Only Happy for So Long…

by Randy Marr

The most recent game in the Animal Crossing comes to us in the form of a spin off titled Happy Home Designer. You play a villager who joins up with the Happy Home Academy in order to help townsfolk build their dream home. Using a new set of furniture organization tools on the bottom screen, and armed with a slowly growing catalog of furniture to choose from, you must fulfill each villager’s request in decorating their pad. Or not. It’s your game, do what you want.

And there in lies the first problem with Happy Home Designer: the lack of structure. On one hand, it’s nice to be given a series of blank canvases to work your interior decorating magic on, but after the 10th, 15th, or 20th time, you’ll start to crave some rules. A challenge. A point structure. Anything that can give you purpose to cramming furniture into some chicken’s new house.

Build your own school, if you want.

The new way you organize furniture in the houses of your clients is effective, and is hopefully a glimpse into the future of organizing your personal house in future Animal Crossing titles. In fact, this whole game feels like somebody came up with a great new system for organizing furniture, and rather than making a new Animal Crossing game on the WiiU or for whatever the “NX” is going to be, they instead made a game based solely around that function.

That in and of itself wouldn’t be terrible. In fact, the idea of freely creating a house now and again is pretty fun for a little while. Given that the game does nothing more than expand upon a couple of elements from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, while completely removing most of them, a full price is hard to swallow. Not only that, but the supplementary Amiibo Cards lead to inflating the price even further.

Only a few of the many cards.

The Amiibo Cards are ultimately useless in this title. For the most part, every character that’s on an Amiibo Card can be found in game, so there’s no need to have a card for them once you’ve found them. Alternatively, the cards do make a great way to hunt down your favorite villagers (*cough*Tangy*cough*) and have direct access to them, but that only diminishes the card’s overall value. And at a dollar a card, there’s not a lot of room for Nintendo to be bringing down the value. Some special characters, such as K.K. Slider and Saharah, are (as far as I’ve found) the only characters that can’t be found through regular gameplay and must be scanned in with an Amiibo Card.

What feels like a neat R&D experiment appears to have turned into a full fledged game without a lot of actual substance to justify the price. Add on the 100 Amiibo Cards in randomized packs (for just the first wave) and you’ve got an insane amount of money spent with no real reason to do so. It’s a bad value, through and through.

Review – Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Aesthetically pleasing, mechanically adequate.

by Randy Marr

It starts with a rumor. Then people go missing. Now it’s up to Yu Narukami and his friends to take the center stage and solve the mysterious incidents happening just before Rise Kujikawa’s big come-back tour. Who is Kanami Mashita? Where are the rest of her dance troupe? Just what is The Midnight Stage?

Persona 4: Dancing All Night seeks to answer these questions through one of the oldest forms of expression: dance. It might sound a little corny, and in the end, maybe it is. But this game brings the heart, the darkness, and the style that fans of the Persona series have come to expect and love. (Hey, if Buffy and her investigation team can do it, so can Yu.)

Dozens of your favorite tracks from Persona 4 and it’s various spin-off games have been brought together, many have been remixed, and all have been plugged into a very Dance-Dance Revolution-like formula. Notes scroll from the center of the screen outward towards one of 6 buttons, and you just have to press them in sequence. There’s also a little scratch circle that demands you flick the thumb-sticks to build up your Fever Meter for an extra special visual treat during the song. It’s not going to go out and impress fans of rhythm games as it’s fairly simplistic and straightforward, but it’s perfectly serviceable and wholly approachable. This serves to ensure that fans of Persona who have never picked up a rhythm game will be able to get enjoyment out of the title’s story without being barricaded by impossible tasks.

The story mode of the game feels like an improved take on Persona 4: Arena‘s storytelling style, while telling it’s own tale. Yes, there are branching paths, and yes, it’s mostly told in a visual novel style. But the visuals are crisp, the faces animate cleanly, and there’s far less exposition and more fully-animated cutscenes. You’ll be done somewhere around 8-10 hours with the story, but it’s perfectly laid out. By the climactic sequence of the game, every song selected is exactly the right song it needs to be leading to an all-out rush of a finale.

When Persona 4 originally came out, I thought it was a great title that felt maybe a bit rushed to capitalize on the success of Persona 3. Then I realized the dark charm hidden within it, and was instantly in love. I’ve since spent 7 years falling head over heals for The Investigation Team over and over. But Persona 5 has finally shown it’s head. It’s coming next year, so Yu and his crew are finally going to have to pass the torch. Persona 4: Dancing All Night feels like the absolute best way that Atlus could have sent off one of my favorite video game casts.

Feature: E3 2015 Sunday Recap

The Nintendo World Championships and Bethesda start things off strong.

E3 may not technically begin until Tuesday, with most people calling Monday “Day 0,” but Sunday seemed to start off the celebration of all things gaming for this writer with Nintendo and Bethesda bringing some interesting guns to the start of the show.

Nintendo kicked things off with a 20 minute Smash Bros. presentation that saw 2 new fighters added: Roy from Fire Emblem and Ryu from Street Fighter. There was a leak that took the wind out of those announcements, but it didn’t make Ryu’s well-executed inclusion any less important for the Smash series. Also included in the announcement were new stages like Sakura Castle from Street Fighter II, a ton of new music, some new Mii Fighter costumes, and more. Overall it was a pretty packed 20 minutes with something you would have expected to be saved for Nintendo’s proper Digital Direct coming Tuesday. It kinda makes you wonder what they still have up their sleeve.

Then came the Nintendo World Championships 2015 event where 16 competitors played through a gauntlet of Nintendo games to be crowned the first Nintendo World Champion since 1990. Overall the event could have used some work, namely on the identifying who was who during the gameplay front, but the World Premiere of Blastball was interesting. In this new game, you’re in a futuristic looking mech that shoots around a giant death-ball, trying to get it into the opposing teams goal. It’s like Soccer (sorry, football) meets Metroid Prime in some really neat ways. It doesn’t look to be the biggest game of the show, but it’s always nice seeing something debut like that. But once Super Mario Maker was revealed, all the nitpicks and other surprises went down the drain. This was easily the best way to demo the game: have some of Nintendo’s finest create specifically tailored levels and have expert speedrunners try their hand at them. It made for a thrilling show filled with twists, laughs, and a whole lot of childish glee.

My favorite E3 moment thus far from the Super Mario Maker segment.

Bethesda came out for their first ever show, and overall I don’t think it was that great. Before you take the pitchforks to me, let me explain.

Doom was doing absolutely nothing for me. The atmosphere of the game just doesn’t strike any sort of a cord that I relate too, the visual design was all around unimpressive, and the action just seemed more exhausting than exhilarating. If it wasn’t for Snapback (or as I call it, Super Doomio Maker), a whole new style of modding tool for Doom, I would have passed the whole game off as “Just not for me” and moved on. At least that last bit got me excited.

I’m sorry, but Battlecry just looks awful. The visuals were drab, despite their attempt to inject color into it. The animations were janky as hell. And overall I just got the feeling that this was going to be some Team Fortress 2 meets a MOBA as produced by an independent team of 5 people kind of project, only it was being given it’s own studio by Bethesda. It just… Nope. Don’t think so.

Elder Scrolls Online is just not working for me on a conceptual level, so nothing there was interesting.

There was an announcement for Elder Scrolls: Legends. This is a new free-to-play trading card game that runs on PC and tablets and boasts a trailer that was almost identical to Blizzard’s original Hearthstone trailer. In fact, the whole project sounds like an attempt to cash in on the Hearthstone name, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve only got the funds to dedicate to one money-sucking card game.

Speaking of trying too hard to be Blizzard, Bethesda also announced “Bethesda.net,” a new service that will be your go-to source for “all things Bethesda.” Sounds exactly like Battle.net, the client that Blizzard uses to house all of it’s games. I’m always leery about having another dedicated publisher program on my computer, especially after Ubisoft’s ill-conceived uPlay initiative.

So, my saltiness on Doom not withstanding, that was a pretty bad press conference. That was until Fallout 4 happened. If anybody manages to beat that in-depth look at the insane features planned for that game, we’ll have one of the best E3’s in a long time. Total weapon and armor customization, building your own settlement piece by piece, an insane looking story, second-screen gimmicks. This game has it all, baby. The overall presentation was a bit bloated, but I came away from it feeling that I have a most anticipated game of E3 before the show technically even begins. We’ll see what else everybody is bringing, but man. Fallout fucking 4.

What did you think of the opening round of E3 information? Are you excited to see what everyone else has to offer, or did Fallout 4 give you everything you will ever need?

News: Nintendo Direct Micro: 6.1.2015 Summary

In case it went by unseen. You know. ‘Cause it’s small.

by Randy Marr

Nintendo of America put out another one of their famous digital directs today, focusing on a few surprise announcements for all sorts of fans. Here’s a breakdown of the content for those who don’t feel like listening to Micro-Bill Trinen’s voice:

  • Chibi-Robo ZipLash – If you’re not familiar with the Chibi-Robo franchise, it’s not surprising. It’s not exactly a storied franchise. And this new game plays nothing like the originals. Where the first few Chibi-Robo titles had you running around a house as a micro-sized robot fixing and cleaning, this new title has you whipping your little plug tail around and defeating other robots. It honestly looks like a little Castlevania meets Kirby mixture starring the most adorable little robot overlord.
  • Dr. Mario Miracle Cure – It’s really just more Dr. Mario, with Dr. Luigi thrown in, but there’s online and local multiplayer with some new items thrown in. It’s nothing terribly new, but I’m always a sucker for the series.
  • Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon – It looks exactly like the previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. If that’s your thing, great, if not, I don’t see how this’ll convince you otherwise.
  • Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Games – More and more, I think about picking up one of these Mario and Sonic titles. This game may hit the tipping point where I finally pick one up. Especially if the series holds true to the same awesome soundtracks that they have in the past.
  • Art Academy: Home Studio – This appears to be another title where folks can mimic real world art tools to create custom drawings on their Wii U gamepad. What’s unique about this version is it features the ability to record time-lapse videos and upload them to YouTube.
  • Project Treasure – This game was announced at an earlier Nintendo Direct, but we got our first look at it in during the Direct. You can watch the full trailer here and laugh along.
  • LBX: Little Battlers Experience – They made a lot of assumptions about my familiarity with the brand during the Direct, but this apparent kids cartoon tie-in features the ability to customize tiny robots and fight them out. It looks like it could be a new entry in the Custom-Robo series, and I would never know the difference.
  • Bravely Second: End Layer – Another terrible name for the second entry in the Bravely Default franchise. It looks like more of the same in all the right ways. If the first game tickled your fancy, you’ll probably be happy to see more of the deep and engaging combat coming your way.
  • Finally, there were some details revolving around updated content for Splatoon and Puzzle and Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition x Puzzle and Dragons ZSplatoon received a new weapon called the N-Zap ’85 that resembles an NES Zapper. There’s also a new map that was added to the rotation of regular play, and Ranked Battle was finally opened for everybody over level 10 in-game. For Puzzle and Dragons, there’s a bunch of new content including weekly challenges available in-game.

What excited you the most, if anything? It was a light show, but let’s hope it’s just a sample of what we’re going to get at E3.