April 30, 2012

A to Zed - E is for Elder Scrolls, the

And we resume this lovely list with the letter 'E' for our look at The Elder Scrolls series of action role-playing video games.

To date, there are five main titles, along with several expansion packs (almost sounds antiquated next to all the DLC about these days, no?), and spin-off games. The series has seen massive popularity, and presumably so thanks to its deep and rich world, plot-lines, quests and design aesthetics. Much of its inspiration drawn from previous games, including, wait for it... Dungeons & Dragons, is quite apparent.
Throughout the series we see many of the humanoid races develop from simple monster encounters to fleshed-out societies. By the time of TES: Morrowind, players could immerse themselves in the world as either beast-races: the emotion-absent, reptilian argonians, along with the desert folk, the khajiit. And if one were to play TES: Oblivion, well, I hope you don't laugh too much at the well-dressed/groomed orcs, 'cause they might just pound ya' flat for that one.

The later games of The Elder Scrolls focus greatly on the open-world approach to design that allows for great flexibility in where or what the player wishes to explore. The world isn't quite so much a sandbox, given that there's always some drive, or plot, for the player to pursue and conquer.
If I were to choose any specific favorite of the lot, I would tell you that it's gotta' be Morrowind, true and true. The setting of Vvardenfell is, straight off the prison ship, obviously alien in the sense of fantasy visuals. Just about all of the scenery, from the flora to the fauna is unrecognizable to our earthly persons. The player must discover what is and is not nice, and what will rip their face off right from the get-go. It allows for a purveying sense of mystery and exploration that lasts all the way till the hero finally ends his journey. I remember being just 'wowed' at how unique the biome of Morrowind's Vvardenfell was when I first played it, and how distinctly different the people were. Morrowind also marks the point in the series where the pen & paper RPG aspect is at its strongest before it turned more to its action RPG element of the later titles. It was also the last TES game I could specialize in and use pole-arms! I mean, their mechanics in the game were so useful too, in that the player could swing, stab and slash the things, but each worked best when used properly! It being a halberd really mattered, as opposed to mashing the attack button till your foe was paste. TES: Skyrim gets a near second for the visual design, eye-candy, better NPCs, oh, and all the DRAGONS. Plus, FUS RO-DAH!
Here's to hoping I can get this list done before I move next month, haha!

April 29, 2012

A to Zed - D is for Dirtside

Seems I've been off the ball for keeping these posts consistent. At the very least, I have an excuse for yesterday. My friend Evan got beat up pretty bad and we had a hospital day through till this morning. He's doing alright now though. There wasn't a concussion as I initially feared.


On the bounce.
Here I figured I'd dedicate the letter 'D' to an explanation of just why I've chosen to name the blog so.

"Hitting Dirtside" was a game me and some childhood friends long-gone used to play, it had nothing to do with the tabletop game, 'Dirtside'. Depending on where we would play, and what was available, some days the game was akin to 'King of the Hill', and others still, 'Capture the Flag'. "Hitting Dirtside" was never anything more than our fancy way of saying drop troopers hitting planet-side.

So how do the two correlate? Well, in our little game world there were the ground-pounders, or any manner of ground force/garrison; the dirt-stompers, marine forces deployed from space; bug-stompers, marines deployed from space to kill 'aliens' (think the USCMC); muckers, or expeditionaries; and squelchers, the assassins, spies, and saboteurs. In this game, regardless of variants, the bug-stompers would hit dirtside, take the hill (or flag) and defeat whoever was playing the space-jerks, or at least they would try to.

On occasion we'd even play some proto-version of child role-playing game, back when people weren't afraid of using their imagination to make anything fun. We even made up military ranks for our assassin game, where a space-jerk would try to knock off the whole command element. The equivalent of Operational Commander was called 'Head', with second-in-command being the 'Lance'. The aim of the game was to 'cut off the head of the snake', as the old saying goes.

In addition, I do not play the rules system Dirtside, nor do I plan to, though I do have a copy of the rules, and I do at least admire its design aesthetic.

Jumping Starside.

April 25, 2012

A to Zed - C is for Church, Doug

'C' is for Church, or Doug Church, a game designer currently enlisted within the ranks of game company, Valve. After leaving post-secondary, Church went on to begin his career working for Looking Glass Studios. The company, along with Church have received renown as creators of various innovations in video games, all the while still retaining interesting and engaging stories. Funnily enough, their games almost always did quite poorly in sales compared to their contemporaries, and were often regarded as "ahead of their time."

Various titles he is known to have worked on while at LGS include:  Ultima Underworld 1 & 2, System Shock, and Thief. Though I will strain right now that my main interest in this man and his work is for System Shock, and its sequel, System Shock II. He has proven to be an innovative member of the gaming industry time in and out, creating intricate and lively worlds that keep me coming back, even now, when DOS has all but died off.

For what time he has been involved with Valve, we can see his tendrils at work in Portal 2. His work has also influenced spiritual successors Deus Ex and BioShock. And though the company has not said what position he keeps, we can expect from what has been leaked on the internet, that he is involved in another game quite possibly similar to the previous System Shock games. The future can only tell what more this man has in store for us.

April 24, 2012

A to Zed - Broadmore, Greg

Greg Broadmore is an illustrator, designer, writer, and concept artist for Weta Workshop. Whether its science fiction, zeerust, Victorian punk, robots or dinosaurs, the man's on top. Some of his most well known work comes from District 9, King Kong, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And to say he has an eye for detail and flare for creativity is an understatement. Much of his visual design work is as is seen in the films themselves, almost as if transmuted straight from his drawings.

I first came to know of Broadmore and his work after appropriating a copy of the art book by Weta for the 2005 film, King Kong. Though I had known of Weta Workshop since The Lord of the Rings movies came about, it wasn't until the reimagining of one of my favorite films that I came to know of this fellow. And if you can find a copy of The World of Kong, A Natural History of Skull Island, you will be in for a treat, I guarantee it. There are multiple maps of Skull Island, along with breakdowns of the local ecologies for each section of the island. Our gaming group used it to run a fantasy expedition campaign, though I don't recall it ending well for the party...
Beyond the films he's been apart of, Broadmore has created the wonderful universe of Dr. Grordbort, though with the help of Weta, as I'm told. It's a lovely medley of Victorian science fiction and pulp topped off with eye candy. And the bestiary on the site has some beaut monsters! Other things he's had his hand in include the Riff Raff sculpture, and this funny tripod thing.

He regularly keeps the world up to date on his personal art through his website and web log.

Also, 'weta' are roughly 70 species of insect similar to crickets. And I'm not sure I sympathize with those complaining with the new Blogger layout. It seems to work fine for me.

A to Zed - A is for Asimov, Isaac

Well, after finally caving in after seeing how much fun everyone else is doing, I figured, heck, why not? After all, it's all in good sport and an excellent way of sharing one's interests with others, and does so without being intrusive like one of those chain-games. We'll see how well I can manage a-letter-a-day.


I begin with the letter 'A', and to represent it, I choose Asimov, or rather Isaac Asimov to be specific. Writer; futurist; creator of the Three Laws of Robotics; and maker of many science fiction tales. Some of his most notable works include: the Foundation, Galactic Empire, Robot, and Lucky Starr series of books. As time marched on ever forward, he later united these seemingly separate series into one "future history", though Lucky Starr is not included so far as I can recall.

Considered one of the top three science fiction writers that dominated the time, of which the others were respectively, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, Asimov also wrote works of mystery and fantasy, along with a fair spattering of non-fiction.

While I almost equally enjoy the works of Arthur C. Clarke, and there are numerous other interests and entries suitable for my representation of 'A', Asimov remains simply for the impact his worlds have imprinted on myself.

Any science fiction nut worth his salt is familiar with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. It frequently turns up in various stories in all seriousness and in jest, but also presents a solid platform of which to oppose the non-sense that any and all A.I. will by nature, eventually turn upon its creators. Not only do the rules govern safer synthetic thought processes, it also presents a challenge to the individual's integrity, and whether or not the rules can be broken. The Robot book series has left its own mark on where my thoughts turn to, and how to approach artificial intelligence, and the potential that true, unshackled synthetic intelligence might possess and utilize. One of my favorite Asimov works is The Robots of Dawn, third in the series, and an interesting "whodunnit" adventure for plainclothesman, Lije Baley.

The man can write an intricate story and plot, laced with interesting and diverse characters, whether or not they're human. Some have criticized his style of prose, for its often direct or sparse way, but its fashion leaves room for the mind to interpret and develop. Another intriguing aspect of all but a select few of works feature worlds devoid of non-humanity, where even at times robots do not accompany Man. It is a neat principle that avoids what is known as 'Clement's Paradox', or the effects of time and longevity on sentient races, and the chances of encountering them. This is also handy for certain interpretations of a humanist Traveller universe.

Plus, Alien has been so oft used for the 'A' entry, I found it a little passe to follow suit.

April 21, 2012


Continuing my long chain of posts not pertaining to miniatures in any scale, (I know a number of you're here for that solely; we'll return to it once I get a new camera), here's a concentrated shot of nostalgia to your lobes.

April 19, 2012

Mine Enemy.

Perhaps for most the flick, 'Enemy Mine' has passed on into obscurity as just another sci-fi thing.

Based on the book written by Barry B. Longyear of the same name, 'Enemy Mine' focuses on the story of a Bilateral Terran Alliance pilot and his Dracian enemy, both wrecked and marooned on an unregistered planet and left for dead. As they struggle to kill one another on the barren world (aren't they all?), the environment forces the two to shift their priorities and work cooperatively to survive, eventually forming an unlikely friendship.

"Shit? What do you mean, shit?"
While compared to today's visual spoilage, just about anyone will consider the effects to be silly, and the brief space battle that sets the premise for the film features noise in space (a la Star Wars), the story told is one marvelously crafted. And if I do say so myself, probably one of the better and more emotional that I've ever seen in film, let alone science fiction from yester-year. And while I admit, I'm quite shit at thoroughly explaining or swaying peoples opinions, as dictated by my rather bestial efforts at chicanery, I implore those of you that have not seen this film to seek it out, and those of you that have, to revisit it, but also to read the book should you find it.

House mk.2
As for you hobbyists out there; what potential does this whole shebang have for gaming? Nothing. Unless you're die-hard role-players that could handle the inter-character tensions and theme, or maybe the meteor showers and planetary fauna would look ace on your next backwater world. Who am I to say; or hold you back?

Also, I swear this web log is more than just binder!

April 15, 2012

Oubliette Magazine

For those of you that haven't heard, it's a mag that focuses mainly around the Labyrinth Lord game system, but any of its articles would be a fine fit for other systems and editions of maze mastering.

Now I suppose I'm not the most informed individual on the net, nor do I ever seem to have my ear to the ground regarding matters even closer to home, but what immediately had my attention about this magazine was the fact that it was an OSR magazine! Many of the older hobbyists have or at least once had magazines such as The Space Gamer, Polyhedron, The Dragon, and others to get their fix of fresh ideas and general hobby reads. Very few options remain these days that aren't just product ads under the guise of a monthly issue. (I'm looking at you, White Dwarf.)

In this day where so much is available across the digital medium, many can just as easily subscribe to a website, or a web log, and be about their merry way without a coin from their pocket. But for folks like me, who like to hold it in their hands; the grit of paper; the smell of new book; and the stack of reading always on-hand, it's a god-send. I would use a Kindle if given one, but the yellowed page is still strong in me.

Not only is it something I can hold physically that draws me to Oubliette, otherwise I'd have a hoard of books I don't like to read, but also that each issue brings with it wide and varied content, pictures, and even adventure modules with maps! There's always something new and exciting to be found within each issue, and I'll dare say that Regan and crew know how to please.

The only thing I regret was accidentally not purchasing issue #5 along with the rest when I did!

Furthermore, Tales from Hell is my kind of cartoon.