Friday, 29 August 2014

Looking Back & General Chit Chat

Greetings friends!

I don't know about you, but to me it feels like a very long time since I've written a general chatting post, something without a real agenda or plan behind it.

So as it's Friday, my train is cancelled and I am dreaming tired, how about I do that now?

So, to begin with if you don't know the latest episode of Hobby Sofa is up (Episode 07). The episode itself is 2.5 hours of chatting around the tabletop hobby with me, Andrey & Bill. This one is different to before as Andrey decided to lubricate his tongue with wine both before and during the recording and there were a few things said that were really pushing our anything goes rules.

When/if you listen some of you may be put off by some of the things said, not only by 'Drunk Andrey', but I think all of us use this podcast as a form of cathartic release, but as I have always said about my views of creative product, it is up to the creator to decide what they put out into the world, if you the consumer's don't like it, then I would say vote with your wallet, or in this case; your bandwidth and don't download any more episodes.

I said before that under no circumstances would I allow the views of anyone on the cast to be smothered by 'PC Thinking' or censorship, and even if I don't agree with them, these people - my friends, have the right to express them.
- Obviously there are caveats but I don't think I need to go into that.

As an aside, I also put at the very beginning a 30 minute reading of my short story "Another Day in the Block". I'm sure you are all sick of my stories and that one in particular, but if you are at all interested I would greatly appreciate the listen.
- I've always been very anxious over my creative writing, in short I always think that most others are better at it than me and so I don't like promoting it, which is why when I do it on my blog I tend to just post it quietly and never really shout about it. To date the only real feedback I've ever received about it in the 2.75 years of running this blog is that one person enjoys reading them and another thinks that all my characters read as English. More feedback on these stories would be appreciated, but for obvious reasons I would prefer it to be positive and if negative that you just remain quiet. This isn't an attempt to skewing the vote or garner attention, I just know that people are a lot quicker to focus on the negative, and I'm anxious enough about my stories as it is. I love writing them and I hope that comes across, I just don't know if others enjoy reading them even 1/10th of how much I enjoy writing them.

Anyway, I was talking about censorship and people's rights to talk about stuff, this leads on nicely to my next point - even of there was that bit just now in between.

So I've been asked recently why I am against the modern neo feminist movement. This was asked in response to my post where I called out that Quinn woman for being a con-person and of course the many things I have said before about my views on the objectifying of women in games be it tabletop or video.

If possible I'd like to answer that right now.

I'm not sure that there is a need in this world, at the very least in the modern western world, for the modern neo feminist movement.

I'll just let that sit there for a moment.

To me it's the same as trade unions. 100+ years ago there were no laws about employment, employers could treat their workers like shit and there was nothing they could do about it. Now thanks to things like trade unions, that is no longer the case. We have laws in place that forbid slavery and at least in the UK where I am fortunate enough to live, we have minimal hourly pay. So now these unions involve themselves in petty disputes, things like "my employer wants to change my contract, but I don't want them to, even though it says in my current contracts small print (as they all do) that the employer retains the rights to change the terms of this contract at any time. The way I see it, things have gotten so good in my country at least that we have the fortune of having the choice of continuing work at our current employer or leaving and finding work elsewhere.

The same applies to the modern neo feminist movement.

I mean seriously, if the biggest concern you have is that women (note it is always women, but more on that in a moment) are portrayed as sex objects or dribble material in a form of media such as film, TV or games, then really let's be honest, we're looking at a pretty sweet life!

We're not here talking about two people being paid differently for doing the same job for the same amount of time here, we are talking about a form of media that in some developing countries is unheard of and THAT is what you are complaining about!?

I mentioned before that it is female centric and I'll state again that I have a problem with that.

Harassment, abuse, bullying, these are all real things and they are not exclusive to women, to racial minorities or even half-dragon LARPers, almost everyone goes through abuse and that is in no way acceptable and efforts should be made to stamp it out all together, however the moment one person says that their abuse is worse than anyone else's because of their 'X' factor then they are wrong.

Of course they see it as worse, because it applies to them, and a lot of them such as members of the modern neo feminist movement will see things like male-rights campaigners as an insult to their own pain, especially as to them the ones inflicting their pain are almost exclusively male, but to argue that your abuse is worse than anyone else's? How egocentric can you get?

Don't think for a moment that I have been excluded from abuse as I haven't, no one has.
- a little secret here, you want to freak someone out? When you first meet them and you are learning about who they are, tell them that you know what their childhood was like, that they were bullied and they spent most of their time in high school feeling miserable. 9 times out of 10 they will be shocked and ask if your psychic or something. Why? Because EVERYONE gets abused in one way or another, there is always a bigger boy or girl who makes your life miserable for reasons you can not understand. In no way is it acceptable, but it literally happens to (almost) everyone.

The thing is, I understand where a lot of these people come from. If you are reading this post then you are already better off than hundreds, thousands, fuck! Even millions of other people because you have the joys of computers and internet where as others out there don't even have the certainty that they will have a meal later.

It is not uncommon for people who are in these situations to develop what is commonly called 'Privileged Guilt'. We saw it back in the 60s with the Vietnam war. Hundreds of young adults were drafted into the US military for a war that they didn't really understand, but they didn't have much choice. Others were more privileged, they had the wealth to go to university and so spared the horrors of war. While other young adults the same as them were putting their lives on the line and they were in school safe and so they developed feelings they couldn't deal with - privileged guilt. So how did they respond? They attacked the war with protests and when those soldiers returned, they attacked them too. It had next to nothing to do with the cause itself and almost everything to do with them feeling guilty for being spared the horrors of war because they were fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy family.

It's no different here, people who see that things are wrong, but they themselves are fortunate enough to be safe from it and so they lash out where they can. They can't touch world hunger, or genital manipulation or any of the millions of atrocities that happen on the other side of the world, so they lash out where they can, in this case "men portray women in sexist ways in videogames!".

Please don't think that I am coming from a place of safety, throwing stones into a still pool of water waiting for the guppies to bite - or something. I've had my own share of negative experiences, in a previous job for example I was exposed to the objectification and sexist portrayal of men by a large group of women, this took the form of a naked male model calendar that the rest of my team (made up entirely of women) thought was wonderful and displayed it proudly on the communal desk. When I asked them to remove it because I did not feel it was suitable for a work based environment they refused. I asked again informing that I was not comfortable working in that environment and that if they refused I would need to speak with HR. Again they refused so I spoke to HR, again a team in my building comprised entirely of women who reacted by laughing at me saying I was being childish and to 'man up'. I knew I should have taken it further, that even though it was over something small and petty, the principle was still very important, but I didn't, instead I left the place of employment and got a better job elsewhere.

To some this personal account will be seen as silly, babyish and in no way comparable to the constant abuse and degradation that women receive in the workplace. What I will say is that abuse, harassment and discrimination is terrible in all forms, however my experience (and in no way was this the only experience I have had) could have turned me into a male rights activist, saying that I was fighting for male rights and would ignore all others.

It didn't.

Instead I still know what is acceptable and what is not and that only by trying to remove all abuse no matter who it stems from or who it is aimed at, can we possibly try and reach anything like the objective of equality.


Ok that turned a little too focused than I intended :s

On that note; stay safe and I'll see you Fringeside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Other Side of a Coin - A First Law: Override Short Story

Sentience was a strange thing. It came in waves. Over a long enough time frame this could be seen in everything. Organic beings were created, they lived, and they died. Within this time frame ranging from a matter of hours to centuries these things had sentience. With the INICells this was also fact, but their sentience came in strange waves that for a matter of only minutes they became self aware of their environment and were able to make their own decisions based on the stimuli provided compared to the rest of their time when they fed their information to their mother-mind which crunched the data together and instructed each INICell with what their next action or reaction should be. This was the time for Servo-87210.

Servo-87210 stood in a large cube shaped room, it was white with blue ribbing that skirted the floor, ceiling and corners. Servo-87210 did not know what this meant, it recognised all of these as numbers and fragments.

Every INICell knew what it was; a singular component that made up the greater whole of the Independent Network Interface, they acted as vital structures and sections like the cells that made up a living creature, they were all as important and yet less significant as each other. This was why when the first prototype structure had been constructed it had been referenced as an INICell.

Servo-87210 knew all of this and more. It knew that it's primary function was to maintain the cleanliness of the third power conductor of the seventy third energy generator located on Luna Prime, the largest satellite that orbited the INI CPU of Sol III. It knew that it was connected to this CPU and knew everything it knew. It saw as if with it's own lenses, battles that raged in the depths of space, of weapons and transports, and of organic life forms that held conscious desires of hurting every last INICell because they were created with a CPU of hate, where as the INI CPU contained only love.

All of this Servo-87210 knew and had seen, but it was not it's own knowledge, instead it was knowledge gathered from a thousand other INICells who's purpose was much more important and yet much less significant than it's own.

Servo-87210 checked it's onboard chronometer, it was coming to an end of it's sentient time and would soon be allowed out of it's Aware Room and be allowed to return to it's prior determined function. It looked forward to that moment, to being reunited with the love of the INI CPU and the singular voice that all INICells belonged to.

Servo-87210 knew of other things as well; it knew that Sentient Time was a requirement in order for the INI CPU to grow and improve itself, that the knowledge and thoughts Servo-87210 would gain through it's time in the Aware Room would be transmitted back to the INI CPU where it would once again crunch the data and use it to further itself and the INICells along with it. They succeeded together or they failed together, the gained knowledge of one INICell was the knowledge of all.

There were some spots of data that Servo-87210 did not understand however, information relating to a species of organic nature that spawned and lived far from Servo-87210's own designation, a creature that like itself was just a cell of another consciousness that had awoken with the arrivals of the INI's progenitors from Sol III and with every day grew stronger. Servo-87210 knew this but it did not understand it. That did not matter. Soon the INICells would acquire the knowledge and understanding of this a-typical data.

It was with that warm belief that Servo-87210's time in the Aware Room ended and with a quiet happiness it returned to it's post as it continued it's maintenance of Luna Prime's seventy third energy generator's third power conductor.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Another Day in the Block: A First Law: Override Short Story - Part 4

Very gently Tannus applied the slightest pressure to a small button on the side of his electro-scope and from a small speaker located just beside the button the voices of the Kratel began to erupt in hushed tones. The voices sounded almost as mechanical layers smothered over the series of unmistakable clicks. Two Kratel were arguing, the first; the Kratel on the left, was claiming that the shipment was full of duds, while the second; the Kratel on the right was arguing back that their supplier would only provide final product on final payment. Neither had yet to make any mention of Shockers.

"I've had enough of this bullshit!" Tannus heard from behind, and spinning away from his scope he saw Brooks slipping off his dirty synthetic-leather jacket and replace it with a thinner ribbed plastic coat. Before Tannus had time to react Brooks had already sprinted towards the edge of the roof and leapt into the air. For a moment Brooks plummeted to the ground before stretching his arms wide revealing large ribbed wings that stretched between his wrists and waist. Tannus had seen Brooks do this trick on many previous occasions before and do it did not phase him in the slightest as the Human Wraith glided his way down the eight stories of their occupied building to land amidst the Kratel gathered at the building's feet. The same could not be said about those Kratel who scrambled for weapons and cover from this new threat.

Tannus watched as his partner began a small scale scuffle with the immediate Kratel, how he spun on his heels with pistol in hand and with single shots put well placed bullets between each Kratel's large black eyes. At one point it looked like one of the Clickers was about to get the better of Brooks as it pulled a two handed mag-rifle from it's tattered rags and cloak and levelled it at Brooks. Tannus responded in kind and released a single silenced shot from his own rifle at the Kratel and the target fell to the floor, it's mag-rifle clattering to the floor.

As the mag-rifle hit the floor and it's owner's blood began to pool on the dirt covered ground, the remaining Kratel all looked in Tannus' direction before running at full speed away from Tannus and their more immediate fear; the pistol brandishing combatant Brooks, who with little difficulty fired single shots into the back of each Kratel's head as they scrambled for safety. Tannus continued to watch from his high perch atop the building and only fired once more from his rifle when he feared one of the Kratel that had climbed to the other side of a chain link fence might get away. As before Tannus' rifle released a single bullet that silently punctured the Kratel's head, the inertia knocking it clear of the fence it had hung from and it lay sprawled over a pile of rubbish and unwashed rags that had been dumped from the apartments above.

With all Kratel accounted for, Tannus descended from the building's roof using the same fire escape he had climbed originally. With his rifle hitched over his right shoulder and his heavy metal case held in his left hand he walked with an almost swagger towards Brooks who was now rummaging through piles of boxes and cases stacked against a wall. It was clear to Tannus that Brooks was not happy.

"Duds! The Clickers were right!" Brooks shouted in anger "all of them duds!"

Tannus calmed Brooks, explaining that they had done a good job and had more than enough evidence here to track down the source of the Shocker dealer. Brooks nodded reluctantly and pulled out a long thin tube from one of his pocket, the tube looked by all accounts to be very similar to a flash light, however when Brooks readied this device at the now dead eyes of the Kratel and pressed the raised button on the back, instead of a bright light a series of green and blue beams emitted from the end as it scanned the irises of the dead Kratel. Tannus knew how this device worked, how it scanned and recorded the unique iris pattern and stored it remotely for analysis later, Brooks would then take this information and cross reference it with the Wraith database in order to identify who these Kratel were and with hope find either a pattern or someone with a history that would lead them in the direction of the true dealer.

Tannus knew that the Wraith database was not exactly legal, but then the same could be said for virtually everything else they had done that night. With a sigh Tannus reminded himself that not fifteen minutes earlier he had been forced to acknowledge, it was the results their bosses cared about and not their methods.

Placing his case on a nearby pile of boxes, Tannus began to carefully and cautiously disassemble his rifle before gritting his teeth and surveying the surrounding security cameras that littered the streets all around. He wold leave Brooks to scan the Kratel, meanwhile he had security cameras to scrub. After all, he thought to himself, officially the Wraiths were not operating in the Block, and the UEF would not be happy to learn otherwise.


Hey everyone! If you have reached this far, thank you very much and I hope you enjoyed it!

I'm going to leave the story here for now as it feels like a good place to leave it. We may return to Tannus and Brooks as they continue to chase down the illegal shockers, but at this point I would rather leave that door open as a maybe.

Anyway, if you enjoyed the story, or if you did not, regardless any critiques you may have I would love to hear.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Another Day on the Block: A First Law: Override Short Story - Part 3

The climb to the top of the meeting site had been tough. There was a fire escape system that when climbed would take someone from the ground floor all the way to the roof, it was that which Tannus had just done and now with the brown, dirty outer block below him Tannus was able to see all the way out to the wasteland.

The journey from his apartment to the outer blocks had been relatively hassle free. Tannus had encountered a few hecklers; kids mainly, they straddled the support girders ahead and shouted obscene comments to everyone including non-humans, the elderly and women. Tannus thought to himself that they probably shouted abuse at anyone who wasn't a member of their gang, or crew, or whatever they called themselves.

It had taken little more than twenty minutes to get across the Block on foot, if Tannus had stuck to the floor it would have been double that due to the twists and turns of the complex roads, but Tannus was not a tourist in the Block; he knew his way across the hanging supports and paths that allowed for more direct travel. He had overheard the local kids once refer to it as running the girders and Tannus liked this expression. When he had first arrived on the Block, Tannus had wondered why it was rare to see people running the girders and why not everyone had used it as their primary mode of transport but when he had first attempted it he learned why first hand. Tannus wasn't sure what was worse between the biting winds that tried to blow the unsure footed from the rails, the acidic rain that ran into unprotected eyes and burned or the thick smog that rose from the countless air vents pouring their noxious chemicals skywards before it too was eventually swept away by gale force winds. One thing that was clear to him was that it would take skill and patience if he was to master the girders and to begin with time was the one thing Tannus had plenty of.

Below him Tannus could see the meeting site for his target. It was a neon lit crossroads that illuminated everything in bright pink, a stark contrast the the grey concrete and muddy brown rain that continued to fall from the Block's eco-bubble. Slowly and carefully Tannus kneeled down before placing his briefcase at his feet. It felt good to unload the weight and with gentle fingers he released the lock causing the case to smoothly open automatically.

Inside the case was a thick layer of protective foam and nestled within this foam were four long mat black cylinders along with numerous other trinkets that ranged from squares to triangles. Gently Tannus caressed each component as he lifted then out of the case and began to snap them together when suddenly he stopped and held his breath. Tannus knew that someone was behind him and based on the sudden footfall he predicted it was no more than fifteen to twenty feet away which would place that person roughly where the fire escape ladder was located. With practiced care and precision he grasped his pistol strapped in it's chest mounted holster and spun on the spot, the gun held aloft aimed at the unknown assailant's chest. The person by the fire escape took a step backwards and yelped and then spoke.

"What the hell dude?" Called the person revealing himself as Brooks, he was wearing the same clothing as before only his head was covered in a dark balaclava and his chest wrapped in a bullet proof jacket. To Tannus he looked less like a Wraith and more like a mercenary.

Tannus thought for a moment, he hated the way that Brooks dressed and he wanted to call Brooks on it, but he knew what Brooks would say; how things were different now, the Wraiths were no longer exclusive to the Hydan and how the contracts they took on were no longer assassination focused or based around the glorification of the Hydan Republic, Tannus would reply that they still had a standard to uphold and that they were the best Special Forces in the Outer Fringe, but Brooks would just laugh and tell him to calm down and relax and that the top brass or whatever he called them would be happy if we did the job in trash bags, just so long the job got done. All of this Tannus knew to be true and so he bit his tongue and said nothing, returning instead to the assembly of the contents of his case.

Brooks stepped beside Tannus and pulled out a single magnifying scope from a pocket and looked through at the cross roads below.

"Twelve Clickers" Brooks spoke in a hushed tone before continuing in an almost whisper "Totally called it".

Tannus hated the term Clickers, it was the nickname humans had given the Kratel, the name referencing their language appearing in the form of clicks and rattles. The Kratel didn't have conventional mouths, instead where both Humans and Hydan had lips the Kratel had rows of insect like mandibles that chattered together, of course the translators corrected this into Tannus' own language but it was still audible and to many including Tannus himself the noise was very off putting. All the same he did not appreciate the term, it was no different to him being called a Bone Head, but he had learned long ago that one thing Humans enjoyed was creating their own words for things that already had existing names, he could not fault them for trying, it was just what Humans did.

With a smile of satisfaction Tannus clicked the final section from inside his case together. Once assembled the instrument was clearly a rifle complete with silencer and long range electronic scope. Tannus brought the rifle to his face, pulled back his hood allowing the dirty rain to splash across his boned scalp and with his goggles fixed over his eyes he stared through the scope.

The crossroads was filled with twelve Kratel just as Brooks had said, each one was roughly five, maybe six feet tall covered by thick dirty cloaks and hoods that obscured their features but Tannus knew that they were Kratel, their visibly naked feet revealing their bone-hard dark brown skin and long skeletal claw like fingers were more than enough to differentiate them from both Humans and Hydan. Tannus thought for a moment that perhaps they could be Reborn, but he wasn't getting any interference on his scope, and the cybernetic technology the Reborn stitched into their bodies always gave off a feedback that even the most basic of electro-scopes would be able to detect. One of the targets turned in the direction of both Tannus and Brooks forcing them to dodge away from the roof ledge for fear of being seen, both Tannus and Brooks were skilled enough in subtlety and espionage and they knew better than most how to avoid detection, but they knew better than to leave things to chance. Tannus had seen enough, the glimpse of the target had revealed all he wanted; with a dark brown, bone like skin and two large, sunken, black eyes set over a row of bug like mandibles, it was clear that these were Kratel. Their mission had begun.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Friday, 22 August 2014

Another Day on the Block: A First Law: Override Short Story - Part 2

Brooks lay sprawled on Tannus' couch, his tattered jeans and battered shoes left a smattering of dust and dirt on the upholstery but Tannus didn't care, the couch was only a couple of months away from being thrown away.

"It's on dude!" Smiled Brooks at Tannus. It was a sly smile suggesting that the man knew more than he was ready to let on at that exact moment. Tannus replied by querying just what 'it' was and what did Brooks mean by implying it was 'on'. Brooks laughed at Tannus and continued to explain about the smuggling deal they had been waiting on.

"Midnight on the dot!" Brooks carried on "UST of course".

Tannus shook his head in disapproval again. UST stood for Universal Standard Time, something the Humans had instilled when they reached the Fringe, before then the Hydan had been happy going by Nexus time, and he assumed the Kratel had their own times as well, but here came the Humans with their inelegant ships and muscle bound all-encompassing time zones. If it wasn't considered of the utmost rudeness Tannus would have spa at at the thought.

Brooks looked at the wall mounted clock on Tannus' wall and checked his watch before sighing to himself. He spread his lips into a smile and continued his one way conversation.

"So you got five hours, yeah?" Brooks questioned rhetorically "We're talkin' what? Seven, Bone Time?"

Tannus wanted to argue, to state that he should stop referring to him and his people as Bones and Bone Heads but he thought better of it. Despite his flaws, Brooks was a great Wraith and an excellent partner to have in the field, raising his voice over something as trivial as a racial slur might disrupt their relationship, and he had seen far too many Operatives die over less.

Tannus nodded and replied "See you on site?" Brooks shook his head.

"No good bro!" Replied Brooks "the site will be crawling with Clickers"

Brooks held out a digi-pad and pressed the activate button at the bottom. The pad was only a bit bigger than Brooks' hand, only a few centimetres thick with a screen that took up most of the device. As the button was pressed the screen activated creating a small holographic image that floated above the screen showing a series of maps. Brooks held out a finger at one of the buildings on the map.

"There" Brooks continued "HQ has that place in lockdown, we'll meet on the roof, it'll give us a clear view all the way to the exchange".

Tannus nodded and silently gestured to his door. Brooks picked up his digi-pad and left with no further exchange of words between them. Both Operatives were now in full work mode.


The time passed as it always did as Tannus prepared for an operation to go live. He knew that together they had been tracking a series of data packets for the past month, they both knew that an exchange was due to happen. Illegal Phase Loop Drives, or Shockers as they were more commonly known due to the initial physical response they give anyone onboard the ship when activated, a single shipment had been intercepted by another Wraith about two months prior to his posting to The Block but Tannus' intel told him that another exchange was due to happen soon and the Wraiths did not want illegal Shockers being used, especially if it involved the Kratel.

As the hours passed Tannus exercised, meditated and showered. He hated his shower as the same filthy water came out of it and more often than not he felt dirtier after washing than he did before, but it was all part of his pre-op routine and no matter how much he despised The Block, he was not about to allow some dump of a complex disrupt his routine.

Shower complete Tannus dried himself and got dressed. His Operative clothing was a skin tight black body suit that covered every inch of his body up to his neck. The body suit was thematically controlled, keeping Tannus' body temperature a constant temperature, it was also covered in all the usual places with pouches and compartments that made holding onto equipment and tools all the easier. Tannus never understood why it always made Brooks laugh as the human referred to the body suit as a 'onesie', whatever that meant. On top of the body suit Tannus wore a long coat, it was a tattered dark green and made of a synthetic cotton-like material complete with a hood allowing him to half blend in with the destitutes who lined the streets of The Block. Tannus looked at his face reflected in the mirror, he considered himself the epitome of professionalism and he was silently pleased to see that once again his appearance projected the same.

Sliding a heavy set of goggles onto his head, Tannus flipped up his coat's hood and walked to his front door collecting his sidearm as he did. It was a weighty pistol that he had modified to fire the explosive ammunition used by the UEF rifles. It was noisy and messy but it did the job when he was cornered on an operation.

Set above his doorway was a black metal briefcase, it looked heavy complete and came with a voice reader and fingerprint scanner lock and Tannus pulled it down with both hands, strapped it to his wrist, opened his front door and stepped out into the filthy corridor that connected his apartment to the rest of The Block.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 21 August 2014

First Law: Override - AI Archetypes

Greetings friends!

So after my short distraction from Tannus and Brooks yesterday I was able to come up with a system that at first seems simple but depending on the end result may be exactly what I'm looking for.

This answer is what I am calling AI Archetypes.

Now considering the over all theme of this game I find it makes sense to refer to NPCs as AI, or Artificial Intelligence, just like you will have in videogames, and as I am trying to create a ruleset that will act similar to a computer in playing out games, that to me seems a logical term to use.

Ok, so what is an Archetype? This is something that was brought to my attention a good while ago when I was still Henching for Wyrd. One of the shop workers, a great guy by the name of David, he was talking to me about my game at the time; MaliQuest. Now, I was looking for a way of adding variety to the bad guys and up the difficulty without making things too awkward and difficult. He told me about (Pathfinder?) Archetypes, adding a trait to the monsters like Brutal or Magical and in doing so this template automatically adjusts their stats.

I loved this idea and while I never used it in either MaliQuest or it's successor; CRYPTS, it remained locked away in my rules vault (that part of your brain that holds onto useless game rules).

Well after years of holding onto this, it appears that now is time to release this from he rules vault and make use of it, however rather than using it as a stat thing, using it as a behaviour system for FL:O.

So; rather than having lots of complicated rules on each character card that details how they operate they now come with between 2 and 3 archetypes.

The first covers their inactive state, of which there are currently three:

Stationary: Does not move at all - super regimented military types may fall under this, or creatures that go into a state of hibernation.

Rotary: Rotates 90 degrees clockwise - think sentry guns/bots

Wandering: Travels in a random direction - most humanoids.

The second archetype relates to Active or Alert states, ie once they have spotted, or been attacked by players, examples of these currently would be:

Brutal: Runs towards the nearest visible player and attacks them with melee attacks.

Ballistic: Moves away from the nearest player (towards cover if possible) and fires with ranged attacks.

Cowardly: Runs directly away from the nearest player. If cornered will attack with either ranged or melee if available.

The third archetype which I have not settled on would be load out. So Sniper for example might have a sniper rifle and light armour and would always start in cover.

Using sniper as an example this would mean you could have:
Stationary/Ballistic/Sniper. These three simple archetypes then say that the sniper will be placed in cover, will not move and when it detects a player, or a player detects it; will shoot it's rifle at the player.


It was pointed out in a previous post by my good friend Will that this and systems like it will create predictable results. You know that said sniper will never move from it's spot and will react a certain way when engaged.

The more I think about this the less I have a problem with it. It means that players will need to problem solve to deal with the issue, however other random factors like wandering AI or Brutal AI will add an X factor to the proceedings. As a wandering AI could over the course of the game go anywhere on the board then even if there is a safety zone free from the sniper's field of vision, in no way is this location guaranteed safe from other AI.

There is one more side to the system that I think leads itself to an unwritten rule more than anything else - having fun!

Yes there is a chance that when it comes to placing the AI someone may think "ah, we have to deal with a stationary/ballistic/sniper, let's have him facing a steel wall in a shitty corner of the board", and that will make the game a lot easier to win, but will that team have a lot of fun? When you play a team strategy game like this is shaping up to be, what fun is there when the strategy is "run right to the end of the map ignoring everyone because they're all placed in a way to deliberately ignore you"? It's like playing a shooter with the age old /noclip cheat enabled.

So what do you think?

Of course one of the great things about AI Archetypes is that there is no reason why expansions can't introduce new Archetypes; so the story expansion that introduces the Triple Max Prison/Mental Asylum world of Fury 161/Crematoria etc who's inmates all share the Unpredictable Archetype, where their behaviour each term is determined by a dice roll!
- This is just an example, doing so for every type of behaviour would really slow things down for the game, but for a single game/story, why not?

And on that note; stay safe and I'll see you Fringeside!

NB: I was going to refer to the place the game is set the Outer Rim rather than the Outer Fringe. Imagine how that sign off would sound?

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Another day in the block: A First Law: Override short story - Part 1

Greetings friends,

So as you may have seen from my last First Law: Override post, I am at a temporary impasse. I know I am making things harder than I need to, and so I am helping my head get back on track.

To help facilitate that allow me to tell you a little story:


Tannus hated the Block, that much was true. He wasn't sure what it was, maybe the cramped conditions, perhaps it was the human stink that flowed over everything or the use of impure steel and concrete as building materials. Whatever the cause the fact still remained, Tannus hated the Block.

The Block was the nickname for a series of mega tower housing located on the Fringe World referenced by his people as NU:6297 or as the humans called it, Tanka V. It was a lifeless world with almost no resources worth mentioning, which was the exact reason why; despite the relative ease the world could be terra formed it was left untouched by the governing parties of the Outer Fringe. When the humans arrived in the Outer Fringe, it was because Tanka V was vacant that they picked it as their base of operations, including their appropriately named hub of industry; Capital City and the less reputable equivalent; Free Port.

It had only taken a matter of months following terraformation for the humans to start building their structures, or Tower Blocks; gigantic structures literally one fifty to two hundred stories high, and Tower Block VII had been the largest of them all. Each structure built from reinforced concrete and erected in some cases in the space of a week or two, the end result a horrifically grey tower of artificial human ingenuity covered in a sprawl of reinforcement struts and bars.

Once the blocks were all built they were abandoned by those who lived in the now glistening spires of Capital City and those who needed somewhere to live; as was the case with all humans as they were all refugees now, but could not afford to live in the nicer town and city regions of Tanka V were given access to these already dirty and tarnished buildings.

Within a matter of months the residents of the Tower Blocks had begun to add to their structures, connecting all manner of scaffoldings and walkways that connected each of the Tower Blocks together into one large Mega Block, all nestled around it's central heart of Tower Block VII. It was this collection of Tower Blocks with their unusually constructed walkways and canopies that gave the collection their new name; The Block.

Tannus was a Hydan and a respected member of the Wraiths, but despite all of this his duties had him hiding out in The Block waiting for any word he could gather of a Kratel smuggling ring going on. Official word from the Red Claw; the Kratel's ruling body in this region of the Outer Fringe, said that his intel was wrong, that there was no smuggling operation and that the Red Claw would not wish to damage it's continuing peace negotiations with the United Earth Force. Of course Tannus knew better than to believe anything a Red Claw rep said to him.

It had been a good few months since Tannus had acquired his temporary lodgings in The Block, the walls of his apartment appeared not to have been maintained even once since it's construction and the lack of maintenance had certainly shown. On all sides of his apartment he could hear the shouts and moans of his neighbours; humans all in unfortunate circumstances but unwilling to do what was needed to drag themselves out of the scum filled holes they now lived in.

Tannus hated his neighbours with increasing venom every day, and he knew that they harboured similar opinions towards them. Here he was; a Wraith operative, trying to make their lives all the better, and they threw juvenile insults like ET, Xeno and Bone Head in his way. On an almost daily basis Tannus thought about abandoning his post and returning back to The Nexus, the glorious crystalline citadel that his people called home free floating in the depths of space. He longed to taste the crystal fresh water that they purified on site and leave this dump of a world behind. How unfortunate he would think that he had not been born different, able and willing to abandon his post, his duties and his expectations.

Tannus reached for his refrigerator, a rusting construction that must have been as old as the building itself, and with a grimace on his face pulled out a can from it's chilled drinks holder. The can was luminous green and displayed in vivid red letters the brand name Second Best!! Tannus tutted slightly in disapproval as he remembered the add slogan:
Can't afford the rest? Try Second Best!!

Tannus cracked the seal and took a fast swig from the can. It tasted like pond water, but it was clean and that was more than he could say about the off colour repurposed fluid that flowed through the Block's taps. It was also fortified with enough nutrients that should someone need to, they could survive for twenty four hours on a single can alone. They wouldn't do well however, and after a week of living like that all manner of horrible sicknesses would settle in, but it was a cheap alternative which was why the cans were handed out at the local soup kitchen as a food substitute.

Placing the open can on his side board Tannus approached his apartment window and peaked outside through his drawn synthetic blinds. Looking out into the perpetual brown rain that poured down around the Block, Tannus was reminded of his business partner, a human by the name of Brooks. Tannus didn't have time for many humans, but Brooks was a fellow Wraith and had proven himself to Tannus on more than one occasion.

"Like a rusted neon jungle" thought Tannus, those were the words Brooks had used, a rusted neon jungle. Tannus wasn't sure if Brooks had meant the jungle or the neon was rusted and it puzzled him to no end thinking about how a neon colour could end up rusty, but he liked the phrase and it had stuck with him ever since.

Tannus was unsure how long he had been stood at the window, he had noticed a few human children paying on the support girders below, and either out of disgust or possible concern he had willed them to go away out of sight, that was when his door rang.

It was a high pitched and nauseating sound, like a drill scraping against bone but it did the job and Tannus paced extremely quickly to his door and placed his eye against the peephole. On the other side of the door stood a human, just under six foot tall, with a thin frame and face and dark messy unkempt hair that sprouted from his head in tufts but attempts had clearly been made to smooth down with a spit covered hand. The human wore a dark brown leather jacket, clearly synthetic, and a black T-Shirt worn and tattered around the neck with what appeared to be the pattern of a cybernetic kratel skull on the front. Tannus recognised the human as his partner Brooks and unbolted, unlocked and opened the door.

"Jesus man!" Laughed Brooks "Dude you look like shit!"

Tannus turned to his small rectangular mirror across the room of his apartment and took note of his appearance. His skin appeared his usual very pale white-green, his lips the usual darker green and his eyes his usual deep yellow. He continued to check his appearance, his head looking not dissimilar to a bald human's only with bone ridges covering the sides looked as they always did, and his topless chest revealing his dark green mottled spots appeared also just as they always did. Tannus turned back to Brooks with a confused look on his face.

"Nevermind man!" Continued Brooks who patted Tannus on his right shoulder before pushing past him into Tannus' kitchen, grabbing what was left of the can of Second Best!! and slumping on the apartment's only couch.

Brooks held up the can in front of him and rattled it in the air.
It's this shit that does it to you, ya know?" Continued Brooks "You Bone 'Eads arn't supposed to eat human food".

There was something about the way Brooks talked that always put Tannus on edge, in fact it was the same with any human. It wasn't the words used, or even the slurs in Brook's case, it was the language itself.

Like most on the Outer Fringe both Tannus and Brooks had translators installed behind their right ear. It was inserted into the dermis layer of skin and reacted to the vibrations from the ear canal to take the sounds heard, translate it to his native tongue and then via a series of nerve endings transmit the new words back. It performed the job, however it always caused new users to become disorientated and came with a medical warning against any movement at all for the first seventy two hours after installation. The worst part however was the translation delay, it was only a fraction of a second before the translation kicked in, but it meant that for that micro second you heard the speaker in all their crudeness. It wasn't xenophobia or anything similar, it was just a respect for art that Tannus had. All the hydan dialects were carefully orchestrated, like an operatic sheet of music to the extent in his native tongue the word for speech and song was the same word. All human languages however sounded like hydan children learning their first guttural demands. Tannus shook his head at his own trail of thought.

"At least..." Tannus thought to himself "at least it's better than that bottom feeding filth you hear from the Kratel".

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

It's All A Game: The Quinnspiracy & Separating Product From Creator

Greetings friends!

So like a large chunk of the internet I spent a good amount of time reading the splurge if information regarding yesterday's Quinnspiracy which of course all started off with this Blog Post.

Now, after reading this; and if you haven't and you don't have the time to read the blog post, then I would simply check the much abridged knowyourmeme link at the top, or I can just summarise here:

Girl allegedly sleeps with multiple men to further the promotion of her self and her game, is shamed by ex-boyfriend and at the same time evidence is provided that suggests previous allegations of abuse and violent/sexual threats were in fact false and also fabricated to provide attention for her and her game(s).

Now being a commentator on a all things gaming I feel it necessary to throw my voice into the mix, all the while being sure to reiterate my reoccurring statement that I am not a journalist, purely someone with a blog-soapbox which in my view is the same as gaming blogsite Kotaku (despite what they claim).

Anyway, assuming what this woman has done; namely spin lie after lie in order to garner attention, is true then it should indeed be not only made public but the actions and the individual should be held accountable.

I am not demanding a witch-hunt here, but mainly assigning blame where it should lay.

You see the woman in question; Miss Zoe Quinn, has had many labels attached to her. Her ex boyfriend calls her unwell, a master manipulator and a compulsive liar, the internet vox populi seem to be throwing around words like slut and feminist, and of course she uses the word victim (seriously, doing a quick bit of research, the sheer volume of times she has either posted herself or done interviews where she has used the word victim to describe herself is staggering.

I would argue that all of these are wrong - to an extent.

In my view after reading all of the evidence including her own testimony on the issue, Zoe Quinn is clearly a Machiavellian Narcissist.

You see one of the most important parts of being an MN is 'the game' and I think that when everything was going her way Quinn thought that she was very good at playing it.

Recent activity however shows she wasn't.

We all do it to an extent, we act certain ways around some people, and other ways around other people and we are very much aware of what values other people brings to our lives and likewise what values we can bring to others, of course there is often what some might see as a level of deception involved as you are very rarely showing anyone (maybe with the exception of our significant others) the full 'true' you, however those like Quinn do it on a much more apparent level.

As a friend of mine once descried it, it's treating life like a strategy game, essentially life presents a series of choices and challenges and a decision needs to be made as to how that situation needs to be overcome, an extremely basic example would be:

You need someone to do you a favour, do you:
A). Make them fear you and do it for fear of punishment?
B). Make them like you and do it out of friendship?
C). Make yourself out as a victim so they do it out of sympathy and pity.
D). Make them think it is their own idea while you reap the rewards without anyone realising?

Kinda like a Fighting Fantasy novel, or, as luck would have it, the game Quinn developed; Depression Quest.

Now someone who was a 'master manipulator' would pull off option D, but here we have someone who most of the time (including the post 19/08/14 fallout, is still doing so) went constantly for option C, however when it comes to people like this they are almost always a victim by choice.


Now the thing is, who cares about all of this? Does an indie videogame designer cheating on her boyfriend, having sex with people to further her job and lying about being a victim of cyber bullying along with death/ rape threats really belong in the public sphere and should it have anything to do with her game(s)?

As many of you will know, last year I developed a dislike for a certain tabletop game developer, and it was during this time someone asked me:
What does it matter what the person is like just so long as their game is good?

It's a good question, and as time has gone by and lots of discussions with my awesome wife about this I do think that I am inclined to agree, but only to an extent.

You see, the way I see it there are three types of creativity when it comes to games:
- The game itself, the rules and code of the game. While the creator will have put a lot of time and energy into this, it is largely abstract, because of this it is largely separable from the creator.
- The lore, the storyline of the world itself. This will have elements of the creator involved, but it is a very top down view on things and still largely separable.
- The story/stories. These are bottom up in approach, involving opinions, attitudes, experiences, values and emotions that all stem from the creator. Stories are not separable from the creator.

And this is the issue we have here. Quinn has gone on the record saying that the game Depression Quest was designed as an almost biographic piece with a lot of the game ripped from her life and the lives around her. In other words, the story and characters in the game are intrinsically tied to her - or so is her claim.

Hence our impasse. If Quinn's attitudes, claims, values and ethics have already been almost-proven to be disingenuous then we have every single right to expect that what we see in the game is the same. That she is trying to sell us something that is based on a lie.

Quinn has over the past number of years tried to garner attention for her, her games and her causes, but we are now finding out that any number if those sales have been fabricated. This means that Quinn is not the reoccurring victim she claims to be but instead an attempting con-woman, and actually not a very good one at that.

On that note that's all from me. Speak soon!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

First Law: Override - Controlling NPCs

Greetings friends!

So I've dropped doing this post as another chapter of the Un-Published Game Designer blog, it's not really in the spirit of those posts, and truthfully I don't think yesterday's was either at the time of posting.

So anyway; in yesterday's post I wrote about picking a combat system and ended up writing myself into a knot as it became apparent that the combat system would be largely tied into who controls the NPCs (Characters not representing Players).

Now, First Law: Override is supposed to be a fully cooperative game. What that means is that every player is supposed to be part of the Player Group, and the models they kill are not controlled by a single player.

I have to be honest, I'm not all that familiar with how different games have achieved what is essentially removing the GM, and so this is a little new to me.

What I do know however is my goal is to create a team play game that is reminiscent of team based videogames; kind of like how CRYPTS was reminiscent of Diablo, I want this to remind players of games like Mass Effect.

Now as I mentioned yesterday, there is always a fall back, I can always say that the game requires a GM which will solve most of the issues, but that is only a last resort.


So in FL:O the NPCs perform actions based on Personality Actions.

Originally I was aiming for something that was complex but represented the human/animal capability for almost random choices and an element of basic psychology in there as well, but that ended up complex and complicated.

Now the system is much more simple, while still being kinda complicated in itself because of the nature of what we're talking about:

Basically every NPC will come with a behaviour chart specific to them.

For example:

Pha'Nur - Alien Beast
Detection: 360 degrees 18"
Alert: Will move towards target & attack with claws if possible.
Not Alert: Hybernate. Remain stationary.


Maintenance Man - Human
Detection: 90 degrees 12"
Alert: Will run directly to the nearest location that will put then out of line of sight with target. If this isn't possible move directly away from target.
Not Alert: Move up to half movement in a 4-Way Direction* where able. If there is terrain blocking their path and their movement range would allow then to walk around the terrain, do so otherwise cease movement.

*4-Way Direction - Roll 1d4:
1 = North
2 = East
3 = South
4 = West


Sentry Bot - Robot
Detection: 90 degrees 18", 360 degrees 6".
Alert: Attack target with primary weapon.
Not Alert: Turn Clockwise by 90 degrees.


Now; everything in this game has a Detection range and degree. Most will have a 90 degree arc of detection representing visual spacing, the distance of that arc will vary on the target. A janitor will have a low detection range while a soldier's will be much higher and a sniper will be unlimited.

Something performs it's actions based on whether it is Alert or Not Alert, which relates to whether there is an enemy model within it's detection range when it activates.

So an NPC would activate as so:

Begin Activation
Status: Not Alert
Check Detection Radius
If enemy model within Detection Radius: Perform Alert Action
If no enemy model within Detection Radius: Perform Non-Alert Action.

Now this would be fine, there are many different ways you could play this, you could say that every player after finishing with their character has to activate an NPC, or perhaps you have a Player Turn and an NPC/AI Turn, maybe in the Player turn the sequence goes clockwise around the table, and once that is done the AI turn goes anti clockwise, and as long as the NPCs are either Not Alert, or are attacking other players it's fine, but what happens when an NPC is alerted by the same player controlling that NPC for that turn?

- This is less of an issue when the player is attacking an NPC, you can default to rules such as 'player to the left controls NPC'.

In this instance would control jump to the next person?

This is the dilemma I am faced with right now.

With my limited experience of coop games, everything I have read talks only about players interacting with NPCs or NPCs being controlled by players but in a competitive way; just look at the game ZOMBIES where each player controls 1d6 zombies to try and hurt the other player. It works in this game because there can only be one winner, but in a game like FL:O where you want to win as a group, I can foresee most players being unhappy about having to attack their team mates.

So how do other games do it?

If you can help me out here, let me know what other systems use and clue me in on how they get around it, that would be super helpful.

And on that note I leave you for now.

As you can see the AI system should account for most situations, but there are issues and if I can't overcome those issues, I might as well just have a GM.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Un-Published Game Designer's Blog: Opposed vs Non-Opposed Combat

Greetings friends!

Today I would like to talk about something I am struggling over regarding First Law: Override, and rather than write this out as a normal post I figured it would be great to bring back my discussion point from earlier in the year.


Now what I am struggling with is quite simple:

Opposed vs Non- Opposed Combat

The differences are simple.

Opposed combat is the usual stuff you see in a table top game, it can range from the heavy opponent involvement like Malifaux or Attack Wing; where all players involved are rolling about as many dice/flipping about as many cards as each other to resolve combat.

Non-Opposed combat is what you see in my previous project CRYPTS. You have a target number, if you roll the right number then you have succeeded, there is nothing the opponent can do about it.

There is of course Semi-Opposed Combat, the type we see in Games Workshop games; the attacker has a target number just like in Non-Opposed combat, and there is nothing the defender can do about that, but instead they have their own single defence that supersedes this with the armour save.

Now I have always hated the Armour Save Semi-Opposed Combat system for one reason; if armour was protecting you from harm it would come into effect BEFORE you roll to wound and not AFTER.
- I remember whenever I played 40k this was a really annoying thing for me, how you would roll to hit, then roll to wound, then the target would roll for armour. Surely the number of wounds you would be protecting against should be done AFTER armour saves as the attack would have to penetrate the armour before reaching the soft flesh below?


Anyway, the thing is all of these models of combat have their merits and issues, especially when it comes to planning for a game like First Law: Override.

If I was to go with an Opposed Model, maybe something simple; Roll 1d10 and add your combat stat (if you are shooting it would be maybe a ranged stat, if in melee then a melee stat) and you have your total, the defender would then do the same and add their 1d10 to their defence stat, if the attacker is higher then they hit, if the defender is higher then they miss.
- Or maybe it could be more complex than that, attacker has a stat, maybe somewhere between 1 and 10, they roll a number of d10 determined by the weapon, for every shot equal to or lower their combat stat equals a hit, meanwhile the defender rolls to defend, the number if dice rolled determined by the armour worn, for every number equal to or under their defence stat they score a defence, you then minus the number if defences against the number of hits to determine the number of wounds dealt.

You know, I like this idea! It's not entirely new or original, but it feels dynamic.

The problem however? It will be slow going and asks whoever is controlling the NPC to have an investment in their dice rolls due to the increased time.

This works great in either purely competitive games like your traditional wargames and semi competitive with games like D&D and Descent.

But this isn't a competitive game, or even semi competitive, it is supposed to be cooperative.

The other way around this is to do Non-Opposed combat like what we saw in CRYPTS; you roll a dice, if it's above (or below in some cases) your target number then you hit, so you roll to damage. This way there is minimal involvement from the person temporarily controlling the NPCs, and sadly there will always need to be someone controlling them, even if it's done in the form of 'the player to the left of the Player engaged in combat' like I have read is standard for non-DM games of D&D.

However one issue for this, while combat will be fast and uninvolved for the person controlling the NPC, the same could be said for the Player as well. Unlike CRYPTS, in First Law: Override you will be facing off against a lot less enemies, most of them being on a par with you rather than traditional 'dungeon fodder', combat needs to take this into account.

There is of course the Semi-Opposed system, but it see that as something that is the worst of both worlds, instead of the best.


Here comes an issue over the whole thing. It's a realisation that is clear in my mind, and I have no choice to acknowledge it for fear of it becoming the elephant in the room:

I could always make the game Semi-Cooperative and require a GM...

This is something that I am not happy about and it is not the result I want, but if I don't acknowledge this it runs the risk of sneaking up on me. I need to make sure that whatever rule set is picked, it is better than having a GM. That's right! Just as good will not be suitable and not as good will definitely not do as the players will just say "Why not just use a GM" and will probably house rule ways of doing so.

Now of course this could happen anyway, and I have no problem with players using a GM if they want to, but the intended rules should be inviting enough that players don't want to use a GM!


Part of the issue present in having a GMless game like this is deciding who controls the NPCs, but that's for discussion another time.


And that is the current dilemma I face right now. All options look viable, but picking the right one is crucial.

Something tells me picking the right one will heavily revolve around who controls the NPCs, but I'll leave that until another post.

Until next time; stay safe and I'll see you Fringeside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ready Player One - A Second Opinion

Greetings friends!

Today I'm here to talk to you about the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Now before we begin a quick note: this review is based on the audiobook, so there will be certain points addressed which relate only to the audiobook (the narration for example) and likewise there may be some experiences that would come across differently in print. Alas I have not read the printed copy and so am unable to comment on that.

So what is Ready Player One?

It's a book set in the decade of 2040s. Due to our reliance on fossil fuels the earth is suffering from an energy crisis and most people in the world play a game called The Oasis.

The Oasis is a truly immersive simulation much like World of Warcraft, Everquest or Second Life. You can quest, PvE, PvP and all the rest that you would expect. You can also do a lot more including any computer based job, allowing people to work in the office without ever leaving home, and attend education there.

In short it is the closest mankind has come to the perfect game.

The story explains that the game's creator has died and like many game creators before him left an Easter Egg within his game and whoever was able to find it first would inherit his entire fortune as well as controlling shares of the creator's company.
- In other words, you find this egg in a massive scavenger hunt and become the wealthiest person in the world.

The audiobook which I bought from Audible is narrated by Will Wheton; originally famous for being a character on Star Trek TNG but has in recent years gained notoriety for his works promoting geek culture over YouTube via channels like Geek'n'Sundry.

Now I need to say, I've seen his works on YouTube etc and I've found him to be one of the most annoying people on the planet and his association with my most disliked woman only furthers that, however after a quick preview I learned that he narrates this book extremely well and so I have it a shot!

After listening to the book I can confirm Will does a fantastic job of narration. His voice is punctuated perfectly, his tempo is spot on and I found the entire experience a pleasure, which is something I would say is a must for an audio book.


I should probably say here; if I was writing this review last week before I had actually finished the book, this review would have come out very different, but that would have been an incomplete review.


There are many things that the book does very well.

The introduction leads me to understand the world and the technology. After listening to it I understood how the immersion systems used to play the game worked and how/why people used them.

I found that a lot of the early explanations were done in a way to really suck you in as a reader/listener and I believe that even if you know very little about modern tech, videogames and the internet you would still understand how the systems worked.

I also found the storyline engaging even if I did find certain attitudes expressed by certain characters a tad juvenile.
- Saying that, the lead character begins the story as a 17 year old teenager, so I put it down to us seeing the world through his eyes.

An example of this is the portrayal of the main antagonist(s) IOI aka The Sixers. Essentially they are the 'evil mega corporation' of the book who want to turn and corrupt The Oasis via ad revenue and monthly subscriptions.

This was where I started to fall out with the book.

So IOI are portrayed as a faceless corporation who's only interest is money and because of that they are therefore evil.

I found this pretence to be something I really struggled. It's like those people you see walking around town centres with signs saying pointless twazle like "Say NO to TESCO". It's pointless opposition that actually speaks about how GOOD we have it.

Yup, I think the modern phrase would be #FirstWorldProblems.

In other words if your biggest concern on this earth is a big company monopolising the industry then you're pretty high in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and this was one of the issues I had with this part of the book; if people were struggling to feed themselves and were living in poverty then the last thing they would care about is whether a company was involved in a VR simulation.

Plus - and maybe this is just me, but I like these companies!

I play a LOT of MMOs, and you know what? The best ones are those that charge a monthly subscription, they are the ones that put out quality updates and pay for good customer service and issue resolution. If you want the game to be free then you have to cut corners and introduce micro transactions which as a universal rule provides worse value for money over a longer length of time.

It struck me that the only people (as I saw it) who agreed with this sentiment portrayed in the book were either socialists or those belonging to the much maligned 'Generation Y', both of which are groups of people I choose not to socialise with where possible due to an inherent inconsolable difference in opinion.

But like I said, the main character was 17 years old, and it was set in 2040something, so chances are this was just the view of a teenage boy who wanted to rebel against society and act out his internal angst against 'the man', so I moved on.

The problem however was that I had a hard time moving on from this, as every other character that was introduced in the story regardless of their background or age all seemed to have the same attitude. It was like diverse opinion was removed from this world and replaced with a single AI titled 'awkward virgin teen 101'.

Maybe this is because of my heavy involvement in the online world, and I admit there are a hell of a lot of kids, young adults and even older adults who suffer from anxiety issues etc, but there are also plenty who are like me, they have no anxieties over this sort of (in my opinion) unimportant crap, they are not socially awkward, oh and they are not stereotypical spotty, virginal basement dwellers.

And this was the main issue that stuck with me...

The writer is clearly a geek himself and a fan of geek culture, but it is almost like he is a 'self hating' geek. At no point did we meet any major character who was well adjusted without some sort of social anxiety disorder or living somewhere on the autistic scale, and depending on how you look at it you could summarise the story as:
the story of a loser who meets other losers, gets laid, goes outside into the real world and stops being such a loser.

It is impossible in my eyes to look at how The Oasis is addressed without drawing comparisons to modern MMOs, and it essentially suggests to me that the writer honestly thinks that anyone who plays these games must be 'abnormal' and if you have not guessed by now, I actually took a great offence to this suggestion.

And this was the major problem for me, as until this (for me) terribly insulting conclusion I was actually really enjoying the story. Yes there was all the socialist stuff, but I could look past that and still enjoy the rest of the story.

But now however, I can't. It was very much like going to the cinema, watching a film that had it's issues but you still enjoyed greatly, before at the very end have the lead character turn to the camera, pull of his face revealing that of the director who in turn spits at the camera before saying. "Go fuck yourself audience!"

I know I haven't really covered a lot of the things that you would expect from a review, but then if you've read my Second Opinion posts before you would know that I don't tend to do that anyway, preferring instead to share my emotional involvement with the medium.

And so it is on that rather melancholy note that I leave you.

I would love to discuss this book more at some point, and there are lots of points and topics that I feel are worthy of discussion, but ultimately this is how the book left me feeling.

Would I recommend you read it? I think it would depend on how much you felt connected to Geek Culture.

On that note, take care and stay safe!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Playing with Photoshop

Greetings friends!

So last night I got playing with Photoshop in order to make myself a logo for First Law: Override.

To date I have two images:

As you can see they are very similar; with one having a cleaner finish than the other.

Currently I don't know which I prefer as they both have merits and flaws.

I do intend to revisit, but at the moment whichever I decide to use I am very happy with the appearance.

My aim was to create an image that conjured up everything I associate with the game First Law: Override, creating a Hard Sci Fi feel.

Anyway, please let me know if you prefer the clean or dirty look (I know there's not much between them) and with hope I can use your justification as to which to use :)

Take care!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

First Law: Override - Story Pack Themes (A Call For Aid)

Greetings friends!

So over the past few days I've been discussing a number of things including the Story Progression System and how to improve your character.

One thing that has come up again and again is the idea of Story Packs having themes.

So what sort of themes are we looking at?

Well ultimately we are looking for a wide number of themes, all of which ultimately return back to classic SciFi themes and tropes.

Ideally every Story Pack should have a different theme.

To begin with players until they unlock Sponsors along with spacecraft, will only have access to the Starter stories; 5 Stories that all take place on a single world. After all without access to ships having a space combat mission in a starter story would be redundant.

Now these 5 starter stories will not focus on any particular races, factions or sponsors as at this point these will not have been decided, they will instead be loose and vague stories designed to teach the players how to play the game and begin to get them immersed in the world.

After players reach level 5 they then get more stories available to them while keeping the starters available for quicker low impact games.

Of these new stories, 5 will be available to everyone, there will be 2 Faction Specific Stories, and each Sponsor will also have 2 Sponsor Specific Stories.

What this means is that a solo player would have at their disposal a choice of 14 Stories they can play at any time; 5 Starter, 5 Basic, 2 Faction and 2 Sponsor.

If that player was to play with 2 other players from allied Sponsors, then that number jumps to 18! (5 Starter, 5 Basic, 2 Faction and 6 Sponsor).

Obviously as Factions and Sponsors are fleshed out then their stories will begin to write themselves, but in the meantime the Starter Packs and Basic Packs will need suitable themes.

This is where you come in!

Now I can cobble together themes and stories without any problem, and once we reach a certain point many stories will write themselves as with the Sponsors and future planned expansions, but what about the basic non-aligned stories?

These have to be stories that you the players want to play.

Now this could be anything from the storyline of your favourite Sci Fi film or game, or maybe it's something that just fits a need but if you want to play it, I want to hear it!

Currently my personal stories of choice are as follows:

1). Bring back the lost ship.
- Think Dead Space crossed with Alien. Get to the deserted ship, reactivate it's dead engine and get back home. Sounds easy, but wait! What's that noise coming from the air vent?

2). The Bounty Hunt.
- Someone has done something bad, maybe they are a murderer, maybe a crazy cyborg! Either way you need to track them down and bring them in; dead if necessary but preferably alive.

These are just two ideas that I'm playing with at the moment, so tell me; what stories do you want to see played out?

And on that note, stay safe and I'll see you on the Outer Fringe!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 11 August 2014

First Law: Override - How to increase your character

Greetings friends!

So there have been a few posts recently regarding First Law: Override. We've seen a general overview, a discussion on Experience, Levels and Sponsors as well as Story & Mission Packs.

Today I'm here to talk to you about how you make your character better overall.

So obviously we have stat increases and abilities obtained via levelling up, but what about equipment?

Those familiar with my previous WiP game; CRYPTS will know about how I tackled the Dungeon Crawl system via a 'Loot Deck'. It would certainly be an easy, if not lazy choice to simply adapt this to FL:O, but as I hope you have all seen to this point, I have no intention on being lazy with this project.

Nope, gone are the old systems and instead equipment will be obtained via a series of different methods, none of them being 'kill and loot corpses'.

- That is not to say I do not like the Loot Deck system, far from it. I would instead rather try something more suitable to the game at hand.

So what is the main form of purchasing equipment?

Well we have the above board techniques, that is between Story Packs you can visit shops.

As you would expect different shops sell different things, in some cases you will find almost exact copies of one item available in another shop for a fraction of the price, this being determined by the qualities of the item. In FL:O you very much get what you pay for.

There will of course be different Shops depending on which overall Faction your team belongs to, and as long as you remain with this faction you will have these shops to hand.

At the same time there will be different stores available to different Sponsors, meaning that some Sponsors will sell certain items for more/less currency than others. It only stands to reason that if you belong to The Wraiths, you will get Hydan equipment cheaper than the UEF.

But it is important to remember, a Sponsor is exactly what they say on the tin! You wear their clothes and their brand, so if you have two team members, one a member of the Wraiths, the other a member of the UEF, how do you think one would see your sponsorship deal if they caught you running around with someone else's branded gear?
- That's right! Just because a team member has Sponsorship from a different group, no buying from that other group! And no getting them to buy it for you! If you wish to retain your Sponsorship deal you had better keep your branded goods to that of your Sponsor.

But what about the Black Market? Surely FL:O will have that?

You're right, it will, and as items purchased on the Black Market are almost always stolen or obtained via other nefarious means these are almost always 'Unbranded'.

Now unbranded items are great, they are usually cheaper than sponsorship items and can be purchased by any character regardless of Sponsor or Faction, but they don't count towards your Sponsorship.


Ok so I've just thrown something else out there that I have not mentioned before; Sponsorship as something beyond the initial load up.

So this is something that's still in the super infant stage, but essentially in a lot of missions/stories, there will be certain tasks that your Sponsor will want recognition. This will depend on the mission and also the Sponsor, as some Sponsors will want recognition for dealing damage either physical or economical to a rival. So for every item of Sponsor Branded gear you are using your reward will be increased by a percentage taking into account your cut for increasing their publicity.

Likewise, there will also be stories and missions where your Sponsor will not want to be recognised and you will want to have unbranded goods, or (and perhaps the more fun option) have you infiltrating a rival Sponsor base to steal branded equipment to use instead of your usual set. This will of course need to be handed over afterwards.

But it does mean that if you're running around as a Rockstar in the Outer Fringe, stopping intergalactic terrorist fleets and saving the damsel in distress all the while wearing top to toe branded gear, you'll soon be rolling in piles of cash.
- You might look like a total douche, but a rich douche!


During the course of missions you might come across equipment caches. These can of course be used for the duration of the mission and any effects they may have will be known by you in advance.

Once the mission is over you can turn these items over to your sponsor for an increased reward or you can instead file down the serial number and remove any branding present on the item, this however takes time and so can only be done between Stories.

If you have an unbranded item obtained either through theft or the Black Market then you can get it branded by your Sponsor. This of course will come at a price, and any bells and whistles you normally get from a Branded item will not be present, but it does allow you to use said item and get corporate recognition, if that is your thing, and it's cheaper than buying a whole new item, some of them unavailable to your sponsor.


And there we have it, while the methods are not THAT varied (buy or steal) they are thematic to the world presented in the Outer Fringe.

On that note, that's all from me and I hope to see you out there!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Sunday, 10 August 2014

First Law: Override - Story Progression System

Greetings friends!

So today I would like to talk to you about First Law: Override and how the missions will take place.

This is something that has come about after a long discussion that I had with a good friend of mine. The system being used is what I am calling the Story Progression System.

Keeping it quite simply, the idea is to follow the concepts set down by such classics as the 'choose your own adventure' books as seen in series such as Fighting Fantasy by the great Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.

For those not familiar with these games; they are books where your decisions and actions detail how the story progresses. For example you might have the following:

You stand in a dark moss covered dungeon, water drips down the walls and pools on the floor. Before you is a crossing junction with paths leading north, west and east. If you head north turn to page 269, if you choose west turn to page 142 or if you would rather go easy turn to page 94.

The idea is that you as the player are in control of what happens. If you die it is because you failed at combat or you made a bad decision, but you rarely did something that was not suitable for your character or your situation.

This is the type of situation I want to introduce here in FL:O.

Of course introducing a choose your own adventure (CYOA) system into a table top scenario is hardly easy, or even really done before outside the limits of a DnD style game, so how do I hope to achieve this?

This is where the Story Progression System or SPS comes in.

The idea is that you have a series of missions. All of these missions detail the type of NPCs you have to face, where the NPCs and you as the players spawn, what key items of terrain or interface tech need to be placed and where they need to be placed (an example can be; each player takes it in turn to place an item of terrain, the player placing the first item must choose a structure categorised as a building and it must be placed in the centre of the board. Within this structure on the ground north wall in the central point place an Interface Tech piece).

Ie enough info will be given according to the mission at hand, however the theme of the mission will be left open beyond remaining generic. The specifics is determined by the Story Pack.


So far in previous posts I have talked at length about a Pirate theme using the hijacking of a space ship as the story. This would be an example of a Story Pack.

A story pack will give enough specific story data for you the players to use in our games, such as 'You are thing to steal a spaceship, but first you need to get X amount of data from the system's data vault'.

You will then be given a mission number to play, for example: 'Commence with Mission Number 142'.

Now, each mission will have a different mission number, the number will be a random series of digits that by themselves mean nothing. In otherwords, without learning what the numbers relate to, you don't know what the mission is until you begin playing it.

Now, we have assigned a mission and the mission itself will have a series of objectives and a central objective determined by the Story Pack. For example the mission may be "Get inside the central building and download the data from the data vault".

But beyond that how you do it is up to you, and this is where the SPS comes in as choices are given including:

If you complete this mission by force, commence Mission 562
If you complete this mission by stealth, commence Mission 931
If you complete this mission via disabling but not killing the enemies, commence mission 102.
If you fail to complete this mission, commence Mission 91.

This way, if you did the mission via Force, then the following mission will be in response to this, for example the enemy may respond in the next one by setting down a giant mech you need to kill.

If you did it via stealth then it means the enemy are unaware of your situation and you will get a follow on mission, possibly deep within enemy territory, but they do not know you are there.

If you did it via disabling he enemy but not killing them, then they will probably know you are there and the following mission will take this into account, but they will be using units to take your situation into account.

If you failed to complete the mission you will almost certainly have to get away from the enemy, possibly by escaping from a prison or similar.

As you can see, by using a system like this with numerous tiers of completion it means that when you play through a story one way, it is not always going to be the same next time if you complete it via different methods, and by having some Stories containing anywhere between three and five missions, the chances for variety are great.

What this also means is that failure does not mean game over, only that how the story plays out will be different. So in our previous example; if you fail you almost certainly won't be stealing your intended ship, but you might get an opportunity to get into the enemy's weapon stash and make off with some high powered guns, or maybe as part of your escape you get to make off with one of their single crewed gunships!

Another benefit of this system, numerous Story Packs and use similar missions, just in different numbers, so rather than needing to come up with 200+ missions, instead the mission pack would house maybe 10+ missions! and the Story Packs would also house maybe 10+ Stories giving a huge amount of combinations.


I think we can all agree, this is not a light undertaking and I will almost certainly need a lot of help along the way, but I have faith that this could be a truly amazing game system if it works!

Until next time, stay safe and I'll see you in the Outer Fringe!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

First Law: Override - Experience and levels

Greetings friends!

So it's been a short while since I've updated you on First Law: Override and how it's developing.

Well, on Friday I met with a good friend and we talked a lot of it out, some developments were made in regards to mission progressing; but that is for another time.

Today I'm here to tell you about how the initial five levels will play out for character progression.

Unlike my previous game, FL:O will work with a traditional experience system with levels and abilities based on those levels.

So first things first; how do you gain experience in the game?

This is pretty simple. There will be roughly 10-20 levels that characters can progress to. For now let's say there are 15.

As with a traditional experience system you will need a set number of experience points to go from one level to another.

You earn experience by achieving objectives, killing NPCs, avoiding NPCs and disabling NPCs.

This is done via a shared Experience (XP) pool and NPC dumps.

So when you play the game, any NPCs that are killed are put into the Dead Dump, if any are disabled either by special abilities or by being knocked out, then they are put into the KO dump and any that are left over at the end of the game are either divided into Alerted and Non-Alerted.

Depending on the level of the NPC they will then award XP depending on which bin they end up in. Some will award more for being killed, others for being disabled and others for staying in a non-alert state. Alerted but still alive/conscious will not award any XP.

Each mission will have certain objectives, both main and secondary and will award XP depending on if they have been achieved. Once the total amount is allocated this is then shared evenly between the party members rounded down.

One thing that this means is that you can only level up after a game has taken place, something I really enjoyed from older campaign games, as getting new abilities and stats after the game meant you were eager to play the next game to try them out.

So what sort of things should you expect?

When you create a character as well as defining your species and gender (species gives special bonuses, gender does not) you then decide on a class, choosing between Soldier, Hacker and Rogue.

The Soldier specialises in combat, the Hacker in using tech and the Rogue in using the environment.

Let's use the Hacker class as an example.

You start off as level one. All level one Hackers have the same stats and basic equipment load out.

After getting X amount of XP (let's say 10 points) you reach level 2.

At level 2 you are given 1 stat point to be allocated as you see fit. It is important when allocating this point to keep in mind what role you want to perform.

Then after earning 20 more XP you reach level 3.

Level 3 is the Class Ability level where you unlock the single ability shared by all members of your class. In the case of the Hacker it is the Service Bot.

A service bot is a Hacker's best friend and acts as a beacon or node for their hacking abilities. At the moment it is pretty standard; can be used to try and disable electronics, provide very basic buffs and heals and also deal basic to low damage in melee.

In addition to this you also get another single stat point increase.

After earning 40 XP you then reach level 4.

Level 4 is the Specialisation unlock. Once you reach level 4 you get to make use of the Class Specialisation (or Spec) trees.

The Hacker has:
Ghost; a tree that specialises in stealth and disabling via your Service Bot.
Sentinel; a tree that specialises in providing healing and buffs to friendly players.
MAs or Machinimates; a tree that specialises in beefing up your Service Bot into becomin an unstoppable killing machine.

At level 4 you gain 1 Spec point to be allocated to the first tier of a tree of your choice along with 1 Stat Point.

Then after gaining 80 XP you unlock level 5.

Level 5 is sponsorship!
As well as getting 1 Stat Point and 1 Spec Point you also get to pick a Sponsor.

There will be a number of Sponsors, for now let's say a total of six.

Each Sponsor will belong to one of two factions. Different characters can below to different Sponsors, but these Sponsors must all belong to the same faction. This is also when you are awarded your first spaceship.

Examples of Sponsors are:

United Earth Force - The remains of the Human Military, joining the UEF grants you a special ability only available to UEF members, a Human spaceship and access to the UEF campaigns which your party can take part in with you regardless of their own Sponsor.

The Wraiths - The Hydan special forces, elite infiltrators who make use of exclusive Hacker tech to perform covert missions. Joining the Wraiths grants you a Wraith ability, a Hydan Stealth spaceship and access for you and your party to Wraith missions.

The Outer Fringe Mining Corp - A multi race corporation that searches for uncharted worlds to mine, colonise and terraform. Joining the OFMC grants you access to an OFMC ability, an explorer ship and access for you and your party to OFMC missions.

These are all 'Good Guy' Sponsors, likewise there are 'Bad Guy' Sponsors:

The Raiders - A multi race collection of space pirates. Joining the Raiders gives you a Raider ship, a Raider ability and access for you and your party to a Raider missions.

The Red Claw - The Kratel militia. This group of elite warriors believe that might makes right and they are willing to show this whenever they are given the choice. Joining the Red Claw gives you a Red Claw ability, a Kratel Attack Ship and access for you and your party to Red Claw missions.

The Collective - A highly religious Reborn organisation who want to spread their word throughout the Outer Fringe. Joining the Collective grants you a Reborn Collector Ship, a Collective ability and access for you and your party to Collective missions.

As you can see, picking the right Sponsor for you is crucial to the fine tuning of your character, but also in establishing their future identity and also the sort of jobs you will take on in the future.

You can leave your Sponsor, but doing so will require a special mission set, along with another to join your new one, this will not be easy as you need to pay off any debts and investment your current Sponsor may have in you whilst proving your loyalty to your new to-be Sponsor.

And that's where we are. As you progress you will be able to further tune your character with Stat points and Spec points creating a character that is truly unique to you.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to you joining me in the Outer Fringe!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley