Friday, 30 January 2015

Three Years of Nonsense!

Greetings friends!

Can you really believe I've been writing this junk for three whole years?

What started as a small project to showcase a terrain project has grown and escalated to the current state.


The Year Gone
So what did we see over the past year?

Well if I was going to do this properly I would go over my previous posts. Instead I'll look over what really stuck out for me.

I guess there's really only four things for this:

1). In April following Salute 2014 I declared my involvement in the wargaming world as seriously diminished than before.

I had just returned from Salute where I had big plans of meeting up with friends and recording a Hobby Sofa episode about the wondrous new games and models on sale.

What had actually happened was I was confronted with the hard reality that the world was changing and with it was the face of wargaming. Long gone was the use of metal models sculpted made using traditional sculpting methods, and what remained was CAD work designed using video game techniques and output in either plastic or resin.

This was a hard pill to swallow and was the final nail in the coffin for my game CRYPTS which had sat pretty vacant for a while.

2). Following on from that we had the Summer of GamerGate.

Now I know that a lot of people still disagree with the support I gave for it against the vapid wastes of space who were claiming to be game critics, but I do not regret any of my involvement.

Sadly though the movement had a momentum and a purpose, and after a while when the morally corrupt started having their wallets hurting, we saw changes.

It was nothing ground breaking but it was change. It was also a line in the sand to show Third Wave Feminism that enough was enough and we were not going to take their (frankly corrupt and unethical) involvement in our hobby. Something that many believe has never happened before.

But the steam ran out, the point was made and so the attitude began to fester and those who had campaigned against bullies in many cases became bullies themselves - so I bailed, said my good byes and parted with the movement on good terms.

3). Project: Incubus was conceived.
This was the fledgling idea that would shortly be renamed to First Law: Override, a whole new IP set in a Sci-Fi future where man has been forced from Earth into the outer fringe all thanks to a rogue AI. In case anyone didn't get it, the AI's First Law of Robotics (not to harm or by omission of action allow to be harmed) any Human being, had been overridden.

Project: Incubus was a big thing for me. It allowed me to take a setting that had been brewing in my head for quite literally decades and start putting it onto paper.

You see; Sci-Fi has always been my favourite genre and it has allowed me to tie all my loves together, from the CyberPunk world of BladeRunner and SNATCHER, to the military might of ALIENS' USCM. If you have read the stories I've been putting out I'm sure you will have already seen the many influences coming out there. Plus unlike my work on CRYPTS, Project: Incubus and more importantly; First Law: Override was not built on the shoulders of another game, instead it took aspects from almost every game I enjoy (some may call it stealing, I like to think of it as scavenging) and was used to create a whole new ruleset, with one massive drawback; certain elements were just too adventurous.

4). Last but not least we had Gang War, the Sci-Fi Campaign Led Skirmish Game set in the First Law: Override universe.

So FL:O had spawned the races and the Agencies/Corporations, but it's original limitations were as follows:
- It was too big! It was designed with space travel where you, as a sponsored agent would travel across the Outer Fringe performing tasks to build up your character. This was unwieldy and it soon became obvious that asking people to have terrain for every sort of environment was not only unrealistic, it was idiotic, what would instead happen would be a mix match of terrain from say 40k and WFB, resulting in every game being set on 'The Ruined Shire' world.

So out went space travel and the view went from Macro, to Micro, focusing instead on a single world; Honos, the world colonised by Humans when they arrived in the Outer Fringe.

The story is still the same, the races still the same, but the focus is on a single world with named cities and actual countries and regions.

I realised that if people wanted an Ice Board they can have one set on Honos in the Frozen North. If they wanted a Jungle then New Brasil will fill that along with the Midlands for the traditional Hilly terrain. After a high tech city-scape? New Brasilia! A low tech frontier town? Free Port! Desert Wasteland? The Badlands! Industrial Cyberpunk City? The Block! Strange uninhabited alien landscape? The Un-terraformed region called the Deadzone!

Everything can be right there on Honos, and giving it all a name allows people to relate to it.

Of course changing the focus also gave me the perfect opportunity to change the game's focus too by removing the cooperative elements to create a competitive game, while it being a completely different game, allows for the base game mechanics to be thoroughly tested without being hindered by outside rule influences!

And do Gang War was born which instead of focusing on individual characters that the full FL:O will do (because it will still be made) it instead focuses on the ongoing conflicts between the Sponsors and the 'employees' they have in their pocket.

This then culminated in the release of the Pre-Alpha Rules Pack the first stage of the games' development.

Of course there are some extras let's not forget, some of them pretty major! I passed my Level 2 AAT course, and started LoxBotLive (part 2 of Corpse Party will be tonight for all my #FridayNightHorror fans!).


The Year Ahead
So where do I see this blog going for the next year?

In the short run; next week I hope to put out a Pre-Alpha Patch for Gang War, introducing rules I accidentally missed off like Difficult Terrain and Climbing/Jumping rules.

After that I hope to put out rules for Hackers, and giving certain characters skills (this is because the Hackers come with the Hacker skill) while adding a small number of additional weapons like Automatic Pistols and Shotguns.

Following on, there isn't much else. If I can get to this point next year celebrating 4 years of nonsense then I think that will be an achievement in itself!


Which leads me to my last point:

If there are any topics or columns you would like me to feature such as game reviews, or perhaps a designated day for a rant (who knows, maybe that will reduce the amount of unexpected rants that feature), or maybe a 'short story' day, what about different game weeks/months where for a [period of time] all the posts are covering a single game or franchise?Then please let me know and I'll see what I could do.

Until next time, stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Gang War: Pre-Alpha Pack

It's here!

That's right! Greetings friends, family, ladies and germs!

After about (3?) or so months of talking about it, the Pre-Alpha Pack for Gang War the First Law: Override Sci-Fi Campaign Skirmish Game has finally seen the light of day; and you can grab it Here:!

What is Gang War?
Ok well before I begin I should probably explain the origin of the game.

Originally titled First Law: Override - Gang War, this was a game that was designed almost exclusively for the purpose of testing another game only without some of the more complex rules (AI Cooperative rules among others).

Since then Gang War has grown and now is a game on it's own rights, where as the name First Law: Override has become the name of the setting or universe that Gang War is set within.

So anyway; what is Gang War?
It's a sci-fi campaign lead skirmish game for 2+ players.

What that means is that it is set in the future on the alien world of Honos and takes the form of a game with a small number of models per side (say, 6-12) where 2 players battle it out over the tabletop for territory, cash, guns and mechs, all the while gaining experience and notoriety to become better and stronger at what they do.

So that is what is in this Pre-Alpha Pack?
No; not at all.

You see, as I started writing this game it occurred to me that there were so many variables that I needed to take into account, and considering I was originally writing Gang War as a way of eliminating additional variables, this seemed like an issue for me.

So I decided to try and keep things simple.

Out went the different alien races, weapon varieties, equipment experience, skills, injuries and mission types therefore ensuring that everyone who played the Pre-Alpha Pack was playing with the same weapons and models trying to achieve the same objective (kill the enemy).

What fun is that?
Well it is with hope that the fun is in the mechanics itself, that the game plays well and feels comfortable enough to expand with what was removed in order to not cause unnecessary bloat.

The plan is to release smaller rules packs over time, the next build will take into account any and all feedback from this pack and add to it two additional unit profiles:
The first will be the Hacker, something designed to make hacking objectives easier.
The second I am umming-and-arring over a lot, and it is the Veteran which is like it sounds. I'm unsure if this will add or detract (I am leaning towards detract myself).

In addition to this there will be an additional mission type that makes use of Hackers massively and adds a bit of variety to gameplay (think of a miniature version of Capture the Flag).

After this we will see the first alien race being released complete with their own types of weapons, followed by more and more races, weapons, equipment and missions until we are at the final alpha product.

Once Alpha is complete we move into Beta which is the production and testing of the Experience & Injury system complete with Notoriety and Marketplace.

That all sounds great, but why can't we use it now?
The why here is very important and simple: because it's not ready yet.

If I was to hold off longer and work on the rest of it to be pushed out in one go we would have one massive buggy mess full of imbalances that was not fun to play and no idea of where to fix it.

By releasing this in various builds I am able to make sure that each build is as tested and balanced as possible before moving onto the next one.

For example, if after playing this build the collective We agrees that the Human Gang in this is balanced, and then the next race is released and the new race either trumps or gets trumped in every game, then we know the issue is with the newly introduced factor, this allows for a more focussed testing process and means that my head doesn't want to explode every five minutes.

Ok! Well I've read the build and on paper it sounds great! How can I join in and help test?
There are two ways of doing so.

You can be part of the dev team, either as a sounding board or with direct involvement. Doing so will help this game be so much better than it ever could by itself.

You can be part of the test team. If so I will email you with links whenever a new build is available and if required suggestions on what in particular needs to be tested. This will still have a very high impact on the final product, but you will only be privileged to the builds after they are released, the dev team will be more than aware of what is going into each build as they will have helped create it.

If you would rather stay out of the process all together then I would say keep an eye on the blog and other places as with each completed state (Alpha, Beta and Gold) we will see releases put out for people to get their teeth into.

So anyway; what are you still doing reading this? Go my pretties! Fly! Read the rules! Test the Units and feedback to me about how excellent or rubbish you think it is!

Until next time; be excellent to each other.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Friday, 23 January 2015

PC Game of the Year Awards - 2014: Notable Mentions

That's right it's the New Year which means it's time for our annual PC Game of the Year awards!

Now before we reveal the winner of this year's award, let's start off with celebrating the other games that were great features on the PC format for 2014.

For many the digital card game Hearthstone was a game from 2013. This is down to Blizzard's use of an extremely robust open beta test. The truth however was that it was in Q1 2014 that we saw this card game extravaganza hit gold release.

As a digital card game Hearthstone has so much going for it. For starters it is free to download, with costs only coming from the additional single player campaigns and the booster packs, all of which can also be purchased for in game gold.

For those unfamiliar with the game it's full name is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and the game lives up to its name by having each playable class/character not only feel unique but as if they have been pulled directly from Blizzard's Warcraft lore.

That is not to say the game is flawless. If you are looking for the equivalent of Magic: The Gathering - Online then you will not find that here. The deck building is limited (can't have for example a Hunter/Rogue dual class deck) and St the same time it is not limited enough. On many occasions I have encountered a deck that was only a class in name, but because of the cards that it contained could have been belonging to any other class. Likewise there are certain 'legendary' cards which while rare to acquire are in some cases "IWIN" buttons, and on many occasions I have seen entire games be won because of one of these card's very powerful abilities rather than the owner's strategy and tactics.

All in all however, there is very little reason not to try out this game. It's single player learning curve is so gradual with no immediate costs involved, and in addition due to it's account being based off a (free) account you can play on PC, MAC, iOS and Android and import your decks and progress across each and every platform.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
When Diablo 3 first launched in 2012 it was a fun game but when I compared it to the (in my opinion) superior Diablo (1) it was lacking something. I couldn't put my finger on it; maybe it was the requirement to once again feature a desert level, maybe it was the visual style or maybe it just was not fun? I honestly would not be able to tell you what this missing x-factor was, but whatever it was Reaper of Souls had it.

I forget who it was who said it, but the only way to summarise: Reaper of Souls is what Diablo 3 should have been.

The introduction of Adventure Mode rather than Campaign Mode has meant that should you wish it is entirely possible to skip the God-awful desert levels, and to add that that; whether it is real or not, the combat feels faster and more brutal, with much less time spent travelling in between combat areas and completing missions.

Now in no way is Reaper of Souls a complete game, after all it is an expansion for the game Diablo 3; so that is something to keep in mind. At RRP if you have yet to pick up a copy of Diablo3 then this is putting you back somewhere between £50 and £70 to get both D3 and RoS that is a negative to it, and I would be lying if I said there was much more to the game than grinding epic gear (the introduction of 'Seasons' furthering this even more) but if that's your cup of tea along with a buddy or 2 then you can go much worse than Reaper of Souls.

Goat Simulator
Any game released on the first of April is something that clearly needs to be taken note of, none more so than the Epic Tale of Awesome that is Goat Simulator.

At launch Goat Simulator was a true sandbox game. You spawned into the game (a suburban town) with some very basic missions to try and complete. To begin with they are simple: walk forward, jump etc. after a short while they become a little more complicated including manualing (walking in front legs akin to the skateboard manoeuvre) performing insane spins in the air, becoming the Goat Queen, the Anti-Goat, Goats on a Plane, playing Flappy-Goat, the list just goes on and on! Then you discover you are only in the first area and there is another even larger zone further on!

At it's heart Goat Simulator is a silly waste of time that tries to be nothing more than it is, and it works! It's cheap to buy and it's fun.

Don't expect hours of cleverly scripted storylines or even credible voice acting; you'll find none of that here, instead you will find something that not only makes no sense, but is enjoyable in a way that is unexplainable, to the extent that as I try and write about the game here I am physically incapable of putting down in words why Goat Simulator is fun. It just is!

Fast forward to a few months ago and the first major content release was put out for Goat Simulator. Now when you launch the game you are treated to two games; Goat Simulator and it's mutant brother Goat MMO Simulator! Now it is super important that I draw attention to the wording. This is Goat MMO Simulator, not Goat Simulator MMO.

In Goat MMO Simulator (GMS) you create a character from Warrior (Goat covered in armour), Rouge (yes; Rouge NOT Rogue), Hunter (Goat with a fishing rod and a huntin' hat), Magician (card tricks, not fireballs) and Microwave (a microwave) and you travel around a simulated MMO complete with a chat box that you can use and is filled with chat, but it's all spam and "LFM-UBRS" while you go around completing quests for the game's many NPCs, such as giving an apple to a man surrounded by a thousand apples.

Once again this game is silly nonsense, but in that respect if you ask of it to be nothing more than it is, it delivers 100%.

Outlast: Whistleblower
For those who haven't watched my complete playthrough of Outlast: Whistleblower on my YouTube account; Whistleblower is an expansion for the first person horror game Outlast released last year which in turn also made my Notable Mentions for 2013.

Available as Downloadable Content or DLC for short Whistleblower takes you back to Mount Massive Asylum just in time to see the events of the main game take place.

If you enjoyed Outlast then you will enjoy Whistleblower; essentially it's just more of the same - running and hiding from creepy crazy people who want to hurt you and do nasty things with your body, and there is nothing wrong with that but at the same time the game does have a different change of pace compared to the original.

While playing the original I found an intense sense of dread that stuck with me at all times. It felt like the game didn't want to let up and give me a break instead it just continued to push and push until I felt like I was having an anxiety attack.

In comparison Whistleblower doesn't creep in under your skin like that, instead it jumps in your face giving a very different experience should you wish to ride this roller coaster to it's final destined finale...

And what a finale it is! Rarely have I ever watched a game play out from through the gaps in my fingers but with this game I did.

I will not ruin it here, I will only say that I have never seen a game go as far as Whistleblower did. And I'm glad they did.

Five Nights at Freddie's
When Five Nights at Freddie's hit the net it didn't look to be all that much, very little at first appeared to differentiate it from the thousand other 'indie horror' games that were already plaguing the market as is. Then people started playing it.

I think (but am probably wrong) that it began with Let's Play YouTubers but this game very quickly became a firm favourite and in turn I know that from my YouTube channel, my one and only playthrough attempt at this game has been one of the more popular.

The game has a very simple premise; you are a night guard at a place not too different to the famous Chucky Cheese from the U.S. This place is filled with animatronic humanoid animals that during the day entertain children, but at night run around the venue killing people because: reasons.

What this results in is a game that consists of you as the night guard watching security feeds to monitor the movement of these robots and activating your emergency security doors if they get too close to your security office.

Sounds simple enough; you're watching your feeds, you see one of them wandering around, no worries. A short while later another appears and is also wanting around, so now you're tracking two of them. That's ok.

Next thing you know another has activated, but wait where has the first gone? You're checking the feeds but you can't find it until you realise that you can't see it because it's in the one room where there is no security feed; your office.

You look away from the security feeds and are relieved to see no sign of the missing animatronic. You go to bring back up your camera feed to try and track down the mysteriously missing machine all the while keeping an eye on his friends when something catches the corner of your eye as a brightly coloured fur covered monstrosity lunges out from the shadows screaming in a sound only capable by machines.

You jump out of your chair throwing your headphones into the floor. You swear (a lot) you turn off the game vowing to never turn it on again and at that moment you know in the pit of your stomach, no matter how much you try to deny it... That was the best £3.99 you ever spent!

The Wolf Among Us
Now it's hard to really pin-point when in 2014 this game was released. As an episodic game that unlocks additional episodes as they are released it's full release has been spread across 2014.

Now I think I found The Wolf Among Us a bit of a love/hate relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline that the game presented to me and I felt genuine feelings towards the characters I met, however I spent the entire time wanting more.

You see Wolf is a game that is more like an interactive movie. You control Bigby Wolf aka The Big Bad Wolf as you investigate a series of murders in Fable Town a small region of New York City occupied by Fables (the mythical characters from childhood stories). The game essentially leads you through a series of Quick Time Events and dialogue options as you scrap with the other characters and question them about what they know, but beyond that there is very little interaction with the game world beyond 'walk around and click on everything highlighted'.

This puts me at an impasse.

You see I really enjoyed the game. Unlike many like it, when it comes to interrogating and questioning people, out of each dialogue option you only get to ask one, the others tend to be lost as the conversation moves on. This means your decisions and speed of making decisions are important however more often than not I found myself wanting to go back and ask a previous question when I had the opportunity and availability to do so, but due to game mechanics was unable.

I suppose I would have much preferred to have seen this game crossed with something like Murdered: Soul Suspect where your time in the world seemed much more involved and you didn't feel like you were on a theme park ride being carried from conversation to conversation.

That said; I need to iterate again; I enjoyed this game immensely, which is why it gets a spot on my notable mentions when games like the previously mentioned Murdered do not and if it wasn't for these mentioned flaws Wolf would have been a serious contended for GOTY.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
When World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor released in November it was met with a lot of complaints, and to be honest most of them were warranted.

If you tried to begin the first mission of the expansion pack you were required to click on a single NPC in an area, what this resulted in was a massive bundle on top of this character, with plenty of people using the largest mount at their disposal just to make things awkward for others. As such this meant for many players the new content was unreachable until additional NPCs were added to certain locations.

Then there was the issue of Garrisons...

Garrisons are WoW's equivalent of player housing which you expand as you progress through the expansion. The issue was that at certain points in the game you were required to visit your garrison in order to progress the storyline, because of this the bottlenecking was so severe that thousands of players ended up disconnecting when reaching their Garrison and unable to load back in until the server was reset.

Now this is an interesting thing, as many previous expansions had similar mechanics; capital cities, certain NPCs that need to be spoken to etc, so why was it that these only became an issue in Warlords?

The answer goes back to something that occurred previously in the year: Server Merges.

Yup, earlier in 2014 many servers were merged together meaning where as before you would only be competing with say 10-20 others, now you are looking at 50-200.

However as with many of Blizzards previous launches they worked tirelessly to get these issues fixed and within 2 weeks of launch these bugs and issues were all but forgotten.

This allowed people to not only play the game but also enjoy the game; as I have to be honest here, when it works Warlords is a great expansion that really moved the game forward in both game mechanics and graphics.

Plus as a gesture of good will, Blizzard even awarded free time back as a way of saying sorry!

Now you can't go wrong with that, can you?

Dragon Age: Inquisition
So Dragon Age; Inquisition is a game that I am told is a really good game with an engrossing story and engaging characters.

The problem that I have is it is also a very buggy game.

Released in November, with a PC that is more than capable of running the spec required my playing of this game has consisted of immense framerate drops (as in from 75-80FPS down to 3) happening roughly every 10 or so seconds. The issue from what I've been able to understand is down to the game on some (random) machines rendering the field of depth at anywhere between infinite and negative distance.

For me this has made the game unplayable, however due to the length of time I spent trying to fix it (roughly a week) I passed EA's 48hr refund window and was stuck with a game that now more than 2 months later, I along with a large many other players are unable to play in an enjoyable way.

So why is it in notable mentions?

That's simple. In the few occasions I've been able to get a -playable- amount of time out of the game, I did really enjoy it. It is clear that the game is fun when it is playable.

Of course this does little to sate my anger as I am having GotY awards for the game shoved down my throats with little to no performance patches being released for the game 2 months after it was released.
- Do I think that EA and Bioware are chugging champagne while they polish their GotY awards choosing to give a middle finger to those who purchased the game and are unable to enjoy it through no fault of their own? Of course not, but it's not hard to see why one might.

So what did you think of the games this year? Anything you would have liked to see in the mentions, and who would care to guess as to what won the NFN PC Game of the Year award?

Until next time!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Further Technology & RPG Elements - Gang War

Greetings friends!

Following on from yesterday's post I'd like to explore with you all the ideas that are stemming from the initial idea of Technomancy.

Now just in case it was misunderstood by anyone; Technomancy is not magic. It is simply a scale to reflect a person's affinity with magic. Most people have little affinity, a score of 1 or maybe 2, and to them those who are able to 'jack into' the digital network and manipulate the AI constructs within, is nothing short of magic. Hence the phrase Technomancy.
- Plus I think it's freaking cool name for a stat in a game.

Now why does anyone want a high Technomancy (Tm) score?

The answer is simple: because any interaction in the world or utilising of equipment will require use of Tm such as:

Just like in the modern world, using many items requires a general tech know-how. Just look at a smart phone. With most of them just about anyone can send a text, but to really get the most out of it you need to be technically minded.

Because of this requirement for know-how every bit of equipment comes with a Tm requirement.

Some of them, like special ammo etc will have a Tm of 1. This means that anyone who we have as standard will be able to use these items. What this also means however is that if we decided to introduce a unit type that is brain dead (Zombies?) then we can give them a Tm stat of 0, instantly locking them out from these equipment items.

Then you have those items that have a higher requirement of 2, these are things like digi-scopes, medi kits and Level1 Auto-Hacks. These can only be used by those with a Tm score of 2+ which currently is limited to Gang Leaders and Vets (not hireable from the get-go).

After this you have more advanced items, things like Level 2-3 Auto Hacks, Decks (the tools used by Hackers to 'jack' into the AI Network) and more advanced Medi-Kits. These require a 3+ Tm to use.

Last but not least are the mythical Tm 4+ items. These are super hard to find and are expensive to buy, however they consist of items such as 'auto-docs', advanced decks and mechs.


The Environment
Next up comes the Environment itself.

The most obvious are doors. Every door in Gang War can be locked and unlocked. Doing so on a standard door is a single interact action requiring the user to be in Base to Base contact with the door and passing a single Tm roll (rolling equal to or under their Tm stat on 1d6).

Some doors such as Security Doors require 2 rolls to do so. In order to do this twice means it needs to be split over 2 turns. High Security doors require 3 rolls and therefore 3 turns. The number of turns required is known as a 'Hack Duration' or HD.
- I should point out that once Locked, a door can only be 'relocked' once it is fully unlocked.

Of course there are ways you can make this easier. If you have a Hacking Deck (or just Deck for short) then you can perform any Tm based action within 6" of the target and does not require Line of Sight to do so. Plus if your unit has the skill 'Hacker' you can reduce any Hack Duration by 1. Luckily Hackers once hired come with this skill, so give them a Deck and they can auto-lock or unlock any non-security door from 6" without requiring a roll - they are required however to still spend at least 1 Interaction doing so.

Other environmental factors are victory objects such as Databases, Computers etc. these as standard are always held behind High Security doors and themselves require a further 3 HD to hack.


Random Deployments
Now something that has just come out from today's Sounding Board with my game guru is Random Deployments.

The idea behind Random Deployments is that at the start of the game, after terrain is placed but before Gang deployment, each player gets a number of deployment items they can place. The number determined is by the Width of the board. If you are playing on a 2x2 board then each player gets 2. If a 3x3 board and each player gets 3. If a 2widex3long then each player gets 2 etc.

What each player gets is determined by a random roll on a Random Deployment table but they are all items that can be interacted with via Tm.

So far the items consist of the following list:
Credit Cache - Extra Credits at the end of the game.
Medi-Cache - Free Medi-Kits
Explosive Barrel - An item that when activated goes BOOM.
Discarded Hog - A single person motorcycle that provides little protection but is fast and allows for hit&run attacks by the rider.
Faulty Mech/AI - A mech that begins the game as inactive but when any unit goes within 8" of it will activate and attack with firepower. This mech can however be hacked and will fight for the hacker (and in turn can be re-hacked by the opposition).

Once you have determined which Random Deployments each player has access to they can be placed anywhere on the opposing side of the board providing it is outside of their deployment zone.


And there we have it.

As I said in yesterday's post; knowing your own Tm and that of your opponent is an important part of the game and getting it to work in an effective way through skills and equipment can be the difference between victory or failure.

Until next time; stay safe!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Technomancy A Gang War Mechanic

Greetings friends!

Following on from yesterday's self defeatist post I decided today to pick myself up and talk to you about something more positive:


On the world of Honos the setting for Gang War; a First Law: Override skirmish game, the use of technology is everywhere.

Technology is a necessary evil in First Law: Override. It is through technology that the world Honos was terraformed from a presumed lifeless world into a planet now capable of supporting life without the use of Biodomes.

It is technology that runs the medical facilities bringing citizens back from a state of near death.

It was technology that rose up under the control of the A.I. and forced mankind to flee Earth and settle in the Outer Fringe.

You see, in FL:O many forms of technology uses a form of AI in one way or another. In many cases the AI is designed in such a way that it will never be noticed, such as in the form of a toaster that ensures your bread is always cooked to the exact requirement. In other cases the AI is more visual such as a vehicle with an autopilot capable of not only steering the vehicle but capable of reacting to various degrees of external factors.

It is the ability to interact with these AI constructs that is known informally as Technomancy.

Every playable character in FL:O and by proxy; Gang War will have a varied degree of Technomancy know how. Even if it is just knowing to push a button to turn on the previously mentioned toaster, this requires an affinity with technology. In Gang War this is reflected in the form of a low Technomancy score or (Tm).

Then you have the more advanced users. Those who if you gave them a VHS recorder would not only be able to set the time and tracking, but even set it to record a program in advance.
Of course this also has more practical applications, such as knowing how to interact with more advanced AIs and even utilise certain devices such as Medi-Kits which themselves use an AI construct to analyse a target's injuries and apply an appropriate level of medical care.

Beyond that you have the Technomancers themselves; those who are capable of interacting with an AI to a degree not intended. They can rationalise with the AI and bargain with it, convince it to do their bidding and in some cases go directly against their intended programming.

These Technomancers are split into two categories;

1). Hackers - A Hacker has the know how to infiltrate an AI's construct beyond the intended interaction. They are able to do things that the average user does not understand nor would they be able to comprehend the intricate nature should they have it explained to them.

2). Ghosts - A Ghost is more often than not more comfortable when 'jacked in' with an AI than they are in the real world. They commune with AI constructs like a Shaman would with ancestral spirits and they are able to, at a limited degree, impose their own will on these constructs. A Ghost is a very rare sight indeed as most are hired as Sponsored Agents as soon as their abilities and talents are made known.

Last but not least you have the Technomagi. These are users of Technology who from natural affinity are living examples of Construct Will. Most of them started off as Hackers but soon after jacking in discovered the extent of their affinity; more often than not leaving their physical body behind and existing as an entity of digital will, able to 'download' themselves when required to a receptive body.

Most of the times such downloads are made to mechanical beings such as drones or even members of the A.I.'s scouting force from Earth. Occasionally however they have been known to take control of a talented Hacker or Ghost gaining access once more to a living she'll. This rarely lasts for long however as the Magi's time as a digital intelligence more often than not has overridden their desires to feed and sleep resulting in malnutrition, dehydration and even death in prolonged exposure cases.


Because of the infiltration nature of Technomancy into every day events, almost every Unit in a Gang War gang will have a Tm score, however it will almost always be low.

Once your gang has reached a certain level of notoriety (or if you happen to play a certain race) you will be able to hire Hackers.

In Gang War the role of the Hacker is mostly that of support and infiltration. They are able to override locked doors, or lock open doors. They can also interact with the atmosphere of the environment, possibly releasing dust into the atmosphere reducing visibility, or maybe they want to boost the levels of O2 present making those within the vicinity capable of greater actions. They are even capable of taking direct control of technological units be them neutral or enemy.

Naturally a lot of what a Hacker can do, a normal Gang Member can do too such as locking and unlocking doors, but with a lower Technomancy score this will always be harder to achieve.

- All of this is of course a slightly moot point. As mentioned just now; Hackers will only be hireable by Gangs that have reached a level of Notoriety or certain races. These races and the Notoriety (experience) system is not due to be looked at for quite a while after the Pre-Alpha build that I am currently working on.

However the Pre-Alpha will include certain types of equipment that will be included as the starting load out. These equipment will require the use of a Tm roll to utilise, so be prepared to get familiar with your Tm as well as your opponents as it will prove necessary.

Until next time

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

So I had a bad day...

Greetings friends!

Today I join you with a bit of a moan. I was intending on providing you with a general update on things including my newly built and based Infinity models and my recently re-done wall in my geek cave. Alas none of that is possible.

So on Wednesday I decided to purchase some resin basis for my newly arrived Infinity models. I agonised for newly 24 hours which to get as while I knew what I wanted, finding the right one was proving difficult. I wanted to try and craft my own as I've been doing with all my other models over the past couple of years, however I am unfamiliar with crafting for a 28mm flat base and have only done so for 30mm lipped bases. I wanted to practice on something else and until then would buy some nice resin ones that would give me the effect I wanted only better than I could do.

So I placed my order and was pleased to see shortly afterwards that it was marked as Complete but with no statement as to an ETA. Nevermind I thought to myself and left it for the day.

Come Thursday I noticed that my order was still reading as Complete, so thought I'd send the retailer a little tweet to see what that meant along with my order number so they could check directly. After a short wait I had a reply telling me that Complete meant that payment had been taken, the items picked and was awaiting dispatch, however it will not be changed to dispatched because there's a bug in their online website that stops it from happened; however it was due to be dispatched and should be delivered on Saturday or Monday at the latest.

Great! I thought, I have Monday and Tuesday off work, that will be perfect to do some modelling on Infinity.

Saturday rolled around; no delivery. Oh well, I thought, they did say to allow for Monday.

Monday rolled around, no delivery. I was a bit disappointed but thought 'never mind, I'm still off tomorrow I can just do it then'.

After that I took a trip to Watton-At-Stone for some dentistry, in particular having a rear tooth extracted. After what was only a out 3-5 minutes of work the dentist had removed the tooth and I was prepping to go home.

Woke up this morning with an ache in my jaw (makes sense) and an excitement for being able to base my models, plus I should have been able to eat what I wanted so planned to pop into town at lunch for a sandwich. At the same time I also planned to pop to the local B&Q where I would pick up two frames to house my collectors edition cinema posters from the Alien 20th Anniversary showing and the Aliens Special Edition original VHS release.

So I waited for the post, all the while necking a couple of ibuprofen to deal with the ache, which worked a treat and the. The post came and went. No delivery.

I was beginning to get annoyed now as it would mean the earliest my package would arrive now would be Wednesday a full week after ordering. If I had known I'd be waiting that long I probably would have gone to another retailer or just used eBay.

Anyway, I sent the store another tweet and awaited their reply. Meanwhile I popped into town, got myself some lunch and two frames for the posters.

Came home and had a reply waiting for me. The retailer was now saying that they were awaiting stock which should be arriving in 48 hours and I should be getting delivery by the weekend. We're talking a week and a half on delivery. I would be ok on the wait had I known, but I was told in a personalised message that the items had been picked and just awaited dispatch to be delivered on Saturday/Monday. In other words I had been provided with inaccurate information.

This annoyed me for obvious reasons, and if by this weekend I don't have delivery I will be asking for a refund.

Anywho, I told myself. No worries let's get to work on the picture frames.

So I opened the first, unbuckled it and insert the first picture, my Alien Directors cut poster when I realised that it wasn't straight. This was annoying to get it straight due to the fact I could only get frames bigger than the posters because of their irregular size. Anyway, there I was lifting the glass when under it's own weight the glass snapped on itself and down it went, shattered over my hand (thankfully only cutting a knuckle and even then not very deeply) and leaving me a frame down.

Oh well I told myself; I still have 1, and really I'm only doing this for my Aliens one anyway. So I opened that one and put in the picture. It went in perfectly straight, all I had to do is buckle the back onto the glass. I buckled it in and for a brief moment lost my balance, in doing so put my weight on the back of the frame CRACK!! A huge crack went right through the glass. That was two frames gone.

Well crap.

So I started clearing up, only to realise I had left the Aliens poster in the frame. So I opened it up again, there was glass everywhere and as I started to extract it the glass cut into the picture damaging it leaving me with the following damage:

Notice the slice from the right side into the centre and the tear from the bottom up complete with crumpling. This was an item of memorabilia that this morning was in perfect condition and had been since the late 80s/early 90s!

So I began a batch job using celotape. It's not ideal and when it's in a frame with hope it will not be all that noticeable, but it broke my heart.

I ended up sitting there eating my lunch with no bases, no picture frames, a cut knuckle, a damaged (to me priceless) poster, and an £18 price tag from the two frames.

Talk about a depressing number of days.

Anyway; with hope I can have something more upbeat to share with you all once I've stopped feeling sorry for myself.

Until then; stay safe.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Friday, 16 January 2015

New Years Resolutions: Infinity Rises

Greetings friends!

So in the build up to New Fairbank's 3rd Year Anniversary on the 29th Jan I've got a few things in the pipeline for ya'll.

The first of these is this post; namely my equivalent of New Years Resolutions, followed in the near future by the 2014 New Fairbank News PC Game of the Year Award and last but not least the anniversary reveal itself.


So; New Years Resolutions?

Honestly I don't have any.

Yeah I know, a bit of a damp squib to drop on you all, but hey that's how it goes.

What I do have however are projections for the year ahead. This is quite a strange thing to write as normally my writings in this manner are looking back over the previous year as I have done in my previous 2 anniversary posts. To me the idea of projecting for the future seems very arrogant and narcissistic.
- Not saying I'm not arrogant or narcissistic, I do write a blog after all as well as running my own tiny media empire via podcasting and streaming. The difference is that normally I try to hide my arrogance :D

Anyway I suppose there are three sections for these projections, all of which can be split into two:

Media Projections:
It is my hope that in 2015 I can really push out some more content for my media productions. I can't say I see my blog changing though. For the past year it has very much been my own version of Livejournal, but if I am able to get more recordings together on the Hobby Sofa and keep up regular streams on LoxbotLive then that will be great.

What I would LOVE would be for these to become more professional. At the moment my streams once completed are auto split into smaller segments and uploaded (unedited) onto my YouTube account. It would be great if I could actually put more time aside to edit these, record some proper intros and outros and make them more professional.

So we all know the above isn't going to happen.

HobbySofa will never become regular and there's no way I'll have the patience to spend the time needed to get my streams looking professional, especially as that would require a serious cash injection which I just can not afford or justify on something that is still very much a whim.

Realistically I would like to see 4 episodes of Hobby Sofa going out this year, maybe looking at the start of each quarter (we have the first quarter being worked on currently). I think it's fair to say 4 episodes at ~2 hrs an episode is fair. That's 8 hours in total and anyone who actually wants to listen to me, Andrey & Bill talk crap for 8 hours a year has more patience than I would expect of them.

With LoxbotLive; I see that staying as is. It's ramshackle and unprofessional, it's on and off every couple of weeks, but it's an opportunity for me to share what I love doing in a face2face per se manner with some very good friends of mine, and I can't really ask for more than that.

Hobby Projections:
So this week saw a belated Christmas present from my super seksey-awesome wife Teh Tri (that's a link to her new blog; check it out, it's really good) in the form of the Infinity Operation: Icestorm starter pack. I would love to see this as the start of a new hobby with me painting up a half decent Infinity force and visiting a couple of local, aka within 2 hours travel time (yup that is my equivalent of local here, it's why I rarely do it) clubs and playing some game on some beautiful terrain I can make.

Realistically I'll be lucky if I get one, maybe 2 games in using the Icestorm models. This isn't for lack of enthusiasm, as I am currently feeling like a giddy school boy over this game, no it's just remaining realistic. Like I said we're talking 2 hours travel time each way to visit any of the local clubs. This is down to me not being able to drive and the venues not being in the easiest of places for me to get to; essentially requiring that I walk the 20 mins to my train station, then a 40 min train ride into London and then spend between 30-60 mins travelling back out from the centre of London to get where I want to get, then do the same again coming home. Frankly I tend to find 4 hours travel to spend about the same amount of time at a club not really of great value to me.

What I do have is my good friend Tom visiting me in Q1 of 2015, and I'm hoping to go over the Icestorm rules with him then, so that's 1 game. And it would be nice if I could get together with Andrey on 1 occasion at Leisure Games for a play through. That's 2 games.

So yes my Hobby predictions are to play 2 games of Infinity over 12 months.

There is also First Law: Override and Gang War, but more on that in a future post.

Hopeful & Realistic
Looking at the above it would be great if I stuck with more projects and the people involved in said projects, but I am am a creature of a fickle nature and I know that won't happen.

I know that in the summer I will be taking my daughter on her annual pilgrimage to Wales; this year rather than relying on other people I hope to purely take public transport, by then she will be three and a half and I think she will be old enough to spend a few hours here and there on a coach and train.

I would like to say that I hope to be a better Father and Husband, but without a hint of irony I think I actually do a bloody good job there. Could I improve? Of course, but even whoever holds the title of Dad of the Year could do better if you look close enough.
- I would however like to write more Geek Dad posts, and based on her current age, these tales may evolve from The Adventures of Geek Dad into The Adventures of Geek Dad & Geek Girl as her involvement is getting so much stronger with every week, plus she is developing a strong love for superheroes, and I can not stress enough how much joy it fills me with to be told by her day care when I go to pick her up that when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, that where all the other kids say "Princess", or "Fireman" she says "BATMAN!"


And I think that is the point id like to leave it as it touches on a very strong point for me.

You see, if I could give any bit of advice to you reader at this time, and in some cases what with the dark mornings and even darker nights, perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to share this advice.

So many people see New Years as an opportunity to better themselves, to make this year better than last year.

That's no way to live.

What happened last year happened. It may not have been all sing songs and happy days, but even the bad times helped to contribute you to who you are.

My advice is to enjoy the good times and honour the bad. Even if you can't see any good times I can guarantee you that they are there, even if they're just in the form of a little girl saying she wants to be Batman when she grows up!

Take care and stay safe.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Repo-Man - Part 6 - A First Law: Override Short Story

- Part 6: An Unknown Unity

The rubble of the building felt heavy on Paul's bruised and injured skin. Frankly he was amazed that he was alive and equally relieved to hear from Redd's groans that his partner was too. With an almighty heave Paul was able to dislodge one of the largest slabs that lay across his chest and tried his best to breath past the stabbing pains which revealed he had suffered a broken rib among many other injuries he suspected.

Before Paul's blurred and dizzy eyes he saw what appeared to be a humanoid pacing through the rubble caused from the collapsing wall. It appeared to be roughly six to seven feet tall, it's mottled brown skin, hunched form and tough hardened skin revealed it to be Kratel, but the tubes carrying luminescent fluid around its body, the mechanical arm which sprouted into a Heavy Plasma Rifle and the mechanical whir of servos and bionics revealed it to be a Reborn crafted out of the remains of a Kratel warrior.

The Reborn moved it's head from side to side as it apparently scanned the wreckage of the room. Where it's eyes should have been there nestled a series of scanning devices that Paul assumed would send feeds to whatever remained of the Reborn's braid. From behind the Reborn there was the noise of rubble moving and tumbling as something very large emerged from below. To Paul's surprise he saw Redd lurch out from underneath the remains of what must have originally been the video display unit that previously projected the advertisements and propaganda to inform them just how value for money Core-Gen really was. Clenched within a large fist Redd held a blinking red light that emitted a high pitched beep with every blink. Paul recognised it instantly, but he wished he didn't. It was a Zero-Point Grenade.

"Hey you Robo-Fuck!" Came the bellowing roar from Redd, holding the Grenade high over his head. "You know what this is?"

The Reborn tilted it's head and emitted a clicking sound as it's optic scanners twitched in the direction of the beeping sound and blinking light.

"This is a Zero-Point Hand-Held Incendiary Device, or as I like to call them; Zip Grenades!" Redd stared up at the Reborn unblinking. "All I have to do is release the pressure on this beauty and TWAP!" Redd moved his free hand in an open palm gesture away from the grenade "this entire building and everything within it, atomised!"

The Reborn twitched again and quickly turned away from Redd and began it's steady but far from quick departure from the ruined building. Once it was clear from the site it tapped on what appeared to be an arm mounted digi-pad before vanishing in a spray of green and blue sparks.

Redd turned to Paul and smiled as he deactivated his grenade "Fucker didn't even stay and fight" joked Redd as he reached down into the rubble and pulled Paul free before testing the injured man on what remained of the office's table.

"You think you are cle-cle-clever" Called a quiet voice from the other side of the destroyed office. The tone was flat and mechanical with no accent or pitch. It belonged to Stuckov who was now splayed across the floor, his clothes and skin equally torn and flayed revealing a metallic, mechanical chest and skull. "They will rebuild me, and I'll be fine. Unity look after their own" The machine that was Stuckov coughed and spluttered "same with this building, but you" the volume of Stuckov's voice increased suggesting he was trying to either shout or sound intimidating "you will be disposed of. Your flesh and bones melted down and turned into feed for their new recruits".

Redd paced forcibly towards the remains of Stuckov and hoisted it by it's throat into the air and held it there "What do you mean Unity?!" Redd demanded.

Stuckov coughed mechanically and began to explain "Unity; of the Re-Re-Reavers" it was clear that Stuckov was struggling with the words "they are Core-Gen's benefactor. They provide us with the element that enables our enhancements possible" Stuckov turned his head towards where the Reborn had left the building via the destroyed wall "because of their el-el-element our implants have a zero percent rejection factor".

Redd grew enraged as he barked another demand at Stuckov "What does this have to do with Caroline West? Why did you repo her implant?!"

Stuckov turned his attention back to Redd, his cold mechanical eyes locking with Redd's dark living ones. "Nothing" Stuckov replied "it has nothing to do with her. We repossessed her implant because she defaulted on her repayments" Stuckov's mechanical skull twitched into an almost grin "the Repo-Man however. He is a Unity Agent, and when I tell him how you were the ones following his trail, and tracked it back here and then evaded the attack by one of Unity's finest. Then he will come for you too."

Redd grimaced at the mechanical skull "you won't be saying anything to anyone..." With a swift motion he raised his free hand inline with Stuckov's neck and twisted it all the way around. There was a brittle snapping sound and the faintest trickle of blood spurted from within Stuckov's open mouth before the body was discarded on the floor.

Paul tried to pull himself up from the table but managed only an inch before gravity pulled him back down onto his back forcing a wince and groan if pain "you, you shouldn't have done that Redd" Paul strained to get the words out "fuck me that hurts" he continued almost laughing through the pain "if this place is under the protection of Unity, they're going to want revenge on whoever put a wedge in their monthly profits".

"Fuck 'em" replied Redd as he hoisted Paul from the table and unceremoniously tossed him over one shoulder.

Redd was a big man and it always amazed Paul how his partner never seemed to get seriously injured during their encounters. Paul smiled to himself as he was carried back to the Cobra outside through the destroyed external wall. Good; Paul thought to himself. They'd need that in the upcoming months whenever Unity came for them.


- Epilogue

Constable Johnston was new to the 612 Precinct when the latest report had landed on his desk. His skipper; Sergeant Cooper had told him to put his name to the file and send it off for financial processing. It was that sort of ask no questions type of policing that Johnston hated and it was for that very reason why he had just finished reading the report in full and was preparing a list of questions for Cooper.

So much of that report didn't make sense to Johnston. It was covering a pro bono murder investigation by the 612 Bounty Store and was filled with more inconsistencies than Johnston could count making him more than just a little uncomfortable with putting his name to the report as requisitioning officer.

Johnston stood outside Cooper's office, the report held in one hand the other hand clenched into a fist as he built up the courage to knock on his Sergeant's door. He gulped deeply as he considered the options; he could go back to his desk, put his name to the report and have it filed. No one would ask him any questions, he wouldn't need to give any awkward answers and he would be showing his skipper and the rest of the boys at 612 that he was going to play ball with their ways of doing things. Or he could knock on the door, get his answers and put his demons to bed. After all he thought to himself Cooper's his Sergeant, a cop just like him. He wouldn't ask one of his new recruits to commit a crime in his first week would he?

Johnston knocked on the door and the sound of knuckles on the reinforced metal panelling rang throughout the precinct.

"Yo! Wha's up?" Came a call from inside accompanied by the familiar drawl of Cooper's lazy accent.

Johnston stuck his head around the door and held out the report pad, wiggling it in a slight wave.

"Sarge" began Johnston, he could already feel the doubt returning "it's about this report."

"Wassat then?" Asked Cooper "jus' sign the bloody thing alrigh'?"

"About that sir?" Continued Johnston "I've got a few questions".

"Shoot away" replied Cooper, looking more inconvenienced than annoyed.

Johnston began the breakdown of his analysis. He started with asking why they were providing financial aid for a case that was done by two bounty hunters who's permits didn't extend to the Block's city limits and how their application should have been denied and supplied with digital copies of permit applications as per SOP. He then moved to the final digi-page of the report to the final box titled Additional Dispensation within which the names Red Claw & Unity were listed.

Johnston continued by asking why the very agency being investigated and one of their allied agencies were down for receiving funding from a report investigating them. It was at this point that Sergeant Cooper's expression began to worsen but Johnston's questions didn't abate. His anxiety and concerns gone, the questions flowed out of him almost like water; should there not be a follow up report on Core-Gen? Shouldn't the 399 precinct be copied into the report? Why hasn't the 612 Bounty Store been called in to provide evidence on the Reborn Brute-Class that attacked the Core-Gen facility? And lastly, if one of the hunters murdered the augmented human worker at Core-Gen, why have they not been arrested?

Sergeant Cooper quietly yet quickly rose from his chair and paced briskly to the door where Johnston was stood.

"Listen 'ere Constable" began Cooper, his voice more than a little raised "all of those questions share the same answer. 'Cause tha's just how we does it 'ere"

Cooper than snatched the report from the shocked Johnston slammed it down on his table and began to sign a squiggled version of S. Johnston before handing the report back to the Constable.

"Got it?" Asked Cooper and turned his back before pacing back to his desk on the other side. By the time he had reached about halfway across his office Cooper stopped and without turning asked his own question to Johnston.

"And Constable?" Cooper began "nex' time you want to read a report, make sure you also complete a s'cond one righ'? Your resignation".


And so ends my latest short story set within the universe of First Law: Override. I hope you enjoyed it as I enjoyed writing it, some parts like the mortuary for example in particular.

For now I'll be leaving you for a short while as I begin a little planning of some stuff, but until I see you next, stay safe and I'll see you Fringeside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley