Reviews: Recent D20 Books for Horror Games

It’s been tough trying to figure out how to write about horror — and horror games, at that — since 9-11. I’m all for the escapist powers of gaming, but horror games haven’t held much appeal for the last month. So, what I’m going to do this time is review the games I’ve bought recently, since I’ve lucked out and ended up with some really nice stuff.

 

 
 

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

I was never a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, exactly. It seemed like the kind of thing that was hard to get into because there was so much out there, and the basic books were always out of date from years’ worth of regional sourcebooks and the like.

But I picked this up, in part because of the dearth of supported D&D; settings in 3rd edition and in part because gosh darn it, the book is just so pretty. And it’s worth it. It’s a $40 hardcover, and it’s still worth it. Honestly, this is the best single-product storebought setting I’ve seen for D&D;, and it’s $40 because there’s so much stuff in it. The much-ballyhooed regional feats are a great idea which I hope are emulated by other D20 publishers. The setting section is enormous, as it should be, and has more adventure and campaign ideas than you can shake a stick at. I have a pick-up game going with my ex and her boyfriend, whenever we happen to have time, and we’ve had a …

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Finding Inspiration: The Rest of the Books

So, we’ve covered Stephen King. What else should you read?

 

 
 

H. P. Lovecraft. Don’t plan on doing much with Things From Beyond and Dark Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know if you haven’t encountered Lovecraft. Most people know him indirectly – there are Cthulhu pastiches in every corner of fandom – but it’s really worth reading the original. Pulp horror at its finest – one of the grandfathers of the genre, the Tolkien of horror. His Cthulhu stories are his most well known, but there’s a Lovecraft story in pretty much every big hardcover horror anthology (you’ll find them remaindered in the mall, often enough). I’ve picked up lots of his books at used bookstores, too.

Naturally, if you’re interested in a Lovecraft game, your best bet is Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, which has supplements for the modern-day, Lovecraft’s own 1920s, and the Victorian era.

Anne Rice. For many people – too many people, in my frank opinion – Rice has the first and last word on vampires. The first book in her Vampire Chronicles, Interview with a Vampire, is good – you’ve probably seen the movie with Tom Cruise as Lestat. It was a nice change of pace for vampire stories – a sensual, almost effete vampire consumed by angst, the vampire as brooding sex symbol. The makers of Vampire: the Masquerade have taken this ball, run with it, and done a lay-up.

Peter Straub. Did you grow up reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King, …

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Seat Massagers for Gaming Chairs

If you ask ten of the most successful professional gamers from e-sports which are the most important miscellaneous element needed for success, you might get surprising answers. Sure, the mouse and professional keyboard are important, but on the long term, they will all tell you about the importance of having a good seat massager for gaming chairs.

Many of the modern gaming chairs also come with a massage feature, which is welcomed but also contested by professional and amateur e-sports players. Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of seat massagers for the people spending a lot of time in front of the computer: gamers.

Advantages of massage chairs for gamers

  1. Anytime – after a long and tensed Counterstrike fight online with your friends, you might want to relax by watching a quick Youtube movie before beginning the next session. By turning on your massage chair, you will relax easier and you will be ready for playing a lot faster than your opponents! Don’t tell them your secret, but we bet some of them already know it and they use professional massage chairs in their breaks.
  2. It can give similar effects with the ones offered by a therapist – most of these chairs are programmable, which is a delight for gamers to discover. Doesn’t be surprised the features of these chairs can be just as complicated as the controls of a space ship, as they offer many features and a relaxing massage at any time. This means you can relax after

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Can you go home again?

Can you go home again?

 

 
 

There is a certain fondness with which I recall my teen years. Not quite the kind of reverence that one reserves for nostalgia but there is certainly affection for that time. Some of my more vivid memories involve skipping class with friends and venturing to the local arcade; no this is not intended to serve as encouragement to others. Here my friends and I would spend hours feeding quarters to those hungry video game machines. Holding mini-tourneys to determine who was the best player at a given game. Galaga was my game of choice.

Well, now Macromedia has given me the opportunity to relive those days of yore. Through an agreement with Atari www.atari.com, Marcomedia Shockwave www.shockwave.com now offers Frogger, Centipede, Super Breakout and Missile Command available for play. For me it was an inexpensive stroll down memory lane. Inexpensive because these games don’t suck away any quarters, thankfully they’re free.

The game play remains true to the originals, if you played the monster machines you’ll remember how to play these. It’s like riding a bicycle. If you have been so unfortunate as to not have experienced the originals you’ll pick the play up very quickly.

The shockwave versions of these arcade classics bear more than just a passing resemblance to their forefathers. The biggest difference is the size of the shockwave games, while I didn’t break out a yardstick my guess would be that these games were no bigger than 2 inches by 2 …

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Preview: “Project EGO”

Big Blue Box is one of Lionhead’s satellite studios. Lionhead is the company that brought us the magnificent and innovative Black and White. The Black and White engine is the basis of Big Blue Box’s first game, code named Project EGO.

With such a pedigree already behind it, there are tremendous expectations for what Project EGO will be, and Big Blue Box has made some tremendous promises about what we can expect, mainly in the area of character management.

You start off with a single character, either male or female, who starts the game at the age of 15, and will age realistically. The average lifespan of your character will be about seventy years or so. Once your character dies, another, younger character can be created to take his place, but the details of that process is still being worked on.

As with Black and White, Project EGO gives you the freedom to have your character behave and develop however you like. If you want to be a valiant warrior, just grab that sword and start slapping enemies around. A thief? Put on some black clothing and stick to the shadows. A wizard? Well, you get the point by now. You’re not locked into any particular stereotype, though. If you want your thief to wear the brightest, loudest costume in the land, you are free to do so.

Your character’s appearance will change according to your personal preferences and lifestyle choice. A character that spends a lot of time whacking …

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Is Nintendo in Trouble?

Nintendo has always been a well-known figure in the video game industry. The company is credited with bringing gaming back into a viable industry following the crash of the ’80s. It has always been on the forefront of innovation and technical excellence, and was practically synonymous with “video gaming.” My how times have changed.

 

 
 

Today, Nintendo is not the power it once was. Sony’s Playstation has captured most of the market and while Nintendo currently enjoys financial success brought on by Pokemon, many industry experts view Pokemon as a passing fad, doomed to go the way of Tamagotchi and others like it.

So is Nintendo in trouble? In the words of the venerable eight-ball, “all signs point to yes.” Here’s why.

(Please note, the majority of this editorial is based on rumor and conjecture, and therefore shouldn’t be taken as absolute truth, but merely opinion)

Rumor has it that back when Sega Dreamcast was announced, both Sony and Nintendo were working on their new systems which were far superior to Sega’s machine. The two companies had a relatively easy time at it, considering the amount of information that was available about the Dreamcast in the year prior to its announcement. The rumor goes on to state that Nintendo was ready to announce its new system, but Sony beat them to the punch.

Some time before the official Playstation 2 announcement, Ken Kutaragi went on record saying that Sony wanted to create an experience that was closer to film than games …

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The online game -Boxerjam

One of the largest areas of growth in online gaming deals with trying to attract the non-hardcore gamer. You’ve seen them and perhaps played them – come on admit it. Usually they are Java based games, possibly trivia or card games. Sure, you know what I’m talking about.

So today we take a look at Boxerjam. A free site supported by a few unobtrusive advertising banners. Participants do attempt to be friendly and occasionally conversations take place during the game. Newbies are quite welcome and receive encouragement and help from veterans, which is nice. JavaScript is necessary so ensure that is enabled before you attempt gaming at this site.

The site is free, as mentioned, and offers prizes based on a drawing. The prizes are, of course, a nice feature but it would make so much more sense if they were related to the scores within the game. Perhaps they should make it more of a contest; highest score wins a prize or whatever.

Boxerjam offers four games, Napoleon, Take Five, Out of Order and Strike a Match (my favourite). Although only four games are offered they are quite a variety. Napoleon is essentially a card in which you get points for coming up with a winning hand. The are hand types that you are required to get, think Yahtzee and you get the idea.

In Take Five you are presented with a series of 9 words and asked to make a sentence using 5 of the words. It’s not …

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Video Game Review: Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360)

You are Rico Rodrigez, a secret operative sent to the nation of Panau. An area where bribes, murder, and guns talk a lot louder than justice. You have been sent in to find Tom sheldon, a potentially rogue agent who has got missing from the agency.

You enter this game by jumping out of an airplane, dodging mid-air explosions while trying to take a lost item from a dead body soaring towards the ground. Enough said? This game is packed with action, mayhem, and and, surprisingly, a very decent storyline. This game is what the industry refers to as a “sandbox” style game, similar to title like Grand Theft Auto IV, and Crackdown. Just Cause also has a few other similarities such as huge collections of weapons and vehicles, TONS of buildings and people to bring havoc upon, and lots of great one liners!

One thing that cought me off guard, was the storyline, which is something that is normally pretty lacking in most Action games these days. Just cause offers a somewhat deep storyline which teeters on fiction/non-fiction, and had quite a bit of back story, between the lenghy list of characters, and the woulrd itself. Each character goes through a small amount of developement, and changes depending on how the games plays out.

The graphics of Just Cause 2 are much better than I had expected then I put the disk into my Xbox 360. I wouldn’t give it game of the year on that fact alone, but …

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Sequels: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

Some sequels are better than others

  

This week deals extensively with sequels to games and their makers. The developers of perhaps the finest sequel ever have gone out of business; an �unexpected� sequel will be coming in time for Christmas from another; not really a sequel, but one of the best selling games last year finally gets an expansion pack; and a pleasant surprise from the makers of the finest (or at least funniest) adventure series ever. And speaking of sequels, next article will showcase the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in LA where sequel galore could be found.

 
 

Looking Glass Studios is closing up shop, and quitting the development game. The makers of the highly acclaimed, loved by reviewers, ignored by consumers �System Shock 2,� and the �Thief� series of games, have just run out of money. The remaining projects at Looking Glass, including �Thief II Gold� and �Thief 3,� have all been cancelled. Designer Rich Carlson commented on the affect this will have on the gaming business, �I don’t think the industry will ever be quite the same.” Looking Glass Studios will be sorely missed for their substance over style designs and innovation.

 
 

On a related note, something that should have gone under a while ago, but hasn�t, there will be a new �Tomb Raider� game by Christmas time. Supposedly, in the newest episode, the game play will be completely different. Not much is known about the game yet, but to be worth anything the whole game should be …

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Interview: Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns

Steve Hemmesch, the Lead Game Designer for Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, took a minute out of his busy schedule at TimeGate Studios to answer a few questions about the new Real Time Stragetgy game that everyone is talking about (Review coming soon!)

 

 
 

How was your typical day spent during the design of the game?

My name is Steve Hemmesch, and I was the Lead Game Designer for Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. I was responsible for working with the Executive Producer (Alan Chaveleh), who was also the man who defined the game concept at the beginning. It was my job to take his concepts and story ideas and flesh them out, turning them into working gameplay. I was also responsible for creating most of the content of the game: units, spells, heroes, tutorials, and the campaign. My typical day differed depending on what stage we were at in development cycle. During the height of development, I would spend the morning responding to new bugs and content issues sent to me by other team members. Then I would continue work on the campaign map I was currently focused on, defining its look, adding triggers, and writing dialogue. Then I would round out the day with balance testing of recent unit and feature additions, making tweaks and corrections when necessary.

What did you try and accomplish with Kohan?

Our primary goal in Kohan was to blend the truly strategic gameplay found in most turn-based computer and strategy board games with the exciting, quicker paced gameplay …

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