My Life as a Blog
by Rich Carlson
Things To Do
Tripping the Net Tonight
"The Barking Clock?"
If your system isn't man enough to play Doom 3, fire up original Doom (You've still got your disks, right?) and play Justin Fisher's classic mod, Aliens TC for DOOM (for original Doom, Doom 1.66-1.9, Doom 2 and Ultimate Doom). ATC gave Doom itself a run for the money when it was released and after all this time and technology it's still hard to beat.
What else can you do? Go look (mirror) at The Project Apollo Archive for starters. Digitally enhanced images from Neil Armstrong's first roll of moon film. Very nice. Or, check out the Shadow of a Martian Robot. Whoa... Man, those lander missions are out of this world. Then there's The Case of the Horrifying Mystery Writer.
Why go here? Don't you want to know about novels like The Barking Clock? See, I knew you would.
You could also enjoy Spicules: Jets on the Sun, a hot little number whipped up by APOD. And what's this? Original Phosphorous Art for Sale!
His art is so weirdly cool; this is a great day! So great that I am moved at last to impart to you an edifying article entitled A Sea Worm's Surprising Living Arrangement.
Good Geek Stuff This Week
First off, a Laurel & Hardy handshake to Ken St. Andre, creator of the legendary role playing game, Tunnels & Trolls (as well as being associated with infamous goodies like the award winning Nuclear War card game and the Grimtooth's Traps rpg supplements).
Ken checked in via email, it's always fun to hear from him, and he posted a blurb about my sites on his blog page. Wow! Thanks, Ken. Btw, Ken plays lots of RuneScape as Trollgod and other guises. We both recommend this mmorpg a lot. Ken recommended it to me, and it's one of the best. - Links: Ken St. Andre | Flying Buffalo Inc. | Tunnels & Trolls | Tunnels & Trolls Online Solitaire Adventures | RuneScape
Stick this in your ear: The winners of this year's Mark Time awards for science fiction audio were announced a couple of weeks ago. The gold award, the 1st prize, went to The Convergence by Jeff Adams. You can check it out here courtesy KFAI's Sound Affects program and the KFAI Audio Archives. (Note: If you missed this airing try the Audio Archives/Sound Affects "previous show" selection.)
Game stuff: Gerwin Broers has remade HeroQuest for PC. (And, it's freeware!) Gerwin takes a fresh look at the Games Workshop/Milton Bradley classic. This version makes the earlier HeroQuest PC port by Gremlin seem even more laughably awful than when you first played it (and tried to like it). Also, Gerwin provides an ingame editor so you can make your own scenarios to play and share. For example, here are a few I made that took about an hour and a half to two hours each. Two thumbs up for freeware HeroQuest (both of my thumbs)! (Website)
Related: I recently put up a page dedicated to free dungeon crawl games, called Dungeons Deep. I've played a lot of these kinds of games, and they're scattered all over the net, so I collected the best along with all of the links (websites, downloads, history, etc.) and posted everything on one simple webpage. Hope you'll stop by and check out these great games. If you like megadungeons and crpg's set underground, you'll find what you're looking for at Dungeons Deep. Note: This site will be updated at least once per month.
Masters of Fantasy
L. Sprague de Camp
"the Duke of Fantasy"
In his time, L. Sprague de Camp wrote hundreds of stories about dinosaur hunters, Chinese sorcerers, myths and legends, ancient places, erudite demons, anachronistic heroes, barbarian swordsmen, lost civilizations, and the list goes on. He wrote with astonishing creativity and he had a flair for words and smart dialog. He wrote with vision, a crisp style, clarity, intelligence, wit, historical accuracy, humor and satire... All of these are reasons why de Camp, likely dubbed the Duke of Fantasy, is one of the Knights of the Round at the table of great speculative fiction writers.
The first de Camp book I read was The Fallible Fiend which I became aware of from an excellent recommended fantasy reading list in the back of the AD&D 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide. It's the story of a demon stranger in an even stranger land... The Fallible Fiend is clever and funny, rowdy and satirical, peculiar and magical, and, refreshingly, it has nothing to do with elves or dwarves or Darklords or any of that standard stuff. I was surprised so naturally I wanted to check out more of de Camp's work.
Next, I read the collected Harold Shea stories in a single volume called The Compleat Enchanter (co-written with Fletcher Pratt). This is the book that grabs most people, and these stories are easily among de Camp's best. Imagine inventing a syllogismobile (a kind of Boolean equation) which will allow you to travel not through time or space but through myth, legends and fantastic literature. Sounds incredible but each time Harold Shea tries it things go horribly awry. These stories are funny, satirical, literate, fanciful, bawdy and priceless.
Of course, I had to read de Camp's most famous novel (and his first), Lest Darkness Fall. While not my favorite, it's first rate, and it is essential de Camp. In a sense, he retells A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court but in this case, a modern tourist is flung backward in time to 6th century Italy, a period brilliantly described and authentically detailed by de Camp. He did his homework and the payoff is immersiveness. The exploits of the protagonist are clever and entertaining, and the ending is terrific.
Official L. Sprague de Camp Website
Now Updated Semiweekly!
"Get your Digital Eel game MOUSEPADS..."
The Sorcerer's Cave (freeware PC game) | DrSleep's Doom Apothecary | Get your Digital Eel game MOUSEPADS here! | The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Movie Blog | H2G2 Interactive Fiction Game Online | World's smallest jet plane? | Samarost (walkthrough) | Top Honour for Robot Heroes | Kid Robot and the World of Tomorrow | Dark Tower for Windows
Of Mystic Woods And Sorcerer's Caves
Peter Donnelly's Fantasy Games
"a gem...waiting to be discovered"
(Update on 06.30.04. Game link fixed.)
If you bought Avalon Hill fantasy games in the early 80's you might remember a charming rpg-tinged board game called The Mystic Wood by "Terrence" Peter Donnelly. The Mystic Wood is basically a random dungeon tile game (like NetHack or Diablo) set in a magical forest. However, instead of playing characters like Conan or Elric, legendary slayers hacking and slashing their way through an adventure, players play famous knights in search of love and glory in an enchanted realm drawn from classic literary sources like Spenser's Faerie Queen, the King Arthur legends and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.
The Mystic Wood is cleverly-designed, upbeat and fun to play. It actually has a magical quality about it as each knight's different quest begins to unfold and new areas are revealed. The Mystic Wood is a multiplayer game. Players can play competitively or cooperatively. Either way, strong player interaction is the result, and this is the key to The Mystic Wood's appeal. The light-hearted roleplaying game elements enhance and compliment its basic design. And all of this makes for a classic game which is a refreshing romp as compared to typical D&D-styled dungeon crawls.
Having said that, I like random dungeon crawls, D&D-styled or otherwise. My favorite is a computer game called, rather generically, Dungeon Crawl, which is similar to NetHack but more fair in terms of game mechanics and more grounded in fantasy with fewer eyebrow raising anachronisms. The trappings of fantasy and the way mundane and magical combat interact have always been interesting to me especially when handled as well as it is in the best of these games.
So, I'm always on the lookout for them. I collect them, so to speak, and I have seen nearly every permutation of this kind of game. Still, every once in a while I discover a new one, which is to say that it might actually be an old one almost forgotten after many years. Such is the case with The Sorcerer's Cave, a computer game I stumbled across while googling for images of Marvin the Paranoid Android. (From a page not quite deceptively called Marvin The Paranoid Android Sorcerer's Cave Turn 34.)
It turns out that there is a connection between The Sorcerer's Cave for Windows and The Mystic Wood. Peter Donnelly created them both.
The board game version of The Sorcerer's Cave was his first fantasy game design (aha!), published only in England, I believe. The Mystic Wood was its sequel and it reached a much larger audience thanks to Avalon Hill which published the game at the height of the fantasy board game craze.
Unfortunately, both games and their add-on packs are long out of print at this time. But, there is a bright game at the end of the tunnel, and I guess it's my job to tell you what it is and where to find it.
The Sorcerer's Cave is a remarkable game as evidenced by the solo computer game version which Peter has made available as freeware on his website. This Windows version is sparse to look at, with minimal graphics in a humble neat and tidy presentation, and it appears at first as another run of the mill dungeon game. But, as is often the case, looks can be deceiving. The intricacies of a well-designed board game are there, and the character reaction system, which was expanded a bit for The Mystic Wood, is there too, already at work to provide a different approach, and a different gameplay dynamic, to this kind of game system.
You won't find 1000 spells, 1000 different monsters or 1000 different items in The Sorcerer's Cave. It ain't NetHack but that's a strength in this case. With its briskly-paced gameplay and its tight set of perfectly-dovetailed magic items, abilities, player characters and adversaries, a session only lasts a few minutes, then it's on to the next try, a process which quickly becomes very addictive. It's like a coffee break version of a roguelike; a welcome respite from games of this type that require dozens of hours to complete.
The Sorcerer's Cave also reminds me of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, a game I designed with Iikka Keranen and released a couple of years ago. We used the same approach, though it's a bit kinder to the player, and as I play The Mystic Wood and The Sorcerer's Cave, I see similar solutions to the same design problems we faced. If you have ever tried to design a game like this, then you probably know the ones I mean.
Randomness for the sake of randomness is fine but randomness tuned is a remarkably useful thing which players will subconsciously appreciate. Also, it is simply easier to tune a smaller game than a larger one and the continuity within the design is going to be better. So it is with SAIS, and The Sorcerer's Cave and The Mystic Wood, and speedy game sessions and high replayability cinch the deal.
Many thanks to Peter Donnelly for releasing The Sorcerer's Cave as freeware. Grab it while you can. If you are willing to play a half dozen quick sessions to get the gist of things, you'll find a gem in there waiting to be discovered. Very few people know about this game.
Btw, if anyone has the board game version of The Sorcerer's Cave, its add-on pack or The Mystic Wood extension kit, and you want to sell, please let me know. I'm sure we can work something out which would be mutually satisfactory.
More Digital Eel News
Astraware Releases SAIS
"like carrying an instant space opera in your pocket"
From the Digital Eel website (mostly):
As I mentioned before, Astraware has released Strange Adventures in Infinite Space for Palm OS® 5.0 (and above) high resolution color devices and Windows Mobile™ for Pocket PC. This is a slick version of SAIS, very faithful to the original. As I like to say, it's like carrying an instant space opera around in your pocket! SAIS for Palm & Pocket PC is a blast so check out the full-featured demos here. (And again, congrats to Howard, Iain, John and all at Astraware for doing a great job with this port!)
I guess we're cool now. Matt Gallant recommended Strange Adventures in Infinite Space as the ultimate pickup game on Gizmodo last week. Matt chose to spotlight five pickup games, games that can be completed in a matter of minutes, and we're pleased as space punch to be included. Stop by Gizmodo, go to the software section and feel the love!
Four groovy Digital Eel game MOUSEPADS are now available for only $10.99 each from Cafe Press. Each pad features eye-watering Big Box of Blox, Dr. Blob's Organism, Strange Adventures in Infinite Space or Plasmaworm splash screen art by Digital Eel artist, Phosphorous! Cafe Press does excellent color transfer work and you'll want one of these so click here to visit the Digital Eel Nonprofit Store for a peek.
Note: The thumbnail example images for each mousepad are kind of dark. The actual mousepads look brighter and more colorful like the original art. Also note: In order to keep prices as low as possible, Digital Eel does not make a profit from the sale of these products!
Al Schneider's World Magic Center
"Is this your card?"
Veteran close-up magician Al Schneider, inventor of Matrix, one of the most baffling coin and card tricks ever conceived, recently updated his website, the World Magic Center. In his words: "The purpose of this site is to present information about magic technology and demonstrate a wide variety of magic effects. The most significant presentation of this site is an ebook titled The Theory of Magic."
The WMC is essentially a "closeup magic" site with videos you can watch in your browser, ebooks of specific effects for sale and the online Theory of Magic treatise which is actually pretty formidable and a lot of fun to read. You might want to check it out even if you're not interested in magic.
I studied with Al in Minneapolis in the late 70's, learning coin and card routines and a variety of traditional close-up effects. These were extensive studies involving theory, drills, peer review and performance. Al has strict methods to follow, and the drilling is intense, but his classes were informal and upbeat and we always had a blast getting together. It paid off and I have Al and the gang to thank for it. I became adept enough to perform Matrix and other effects for the local SAM chapter (Society Of American Magicians), and was invited to join shortly thereafter.
I spent about five years learning magic, practicing mostly while on road trips with the bands I played and traveled with. Touring with a band, on the road for months at a time, can be really boring so magic was a way to use the idle hours for something creative and constructive. It was also relaxing and fun.
I also got to perform tricks tableside at the restaurants and hotels where we played, which was a great way to try new tricks out -and generally mess with folks' heads for the fun of it. It also provided me a way to leave a business card in a memorable way, or just do something nice, like help to celebrate someone's birthday by having "Happy Birthday Martha" appear on "ordinary playing cards" before Martha's astonished eyes.
But I didn't do this too much. Only when the vibe was just right, and I wasn't pushy about it. I don't enjoy it when someone acts like that, and there's an old adage about it. "The magician asked me if I liked card tricks. I said no. He did five of them."
When performing this stuff, I didn't show off or try to do tricks that were over my head. I didn't do tricks that weren't second nature. I may be a chicken but I'm not a stupid chi... I wouldn't whip out Matrix, for example, without a good month of practicing it up first.
My favorite effects were, hell still are, The Locked Deck, "Rising Cards," Coins Though the Table, Matrix (four card/four coin transposition), Coins Across, Around the World (an absolutely amazing card trick which I still do), Card Warp (another eye popper), Face to Face Aces, Professor's Nightmare and other effects which aren't table magic, some cheesy, like the infamous Needle Through the Balloon, and some elegant, like the weird floating "Zombie" ball and Doug Henning's Torn and Restored Newspaper (by Anderson & Marshall, actually) which are more involved and much more spectacular.
Through all of this I learned about folks like Slydini (1901-1991), probably the Archmage of closeup magic. His legendary "torn and restored cigarette trick" was delicate, flawless, stunning and only two feet away from you. When a goofy troupe of performers came to town called The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society, I became aware of Teller (and his soon-to-be duo partner, Penn Jilette) and had the good luck and timing to see him perform table to table, and on stage just a few feet away. It is fair to say that his "Rose Illusion" (Teller interacts with the shadow of a rose projected on canvas.) was a religious experience for me. Teller still performs this haunting effect to this day. Yeah, it's that good.
I also have Larry Kahlow to blame for all of this magic business. He's the proprietor of the Eagle Magic Store in downtown Minneapolis. He'd pitch the latest "invisible thread" trick and half of the time I'd bite. Everybody does. But he also pointed me to the right sources and was very helpful and generous to any and all who stopped by. I'm sure he still is. Old school kinda guy.
So, thanks Al, Frank, Larry and all of the rest of you whose names I've long forgotten. And cheers, posthumous or otherwise, to Slydini, Teller, J. B. Bobo, Doug Henning, Gene Anderson, Paul Curry...and even Mark Wilson. You guys taught me real world magic, and some of the best of it. It's a cool fraternity to belong to, and Harry Potter's got nothing on us. Swish and flick!
A Public Service Message to the Media, Politicians and Kids
"Say it with me."
My old favorite was the word nuclear when pronounced nucular. My new favorite is a familiar buzzword you hear daily in the news.
Infrastructure. Infra -meaning beneath or underpinning, and structure -meaning an arrangement of parts. The underpinning of an arrangement of parts. That's pretty straightforward.
But prominent folks, from George W. Bush to Wolf Blitzer, seem to be pronouncing this word as in-FAH-structure. Infa -meaning within the fourth tone of the diatonic scale, ahem, and structure as above. This word makes no sense at all. Of course, we know what people mean when they say it that way.
Why doesn't someone whisper into Mr. Bush's ear "By the way, Mr. President, it's pronounced in-FRA-structure. Just a suggestion."? Why doesn't Wolf's editor say "Wolf, it's in-FRA-structure. Say it with me. IN - FRA - STRUCTURE. Very good. Now go out there and get 'em, Iron Man."?
So kids, don't worry about getting a C in your english class. You can be a famous TV personality, or even president, regardless if you know the English language or not. Go for it!
Digital Eel News
"SAIS for Palm and Pocket PC"
Jeremy Johnson and Exaar recently released a couple of very cool Strange Adventures in Infinite Space mods. Even Stranger Adventures in Infinite Space and The Urluquai Crusade offer completely new adventures, ships, items and ways to play SAIS. Quality stuff from a couple of really talented fellows. Btw, you can check out the current list of nifty SAIS mods here.
We set up a simple Digital Eel message board so folks can say hey, ask questions, post announcements, etc. It's called the Community Scroll and it's kind of an experiment, so please feel free to stop by and express yourself.
Last but definitely not least, Astraware is releasing Strange Adventures in Infinite Space for Palm and Pocket PC next week. Working with the Astraware folks has been effortless and fun; they're thorough pros and very nice people. They've created a great SAIS port that I think Palm and PPC gamers will really get a kick out of. More on this later.
Closer to the Edge
The Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft Approaching Saturn
"Saturn two weeks ago"
24 Million Kilometers to Saturn: "Next stop: Saturn. The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is approaching Saturn and will fire its engines to break into orbit around the ringed giant on July 1. The robot spacecraft was launched in 1997 and rounded Jupiter in 2001. As Cassini orbits Saturn over the next four years, it will swoop past many of Saturn's moons for unprecedented close-ups and even drop a probe onto Titan. Pictured above, Cassini imaged Saturn two weeks ago as it closed to only 24 million kilometers out."
(Astronomy Picture of the Day, 2004 May 31)
Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"Toledo Blade Tiger Force series"
Wayback Machine | Toledo Blade Tiger Force series | 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting: Tiger Force | The Elder Scrolls: Arena - Free! | Murder 101 | Things That Should Not Be | Da Vinci Invented Car Forerunner | Pyrogon Postmortem | Why Pyrogon Failed | Io in True Color | Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: trailer, website and Wired article | Fresh Air interview with Journalist Bill Moyers | Cyber49er.com | Digital Eel Community Scroll | Andy Kaufman is back?
The ElectroComp 101
The Dawn of a New Music Machine
"the screaming wail of lead-guitar-threatening synthesizers"
The ElectroComp 101 is the first synthesizer that I ever played. I was in 8th grade. Electronic musical instruments were coming into vogue. Carlos' Switched On Bach and Clockwork Orange soundtrack had recently enthralled the classical crowd. Rock bands like ELP and Yes were in the process of introducing the screaming wail of lead-guitar-threatening synthesizers to the suburban kids, myself included.
Moog was a buzzword. Synthesizers were cool, and the ElectroComp 101 was one of the coolest. So, I was very surprised when our school band director bought one for the jr. high music department.
I got to tinker with it all the time; during study hall, after school, on weekends. Really unlimited access from the band teacher who was quite a trusting guy. He'd say things like "Here's the key. Lock up and give it to me tomorrow," or "Sure, go ahead and take the synth home for the weekend." Are there music teachers like this in schools anymore? Are there music departments in schools anymore?
I learned about 3/4 of the useful stuff I know about composition techniques, sound synthesis and multitracking from that amazing machine and a couple of tape recorders. Lately, when I started looking at all of the old information about the ElectroComp 101, I realized that I was very lucky that particular synthesizer had come along when it did in my life. It has every important synthesizer feature that you need to learn how to use. The "EML 101" is a classic analog machine, kind of rare now, but I'm really glad I got my hands on one (and wrapped my mind around it) for while. (I wonder where it is today?)
(aka EML 101)
2 voltage-controlled oscillators (VCO)
2 additional voltage-controlled oscillators with low frequency oscillator (LFO), multiple or variable waveforms & noise generator
12dB/octave multi-mode voltage-controlled filter (VCF) with resonance
voltage-controlled amplifier/ring modulator (VCA)
2 multi-stage attack/delay/sustain envelope generators (ADS)
sample and hold with its own clock
keys/octave control (microtonal - make 5 note octaves or 27 note octaves, etc.)
mic input preamp
internal routing AND patch panel
duophonic (2-voice) 44 note (3 and 1/2 octave) keyboard
$1495 list price
released in 1972 by Electronic Music Laboratories, Inc.
1000 were manufactured
Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
A Few Good APOD's
"Io is my second favorite moon."
Missed a few good APOD's so I thought I'd post them here while I have some time. (Mood music: Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still suite.)
First up is "Io in True Color: The strangest moon in the Solar System..." Jupiter's Io is my second favorite moon. (Hey, everyone has favorite moons, right?) Earth's moon is number three, if only for sentimental reasons. There are far weirder moons. Which one is number one? Why, Saturn's Mimas of course.
Speaking of Saturn, here's an "Eyeful of Saturn: ...after an interplanetary voyage of seven years the planet's stunning rings nearly fill the field of the Cassini spacecraft's narrow angle camera in this image recorded on March 27." Planetwise, you can't beat Saturn for its sheer beauty and tourist potential.
Since we're out this far, let's swing off of the plane of the ecliptic, kick in the continuum corkscrew drive and visit "NGC 6302: Big, Bright, Bug Nebula: With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the central star of this particular planetary nebula is exceptionally hot..." Not a bad place to hang out, I suppose, if you want that I see God experience. Whoops! Oh geez, I just spilled space coffee all over the star map...
Mac Boiler Plate Special
"god knows what else we put on there"
Hi. I'm Rich Carlson and I approved this
shameless plug message.
At long last Cheapass Games has released the Mac Boiler Plate Special, a 3-pack game collection we've been working on especially for Mac gamers. This one's been on the burner for some time now because it was tricky to coordinate and we needed to make sure that everything was ship shape. Such is the case (knock on wood) so out she goes!
The Mac Boiler Plate Special CDROM is pretty darn cool if I do say so myself. It includes Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox, Dr. Blob's Organism and Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, and it's the first time the Mac versions of these three games have appeared on a CD.
The Boiler Plate Special CD also includes lots of groovy desktop art, all of the Digital Eel game demos, the first official Digital Eel music collection and...god knows what else we put on there. It's jam-packed with goodstuff, it's only $25 and it's the hottest little game deal around.
I like real value, and I also like cheapness, so I'm really proud of this release (and nudge nudge to James, Ed, Iikka and Phos for going the distance together) and we all hope Mac gamers will like it like crazy.
Btw, PC gamers can get the same Boiler Plate Special deal from Cheapass. In this case, three seperate CDROM's for the price of two. Fair's fair.
The Best of My Life as a Blog
"Margo Buchanan's Rockstar..."
Images: Doctor Fun: 1, 2, 3 | Lord of the Rings | The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge | The Sharpest View of the Sun | The Sun's Surface in 3D | The Columbia Tragedy | Sonic Boom | Light Echoes from V838 Mon: 1, 2, 3, 4 | Beatnick Bandit & Beatnick Bandit 2 | Robert Williams: 1, 2, 3, 4 | Denny's | Eagle Nebula | Rod Lord's H2G2 Guidebook Graphics: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 | Sombrero Galaxy
Mp3's: Firesign Theatre's Pass the Indian, Please | Chicken Heart (Inner Sanctum) | Margo Buchanan's Rockstar
Stuff: Yellow Submarine | Science Fiction TV Show Synopsis Generator | Quake level name generator | On Thud and Blunder | A Brilliant Madness transcript (PBS American Experience: John Nash*)
RC's Levels: Morrowind Mods | Dungeons of the Doomed (Doom 2) |
Smoke The Beehive (Doom) |
Games: Dungeon Crawl | Queenbee Hex & Hexy (*Hex) | Zork I: The Great Underground Empire | Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz | Zork III: The Dungeon Master | Wizard's Quest | Liquid War | Telengard | SiSSYFiGHT 2000
updates every 3-5 seconds
The Art of Game Design
Dominions II Map Mods
"two maps by Seattle artist Jason Lutes"
I've been playing a heck of a lot of Dominions II: The Ascension Wars lately. It's my kind of strategy game, all turn-based and huge and fantasy-themed and everything. Playing it evokes fond memories of games like SPI's War of the Ring, Chaosium's Dragon Pass and Elric, and Microprose's similarly vast fantasy strategy game, Master of Magic. If you want to play a simulation of fantastic conflict on the scale of The Lord of the Rings, these are the games that deliver and none do it better than Illwinter Game Design's Dominions II (except War of the Ring, of course).
One of the coolest features is that Dominions II is modable. You can make new units, items, cultures and maps, and a community of modders is already at it. New mods and maps are appearing regularly, and some of them are quite good. I'm posting two maps by Seattle artist Jason Lutes, Parganos and Cradle of Dominion, to give you an idea of what's available right now. If these beautiful classic-styled boards don't suck you in nothing will.
And Some Other Stuff
"Take a look and see..."
This is the kind of post I like. A couple of cool links, two or three clicks and you're out of there! First up, Deanna Molinaro is online at last. She's got a brand new site, Google-Eyes Art and Some Other Stuff, and you can expect to see some amazing things appear there over time. Deanna's art is as unique as it is magical. Take a look and see if you don't agree. Let's hope she posts a few pictures of her incredible puppets. Stay tuned...
Up next, here's a cute picture of our buddy Phosphorous nabbing the IGF art award from Alex Dunne. Someone outside remarked that Phos has panache. He's definitely got something radiating because everyone is laughing. (I think it's bottled Oomph but it might be Essence of Impish Smugness.) Btw, on the left you can also see Iikka and, if you look carefuly, part of my arm. Oh boy!
Three Flat Games
Three Classic Indies
"3D is the new 2D?"
This is a great time for computer games. Sure, there's all of the standard fare on the shelves and lots of it. Well, three or four categories of it anyway but I'm not talking about that stuff. I'm talking about games. Not semi-realistic 3D shooters set in WWII, futuristic (and usually abandoned) military bases (with lots of crates) or urban sandboxes (the latest kraze), no dear friends.
Remember them? Once upon a time... They were played on boards with pawns, pegs and marbles. They were played with cards, chips, chits, spinners, egg timers and all kinds of funny looking dice. These games sat on a table. You and your friends sat around the table. Since you were all going to be interacting in really fun ways it worked out nice that way.
But the most important thing about table games is that they are flat.
2D computer games are flat. This is a natural since they are projected onto a flat screen... (Right...) So why do people razz 2D games? Who knows? Perhaps it's just the hardcore gamer thing and "gimme the new thing now." Perhaps 3D is the new 2D? -a trend, another way to bring visually-addicted mass market gamers together, squeeze cash out of them (splorch!) and make them forget 2D games and table gaming. (Grrr.) Perhaps it's because the way things are going you'll be playing Half-Life 2 on your phone before I can say Nokia. Perhaps it's because people have too many choices so they don't know what's good anymore.
Oh true, a swanky 3D engine with a good game attached to it can be a potent interactive, um, activity, but whoa, hold on there... Some computer games only work if they are flat, and they look better that way, and they should stay that way. Harumph.
Here's what I found recently that got me going on this. Three terrific computer games you have probably never heard of because no focused-up profit-obsessed publisher spent a million bucks shoving them into your face. Which games? Pax Solaris, which is like a quick real time version of Risk all spaced-out, Oasis, which is like Civ played in ten minutes but set in mythical Egypt, and Dominions II: The Ascension Wars, the new and very overstuffed King of 4X Fantasy Games (which does actually offer a 3D battle view but let's keep that quiet for the sake of continuity).
Why should you buy them? They're great games. They're excellent values. (Oasis' price hasn't been announced yet but it should be in the $15-$25 range.) They each offer "nearly infinite" replayability. All three were made by independent game developers. They're all flat.
You, dear gamer friends, simply cannot go wrong. Fire up Pax and you'll be amazed how fast an hour goes by. Play Oasis and enjoy little things hitting each other for months to come. Install the formidable Dominions II and plumb its fantastic and strategic depths for years. So, you have to trust me with these recommendations. There's something here for everyone, and many of you will like all three.
Please note that Oasis is still in beta...which means that you can download and play the entire game for free! (It's nearly ready for release.) Oh, and while you're at it, buy some Digital Eel games too. They're good for your soul, they're fashionably flat and they'll make you happy.
Patching the Blob
Dr. Blob's Organism PC v1.1 Update Released
News from the Digital Eel homepage: "Direct to you from the Mystery Kitchen: The Dr. Blob's Organism PC v1.1 update has been released! This patch adds a new streamlined menu system, a handy windowed mode option, a few minor gfx tweaks and *drum roll* mouse support! (Hooray!) Btw, if you like Dr. Blob's Organism v1.0 the way it is, you don't really need this update -but if you want to blast blobs the modern way (wink), get it here!"
SAIS Patch Released/Enchanter Revisited
Unrelated Fun Stuff
"box scans, great links and more..."
Cool news for SAIS fans: We released a quick v1.5 patch which fixes a timing problem (which occurred while moving the explorer starship on the star map) caused by faster processors in new PC's. This patch will upgrade any PC version of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space to v1.5. Grab it!
Also, I've been replaying some of the old Infocom stuff again. These are truly amazing games that actually surpass their reputations. I'll tell you, I really wish that more modern computer games were written this well. Anyhow, here are three reasons why Enchanter, one of my favorites, was so damn good.
Btw, be sure to check out the The Infocom Gallery for high quality Infocom doc and box scans, great links and more...
Archive the 5th
DBO Nabs Two
Dungeons of the Doomed
Doom Is Not Dead
Links of the Week
Edge of Oblivion
Cheapass Games Circles the Square
Links of the Week
Steel Dawn: Forgotten Rebirth II Gold Edition
All Things Must Pass
Links of the Week
Laurel & Hardy
Have A Jolly Holiday!
Quake Level Name Generator
IGF Finalists Announced
Archive the 4th
Links of the Week
3 For 1
To Mars And Beyond...
A Dark and Stormy Night
Space Empires: Starfury
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Halloween Masks
From Space to Spacy
Links of the Week
Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox
Inside the Eagle Nebula/X Minus One
What's in the box?
Dice History 101
Rod Lord's H2G2 Guidebook Graphics
Links of the Week
Flash At Its Best
Elements of the Swan Nebula/Eigenradio
I Wannabe (A Rockstar)
Blog Wars: A New Scroll
Archive the 3rd
Boris the Dodger
Some Get It and Some Don't
Links of the Week
The Sun's Surface in 3D
Something To Hold On To
Links of the Week
Mr. Kosmik Sneez
Digital Eel Summer
A Sonic Boom
Report from the Skink Works
M17: The Omega Nebula
London at Night
Light Echoes from V838 Mon
Monsters, Surrealism and the Kustom Kulture
BushWorld and the Trees of Mystery
Links of the Week
Archive the 2nd
Strictly Optional Reading
Wizardry vs. Telengard
Links of the Week
M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
News (Really) Bites
Dumbbell Nebula Close-Up from Hubble
Links of the Week
A Beautiful Game
The Columbia Tragedy
The #secretlevel Awards
BHR 71: Stars, Clouds, and Jets
Links of the Week
The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion
Three Shades of Darkness
The Creeping Crud
Links of the Week
Post Holiday Update Thingy
Archive the 1st
Independent Games Festival finalists announced
IGF, SAIS and Links of the Week
FST Thanksgiving show axed by NPR
Links of the Week
Links of the Week
Two New Board Game to PC Ports
How to Write Science Fiction Without Really Trying
The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge
What is the next entry?
The Plasmaworm Collection
Two From Space
Lord of the Rings
The Doctor Fun Page
certain maxims of archy
Flog the Blog
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The Dying Earth Quote Generator was created by Steve Dempsey
Caricature by Gabriel