28 September, 2013

A fun project for a game journal

I don't know if you'll be able to see the full gallery for this book, so I've included a couple of sample shots below.

I think it would make an awesome prop for any game and it has certainly inspired me to do something similar. Now I just need to work out how to print on long sheets of paper rather than being constricted to A4 pages.

If you want to see more of this project, here's a link to the image gallery for the Accordion Book

27 September, 2013

A lot of work went into this...

The Long Journey

I'm sure I've seen a couple of other pieces by this artist in the past. Incredibly detailed and rich worlds that lead you ever onward towards...

...just keep scrolling down.

26 September, 2013

NaGaDeMon on its way again

NaGaDeMon 2013 is coming...

Just thought I'd remind everyone.

Something awesome is coming
(I'm just not sure who is going to write it)

An honest question

I could have submitted this as a simple post on Facebook, G+, or on a forum somewhere. But I'll post it here because I get the most views on the blog and I'd actually like to hear people's responses.

Was I too harsh? How do I come off in my comments? How does my adversary in this discussion present himself?

Tap Gallery Sydney:

...other comments...

Michael Wenman:
Do you really want to drain the already meagre resources of struggling artists? I'm sorry, but if you really wanted to give the 'unknowns' a break, maybe it would have been better to hang work for free and take a small commission from any works sold. This just smells of someone trying to milk the hopes and dreams of young artists for a bit of quick cash.

...other comments...

Steve Mclaren
 Michael Wenman you have managed to sensationalize wot you have written, and blown wotever runs your brain out of proportion, wot you have written smells(reeks) of sour milk so let me rip you a new arsehole......

THIS IS A QUOTE FROM A Michael Wenman "
 Do you really want to drain the already meagre resources of struggling artists? I'm sorry, but if you really wanted to give the 'unknowns' a break, maybe it would have been better to hang work for free and take a small commission from any works sold. This just smells of someone trying to milk the hopes and dreams of young artists for a bit of quick cash."

Michael Wenman i'm sorry but you are totally wrong here,and out of line!!! (this is Steve Mclaren who is curating this show,typing) 
Tap Gallery is an artist run space and non for profit organisation who helps artists get there work out there and we have a group of volunteers (non paid) who are devoted to help artists of all types and art forms. 
we make things happen so that this space remains for all to be able to show their work, we have no restrictions and answer to no one. I don't see you taking time out anywhere to help get a show up and running the $15 doesn't even cover costs my much ignorant friend.
i will take criticism from you wen you actually do something worthwhile and help struggling artists of which i'm one so before you go out slandering a show do a little homework and find out about wots going on in the real world, i bust my arse and my meagre resources to get something happening to have a great show, help people get their stuff hung , introduce them to other artists (many good collaborations have happened from this), keep the gallery i love alive(the gallery also has many other things happening also in the wider community) which includes theatre, the oxford and pyrmont art festivals and talent quest we also liase with other galleries and help artists get into others shows. 
i will tell you Michael when you also let artists hang for free or spoon feed them they do take things for granted. this happens at major galleries only when you are known to have a good sales track record otherwise they won't look at you.
seriously i actually could go on and on but hey wot are YOU doing for struggling artists??? mmmm nothing i feel except trying to tear down the last bastion of underground free thinking artists , kudos to you Michael Wenman kudos!!! PS are you a failed disgruntled artist who never got to be hung in a show??? i have no idea as i have no idea who you are as you probably have no idea who i am because you can only crawl out from under ur rock when you want to soap box absolute shit, so i hope to see your work on sun or mon and at the opening on the 2nd of OCT at 6 PM and i will let YOU HANG 2 WORKS FOR FREE SO U HAVE NO EXCUSES CHALLENGE UP WORKING CLASS HERO ! 
LUV STEVE MCLAREN (don't fck with me!)

Michael Wenman:
Firstly, I'm paying local Western Sydney artists (and aboriginal artists) for the right to use their imagery in published works that sell around the world. 

Secondly, my comments do come from negative experiences with art gallery owners/directors, com
petition coordinators and other types who simply take money without actually offering a beneficial service to the artists. If you deny that this sort of person exists in the world, then you are as naive as I am jaded. (There, I've thrown you a straw man argument to attack).

Additionally, I didn't attack your credentials, nor did I resort to petty insults. I just made a comment based on what I saw and the experience I had. If you took offense, I'm sorry for you. You've made your point clear, the grammar and spelling show you you are passionate about this and obviously typed from your heart. Good luck with the endeavour.

If you're interested, here is a link to the original facebook thread.

I will not be adding any more to this post, I don't want to taint any potential feedback.

25 September, 2013

Horological Inspiration

I like fragments of stories, elements that can be pulled into another story to fill a void or add depth, plot hooks that can lead people into the deeper mysteries.

That's where the House of Clocks has brought new inspiration today.

I'm not sure who is behind it, but it's filled with the kind of artefacts that might make a modern supernatural game just that little bit creepier...and that's always a good thing isn't it.

24 September, 2013

The Guys I LARP with...

Some of the team I LARP with have been working on a web series for a while...I had heard about it a couple of years ago. As far as I'm aware, the actual series is due for release some time soon (but I've been hearing this for a while).

Still, they're fun guys.

That reminds me, I need to get back to work on some foam swords.


I've woken up this morning to see that the blog has reached 100,000 views (specifically 100,032 when I looked). So my prediction about it occurring his month was right.

Thankyou everyone.

23 September, 2013

Types of story

Lumping all of western storytelling into a single monolith known as "Western Canon" is a common thing in academia, I've been working my way through two university subjects that analyse the western mode of storytelling, and in these subjects it doesn't seem odd to see ancient Greek texts analysed beside Shakespearean plays and more recent literary greats like Tolstoy or even living writers like Umberto Eco.

Scholars like Joseph Campbell trace the form of the story, particularly the "Heroes Journey" through western canon, other scholars and schools of thought bring parallels between other themes in the texts.

The whole mass of texts numbers in the thousands, those works deemed important benchmarks in western thought number in the hundreds (mostly written by middle aged white men, but that's another topic completely). The works are quite different but we have no problem stating that these works fit the paradigm of western thought. Once you have the overall picture, you can start delving into the specific points of difference...in the early years BC, the greeks thought this...in the 1700s, the english were thinking this while the french were thinking that...once you've got the basic understanding of the topic, you can start to think at a new level.

But as soon as you start looking at "Chinese literature", a certain class of people says "you can't just lump everything together, that's racist". I've encountered the same when looking at aboriginal storytelling.

There are certain broad themes in Aboriginal narrative, this is to be expected in a culture of communities isolated from the Asian or European continents, but who trade with one another regularly. I'll provide some examples of the differences through illustrative anecdotes. These anecdotes are intentionally vague, but have been drawn from scholarly texts and sociological books I've read recently.

  • A group of aboriginals watched a typical western movie (it was in the 1960s if I remember correctly, they were aware of cinema but this was the first time they had seen it). In western thought it was a moving story about a single person's journey of self discovery. From an aboriginal perspective it was boring and didn't engage them much at all. The story focused on one person rather than the relationships of their community, there was no depth because it didn't describe the world or the specific places that made it up. Places were simply backdrops for events in this one person's life. They just didn't see how one person was entertaining or thought provoking.

  • An anthropologist encounters a very different group of aboriginals and he asks them to tell him their stories. They discuss places, mythological and allegorical tales, but never relate to a specific person or their deeds. The anthropologist gets frustrated by the stories of the group, they aren't what he is traditionally accustomed to when he hears narrative, the stories lack character development, the seem cyclical at best and stagnant at worst. Characters aren't particularly identified, unless they are mythical constants with accepted stories and in most cases these characters are defined through their relationships with others in the story (someone's mother, someone's sister, a friend...etc). People do things due to the obligations associated with their relationships, rather than their own sense of agency.

There are numerous other differences in the cultural canon, but these are the first ones that come to mind. These are also the ones that might make an RPG based on Aboriginal concepts a bit tricky. A storytelling game about communities could definitely work, but a traditional RPG exploring a single character's passage through the heroes journey is just too "western". Luckily, Walkabout is more a post apocalyptic game about picking up the pieces from a variety of cultures to develop something new. We can draw on the narrative traditions of both communities (and any other, to develop our narratives).

22 September, 2013

Sometimes you lose passion

There are projects that you pour your energy into, they may be small things, and once they're done you move on to new ideas. They may be collaborative efforts where you do your bit and then see the project move to someone else before seeing a final unveiling...maybe big events with a deadline where the energy has to reach a culmination otherwise you lose face.

But this post is not about those...

This post is about the big personal projects, some might call them heartbreakers, others might call them a "magnum opus". It's about the projects that have the creative vision of a single person behind them, and that single person pours their heart-and-soul into every aspect of it. The visionary looks at similar projects that other people have laboured on for years at a time, sometimes viewing their work as rubbish, occasionally wondering if people reciprocate this view.

The visionary looks at projects that are good, things that are certainly better than the crap which sell purely because it has a marketing department behind it. They consider the amount of effort going in compared to the rewards at the end.

Once the visionary thinks these negative thoughts enough times, they start to lose their enthusiasm.

It's one of the things that has taken Walkabout so long for me to complete. I struggle with depression, I struggle with my wife's depression (and keeping someone else active can be really hard when you're barely keeping yourself in a positive state). All the little things build up, you spend your time doing things for other people...things that have no bearing on your own direct happiness, but it's all just a part of living in a social environment. You put on a happy face because everyone says you project your emotions (and they don't want to know that you're struggling), they say that what you fashion as your image will become embodied in your soul...think happy thoughts and happiness will be attracted to you. But you've been trying to think happy thoughts for so long, and nothing has happened to benefit you, perhaps the adage of "opposites attract" becomes more reasonable as a theory. You stop thinking happy thoughts because they seem to get shattered all too often, they attract the worst events. You try to take some time out for yourself, to get to grips with what's going on, and people either see you as being selfish, or wait for you get get over your funk and rejoin with society.

Walkabout grows when I need something to engage in, but it drains my enthusiasm at the same time. I think there are some great things it is doing, but there only seem to be a scant few people who are really interested in it's progress. I don't want to give it up, because I've already thrown so much into it. I don't want to rush it, because I think it deserves better. I'm just at a loss for the whole project at the moment.

The current plan is to just keep plugging along...We'll see what happens before the year is out.

20 September, 2013

If I were going to push Walkabout in a new direction...

I'm fascinated by the native cultures of the world. This has been enhanced by my recent encounter with an anthropologist who has recently spent quite a bit of time in the Amazon, someone who claimed my calling might be as a shaman (and that I had touched his soul with my words).

Naturally when I saw this modern re-imagining of African Orisha spirits I thought of the ways that Walkabout could easily be applied to a new context. I've done a bit of research into the Orisha, but certainly not enough to really draw on their myths without heavily applying stereotypes and generally looking like a white-guy trying too hard.

It would still be awesome to see Walkabout translated through the lens of the Orisha by someone who knew a lot more about African spirituality than I.

Revisions and Rewrites

I'm revising and rewriting chunks of the core Walkabout book after not looking at it for a couple of weeks. I've noticed a few things that just feel a bit awkward and don't really describe the way the game has played out in the various sessions I've run. It's a long and tedious process, but something that needs to be done if a polished product is going to emerge at the end.

I'm trying to cull some of the superfluous details, refine some of the parts that don't read clearly, and generally reshuffle some of the parts that feel out of order.

I'm getting pretty close to what I want from the core book, and it will be time to start compiling the "manga-style" player's guide with all the play examples soon. A few more pictures to do in that regard.

It's also been good to hear of a few people inspired by what I'm doing in this project. Over the past week I've had two people contact me privately about different parts of the system for clarification, or to draw inspiration for their own works.

With university study into the methods of learning and development that can be accomplished through play, ritual and "safe zones", new elements of this project are starting to falling into place. If I can share any bit of these with other designers then that's a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.

18 September, 2013

Thoughts on theme

After revealing "Bug Hunt" yesterday, I've been thinking more about notions of theme and the surface gloss applied to games.

Up until the last decade-and-a-half, the twin concepts of theme and game mechanism were pretty exclusive of one another. If you wanted to play Call of Cthulhu with the D&D rules, most people wouldn't really care (but the D&D grognards might tell you to play "Ravenloft")...in the same way, TSR was producing numerous variant skins for D&D, each using the same basic mechanical structure but simply overlaying a new gloss. The same thing happens outside roleplaying with variant boardgame versions...Monopoly, Star Wars Monopoly, Dr Who Monopoly, Toy Story Monopoly...the same game, just with different gloss in the hope it will sell a few more units.

In the world of RPGs, places like the Forge highlighted the disconnect between theme and mechanism. Suddenly it looked like we were doing it wrong. New waves of game design have come through, but I still see the dramatic disconnect on the shelves of department stores when looking at board games. My recent unveiling shows that most people just don't see the issue...when I tried to personally explain how games can specifically address themes rather than just having a theme "stuck-on-top", it came as a revelation. People were amazed by the concept of a game that was designed to teach more than just mathematical skills or spelling ability, it was designed to reveal something through convergence of mechanisms, it was pointed toward a specific play experience, and it pulled deeper emotions and abstract concepts into the rituals of play without blatantly stating as such.

I pointed to Monopoly as a game where emergent play creates an experience very different from the flat reading of the rules...in game design blogs I've seen the example used time and again. The rules don't state "friendships may be lost over this game", and they certainly don't state that "the best way for everyone to get enjoyment from monopoly is for everyone to avoid play", or "as soon as anyone buys a property, it's all downhill toward one winner and many losers". Monopoly is cut-throat, it's a good reflection of the corporate world. But Star Wars, Doctor Who and Toy Story don't mesh with that paradigm...they are simply marketing gimmicks slapped on top.

I thought about adding new themes to "Bug Hunt". The basic premise is girls chasing bugs or butterflies across a swamp/field, but it could easily be reworked as police chasing criminals across a city, prospectors trying to find minerals or mine sites, pirates looking for treasure...each of these theme ideas can be added to the game quite easily, and they expand the potential audience of the product, but do they improve it in any way?

I've still got a lot of thought to do on this topic.

17 September, 2013

Bug Hunt Revealed

My recent work on a board game has seen fruition today.

It was great to see the response to the game, it was great to see a public response to a few of the game products I've designed recently.

It was a great experience especially when you consider that I was the only male in the room, and there were over a dozen girls upset that they wouldn't have time to play the games I had designed. These included cultural groups I hadn't really associated with the notions of gaming...sure there were Caucasian "gamer girls" and some of Asian ethnicity, but I was drawing interest from Muslim girls (wearing their full headscarves)...it was awesome to see the concept of gaming across cultural boundaries in an academic format. Maybe it is just preconceived notions that I'm being confronted with; there is certainly no reason why these communities wouldn't engage in the playing of games.

We had a guest marker for our assignment, and that was probably even more interesting. He had been travelling South America with the famous Clown/Doctor Patch Adams. He was doing research into the play and learning rituals of various Amazonian tribal groups, and my quick talk with him led to discussions into shamanism, mind altering drugs and meditation techniques, and understanding the psychology of play within the rules of life. He urged me to become a shamanic game designer and mentor to the world around me...I didn't even get the chance to talk with him about "Walkabout". 

I really need to do more research into his work, maybe I can start incorporating more of it into my own.

15 September, 2013

Prototype development

Bug hunt is getting further...hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.

It's a pretty simple game. Everyone plays a bug hunter, tromping through a wilderness to find exotic creatures. Each tile has a colour corresponding to a die.

More details soon.

Tooth and Claw Review

It's always awesome to release a game into the aether and have something come back.

Thanks to Kristoffer Holmen, I now have a review for the little game 'Tooth and Claw' that I produced at the beginning of the year. 

If you're interested, take a look.

13 September, 2013

Keeping busy

I haven't had a lot of time for blogging over the last few days, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy with game work.

I'm currently in the middle of a university assignment about using games as a method for teaching concepts to kids. This is a really visceral and hands on subject, so I'm putting a lot of work into producing a prototype kid friendly interactive boardgame with heaps of replay value.

Here are some of the "work in progress" shots.

09 September, 2013

Walkabout Preview Video

Here it is, the long awaited preview video for Walkabout.

The first draft of the video, anyway...it still needs some more work. I had found  few more pieces of video footage that I wanted to include in it, and I had a much more suitable atmospheric background track.

I'll be fixing this up over the next couple of days/weeks, and adding a few more videos to explain how the game actually works soon.

08 September, 2013

Hell on 8 Wheels back on the Agenda

Regular readers of the blog (and those who are willing to dig through the archives) might be aware of the boardgame I developed based around the awesome sport of roller derby. The game is called Hell on 8 Wheels and plays a bit like a cross between Bloodbowl and Formula D.

Good news. We've found a few producers of miniatures who are ready to help us sculpt up some teams for the game, as long as we find the money. So that means we'll be doing some more playtesting before the year is out, and we'll launch a crowdfunding campaign next year (hopefully...along with the Walkabout one). The basic version of the game will consist of two card decks, a board and a series of counters. The advanced versions and stretch goals will include one or more variant teams of skaters for the track.

I hope this works out, because there has been a lot of interest in the game.

06 September, 2013

Video Editing

I'm putting together a preview package for Walkabout. I did some video editing a few years ago, and now it's a case of trying to rebuild my knowledge using the tools I've currently got access to.

Hopefully soon...enough blogging, back to work.

04 September, 2013

A milestone

At the current rate, I'll have received 100,000 views on this blog by the end of the month. I don't know how well other blogs do, and it's a pretty arbitrary figure, but it feels good to know that there are people out there who are interested in my view on gaming and game design. This is true whether it's 100,000 people each looking at it once, 100 people looking at it 1000 times each, or some other combination.

Hopefully, I'll have something special for everyone on the next post...something that helps to accelerate the views, and reach that goal a bit faster.

03 September, 2013

It's not me, it's you.

Just thought I'd share this blog post from Stacy Dellorfano...

I've had a lot of the same issues with the World of Darkness over the years.

Reading through it is givng me hope that I'm on the right track with a minimalist rules set for Walkabout.

02 September, 2013

Improvised Theatre 101

Continuing with the Greendale "Community" posts...

This idea seems to have a bit of traction. I've played in a Red Dwarf freeform, where multiple versions of Lister, Cat, Rimmer and Kryten were running around in a reality bubble on the edge of a black hole. This game had all of the alternate versions of the characters encountered during the show...the ultra-good, the ultra-bad, the gender swapped versions, and then a few characters who are integral to the plot but who don't make up a big part of the show "Kuchanski", "Peterson", etc.

It was a great game in the Aussie freeform style. Everyone has a half dozen agendas to fulfil during the course of a three hour session, each of those agendas may be working with members of their team, working with alternate versions of themselves, or working against people. Often tasks require careful planning to orchestrate and may only be viable at certain times within the session (eg. Only when the ship's fuel drops below critical level an hour before the end of play...unless someone sabotagues things to occur quicker), sometimes tasks require a certain amount of time to accomplish (eg. Shagging another character is done offscreen, and both participants are out of play for ten minutes while the deed is done).

There isn't really a mechanism to determine success or failure, you just have to set up the deed and if there is no-one to oppose you, then it happens...if there is someone to oppose you than you need to find a way to circumvent their opposition. If you need to fix something, you need the right tool, which means you might need to negotiate with the person who has the tool, which in turn might mean that you need to help them accomplish their goal. Everything in this style of game requires talking with people, and every time you talk to someone you learn a bit more about their agenda within the game. Sometimes you learn goals that you have in common, and sometimes you learn goals that might come into conflict.

If I was going to apply a mechanical system to the 'Greendale' game, I might go with a streamlined version of the Mind's Eye Theatre rules. If you do something, it happens...if it's opposed, then both players play scissors-rock-paper...if it's opposed and there is a tie, compare stats (sometimes a character might have a skill that simply lets them win on ties, or might have an expendable token that lets them win a single challenge if they are willing to sacrifice it).

Unless we were running a 'Greendale Paintball' session there really isn't a lot of physical combat in the game, so things shouldn't draw out too much. If I was running a 'Greendale Paintball' session, I'd give everyone a NERF gun...that allows combat to play out in real time with minimal chance of injury.

The key to this style of game is providing an ecosystem of conflicting choices for every player to engage with, and a variety of events that engage different styles of play. A bit of politics, a bit of teamwork, plenty of humour, some external threats that everyone can react to, and key events that tilt the play environment in some way.

The story in this style of game is given an impetus direction at the start of play, but where it goes once the players get involved is entirely up to the will of the masses. The GMs purely act as facilitators for the events in motion. The great advantage of having a tabletop session before hand comes from careful directioning and placement of goals within the first part of the game.

I haven't specifically determined a story yet, but ideas are bubbling away.

01 September, 2013


I had a dozen titles to this post..."The imaginarium of Dr Abed", "Troy Barnes: Reality Cop", "The Jeff Winger Blues", "Annie's Armageddon", "The Wrath of Chang"...if you don't watch the TV show Community, you wouldn't get any of them.

The idea is a game to be run at a convention, or more accurately a series of interconnected games to be run at a convention. First a series a table top sessions, each running for 5-6 players, then the players from each of these sessions gather for a LARP-style session where cliffhanger moments at the end are resolved.

It's all loosely based on a specific Community episode where a die is rolled and six (or seven) different timelines deviate. Characters undergo changes due to the deviant events in each timeline, and the whole notion becomes a running joke through scattered episodes in the remainder of the series.

Each tabletop session would tell the story of events in one reality for the core group of characters (Jeff, Britta, Troy, Abed, Annie, Pierce, Shirley)... the climax throws these realities together, and allows for new players to come into the mix (Chang, The Dean, LeonardCon, Starburns, maybe even Inspector Spacetime, etc.)

The 'core characters' plat out their story arcs in two parts...the tabletop leads up the the climax and the LARP plays out the climax. The additional characters get to throw twists in the events to make things interesting for the core characters, and they get to decide which group of core characters are the true reality when the session ends.

It's a seed of an idea at the moment.

I hate it when these seeds take root...now I'll be obsessing over it for months.