Monday, December 18, 2006

Frets On Fire: keyboard update (Apple vs. Logitech)

So I've played Frets On Fire quite a lot more. It is so good. I have some issues with performance., though. It could be either the framework (I think it's Python-based) or maybe my dual-core rig. It's not game-spoiling by any means, but weird, as the game appears light-weight. Sometimes it skips frames in-game, and quite often the menus stutter and crawl.

My initial recommendation of my Apple keyboard for FOF is hereby withdrawn. I've noticed it's no good for gaming: the feel is very nice in typing, but it's too soft for gaming, where you often need to hold keys down for extended periods. My old, flat Logitech proved a better match, as it has only a little space on top of the function keys you need for playing, it's light and it has a soft, yet precise digital feel.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ticket To Ride: Europe edition, Pirates

We've been looking for a boardgame and have heard plenty of good things about Ticket To Ride. Eventually we got the Europe edition, because the map looked a lot more interesting than in the original US edition.

We've only played it together once, but came away impressed by the simple, rich rules. The components are also first-class.

What really impressed me was their online version. You get a code with the boardgame which allows you to play the game's online version for an unlimited time. It's a simple Java conversion of the original, with lacklustre graphics and token sounds. However, it's a joy to play and works very well as an online multiplayer game. They've done this with a couple of their games, but Ticket To Ride is the only with a sizeable player base.

It made me think they should make a good-looking version of the online game and sell it separately.

Related to this, Sony Online Entertainment is releasing a separate online version of the popular Pirates collectable... cardboard ship... game ("constructible strategy game", they call it), today. They're giving all their launch-day profits to Child's Play. This is the first time I'm applauding Sony for something in quite some time.

Speaking of Child's Play, the gamer community has donated over half a million dollars so far, this season alone. That's really something.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Next generation sales

So all of the next-gen consoles are upon us. Well, unless you live in Europe, that is, but regardless, I found the NexGen Wars site ( interesting. They claim that the sales data is up to date - I'm not at all sure about it. The "how many people prefer which console" data isn't at all interesting as the site is obviously targeted at the nerdcore. But if the sales data is anywhere close to the truth, it'll be interesting to follow how the market develops, instead of forming your opinion based on separate claims made by the console manufacturers over the next year.

Not surprisingly, the 360 is leading the pack with its year-long headstart (over 7M sold), but the Wii has really gotten off to a running start (over 1M sold), leading Nintendo to speculate that it may well surpass its financial projections for the year. Sony's 400K doesn't sound like much, but of course they did "launch" well before they had the stock to support it. I haven't been following the news that closely, but it seems that Sony is really getting beaten in the massmarket reviews, while Wii is welcomed everywhere.

I'm still fearing that Nintendo goes all Gamecube with Wii, though. Launching a fine console and supporting it with good releases are two different things.

Personally, I'm entrenched in the "wait and see" camp regarding the Playstation 3. It needs quality titles and a lower pricepoint to become desirable. Lacking a PS2, I'm willing to shell out a bit more for the third-gen Playstation, but so far I've heard nothing good. The Wii I'm ready to buy the minute there's a couple of quality titles for it.

Roleplaying for the masses

I've been reading the Finnish tabletop roleplaying scene's thoughts on making a low-threshold game meant to attract new people to the hobby. This has resonated with my own thoughts on roleplaying. I do believe there should be a low-threshold game, however, I'm on a completely different track to the majority of people discussing this.

The common idea seems to be a rules-light game based on a popular stereotype (generic fantasy). Why bother? If all you want is vanilla D&D, there is already vanilla D&D. You'll never get into it unless you're into rules, so the very high threshold to entry should work merely to deter those not cut out for it anyway.

A better take I've seen is taking a pop-culture icon and turning that into an easily digested game. Say, Lost. Or Alias. Then the game should be found in places where non-gamers tend to shop. The less there is to study about the game's framework, the better.

What I haven't seen discussed is breaking the ages-old roleplaying methods down a bit. Boardgames are living a new renaissance right now. The practice of playing a roleplaying game could be moved more towards that - use a board, a theme everyone gets without explaining it and have goals for everyone. This could be good because a boardgame doesn't have the gamemaster vs. players setup, and everyone is working together to gave fun - there is no gamemaster doing all the work.

It probably shouldn't be marketed as a roleplaying game, though, if mass market appeal is sought.