Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The New Dragon Magazine Rolls A Critical Fumble; "Writing for Dragon = Dumb" says author John Scalzi

So, now that Hasbro has directed Wizards of the Coast to re-launch its Dragon Magazine in an all-digital format, writers interested in penning something for the newest incarnation of this venerable institution have been waiting for the submission guidelines, wondering if these new terms were worth the wait.

The verdict: not a chance.

Says sci-fi author John Scalzi:

The pay is on the low side of adequate for the genre (three to six cents a word), but the kicker is that for that royal sum, you are expected to give up all rights to your work. Says so right there on the submissions page — in fact, it says it twice, in rapid succession: “In the event we buy your manuscript, you must assign your rights to us. That means that once your contract is signed, we’ll own all rights in your submission.”

These aren’t submission guidelines, they’re a stupidity test, as in, “are you actually stupid enough to give up all the rights to your work for three to six cents a word?” And if you are, what other stupid things are you willing to do for a mere pittance? I ask only because I have this gallon of latex paint here, and seventy-eight cents in my pocket. And I’m willing to pay every penny of that seventy-eight cents to see someone drink that paint. Because, man, that would be a hoot. That’s 9.75 cents a pint! What a rate!


Three to six cents a word is not even close to a fair rate to give up all rights to your work. Hell, three to six cents a word is hardly a fair rate for publishing anything, if you want to get right down to it, and most genre editors know it, or should. Those rates are barely adequate for first North American serial rights (i.e., the right to publish the story once). A 3 to 6 cents rate is on the lowish end of what pro genre publications pay, so Dragon is not only offering no premium to authors for their work for hire, it’s actually paying less than some magazines who buy fewer rights.

"So, what?", you may ask. "What if you really, really want to get published? Or see your characters or world-building idea in Dragon?" Well, by giving up all rights to Hasbro/WotC, you have also given them the means to take your work and base a game on the world and characters you created... all without paying you a single cent more than the low end of industry standard rates. If Hasbro/WotC decides that they want to create any sort of derivative work based on your intellectual property they can— they can make modules or campaign worlds or reprint them online or anything else you can dream up-- because under that agreement, you've signed away all rights!

For a company the size of Hasbro, this is pure, grasping greed. Says commenter Jeff Hentosz, "The point is that the second biggest toy company in the world — which owns things like Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Easy Bake Oven and GI Joe — wants to pay practically nothing for everything you got."

"Well IronheadShawn, what if someone wants to get a published credit under their belt? Y'know to join a professional organization?". According to writer John C. Bunnell (who's written for Dragon Magazine in the past and sci-fi anthology Amazing Stories), "...the online Dragon will probably NOT qualify as a pro credential for SFWA membership, because the payment for longer material drops below the minimum word rate, and last I looked, the rule was that all of a market’s fiction purchases had to receive the minimum pro rate in order for the market to qualify as a pro venue for membership purposes."

I'll kick it back to John Scalzi, who wraps up the situation with a great big ribbon:

To sum up: Submitting your work to Dragon = dumb. Giving up all rights to your work for pennies a word = dumb. Supporting a magazine happy to bend you over a desk, violate your rights and then slap down a couple of grimy bills for your time = dumb. Not remembering writing is a business = dumb.

If after all this you still kinda want to send something in to Dragon, well, you go right ahead. But when you’re done, be sure to drop by my place. This gallon of paint ain’t gonna drink itself.

Amen, brutha.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spanish: According To DS Game, the "language that can defeat evil".

"Okay, I work for GameStop, and in one of the local stores, someone returned Spanish for Everyone claiming it was exceedingly stereotypical."

Spanish for Everyone is a game for the Nintendo DS, where the framework involves an accidentally stolen DS which is taken by a kid whose father is in a limo, being chased by the police, going back across the border to Ensenada.

His aunt, pictured at the left, suddenly appears ride as far as Tijuana, leaving him stranded in the middle of a foreign country where he doesn't speak the language!

The intro:

Here's some more video links:
Level 2's cut scene
level 3's cut scene
and the ending, a lot of cars rushing in, "firework sounds" and... drug running?

The game cinemas are so hilariously out there that you might be tempted to think that the awfulness might be completely accidental. According to the lead designer of the game,though... nope, it was all intentional.

And it even sets up a sequel... French for Everyone.

Thanks to Sardius for cluing me in to to this wonderful train wreck of a game.

UPDATE: The head writer for the game also speaks up on The money quote?

... Gina Vasquez is a teenager-level joe "GINA VAsquez" now say those three syllables in succession and OHH. I know that it's nothing intelligent, but....well that suits the overall intelligence of the whole thing...
... there are no words.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Duke Nukem Forever (and ever, and ever, and ever).

Via the ever-entertaining political cartoonist and fellow NJ-expat gamer geek August Pollak, I bring you a web site devoted to chronicling the major accomplishments achieved during the development time of Duke Nukem Forever. As August says, "Either you're laughing your ass off or you don't understand this at all. That's just the way it has to be."

A sample:
"When Duke Nukem Forever was announced, the fastest processor available to consumers was a 233Mhz Pentium. Since then the clock speed of consumer processors has increased over 16 times (32 times counting dual cores), and the fabrication process has decreased from 250nm to 65nm."

Mmm, schadenfreudelicious.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm going to be away for the rest of the week; my wife and I are visiting family out of state. If you're celebrating Thanksgiving, here's hoping your celebration is a happy one!

Animal Crossing and a Dying Mother

Presented without comment.

Presented without comment.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jonathan Coulton Sings Portal's "Still Alive", presented with cake.

In an offering from a segment run on the AT&T channel, nerd-folk-rock gawd Jonathan Coulton was visited at his home studio in Brooklyn, where he performed "Still Alive", the ending song he wrote and composed from the critically acclaimed game Portal.

Be warned, the end song does contain a spoiler or two for the game. But after the song, cake IS served.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coolest. Tabletop Wargame terrain. EVER.


Talk about dedication:

A Warhammer4k enthusiast going by the handle "oimorrigan," has built this incredible "Apoca- lyptic Manhattan" terrain for his Warhammer game.

He even decked out a room in his apartment with custom wallpaper that looks like ashen-gray clouds and nuclear fallout!

The construction is "UltraCal (construction plaster) + foamboard," and comprises some 50 buildings.
Click here to read the thread I found this at.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Palladium's New Robotech RPG: WIll It Make Its Scheduled November release?

One of the new products announced by Palladium Books (publisher of the RIFTs series) earlier this year was "Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles." The role-playing game would be released in a smal, "manga-sized" pick up where the DVD movie released by Harmony Gold begins (return of the Robotech Expeditionary Force, the separation of Rick Hunter and the SDF-3 from the rest of the fleet, etc.), and was scheduled for a November release coinciding with the release of the direct-to-DVD anime movie.

Then the release on the product page was changed to "November (tentative)".

Then, in an official press release, the release date was given as December.

As of October 30th, the Robotech RPG was categorized as being "still in development".

Dyval, the next book in line for being published before Robotech, isn't even finished.

When posters at popular tabletop gaming portal expressed concerns that the Robotech book wouldn't cover the Macross era due to licensing restrictions, Alex Marciniszyn
(Editor for Palladium Books) said: " Your information is inaccurate. Macross era will be covered."

So, whether the new Robotech RPG will be released in November, or December... when then hell are we going to see any marketing for it, if it's going to be out in the next month or two? Why not release a table of contents, or a character sheet?

What eras of the anime will be covered? Will there be canon characters with stats? What new things will you be adding? Maybe a taste-- like stat blocks for Veritechs?

Why don't more anime news portals know about this?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Code, November 07: Video Games Are Art, Cut Scenes are Rubbish, D&D 4th Ed Is Exciting, Behind the Portal, Haloween Fun, and more!

Welcome, all you dice-rollers, card-floppers, war-gamers, LAN-partiers, tabletop jockeys, MMORPGers, and LARPers! Welcome, one and all, on this post-Hallowe'en mourn, visions of candy corn and sugared treats dancing in your head. I'm your host, Shawn Struck, and you might remember me from such famous websites as,, or maybe even the toast of the 'net,

Of course, is your go-to guide for a thriving online community, PC gaming tips, and the latest news and reviews of what's going down in the gaming scene. Every month, the hard-working crew here brings you insightful features; a tour of everything RPG gaming has to offer.

Today, take a walk with me through the month in video games, RPGs of all sorts, and nerd culture-- a tour of a different sort. A walk with the weird, the obscure, the geeky, the freaky, the polemical and the profane.

Thanksgiving is coming, so be sure to save some room for... The Code!

Federal Reserve Of Boston Exhibition Focuses On Video Games
Plus: More 'Video Games As Art' Debate In Newsweek & the 'Net

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Economic Adventure Gallery is hosting an engaging, interactive exhibit on the history of video games this fall. It's called “Video Games Evolve: A Brief History from Spacewar! to MMORPGs” and the exhibit examines the video game industry’s roots in New England. The exhibit is planned to run though January 2008, and is free.

From the Fed's news release:
"If guests are interested in a more hands-on experience, they can play classic 1980 arcade games like “Donkey Kong,” “Ms. Pac Man,” “Frogger” or “Space Invaders.” In addition to being able to play these games for free, visitors can admire the sleek fiberglass console of “Computer Space,” an early 1970s arcade game. The exhibit also offers a look at the evolution of the home-gaming console, a timeline of video-game history, and an in-depth look at the motion-capture process (a key animation tool in modern video-game production). The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University, a leading education center for digital-game development, loaned several three-dimensional sculptures of creatures that were used to develop animations."
This is most sincerely awesome. More and more exhibitions like this are popping up all around the country; I think that's an important first step for video games being taken seriously as a medium of artistic expression.

Speaking of artistic expression and video games, Newsweek's N'gai Croal penned an entry called "The Problem (and the Danger) of the continued Infantilization of Videogames" that is well worth a read-- it also sparked a lot of discussion on community weblog Metafilter in the discussion thread "Silly People, Games Aren't Just For Kids".

You Got Your Game In My Cut-Scene!
Er... Cut-Scene In My Game?

Game designer Sam Beirne-- most noted for his work on Guild Wars: Eye of The North and LEGO Star Wars: The Game, has posted an video game design-related rant on his 'It Burns' site - called 'Excuse me, your cutscene is in my game':

"My problem with story generally stems from the inclusion of non-interactive cutscenes throughout the course of character driven games. Bullet points on the back of a box like, 'over 120 minutes of mind-blowing cinematic sequences,' scare me off before I can even crack the wrapper. When I sit down to play a game, I’d actually like to play something. Cutscenes feel like watching someone else play. So, when a cutscene starts rolling I generally can’t help but sigh wondering when it will be my turn again."

Personally, while I think that pre-rendered cut-scenes certainly do, and will continue to, have its place in some games, they can sometimes break up a really immersive experience.

All YouTube, All The Time!:
Dungeons and Dragons 4th Ed May Lure Back Old-Time Gamers; From Narbacular Drop To Portal; Toyota's World of Warcraft; and Beta-Saurus!

First off, the latest Digital Initiative Wizards of The Coast is building into Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition seems perfect for roping in the two enemies that have TPK'ed more gaming groups than anything in the Montrous Manual: Time and Distance.

Pushing D&D in this way is both an admission of the problems of modern (adult) living while also creatively using modern technology to circumvent it. Check out the video below:

The next video is a talk from Valve's Kim Swift at this year's GDC-- she is a key member of the team that was one of the Independent Game Festival's 2006 Student Showcase honorees who went on to be hired by the Half-Life creator as a team and made the critically acclaimed Portal-- explaining how the Portal team successfully transitioned from working as a student team at DigiPen to a professional team structure at Valve.

Toyota went "viral" with a cute homage to the infamous "Leroy Jenkins" incident in World Of Warcraft, which you can see in the third video below.

"I am the LAWGIVER!"... hah!

And finally, an amazing game planned for the X-box that was not to be. All I need to say is: Peter Molyneux and DINOSAURS.

Hey, speaking of Portal...

An Interview With The Guy Who Put Words In GLaDOS' Mouth

Gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun has an excellent interview with Eric Wolpaw, formerly of Old Man Murray and Psychonauts and lead writer of Valve's Portal. The interview is full of gems like:

So what do you think is the hardest thing about writing for games?

At strip clubs, there’s a guy whose job is to talk between the strippers. He tries to do a good job and be entertaining and enthusiastic, but everybody’s just there for the nakedness. That’s a professional writer trick we call called an “analogy”. What I really mean is that game writers are the game equivalent of the guy who talks between the nude girls at strip clubs. Nobody cares about what that guy does, and anybody who does care is probably a little maladjusted. So I’d have to say the hardest part of being a game writer is learning all the writing tricks like “analogy”.

The rest is just as hilarious. Read it here.

So You Wanna Write For RPG Publishers?

This article's an oldie, but a goodie:

" You cannot copyright or trademark an idea. Have I surprised you again? A lot of writers who haven't done much writing make the mistake of confusing their ideas with their writing. As many professional writers will tell you, ideas are a dime a dozen. Ideas are everywhere. Ideas are easy. Everyone has ideas.

What sells writing is not the idea behind it but the execution. (In terms of copyright, it works like this: you can't copyright an idea, but you can copyright the expression of an idea.) For example, the vampire story is an overused and fairly trite idea. There are many editors who won't touch one with a ten-foot pole. Yet there are writers who can still execute their vampire stories in such unique and fresh ways that people gobble them up, even after reading another hundred vampire stories. By and large it's the writing that sells RPG supplements, not the plot outline in the proposal. "

As they say in the blogosphere, read the whole thing.

It's Trippy and It's Spooky, It's Geeky and It's Kooky...

It's a little past Hallowe'en as you read this, but that doesn't mean that you can't indulge yourself with some ear candy- in this case nerdcore hip-hop community RhymeTorrent's whopping 2-DISC Halloween-themed EP, available right here for FREE.

"But IronheadShawn, how does this EP relate to video games or RPGs?"

Well, there's a an excellent track by Entity focusing on the Resident Evil series, a Rev Badger track that name-drops White Wolf's Werewolf, and MC Loki's "Prince of the City" that's all about the coups and power plays that go down in a typical Vampire: The Masquerade game. So give it a listen!

McTwisted: McDonald's, The GAME

The irreverently madcap video-game review site "Play This Thing" looked at a game that aims to be a parody of life at McDonald's this month, in its review of McDonald's Video Game:
The game is drawn with a crazy flair, the blood splattered happy meal at the title screen should be some indication. There are subtle touches, like the joint perpetually hung out the mouth of a marketer, or the fact that some of your customers are men with beards wearing skirts -- a byproduct of the randomly combinatorial nature of the character generation system. Watching the constant flow of people getting their trays, then walking off, is sickly hypnotic; it's the core pulse of the game's system, where the commodities turn into cash and complete the play loop, and its also an abstraction of something that is going on all over the world, many times a second. The illustrations and writing are pretty on-point as well (hint: before you bulldoze the Amazonian village to plant more GMO soy, start a "McDonald's for the Third World" campaign).

Here's a link to the review!

Genius, man. The game comes from the Italian crew "Molleindustria" at They have other work they've done online, too, but be warned, some of the games are decidedly NSFW.

Braaaaiiinnnsss.... I mean.... Gaaaaaammmeeeesss....
So, like any good red-blooded 'netizen, you like zombies, you like killing things, and so it stands to reason you probably like killing zombies. But say you're online, using your web browser to read the latest in the greatest news and gaming columns at 411Mania, and you get a hankering to to splatter the effluvia of the walking dead at the same time. Well, now, YOU CAN!

Here are more zombie games than you could possibly shake a severed limb at:
Zombiegrinder! ;All Hallows Eve ; Divine Intervention ; Zombie Patrol ; Grave 2 ; Crunch Time ; Zombie Terror ;Loot 'n Shoot ; Zombie Horde ;Zombie Hunter ;Zombie Hunter II ;Zombie 4 ; Zombie Survival ; Generic Zombie Shoota with Cartoon briefing ; Zombie Killer 2071 ;Zombie Killer 2072 ; Zombie Squirrel Attack ; Zombie Swarm ; Land of the Dead ; Zombie Erik ; Zombie Escape ;Resident Evil: Apocalypse ;Stickman Sam 2;Zombie Worms ;Resident Devil ;
Monster Mash ;Fright Club ;Graveyard of Drunken Souls; Springfield Zombies ;Zombie Romp ;Zombie Gringer 60000&Umbrella Corporation Bio-Lab ;Dawn of the Dead: Zombie Massacre ;Grave Robber ;Escape from Zombie High! ; Shaun of the Dead ; Zombie Attack ;Ultimate Down ;Thing Thing Arena ; Night of the Zombie Kittens ;Resident Evil Escape; Zombie Survival: SM ;Survival Game v1.2 ;Zombie Survival Training ;Escape from Zombie Town ;Escape from Zombie Town 0 ;ZombieSimulator annnnnnnnd, finally: Teh Zombie 2 .

Pimping Is Easy When You Use The Code!

That's all for this installment-- have comments, questions, suggestions, or items you'd like to submit for The Code? Discuss it in our forum!

You can check out fellow RPGX staff thedixman doin' his thing that he does so well for RPGX here! is here

And if you're looking for the perfect place for specialty candles, incense, gaming supplements and more, check out Green Dragon Candles 'n' More.

Until then, be excellent to each other... and read my stuff!

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