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!


Dixman2000 said...

Nice piece. Thanks for the bump.

heather (errantdreams) said...

Thanks for the link-love. Every now and then I start thinking the older material on the site is TOO old to still be useful to people (hard to believe I've been writing for the web in one form or another for about 10 years), and then I'll come across something like this, and think, naaah, it's worth leaving up, at least for now. It does my heart good to see my old stuff described as "an oldie, but a goodie."

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