Monday, March 14, 2011

Haters be hatin' on zombabiez.

Zombies happen. It’s never pleasant when they do. They smell, they walk on the grass in spite of signs instructing the contrary, they jay-walk, they burst through walls and windows like the Kool-Aid Man, and they eat people. So it stands to reason that a game about zombies would be equally unpleasant in one way or another.

A trailer for Dead Island came out recently (, and has garnered some negative attention. In it, a young girl dies at the hands of her father after she turns zombie and attacks him. However, the trailer is told in reverse and forwards at the same time, rewinding back from the moment of her death while playing forward from the beginning of the attack. The trailer ends with the father pulling away from his daughter, followed by footage of them arriving at the hotel prior to the outbreak.

The trailer is horribly depressing, and honestly, it’s terrific, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.” This trailer lends itself to that quote, showing the intensity and tragedy of this moment in time, instead of giving you a look at the larger carnage surrounding them.

But really, kill a little girl?

Yes really, she was a flipping zombie.

Firstly, killing child zombies (or getting killed by them) is absolutely not an original concept. Night of the Living Dead (1968), the quintessential zombie movie which pioneered the modern zombie genre, contains a scene where a young girl turns and murders her mother with a cement trowel. Pet Cemetery (1989) revolves almost completely around the concept of a child murderer needing to be stopped. Dawn of the Dead (2004) depicts a child zombie as the first one on screen, who proceeds to kill and turn the protagonists husband. Later in that same film, the protagonists kill a newborn zombie baby. Most recently, AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010) opened the first episode with the main character headshotting an 8 year old zombie girl in a dress carrying a teddy bear. I could go on and on, citing less and less mainstream films, but it becomes redundant.

Killing zombies isn’t new. Killing children isn’t new. Nor is killing zombie kids.

The difference here is that we’re talking about a video game, and that the scene in question is from the trailer. If this was a movie, people wouldn’t care as much. If this wasn’t from the trailer, but from a cutscene, people wouldn’t care as much. But being the worlds first glimpse into this, the thought is that somehow the game will simply repeat these events and glorify killing children. But really, both of those things miss the core point.

Zombies and the idea of a zombie apocalypse should always upset people.

With the exception of films like Fido (2006) (Hey look, another film where we kill zombie kids!), the zombie apocalypse represents one of the most final ends to our world possible short of nuclear holocaust or annihilation via meteor. It is a bleak, dismal world where you live under the constant threat of a gruesome and painful death. It is not a snow day with guns, it is a way of life. The trailer for Dead Island reminds us all of a thing we’ve chosen to forget in the current ‘zombie age’; zombies suck, death sucks, and this isn’t the only family that will implode once the grey meat comes knocking.

Honestly, they got off easy.

For example, in Resident Evil (1998/2002) the game, a scientist infects his daughter with a version of the T-Virus to purposefully mutate her into a monster. In later volumes of the graphic novel series The Walking Dead (2003), you meet characters that keep their zombified relatives as pets. Is anyone here really going to argue that a dad tossing his zombie daughter out of a third story window onto grass is really so horrific as to warrant a reprimand to the creators?

I want to thank the developers at Techland for unnerving us, upsetting us, and making our days gloomy with a mere three minutes and eight seconds of CG. Imagine what they can do with 40 hours of gameplay.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

House Rules

Thanks to the wonder that is Google Docs, I've been able to quickly and painlessly put my rules up online. Huzzah.

They lack polish, and new much fine tuning and testing. Specifically, the races are not balanced. Some are rather weak, and some are rather strong. I do not like ECLs, so ideally I will be able to level out the races some.

I'm actually quite pleased with how some of the classes turned out (Samurai in particular). I'm fond of classes gaining unique abilities at levels 5, 10 and 15 respectively (as you'll see). I'm also fond of classes triggering abilities off of daily usage powers (like turning, smiting, stunning, etc). As such, healers, monks, hexblades, and a few other had some of their signature abilities changed to incorporate this. This allows for a player to use abilities more times per day, while still focussing on resource management, not unlike a spellcaster (for example, now a monk can dimension door more times per day, at the cost of stunning less).

I'm certainly happy to get some feedback on these rules. I haven't applied 95% of it yet, and won't until I'm certain I'm happy with them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Prodigal Blogger.

So, two days ago, I call Danny to see if we'll be playing D&D that night. He quickly interrupts me to tell me that he stumbled upon a blog where someone was recounting details of our campaign. He seemed bewildered, and almost scared, that some stranger knew who Haldir was, and asked me if it was my blog.

However, Danny being Danny, he paraphrased what he had read, then quoted it back to me. This confused me, making me think that he had read someone else's blog, so I immediately started denying that it was my blog. This caused Danny to go from almost scared to legit scared.

Good times.

Since my last update, I've gone from exclusively DMing to being a player character as well. I've also undertaken creating my own set of house rules, which hinge around "balancing" all base classes, and some prestige classes. I've also joined the Starcraft 2 beta, canceled my City of Heroes subscription, and created a Dungeons and Dragons Online account.

However, as an update to the campaign I'm DMing:

Danny was able to get his hands on a fate chip, allowing him to reroll his fortitude save. This time he made it, and he was able to prevent himself from crashing into the ground. However, in the ensuing battle, Merrick Praetor (NPC Cleric/Prestige Paladin) died, taking the dragon with him. The players returned to Basilicatta, where they were attacked by demonic retrievers searching for La'Travius (NPC Paladin). In the battle to drive them off, Haldir showed up with a young girl who allegedly broke him out of jail, and then proceeded to help them fight off the demons. Lucia attempted to sense the young girls aura, and was nearly overwhelmed with the power of her evil aura. This lead to Raphael Esposito (NPC Fighter/Ranger/Dread Commado) killing the young girl in cold blood, with a single gun shot at point blank. Later that same day, Lucia was approached by a man who offered to resurrect Merrick, if she would sign a magical contract forbidding her from ever setting foot in Merkail (ill-intentioned militaristic nation across the sea that has outlawed all arcane magic).

While this is occurring, Victor, who has been raised from the dead, has taken her leave of the party, only to have La'Travius follow her. She quickly finds that La'Travius managed to recover the Shield of Prator from the abyss, and now he is hounded by demons set on recovering it. So, they are now journeying north to Karvayne (secluded and walled off nation to the north, famous for being plagued with undead, and protected by necromatic knights) in search of a portal to the abyss, so they can take the fight directly to whichever demon prince is behind the attacks.

Unfortunately, that campaign is seemingly on hiatus, since the person who plays Lucia can't/won't decided whether or not she'll accept the offer to bring Merrick back (there may or may not have been a romance subplot there).

Well, at least now I have actual rules for massive damage!

Death and Dying (or just getting messed up in general):
  • Rather than dying when a subject reaches -10 HP, a character dies when they reach a negative number equal to their constitution score, or ¼ their maximum HP, whichever is higher. For example, Lucia Di’Mato is a paladin with 220 HP. She is dying between -1 and -54 HP, and dies at -55.
  • The feat Diehard still only allows someone to take actions until -10 HP.
  • The heal DC to stabilize a dying character is 14+Hit Dice. For example, Lucia Di’Mato is a 14th level paladin. She is dying after being mauled by a paragon dire bear (Don’t laugh, I’ll do it). The DC to stabilize her is 28.
  • Each character has a unique massive damage threshold. The massive damage threshold is (Con Score*3)+Hit Dice. Whenever they take enough damage from a single attack to meet or exceed this threshold, they must make a Fortitude save (DC15+1 for every 5 points of damage above the threshold), or be reduced to -1 HP instantly. For example, Lucia Di’Mato is a 14th level paladin with Con 20, so her massive damage threshold is 74. She takes 112 damage from an evil cavalier’s unstoppable charge. She now has to make a DC 22 Fortitude save or be dropped to -1.
  • A character receives a bonus or a penalty to their massive damage threshold based on size. For every size larger than medium, the character receives a +10. For ever size smaller than medium, it’s a -10. For example, Gia the 15th level halfling barbarian rides Wiggles, the 22 HD wyvern into battle. Her massive damage threshold is 69 ([18*3]+15), while his is 118 ([32*3]+22+30)
  • A character with the racial or class ability “Powerful Build” counts as one size larger than they actually are for calculating massive damage threshold.
  • If a character takes enough subdual damage to exceed their massive damage threshold, the are at risk of being knocked unconscious for 1d4 minutes. The save is handled the same as if it were lethal damage.

I'll start posting larger swaths of my house rules (all of which are based on 3.5 D&D), or better yet, find someplace to plop down all 17 or so pages of it. I'd love input from those who have it. As a side note, I'm applying as few of these changes as possible right now, to avoid confusing or stressing my players (the above listed rules have been applied, since those situations come up time and time again).

(Points to anyone who gets the M:TG reference.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Player Death, again

Haldir Halith, Warmage 12/Knight Phantom 1 died in battle with an ancient green dragon last night. He and his party had tracked the dragon to it's lair, after skirmishing with it in mid-air aboard their elemental galleon, The Nirvana. Upon reaching the lair, the party engaged and slew most of the dragons guardians, and skirmished with the beast again, scoring a crit with the Nirvana's heavy cannons. After pursuing it into it's lair, the group withdrew, knowing their spells and ammunition were sorely depleted. The group then maintained a position flying 1800 ft above the forest canopy, sleeping in shifts to prepare for battle the next day.

Six hours after the initial confrontation, the ancient green attacked the ship, having first warded himself with spells. This ambush culminated with Haldir being snatched off the deck of the ship, and flown off with, only to be thrown down to terra firma, first being subjected to a point blank breath weapon. Haldir was slain instantly as he failed his fort save against massive damage.

This is the second time that the players have withdrawn midway through a siege, only to camp out within sight of the area being sieged. Both times, this resulted in them being attacked while some or all of them slept. Both times, this resulted in player death.

Seriously guys, stop it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"'City of Heroes' character 'Twixt' becomes game's most hated outcast courtesy of Loyola professor"

Bullshit. I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, so be it:

Dear Professor David Myers,

Hi. You don't know me. We play on different servers. As such, I had no feelings for you one way or the other. So, I immediately take issue with this article that portrays you as some sort of infamous celebrity in the world of CoX. You're not.

Having seen a few dozen videos on YouTube of you getting killed in Siren's Call and Recluse's Victory, I take issue with the article portraying you as a good PvPer. You're not. Also, the article neglects to mention that you also posted on the forums of this game, purposely stirring up ill will. We call that trolling, dear Professor. The act of intentionally upsetting people to cause a negative reaction.

I'm sorry that you became a social outcast on the Freedom server by TPing into Drones. We both know it was more than that, but that's not the issue here. Droning people isn't particularly skillful, but at the same time, it's entirely the fault of the people being Droned. With how large the zones are, you have to be fantastically close to the enemy's base to ever risk it happening, and decent players rarely fall victim to it. So, in my opinion, anyone you ever Droned had it coming, cause they were base hugging.

I've received plenty of nasty tells from other players in my time. Most of them while PvPing. I've never Droned another player. I've killed people within their own bases. I've hidden inside their hospitals and killed them when they respawned. I've hidden atop high ledges and swooped down on them without warning, killing them in mid-air. I've hounded Heroes and Villains alike within multiple zones and inside the Arena. I've stalked players that gathered launch codes or meteor shards, and robbed them of their hard won treasures just when they were sure they would reap the rewards of their efforts.

But I've never Droned.

I've even gone so far as to lure the "robotic firing squad" away from an enemy base, with the help of my SGs sniper unit, to leave an entire Villain base undefended, so that my group could swoop in an occupy the whole base, preventing any players from entering on that side. Safely at least.

So, when I read this article, about how you are universally hated and reviled, when the worst thing you've done is Drone some players, or break up some Fight Club in SC, it makes me want to laugh. You're not grieifing anyone. You never did anything that good or bad. The real crime here was the trash talk and mockery that you lent to this conflict, that the article neglects to mention.

I guess the crux of my issue is this: There is nothing inherently wrong with Droning. The Devs, from day 1, have established that nothing save from trapping someone within the geometry of a map is griefing. So, when you TP someone into a Police Drone or Arbiter Drone, you're not breaking any rules. Once someone tells you they have a problem with that action, the dynamic changes. If you TP someone, knowing it will upset them, you are 100% responsible for their reaction. I'm not justifying how they act, most of them sound like very immature people, but you still knowing act in such a manner to cause that reaction from them.

For instance, when in Warburg, I ganked many, MANY other Heroes. It was even the subject of discussion on the Justice forum (that's my server). People talked about whether it was right or wrong for me, roleplaying a biped Police Drone, to kill other Heroes. So, at that point, I changed how I addressed other Heroes in Warburg. I would still attack and kill any player I could, regardless of faction. However, if any Hero ever asked me to leave them be, I would after the first kill. I took responsibility for the consequences of my action, regardless of whether or not what I was doing was wrong. Why? Because that's how all adults should act, online or offline.

Also, I should point out that my SG, the Paragon PD, was the subject of much hate and griefing, simply by existing. We were a top 10 SG for several years, with hundreds of players. Our mere presence spawned rival SGs (Anti-Drones, Rouge Isles PD, etc), our players were subject to constant griefing and harassment, and some (including me) were even kicked from teams for being who we were. On more than one occasion, I've had whole zones of players turn against me just for my name and uniform. Feel free to read my blog, Professor David Myers. I've fought massive battles against both Heroes and Villains simultaneously, outnumbered as bad as 4 to 1.

And not because I intentionally upset players as part of a study on small group dynamics or how the anonymity of the internet emboldens people. Just because I was me.

So, I hope you book is a success. I hope it's more honest and truthful than that article.

-Police Drone TH, lvl 50 Assault Rifle/Energy Manipulation/Munitions Mastery Blaster, Justice Server, Circa Issue 3, proud owner of the 400 Rep PvP badge, and server FFA Arena Champion for 7 Issues.

PS- Zone PvP wasn't introduced until Fall of 2005 with the release of Issue 6: "Along Came a Spider", not Spring of 2004 like the article would have people believe. Issue 6 is also when City of Villains was released. PvP didn't exist until Spring of 2005, and that was limited to the Arenas. The social environment that fostered peaceful interaction between Heroes and Villains existed for a year and a half before zone PvP was a factor, and 90% of the Villains that were created with the advent of CoV were initially Heroes. Again, something the article failed to mention. Furthermore, from Fall of 2005 till Spring of 2006, the PvP zones were the only place where Heroes and Villains could meet face to face, making the only zone where social interaction was possible between the two factions. Pocket D, Cimerora, and the Rikti War Zone didn't exist at that point.