Monday, April 30, 2007

Foldable Tomes release

De Vermis Mysteriis
I've released the "foldables" version of Arkham Book Club, which gives you a cool foldable tome booklet to replace each tome in the core Arkham Horror game. These little babies are more fun, more atmospheric, and easier to use than the original casebook release, so be sure to check them out.

You can get them at the Arkham Investigations casebook page.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nostalgia Games: Haunted Mansion

By far, the coolest board game I ever owned as a kid (yes, even cooler than Mousetrap), was the Haunted Mansion board game. Okay, yes, I'm a sucker for all things Haunted Mansion. But I think this one was cool even without that added bonus.

Haunted Mansion Board Game

What was cool about this game was that the board had a series of gears underneath it which rotated circular parts of the game board, changing the paths you can take to the exit. In addition, attached to the circular parts were ghostly standees that hung out over the edge of the circle, which, when turned, could swing around and knock your pawn off of its place. This was particularly well-suited to the ballroom-dancing ghosts from the ride, for instance. For a kid's game, it had some pretty fun mechanics, and worked quite well with the theme. Add to that the spooky stand showing scenes from the interior of the mansion, and you have a creepy little experience. I wish I still had this one - it would probably fetch a pretty penny on eBay, but I don't think I would sell it.

The new Cthulhu Movie

Maybe this is the one, I thought to myself when I heard that a movie named Cthulhu was filmed and working its way through post production. There have been many adaptations of Lovecraft's work to film, but there has yet to be one which is faithful to the narrative (with the possible exception of this fan-created movie).

So I went to the IMDB page for it, and without even seeing the movie, I think I can safely say that it's probably not going to fare much better than its peers. Here's why:
  • Unknown, first-time writers
  • Unknown, first-time director
  • Tagline: "Welcome the end of the world." (Huh?)
  • The plot summary includes the words "...with whom he has a long-awaited tryst." Since when do Lovecraft stories have romance aspects to them?
  • Plot keywords are: Cthulhu, Horror, H.P. Lovecraft, Gay, and Queer. Since when do Lovecraft stories have gay romance aspects to them? (I'm hoping this was a miscategorization.)
  • Two words: Tori Spelling.
Yup, it's gonna be a stinker. Why won't someone do it right? The closest I've seen is Dagon, but even that could have been much better. It's probably just as well, really, since Lovecraft's horrors are probably better left undefined.

Nostalgia Games: Which Witch?

While poking around BoardGameGeek recently, I stumbled upon some games that I had owned as a kid which I had totally forgotten about. Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting about them, just to take a little walk down nostalgia lane. (You may notice a common theme to the games I had growing up, which may help explain a few things.)

The first "blast from the past" game is Which Witch?. I had totally forgotten about this game until I saw this photo:

Which Witch Board Game

This was a fun little game wherein hapless visitors to a haunted house try to go through all four hazardous rooms and climb the stairs to the attic. The game was largely lame, except for the single fun mechanic where you were prompted to occasionally drop the little metal ball down the chimney. The chute split into four directions, which would send the ball down into one of the four rooms, in all likelihood triggering a trap. If your pawn was standing in the wrong place, the trap would hit it, and bad stuff happens to you. The only real reason to play the game was dropping the ball to see what happens. Would it come barreling down the stairs to the attic, knocking down the player who is about to win? Would it hit the broom, or trigger the secret door? Who knows?

Of course, it's just a random event like anything else in these simple kiddie board games, but the kinetic, visceral nature of this random event was immensely more satisfying than the notion of rolling a die. I recall spending quite a bit of time experimenting with the chimney to see if dropping the ball a particular way influence where it came out. Turns out there wasn't, but dropping the ball was fun enough that it kept me occupied for a good while.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Advanced Lingo For Games released for free

Gary Rosenzweig, a skilled Director developer and active online community member, wrote a book called Advanced Lingo for Games back in 2000. The book is now out of print, and the copyright has reverted to him, so he put Advanced Lingo for Games up on the web to read for free.

The title is a bit of a misnomer, I believe, since it seems to bring newbie Director game developers up to an advanced level, but it has a lot of examples with full source code, and includes downloadable projects for your own use. Some of the content is no longer applicable to current Director development, but it looks like it will give a hobbyist who is just starting out a step up.

Kudos to Gary for being so generous with his book!

Want some Bhut Jolokia?

Bhut Jolokia
The NMSU Chile Pepper Institute is going to be selling the world's hottest chile pepper, the Bhut Jolokia, at their Annual Spring Plant Sale starting on Monday at 9:30am in Gerald Thomas Hall room 265 on NMSU's Las Cruces campus. It costs $5 per plant. (For more information on the world's hottest chile, see Saga Jolokia - Searching for the new "World's Hottest Chile".)

In addition to the Bhut Jolokia, they will be selling all sorts of other chiles for $2.50 a plant, along with varieties of tomato and cilantro. So come out and support the Chile Pepper Institute and get some delicious salsa fixin's, too!

(For my Las Cruces friends, if you want me to pick up some plants for you, just drop me a line. Otherwise, for more information, call 505-646-3028.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Clever Javascript techniques

Seven Javascript Techniques You Should Be Using Today is an interesting little article where I picked up some clever tricks I didn't know before, such as this clever little gem for using a double-bang to read and store a flag so you don't have to keep checking for DOM capability:

var w3 = !!(document.getElementById && document.createElement);

The article contains clever little blips like that and also some more design-patternsy stuff to help you constrain scope and write more efficient code. A good read.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Foldable Tomes

De Vermis Mysteriis
It figures. Only after releasing the Arkham Book Club casebook do I really get an idea for replacing the tomes in Arkham Horror with a more fun mechanic.

These foldable tomes replace the tomes in the core Arkham Horror game. When you draw a tome during play, discard the tome card and pick up the foldable tome instead. The foldable tome allows your character to pore over its mysteries for days, learning spells and unique skills peculiar to the individual tome.

The link above shows the first draft of two tomes: Ludwig Prinn's terrible De Vermis Mysteriis, and the strange and alien Dhol Chants detailing a visit to the awful Plateau of Leng. More to follow.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Arkham Book Club

I've just released a new Arkham Investigations casebook called Arkham Book Club.

The idea for this casebook is to give the tomes in Arkham Horror a stature more in line with tomes in Lovecraft's literature. In the original stories, tomes were the source of dark spells for summoning awful creatures, and the source of knowledge for scholars opposing them. This casebook adds some mystery and power to tomes, giving a unique character and story for each one, and a set of new spells and skills that can be derived from them. You can get the new expansion from the Arkham Investigations casebook page.

Here are some teasers from the expansion:

Lambency of Yith spellLifting of Darkness spellLight of Madness spell

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Arkham Investigations tidbits

The last few days have seen a few new items added to the Arkham Investigations site:
  • Version 1.3 of the rules set has been uploaded. This version tweaks some of the multiplayer combat rules, and clarifies some other aspects of the game. (Thanks to Thelric, maker of Strange Eons, for the suggestions.)
  • A new version of the Cthulhu casebook is available which fixes some minor bugs and typos. (Kudos to Thelric for this one, too.)
  • The German version of Arkham Nights: Street Locations is now available (thanks again to Stefan).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It passed!!!

Neph does a happy dance. It looks like Spaceport America is coming. The spirit of JFK's race to the moon lives on in the populace of New Mexico.

Of course, as close to oblivion this project came with this vote, this was the easy part. Now comes the real challenge. We have the resources and will in place, but now we have to actually do it. Now that we've decided to do this thing as a state, I'm hoping the opponents and proponents can come together and try to make it work. I think we all understand that this is a financial risk for the state, and that if it fails, it will cast a long shadow over future economic development of any sort. No one wins if we build it and no one comes.

So please continue supporting the aerospace industry in New Mexico however you can. Most of us don't have much opportunity to make a difference directly, like we did on this voting measure, but we do have some small ways to help. Make sure to attend the X Prize Cup and related events when they occur, and support the advertisers and sponsors of aerospace events - especially local ones. Teach your kids about the space program, and generally stay in touch with the space effort. The sooner the space program becomes part of our state's identity, the stronger base we'll have to build upon moving forward.

And if you voted for the measure, thank you! This was a very close election, and your vote mattered. If you ever watch a spacecraft lift off from the New Mexico desert, think back - it all could have easily ended right here in a whimper.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Down to the Wire!

Wow, the Spaceport America vote here in New Mexico is going down to the wire. Last night, it was looking like the anti-Spaceport crowd was going to have their way and end New Mexico's chances at playing a part in the future of space exploration and cashing in on math and science industry benefits for our kids' education (25% of the tax proceeds will go to aerospace-based math and science initiatives in our area schools).

But in the evening counting, the pro-Space vote pulled ahead. It's now almost neck-and-neck with 50.6% for and 49.4% against, a difference that is less than 541, the number of provisional ballots cast. We have a 204-vote advantage, so it's looking good, but it's too early to call. This is one close race.

It's also a pretty emotionally charged race. When one of the NMSU administrators endorsed the measure (a reasonable thing, I think, considering the measure provides direct funding for education AND practically guarantees an injection of students in aerospace topics), we had some rather nasty-toned emails go out in opposition.

I won't go so far as to say there are no reasons to vote against the measure. There are legitimate gripes, such as questioning the environmental impact of a spaceport and wondering how much risk this project entails when compared to the possible competitors to Spaceport America. What strikes me about the arguments against the measure is that they all come down to a risk-versus-reward question, and those opposed seem to think that there is negligible reward to a spaceport.

I guess I can understand that, if you discount the increased math and science school funding (something that is desperately needed across America as a whole, but in our communities in particular), because not everyone really appreciates that this isn't (entirely) about taking a risk to create high-paying jobs here. It's not merely about growing a completely new industry for New Mexico. And no, it's not about Bill Richardson's bid for the presidency (lots of people have been working for a very long time to bring this project to fruition, thank you very much - this is not a recent marketing stunt).

Spaceport America is about New Mexico having the courage to embrace man's greatest adventure: space exploration. Yes, there's risk. Yes, it's hard. Like JFK said in perhaps the greatest, most adventurous political speech of our times,
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...
I want New Mexico to step up to the plate and commit itself to trying to reach for the stars. We're a great state, filled with great people, but for too long, we've languished in the shadow of low achievement, low expectations, and lack of courageous vision. Space exploration is one of those things that can serve as an identity for our state, redefining us as a cutting-edge, tech-smart state, in the same way the film production initiatives are paying social and economic dividends on the creative side. We can be known for this if we have the will to embrace it.

But the real value, for me, comes from the personal aspect of brining space travel here. It will be well worth one cent on every four dollars to watch my son grow up in a school with strong math and science programs, with great local opportunities for field trips and guest speakers. It will be worth it for my son to feel connected to the space program growing up, rather than it being some otherworldly thing that you see detached exhibits about at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum when you visit D.C. It will be worth it when I can stand with him to witness the awesome power of a space shot with our own eyes as a handful of people sit on tons of burning explosive fuel hurtling skyward for the sole purpose of adventure. It will be worth it if my son has the opportunity to experience space travel when my generation did not.

I just hope this bill passes.