Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spiel des Jahres Nominees Have Been Announced!

There are three different awards given, and their nominees have been announced as of Monday.

Here is the link to the official homepage.

I've played ... um ... Machi Koro.  And Elysium will be in my hands later today.

The Spiel des Jahres is the German Game of the Year.  It's a very prestigious prize, and a lot of Americans are often disappointed by the winner, because they tend to favor family games over hardcore games - a division that was made more-or-less explicit a few years back when they created the Kennerspiel des Jahres for more hardcore games.

The Spiel des Jahres nominees are:
Colt Express is published by Ludonaute, and it is distributed by Asmodee in North America. I've heard it's really good, but I haven't had a chance to try it, yet.
Machi Koro is an engine-builder published by Kosmos games (there's no drawing, so it's not really a deck-builder). It's fun, but I find it a bit too light for my tastes. There are a couple of expansions out (or coming) that improve the game for me.
The Game is not (so far as I know) available in English.

The Kinderspiel des Jahres is the Children's Game of the Year.  I don't know any of these games, and it doesn't look like any of them are available in English. So, other than titles, I know nothing of these games.
Push a Monster

The Kennerspiel des Jahres is the more hardcore category.
Broom Service hasn't been released in English yet. Looks like it's expected later this year, though.  The audience for hobby games is small enough that this nomination (unlike many other awards) can really boost sales.
Elysium is one I worked on the English translation for. It looks fun, and maybe we can try it tonight.
Orleans isn't in English, yet, either.  Tasty Minstrel ran a Kickstarter for this one, and it's rumored to be due in September.

Because of my lack of familiarity with the nominees, I can't even make an educated guess as to who the winners will be.

There are also a number of recommended games that are (essentially) runners-up.  And - again - I don't know many of the games (even though I recognizes a number of the designers and publishers).

The Kinderspiel winner will be announced in about two weeks on June 8.  On July 6th, the Spiel and Kennerspiel will be awarded, so we won't be in suspense for too long.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So That Happened

Andy Warhol is credited with saying that in the future, everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. I've been writing this blog for ... a while, now.  And before this week, I could point at two spikes in my Google Analytics numbers and say, "That was when X happened." Those were my fifteen minutes of fame.

The first was when Wil Wheaton posted a link on Reddit to one of my posts. It was scary at the time, because - let's be honest, here - I'm not a big-time blogger. I'm just a guy who likes writing about games.

The second was when there was that kerfuffle over FFG's in-store iPad program a few years back. It also scared the crap out of me because - again - I'm just a guy who had an opinion. No-one of any major importance.

This is the part where my wife usually chimes in to remind me that I am important to her and to the kitties and to ... well, she's got a list of folks she can rattle off. Because she's good like that.

But it happened again.

Last week, I got a couple of comments at what (for me) was stupidly early in the morning. That's odd, I thought, I never get comments.  But it was enough for me to check my Google Analytics.

Hmm, I thought. My referral numbers are ... high.  As in "More referrals before 8am Pacific than I usually get hits in a full week."  Apparently I caught someone's attention.

It's funny - I write this blog every week assuming that people aren't reading what I have to say.  It makes it a lot easier for me to pretend that I'm essentially sending letters to myself. Because of this, a reminder that I have an audience - even a small or temporary one - is always a bit scary.  Especially because I know I'm not the best blogger on the internet. I know that not all of my posts are worth slogging through.

Confidence: A recurring issue, here in Eric-land.

But if you're tuning in because of the File 770 link to me (or due to some possible links back from folks quoting them): Welcome. I'm Eric. I like games and gamers, and I talk about that, here. I dabble in fandom culture a bit, but if you're tuning in to watch Hugo Drama, you're not going to catch much here.

I post weekly - every Wednesday - unless I'm attending a special event. Like GenCon or WorldCon or Norwescon. And - lack of confidence aside - I'm mostly proud of what I've posted here. Like any other personal blog on the internet, there are good posts and bad posts.

I've been playing games since I could walk, and I've been playing RPGs since I was ten. I'm a voracious reader and I also enjoy film photography.

If you stick around, you'll see bits of all of these from time to time.

And, if you don't stick around, well ... I've had my fifteen minutes. Three times over.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Awards and Geekdom

Every year at about this time, they announce the Origins awards.  And every year at about this time, I throw up a post complaining about the relevance of awards for a hobby industry that use retailers and distributors as gatekeepers.

And that's still a problem.

But this year, compared to the Hugos, the Origins awards look downright brilliant.

The way the Origins awards work (to my understanding, at least) is as follows:

Step 1: A panel of industry insiders and experts puts together a long list of potential nominees that they take to GAMA, which is a convention for retailers, publishers, and distributors.

Step 2: The folks at GAMA vote on this list, usually eliminating the small indie publishers who didn't hit distribution. The top five from each list are the official nominees.

Step 3: We vote.  And by "we," I mean "anyone who wants to sign up to vote."

The flaw with the system - for me, at least - is Step 2, as I mentioned before. Game Store owners (and I love you guys - I really do) and distributors aren't usually going to put forward a game that they can't get. Because in theory awards lead to sales.

This year's nominees are unusually strong, but it's been a very good year in gaming. Notice, however, that there aren't a lot of independent games in there.

And voting is live.

But the Hugos ...

So the process with the Hugos is as follows:

Step 1: People who are members of WorldCon nominate their favorite works for a Hugo.

Step 2: The five works in each category that are most-nominated make the final ballot.

Step 3: We vote. And by "we," I mean "members of WorldCon."

"Members" includes two groups.  "Supporting members," who pay about $40 to be able to vote, receive whatever packet is sent, and receive a program from the convention itself are the most numerous group. The other group is folks who are actually attending the show.

It's my understanding that supporting gives you more than one year of nomination/voting power, but it's very possible that I'm wrong there.  I'm sure someone will be along to correct me at some point.

The numbers of actual voters and nominators compared to the numbers eligible to do so is actually sad and depressing.

How sad?

Two authors - Vox Day and Brad Torgerson - got about 300 people to nominate from their specific lists of eligible works. And these works dominate the final ballot.

Here are some historical numbers on voters and folks involved in the nomination process.  The number involved this year is an even lower percentage.

It's caused a huge stir.  To the point where more than a few nominees have withdrawn, either because they don't want to be associated with the "Puppies" lists or because the winners of this year's Hugo awards may feel like there will always be an asterisk associated with that award.

And it's a shame, because there are some really good works on the list. For example, I really liked Ancillary Sword (which is the sequel to Ancillary Justice, which is well worth the read).

To make things worse, the folks involved with this are using the "We didn't break any rules," argument. And have co-opted GamerGate language, referring to their opponents as "SJWs."

As a gamer, I am well aware that "We didn't break the rules," is shorthand for, "I know I'm being an asshole."  Because I hear it at the table all too often.

There's kind of a lot I want to say here, but - quite frankly - I don't have time to write it and you probably don't have the time to read it.

Either way, File 770 has been doing an excellent job of keeping folks informed from a mostly-neutral position.

But why is this such a big deal? Why are people wailing and gnashing their teeth at the situations? Why are the Origins awards important? Who cares about the Hugos?

It's because we're fans.

Fan is short for fanatic, and I think we all forget that sometimes.

We are passionate about our hobbies, whether it's reading or gaming or painting or photography or stamp collecting. And we want our [thing] to be recognized as the best [thing.] I think it's because there is a perception that awards lead to sales - and they do, but not in a dramatic fashion.

I think Joe Peacock put it very well in this post:
Fandom isn’t about being more of a fan than anyone else. Fandom is about loving the stuff you love. When someone else decides to check it out, that doesn't LESSEN your love for it… It just multiplies it. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#PonyWar Update

In the months since the last #PonyWar update, there has been progress.

The Badger retaliated for the dice bag by sending to me a copy of The Brony Handbook: One Path of Many.  In print. It arrived in the same package as a bunch of really good RPG books that were a gift, but it was a well-aimed blow.

So I began plotting my revenge.

Some of you may know +Dyson Logos - by reputation if nothing else.  Dyson does RPG maps in a very particular style.  In fact, I'd say that Dyson is the best at doing so. Check out his blog for some really good maps (and today's Big Reveal).

So I contacted him, asking if he'd take a commission. I was told that he's only occasionally taking commissions, if the project really "turns his crank."

See, he has a Patreon to fund his map-making habit. One that I'm currently only supporting for $1 per work, but which I desperately need to throw more money at, because - again - Dyson does awesome work. He was (in part) afraid that my commission would get in the way of his being able to create for the Patreon.  I quickly reassured him that this was not the case, and that I would be more than willing to have him share his work with the world - once completed.  He also didn't want to half-ass this, and he had other commissions, so his plate was more-or-less full.

But when he heard my overall plan, he was interested.

The initial plan was a large map - large enough that the overall pony shape would be obscured.

Dyson did me one better.  Seven separate maps. Here is "The Flanking Passage" (one of the seven) for reference:

Seriously: Go to Patreon and throw
money at Dyson
. You will not regret
your decision to do so in the slightest.

It's nice, isn't it?  In fact, he posted all seven maps in his blog yesterday.  They are amazing and beautiful. Go take a look when you have a minute or two.

The names are perfect. "Main Halls" are the mane. The Watchtowers are eyes. Temple of Vosto for the tail ("Vosto" is Esperanto for "tail," by the way).  Dyson has absolutely outdone himself, here.

He then shipped the maps to the Badger in three separate envelopes.  The day the first one arrived, the Badger was very excited. Because not everyone gets to own actual +Dyson Logos maps sent from the hand of Dyson himself.

But the Badger got suspicious very quickly. Because he knows me. And he doesn't trust me. With good reason, of course.

So he messaged me, and I was honest with him.  "I asked Dyson, but he isn't accepting commissions." A true statement.  

In fact, if you were to ask Dyson right now, he'd tell you: He isn't accepting commissions.

The Badger pressed, and so I finally told him that I would neither confirm nor deny involvement, not because I was necessarily involved, but because knowing for sure one way or the other would set his mind at ease.

And I've spent the last week or so quietly chortling.

Ball's in your court, +Jason Paul McCartan

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

That Bus ...

Every year about this time, I get hit with a ton of projects. And - every year - it catches me off-guard.

In the last two weeks, I've had ... um ... six projects cross my plate. And I'm honestly not sure if any of them have even been announced, yet.

It's a lot of work. I've talked about this before. But the work I do is nothing compared to the work done by the translator. I do not envy him his task. Most of the projects I receive come from a friend of mine who I've worked with for close to a decade, now.  He's a good guy and over the years, he's come to anticipate some of my corrections and I've gotten used to a few of his translation quirks.

This long-term relationship has, I think, made both of us better at our jobs. As an added bonus, we trust one another. He trusts that I'm not making changes just to make it seem like I'm doing something, and I'm now comfortable enough to make (in some cases) sweeping changes. In fact, I'm more comfortable making these sweeping changes with other translators, too.

He also knows what style of game I like playing. Usually. Of the games I worked on this weekend I'm very interested in a few of them and there are a few that I think I need to try first. I don't think there are any that I'm likely to dislike.

So thanks, Eric.  I appreciate you and I enjoy working with you, even if I don't say so often enough.

As for the rest of you: I'll talk about the games when I can.  Promise.

Meanwhile, it's been a very long weekend, and I need to get some sleep so I can drive to Portland to pick my wife up in the morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bags of Fish

When you buy a new fish and take it home to its new aquarium, you don't just dump it into the aquarium right away. Instead, you take the bag of water that the pet store gave you to get the fish home, and you float that bag in the aquarium for a few hours.

This allows the temperature to equalize, and you won't shock the fish.  At least, that's what I was always told when I was a kid.

There are actually a ton of steps to take. But they are all so you don't stress the fish out to the point where it dies.

Gamers are less delicate than fish (thank goodness), but sometimes we still need that acclimatization period when dealing with new people.

I'm gearing up to run an L5R game, as you may know.  At least one of the players doesn't know most of the other players, so I'm trying to schedule a "Bag of Fish" day, where the players can meet and hang out in a stress-free environment.

I'm probably going to throw on some chanbara films, hopefully some that are thematically appropriate for the game we're hoping for. I have a few in my Instant Video library - the first of the Zatoichi films, for example. Probably at least one Kurosawa film. Ran and Throne of Blood are both very good choices for political games. Kagemusha has been a favorite for a long time, too.

But it's a good low-stress way for players to meet one another and start to figure out what sort of (out-of-character) relationships they're going to have with one another, and how their interaction is going to go.

I didn't used to do this, and it often led to stilted and awkward role-play for the first few sessions as players who didn't know each other tried to figure out who each other were both in and out of character.

I'm really excited about this game, and I really don't want it to come to a screeching halt because one (or more) of the players isn't relaxed and comfortable and into it.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

... And That's A Wrap

I ended up not going to any panels today. Instead, we discovered that the battery in the car was dead. Or dying.  It started okay after a jump, but I still need to take it in tomorrow to get it looked at.

Instead, I sat and people-watched for a bit. Or, rather, I did until a mob formed in my vicinity. By then, we'd already checked out of the hotel, so my choices were ... none.  Sit and wait and hope they'd go away.

Ah, well.

All in all, it was a lot of fun.

One of my friends the other day asked me why I go to so many writing and combat panels when I'm neither a writer nor a martial artist.

I am a writer.  I'm a blogger.  You're reading my words right now.

As to the combat panels? They give me ideas that I can use later in games. Or ideas how to respond to players who say, "Yes, but realistically ... " -- responses that are better than "Because the rules say so," which - realistically - should be enough, even though it's nearly always an unsatisfying.

And, of course, I've always got something going in the back of my mind ...