And now for some politics!

Somewhat unrelated from my normal game-talk, but this rant has been eating at me for a few days, now.

You may have seen people up in arms about the fact that Obama has asked conservative Evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. Large swaths of the left have expressed outrage that Obama has "betrayed" them by inviting a preacher who is anti gay-rights. Even very intelligent and respectable people like Rachel Maddow and John Hodgman have expressed the same disappointment at Obama's choice.

But these people are only paying attention to half of the story. They're ignoring a thousand things they agree with, just to get angry at one thing they don't. The thing that everyone seems to be forgetting is that Warren is only one of the two pastors officiating at the inauguration.

The pastor giving the benediction is Reverend Joseph Lowery: a man whose support for gay marriage and civil rights in general is unquestionable and steadfast. He is a man so firmly progressive that he would drive the conservative right into fits of apoplexy if he were even in the same room as Bush - and in fact, he did exactly that, at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. He is, in so many ways, the polar opposite of Warren, while being as fiery as Reverend Wright -- with none of the crazy.

And yet, everyone ignores Lowery’s presence there, and acts as if Warren is the only one attending. People who should know better are getting whipped into a fury because Obama dares to have representatives from both sides of the spectrum at the beginning of a presidency where he promised to govern for all of America’s citizens.

Diplomacy means interacting with people we find distasteful and trying to convince them to change, not shutting them out and trying to pretend they aren’t real. We’ve had eight years of a president who ignored people he didn’t agree with, and we’ve fought like crazy to change that. Are we really going to throw a tantrum when we finally get the change we want?


East and West

At the risk of Two interesting pieces of info about Japan's response to Fallout 3:

First: the highly respected game review magazine, Famitsu, gave FO3 a 38/40, as high a rating as they've ever given to a non-Japanese game - the only other Western game to get a 38/40 was a little thing called Oblivion. So, open-world RPGs have definitely hit on something that deeply appeals to the Japanese market (or at least its respected critics).

Second: Square Enix, with its near-domination of the Japanese market, has recently been interested in expanding further into the western market: showing interest in acquiring Eidos, and trying to make games with western stylings, like The Last Remnant. But there may be some confusion as they try to figure out what makes Western RPGs appealing.
The tremendous success of Fallout 3 seems to have made a particularly profound impact on [Square Enix art director Yusuke] Naora. "When we make a game that sells two million copies, that's always seemed like a tremendous success for us," he says. "But now we hear about Fallout 3 selling four million in just a few weeks, and it really surprises us. This is a game that doesn't even look like what we in Japan consider an 'RPG,' yet it's incredibly popular."

"Until about a year ago, we'd never even heard the term 'J-RPG' to distinguish our RPGs from Western games," he admits. Now he seems determined to sort out the defining differences between the two schools of RPG design. Does it mean stronger female characters? A first-person perspective? More realism?

With great respect to my colleague, I feel he's looking at the wrong things for what I consider the fundamental difference between JRPGs and Western RPGs, which is simply this: player agency versus scripted progression.

The classic JRPG (any Final Fantasy being the prime example) is all about progressing through the story that the developers have made for you, while the classic WRPG (let's say, Fallout 1) is all about making your own way through a world of possibilities. JRPGs are usually much more tightly planned and polished compared to WRPGs' occasional confusion and bugs (particularly because open worlds are much harder to playtest), but WRPGs are forgiven those flaws because they allow the player to invest themselves more fully in the world and their characters' decisions, rather than presenting you with a single pre-set story as is all-too common in JRPGs.

It's a basic case of the design tension between the designer controlling the experience and letting the player control the experience, with Japanese and American RPGs taking strong stands on either side. How much of this is a difference in a game's influences? Could you argue that JRPGs try to present anime with the player as the protagonist, while WRPGs try to present a tabletop game with the player as the head of the party? Or is it a more intrinsic difference between tightly structured and organized Japanese culture and the more reckless and free American attitude?



In just under 12 hours, my baby is heading out into the world. Like all proud parents, I'm a little nervous about his first steps, and I'll be carefully watching his progress in the big world. But unlike (most) other parents, I'll be partying and watching as people line up around the block to take a piece of him.

Best Buy is doing midnight launch events for Fallout 3 all around the nation, and we're having a big event at the 1200 Rockville Pike, MD Best Buy!

I'll be showing up around 9ish, to begin tailgating and generally celebrating like a fool. Hope to see you!


Some friends and I have organized a game of McGonigal and Bogost's brilliant "benevolent assassination" game, Cruel 2 B Kind, to be played on the National Mall in DC, on Saturday, October 18th, from 2-4pm.

For those who don't know of it: Cruel 2 B Kind is "a game of benevolent assassination" - basically, you sneak up on other people you think are playing and use one of your three weapons on them. Except your "weapons" are things that are benevolent to the average person: complimenting their shoes, for example, or welcoming them to the city.

If your target isn't playing the game, they're pleased, if a little confused. If they are playing, they join your team, and you go looking for other targets. Repeat across the national mall, while stalking and hiding from other potential players on the national mall, around the Hirshhorn, in the Smithsonian sculpture garden, and so forth. By the end of it, players ahve coalesced into two huge teams that are too big to hide from each other, and one massive, apocalyptic benevolence occurs.

Then we all go out drinking together and generally having fun and meeting new folks.

This is with Tom Lotze and the rest of the same group of folks that put together the very popular "Survive DC" game a few months ago, so we're expecting a similar turnout - in the order of 100 - 200 players. It'll be massive and massively fun.

Sign up on the website or at the Facebook page, and show up ready to play on Saturday, October 18th.


Red Planet Forecast

According to NASA's Phoenix lander, it's snowing on Mars.

Obviously, the snow was brought to Mars by Santa, who moved there after global warming sank his previous workshop.


Live and On Stage

After much debating and uncertainty, the opportunity of playing Rock Band 2 with friends online finally spurred me to get an actual XBox Live Account. That's why many of you may have received friend requests from FZbang - and if you haven't then you should toss a friend request my way!

Last night saw my housemate and I playing out main band, Vröck & Tröll with a couple friends over as guest artists, heroically struggling through Metallica's "Battery" and Dream Theater's "Panic Attack" on Hard. For those who haven't experienced them, Battery is one of the toughest songs on the game in its own right, and then Panic Attack makes Metallica look like a garage band.

Over our several attempts at the song, we not only improved our instrumental skills, but we refined our overall strategy of how and when to deploy star power, how long to wait before saving members, and other attempts to eke out a way through the 7-and-a-half-minute onslaught. It felt every bit as tense and challenging as any raid in Warcraft, and completing it felt every bit as rewarding. That's the sort of team experience that the best co-player games can elicit.

I'm looking forward to playing much more with full groups, on- or off-line. Mostly for the team experience, of course, but also to show off my character and his post-apocalyptic drumming outfit. As always, Barbie-Dress-Up is one of my favorite parts of any game, and until RockBand.com updates to include RB2 characters, this is the only way to show him off.

And maybe I'll get around to playing my other band: the all Lincoln-impersonator band, Fourscore and the Seven Years.


Fallout 3 Picked Best In Show at E3!

Fallout 3 just won Best In Show and Best RPG from the official judges at E3. In addition to the expected suite of judges from Wired, Kotaku, Gamespot, and so on, it includes judges from such austere institutions as Time, Newsweek, and The Washington Post.

After months and months of late nights and deadline pressure, it's pretty damned satisfying. There was some very, very stiff competition, from games I'm deeply excited to play.

Looks like another excellent year for gaming, huh?


Glorious Four-Color Comedy!

What do you get when you combine post-apocalyptic fun with gamer comics? A series of hysterical Fallout comics by the folks at Penny Arcade!

Check out the first one on the site, now! And check out the official Bethesda Blog for insight into their production.


Wisdom and Genre Evolution

In an excellent essay on being a more open DM by Stephen Radney-MacFarland in Dungeon, this brief section struck me as being a good encapsulation of a larger truism about genres in any art/entertainment form. And life itself, perhaps:
Keep this sense of wonder and flexibility in mind when deciding what you'll allow as PC choices as well. I know there's been a some virtual rumblings about dragonborn and some of the newer D&D races from folks who (like myself) were weaned on Tolkien. But you have to realize that fantasy is a language, and that languages expand and change -- especially when the language is discovered and loved by younger users. When I was a kid, all I wanted to write, draw, and paint was the fantasy of Moorcock, Leiber, Howard, and Tolkien . . . and of course D&D. The adults around me told me I was wasting my time. Often, cruelly and with much certainty, they said the flights of fantasy I loved were dumb, or pedestrian, or childish. They were wrong.

Now the tables are turned, and I'm the adult. It wasn't so long ago that I sat in a meeting at my other gig -- as an instructor at a local art school -- and I sat around and listened to other instructors complain about how the kids liked drawing all this over-the-top anime fantasy. They called it childish, pedestrian, and a waste of time. Guess what: They're wrong, too. What those kids are drawing is the future of fantasy and it's coming fast. If I were you, I'd do my best to understand it and embrace it, and go out of your way to find a fit for it in your game world. Join the conversation instead of denying it! One of the greatest strengths of D&D and roleplaying games as a medium is the shared aspect of it. Sharing is compromise. Sharing is being flexible. Sharing is saying yes. Sharing is fun!


Prepare for the Future!

I cannot properly express how much I love this trailer. Hope you do, too!


Post-Apoc Film Festival!

If you're in the Santa Monica area on the weekend of August 22-23, and jonsing for some Fallout and other postapoc movies, then I've got good news for you!

The American Cinematheque, and Geek Monthly Sponsor ‘A Post-Apocalyptic Film Festival Presented by Fallout® 3’

It's a two-day long movie festival of post-apoc movies, showing Wizards, Damnation Alley, A Boy and His Dog, The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and Twelve Monkeys. General Admission tickets are $10, which covers three movies, popcorn and soda, and an entry in a Fallout 3 giveaway.


E3 Excitement

In case you haven't already read about it in other game magazines, blogs, ads, skywriting, deep space radio waves, donkey shows, or off-broadway plays, there's this little thing called E3 coming up. And I'm boundlessly honored that Next-Gen magazine picked my baby, Fallout 3, as their most anticipated game of the show.

Despite working in game design, I'm still a fanboy at heart. I prefer to describe it as "boundless enthusiasm," but either way, I still find myself obsessively following details about upcoming games that I can't wait to devour. And while I'm curious about pretty much all everything that's been announced, I've got my own short list of games I'm particularly eager to examine.

Left 4 Dead
A team-based shooter with asymmetrical goals and powers, set in a zombie crisis, and polished to Valve's usual mirror shine of perfection. Team Fortress 2 got me back into team FPS games, and did an excellent job stressing the value of fulfilling a role in a team. Now L4D looks like it'll change up the dynamic by giving each side different roles. The designer in me is intrigued, and the zombie aficionado in me is gleefully loading his shotgun.

Rock Band 2
The first Rock Band still has me captured in its siren song of drumming and group gameplay, and I have tremendous respect for Harmonix's attitude and approach to presenting it as a platform for play. While I'll miss the option for user-created tracks, I trust them to do it right eventually, and I'm plenty excited about everything else it has to offer. Of course, they had me at "drum trainer."

Mirror's Edge
I was already eager for this game because of my fascination with parkour and its graceful gameplay feel, but now that I know its story is being penned by Rhianna Pratchett, I'm almost beside myself with anticipation. With a dedicated writer like her behind it, I have high hopes that the game doesn't just feel smooth, but for its underlying themes to be consistent and unified. If they're also in line with the philosophy behind parkour, then even better. A tall order, but the price of skill is facing high expectations.

For the record, my own game would be on this list, but I'm already pretty familiar with it.



Bethesda Softworks: Summer 2006 - Present
Fallout 3 - Game of the Year (Gamasutra, IGN, OXM)
Quest Designer, Writer
Writing memorable dialogue and unique characters, designing branching storylines with emphasis on high player agency. Creating content, setting lore, and games systems for massive RPGs in collaborative design teams.

Art In Transit: Winter 2005 – Summer 2006
Producer, Artist
Founded city-wide, $10,000+ public art display program, coordinating funding, publicity, display schedule, and message integrity with 31 artists and 3 major organizations. Organized multiple traditional and non-traditional gallery displays.

McKesson: Summer 2003 - Summer 2006
Flash Animator, Interactive Designer
Designing rapid prototypes of engaging educational Flash animations and lessons for nation-wide education of employees and customers. Working closely with educational and technical team for high-speed development of lessons and proprietary tools. Developing comprehensive training programs for education of industry professionals in major pharmacy chains.

Demiurge Studios:
Summer 2002
Enveloped and animated high-detail primary characters for PS2 demo of the Unreal engine, including visemes and facial emotions. Integrated work with other team members with eye towards character and consistency, using 3D Studio Max.

Social Robot Project: Spring 2000 - Summer 2001
Creative Designer, Animator, Writer
Developed character personality through dialogue and 3-D animation using proprietary, UNIX-based animation and scripting software. Worked with project leaders, providing creative input for overall visual and interactive feel of character.

Building Virtual Worlds: Spring 2000 – Summer 2001
Texture Mapper, Writer, Animator
Worked in small groups with programmers and modelers to develop interactive virtual reality worlds and stories, under Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. Developed settings, characters, and interactions for short stories while animating using proprietary software.

The Camarilla: Autumn 1996 – Winter 2004
Global Setting Advisor, Regional and Venue Storyteller
Developed stories, plots, and rules sets for worldwide live action role-playing game, working in conjunction with international teams of assistant storytellers. Created global history and setting for specific character types, with a focus on creating rich story potential for all players. Directed story for East Central Region of the United States, overseeing plot arcs and actions of dozens of players and storytellers across seven states in person and online.


This is a test. Hello, world! Lorem ipsum, and all that. Expect this place to go through quite a few template changes before I settle on something I like.

Google pushed me over the edge with Lively. Once I realized I was using Google Mail, Google Reader, Google News, Google Maps, Google Chat, and Google Lively, I figured I might as well make the move over to Google Blogger.

It's a wonderful Googlife!