The “New” TSR Controversy And Other Adventures

The “New” TSR Controversy And Other Adventures

There’s been a lot of hubbub in the tabletop RPG world in the last few days. Twitter is stacked full to the brim with TSR controversy, bigotry backlash and claims of gatekeeping.

With the announcement of a new TSR and some questionable words of the new owner Ernie Gygax, son of the late and great Gary Gygax (the father of Dungeons and Dragons, and the original TSR), alienating the entire LGBTQ community in one fell swoop.

But what, or who, even are TSR?

Let me take you back to a faraway time, called 1973.

The formation of TSR

Gary Gygax and Don Kaye come together to form a publishing company to publish a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons. This company would be known as Tactical Studies Rules, aka TSR, and would go on to publish several games over the years.

Business was booming, and in 1975 they would create a separate company called TSR Hobbies Inc. to market more games, including the famous Dungeons & Dragons Basic Kit as well as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and even Gen Con, one of the largest tabletop and board game conventions in the world.

Now I do want to mention that by 1983 there were now five TSR’s under one umbrella, and I can’t seem to figure out where one ends and another begins, so let’s assume they are all one massive TSR conglomorate.

Gygax leaves to Hollywood to market Dungeons and Dragons as a license and ends up doing pretty well, publishing new D&D settings like Dragonlance and Oriental Adventures (yikes).

When Gygax returned to home base upon the rumors that someone was trying to sell the company, causing some legal troubles and the majority of the company being sold to Lorraine Williams.

Over the course of the next decade or so, TSR would go on to be incredibly successful and release some of the most impactful RPGs and fantasy settings to ever hit kitchen tables.

But, as most things do, financial troubles hit again and TSR was eventually sold to Wizards of the Coast in 1997, who was then bought by Hasbro.

Fast forward to 2011, a dude named Jayson Elliot discovered that the TSR trademark had expired, and snatched it up. He wanted to launch it as a new company, with some assistance from Gygax’s sons Luke and Ernie, as well as other original contributors from the past.

Fast forward again to 2016 and TSR is in trouble with Gary Gygax’s widow Gail, who had a trademark dispute with TSR and Gary’s two sons. The company is still in operation, though they don’t publish much these days.

Now, we timeskip again to the present day: A press release comes out from TSR.games that TSR is Back – With the original logo, and even the original shop that TSR was run out of back in the day, all run by Ernie Gygax as Executive VP.

So today, in the year of our lord 2021, there are now TSRGames.com and TSR.Games.

Why does this matter? Well, it really didn’t matter all that much until Ernie sat down with the Youtube channel Live from the Bunker to talk about it all.

In this interview, Ernie would go to explain the history of TSR, the reason they formed the new company (hint: because they could), and their first project, Giantlands.

And then he said the bad stuff.


Now, I want to pause to mention that some of this stuff is probably not the worst things you’ve ever heard, but there is a very real issue with the “old guard” of the RPG world being pretty unwilling to move on with the times and be accepting of the LGBTQ community, as well as some pretty dicey racism stances. They can think of rich fantasy worlds, but two dudes kissing apparently is too much for them.

This is not, has not, and will never be what the true RPG community is like. It is a warm, wonderful, and accepting of all people in the world, regardless of your race, identity, religion, or sexual preference.

And there’s no excuse for this kind of behavior.


So, when asked about Wizards of the Coast, who are the current owners of the Dungeons & Dragons brand?

Ernie replies “They just took as all corporate raiders do the treasures and then tried to make them their own. American Indians did the same thing they would, um, wipe out another tribe many times take the women and children and murder off everything else and leave to make your tribe that much better, room to grow.”

what?

And when asked why a new TSR needed to exist, he said:

“TSR has been gone. There’s a ton of artists and game designers and people that play….. and recently they were dissed for being old-fashioned, possibly anti modern trends, and enforcing, or even having the concepts of gender identity (laughs).”

TSR Controversy

Funnily enough, shortly after all of this went out into the internet, TSR’s twitter account quickly responded to the defense of “we don’t follow Ernie’s words” and “everyone is invited to our tables”, but Twitter quickly lashed back with some fun stories about Gary and other former TSR collaborators being bigots on the internet. And TSR doing some weird tweets.

Image
Image

Fun times.


And here I sit, an avid lover of Tabletop RPGs, staring at this bizarre mess of a situation, being glad that Wizards of the Coast is at least trying to make an attempt to be more welcoming, and distancing themselves from the original generation of tabletop gamers. Although, they really aren’t doing that great either, but that’s a story for another time.

In short, you are always welcome to play any tabletop RPG you like. You are welcomed, you are loved, and you are wanted. Regardless of your race, religion, sexual preference, pronouns, you are welcome.

Just avoid the Gygax’s tables.


Information gathered from Wikipedia, This post on Enworld by user Morrus, and Twitter.

Is Google Stadia Worth It?

Is Google Stadia Worth It?

The console wars have been raging on for decades now, Between Microsoft and Sony vying for power while Nintendo plays with sticks and rocks in the background. Other competitors have come and gone, and the scene has changed as the years passed.

Meanwhile in California, Google decided they wanted to join in on the fun. Starting with a test run in 2018, they would soon launch Google Stadia the following year to lukewarm reception. Offering the ability to play games anywhere, anytime, regardless of what device you were on was a huge promise, but the folks from Google managed to do just that.

Watch on YouTube

What exactly is Google Stadia though?

Well, to address some of the misinformation online, Google Stadia is not “something” you “buy”. That would be like saying you are buying a Steam account. A little further on, we’ll talk about how you access Stadia, purchase games, and get it running with Chromecast, however.

Stadia is Google’s entry into the cloud-based gaming service industry, akin to Playstation Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming. What Stadia offers is the ability to play your games across any device that can open a Chrome browser window. And it does exactly that.

You don’t need to download anything (unless you don’t use Chrome like I do, and you need to install it), but you will need the Stadia app if you want to play on your phone. If you’ve got a Chromecast, you’ll also need the app if you want to play on your TV. Once you’ve logged in, that’s it! No downloads needed, no installation, you just buy the games you want and play them at your lesiure.

Cyberpunk 2077 on Google Stadia

You don’t even need to pay a monthly fee to use the service. You just need to buy the games you want to play. Google does offer a Pro plan, which gives users discounts on some titles as well as a selection of free-for-subscriber games that updates every month.

The Pro plan, specifically, it about all I have ever spent on this. Google even sent me a free Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra thanks to one of their promotions for being a YouTube Premium subscriber. Out of the nearly 30 games in my Stadia library, I’ve only paid for two of them.

Google seems to still be pretty open to getting new players into their ecosystem too, with recent promotions for Cyberpunk 2077 and Resident Evil Village netting you a free Chromecast Ultra and Stadia controller if you pre-purchase the game on Stadia.

So….what’s the experience?

Well, before we get into that, I want to explain something to you.

Wifi internet sucks for a lot of people in the world. It’s unreliable, it drops often, there are dead areas, and speeds can be slow. Regardless of how you experience video games, if you’re playing online you will have the best experience if you are hardwired in.** No wifi, just grab your favorite Cat5 cable and plug directly into your modem for the best experience.

Also, for reference: I’ve been playing Stadia on my Desktop PC, my Smart TV (via Chromecast), and my Samsung Note 20 Ultra, all in 1080p. Stadia does support 4k, but my wallet does not.

Playing on Stadia is quick. I can tab out of this article I’m writing in Firefox right now and open up Jedi: Fallen Order right now and be in the title screen in under a minute. It’s lightning fast, and Google improves the platform constantly.

Input lag exists, but it’s nowhere near as bad as you think. I’ve had some UI lag in the Stadia menus between games, but rarely any lag while playing. When my internet speeds suffer (and they do, because my local ISP is terrible), my games will lag and the graphics will pixelate. But in an average day I will most likely have no issues at all. The only in-game input lag I have experienced with Stadia was during my playthrough of Jedi: Fallen Order, which from what I have seen is mostly an issue with the Stadia port of the game, and not Google themselves.

Graphically, it’s identical to me playing on my PC. I’ve got Destiny 2 on Steam as well as Stadia, and playing the game is virtually identical. There are some times where Stadia may drop in quality, but it’s usually very brief and after a time you rarely notice it. When the quality drops, gameplay does not suffer and the input does not lag at all.

Anecdotally, during the rocky release of Cyberpunk 2077, tons of people were saying that the Stadia port was the best version to play it on, in terms of stability and lack of graphical bugs. I can’t attest to this, but it’s been cited on the internet by a lot of reputable sources.

Alright, what are the bad parts?

Well, we all know Google is one to kill off projects willy-nilly. Especially since these games are only in the cloud, you can’t exactly back up your purchases if Stadia shuffles off it’s mortal coil. I don’t know if Google is planning to back out of this anytime soon, but they’ve been showing some strange signs.

The biggest mystery is the sudden departures of a few big employees in the last few months. It started with Google’s launch of Outcasters, the platform exclusive top-down multiplayer shooter in December 2020. In February, Google would announce they were winding down their internal game development teams in favor of “refocusing the platform”.

Google Stadia games

With the closure of Stadia Games & Entertainment, they lost Jade Raymond (who was formerly a producer at Ubisoft an EA), and a few months later would lose their Head of Product John Justice and another six unnamed employees. As of writing this, they lost another big name with the departure of Justin Uberti, who created Google’s Duo platform and joined the Stadia team as a lead engineer.

Playing games on the platform is fine, but the UI for the platform is rough. They only added a search bar to the service within the last two months (which isn’t in the app, only the website version of Stadia), Friends lists and messaging were also late additions to the platform as well.

It’s also no secret that Stadia’s library of games is pretty weak. They’ve been getting better, bigger AAA titles are coming all the time. Larger indie releases don’t normally hit Stadia on launch day, and some big games (such as Terraria) aren’t even on the platform yet. They have big plans for 2021 and there’s a lot of big titles coming to the platform, but I’m not sure if they’re capturing an audience and converting people from console and PC.

What’s the damage to my bank account?

Stadia has me sold on it’s price point, which is honestly pretty fair in my eyes. You can get started right now, for free, before you finish this article. It’s that easy! You more than likely already have a Google account, all you need to do is hop on to Stadia and play one of their free-to-play titles such as Crayta, Destiny 2, and Super Bomberman R. If you’re playing on PC, you can use mouse & keyboard, your Xbox controller, Playstation 4/5 controller, or even your Nintendo Switch Pro controller.

If you want to play on your TV however, you’ll need a Chromecast or a Smart TV with the Stadia app, as well as the Stadia controller (that’ll run you $70 for the controller alone, not counting the Chromecast). The same goes for your phone, most third party controllers will work with Stadia. They also include touch controls, but I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to play Destiny 2 on a touch screen.

Games are average priced, around $60 for new titles with some decent sales here and there. Some older titles are cheaper as well, but nothing I haven’t seen that beats Steam in most cases.

The real bang-for-your-buck is the Pro plan. Not only do you get a truckload of free games, you get new ones every month! It also allows you to play in 4k if it tickles your fancy, and you get some exclusive sales every now and again.

Wrapping it up

Stadia has been chugging along for the last few years, and I don’t think it will go away anytime soon. I feel like it’s still in it’s early days, and in a way it still is. It feels unfinished, and there’s a lot of room to grow.

But Stadia has true potential. I love the ability to play a game on my PC, switch to my TV, and then pick it up on my phone if I want. And the ability to not need to install or update a single time to play what I want to play is oddly handy, even though I really don’t mind them as a PC player.

I’d like to see Stadia continue to grow and flourish. I don’t think it will ever challenge the big boys as the next big thing, but I think it’ll be an example for the next big thing. And for the cheap price of Pro, I don’t mind enjoying it while it lasts.

Don’t forget, you can watch our editorials on YouTube.
Check out “Is Google Stadia worth it” on our channel.

Disclaimer: I received a free Chromecast Ultra and Stadia controller in Spring 2020 through one of their promotions for being a Youtube Premium subscriber. Google isn’t lining my pockets for this, but I did want to make it clear that freebies were involved.

Streamer Hub June Update!

Streamer Hub June Update!

Howdy Streamers!
We’ve got some exciting news for the month of June!

Starting off with what you guys really wanna know, here’s our (current) June lineup of games! Two of these games also include multiplayer support, which I know some of you guys have been asking for.

  • Sunblaze drops June 3rd and is already available for preorder on the Hub! Sunblaze is an upcoming precision platformer with pixel art graphics and more than 300 levels. The game is inspired by Celeste but with a heavier emphasis on puzzling, and with different mechanics. You can catch them on the Chasing XP Podcast later this month too!
  • Eximius: Seize the Frontline combines tactical First Person Shooter gameplay with high level strategic decision-making of a Real-time Strategy game. The game features a competitive 5v5 team battles where players square off in a post apocalyptic urban environment. You can also catch my interview with them on the podcast this Friday.
  • Duru is a 2D Puzzle Platformer set in a West African mole rat colony. While solving puzzles with a somewhat unreliable companion, players follow the story of Tuli, a story about the struggles of insecurities, darkness, and friendship.
  • Pyramid Plunge is a game inspired from the classic spelunking platformers, adding a lot of humor for all ages bringing back the handcrafted pixel-art platforming of the 90s. You’ll explore creature-infested, ever-changing pyramids.

We’ve always got new games coming, so be sure to keep an eye out! For other updates, let’s take a look:

  • We’ve split the feedback channels into their own category, just for ease-of-use as our library grows.
  • Keep an eye out on our Twitter @ChasingXP1 for some exclusive giveaways we’ve got planned!

That’s it for me folks, thanks for sticking with us and making a great community!

Blue Fire: A Dim Flame in a Dark World

Blue Fire: A Dim Flame in a Dark World

The golden age of 3D platformers has long since passed on, with only a few straggling titles aiming to fill the void of the classing collect-a-thon exploration games. While Blue Fire is decidedly NOT one of those games, it definitely reminds me of them, if only a little bit.

Blue Fire is Robi Studio’s first game, where you play as a mysterious warrior in the land of Penumbra. You are destined to do….something and then it’s off to the races as you’re dumped into the large open rooms of the game to hop, skip, and jump your way around this world.

Where’s The Story?

One of the first things that stuck out to me is the lack of storytelling. Coming hot of the heels of my first playthrough of Hollow Knight, the world of Penumbra feels empty and bland. The world itself is beautiful and some regions feel huge and imposing, but there is a distinct lack of ambiance in the world.

There’s also very little direction provided, whether it’s narratively or gameplay wise. The story isn’t very well explained, aside from your usual “chosen warrior that finally woke up” trope, which I wouldn’t mind if the game gave me any context clues beyond that. There’s even an NPC that doesn’t know who you are but “knows you are the one he’s been waiting for” and gives no further explanation.

The areas lack detail and character, as there’s no theming to tell them apart. The first area has some bookshelves and statues, but there’s little explanation as to what the area is or used to be. Was this a library? Why are there statues of guys doing emotes (and why do they matter)? Why does only this one room have furniture? That room has a map and a statue, but you’re telling me the map is unreadable. What’s the point?

Run, Jump, Explore

Hollow Knight’s distinct areas make you feel as if you’re in a new area. The lighting and music shift, the enemies may change, and the terrain changes as you progress. Life scuttles around in front of the camera and deep behind you, birds fly away as you approach, giving you a sense that you’re only in a small part of a large world.

Level design is something I felt was very wishy-washy. In the Void areas (which are optional challenging platforming sections that reward you with extra health upon completion), platforming was tight and required some skill to navigate. I loved these sections, and they were pretty frequent. Even the first “dungeon”, where you unlock the ability to run and jump off of walls, was pretty dynamic and interesting, although there wasn’t any sort of puzzles to make it challenging.

The Overworld

The overworld, however, was fairly bland and linear. Either the area was linear with little to nothing to explore, or the smaller side areas offered almost nothing beyond items that the game doesn’t tell you what to do with (I later found out you’re supposed to sell them in the main city, but I never even saw an NPC to sell from).

Some areas just had questionable design choices, which made me confused and a little frustrated to deal with.

For example, to enter the first dungeon of the game, you have to climb a series of ladders to flip a switch and unlock the door. Sure. No problem. Flip the switch, drop down, jump from the platform to the dungeon entrance and voila: you’re in.

BUT

If you want to jump from the entrance back to that platform, you can’t. It’s barely out of reach with your dash, so you have to instead jump and dash to a much lower platform, climb some ladders, and then jump back to that platform. Maybe I’m just not properly timing my jump, but I felt that it was impossible.

Entering the first city in the game, the terrain definitely changed but the area felt just as empty as the previous ones. A distinct lack of ambient life made the areas feel dull and forgettable. Even if there was something as simple as rats scuttling around in this broken world would make all the difference.

It’s a true shame that the level design wasn’t consistent, because the platforming felt very tight and well done. You can tell that Robi Studios spent a lot of time working on making platforming feel right, but the game just doesn’t get to stay consistent with it.

Slashing and Hacking Away

Blue Fire is not only a platforming game, but is also an action game. You get to hack, slash, and even cast spells as you challenge the strange looking creatures of Penumbra. Attacking and blocking (or parrying) feels great, and the animations are smooth.

But enemies attack in predictable, stiff patterns that I never had a struggle with. Enemies with swords have slow, simple attacks that are easy to dodge out of the way, and you attack so much faster than they do that combat doesn’t often last very long. Paired with a distinct lack of enemies in the world, combat is almost a non-issue. One monster every few platforms doesn’t make me feel challenged in the slightest.

There are even some rooms where you’re locked in, Legend of Zelda style, to defeat some enemies and unlock a chest. But the game just spawns two enemies, and that’s it. Too easy to dodge and there’s very little on the line.

A Dying Flame

Blue Fire has a distinct visual appeal that is what originally hooked me. Paired with the vibes of a Hollow Knight-like Metroidvania in a 3D Legend of Zelda type world, I was sold from the start. But the game feels like it was split too far down the middle and missed the best parts of both of those games: Exploration, Storytelling, and combat. If Blue Fire had stuck to a more traditional 3D platformer and focused on a larger platforming game, that would have been killer. Or, if it had gotten deeper into the Metroidvania roots and added some more challenging combat, maybe I would have been more satisfied.

I don’t really want to recommend Blue Fire unless you’re really captured by the visuals and want a similar vein to Hollow Knight before Silksong releases. For me, I’ll probably wait. But I will 100% keep an eye out for whatever comes next from Robi Studios, because they’re definitely a studio to keep an eye on.

Streamer Hub June Update!

In Pre-Launch: The Developer Marketing Hub

We are so excited to announce two brand new services from us here at Chasing XP. We’ve been working at these for a few weeks now and we are finally ready to share it with you!

We are currently in pre-launch and we are accepting registrations right now!

The Developer Marketing Hub

One of the biggest things we’ve learned from the numerous devs we’ve spoken to is that marketing is biggest hurdle for an indie developer.

Whether it is properly demonstrating your product, finding the audience for it, or just getting it out there and growing interest in your game. All of these aspects and more can be difficult challenges for small indie teams or solo developers who can barely find the time to tweet and promote their game, let alone get it in the hands of reviewers and Twitch streamers, or running ads.

We want to work with developers to help make their projects shine – whether it’s getting fresh, unfiltered feedback from streamers, expressing their passion through our podcast, or raising their profile alongside fellow developers on our Roundtable series.

Tailor-made Marketing Packages

We’re offering tailor-made packages for each and every developer that we work with, to find out what works best for them.

Publishers can also take advantage of our service, and streamline their marketing endeavours. By tapping into our resources, publishers can reach a large number of streamers in record time, and enhance their client’s public profile in record time.

Right now, the Developer Marketing Hub is FREE for all developers and publishers!

The Chasing XP Streamer Hub!

One of the best ways for developers to get eyes on their game is through Twitch and other streaming services. Whether they provide unfiltered critique, discovering bugs, or showing how great a game is, streamers offer fantastic insight.

If you’re a streamer you don’t want to buy every single game that catches your eye. Nor do you want to go chasing license keys from hundreds of developers. You want to focus on maintaining viewership, engaging with your audience, and keeping content from getting stale.

Collaborate & Grow

With that in mind, we’re offering streamers the chance to team up with developers to play the latest indie titles for free, as well as exposing your stream to new audiences.

Streamers that sign up can request license keys for brand new indie titles, promote and grow their audience by partnering with developers, as well as staying ahead of the game with new and unique games to play.

And it doesn’t matter how big your stream is! Whether you have 5 average views or 500 average views, you can still take part.


We are absolutely thrilled to offer these new services, and we can only wait to see what you guys come up with.

Oh, wait… one more thing!

The Developer Hub Discord

Wanna join the conversation? You can join our Discord and stay up to date with us, as well as be the first to know about news and events with Chasing XP.