Video Games have been in the hands of the general public for over 40 years, stretching back to the ’70s before I was a twinkle in my dad’s eye. Today, a constant avalanche of new games comes out every day, offering fresh takes on the tried and true genres we’ve all come to know and love (or hate).
Naturally, whenever you start a new game, almost all of them have this nifty little tutorial to show you how to play their labor of love they’ve been crunching on for the past three years.
The Origin Of Game Tutorials
It’s no surprise that video games need some form of teaching method. Back in the olden days, most games came with obtuse cryptic manuals that required a degree in linguistics to decipher and play your 8-bit game of blobs shooting blobs at other, different colored blobs.
Back in the pioneering days of games, there weren’t any formulas that developers could emulate. It truly was the wild west, with games of all types existing and confusing and scaring people away from games for years to come.
It was up to developers to figure out the best way to teach you to play their game. Standardized controls like today’s consoles didn’t exist back then. The A button didn’t always mean ‘Yes.’ Sometimes, you didn’t even have an A button, and you had this eldritch horror of a controller to learn.
It wasn’t until probably the Super Nintendo Era when console manufacturers had a consistent control scheme that game companies would use for almost all of their games. A is Yes, B is no, and so forth. As gaming grew up and genres became more fleshed out, games within similar genres would share the same mechanics.
We all know that in 99% of 2D platformers, you press A to jump.
In most shooters, the trigger button shoots, and the A button sprints.
There’s probably an attack button and a dodge/jump button in your typical action game.
So why, in 2021, do I need a lengthy tutorial to teach me the basic controller scheme of games that have shared the same controller layout for 30 years? I know how to jump. I know how to shoot. I can beat the original Mario in 20 minutes, okay mom?
I GOT THIS.
Many games nowadays have these boring, lengthy tutorials that drag on, ON, and ON. I don’t want to spend my first half-hour of the game learning just the damn controls and mechanics.
And you know, I get it. I get it. You want to show off your unique mechanics or concepts, or tell me how important this NPC that’s gonna hold my hand for the rest of the game is.
But I don’t want that. I don’t want your obnoxious menus and dialogue options to tell me that A is Jump, X is Attack, and Right Trigger is dodge. Just give me signs, or show me the damn controller layout.
Or how about the lengthy cutscenes and dialogue and worldbuilding that KEEP STOPPING YOU FROM PLAYING.
What Makes a Good Game Tutorial?
I was recently introducing a friend to Overcooked 2. As someone who speaks English as a third language and who is not into games all that much, she picked it up quickly. Why? Because the developers just gave us some simple diagrams to teach us the basics.
You already know the joystick will let you move around. Everyone knows that. The sign tells you the X button chops, and the A button picks things up and puts things down. Throw dishes into the serving area, and there you go.
As the game climbs in difficulty (and trust me, it does), new additions are included in brief signs before the level starts. There are no tutorials, no lengthy dialogue options, and no annoying characters telling me basic controls through a level that stops every two minutes to tell me about a new button.
Arin Hanson has a great explanation of how the Mega Man games teach you about the unique features of the level you’re in by visually explaining it. You see an obstacle, and the game shows you the obstacle in a safe environment, then it puts you in a harmless version of that obstacle to get familiar with before you get deeper into the level. It’s great, it’s wonderful, it’s a decade old. Arin, I miss you, please answer my calls.
Another excellent tutorial is Valhiem, and it was refreshing to explore that world without spending ten minutes learning the keyboard.
You’re a Viking, you get dropped into purgatory by a big ol’ raven, and you gotta chop n slap things.
As you find cool stuff, another big ol’ raven comes at you, and you’re given the option to talk to him and learn the new information presented to you.
And it’s not a big lengthy scene, and the game doesn’t pause and focus on this dumb bird to waste your time while it talks.
You run up to it, punch the E key, it gives you a text bubble, and that’s it.
It gives you incentive to explore because as you do, you know you’re doing something right because the bird showed up and told you that you’re doing great, and it gives you a gold star and everything.
Bad Tutorials, Explained
There are probably ten times that many boring or terrible tutorials for every good tutorial out there in the world.
Let’s talk about some truly awful ones.
When I was a kid, I LOVED Kingdom Hearts. But I went back to re-play them a couple of years ago. It was almost pulling teeth trying to get through Destiny Islands, but having to do grind and do jobs on top of a new cutscene every five minutes to introduce new characters that you won’t see until near the end of the game is BULLSHIT. It’s why I refuse to replay Kingdom Hearts 2.
Pokemon suffers from a similar problem. The gameplay hasn’t changed much since Red / Blue / Yellow, yet each new game still makes me go through a 15-minute tutorial: Throwing a Pokeball and learning how types work. Sword and Shield only compounded that issue with an annoying rival character to explain new mechanics.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum…
Have you ever tried to play Dark Souls before? How would you like to be dropped into a world with almost no explanation of the game’s basic mechanics?
You have to learn by smashing buttons to figure out how to block, parry, attack, how stamina works, all of that jazz, reading bloodstains to figure it out. And you wanna explore? Good luck, the Asylum Demon shows you really quickly that this game is probably NOT for you.
How are you expected to know to go around him to a door on his left and run around until you can find some actual weapons and then yeet yourself off a cliff to deal a chunk of damage and start the fight properly?
Let’s not talk about the myriad of items you’ll pick up throughout the game that has wildly different uses, and the game barely attempts to tell you what they’re for.
Oh, and of course, there’s Crusader Kings 2. With its infinite layers of menus upon menus and their tutorial explaining complex mechanics that require a degree in medieval European law just to decipher how you can set up your kingdom to make sure your offspring take your land when you die.
They offer a tutorial to walk you through some of the more common parts of the game, but with a game as complex as most Paradox titles, they need to step it up to teach new players how to play.
How Can You Make Good Game Tutorials?
It’s up to modern developers to change how tutorials are made as we advance. I spoke to a few developers on Twitter about how they struggle to create tutorials and their intentions.
One of the biggest problems I saw was trying to match the competency of your players. You’ll never honestly know how experienced your player is when you’re making a game — You can adapt and adjust as they play.
Maybe this means easily-skippable tutorials. If a player has figured out how something works, just let them breeze through it. Heck, make tutorials optional and give them references in the pause menu if they need to. Or introduce them to the mechanics as they play. Illustrate how something works by feeding them small portions of it without the need for dialogue or menus.
Closing The Book
Tutorials probably aren’t going anywhere for a while. Designers can rethink how they can best implement it into the game without making it obtuse whether you choose to integrate them into the gameplay itself, giving the player reference documents or otherwise.
How do you feel about game tutorials? Do you have any shining examples of how they should be done? Let us know on Twitter.
Gaming should be easy, like in the old days when you put the game in and just play. These days, there are so many streaming services for movies and TV, and the gaming world has fallen into the same realm.
You’ve probably heard of Game Pass, Microsoft’s gaming subscription service, but how does it hold up with so many other services out there?
What Does Game Pass Offer?
Game Pass is for PC and Xbox consoles, starting at $9.99/mo, and you get a lot for that price. You get access to over 100 high-quality games on PC or console, and new games are added all the time, with Xbox Game Studios titles the same day as release. There are also some discounts and deals for subscribers too, though not as noteworthy.
The last deal they offer is Game Pass Ultimate. For $14.99, it provides everything from before but offers it on PC, console, and mobile. They also give Cloud gaming, free perks like in-game content and partner offers, and Xbox Gold for a month if that isn’t enough.
Being on PC and having Xbox titles at your disposal makes it an enticing offer. Playing exciting upcoming AAA titles like Starfield, Elder Scrolls 6, Stalker 2, Gears 6, and Fable at the time of release is great. You don’t need to purchase the games, and you’ll probably get exclusive DLC for certain games for having Game Pass.
Now for an Xbox fan, this is a no-brainer. An automatic wallet throw at Microsoft or others raises the question, “Should I get this? There are other services out there, and maybe they fit what I want?”
What Are Some Similar Services?
Playstation Plus, Google Stadia Pro, EA Play, Ubisoft Plus, and Amazon Luna are competing against Microsoft in this new area of gaming. Maybe you didn’t want to participate in the console wars and got a PC, but now you’ve entered the Streaming Wars.
PlayStation Plus Essential provides two monthly downloadable games, exclusive discounts, cloud storage for saved games, and online multiplayer access for $9.99/mo.
The next tier is Playstation Plus Extra, which provides all the benefits from the Essential tier and adds a catalog of around 400 PS4 and PS5 games from Sony and third-party partners, which you can download and keep for as long as you have the subscription, and this tier is only $14.99/mo.
The final tier, Playstation Plus Premium, adds up to 340 other games, including games from PS1 to PS3 via cloud streaming. Plus Deluxe is offered for people who can’t stream games but has the same benefits as premium but at a lower price. The major downside is that first-party titles aren’t available when they launch and will be added later. Sony said in an interview that the reason they did this was to keep the standard of the quality of first-party games high, but we’ll see if that stays true.
Google Stadia Pro
The subscription service for Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service for $9.99/mo. This includes playing on anything that allows you to cast to it, any Android device, or anything that can open a Chrome window. With the Pro subscription, you get access to a library of games that gets updated monthly, which is usually a mix of recent AAA titles and some indies. You also get discounts for purchasing games on the platform, although not all deals are great. Stadia is also a little slow to get newer AAA titles, and some more prominent companies still haven’t supported a Stadia release.
If you want to learn more about Stadia, check out our feature article here.
EA play has two tiers, a $4.99/mo plan, which offers 10 hours of early access to new games, unlimited access to their selection of EA titles, and saving 10% off EA digital content. Their EA Play Pro, which costs $14.99/offers early access to “deluxe versions” of new games but not much else compared to the basic plan.
Ubisoft plus PC access, which is $14.99, and multi-access, which is $17.99, are relatively the same. Both have new releases at launch, DLC and Season Passes for games, and over 100 games on pc. Multi-access has Cloud Gaming which is that extra $3, allowing you to connect your account to Amazon Luna and Stadia if you already have them. This is an excellent deal for those who are major fans of Ubisoft, but most of these games will show up on other services at later dates.
Is Gamepass Worth It?
All the streaming services have their own exclusive libraries, though several eventually overlap (minus platform exclusives). With Ubisoft games eventually coming out to other services and EA Play being included in Game Pass, the question is, “If I’m going to save money and play the most games, what service would I get?”
The two leading contenders would be Game Pass and Playstation Plus. At the time of writing, the new Playstation Plus service hasn’t come out yet, and we don’t know whether or not it will be as much of a contender until then.
In my opinion, with the quality and longevity of games on Game Pass lacking at the moment, it’s hard to tell how Playstation will perform when their new system does come out. Microsoft already has a huge advantage with their recent acquisitions of Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, so Sony will really need to knock it out of the park.
As someone who uses Steam and plays MMOs, having a subscription service that you can pay for and play any games at any time is a benefit. With Playstation not including first-party titles when they launch, those who want it for the first-party titles will affect it.
If Sony makes us pay for first-party titles or the delay in adding new first-party titles is too long, it won’t hold up for long. These are the choices for the best bang for your buck without paying for anything additional. At this moment, Game Pass is, by far, a way better deal and service more worth it. Having access to certain games that most players for those games are already on PC, and with Playstation Plus not out yet, and have yet to encounter their own set of trials to change how their service is used. If you have to choose one, it’s clear that it should be Game Pass.
How do you feel about this new shift in gaming services? Is there a platform we missed? Let us know in the comments, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date!
I read an interesting article about the original playtest version of one of Magic’s most iconic cards from the original Alpha set.
It’s hard to imagine that this card would eventually become one of the Power Nine and arguably one of the most powerful effects you can take. Yep, this card would eventually become Time Walk, the first extra turn spell in Magic’s history.
I recently wrote a piece about Magic’s recent design problems and how they’ve been affecting the game over the last few years. While I don’t mention it specifically in that article, one of the more problematic cards in the current Standard rotation (aka the most recent few sets released) just so happens to also be an extra turn spell.
While the card isn’t nearly as powerful as its ancestor, it’s clearly not the first time Magic has printed a problematic extra turn spell.
What Makes an Extra Turn so Good?
Like in any turn-based game, players usually have the most fun on their own turn. Their turn is the time when they shine and get to do all the cool flashy stuff. When you introduce extra turn effects to a game, you’re stealing that time to shine away from other players.
Not a lot of turn-based games have extra turn effects. Monopoly allows it to a certain degree when a player rolls doubles too many times in a row. Games like Final Fantasy have spells that will enable player turns to come up more often, but usually not sequentially.
Taking extra turns in Magic not only takes away that fun from another player, but it also grants a more significant advantage to the player taking the extra turn. They get another card to draw, they get another chance to cast spells, and so on.
The Issue With Alrund’s Epiphany
Why is this card so good? It costs a lot of mana, and it exiles itself, so you can’t cast it repeatedly. What’s the big deal, then?
Well, the reason is there aren’t a lot of cards that can deal with it. The current pool of cards in Standard doesn’t provide adequate solutions to deal with Alrund’s Epiphany before it’s too late.
The color pie for Magic determines what each color can and can’t do. This is a fantastic design principle behind Magic’s process, and it’s been a guiding piece for most of the game’s life.
White-based decks can be aggressive and potentially kill an opponent before they can cast more than one, but this isn’t guaranteed.
Blue-based decks can run countermagic to stop big spells like this.
Black-based decks can’t always make the opponent discard the card because the Foretell keyword allows them to cast it from a special zone.
Red-based decks have no way to get around it besides “being faster,” just like White.
Green-based decks have nothing to do except hope they can “be faster,” like Red and White.
Now, this isn’t always the case every time. However, with the current pool of cards available to players, this is the current predicament. Most colors have no way to interact with big, flashy, game-ending spells.
Instead, players were casting several copies of Alrund’s Epiphany in sequential turns, paired with heavy-hitting creatures or even an animated manland. This means that a game that could have been one or two turns away from victory is suddenly gone, as your opponent takes three turns in a row with a 7/7 and some number of bird tokens.
Extra Turn Spells Have Been Constant Problems.
This isn’t the first time Wizards of the Coast has ended up with some problematic extra turn spells, not even within the last few years.
A few years ago, another extra turn spell hit Standard: Nexus of Fate. Not only could this spell be cast at any time, but it would also go back into your deck as it resolved so that you could cast it again. There was also plenty of cards that would allow players to reach that magic number of mana to cast Nexus of Fate quickly, with the biggest offenders being Wilderness Reclamation and Wild Growth.
What could go wrong?
For starters, it got banned in early 2019 for Magic’s Best-of-One format because of the inability to interact with the card. In November of the same year, it would get immediately banned in the newest digital-only format for Magic, also known as Historic.
Not a month would go by before Nexus of fate would get banned again in one of Magic’s other new formats, Pioneer. It was also re-banned when the Historic format added a Best-of-Three mode.
In more recent times, the release of Strixhaven and its “Mystical Archive” would add a bunch of new and reprinted cards to both Standard and Historic. One of those cards that would only be Historic legal is Time Warp, a reprinted extra turn effect.
A deck would soon arise that would allow players to cast Time Warp over and over and over again, with cards that could allow you to cast it for free from your library or graveyard. It became such a problem in Historic that five of the top eight decks in the Strixhaven Championship would be focused around this interaction. Every deck in the top four semifinals would be the same deck as well.
It was soon banned in Historic less than a week after the tournament took place.
Big Flashy Game Enders
Magic is a game where most of the ways to end a game are through permanents (aka things that stick on the board for multiple turns, like creatures and enchantments), or at least it has been for the last 30ish years.
One of the designers of Magic, Sam Stoddard, wrote a piece on how they intentionally add these “finishers” to sets to help with balance issues and give players different options. He even mentions how Planeswalkers have pushed out creature-based finishers in recent years just due to how impactful they are.
He highlights the next set’s new Blue finisher, a powerful creature that’s hard to remove directly and offers a lot of power if it stays on the field. He even suggests several currently playable cards that would be able to deal with said finisher.
But in the last few sets, players haven’t been given any tools to interact with this. Discard effects don’t work; there are no targeted card hate pieces like Surgical Extraction to remove them from an opponent’s deck. The only card that comes to mind is Curse of Silence, which really doesn’t stop the spell from being cast. It just makes it cost more.
The Vast Power Difference Between Extra Turn Cards
I do want to say that I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade and ban all extra turn effects. On the contrary, I find some of them to be pretty balanced when in the right shell.
However, there’s a pretty significant disparity in how balanced some of these extra turn spells are, with most of them being either unplayable or completely broken. It comes down to how many times you can cast them that becomes the real issue. Taking one extra turn is nowhere near as backbreaking as three additional turns.
Time Warp is a pretty “fair” extra turn card. It has a decent mana value, its sorcery speed, and doesn’t do anything extra. It’s so vanilla they remade it with a horse, and then printed it with a different name. This will be our baseline for any other extra turn spell.
The newest extra turn effect is Alchemist’s Gambit, which comes with a clause that we often see in the cheaper “unplayable” cards. The reason these cards are “unplayable” is that you can’t chain them repeatedly. You lose the game at the end of that next turn. There are five of these kinds of effects, all in Red’s color pie.
Expropriate, aside from being a mouthful of a card, is “fair.” I put fair in quotes because, well, it’s still usually a game-ending spell. It costs a lot, and regardless of how the votes are done, you’re most likely getting at least one extra turn or several in a multiplayer game.
Part the Waterveil saw some fringe competitive play in its day, and it’s probably the most interesting of the “fair” extra turn spells. Sure, if you pay extra, it can give you a big beater, but otherwise, it can’t be looped over and over because of its exile clause.
If you look at all the extra turn effects ever printed in Magic’s history, you’ll see the list is not very long. And out of that list, only a handful of those cards were ever problematic. Usually, they’re paired with significant downsides that make them pretty difficult to add to a competitive deck.
It’s no secret that Wizards has had some balance issues in the last few years. And it’s never going to be a perfectly balanced game. There’s no way to catch every edge case in every format, especially with the volume of new cards released every year. However, it’s become clear that extra turns in most games aren’t a fun mechanic. Especially so when it comes to competitive games.
It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? If you haven’t noticed, things got real quiet around here over the last few months.
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and dealing with the current state of the world. However, that time is over.
CHASING XP IS BACK, AND BETTER THAN EVER!
Yes, we know the site is currently down (we’re working on a redesign), but fear not! We will be back to full speed in time, but here’s some teasing:
New articles, and more often! Editorials, reviews, the whole nine yards. If you’re interested in writing for us, let us know!
Community Events! No more sitting around a dead Discord, we’ll have this place alive and thriving with events for streamers and gamers alike.
A Podcast reboot! This one’s a secret, but just know that it’s in the works.
Yet, along with this great news does come some bad news. We will be putting an end to the short-lived Streamer Hub program, for now. We need to scale back and re-think what we want to do with this program, so stay tuned. That’s it for now, so keep on gaming and let us know what you want to see from us next! Don’t forget to check us out on Discord too, and stay up to date with everything.
Somewhere under a lost and lonely hill of grim and foreboding aspect lies a labyrinthine crypt. It is filled with terrible traps and not a few strange and ferocious monsters to slay the unwary. It is filled with rich treasures both precious and magical, but in addition to the aforementioned guardians, there is said to be a demi-lich who still wards his final haunt.
These are some of the first words used to describe the setting of The Tomb of Horrors. One of the most iconic adventures to ever grace kitchen tables and strike fear into the hearts of unprepared adventurers.
Dungeons and Dragons is a game that has become one of the core pieces of the gaming world. Whether or not you’ve played the game before, it’s hard not to see its impact on games since its release in 1974. The game remains popular, with game designers bringing the experiences they had to shape the games we play today.
Start The Dungeon Crawling
Dungeons & Dragons is a Tabletop Role-Playing Game for those who don’t know. You, the player, would enter a high fantasy world filled with swords, sorcery, and treasure. Unlike video games, where the goal is laid out before you, you are at the whims of your Dungeon Master. This is another player who drives the world around you.
Through them, you grow your character and delve into dark dungeons, complex political situations, and even dealing with the gods themselves. If you’ve never heard of it before, you ought to check it out.
No, really. Go pick up a starter kit and some friends and play. It’s a blast.
One of the most popular ways to enjoy Dungeons & Dragons is through pre-made adventures. These are published resources for Dungeon Masters to run their players through without heavy lifting. These became popular immediately, with some of the most famous D&D settings today stemming from these “modules” (as they were called back then).
One of the game’s original creators, Gary Gygax, had been running a campaign for his friends. He felt they had become “experts” and wanted to not only give his players a challenge but to make them face what all living beings fear most: death.
Enter: The Tomb of Horrors.
Initially created for the very first Origins convention in 1975, Gary wanted to bring a challenge for players interested in tournament play for Dungeons and Dragons.
Sidenote: Is tournament play a thing? I’ve played for over a decade, and I’ve never heard of a D&D tournament in my life. Reach out to me on Twitter and tell me about your D&D Tournament stories.
Lawrence Schick would describe the Tomb of Horrors as “The dungeon of the demi-lich Acererak was, for Gary, a kind of thought experiment: If an undead sorcerer really wanted to keep his tomb from being plundered by greedy adventurers, how would he do it? The answer, of course, was to defend the crypt with tricks and traps designed not to challenge the intruders but to kill them dead. And furthermore, to do it in ways so horrific that all but the most determined party would give up and leave well enough alone.”
And that’s precisely what happened to players as they adventured deep into the tomb of the undead wizard named Acererak. The module has a mind-boggling 33 encounters in total, starting with players having to search for the tomb itself by poking around the dirt with spears or poles until they can find a tunnel to get inside. And yes, it specifies that they have to use spears or poles. They summon a demon if the players try to be cheeky and become astral or ethereal. So they can’t even phase through the tomb without causing trouble.
Once the players get in, they’re greeted by not one but two false entrances before finally entering the Tomb itself. Once they finally make their way inside, they are greeted by a riddle puzzle before moving forward.
Oh, and did I mention that this dungeon is filled with pit traps? Not just your regular run-of-the-mill pit traps either, ones that once again force players to poke and prod around with poles and spears, lest they fall into the pit. Plus, these pits have poisonous spikes at the bottom that kill you if you fail to evade the poison. Immediately.
Suppose they make it past the subsequent few encounters, including the famous “Face of the Great Green Devil. This is just a face in the wall that destroys you immediately if you jump in.
They’re presented with a room that has a false floor. If the floor opens, anyone inside is dropped into a 100ft pit that cannot be reopened unless someone else triggers the trapdoor. Meaning a party can quickly die right then and there in this room.
Naturally, once they’ve dodged the first ten encounters of the dungeon unscathed, they’re presented with something neat: a Magical Archway.
What does this do, you ask?
Any living matter that steps in gets sent back to the dungeon entrance. But non-living matter? That gets sent far, far away into the depths of the dungeon. It gets sent to the final room where Acererak is waiting.
Yup, if a player makes the mistake of stepping through the portal, they lose all their items.
Misery In The Depths
If you haven’t figured it out by now, this place is pretty miserable. I won’t explain it room by room, but here are some other fun ways players can end up getting a candlelight vigil:
A false crypt that has an illusion of the tomb collapsing. If the players leave the dungeon, the Dungeon Master is instructed to ask them if the dungeon was too hard.
A room named “Huge Pit with 200 Spikes.”
A door that leads to a fake wall that’s actually a secret door. It leads to a room full of sleep gas that has a chance to awaken a Stone Juggernaut that will immediately crush the players to paste.
Another Devil Face that will send players back to the start, naked and without any items.
A different Devil Face that instead teleports them to a room full of the skeletons of people who had tried – and failed – to escape. Even if the players manage to open the hidden door in this area to free whoever is inside, the swords of the dead adventurers will attack the players.
A door with a keyhole that shocks you if you put the wrong keys into it. If you put the wrong item into its slot, it can teleport you like the devil faces, or if you attack the door, it starts to bleed and can flood the room. Oh, and if you light the blood on fire, it turns to fatal poison gas.
A false treasure room that, if the players loot the money and items, will all disappear once they travel far enough away from the Tomb.
Once they finally traverse the 32 encounters within the Tomb of Horrors, they are in the crypt of the demi-lich himself. And naturally, once they use the keys to unlock the door, there’s a chance anyone at the back of the room gets smushed as the floor shoots upwards to reveal the crypt of Acererak himself.
Or what’s left of him anyway. Since he’s actually a demi-lich, aka a floating skull with jewels for eyes and diamond teeth. He can suck the souls out of players, killing them instantly and always starting with the strongest one. Even hitting the demi-lich is difficult, as you must know certain spells or have specific items even to harm him. And once you crush the skull, any souls trapped inside pose a risk of being gone forever.
And….that’s it. There aren’t any happy endings or heroes coming back to the village as kings. The module ends there, thanking the players for playing.
Overall, it’s a pretty crappy experience, right?
The Impact On D&D
So why does the Tomb of Horrors matter enough to stick around? It wasn’t a random one-off from that convention. It was fully published by TSR (the company that made D&D back then). Since then, it’s received updated versions for every edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It has some people out there who enjoy this hellscape dungeon of a module.
Many players consider this module to be a classic, something iconic and different from other adventures. In a world where most adventures are puzzle-light, combat-heavy scenarios where players get to have meaty action and combat sequences, Tomb of Horrors puts the entire game into a different perspective.
Acererak’s tomb does have a few monsters, but there’s only a handful of them, and they’re all singular enemies, no large groups. Instead, players are forced to use their brains to solve these complex, punishing puzzles that risk instant death if they provide the wrong solution, which is very uncommon for most D&D adventures. It also encourages players to stop and talk about what is going on and better plan their next move because they might not live past the next room.
Puzzles are an essential part of Dungeons and Dragons, as they not only break up the monotony of combat and dialogue but also serve to add atmosphere to the world. If your party is exploring a dark cave searching for a bear, but instead, you come across magical traps, your perception of the rest of the cave is altered. And the Tomb of Horrors is no different.
Sure, you might be told that there’s some great evil inside this tomb, but what adventurer hasn’t heard that before? But when you get there, and you start to see how dangerous this place is, the idea that there might actually be a great big evil that your heroic character can’t defeat begins to set in. Death in D&D is permanent. There are no extra lives or respawn points like in Dark Souls. You can’t learn from these deaths and move on, you have to avoid them, or you will fail.
How Does It Affect the Table?
The genuine threat of death is what I think makes this adventure truly unique. Playing the role of a Dungeon Master is a unique challenge of trying to keep your players motivated and engaged and make them feel challenged by the tasks they need to perform. Player death is always a possibility, but in my experience, it is usually challenging to get there.
Whether you, as a DM, soften up when players are close to dying or a timely roll keeps them alive long enough to rest, a fatality in your party is usually rare but very impactful.
Because the Tomb of Annihilation is designed to kill players – and really KILL them, not just inconvenience them with minor poison and little wounds that add up over time – Players are forced to see the world with a different lens where death is imminent. They need to overcome it to advance or leave.
This plays significantly into the design of Dungeons and Dragons. The game we know now is a much different beast than it was back then, a game of hacking and slashing and combat. Most adventures and groups are focused around combat – because that’s pretty much all the game was. The tools for players to explore the world and interact with it weren’t there yet. Roleplay was light, and there weren’t skills like “athletics” or “acrobatics” or “persuasion.” It was stat checks or nothing.
As D&D has evolved, We’ve seen a shift into a game that Better incorporates the ability to tackle different types of situations. Where previously, Players were forced to have a flat roll to escape a trap or dodge an obstacle, modern editions have broken the game down into Subskills alongside Specific Stats. One character might be more dextrous than another, giving them an advantage.
In the original D&D, you could only choose from one of three classes: Fighting men hit stuff, magic-users could use magic, and clerics could do a little of both. We wouldn’t see a drastic change in diversity until Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ second edition in 1989, fifteen years later.
Because players were so accustomed to combat-centric games with the occasional puzzle, it made the Tomb of Horrors much more challenging. It forced players to communicate and figure out a real solution to these puzzles because one wrong move could end your character – forever.
How Does It Impact Modern Games?
We’ve seen this sort of game design slowly shift into modern games, mostly with games like Dark Souls. Games where death may not be permanent, but the risk of dying could be devastating. Soulsborne games have mastered the art of learning from your deaths, figuring out how to overcome it, and becoming better at the game overall.
At the beginning of the original Dark Souls, you are immediately faced with a massive Asylum Demon that blocks your path. You’re given nothing- simply a broken sword and vague instructions. Players who attempt to fight the demon usually fail hard.
But those who explore and learn will eventually realize there’s an unlocked door to the left of the Demon, where you can escape and find a checkpoint. You’ll collect some basic gear and come face-to-face with the Demon again, but you are equipped and ready to face the challenge this time.
I, for one, am terrible at Soulsborne games. I don’t have the patience to learn. I want to hack and slash my way around. I’ve only beaten Dark Souls 3 to date, despite owning all three AND Sekiro. I’m horrible.
However, permanent death isn’t something that’s explored in modern games. Sure, some games may have higher difficulty tiers, including permadeath, but they aren’t baked into the games themselves.
Modern Roguelikes come close, using death as a tool similar to Soulsborne games to help you advance. Unless you’re incredibly skilled at a particular game, you’re seldom going to complete the entire game in a single run. Instead, you’ll progress as far as you can, die, and then use the resources and knowledge you gained from that run to progress even further in the next run.
Other games that use permanent death are still roleplaying games, often inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. Fire Emblem and XCOM are great examples where characters risk dying in combat, which means they’re gone. Forever.
Fire Emblem takes this a step further still, with the chance that essential characters may die in combat and affect the game’s future. Some characters will become unobtainable, or side quests will be locked away. This forces players to think and plan their turns appropriately.
We don’t typically see how games can be flipped around entirely to be seen from a new perspective. Modern games rarely deviate from the norms, with genres mixed up occasionally but seldom experimenting with the formula. While the Tomb of Horrors takes players out of dungeon crawling into a heavy, life-or-death puzzle sequence, we rarely get an opportunity to see other games flip the script.
Could you imagine if next year’s Call of Duty entry took away the split-second reaction style shooter style for a slow, methodical exploration map? Squads have to carefully explore each doorway, hallway, and open area, fearing death is around every corner?
Or what about a visual novel/dating simulator about some book club in a Japanese high school that turns into a grim, psychological horror?
Waifus and Horror
Trigger warning: Self-harm, violence, and suicide. If you aren’t okay with this, skip the following few paragraphs.
Doki Doki Literature Club presents itself as a cutesy slice-of-life visual novel, blending in with the hundreds released every year. You play the protagonist, who begrudgingly joins his school’s literature club to appease his childhood friend after a time and some chances for romance with the other girls in the club.
The game suddenly ends with you discovering your childhood friend has hung herself. Then, the game resets. You’re back at the main menu with your previous game deleted, and you start the game again…
But it’s different. Your childhood friend doesn’t exist. Strange glitches begin to appear, and some text becomes unreadable. And the three other girls in the book club seem…different.
I won’t go any further into the rest of the game, but Doki Doki Literature Club was a massive change in the presentation of a traditional Visual Novel. It added real puzzles and intrigue to an otherwise simple, straightforward genre of “choose your own adventure” style games.
Returning to The Tomb
As Dungeons and Dragons has evolved, the Tomb of Horrors has also evolved. It’s appeared in every edition of the game, with its most recent printing being included in Tales from the Yawning Portal, a compilation book. In its newest iteration, plenty of warnings are given to the Dungeon Master, so they know the experience they will be putting their players through.
Wizards of the Coast would eventually return us to Acererak’s evil games through a new adventure called the Tomb of Annihilation. With this, we were given a more comprehensive look at the world Acererak calls home (known as Chult) and a thoroughly-vetted adventure to ensure it did not become the meat grinder its predecessor was known for.
While the adventure has its issues, it’s been widely praised for being a great module. Heck, it was one of the most playtested modules they’ve ever worked on, according to Wizards themselves. Also, Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time, was one of the collaborators. Weird, right?
Finally Out Of The Dungeon
Whether or not you have had the unfortunate experience of delving into the Legendary Tomb of Horrors, it’s an experience that has shaped the Gaming world. The Demi-Lich’s tomb Still finds its way into the eye of pop culture, inspiring the 2007 game “Icewind Dale and a major part of the book ” Ready Player One.”
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the module has also inspired countless RPG designers as well, taking it as a lesson in how to expertly craft a dungeon. Or perhaps how to NOT Subject players to the kind of torture you find in the depths of Acererak’s lair.
Have you been brave enough to challenge the Tomb of Horrors? or perhaps you’ve mastered the art of running players through its corridors. Either way, I want to hear about it. Tell us all about it on our Discord!
Full Motion Video games are like a 6 year olds school play, terrible but we are never allowed to say. Instead we smile politely and clap and say it was good. The heyday of FMV games was the early 90s when Sony released Johnny Mnemonic and became the first film studio to release a video game…back when the ‘video’ part of that meant just that.
Soon after Electronic Arts followed up with Mark Hamill in Wing Commander III (and IV). The 90s were awash with FMV games, Night Trap (1992), 7th Guest (1993), Phantasmagoria (1995). It was going to be the next big thing.
Full Motion Video never worked though.
The reality was very different from the hype. Usually offering limited gameplay and using second rate actors who couldn’t create a scene if they had a tantrum in a shopping mall. It was gamers who saw through the hype to realise they actually offered very little and the FMV game died along with punctuality, Fax machines and MC Hammers’ parachute pants at the end of the 90s.
So when ‘Not for Broadcast’ landed on my desk, I was less than excited.
A full motion video game with what looks like second rate actors in grainy rendered footage and cheap backdrops; where you play an trainee broadcast editor for a nightly news programme.
Look, it’s not that hard. Choose the angles, roll the ads, and bleep the swears, but as the tutorial warns you, just keep in mind that how you show these people will change their lives…and maybe yours.
The controls are simple enough and you are introduced to them well in the first level broadcast and the game is outstanding. You begin a year in the job at the start of a new government taking power and one of your first edits is a statement from the winning party leaders.
Things become more sinister and your choices are more subtle as the game advances. For example, having picked up the skill of editing out swear words over a couple of broadcasts, you are then instructed by the station boss to bleep out overly critical statements of the government as well. So when a faux gangster rapper, who spends the entire interview lying and talking garbage, takes the stage for an unrehearsed song that criticises the government, what do you do? Do you edit out the swearing and the criticism or do you allow it and make this prick a hero or perhaps allowing it will get this prick arrested? The choice is yours.
Not for Broadcast consistently puts you in these difficult and subtle positions; asking if you will cooperate to keep your job because you need to to keep your family together? Or if seeing what is happening under this new regime and the impact that has on your family, will you try to undermine it?
The impact of your choices plays out in text based updates of family life between broadcasts and is tied to what is going on in the country.
This heavy theme of coming police state and your facilitation of it is juxtaposed with the actual broadcast material which is pure comedic gold. So much so, that I don’t much care about my family updates I want to get to the shows. There’s so much going on it’s glorious.
Not only are the jokes puerile in that we frequently deal with the leader of a multi-national company called Rymmington Svist and at one point interview an ex-con called Tit-Wank Tony who unleashes everything on a live interview we might have secretly wished for in our head, but the stories and presentation of each item is delightfully observed and presented.
We have to manage a god awful teenage drama presentation about bullying, a bizarre new sport that has an imaginary round and is invaded by streaking nude protesters, a new tv show for kids about farm animals boufing, one of those inexplicable letharios that seem to do and offer nothing and yet are nationally famous lying in bed hosting a quiz about himself, and so many more wonderful characters that offer delicious comment on society. It is glorious choosing what to do with them? Do you deliver the clean edit you are supposed to or do you broadcast the rants that are supposed to be off-screen? Do you present the message these terribly self-righteous people want to deliver or do you show the tired, eye rolls of the individuals forced to share an interview with them.
Do you cut the adverts short to expose your lead anchor slagging off the guests he is returning to interview or not? There are lots of choices here and all of them are recorded in your edit that went out to the nation that you can rewatch at anytime.
Not for Broadcast isn’t without some small problems though.
I had occasional crashes and had to restart levels and failure and loss of viewers means you are sacked and have to restart the level as well. This can be a bit tedious as we’re running a show here and there are often lengthy things to repeat, but these issues were very infrequent and are enormously outweighed by the sheer fun the game consistently delivers.
Not for Broadcast is still in Early Access and some people like to leave Early Access games alone until they have launched, but you really shouldn’t here. It’s entirely worth it even as it is, despite there being more updates in the pipeline.
Not Games just released one of those, a second large update made during the lockdown of the last 18 months, which has not hampered their style or commitment one bit as they simply introduced an hilarious lockdown of their own in the game, developing a storyline about teddies that come alive and hunt people down requiring society to hide in our homes.
This allows all sorts of observed fun of lockdown; people wearing pants only on the bottom half, fake backdrops and people pretending to be outside, people caught eating lunch and not ready for the camera to be on them and forgetting to switch it off.
The death-teddies eventually invade the studio and become another difficulty to deal with as does a passing storm that electrifies some of the buttons making them unusable. The game winds up the chaos continuously with each broadcast and never lets you stop laughing.
I tell you this is the best Full Motion Video game I have ever seen and is one of the best games of any type I’ve played all year. An hilarious ride with stacks of replayability.
Not for Broadcast is available for about $25 and is worth every penny in current form with more updates to come. My Friends…the revolution will be televised, just put me in charge of broadcasting it will you.
A chaotic online party game that drops players into riotous robbery scenarios where the goal is to collect as many valuables as possible and get back to the escape van before time runs out. Battle your way to first place by using gadgets like anvils, ice, earthquakes and more!
Digital Janitors is an action-packed desktop defense game where hackers have taken your employer’s network hostage, which means the player must go to each computer in the company, excise the virus, and beat the hacker threat.
Discover the joys of entrepreneurship as you manage and grow your own burger truck business in this delicious simulation game. Create the perfect burger for diverse customers, manage your finances, upgrade your business, and cover the city! Play alone or with friends, and unleash the tycoon in you!
Fioresia Online is a fantasy MMORPG set in a vast open world. Play with thousands of other players, conquer castles, explore fantastic locations, discover dungeons, solve puzzles or simply manage your home and farm.
Alien Scumbags is a sci-fi action platformer with a big slice of horror and a stack of pop culture references. You’ll run, hide and kill across several levels, collect items from capsule machines and unlock characters.
Moo Lander is a 2D adventure platformer, where you take control over your civilization’s last remaining spaceship to scour varied environments in search for the source of infinite amounts of milk. Tame the Mighty Cows, discover hidden secrets, solve puzzles and fight intelligent enemies!
Mira has been tasked with restoring colour to Chromaland across all 8 art-style based worlds, and squaring off against the villainous Blump. As a house painter, Mira uses her magic brush to steal colour from a host of enemies and use those colours to jump, dash and figure her way through Chromaland.
This 2D top down RPG follows NoName #1892 as he fights his way through vast amounts of monsters, navigates dangerous dungeons, and searches for the most important thing in his life: answers, while blending the excitement of classic adventure games with the fun and impact of story driven RPGs.
Split-screen voxel fun! A Couple of Cubes is a co-op puzzle game set in a world of cubes. Progress through increasingly complex puzzles to escape the government facility that you are held in with the special abilities granted to your characters.
Phaseshift is a sci-fi combat racer with cyberpunk aesthetics. Pilot your agile vehicle through futuristic locales, and assault your opponents with tons of weapon combinations! Fast paced, frantic racing action with intense strategic combat.
Espresso Tycoon – the future of tycoon games is here! The sound of the coffee machine, the unique aroma of coffee grounds… in your own café! Jump into a world full of hardcore management, picky customers, and fierce competition! Build your coffee business from a small place into a whole empire!
“The Vagabond Emperor” is a 2D RPG where you begin as a simple vagabond who decides to become an emperor in the fictional Middle Ages during a spreading curse. It’s up to you to decide what to do and where to go to achieve your goals.
Every Level is like an old school RPG puzzle.Even the enemies are puzzles of how to avoid or destroy them.Control each character separately and use their unique skills to get past obstacles.You must figure out how to gather the party at the exit portal to advance.
Billiards Dungeon is a pool-based, procedurally-generated rogue-lite. Players control the direction and force of the cue-ball character against a range of enemies. Explore and battle through floors of unique dungeons that change with every game, while unlocking more items in subsequent runs.
The world is your garden : chill and cute Ecosystem Sandbox ! Create your biomes, balance the food chain, build unique landscapes. Take the control of any creature and roleplay as a wild beast that must survive. Imagine your own unique stories.
TISIS is an indie horror game currently in development by a single developer. Its atmospheric and existential horror elements are inspired by The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers and its philosophy revolves around the works of Nietzsche and Zapffe.
During World War II, there were expeditions in Antarctica by both the Allied and the Axis forces. Although the reasons behind their existence were that of asserting control in the region, the true intentions were far more sinister. The game takes place in 1952, eight years after the Antarctica Expeditions. You follow the story of a member of the Allied expedition, who, after waking in a lunatic asylum with no recollection of his past, must search for clues to retrieve his identity and face the horrors that were unearthed in Antarctica.
The plot is heavily inspired by the philosophical background of the worldview in ancient Greece, the cost of committing hubris (ὕβρις), the intervention of the gods with ati (ἄτη), their anger and vengeance, nemesis (νέμεσις) and finally the punishment and destruction of the abuser, tisis (τίσις). Additionally, the game is set in the universe created by Robert W. Chambers in The King In Yellow and its atmosphere and story greatly focuses to visually represent philosophical concepts and ideas proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche, Peter Wessel Zapffe, Thomas Ligotti, H.P. Lovecraft and more.
TISIS is developed in Unreal Engine 4 mainly with assets from the Epic Games Marketplace, with no existing budget. I strive to keep that fact from affecting the quality of the project and intensely work to, at least, reach the expectations that I believe should be achieved by a project entirely developed from a single person.
A cozy 2D point & click adventure featuring multiple playable characters and plenty of silliness… Oh, and there’s also some time traveling and relationship stuff going down too… Yeah, and robots – robots too…
Terra Earth is a 2D platformer with a mostly NES-faithful pixel art style. You can visit the six stages in any order, and the order in which you complete stages affects how the story plays out. That’s basically it; it’s not that complicated, so give it a shot if it seems interesting to you.
Heat and Run is a unique 2D shooter MOBA experience. Compete against players worldwide in team battles of heroes with unique skills, equipped with magical relics and the outstanding ability to create blocks. Cursed blazes of Navadran island await you.
FRAGGERWAVE is a Retro First Person Shooter with a Vaporwave / PixelArt Aesthetic. A celebration of shooters that collects my favorite mechanics from the past 2 decades of FPS goodness, into a single highly offensive-based FPS. A niche game, made by an obsessive gamer, for obsessive gamers.
You are the captain of a starship venturing through a massive open universe. Customize your crew and take command at the helm of your very own ship as you explore a galaxy torn apart by internal strife, alien threats, and political intrigue.
God’s Domain is a realistic VR MMORPG that tries to capture the essence of reality with added fantasy elements in a virtual world. The goal is to build something that lets you the player escape to another world where all of your worries from your 9-5 job or your daily life can be replaced with a new life full of adventure, exploration and excitement.
Ad Wars is a multi-genre adventure game where you travel all over the Internet to destroy ads, once and for all!
The game is divided into 3 episodes, where each one of them is a completely different adventure with it’s own type of gameplay. You’ll find yourself jumping and shooting the mischievous yet endearing Gengens in Super Freemium Lands, taking on all sorts of monsters RPG-style in Clickbait Kingdom and playing the role of a roguelike detective in Download Highways. Oh, and did we mention that it all starts with Bullet Hell mania?
KEO is a team-based online multiplayer vehicle combat game set in a sci-fi post-apocalyptic world. Build your loadout to suit your playstyle and balance your team to dominate the battlefield using futuristic remote controlled vehicles! #PlayKEO
Rushout is an enthralling and hilarious 3D ragdoll platformer with simple gameplay set in fantastic flying landscapes. And the prize for the best result will spark real excitement in you!? Beware of crazy chickens!?
In Santabell City, political intrigue and shadowy organizations have become commonplace. To counter these growing threats enter Sharla, Indira, Kyra, and Liria of the newly-formed Santabell Arbiter Branch in this intricately deep turn-based JRPG.
Join your monster brethren and sistren in psychedelic warfare across historically-inaccurate battlefields of glorious mayhem. It’s the classic struggle of Wicked vs. Evil in this electrifying conclusion to the infinite war of the monster armies.
Sally forth to the monsterfront, do your absolute worst, and have a great time. An ever-expanding theatre of madness awaits.
Becloudead is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi hack and slash cinematic platformer. Unravel the dark truth behind the zombie apocalypse as you venture deep into the bloody and gruesome narrative of Becloudead.
The adventure about hunter’s trip, nature and an alien meeting! Explore the wild nature, climb and move further through the cold lands. Save the lost friend and yourself! Meet the Unknown and find the mystery!
What could be scarier than a massive dungeon-tower infested with skulls, ogres, and dragons? That those same monsters ride the largest multinational in the world with it. You know; business is business.
Fight your way with fire and sword through more than 25 levels of pure action in a Hack and Slash as epic as it is hilarious: Skip all the sequences and dialogues, who cares? Farm dozens of hours until enemies are nothing more than punching bags, beat 200 hours of a no-budget indie game, and then cry on forums about how short it is.
HOCKEY HEROES is a 3-on-3 arcade hockey role-playing party game. Play alone or with friends as you draft your team from a roster of diverse characters and travel across the country battling through tournaments to win all Original Six Cups and become hockey legends!
Nobody’s Quest is a relaxing adventure game with light sandbox and RPG elements. Explore the realm of Hubbington, collect crafting materials and resources, save the citizens of Hubb Burg so they can help you in return, defeat Evil spawns and face LOATHE!
Follow the antics of disgruntled guilds leaving their homelands to face the harsh unknown in the Untamed Wilds. Row-based combat system forces players to make strategic choices at every moment. Monitor each hero’s Argument meter; if it gets too high they may refuse to help fight!
Command custom mechs and outmaneuver the Swarm in this post-apocalyptic turn-based tactics game. Leverage the terrain, your Mech’s unique skills and your wits to survive a series of ever-changing strategic battles and give humanity hope.
Discover a post-human earth in Trash, a beautifully crafted open-world action adventure game where strange and wondrous trash-based life thrives. Explore your surroundings with friends, solve puzzles, craft unique attachments and emerge from the heap.
In 2017 Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, scoffed at the idea of competition with the answer that Netflix biggest competition was sleep. In 2019 Hastings reasserted his view of Netflix inhabiting Olympus by dismissing the idea that they were remotely interested in the games streaming market.
For the large part Hastings has been right; at the end of 2020 Netflix smashed through the 200 million subscribers barrier and holds the top spot by some distance in global figures, with over 30% more subscribers than Amazon Prime and nearly double the largest Chinese streaming service.
But there have been rumblings in Mordor in recent weeks; insiders say that Netflix has been shopping around for executives to help it enter the Gaming Streaming market?
There are two key reasons why Netflix has changed its mind on games streaming.
Firstly, Netflix has an increasing need to change what it is doing and domestically it’s under pressure. In 2020 alone it lost a third of its market share in the US, from 29% down to 20%. It has had to compete with the entry of HBO Max, Disney+ and the continued growth of Hulu.
Netflix grew by four million subscribers globally in the first quarter of 2021, which represents its smallest first quarter growth of the last four years and they’ve downgraded their new subscribers forecast from 10 million to just one million in the second quarter of this year. This prompted an 8% drop in share price a couple of weeks ago and whilst the stock has rallied, signs for the future remain brittle. In the last four years Netflix’s growth rate has slowed every year, down from 34% growth to 24% and this year is looking considerably worse.
Overall in 2021 it expects to only break even.
Any way you look at the figures and trends, that growth is slowing and competition is squeezing Netflix. It is still top of the tree, but if it wants to remain there it has to do something else.
I want it all
The second reason Netflix will stream games is that the market has simply become to big to dismiss.
The TV-on-demand market is expected to be worth $87B by 2024.
By comparison the global games market is expected to exceed $200B in 2023 and $300B by 2025 by some estimates. Even when we factor in that just over 40% of that games market is mobile games the remaining market is still double the TV on demand sector.
Netflix cannot simply allow its competitors to carve up this larger and expanding market.
Gaming history is littered with new players to the market who arrived with a smash. Most recently Sony and Microsoft barging to the top of the pile with their consoles. Nintendo has fought back with the Switch, but the future lies in streaming though tv. In this sense Epic have bet on the wrong side of the coin in trying to woo people with a new store and Google (as usual) is facing the future with Stadia and Microsoft has XBox Game Pass. Microsoft are betting big on this with a stack of day one releases as their focal selling point for them in the recent E3 presentation.
The thing the successful companies who barge into the market all had was technical know how and Netflix is king of streaming. This skill and infrastructure puts them in a great position to enter the streaming games market.
Netflix pioneered streaming for mobile phones and today streaming accounts for 80% of all mobile internet traffic and successfully developed a seamless service where you can download, pick up, switch devices and lose not a second of where you were. They accounted for 15% of all global internet traffic in 2020. Think about that for a minute…15% of all global streaming came from this one company.
Having seen the difficulties of Epic in getting past the gatekeepers like Apple in their recent court case and Google in setting up Stadia and a reliable streaming service, it seems obvious that Netflix has a well established infrastructure that is reliable and capable of delivering gaming. They have significant tech capability to wade into this growing market and they have already dabbled in this direction. Remember interactive tv programme Bandersnatch and Minecraft story mode? Both were significant hits and proved Netflix capable in this field. They will have learned a great deal from these.
They have also been developing games/TV tie-ins lately in Castlevania and The Witcher. This gives them an extra dimension of clout for possible exclusives in future. In all, Netflix has been acquiring interest and experience in the interactive games arena.
Don’t stop me now
Lastly and perhaps most potently…you are the reason they will win.
Sure, Amazon has purchased Twitch and is trying to tie in gaming that way and Google had to build Stadia with the problems that have gone with it, but more people have Netflix than anything else and it is simply going to be too easy to add on the games element.
My wife stores her pictures in Google photos; not because it is the best service but because it is the most convenient and integrated service. She has Google Drive and it’s linked to her phone, so it’s easy for her to store those pics she takes on her mobile and keep her memory clear. I have Amazon Music, again, not because it is the best music service, but because it is the easiest to have with what I already have. I have a Prime account and have Alexa in the house…so naturally when thinking of which music streaming service to choose…why complicate things by going elsewhere?
Hammer to fall
So when Netflix starts offering a games streaming service… you’re in. You can claim you won’t be, but why have two applications or interfaces when you can have it all in one place? You won’t…you’re in.
Consider also that the growth of cloud gaming in the future is going to come from the young, most of whom at 11 or 12, whenever they start gaming will need parents to pay for the service when they start. If parents have Netflix more than any other service They will pay for the add on. They will have some element of oversight with a company they know, trust and that regularly tops customer polls. That will be game over.
In the same way that sports teams give free tickets to schools and why Google gives free Drives to students…locking in future loyalty, so too with the gamers of the future being locked into Netflix. It’ll be too much of a nuisance for most to bother changing.
If you can make the choice easy for the customer and you can provide a reliable service then you will likely win. Netflix can do both and they cannot afford not to be part of the future of how we play games.
To quote from The Matrix…that “ding” sound, flashing you through the colour band of the Netflix logo when you press play on an ‘Original’ show. ’That is the sound of inevitability’.
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.
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.”
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).”
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.
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.
War, good God y’all… What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Turns out Edwin Starr was wrong. War, Uh-huh…yeah, what is it good for? Turns out it’s absolutely great for computer games.
Where would we be without the FPS? Still throwing pine cones across the sandpit and claiming I had been revived by Jeff and wasn’t dead. From Command and Conquer: Red Alert, through Call of Duty and Company of Heroes, I’ve loved them all along the way. Hold on there big dog, I know what you’re thinking…FPS.
Watch This Review:
Eximius Review – FPS / RTS Hybrid Fun
Eximius: Seize the Frontline, from Ammobox Studios is just out of Early Access and is blast. It is an FPS / RTS Hybrid. Whaaat… Yes. You can play the game just like Company of Heroes and you can play it just like Call of Duty. You can even play it both ways at the same time if you want to. How is this even possible you ask?
Eximius is, in simplest terms, a 5v5, squad based arena battle set in the near future of a collapsed political order. Two factions vie for control of the future world order: Axeron Industries, the product of a global financial elite trying to reestablish order. They have units based on robotics to save people from front line combat. The other side is the Global Security Force (GSF) who are made up from the surviving political world order prior to collapse.
All this set up matters naught though and is swiftly forgotten once you are past the opening intro. Simply pick a side and go through training. There is no real consequence to the side you pick except the choice of weapons, units available and some inevitable variation in play style to suit your differing strengths. Mostly they are similar classes but with slightly different qualities.
Point, Shoot, Smile
The controls are pretty standard and so is the weapons training. There is nothing confusing here – machine guns, pistols, bazookas, EMP weapons, etc. Everything is comfortably familiar. There is a good sound to the fire system, the weapons have variable recoil, but upgrades can improve stability. They sound powerful and act heavy, pleasing stuff. On the battlefield the draw distance for shooting is pretty good, even with standard weapons.
When you leave training, you can choose to join an ‘Open game’ which is just a rolling restart game with whomever joins and the remaining spots made up with AI players. Or you can join a specific 5 man team to take on a set scenario or you can tackle a variety of maps and missions yourself, offline with a team of AI support. There is lots of variety and the AI is of such a good standard that you need never worry about matchmaking to get a game. There are always at least two of these happening at any given time.
All of this seems like a pretty standard Battle Arena game and you’d be right. What sets Eximius apart is that only four of your squad of five play as FPS officers on the battlefield. The fifth man plays the game RTS and from a standard zoomed RTS view of the battle.
Commander and Conqueror
It turns out that what really makes the difference to your team is the Commander. They provide tech upgrades, they can build tanks, different classes of soldiers, they assign a support group of soldiers to you or not and they can drop strategic supply points to enable you to refill ammo and change weapons as you meet different foes. They play Command and Conquer whilst you play Counter Strike and you can talk to each other, ask for things like re-supply, reinforcements or decide attack plans and changes. It is a quite excellent achievement to blend these two game styles seamlessly together and talk/plan across them at the same time.
There is a rare breed of revered heroes called ‘Battle Commanders’ by Eximius community who are players capable of playing the Commander role and capable of jumping into the FPS fight at crucial moments to rectify some part of their grand plan and never losing sight of the overall plan and time in the frontline.
I tried being the Commander once or twice…let’s just say I need practice. I have mostly been playing as an Officer on the battlefield and sometimes my human Commander would provide ammo and weapon upgrade stations for me to use and sometimes they wouldn’t. In one match it became clear that the Commander had his plan and I wasn’t in it, I could die and respawn frequently but there would be no upgrade points for me.
In another we had upgrades and I joined the fray attempting to follow other Officers in direction and battle as support. The Commander rarely attached soldiers to me for support, clearly deeming my contribution unreliable, this was until a crucial point late in the battle when we were losing heavily that I slipped away changed my weapons and crossed to the other side of the arena undetected. I destroyed a tank holding position, protecting a flag point.
The response from my Commander was instant. He held battle back where I had come from and sent me as many reserves as he could from reserves to support what he recognised as a decisive move. We went on to capture several nearby resource points and the enemy were crippled. We lost less than 20 battle points to the enemy teams 300 from this moment on. The post game chat was full of delight and congratulations. These are the moments you play Eximius for.
It isn’t a perfect game, the learning curve is initially steep, but there is a lot of potential in the game for varied styles of combat. More variety of weapons are being added and of course, more skins and customisation. The development team is dedicated, improvements are frequently made and what might be thought of as currently lacking does not detract from the glory of the game.
Eximius is a Latin word meaning ‘excellent’ and Seize the Frontline is indeed an excellent game. It is not just another battle arena with thrown together assets; it is a well thought out game that offers a deepening level of skill the more you play it. They have a welcoming community in the Discord and the game is structured so that newbies can join a team of veterans and not hamper the chance of victory severely. War, uh huh, yeah…may well be good for computer games, but me? Good God y’all I am far from Eximius at it. It is fun though…see you in the fight.
Stephen plays on Eximius: Seize the Frontline as Alt_Ending and is easy to defeat. Take a good look at my face because all you’re going to see from the floor just before you respawn is the back of me walking away.