Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs – Game Balance OR World Trumps Rules

I've been a roleplaying gamer since 1977, when I first encountered Dungeons and Dragons – unless you count the venerable game of "let's pretend", which I was playing from the time I was 4 or 5, and even had some rules for to minimize the arguments. I discussed my initial encounter with commercial RPGs, and the influence it had on my life, in this prior entry: http://grandcentralarena.com/under-the-influence-roleplaying-games-rpgs/ In this entry, though, I want to talk about running RPGs and how I view this extremely challenging hobbyist [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Grand Theft Auto 5 (a partial review)

I was given this game for Christmas (2016) and I suspect that was partially intended as a joke. Nonetheless, I did install and play the game to an extent. This will be a "partial" review because it's extremely unlikely I'll ever play the whole game through, mainly because its basic premise doesn't appeal. Of the two characters I've unlocked and played a bit of so far, one is a basically decent, but apparently kinda weak-willed, young man named Franklin – he seems to know that a lot of the things his friends/acquaintances get up to are Just [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Dragon Age: Inquisition

As my prior reviews of Dragon Age and Dragon Age II made clear, those were impressively good games with excellent characterization, good gameplay, and a deep and engaging plot. A third game had an incredibly high standard to live up to. Instead, the first and second games now have a problem of living up to the third. The game starts with a column of warriors – presumably Templars – marching on one side, a column of mages on the other, heading for a massive keep in the distance. Starting the game… causes the tower to explode. You begin [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves (well, Phone): Pokémon Go

I was never a big Pokémon fan. I never played any of the games, and I'd seen just enough episodes of the anime (plus the first movie) to be familiar with the basic concept and main characters. So when Pokémon Go was rolled out, at first I didn't have much interest… … except there were so many people on my list playing it. I figured I might as well give it a try, the way I had MMORPGs like WoW, just so that I'd know what it was. To my astonishment, I rather like the game. Collecting various strange (virtual) animals, trying to level them [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: No Man’s Sky, First Impressions

No Man's Sky is a highly ambitious and unique game, whose particular claim to fame is a titanically huge universe – quintillions of planets to explore, generated procedurally in a manner that ensures that every planet will be different and that individual players will be discovering things unique to their own personal interaction with the game. I have something of an advantage in approaching the game for review: I heard very little other than this about the game, and so I had relatively little preconception about it. My expectations were [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Fallout 4

  As I had rated both of its predecessors – Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas quite highly, one can imagine that Fallout 4 had a high bar to clear in order to rate as well as the preceding installments of the series. Fortunately, it clears the bar with room to spare. Like the rest of the series, Fallout 4 is set in a world where the Retro-Future of the 1940s came true: nuclear-powered cars for everyone, household robots, shining-steel and glowing-tube SUPER SCIENCE inventions brought a true golden age. And it then crosses that with [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Dragon Age II

  While I had enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins (and its DLC add-ons) immensely (see my prior review), things I had heard about Dragon Age II made me somewhat reluctant to get it; the most weighty of these being that unlike the prior game, Dragon Age II limited you to a single character, not to the several different choices of character (classes of Rogue, Warrior, Mage and species of Elf, Dwarf, and Human, with Dwarves unable to become Mages, and other choices of social class creating multiple combinations of character type, each of which had [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: My Top Ten Videogame Music Selections

As I have mentioned more than once, when writing I usually listen to music. I look for music that inspires and shapes my imagination, often becoming themes for events or characters or settings. As the technology has progressed, I have found that video games often provide some surprisingly inspirational themes. Here, then, are my top ten favorite pieces of music from various video games!   Silent the Universe: Star Ocean 2 Opening Theme. Composed by Motoi Sakuraba, this beautiful piece of music opens the game with a deep-space object [ Continue reading... ]

On My (Virtual) Shelves: Homestuck

  "A young man stands in his bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April, 2009, is this young man's birthday. Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name!"   So begins Homestuck. Homestuck is a phenomenon. It's not precisely a webcomic, although it started as one. It's not a video game, although there are games embedded in it and it starts with the obvious conceit that you are playing a videogame called "Homestuck"; the opening quote is the text of the first page [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: SunDog: Frozen Legacy

Many years ago, I was one of the relatively few whose personal computer was not an IBM-clone or an Apple, nor even an Amiga, but an Atari ST; a lot of people don't even realize that Atari did indeed build full-fledged computers in those days, and quite good ones. Of course, being a splinter market, they did not always get all the software one might want. But they did have, for a short time, the company called FTL Games, and that meant two milestone games: Dungeon Master, one of the first 3-D dungeon-crawl games (and precursor of other [ Continue reading... ]