Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Personal Debrief Blog of Den of Wolves by Megagame Oslo @ Sub Scene, 15.10.22


The Game Break Down.

A fleet of 10 spaceships, the remains of the human civilization, try to repel Wolf attacks and flee the main Wolf force by series of FTL /Faster Than Light/ jumps. The 10 ships are divided into 8 fractions with their own special goals, in addition to the common goal of survival, making this a semi co-op.

Each Fraction has a specialization in resource production or service, thus is neither team self-sufficient. The game merges typical board game mechanics like resource production, management, and tactical fleet combat, with an open floor semi co-op unregulated resource negotiation market. 


The market was affected by bleed from political role playing based on historical grudges, nationalism, and opportunism - combined with a constant paranoia caused by an announced traitor mechanic. There are traitors Among Us, but how many, and who?


These two layers has a negative effect on the communication between players and fractions. Entering negotiations with suspicion and bias adds much noise and chaos into the system of resource exchange. Timed rounds add another layer of stress, adding even more noise to communication. 


The Preparations.

Having played DoW once before, thou only as the media, I had some knowledge of what to expect. One of the main challenges of my first game was keeping track and score of all the fractions, their vessels, and their function in the fleet. Constantly having to refer to the Background Guide (digital or print out) is time consuming, so I summarized the information on the ships in 10 reference cards. 


I made 3 sleeved decks. The intention was one face up deck on our table for deduction - and one deck for commanding my crew mates: “Talk to these two ships about fuel and water” or “Talk to this ship about engineers”. The last deck would be mine, for when greeting other players - and reminding me of what their fleet function was.

Note that the space ship silhouettes are borrowed from search engine results. 

The Game Day.

The day was set up for an experiment with a chaotic by design system to run to an end point, only slightly nudged by scripted events and moderation. I was joining with my brother and sister on a 5 piece team with two players we didn’t know from earlier. I had been assigned the role as Admiral of the ICSS Aegis, the only military ship in the convoy. 


From the start we were constantly low on resources. Early game market conditions where terrible, and everyone came to the ICSS Aegis for handouts, like we had anything to spare other than lending out shuttles. Around the start of the second round, I was slipped a note stating I was a Wolf and instructions for how to play. I decided to not play my hand right away and went for a slow conservative strategy.


Bad luck on the Jump Card draws, and our failure in securing fuel to draw more, led to a long delay before we could make a fleet jump. When the first jump coordinate communication failed, this led to massive suspicion towards the ICSS Aegis, and me as Admiral. The outcome of these events was not entirely my fault, but I could sense eyes in the room on me.


The Political Game.

After the first rounds of terrible board game results and communication blunders, the fleets suspicion became politicized and the Admiral was summoned to the Intergalactic Council for interrogation. I barely escaped imprisonment but was assigned two observers from two different fraction for the next round. I managed to convince the observers I was innocent in the claims, and the observers in their turn convinced the council to let me continue my duty.


During my defense speech in the council, I used the secret Wolf identifier word. Later in the meeting the Vice President casually included the secret identifier word in a short statement as well. I now knew I had an ally. As I left the meeting our eyes glanced for a second - slight smiles.


The political farce lasted for some 3 rounds, and during this time I had completely lost control of the status of the board game and ship status. The Wolf attacks where massive, the fighter squadrons where dwindling and at about mid-game the ICSS Aegis had more damaged systems than functioning. 


Especially the interrogations at the council gave me a lot of adrenaline and talking myself out of that mess was one of the more satisfying experiences for me personally. It felt as a hairy situation, and for the duration of this process I was constantly worried I would be eliminated from the game and given a new role. 


The Deduction Game.

I had really hoped to play the deduction game as a loyal role, trying to weed out the traitors. So, I whole heartedly contributed to that game with the help of my crew mates. On the ICSS Aegis we actively used the Ship Reference Card during Team Time when discussing the loyalty and suspicion towards the different ships and fractions. The cards were also used to keep track of which ships had jumped to different locations. Towards the end of the game, when the fleet became more and more fractured, I think the ICSS Aegis crew for some minutes had better information on the where each ship in the fleet was than Control.


Their mid-game negotiations and communications efforts where really good and they slowly curated bonds to a few key vessels that proved themself thrust worthy and cooperative. At this point the crew of the ICSS Aegis hatched a plan. We would give the coordinates for the next jump to our two trusted allies and then just make the jump. This would pressurethem to follow, as the alternative is sitting duck mid-space, with no military defense.      


At game end the fleet was split in three groups, at least two of them containing a wolf or more. The ICSS Aegis (military, food and water production capacities), The Icebreaker (ore mining), Refinery 124 (fuel production) and the Endeavour (science) ended up at the same jump coordinates. These ships had everything they need to keep the fleet self-sufficient. In the brig of ICSS Aegis an exposed Wolf traitor, all other players loyal. 


Well, except or me, an unexposed Wolf traitor at the helm of this operation.


The crews of the 4 ships ending up at the same jump location as I played an excellent game. Towards the end of the game, they learned to thrust each other, the resources distribution became functional, and I am so proud of the ICSS Aegis Logistics and Communications officers ability to coordinate the last few jumps.


The End Game.

The event ended with a debrief where the traitors where revealed. We had to do a walk of shame up to the stage to say a few words. Then the representatives from the different ships also shared some thoughts on the game from stage. I played the traitor roll as best as I could, and smirkily quoted (what I at the moment thought was Sun Tsu, but when search engining it turned out to be Napoleon); "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." The end.

Or… Could I (in my heart) have played a loyal double agent - securing the minimum necessities for humankind to survive and helping to escape the Wolves - giving humanity a chance to resettle?


But at the event debrief I chose to stay loyal to my written role description and had successfully contributed to splitting the human fleet in at least 3 - thus securing that the basic and critical infrastructure needed by humanity to survive was under my control at the end of the game. 


Side note. Another, more theatrical story arch (in the Admiral double agent- time continuum) could be the Admiral publicly executing the Wolf prisoner and then dramatically put the gun to his own head stating “I am compromised, the rest of you are loyal. Humanity, now prosper!” Bang. Brains Splatter. And Scene.

Now that would have been an ending.


A convincingly professionally run event. 

On time, with good moderation, at an excellent venue. 

9/10, will do again.




Monday, June 8, 2015

From the Vault of Dusty Old Drawings II.

Are you having trouble with eradicating the Insurgents?
Are those Rebels raising hell with your Regulars?
Do you need something to compliment your Infantry?

Well, then it´s about time to field the Heavy Hitters!

Regulator Class Steam APC w/ Vagant G and his Loyal Crew

Cutting Edge Class APC w/ Mechanized Infantry
Ballistic Tornado Class w/ Techies and Grunts

Quick Crawler Scout Class w/ Tactical Techies

Quick Crawler Suppressor Class w/ Imperial Assault Marines

Sunday, June 7, 2015

From the Vault of Dusty Old Drawings.

I was flicking through some folders of old illustrations in search for images to acompany my more recent writings, and came across this collection of (quite sloppy) character templates made for a demo game i playtested at the Regncon convention i Bergen a few years ago. I was stil working in norwegian at that time, but the images should speak for themselves, and feel free to let your imagination fill in the blanks. Just to help your narrative along here is a possible set up: Imagine this as a convoy crawling along the rural dirt roads of the modular hex tiles presented in earlier post on this blog. 
As a commander of these forces, in which order would you line up these vehicles?
As a insurgency guerilla fighter, how would you go about stopping this convoy?

Dedicated Transport for General Glen Gibson Platoon Leader
Troop Transport 1
Easy Company Squad Leader A1 

Easy Company Fire Team A1 "The Naked"

Easy Company Fire Team A2 "The Dead"
Easy Company Attachment KS1
Troop Transport 2

Easy Company Squad Leader A2

Easy Company Fire Team A3 "The Miserable"

Easy Company Fire Team A4 "The Ordinary"
Easy Company Attachment BZ1
Equipment Transport & Combat Chef 

Tech Transport w/ Steam Beam Turent

Experimental Steam Mech "Panzer Beatle"  w/ Engineer Crew
Fuel Transport with Steam Lord "King Coal" & Crew

Let me know if this post was interesting and if you would like to see more Dusty Old Drawings from the Vault.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hexland Writing Test

Hi there Friends & Foes 
(with a Special Shoutout to the Silent Indifferent Majority):

Welcome to this first
Hexland Writing Test
(APN english alpha 1.0)

Here are some fragments to tickle your fancy:

As the Annoyingly Present Narrator I will start this text by a general provocation (to whom it might concern - you know who you are) stating that there are so many dull voices and boring narratives out there! This is mostly media independent, both movies and novels can be just as predictable as the Dota- genre (really the Sitcom of video gaming!), the turn based strategy games or most super hero comic book character arcs etc. 

Thats why I really like (and practice) the new multi media genre of the Jigsaw Story Puzzlers (JSP)! 
You haven’t heard about this phenomenon yet? 
Well, let me enlighten you. 

According to the fictional wikipedia entry a Jigsaw Story Puzzler is a form of storytelling that requires the mental assembly of, often oddly formatted, interlocking and tessellating pieces. Each piece usually has a small part of a story in it - and when all the different pieces are put together, a JSP produces a complete story.
The JSPs are often made by pieces from many different medias, ranging from poems, short stories, comics, illustrations and even game mechanics, so called fluff and flavor text. 

Compared to most standard commercial genre narratives, the JSPs can be time consuming and challenging for the audience to decipher, but - in my opinion - much more fulfilling.  

3 pieces of the Hexland JPS:

«The Circle of Death»  
A scripted for visual media study of the Rock, Paper, Scissors Dialectics of The Assassins Breed.

«It moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our resting place
On the path unwinding
For eternety
In the Grand Circle
The Circle of Death».

(Poem by Tom Grain).

Piece 1:  Thesis.
«Custom Death by Desmond Clearwater»

Its a fast paced action thriller!
Some of the scenes are almost like written for the cinema adaption - the spontaneous ordered line for option offers starts way over there, just keep on walking, you will know when you are there.

The dust cover bullet point pitch reads:
«The story of: Desmond Clearwater 
- Businessman of Death.
- Master of Murder.
- Pan Continental Badass.
- The Greatest Assassin on the Hexlandian Continent».

(Rated PG-13, comedy splatter violence) 

In the character introduction you will in a voyeuristic fashion overhear some generic villain´s generic henchmen chat about the local sports team while cruely torturing some chained up anon victim to a certain death. 
Just in time to save the day, our Legendary robed Lead Character, Desmond Clearwater, parkours into the scene seemingly from out of nowhere and kills all the henchmen but one. 

With sparkling eyes and a charming smile he suggests that the last henchman standing should run back to his Supervisor with the following short message (which is also his well rehearsed Assassins Catch Phrase): 
«You´re next on the list»
before handing the henchman a off white, soft and richly textured premium cotton business card, with the acronym CDDC in blood red ink on one side - and Desmond´s contact information on the other side. 
The anon victim starts franticly praising Desmond for saving his life, where upon Desmond gives a bored shrug and a little speech:

«Do I know you? 
Who do you think you are? 
So you really think all this was about you? 
Whoever you are, I´m just here on behalf of someone influential, to deliver a strong message to somebody of importance.
You being here is just a coincidence, and non of my business.
Have a good day, Sir».

- before parkouring back into nowhere, leaving the speechless anon victim in his chains and the thoroughly frightened henchman to cary on his business.

How is that for a cinematic start?
As you can tell from this character intro, Desmond is a real Badass, all about the mission - and not in any way a pathetic philanthropic do-gooder vigilante.
But he does this with such a warm and cheeky humor, one can’t help but find this antihero awesome.   

The opening scene ends with a close up of the anon victims fear ridden face  - 
crosscutting into a close up of the fear ridden face of the generic henchmans supervisor when he is delivered the message from DC. 

From here one could elaborate how deadly and dangerous DC is by describing in detail a few of his mission, but this quickly gets repetitive. Here is the summary: 
He is, by esoteric channels, contacted by assorted businesses and individuals, given a target witch he subsequently brutally kills in some spectacular and creative way (but always delivering some form of variation of his Assassins Catch Phrase first), before returning to his hideout to collect his reward. 
It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take long before the message of him being the apex assassin of the Hexlandian Continent is delivered.
If you are not content with this, repeat the intro (with minor variations) to make a montage for the theatre of the mind. 

But I digress.
One could, or rather should, also dig into Desmond´s psyche and motivations - slowly convey his loneliness, his dreams of simple family life, settling down and a more mundane lifestyle….
And why not explore the side effects of his career choice while we are at it? The making of a lot of enemies and how he slowly gets entangled in a web of previous targets close family and friends who lust for revenge…
But by now the smartest of the target audience already know that it is not long before Desmond himself becomes the target, and eventually the victim of the successor of the title of «The Greatest Assassin on the Hexlandian Continent».
Wich leads up to: 

Piece 2: Antithesis.
«A Martha of Life and Death».

Well, what do you know… Its another fast paced action thriller!
Just like the previous fragmented piece, this one also offers scenes that are almost like written for the visual media adaption - you know the drill, sharks, the line for option offers starts somewhere over there. 

The dust cover bullet point pitch reads:
«The story of: Martha Kiri 
- Exotic and Fatal
- Beautiful and Deadly.
- Pan Continental Femme Fatal.
- The Greatest Assassin on the Hexlandian Continent».

(Rated NC-17, nudity, sexual content)

In the character introduction Martha is presented in a montage compiled of over a dozen short money shot murders by sexy asphyxiation. 
This brief introduction should do well in presenting her both as a drop dead gorgeous and sensual seductress and as a precise, cold blooded and ruthless killer. 

Following this quite naughty character intro a longer sequense where a beautiful girl being singled out in some costly crowd scene, and then hit upon by your typical dime a dozen douche player, all in first person shooter view. 
At first the woman seems like your average run of the mill pin up girl, really easy and out going (as in «she is just asking for it») and after a brief chat up the game is on - and there is no need to go into further detail here - we all know what this leads up to so lets save the cheese for later. 

And then there is another money shot, where the Player realizes that something is wrong, as he feels her noose tightening around his neck, and - like all her other enthralled victims - he spends his last breathing seconds realizing just how she have played around with him in her deadly game. 

As his life is ebbing out she leans over close and whispers (ear to ear, with that real ASMR quality to her voice - by this point, the player can only really focus on her sexy and tumescent lips) her Assassin Catch Phraser:

«I had hopes for you, but you turned out to be just as easy as all the other males» 

before kissing him gently on the forehead and closing his eyelids.

As the final part of her sensual death ritual she makes a new entry in her red mole skin notebook, rating her latest victims performance on key aspects like pick up line, charm, personality, intellect, physical beauty and physical strength, as a sex partner and as a victim. The entry takes up one line, and the most alert might notice that she has filled about 1/3 of the pages in the note book. As the camera pans back we (for the first time this sequence) see the victims face - and the really clever of you already know it is Desmond Clearwater from part one. 

From here one could further elaborate how charming and cut throat Martha is by depicting a few more of her other mission, but the formula is mostly similar to the previous: She is contacted through different male handlers, by assorted businesses and individuals, given a target witch she subsequently seduces and kills, before collecting yet another reward. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take long before the message of her being the new apex assassin of the Hexlandian Continent is delivered.

Moving on, its only common curtesy to also dig a little into her psyche and motivations - slowly uncovering that she is indifferent to life and love, and that her only real emotion is lust for power and influence. The target audience is slowly spoon fed how she also plays her handlers, mimicking feelings and faking relationship attempts with them, and secretly making notes in her red notebook (thus inverted, with entries starting from the opposite end) where she is rating her handlers different performances, such as influence, insight, endurance and wealth, for later use against them as leverage when needed. 

In what we could call her prime the target audience is shown how she is using blackmail, love and sex to lure her handlers and customers into giving her targets that fits into her own plans - and in that way indirectly choosing her own adventure.  

Sadly, we all know that her games and winning streak cant last for ever, and that eventually she herself becomes a target, and in the end the victim of the next in line for the title of «The Greatest Assassin on the Hexlandian Continent». 

Which naturally leads up to:

Piece 3: Synthesis.
«Death Cult for Cutie».

Its yet another fast paced action thriller!
Like the last fragment, this one also offers scenes that are almost like written for Wide Screen Adaption - and yeah, you know the drill…
 The dust cover bullet point pitch reads:
«The story of: Keynin Bonzo»  
- Death Cultist.
- Mysterious Mass Murderer on Tour.
- Pan Continental Serial Killer.
- The Greatest Assassin on the Hexlandian Continent».

(Rated NSFW - violence, nudity, sexual paraphilia) 

In the character introduction Keynin is presented through some kind of disturbing dark ritual where he is surgically removing body parts from an anonymous victim placing them in a portable cooler briefcase.
This brief introduction should be sufficient to portray him as a emotionally detached, devious, deranged and as a (pun intended) complete basket case.

Cut to montage where images of Keynin traveling the Hexlandian countryside by express rail, local rail, tram, ox cart and bicycle is inserted over «The Big Picture Map» with an animation showing his travel route as a red line zig zagging the continent. Included in the montage there are also short flashes of murders, removing of body parts and the handing over of different sized traveling cooler briefcases to other sinister looking Death Cultists.

Cut to short silent scene from some un named Hex Investigators office with «The Big Picture World Map» on the wall, with several dozens of colored pins marking locations where remains of his victims are found - the investigator is shown in silhouette against the map - as if taking a step back, trying to find some form of pattern. Because who doesn’t like a little foreshadowing, right?

Anyways, cut back to a short revisitation to the travel montage which slowly fades to black.

Handler: «Next we need a torso, preferably a strong and healthy male».
Keynin: «Is it just me, or is He degrading more rapidly than before?»
Handler: «He is alright. We just need a new frame. All the internal organs are doing fine».
Keynin: «But stil, its only a few seasons since last time I harvested a new frame».
Handler: «Under normal conditions it would have lasted much longer, keep in mind we have had a lot of heat lately, and He has been moved several times. You know how much strain that puts on his chassis».
Keynin: «Yeah…»
Handler: «Do i have to remind you to keep a low profile? The more flashy you get, the more heat we attract. Remember, this is not about you, its all about Him».
Keynin: «But brother…»
Handler: «We all admire and appreciate your fine work, but the elders are talking about you becoming a liability. I tell you this as a friend: Keep it simple. Dont get ideas of grandeur. I dont want anything happening to you, brother».
Keynin: «Thank you for being frank. Safe travel on your path to Death».

Cut to yet another disturbing dark ritual where he is surgically removing body parts from an anonymous victim placing them in a portable cooler briefcase, but before leaving the scene, he carves a strange mark into the skin of the remains.

Cut to crowded cantina where Keynin is approached by a beautiful woman while eating his waffled sausage and eventually becoming engaged in flirtatious conversation. The smartest of you already must have figured this is Martha on a mission to rid the Death Cult of their top agent turned liability. The only two details in this pick up scheme worth noting is that firstly, Keynin initially doesn’t seem interested at all, and it takes a lot of hard work before she manages to convince him to follow her to her hotel room… And secondly he insists buying her a drink before they leave - he even (quite gallant and out of character) walks over to the bar to order, smiling wide when he returns carrying the two cocktails. The scene ends with them toasting while staring deep into each others eyes. 

Cut to hotel room with the lights dimmed. We all recognize the set up for Marthas Money Shot Ritual, but (very out of character) she seems a bit unfocused, slightly slurs her words as the paralysis of the poison starts kicking in. As he checks her pulse to make sure she is dead we notice his hands are slightly trembling and he is licking his lips as he starts to undress her corpse. The scene ends alarmingly with Keynin starting to open his belt, unbuttoning his pants.

Another assassin claims the title as the greatest, but by now you all should know that he will only hold it temporary. 
Sooner or later he will also be dethroned by someone playing the game better than him, or as in this case, plays an entirely different game.
And there you have it. 
With the image of Keynin getting ready echoing in your mind, we can wrap up this communication.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

World in Progress. Musings from Hexland.

Disclaimer: If you are here for the epic WIP pics, scroll down to the end of this entry where I have included a couple for you to ponder over.
As shown in the previous blog entry the walls of my apartment are at the moment filled with sketched maps. Since the last entry I have started inking one of them, the «Big Picture World Map» (Format: A1 or 4x A3).

During this tedious labour I have been revisited by some thoughts that haunted me some 7 years ago when I was inking the first Big Picture WorldMap. These troubeling thoughts where put into words and published (in beautiful Norwegian) as the very first entries on this blog (#1, #2 & #3).

They where written as 3 eccentric thounge in cheek Big Beat Poems of Genesis (representing the jilted generation!) and, in their own way, served as an introduction to this project/blog.

Since all you international readers dropped into this work in medias res I have made some sort of translation (where a lot is lost, but also with something gained). So mostly the same shit, in a new language.

Lets just call them:
"Revisitations 1 – 3".
#1 «Challenges». 

Sometimes I wish I was easy.
Then I could be content making short, 
thrilling and dramatic stories
- in a handy format,
easy to package,
and sell.

But I´m not,
and there is nowhere to shift the blame.

Here are my simple (or some samples of my) problems.
Everything is interconnected.

Call it magik or call it science,
thats just the way it is.

Every descision I make 
gives me new possibilities 
and directions,
but at the same time
gives me new restrictions 
and dead ends.

Every detail I define or specify,
creates a wealth of similar details
- that also can, should or must be defined or specified.

Every category I make for sorting purposes
instantly produces opposing categories
– and immense potencial for sub- categorization.
As long as you have
one could always divide
Something into two...
It is never ending, and quite magnificent!

So in stead of just telling all
these compelling stories i carry within,
I let myself entangle
in this alluring web of details.
This blog is a way of communicating 
the beauty of this
personal tragedy.

#2 «Themes».
From scratch everything was chaos.
A swirling pandemonium of ideas.
As the creator of this mess
it was my job to make things orderly around here.

In the beginning
I indiscriminately picked out single concepts
from the myriad of ideas
and scribled them down on pieces of paper
with the notion that any of them could be
just as good or important as the others.

Once isolated and noted down,
I felt that each idea
was brought under some kind of controll,
but as my random notes started stacking up,
I gradually started loosing controll again.
There was no way gettimng around the fact
that I could not create
order out of chaos
without some kind of system...

There you are;
In a clever meta way
the world building
had isolated and defined
the main themes of this work:
and all the attempts of System
in between the two polarities.

#3 «Tools».

Wast amounts of information is floating through my imagination.
The current of the stream of conscience is so strong trying to put it all into written or spoken words is an impossible task.

But there are more tools in my kit...

Black lines
made by me
splits and divides the canvas.

The blanks are
filled in
with firm strokes of the brush.

Decision after decision
opens up and closes
faster than graspable.

A continent takes form
out of the nothingness
and past the point of no return.

I clearly started all off this, by drawing the first line...

but now, past genesis, the world seems to have taken upon a life of its own, and I feel more and more as a mere medium – a bound agent of reductionism.

The pics:

This first image is just a proof of progress.

It is tedious and challenging work - but in a fun way. There is stil a lot of inking left to be done, but I think its about 2/3 finished at this point. The digitalization and coloring will be a nightmare on this one...

Partially inked "The Big Picture World Map".
(Format: A1 or 4xA3 / Scale: 1cm = 50km).

This second image is just a teaser from a test project (prep work). I have been experimenting with other ways of doing the small scale modular maps.

Inspired by the scale and style of Advanced Squad Leader i have made a small batch of these, these two pages are the only ones inked so far.

Inked "The ASL Test Maps".
(Format: 2xA4 / Scale: 1hex = 50m).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Update 2015.

Its been quite some time since the last update. 
Here some «excuses»:

During the fall and early winter of 2014 i had a few months hiatus from «the world building project» which was spent working on some smaller projects.

From January 2015 I again got the urge to continue «building the world», and after this brake I felt free to approach the project from a «new» perspective. Until now I have felt no need to blog about this work, but one recent social media «interaction» inspired to share some progress.

General warning: The first two parts of this blog entry will be little rants inspired by these «social media experiences», so if you only stopped by for a few epic WIP- pics and a few notes about «the world building project» feel free to scroll down to part 3: «World In Progress».

1. «The Implosion of Facebook». A rant about social media.

After the slow but steady invasion of personalized ads and logarithmic filtering of my social media feeds it came to the point that I no longer could «keep up» with my «friends activities». When one has to access each individual «friends» actual profile page (or «timeline») to be able to see their updates because of this rigorous filtering, my opinion is that the whole concept of a social media stream is lost. By definition, it is still a stream, but not what I signed up for. Oh well, I am not particularly nostalgic, and as it turns out: Facebook - you will not be missed.

So when trawling «the digital streams» for an inspirational or good read for my lunch brake I have lately spent a little more time on the «lesser evils» of Twitter and G+.

This led to an incident last week, when noticing I had a new, «non bot»- Twitter follower. I was happy when this new follower actually turned out to be some indie game company (name not important in this context), with an emphasis on world building, so I instantly «followed back». 

Being on my lunch brake, I took some time checking out their site and started listening to one of their published podcasts. At first it sounded interesting, the participants shared some «good old» beginner advice and some «interesting perspectives», but quite soon I felt the discussion stranded on the single point of «how to sell your project» and emphasis on «bottom up»- time conserving strategies. This gave me a strange feeling of «deja vu» witch actually inspired me to start planning out this blog entry in my mind. 
As a little end note: I was a little bewildered when I revisited my feed towards the end of my 30 minute brake, just to notice that my new «world building friend» already had unfollowed me. If this was a company effort to make the Follow/Follower ratio look «better» or if the following of my stream just was an honest mistake caused by stubby fingers on a smart phone I can only speculate, but I decided to return the «favor» and remove them from my feed.

2. «The Misconception of Product Building». A rant about the current leading paradigm of Consumerism.

I guess this must be one of my preoccupations since I constantly return to writing about aspects of it. Again, if you are here for the pics, scroll down to part 3.

Last year I was invited by my local game convention to be part of a panel discussion about «Board Game Design». Both me and the attending audience was gravely misled by the programmers, and the actual discussion focused entirely on the financial and market aspects of the Board Game Industry: «What kind of games are selling right now?», «What is a publisher looking for?» and «How to successfully pitch your game idea?». 
Don’t get me wrong, in itself interesting discussions, and if the panel discussion was named «How to sell your game?» or «From game mechanics to product» it wouldn’t be any problem. But the program post and description was very general, «A Panel Discussion about Board Game Design», but ended up with focusing only on one aspect of the design process. 

When listening to the above mentioned «world building podcast» I started feeling the same kind of despair that i got when enduring the 2 hour long «sales pitch tutorial» disguised as «a panel on board game design»: «This isn’t what i signed up for». If just the podcast and the panel discussion was titled the right way, I would have nothing to complain about! 

I know this can come across as semantic nitpicking, but the way I see it, it is more a manifestation of how the leading paradigm of consumerism is defining how we think and speak - or rather what aspects of an complex activity we put emphasis on - in these examples «Board Game Design» and «World Building». 

Here is an horrific example of advice that was repeated as a chorus throughout the «board game design panel», which really illustrate what I am trying to convey: 

Game Boards, Art and Components are really expensive. If you want your game even considered for publication by any company, you should first focus on production cost, even before you have an idea for a game. Try to find a set of cheap standard components and think «how could I create a new and interesting game from them»?. The more specialized components you need, the less chance you have for your game to be picked up by a publisher.

Ok, this might be excellent advice if your goal is to «get «just any» game published» - but is it really advice for making a good board game? A satirical comparison would be for someone to advice aspiring musicians on «how to write great music» (from any musical genre - from classical composers and performers in pop groups) by telling them to become DJs, because «it is much cheaper to hire a single DJ to a club, than a whole band of musicians or an larger orchestera - and that makes it more likely for you to get a paying gig». 

Another sad example of how far the idea of how everything is a «product in need of selling» is when the panel of the «world building podcast» start discussing «how to pitch your world to players in their game groups», because your players won’t have the attention span needed if you can’t convey your game world to your players in 25 characters or less! Then they go on elaborating on how a single written page should be a sufficient start when building a  world, then you pitch your idea - and if it catches on - you continue your work… Again, if these statements where labeled «setting sketches» or «world fragments» everything would sound ok to me!

This brings me to what I - tongue in cheek - have tried to neologize as «The Misconception of Product Building». The wikipedia entry on World Building states that «The goal of world building is to create the context for a story». By definition the story is the product, and the world building is a process one does in advance of (and/or in parallel with) the story, to create a foundation for, and make sure there is consistency in the «story product». 

A simple definition of «Product» is: «An article or substance that is manufactured or refined for sale».
With this clarification it becomes obvious (at least to me) that the world itself isn’t really the product, but really a part of the «refinement process», an integrated part making the product - that could be a film, a novel or a game…

If the podcast panel had been talking about «pitching stories» I wouldn’t be so difficult and pedantic.  If your players don’t like your story, then pitch them another story idea! Keep in mind, the world is a sandbox one can use to tell a wast number of different stories. 

Here is an image: World Building is like a floating iceberg. The «product» is just the visible tip of the iceberg, while the remaining 90% of the ice mass hidden underneath the surface is what makes the whole thing float. Just because your players don’t want to read a 60 page sourcebook about your world before starting play (as in «let me tell you about your character»), doesn’t make your world building efforts less important. Tell your players about your world indirectly by using it as a framework to tell interesting stories - not by starting to describe the world itself!

As a parallel, what defines a «character» (or world, actual person) is not really «how it describes itself» but «its actions in general». Over time you start to recognize the patterns of behavior and «get to know the character more in depth», and it even might turn out that «how the character describes itself is far from what it really is like».

In conclution:
Words are powerful magical tools that can be used both to enlighten and to mislead. Don’t take every advice that the «Ministers of Mammon», «Prophets of Produce» and the «Cultist of the Church of Consumerism» gives you without thoroughly researching if the «Holy Grail» you are searching for actually is the same «Artifact» they are leading you towards!

3. «World in Progress». 

Anyways, here are some notes and the grandiose WIP pics as promised in the introduction of this blog entry:

In an earlier (richly illustrated) blog entry written in Norwegian (from November 2010) i have described how I started the building of this world using a «Top Down» design approach. After organizing the Basic Ideas, Concepts and Structures i started «Zooming In» on different «interesting locations» that where further developed in great detail. 

Now, several years later, I came to a kind of «full circle». In immersing myself in all the small details, there had been accumulated so much new «knowledge» and «information» adding (and refining) the Basic Ideas, Concepts and Structures of the world that I felt the need to make a new «Top Down» redesign where all this new content was taken into account. 

When «Zooming In» this second time I chose to magnify and sketch the same «region» as in the old blog entry, both for continuity and for the fun of it. It is still very similar, but at the same time so much more defined and «rich». The first time I zoomed into this region I had «one particular story in mind», but this second time i had «dozens of stories (more or less interconnected) in mind». 

It was an almost «mystical experience» seeing how all the accumulated details fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I have always had «a lot of fun» when building the world, but this second top down draft was (in addition to being «a lot of fun») also incredibly satisfying in a way I have never before experienced… and in lack of a better word, it was quite «magical».

PS: All images are "just sketches" as I am still working on plotting inn all the above mentioned accumulated details.  

Un- inked "The Big Picture World Map".
(Format: A1 or 4xA3 / Scale: 1cm = 50km). 
Un- inked (and still sketching out the eastern part) "Detailed World Map"
(Format ca 200cm x 150cm or 60xA4 / Scale: 1 hex = 25 km)

Close Up of un- inked "Detailed World Map Sheet 14"
(Format: 1xA4 / Scale: 1 hex = 25 km).
Un- inked "Close Up Regional Map" (corresponding to World Map Sheet 14)
(Format: 12xA4 / Scale: 1hex =5 km).