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Episode #8 - Modern Interactive Fiction

Please enjoy Episode 8 of The Gameshelf’s video series. It’s about modern interactive fiction.

Interactive Fiction (a.k.a. text adventures), a curious cross-medium blending videogames and literature, defined computer entertainment at the start of the PC era. While it’s been decades its commercial heyday, the web has allowed passionate fans and creators to revive the medium through a resurgence of groundbreaking new work.

However, few gamers — even fans of more mainstream adventure games — know that this movement even exists.

In this ten-minute video, Jason McIntosh demonstrates some examples of modern interactive fiction, ponders the challenges that the medium faces in today’s digital-game landscape, and offers some starting points for players first discovering this unique kind of game.

Download it as a high-quality Quicktime file.

Additional credits, links and notes below:


Links


Full Credits

Producer / Writer / Editor / Host

Jason McIntosh

Voice Talent

Lindsay Gonzales, Greg Reimann

Camera

Lee Stewart, Julia Tenney

“Action Castle” Players

Ruth Alfasso, Denis Moskowitz, Gavin Schnitzler, Karl von Laudermann

Music

The Gameshelf theme music is by Joe Johnston.

This episode’s music also included:

Special Thanks

Besides sitting for an interview, Nick Montfort also let Lee and I film various clips in his curio-laden office. The Apple IIc, the retail-box IF antiques, and the various other relics of bygone electronic games are all part of his own collection.

Andrew Plotkin helped sanity-check this video’s content, through its several drafts. (And also sat for an interview.)

Jason Scott didn’t have any direct involvement in the production of this video, but we did have some nice conversations about video production between my last major effort and this one. Mainly, I wish to mention that his own breathtakingly ambitious, feature-length (and then some) documentary about interactive fiction’s history, Get Lamp, is going on sale very soon, and it’s beautiful. You should go buy a copy.

Somerville Community Access TV lent Lee and I the equipment we used to record Nick’s interview and office footage.

Other Notes

Yes, I did in fact write an IF “game” that became the backdrop for my host segments. If you’re very good I might make a short followup video about it, and about Inform 7 (the language I used) in general.


In the brief shot of the two of us talking, Nick holds a copy of this book. View its cover at full-size to properly appreciate the majesty. That clip’s original audio (not present in this version) was part of a comedic segue between Andy’s interview and Nick’s, so he pulled this volume off his shelves to use as a wackiness-increasing prop. The entire gag ended up in the post-production trash heap after I decided to go with the shorter format. Luckily, the clip is too dark to make the book very visible, so I used a little of it as a lead-in anyway. Call it an easter egg.


My inspiration for cutting the video’s length from 30 minutes to only ten came from my discovery of Put This On, an excellent, funny, and geek-friendly new video series about men’s clothing and fashion by Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor. When I pulled up the first episode, I unconsciously looked at the countdown timer in the corner, saw 10:00, and thought, Well, I’m skeptical about a show about clothes. But it does look kind of interesting, and what the hell, I have ten minutes to spare.

And then a light went on: I’ve been asking too much. It made sense to shoot for 30 minutes when I thought of The Gameshelf as a TV show that I also happened to publish on the web. But, I realized, that’s view proved both outdated and myopic. If I will only agree to sit still in ten-minute chunks, then why would I create videos demanding more time than that?

I came to this decision after starting production months ago with a half-hour script, so more time and effort ended up on the cutting room floor than I’d like. That said, I find this abbreviated format far superior for the web-based publication that The Gameshelf has evolved into. Expect most future video work from me to stay YouTube-sized.

I hope you enjoy both this new format and the video itself. Feel free to let me know what you think!

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A Journal of Independent Game Criticism

chess.jpgThe Gameshelf’s new header graphic represents this website’s first public acknowledgement of the philosophical shift it has undergone since its launch, now over two years ago. As the new subtitle suggests, this blog today tosses aside the notion of supporting a TV show, and instead embraces its identity as a source of independent, original game criticism.

At the start of 2008, I still thought of The Gameshelf as a Siskel-and-Ebert-style television program for reviewing non-mainstream games, with its new blog as simply a place for its cast and crew to note interesting news related to unusual games in between episodes. Two years after that, I had produced only one new episode. While the Diplomacy show stands as one of my proudest creative achievements to date, it’s not something I ever see myself replicating (at least not as a hobby), and my vision of producing new videos at a regular pace began to falter.

Over those same two years, however, the blog grew in its own directions. Zarf posted long essays on topics ranging from the continuing Myst saga to the pixel-art renaissance, and these drew new readers and comments. Kevin started making corkboard-style announcements of interesting events (particularly involving interacive fiction) around Boston, and I personally witnessed people at these events saying they’d heard about it on the blog. Clearly, while the TV show called The Gameshelf grew cold, the blog called “The Gameshelf” didn’t much care, and was finding its own ways to be awesome.

So, at the start of this year, I tried something new. After a rewarding wintertime stint of playing Team Fortress 2 with some new friends, I wrote a longish essay about my experiences, and the aspects that interested me the most from a critical standpoint. I really liked the result, and — crucially, for my needy ego — other folks around the web seemed to like it too. So I wrote some more, a new essay every other week or so. You can currently find the collection-so-far in a new category I humbly call Jmac on Games. (That name is subject to change, along with a hundred other details as I continue dinking around with styles and widgets.)

Writing these critical essays has not only changed how I see The Gameshelf, but how I see my own place in the world of digital games. When people ask me what I do now, instead of shruggingly saying “Well, I make a TV show, sort of, sometimes,” I say “I produce game criticism.” It’s clear to me that this is the broader aspect of what I wanted to do with the TV show all along, and by switching my primary medium from video to text, I’m able to actually ship new stuff with some semblance of regularity. While I’m not abandoning video-based criticism, I find it immensely relieving to let go the fiction, held for years, that I’m somehow a stronger video producer than expository writer.

I feel fortunate that, through the efforts of Andy, Kevin, and the less frequent posters, The Gameshelf proved a ready receptacle for this new effort to actually play to my own creative strengths. My hope is that the mix of all the authors’ posts gives us both the independent game criticism and the “other interesting stuff” promised by the new subtitle in the header.

And while I haven’t written much this month, I have a good excuse, anticipating the rollout a couple of new features (in the periodical sense of the word!) over the next week or two. I appreciate your continued reading the The Gameshelf, and would love to hear what you think, as always. In the meantime, watch this space…

Image: Amphora by Exekias of Ajax and Achilles playing a board game.

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2009 in Gameshelf-TV land

Well, we only ended up doing one episode this year, contrary to my hopes last fall. But production of the next show is well underway, and it's as different from the Diplomacy show as that one was different from the shows that came before it. Once it's done, I'm going to release it in a brand-new format that, I hope, will make the show much more watchable, without sacrificing any show quality. You'll know what I'm talking about once you see it.

I'm hoping that 2010 will be the year I can actually bring some regularity to this show's production schedule, enough so that I can say "I make a TV show about games" without feeling obligated to qualify that with some statement about its near-nonexistence as a regular series. I do indeed have a plan for making this happen that is better than "OK, let's just work harder at it." But, in the interest of not jinxing myself, I'll save further yapping about any new process for when I actually deliver something.

To tide you over, please enjoy this historical confection that PeterB over at TLeaves dug up. Wargames! A unique and intriguing hobby.

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Conquer by the Clock

Another little bit of behind-the-scenesery for you: I had a great deal of fun raiding The Prelinger Archives, a collection of public domain films, to fill out the Diplomacy episode's visuals. I expect it to be a well I'll return to often for future episodes.

One film I borrowed from extensively was Conquer by the Clock, a jawdropping American propaganda film from the WWII era. Not only is its delirious visual motif of belligerent, floating clocks wonderful (and quite useful for recontextualizing), but its message is a fascinating window into the psychology of a nation completely mobilized for war. Of particular note is the lesson that every time you take a break from work, soldiers die (and/or go insane). Think of that, the next time you take a minute to screw around reading game blogs!

On another note, I've added Twitter and Facebook links to the bottom of every post on this site, as well as a few other small design changes. Feel free to let me know what you think of them!

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DoKashiteru's music

I just happened across the homepage of DoKashiteru, a duo whose music I have used liberally in recent video projects - Gameshelf included. They put much of their work into the Creative Commons under remix-friendly licenses, so I plan on continuing to use it as an aural background for my own stuff. (Before today I knew the band's music via its page on ccMixter, the site I raid for all my legally clean background music needs.)

They really hit the spot for the kind of blip-happy electronica I'm quite fond of, and I encourage you give them a listen. They make videos, too: here is Sander, one of the pair, giving you a lesson on how to torture some chunky sounds out of an ancient, analog Moog synthesizer.

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Why all this Show talk

I feel the need to clarify an earlier post, now. At the start of this year I implied that I didn't plan on making any more Gameshelf shows any time soon, because of two enormous projects I was working on. But then, in today's previous post, I speak of how I bubble over with show ideas and look forward to finishing the one I've been banging on for months.

So what changed? Well, one of the projects launched, softly. I've begun working with actual businesspeople, having conversations about how Planbeast can become more interesting. That's a gradual process, and I'm satisfied with letting the idea marinate until then.

The other project, the one I was calling "Project X", quietly expired on the negotiation table. It involved an adaptation of a popular tabletop game, but the game's IP holder and I just couldn't arrive at a licensing agreement. So that one goes into deep freeze for now, and while it naturally carries disappointment, it was also an adventure that I was glad to have. It brought me experience and knowledge, both about the business of making games, and about my own relationship with games and their study.

I walked away with a clearer picture of where my passions really lie. While I'd certainly love to publish a commercial game of my own design someday, what I want to do now is document game culture, and create game criticism of the sort I tried to discuss at that GameLoop panel.

Something I've lately become fond of saying is that our culture - not just "gaming culture", I'm talking about the whole sausage, here - is becoming increasingly ludocentric. We need more journalists who recognize this, and who can help our society better understand games' history and culture, and help establish a better language for game criticism. I want to be one of these journalists, and it so happens that I have already built an outlet to make this happen.

So that's where I am right now.

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The Work-in-Progress post

Diplomacy.pngAs you've likely gathered by some combination of the teaser and my Twitter blathering, the next episode of The Gameshelf is going to focus on Allan B. Calhamer's board game, Diplomacy, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. As a matter of fact, I've had the idea of dedicating an entire episode to the game ever since I first came up with the concept of The Gameshelf, knowing exactly what approach I'd take with it.

When, last spring, I was talking with a friend about getting back into producing the show, I decided on the spot that now was the time to make it happen. It would get me excited about working on the show again, and would also result in a damn fine half-hour of television. (If you're a geek for this sort of thing, anyway.)

I knew all along that it would be a challenge to make this episode the way I wanted, because Diplomacy is a very long game. So when I realized after the fact that three independently taping cameras times six hours equals way too much work, I really had no platform to complain from. When dealing with completely unscripted material, during which something usable might pop up at any moment, it takes me between three and four hours to review one hour of footage. Between logging, editing, recording voice-overs, and everything else, I've easily sunk more than 100 hours into the project so far, inching ever closer to the 30-minute-long final cut. I'm committed to finishing it, and I'll be glad to have done it, but it's highly unlikely I'll ever want to do something like this again.

However, while I've been slogging away at this, I've been plotting out what I want to do next with The Gameshelf. My relationship with games and game culture has changed over the last couple of years, and I've picked up new philosophy and inspiration from other people who have learned how to publish regular and frequent creative work on the internet. (See, for example, Scott Kirsner's excellent book Fans, Friends and Followers, or Ze Frank's seminal rant about Brain Crack.) This puts me in the interesting state of being really excited to work on The Gameshelf again - mission accomplished - and also really impatient with the work that still remains with the Diplomacy episode, since it doesn't resemble what I really want to do any more. All I can do is set my shoulders in a posture of grim resolve and try to put another hour or three into it every night until it's done. It'll turn out good, and you'll like it. Then I'll get to start really having some fun...

Kevin_Denis_Diplomacy.pngSo what does come after this? I don't want to spent much ink on it here, at least not until I've produced a couple of solid examples, because I'm a firm believer in the dangers of self-jinxing: to talk too much about a thing you haven't made yet is to let all the air leak out of your own inspiration for it. The teaser mentioned "new episodes", with-an-S-plural, in 2009, so feel free to hold me to that much. We'll see what happens.

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Episode 7 Teaser

Just a teaser for the next episode of The Gameshelf. Here's the Quicktime version.

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Gameshelf DVDs for sale!

474904400_f388b69a8f.jpgI am pleased to announce the opening of the jmac.org video store, where you can purchase a DVD set of the first six episodes of The Gameshelf. The three lovingly hand-burned discs ship in a single standard-size DVD case, making them a nicely eclectic addition to your film shelf. Be the envy of your friends with your ability to watch The Gameshelf from the comfort of your living room, via your DVD player. (And then your can soothe their jealousy by buying them a copy as well.)

As it says on that page, even though you can download or stream the show over the internet for free, I hope you consider buying this collection if you enjoy the show. The money from all purchases will go directly into the production of future episodes, transforming into things like videotape for our hungry cameras, or lunches for our hungry on-camera players. (And, yes, we are producing more episodes. More on that later.)

The shop also sells a collection of the first six Jmac's Arcade installments, and you can save a few bucks if you buy both collections together. Please feel free to leave a comment or write me if you have any questions about this. Thanks!

Image from Olivander's Flickr stream.

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Lee Stewart's Random Oddness

Just a little side-link: Lee Stewart has been part of The Gameshelf's small and constant crew since the first episode, mostly doing camera work, but also assisting in other aspects of production and studio management during shoots. Sometime when I wasn't looking, he turned his blog Random Oddness into a showcase for his recent adventures in screenwriting. As a fan and supporter of DIY television, I feel obliged to toss him a link!

Bonus Gameshelf Trivia: I'm pretty sure I mis-credited him as "Lee Marvin" in at least one early episode.

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The Year Without a Gameshelf

Fans of the TV show - yes, this website is still nominally based on one - will have noticed that 2008 came and went without my releasing a single minute of new Gameshelf video. The status I wrote about last June still stands, but I thought that it's worth writing a little more about while we're all firing up a new year.

I've now gotten myself enmeshed in two very time-hungry commercial projects, which I'm pursuing in addition to my software consulting job. I can comfortably put the necessary time into the show when I have only one-or-fewer day jobs, but with these new projects taking up all the space in my schedule that they can, this just isn't the case, sadly. I don't foresee any new episodes appearing without at least one of these projects getting resolved first.

Regarding these projects, neither is ready for me to announce in detail, but I can say that one is a game, and the other is a web-based service about games. I already help run a web service related to games, but this new one is going to be very different (even though it belongs to the same company). Its official release status is "coming soon", though I do not say from where on the mayfly-to-glacier subjective-timescale continuum this statement originates. Readers of this blog will be among the first to know about it, when it's ready. It ties in to a lot of personal feelings I have about the state of digital gaming, so really, I won't be able to shut up about it. Please consider this my apology-in-advance.

The other project is a digital adaptation of a popular tabletop game, which I hope to straight-up sell through a publisher of such things. This is going to be a long march. I got the informal blessing of the original game's publisher last spring, and began working on the prototype immediately afterwards. However, further software work's been backburnered while I've been trying to hash out a digital distribution agreement with the game's IP holders. We're in active conversation, and I'm enough of a game-geek to find this kind of negotiation rather engaging (and I have enough business experience not to let that get me into trouble), but none of this makes the process move any faster. Once we do strike a deal, you can look forward to me babbling more about it.

Really, I'm bubbling over with stuff I wanna write about on this blog, which is the one Gameshelfy thing I did manage to pull off in 2008. I'm thrilled that it has all the readers and commenters that it does, and of course I must extend my thanks to my fellow Gameshelf bloggers for making my own silence not tremendously relevant! With luck and gumption, I'll manage to share some interesting stuff anyway, soon. Here's to 2009 - may it be filled with the right kinds of games for all of us.

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Looking behind

Rather late on this one, but the folks at brainygamer.com started a group play-through of Deus Ex, the watershed shooter/RPG hybrid published in 2000. It started last week, but it's based around a public forum, so jumping in at any time and following along should work just fine. I presently lack the resources to join in myself, but I love the idea of a book-club approach to exploring games.

I wonder if this would work with other sorts of games? Pick a notable but rarely played board game, and have a large group of people around the world play it separately a few times and then trade notes on the experience, perhaps?


Meanwhile, The Gameshelf got a nice shout-out from indie-game maven Auntie Pixelante last month. She made the observation that the show enjoys taking several games from completely disparate media (with special attention to the gulf between digital and tabletop games) and finding ways to link them together anyway. Oddly, this isn't one I hear too often, even though it's indeed central to how I organize each episode. It's been so long since we last put a show together that I was like, "Hey, that's rather clever of them."


As for Ms. Pixelante's own work, she's clearly quite fascinated by games that use giant chunky pixels for their visual style, to the point that she's designed a couple nice ones herself. Mighty Jill Off borrows some sprites from the ancient arcade game Mighty Bomb Jack, and then wraps them in a rubber-fetish suit and makes them climb to the top of an absurdly tall tower. I played this straight through to the end in about half an hour. I haven't yet gotten all the way through Calamity Annie, a pure-twitch game themed on quick-draw gunfights, and which makes very clever use of its single verb (shoot!) to get through interactive cutscenes.

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Returning to the Shelf

Ahoy, readers! It's time for a meta-post. Another post that's actually about games immediately follows this one, so if this sort of thing isn't of any interest to you, feel free to skip ahead.

When I relaunched this blog in February, I planned it to be an annex of the TV show I produce of the same name. 2008 was going to be a banner year for The Gameshelf. I would produce at least four episodes, continuing the higher standard of quality that we set down with the launch of our new "season" last year.

Ah, you feel you can already see where this is going, eh? Well, it's not as bad as all that. Here's the short version: My life is currently eaten up close to completely by two things. The software consulting business I started about a year ago has become my sole source of income, and my full-time job. While a reorganization of my professional persona, this in itself isn't enough to take over my life. No, that task is filled quite adequately by something I have been calling Project X. This is my attempt to enter the commercial digital game market at a new angle (as opposed to my existing one) by adapting a certain tabletop game for play on home consoles. (I must remain coy about the nature of the game in question until a deal is inked, which is months away at least.)

Many weeks of intense work passed before I finally had to admit that I'd have to put hopes of doing anything on even a semi-regular schedule with The Gameshelf show back into the freezer. This made me shy about posting much to this blog, even though I have more to say about games than ever - it just doesn't necessarily relate to the show so much, lately. However, the blog and the show are less tightly bound than I might assume. There are many more subscribers to the blog's Atom feed than the show's, for one thing, and even during my lengthy quiet period several posters and commenters kept the thing puttering along with new insights and content about the medium of games and the cultures that surround it. That's very cool.

So, here's the plan: The Gameshelf blog sails on, an I return as a poster who is informed and inspired by whatever facet of the world of games that I happen to be closest to at the time. Half a year ago, it was producing a TV show, but now it's transformed into producing a console game, and that's OK. I still have a lot to say about games of all sorts, and shall endeavor to share and engender conversations about the more interesting things I run into. I also plan to start inviting friends and colleagues who haven't been on the TV show to join The Gameshelf as posters.

That's all! I hope that you continue to read, enjoy, and perhaps participate in this nice thing we have. I surely look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

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Werewolf vs. Mole

The Mole is about to start a new season here in the US, after an absence of several years. I hadn't heard of it before and was about to come here proclaiming that clearly it was inspired by deception-themed party games we've covered on The Gameshelf, such as Werewolf and Shadows over Camelot, but Wikipedia tells me that the concept is many years older than the latter game and rather contemporary with the former's invention. (Though it could certainly be informed by Mafia, Werewolf's progenitor.)

It still strikes me as a potentially fascinating reality show concept - I especially like that the TV-viewing audience doesn't know who the "traitor" is, either. I'm quite curious to see how well it works in execution. Any "Mole" fans here? (For the record, my favorite reality show - indeed, the only one I can watch without feeling dreadful - is Top Chef, which is a straight-up competition featuring a group of talented individuals doing what they love, as opposed to a group of random folks playing arbitrary games and encouraged to backstab each other and otherwise generate teh drama on the way to victory. Though I do wish they'd lay off the super-obvious tension-adding editing. And retire the screeching "Uh oh something bad just happened" sound effect. Anyway.)


Speaking of television, please accept my apologies that the most recent episode is taking a long time to come together. All my spare attention's lately taken by that mysterious game-related project that popped up in March and will likely take me the rest of the summer to complete, much less talk about. I went into this year hoping that I'd be able to produce a lot of episodes, but circumstances (which is to say, my own habit of leaping at shiny, shiny opportunity) dictate otherwise for now. Still, the show will be done when it's done, and then will suddenly appear in the RSS feed as usual. Hurrah for surprises!

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SCAT News

For folks with access to cable TV in Somerville, MA, I'll be appearing on an upcoming episode of Inside SCAT, a new show about stuff going on around the community access TV station that helps me produce The Gameshelf. The show airs Tuesday evenings at 7:30 on channel 3. I'm on either next Tuesday or the week after, depending upon how quickly stuff gets edited. Hurrah for community access TV!

I also got a chance to meet Danny Martinez, a Somerville High student who produces a weekly live TV show about video games called S'Ville Games. It airs every Tuesday at 3:30, and features call-in segments. Give it a watch, if you're in town!

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Game-Design Games

I keep meaning to post a long post all about how cool Strange Synergy is, but here's just a little post right now.

One of the things I really like about Strange Synergy is the game-design aspect. In the beginning, you are randomly dealt a number of power cards (things like "Zorch Ball" and "Mental Crush" and "Smoke Bombs" and "Rubber Body"), and you have to assign those powers to your team of three characters. The rules say that you get nine cards and give three to each character, but I've found that I like giving each player fifteen cards, of which they get to give three to each character. This has a few benefits, one of which is evening things out a little bit, as you can sometimes get stuck with a really crappy set of cards and get completely dominated by another player with better cards.

The other benefit is that you actually get to feel like you're doing a bit of game design before you play the game. You get to decide what your characters' powers are, figure out which combinations will work best, how each character will complement the rest of the team, etc. And then you get to test out your design by actually playing the game.

I would like to find more of these kinds of games, where there is a design element incorporated into the game. If there are enough interesting ones, I kind of hope that I can suggest that these all be pulled together as a theme for a future Gameshelf episode.

So, anyone have suggestions for other games to add to this list?

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Pylon online (and other stuff)

pylon.pngDoug Orleans' Pylon, winner of the 2007 Icehouse Game Design Competition as reported in Episode 6, is now an online game! It's hosted on the Volity Network, with art and programming by Doug himself. The user interface is rather basic but entirely functional, and the game's playable against both human and automated opponents. Give it a try!


(Special insider Gameshelf trivia: I referred to Doug as "Somerville's own" during that show, even though he had moved to Billerica, several towns away, by then. But I figured that he probably at least started to think about the game that would become Pylon while he still lived here, so it was all good.)


Some unrelated notes, while I'm here:


I discovered a couple of days ago that the spam-fighting features of this blog were wound a bit too tightly, and perfectly legitimate comments were getting treated as junk. If you got a message that your comment was being held for moderation, but you never saw it appear even days later, please accept my apologies! All such comments have been promoted to their rightful, visible status now, and I've tweaked the blog's spam-fighting settings to act a bit more lenient. Please let me know if you sense anything fishy going on in the future.

In happier news, I'm pleased to announce that production has begun on our first couple of new episodes for 2008. These shows will be different from those that came before, in several ways. We're trying new things with the format, and we're also shooting footage for more than one episode at once, which I will later edit into separate half-hour shows; this is my attempt to complete more than two shows per year. It's gonna be the best year yet for The Gameshelf, and we're happy to have you watching!

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Digital Carcassonne

This isn't news to anyone but me, but still worth a post: Carcassonne, the tile-placement map-building game that we covered in episode 4, was released for XBox Live last year. I only recently got a chance to try it, and am pleased to report that it seems quite faithful to the board game. (Oddly, it didn't seem to allow the placement of farmers, which I hope was an artifact of my copy being a free trial version.)

The game displays, as public information, the tile that the active player is "holding" and pondering - this is good, as Carc's rules specifically state that it's supposed to be so. It also highlights all the spaces on the table that you can place the tile, which I suppose is unavoidable for a computer adaptation, but unfortunately obviates much of the reason for interplayer discussion during a physical game. I find myself quite curious what online Carc culture is like, and how chatty it is, compared to my in-person play experiences (where it's one of the chattiest non-cooperative board games I know of). I'll report further after I have a chance to investigate.

This digital version looks just like the physical board game, with just a subtle and restrained addition of special effects. Only when you complete a structure goes the game drop some 3D magic, making that map feature "pop out" and turn into a tall castle, cloister or road. The aesthetic makes it feel like the flat, incomplete structures are blueprints, and that you're not so much revealing a map of an existing landscape as you are actively constructing it.

I imagine people liking the XBox version so much that they go out and get the wood-and-cardboard edition, and find themselves gawping at the little meeples, crying "Wow, this is just like the video game!!" I am having a hard time thinking of other examples of digital adaptations with this peculiar potential. Many people have undoubtedly played, say, Chess against a computer before playing with a real set, but chess sets are so ubiquitous that all these folks had probably at least seen one before. Not so with games like Carc, which (at least from an American perspective) remain somewhat exotic artifacts.

Possible exception: Days of Wonder, who have made a point for years to have excellent and mostly-free-to-play online versions of their games available. In this case, they're Java-based, in-browser, highly literal adaptations, and so feel less "video-gamey" than anything you'd play on an XBox. But they definitely help move the tabletop product - heck, it's why I own my copy of Ticket to Ride.

Anyway, I note all this only today because I picked up an XBox 360 of my own last weekend. My Gamertag is "Jason McIntosh", and XBox-enabled Gameshelf gawkers should feel free to friend me, though I'm still learning how this thing works. I've been meaning to check out the XBox world for a couple of years, actually, because I've been quite curious about how Microsoft is handling online play - as far as I've been able to tell, they're the only console manufacturer who's been doing it correctly, and online gaming is a topic I have a deep personal investment in.

(Image ripped from GameSpot.)

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The Gameshelf's Google calendar

Because I can't think of any compelling reasons not to, allow me to quickly note that there is a public Google Calendar of The Gameshelf's production activity, for folks interested in keeping track of the show's shooting schedule (though I'll continue to announce stuff here and there, as appropriate).

Yes, it's got all of one thing on it now as I write this post (the 3/11 game shoot I posted about earlier), but as the schedule for the next few episodes fleshes out I'll add more to it. As always, if you're interested in helping with the show and I don't already know you, please visit the "Casting Call" link over on the left navbar.

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Music break

Time for a musical interlude!

  • My pal Jared recently shared the 1977 David Bowie song "What in the World" with me. Everyone (or at least everyone of a certain age) listening to it today can't not think of Pac-Man and its arcade contemporaries, even though these games wouldn't debut for several more years. That Bowie; such a visionary!
  • I fixed the link to the Black Knight 2000 soundtrack that was featured way back in episode 1. That's the circa-1989 pinball game we're playing beneath the closing credits. Are you able to listen to this and not be overcome with the desire to go into multiball mode right now? No, you are not.
  • If you've ever wanted to listen to the whole thing without my yapping all over it, here's the full version of the Gameshelf theme song that my co-host Joe Johnston composed. It's over at Joe's music page.

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