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Tycho / 15 hours ago

We Are Signing All Prints Purchased By August 28th

We’ve got a thing going right now where we are doing that.  So, any Penny Arcade Print or Print Set from the store will get signed, and of course any of the daily strips.  If you have liked one, or you think for some inexplicable reason that another person might like it, the orange button in the upper right of any comic will take you to the store.  Okay, that’s it.  See you around.


Tycho / 16 hours ago

There’s a new playtest for Thornwatch coming to PAX Prime, one that plays around with the systems a little bit.  Jamie had an idea counter to a decision on the game’s fundamental focus, and she proved that contentious ground with an adventure.  That adventure forms the core of what you might play at Prime.  I’ll let him do the rest of it, but I will also put a link to the newsletter sign-up because newsletter subs are how he determines his worth as a person now.  Well, newsletter subs, and maintaining an atmosphere of psychological terror.

I was overjoyed when they pushed the release of Pinball FX2 on Xbox One to let people continue to own the tables they had purchased on the 360.  Backwards compatibility isn’t really a thing anymore; I never had much use for it since I always leave the old machine plugged in.  I also don’t trust wireless keyboards, and wi-fi makes me uncomfortable in competitive games, because I’m a crazy person.  Somebody probably used it.  The official stats never seemed to make a case.

Sony’s ahead of this game substantially with Cross-Buy, which was neat on PS3/Vita but is even cooler on PS3/PS4, because I don’t actually have a Vita.  Ownership of physical discs isn’t something I revere, what I prefer (read: demand) is simple use.  And they’re killing it right now.  But my tables weren’t purchased on PS3, so it didn’t help.  And I could rebuild that catalog, certainly, but I would have stewed about it.  Luckily, I’m lazy enough that they fixed it before I had a chance to.

I, uh, think that Pinball is important.  Zileas over at Riot talks about the the pursuit of mastery as something they want to encourage as a champ, and that’s pinball in a nutshell.  Pinball is fun to play just keeping the ball out of the yawning gap.  It’s challenging, and you always get the sense that you could have done so.

I’ve always loved it.  It could be economical, also, when beseeching parents for money.  My father was much more likely to caught up change for what he perceived to be a game of skill.  You can watch young people fascinated by it, their iced creams dangerously close to the machine.  There are no rules to them, other than the almighty Law of the Drain.

It’s like watching a cloud chamber, adance with mysterious rays, until you begin to see patterns which weave themselves into coherent philosophy.  Every table is this way, in its own way.  It is randomness, situated fully within quotation marks.  Play a table, focus on it, and if you are careful you can feel the moment when ritual becomes science.

(CW)TB out.

Gabe / 16 hours ago

Thornwatch design

The Thornwatch “design team” is really just five people. There’s me obviously but I’ve got help from Kiko, Jamie, Fehlauer, and Kenneth. It’s still sort of a side project so a lot of the work we do on it happens over lunch. We pick a restaurant near the office and work out whatever design issues need to get resolved. I did not plan it this way when assembling my team but they are all very different types of gamers and so we end up getting a lot of really great points of view. Kiko and Kenneth are all about clear and concise rules and mechanics while Jamie and Feh tend to be more interested in the “feel” of the game and the story elements. I usually end up listening to both sides and then make a final decision. I have my own ideas about how the game should work but I honestly really love being convinced of a better solution.

The stuff we “fight” about tends to be ridiculous. We had a lunch a couple months ago at a local Mexican restaurant that got pretty heated. There is a type of card in your deck that once powered stays in play and provides an ongoing effect. At the time they were called “Powers” but there was a movement to rename them “Abilities”. The act of attaching Skill Cards to your cards was at the time called “Powering”. It’s similar to the way you attach energy to a pokemon card so that it can attack but instead you’re attaching Dexterity skill cards to your Backstab attack so that you can use it. Anyway, the idea of “powering” a “power” really bothered some folks and so obviously we had to yell at each other over tacos.

So we’re all arguing our points and suggesting alternate names and telling other people that the names they thought of are stupid and I think at one point I may have gestured at Kiko with a butter knife. Anyway we finally settle it and decide it’s time to head back to the office. As we’re leaving the restaurant a woman sitting at the table next to us grabs my shirt as I am passing by and says “excuse me”. I’m a little surprised but I stop, “Yes?” I ask. She looks at me and says “Your friends are scared of you. They are terrified of telling you what they really think.”

I was super confused now. The reality is that I was fighting to hang onto the “Powers” name while they all wanted it changed. It’s true I was arguing with them but that’s because I wanted a good reason to change it. I needed them to convince me and they did.

I said “ yeah well that’s probably because I beat them if they displease me.”

She was not amused and continued “I was studying their body language and yours and I could see you intimidating them.”

What the fuck was this lady talking about? I thought back to the butter knife I waved at Kiko. Hmm I can see how that might have looked bad.

I nod slowly and say “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m going to go have a talk with them now.” I said this while punching my palm with a closed fist.

I told the Thornwatch team a couple days ago after another heated debate over diagonal vs. cardinal movement that “there isn’t another group of people in the world that I would rather fight with about ridiculous bullshit.” The reason we fight about this stuff is because we’re passionate about the game. I want Jamie to fight and fight for more story and RP elements. I want Kiko to push for more tactical mechanics and strict rules. The resulting game is better for it.

TLDR, I love my friends and they are really smart and creative and I could not make this game without them.

In other Thornwatch news the adventure for PAX Prime is pretty much ready to go. I think we’ve got all the bugs worked out at this point and I’m really excited to show it off. There’s a lot of new artwork debuting at Prime as well including new character art so you can choose between two versions of each class as well as tons of new map art.  Here’s a little peek:

Alternate art for the Guard class.

Thornwatch adventures all start with someone tying a wreath of thorns around a birch tree. This is how a person summons the Thornwatch. In this case it’s a young Lookout.

The Ebb is an evil force in Eyrewood. It’s a sort of sentient creeping rot. It’s a thick ooze that taints whatever it comes in contact with. Here is an Ebb Golem, one of the new monsters you’ll face.

That’s all I have for now. Remember to sign up for the Thornwatch mailing list if you’d like to be kept up to date on the latest developments. You can sign up by hitting the official page and scrolling down to the bottom.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 3 days ago

The kids on the server made their statues out of wool, presumably for the wide range of colors.  Their intense flammability was, we can guess, not conscious portion of the decision matrix.

Initial reports suggested that it might be Herobrine, who you might know of, or might not.  If you played Minecraft when many enthusiast gamers did, which is to say a thousand fucking years ago, and then went to Terraria or Starbound in search of untapped novelty your diagram would never have overlapped Him.  But… he’s not real, which simultaneously makes him the least likely and most likely suspect.

Interrogating your child is a novel experience, and we have many models in popular culture to inform us.  I was surprised at how exquisite the parallels were.  I could practically see the pattern of light from a lone and swinging phantom bulb.  He started out hard.  He didn’t do it, and I should be ashamed for saying he had.  But this wasn’t my first rodeo, and that’s an old trick.  I pushed the folder across the table.  “We have evidence that puts you at the scene,” I said.  I let that sink in.  “And there’s TNT in your inventory.”

“That was for something else.”

“You were the only one on the server when the crime occurred.”

“There’s no way you could know that.”

That got him.  He’s the admin for his server, and he’s familiar with the tool.  But he hadn’t seen the last update, where shit got granular.  And that’s more or less when I sent the mail to my partner. 

It used to be that you had to make a Nether Portal in a Very Specific Way, though you could technically lose the corners and it would still become a conduit to the hell dimension.  In 1.7.2, more dynamic portal shapes were made available.  You have to set them on fire to activate them.  And the story I received was that in an effort to see how weird the shapes could get and still work, a fire started that found its way to their effigies.  Gabriel says TNT.

You can determine under many conditions what you tell a person, but you cannot determine what they hear.  That’s not a matter limited to the age of the participants.  I had just read him Ozymandias, the Shelley one.  I want to believe there was poetry here re: universal forces.  Let’s say “entropy.”  But it doesn’t especially matter.

When people talk about videogames as a form, and further when they talk about the educational payload of such games, there are only a couple conversations you get to have, and that has to do with the kinds of people having the conversations.  They tend not to have kids, and the lives most people lead appear to be wholly abstract to them, so their Startling Insights are as relevant to me as Martian Weather.  I am on record as saying that all games are “educational,” it’s simply a matter of what they teach.

Minecraft is a game, and this game has rules.  You can give those rules more or less weight.  But it is also a one to one model of people and actions.  Which means that, among other things, they can learn about being human.

(CW)TB out.

CSI: Minecraft

My son Gabe has a Minecraft Realm that he and his friends play on. It’s a service that Mojang offers allowing you to rent a private server. You need to specifically invite people to the server otherwise there is no way for them to join. As a Dad, I like this much better than having him out there playing on public servers. It’s not full weirdos who might be preying on kids, but it is full of 9 year olds and that presents its own problems.

These kids spend a lot of time on their Minecraft projects. I’ve been on there and seen massive statues, elaborate games and machines, sprawling castles and even a five-story hotel. On more than one occasion I have had my son come to me in tears because something on the realm was destroyed. In spite of the posted rules explaining that no dynamite is allowed it seems there was some mad bomber wreaking havoc. Unfortunately up until recently Minecraft Realms had no log of player activities. I had no way of determining who the vandal was beyond calling all the parents. Which is what we did.

My wife and I would reach out to all the various folks whose kids were on the Realm and ask if it was their special little angel who was blowing shit up. Now as the father of a 9 year old myself I can tell you that they are liars. So when you ask them if they did something they will just say “no” and in this case I really had no evidence so without someone taking responsibility I couldn’t do anything. That is until a recent update added a log that showed when players logged on and off. It wasn’t much but it was something.

The most recent attack took place a few weeks ago. This time a series of skyscraper sized statues was blown to pieces. The extent of the destruction lead my to believe dynamite was the culprit. The bomber had struck again. My son began restoring the Realm based on previous save files automatically created at regular intervals. We went back hours and then a full day before finally the statues appeared before us once again. Now we had a time frame for the crime but we still had no suspects.

My wife opened up the activity log and began cross-referencing the log in times of the various children with the what we believed was the time of the attack. A few names matched up as being online during that window but we still needed to narrow it down. I went back to the crime scene hoping it would give up a few more clues. These statues were actually massive recreations of specific player’s avatars. These kids all had custom skins and they had recreated them with blocks acting as pixels. There were three names on our list of possible suspects and I was looking at the ruined statues of two of them. Unless I was to believe that one of them was smart enough to destroy his own creation in order to throw me off the trail, I knew who my bomber was. Unfortunately it was the one kid I really didn’t want it to be.

There was no question, it was Jerry’s son Elliot. I felt like a cop who finds out that his partner’s son is the bank robber they’ve been hunting. Gabe wanted to ban him immediately but I stopped him. “Don’t ban him yet.” I said “let me talk to his Dad first.” We’ve been partners a long time, I figured I owed it to him to go to him first with the evidence. I sent Jerry an email and laid out the case I had against his son. I explained that Elliot wasn’t banned yet and that I was handing the case over to him. The mail I got back was just two words. It said:

Ban him.

I’ll let him tell you what happened after that.

-Gabe out

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