Monday, 26 May 2014

Old School Villain of the Week: Arch Vile

We are moving towards the end of the month and I haven't done one of these articles for a while. I had to get this one off my mind though; maybe just to exorcise it. There are quite a few enemies from Doom I could have chosen: Pain Elementals are a nuisance, Cyber Demons are tough, Lost Souls always seem to eat your rockets when they are right in front of you. But this mongrel has been on my mind, gnawing at the edge of my conciousness. The Arch Vile.

Sure, there are harder things to kill in Doom (well, three things…). I have discussed this with my friends previously and some of them just shrugged it off and said "...a couple of double barrel shotgun shots...".

Yeah, well. They still give me the creeps.

There are only a few creatures that give you that instant panic, that staccato voice in your head that says "kill it, kill it, kill it, kill it." Chrysalids from UFO/XCOM come to mind, as well as most of the special critters in Left 4 Dead (BOOMER!). But the Arch Vile. He sets off some kind of panic cascade in my head as soon as I hear him. I can remember loading a Doom .wad file that changed a whole chunk of the Doom sound-scape (I think it was called “meganutz”). The plasma gun sounded like the plasma weapons from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Arch Viles said “G’day Moiiiit” when they woke up.

“G’day Moiiiiit.”

Kill it, kill it, kill it, kill it…

Name: Arch Vile

Background: I did some research into the Arch Vile on the Doom wiki and found some interesting things about them. Conceptually, they have a dualistic nature. They roast things with sorcerous flames, even other demons, but when they have killed their prey they go around resurrecting the demons that got caught up in the collateral damage. When they die, their death sound is actually a recording of a young girl calling out “WHY?!”  (in post-production, the recording was saved as a sound file on a floppy disk and then dropped into that well from “The Ring” for a few years). The idea is that the Arch Vile can’t fathom why someone would kill it, as it only wants to do good for its fellow demon-kind. And it likes warm hugs.

Weapon of Choice: Golden flames followed by a massive blast that lifts you off your feet. The shot automatically hits at any range, unless you break line of sight with the Arch Vile. Good luck if there are two of the mongrels, and/or no cover. Two hits is usually enough to take you down, though one will weaken you enough that something else will probably pick you off.

Claim to fame: Arch Viles resurrect weaker demons, which is a real problem in Doom. I always found the game to be a constantly evolving algorithm of ammo expenditure, health preservation and expedience. An Arch Vile messes everything up by making you expend precious ammo on demons you have already killed. They force you to move for LOS breaking cover or risk a devastating attack you cannot otherwise dodge. Additionally, you can’t get other demons to fight them, which is usually a good tactic for saving ammo and distracting big uglies. You end up using your more powerful weapons to take it down quickly and save you the trouble, but that leaves you short changed when something truly big knocks on the door. Seriously, I hate these guys so much.

See you across the table,


Friday, 16 May 2014

Bears and Lighthouses

Well, I've hit that really pointy part of the school year when every teacher is writing, supervising and marking tests. This is quickly followed by writing reports (I have about 90 to do). I can feel the gamers paradox biting hard; when you are young have lots of time but no money, when you are old you have money but no time!

Having said that, I have played a few games of Battletech, including a ripper this week, that will have to wait for another post. I have also been saving my spare change for a brief foray into MtG 2014 sometime this month.

Hobby wise, I have managed to finish painting and basing KuriboGoomba's first Ghost Bear Mech, a Horned Owl (well, a Shadowhawk IIC dressed up like a Horned Owl). I based it in a "spring thaw" theme, because I figured that would be when the bears come out to play. I still have some decals to put on and some touch ups to do that I only noticed after taking photos. Ahhh the joy of blogging.

I have also hastily PowerPoint-ed a mock-up of the Kadillus Lighthouse, using parts from an antique lighthouse I found on the web (for $1850...). My good mate Jimmy is set to receive a 3D printer over the next couple of weeks, so we are going to have a go at digitally designing a similar structure for the beacon and printing it off. This can only end well.


See you across the table,


Friday, 9 May 2014

Game Masters


During the weekend I met up with some old high school buddies and went to the Game Masters exhibition at the Power House Museum in Sydney (below).

The exhibit featured over 100 games that you could sit (or stand) and play at your leisure. It included consoles/devices and games from the earliest days of gaming to modern classics and everything in between. I got a high score on Missile Defence which I haven’t played since I was 7! I got Zerg rushed! I kicked a chicken!

The world's most influential videogame designers and ground-breaking games were celebrated, spanning arcades, consoles, PC and mobile platforms. Many influential franchises were showcased, including (but in no way limited to) Space Invaders, Pac Man, Mario, Sonic, Sim City, Warcraft/Starcraft, Fable, Guitar Hero, Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex, Rez, Monkey Island and many more. Some great little indie games were also there, such as Braid and Journey. Noticeably absent were first person shooters, arcade or otherwise, such as Operation Wolf, Time Crisis, Wolfenstein, Doom, Unreal, Quake, CoD, Battlefield (how good was 1942/3 in the day?) or Halo. There were also no fighting games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, Tekken or Samurai Showdown. I assume they are just too violent for the intended audience. Mass Effect should have been represented too, ah well…

The exhibit was presented in three sections, allowing you to play traditional arcade machines and consoles and large-scale interactive displays. There was heaps of multimedia addressing game design and development, rare original game artwork, 3D models/renders and interviews with game designers. We promptly ignored most of this stuff and just played lots of games.
Here are a few shots of the day, with some special moments to bring a stinging tear of nostalgia to the eye. Please excuse the quality of some photos, it was dark and potent in that place.

Johnny playing Xevious, which was a hotly contested game in our group’s retro-arcade gaming club a while ago (though we used an emulator back then and this was the real thing). I found it to be a blisteringly infuriating game!).

Wade playing Pac Man. We witnessed a 30-something Dad explaining to his concerned son why he was able to chase the ghosts after eating a power-pill: emotional.

Johnny and Arny get their Rez on.

KuriboGoomba, the Rez master, takes on the big screen. Psychedelic awesome ensued. Soooo many glowing space jellyfish to shoot!


Porntipsguzzardo! I would have liked to have unleashed a disaster on this Sim City 2000 town, but there were too many other games to play.

KuriboGoomba playing one of his favourites, Shadow of the Colossus. He spent 10 minutes swimming and running up a ramp before falling off again and giving up. No giant monsters were harmed during the filming of this episode of Old School Gaming.

A Fender Stratocastor xbox controller with real strings for playing Guitar Hero. Wow. Just wow.

…and finally, Arny taking Johnny for a ride in Sega’s ‘Hang On’ J

All I can say is, we went in pretty cocky but left feeling old. Still, it feels like a privilege to have been there when the vast majority of these games had their time in the sun.
See you across the table,

Sunday, 4 May 2014

In the Works...

I have a few gaming projects in the works at the moment and nowhere near the time I would like to do them justice. Here is a quick update on a few of them, which I hope to bring to some kind of completion soon.

1)      40K Cataclysm

I am currently half way through re-writing the 40K 2nd Edition rulebook. That may sound like a lot of work, but when you cut out all the extraneous guff, it adds up to 32 pages. So far I have written revised universal rules and worked out the turn sequence, as well as detailed rules for the Initiative and Movement phases.

The biggest change I am making is a controversial one, for people who haven’t tried it anyway. I am proposing that movement and shooting occurs simultaneously, not on a player turn basis. This has a few major effects on the game. You are always involved in the game at every stage, you don’t have to sit back and watch your army evaporate. This by itself is a game changer; the intensity of the game increases manifold. You can’t keep your units hidden then pop them out for a turn to shoot without copping some return fire. 2nd Edition achieved this as well with the Overwatch rule, though I can’t imagine people wanting that back any time soon (in that format anyway, 6th Ed. overwatch isn’t so bad….).

This rule change complicates a few things which I will make clear as they come up, one of which is how to organise the movement phase. I have chosen to order movement according to unit type (support, followed by squads, then characters). Every unit of a specific category must move before any units from the next category can move, with players alternating moving units until they are all moved (army with lowest initiative [strategy rating + d6] moves first). This has far reaching consequences, all the way back to army composition. Take a support heavy army and you will get the drop on the enemy support units (as you should). Of course, they may bury you with anti-armour squads! As an added twist, a character unit can swap its movement slot with any other unit. This opens up some interesting strategies and represents another way to express a characters leadership. So, the movement phase just got a whole lot more strategic…

2)      Ghost Bears Beta Galaxy Garrison Star
Now there’s a mouthful. My mate KuriboGoomba bought a couple of iconic Ghost Bear Mechs, which I added to, completing the full star. I asked him which scheme he wanted and he chose Beta Galaxy. So far I have knocked together a Horned Owl in the scheme, using the Shadowhawk IIC as a starting place. I shaved off the SRM launcher with a ridiculously sharp knife, then replaced the micro lasers (WTH are they anyway: not old school enough!) with pulse laser barrels from a Mad Dog already waist deep in the kitbash barrel.

I started with a white undercoat, followed by Enchanted Blue. I then added a black wash and re-established the vibrancy by wet-blending some blue back in. I then highlighted with several mixes of Enchanted Blue/Space Wolves Grey. The cracked ice motif was a pain in the butt. I started with a stripe of Space Wolves Grey, then blobbed some white to create the “ice” as well as a slight bit of texture. I then painted black around the ice by just kind of “licking” the detail brush around the raised white dots. Gun barrels are Tin Bitz blended up through Shining Gold to Leadbelchers, with some more Leadbelchers details splashed around the articulating joints. Anything painted in Leadbelchers was also highlighted with Runefang Steel. The cockpit is jewelled using a wet blend of Golden Yellow to Gore Red. Now I just have to decide what to do with the base. AND paint the other four Mechs in the Star.

3)      Fortress of Redemption “Kadillus Lighthouse”

Well, this project has been languishing for years. It is a Fortress of Redemption that I have converted to be armed with a Vulcan Megabolter. I have grand plans to convert the tower into an actual lighthouse, I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. The paint scheme is me experimenting with depicting corrosion on different metallics.

4)      Iron Snake Sternguard with Boarding Shields

I ordered these guys while I was in Greece before my daughter was born. I’m hoping to get them all finished before her 3rd Birthday: not too much to ask…right? I seriously love these guys and I am excited to see how the project pans out. Watch this space.

 5)      Dark Angel Command Squad (3rd Company)

When I bought the new 6th Ed. starter set I swapped all of the chaos miniatures for a ton of 2nd and 3rd Ed. Dark Angel gear. These guys, despite having limited poses, are a real joy to paint. The Standard Bearer and the Champion have received quite a bit of conversion work and, realistically, this project will probably be the first finished. After that, I have the rest of the 3rd Company to paint!
Well, that’s just a few of my many projects on the boil. Hopefully I can knock these ones over in good time. Whilst they are not really a thorn in my side, they are a creative niggle that I need to iron out for my own sanity.

See you across the table,