An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. Conrad writes news and produces video content for Destructoid (including Sup, Holmes?, Office Chat and Saturday Morning Hangover) and is a regular host on Podtoid.
The mere inclusion of Rodney Dangerfield can vastly improve anything. Films, music, toasters, anything. In particular, the force of Rodney Dangerfield could elevate video games to the level in which they are accepted by the mainstream as a true art form, bringing together people of all races, creeds and tax brackets in peace and harmony.
As some of you may be aware, I'm headed to Japan this week to attend the Tokyo Game Show. If this were a standard kind of trip, I would be ramping up my Twitter usage, communicating my thoughts about the trip as they happen. But I don't have an international data plan on my phone and, as I'm led to understand from Dale, the WiFi situation in Japan isn't such that I expect to be able to just hop on and give the blow-by-blow.
Just as well, really. If I'm taking the time to tweet out the totally awesome thing which just happened, what if I miss some further awesome mere moments later because I was absorbed in my phone? That would be some kind of tragedy, I'm certain.
So, I'm aiming to try and use my Cblog a little bit this trip to talk about my experiences in Tokyo. As I write this, I'm sitting in Los Angeles International Airport, having completed the first leg of my flight. I'm pretty damn tired already, but that's by design; part of my plan to combat the effects of jet lag.
I've always had challenges in regards to sleep. My brain doesn't shut off particularly well and usually depends upon my body's exhaustion to force it into submission. In my youthful, collegiate days, this generally meant a schedule of being awake for 36 hours, followed by an 8 hour respite once I became too tired to do anything but sleep. Over the years, I've learned techniques to force myself to rest when I'm not ready, but it's also conditioned me with what I can only compare to a kind of low-grade narcolepsy. And, if I have nothing pressing ahead of me, I'm capable of remaining asleep for twelve or more hours.
Due to the nature of their gills needing water to pass over them to perform their function, most sharks have to maintain moving or be unable to breathe. I'm somewhat like this in regards to consciousness. If I stop moving, stop thinking about something of importance (or, at least, interest), I become exhausted and will often just fall asleep. I'm the absolute worst person to vacation with, for example, because being a tourist bores the hell out of me and I'm perfectly capable of passing out on a park bench.
I mention all of this because I'm curious to see how I, with my already unusual habits, respond to honest-to-goodness jet lag. The irregularity of my sleep cycle can be frustrating, but it's also made me highly nimble in regards to adjusting my schedule. I'm nearly incapable of maintaining consciousness on a flight longer than an hour, so I'm going to sleep (slept the whole first leg, too), but I'm hoping that I can time things to where I wake up halfway across the Pacific, which should be Monday morning in Tokyo. With any luck, I'll wind up being just a little tired when I exit the plane at 4 in the afternoon, and ready to sleep again by nighttime.
Preparations for the plan necessitated that I stay up all of last night. Waking at 7:30 so as to broadcast Saturday Morning Hangover, I spent my day running last minute errands. I bought a couple pairs of denim pants, got a haircut and picked up some toiletry items. Obviously, there was some packing involved. Then, Katrina and I stayed up and watched the third season of Archer.
Well, I stayed up. She was a real trooper, but she needs a solid 8 hours every night on a schedule, so she was out by shortly after 2 am. At 4, I left for Portland International and that leads us to where we are now. For the next 14 hours, or so, I'll be screaming across the Pacific in the massive jet I can see out the window, getting ready for culture shock.
I'm not saying that I'd like to create a game one day, that it would be fun to try and turn what I've learned over my years of playing and thinking about games into one of my own creation. This feels more serious. I'm struck often by inspiration at three in the morning, just as I'm starting to think about the prospect of a decent night's sleep and the idea won't go away. It sits there, nagging like an unhappy wife, until I listen and allow the concept to take enough form that I can dismiss it as being of little merit or I have something that I think I'd genuinely like to play.
There's been an itch inside me to create games for as long as I can remember. Being an only child teaches you to find ways to amuse yourself and playing games was always the thing I liked better than any activity. As there's little satisfaction to be found in simply going through the motions of a board game, playing for two or more in a feint of actual competition, I soon took to trying to adapt the games I liked best with rules which would allow me to challenge myself using the mechanics of the game as a guide. I still do this today, almost as a sort of mental exercise, whenever I'm introduced to a great new board game.
In elementary school, I made my first fully realized board game as a class project, based around Greek mythological trivia with spaces on the board referencing major tales with relevant effects. It was a crude prototype in a lot of ways; Contact paper applied to an old Monopoly board, lines drawn in permanent marker, cards printed from the noisy dot matrix job in the office and sturdied by some kind of plastic laminate.
It was an ugly thing, but pretty impressive if you knew of its construction over a frantic weekend, when I announced to my parents that this was a project I'd put off for weeks and was due on Monday. It was also entirely too difficult in play, and required either a level of knowledge on the subject most people could not be realistically expected to have in their memory or incredible luck to win at. This led to games which would drag on far longer than anybody would have had a good time on. Nonetheless, I was proud of the effort and, actually, it probably could have been a pretty decent thing with refinement.
Once I discovered role-playing games through Dungeons & Dragons (and then started having fun by finding other really good RPGs to play instead), I found in them a more direct outlet. Much like adapting the board games years earlier, they provided for me a framework and inspiration but granted the freedom to express my own ideas, to throw out the parts of their rules which made the game less enjoyable to play and introduce new mechanics. I would spend hours in my bedroom with graph paper, planning adventures and running them against myself in order to be prepared to share them with others.
A tabletop mech combat game based on a lesser-known, skirmish based miniatures ruleset, WarEngine, which allows for unit customization on a microscale without sacrificing speed of play. A satirical, "screw-your-neighbor" card game where players assume the roles of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, vying to reap the most of their allotment of souls before Jesus shows up. I have notebooks filled with tables, layout concepts and barely legible notes containing designs for these and probably a couple dozen more game ideas. They're not all good. Most of them are pretty awful and don't last the length of a page before I've reasoned out some fundamental flaw in my thinking, but I'm struck by how many there are and how urgent I seemed to have been when I wrote them.
I feel that sense of urgency more keenly now than I have in a very long time. Over the last several months, I've been bombarded. But I'm not immersed in board games at all the way I used to be. My social interactions more limited due to responsibilities and a lack of convenient, nearby players, I haven't even played a board game in over two years. Videogames are all I think about any longer. Day in and day out. And while I've always had that same sense that some of the ideas I have could be really fun, there's a significantly greater barrier to making a videogame than something which can be played with cards and dice.
But the feeling in me is growing, the nagging more persistent, and I can't sleep again tonight.
Last week, I appeared on an episode of Podtoid. At some point in the proceedings, Jim Sterling made some comment regarding Buffy the Vampire Slayer and was shocked when I professed to have no particular interest in the series, as we are of course required to like all of the same things. And because I'm the sort of person who'll give a try to just about anything that isn't commonly distributed via injection or inhalation, I agreed that I would give it a shot.
Well, I'm seven episodes in and Jim's a jerk for provoking me into it now that I've realized what I'm in for. There's seven seasons of this? Am I obligated to watch the spin-off? Oh, the things I do to satisfy that luscious vessel of man-gravy.
So far, there have been a few genuinely entertaining moments, usually short bursts of clever dialogue, but it also feels like it's faltering a little bit in its balance between camp and cool and it's not quite working. Then again, I've been led to understand that the Joss Whedon requires a little time to get cooking. Seven seasons and millions of fans suggests that it finds a groove eventually and I expect I'll be rolling right along with the fun halfway through season two. In the meantime, it's not terribly exciting.
Any predictions on when in the series this transitions for me from feeling a little bit like a chore to feeling like an imperative?
I enjoyed the absolute hell out of Borderlands right up until that last expansion released and I lost any and all desire to play the game. But that doesn't change how much love I have for the time when I had a lot of love for playing Borderlands and I could probably be coerced into firing up the game again if Katrina ever had the urge.
So, how to approach a custom cover for this one? One of the things which draws me to games such as this is the idea of claiming a character class as your own. It's especially true of Borderlands, where it just seems less fun when there's a second version of you running around and it doesn't really help the team all that much (unless it's Lillith). So I wanted to reflect that identity, which really left me with no choice other than to just make four covers:
The rear of each of the four covers features the vault symbol. If there is demand and time, I've considered the prospect of making a four-piece set which, when on a shelf together, would create the Borderlands title. I just can't see a reason to do it for myself.
Anyway, feel free to download the full-sized versions below. These are sized for standard DVD cases, as I intend to pool them all together in a uniform display. Again, enough demand and I can toss together ones more appropriate for blu-ray cases.
Been some time since I got around to doing a custom game cover. When I first started making these, Deadly Premonition was always at the top of my list. I just couldn't settle on what I wanted to attempt.
My first idea was to depict the victim Anna on her tree. A few early efforts wound up fairly ugly and I started looking for other ideas. The design I almost wound up going with would have consisted of Agent Morgan's open case notes.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been playing through the game again and I resolved to get this cover done so I could stop thinking about it. And then it just came together. I stopped thinking about all of the ancillary aspects of Deadly Premonition, all of the plot elements both on and below the surface, and remembered that at the core it's a story about a young, dead girl on a tree.
I took a little bit of time this weekend to whip up more game covers. Since I recently finished Uncharted 2: Among Thieves on Backlog (my live streaming show where I play through the unfinished games in my collection; Weeknights, 10pm Pacific on Destructoid's Justin.tv channel), I thought it might be worth the effort. But, just with the Dead Space covers, I really didn't want to make a cover solely for a sequel so I would have to make a cover for Drake's Fortune as well.
The initial idea for the Among Thieves cover was to reference the three-bladed dagger that's at the center of the struggle for much of the game, and I figured I would probably put the image as though it were half buried in snow on the back panel of the page. Which is all well and good for that game, but its predecessor's iconic item is a worn journal. I toyed for a bit with trying to get the book to look visually interesting in a two-tone color scheme but it just wasn't working. I later tried to represent the statue from El Dorado in three colors and it was an ugly, muddled mess.
So, the treasure was out of the question for Drake's Fortune. Another idea considered was a dotted line and a big 'X' on a map backdrop. I liked this because the map would add texture to the design but I haven't figured out how to make the dotted line work in Photoshop and abandoned that idea pretty quickly as well.
Ultimately, I decided to set a theme of discovery with the two covers. Abandoning objects altogether so that I could have consistency, I focused on the people they were centered upon. So we have Francis Drake in the corner of Drake's Fortune and Ponce De Leon on the Among Thieves(except it's Marco Polo in Uncharted 2; whoops! Old images replaced with new hotness). This was way easier to accomplish than anything else since I could use woodcuts of the figures and they'd look great against the map backdrops.
And then there's this thing that I toyed with briefly before abandoning it. I wouldn't show it at all but I wanted to illustrate how out of fashion woodcuts must have become by the 1920's.
Now I make these covers to conform to a DVD case standard because I want them to be consistent on my shelves. Since people have asked and seeing as the Uncharted series is PS3-exclusive and all, I made versions of the first two Uncharted covers which should fit PS3 cases. Download the covers below: