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9:04 AM on 07.09.2009  

A Call to Arms (help a nice guy beta test his game)

Myself and Bulletmagnet have talked before about our involvement in the old Triple Triad X community. The sucessor community, Triple Triad Advance is an utter cesspool of a community and I really disconnected from the whole scene a few year back.

However, acouple of days ago, a new Triple Triad site went into Beta and could really use some testers trying out the game, reporting bugs and givng general feedback. The site is slick, well-designed and it's the first time in years that I've been optimistic about the game.



For those who are interested, the game is based on the minigame from FF8 with a lot of new features such as a card shop,new rles (explaned n the forums) and various community features. You can click here to visit the site, but also please sign up to the forums so you can report back on the game. My name on the site is Vimes. Gimme a shout if you fancy a game.

I really do think that this site has a lot of potential, but only if the creator takes the time to promote the game outside of the old community. There is no benefit of asking the old guard, tired and negative as they are, to give formative feedback on the site. Useful feedback will come from those outside of the old community, able to objectively give feedback that is not tainted by nostalgia or the drama of previous sites.

Please have a look at the site, sign up, have a couple of games. They've only just opened, so there aren't many playing and you may have to arrange matches wth your friends, but make the time and give it a go.   read


3:25 PM on 07.07.2009  

Trooping the Colour

I love the Dawn of War games. Weíve already established from previous articles that Iím a fan of Games Workshopís tabletop games, but Iíve never been a huge fan of the sci-fi based Warhammer 40,000. It has a great universe, great models, and there are other games set in the same universe that I utterly love (Inquisitor and Necromunda) but Iíve never been as a big a fan of 40k as I am of the fantasy based Warhammer.

I do love the Dawn of War games, however. I bought all of the expansion packs to the original and I have the sequel, though Iím not very far into it yet. I am very aware that my reasons for liking the game may be a little different from most people. Oh sure, it has nice mechanics, a good pace, a decent selection of armies and units. But what I really love, above all else, is the Army Painter. For someone like me, who doesnít have the time or patience to sit and churn out army after army on the tabletop, itís a godsend! It lets me test out colour schemes, emulate schemes that Iíve seen and liked, and it allows me to select a characterful army for a specific match, enemy or tactic.



Iím going to focus on the Space Marines for a number of reasons. The Space Marines have, by far, the largest number of recognised colour schemes, with many named chapters varying in fame from the very prominent Ultramarines (blue, usually with white or gold trim), Dark Angels (dark green), Blood Angels (red with red or black trim)and Black Templars (Black with white trim) to the more obscure chapters such as the Imperial Harbingers (completely white armour with a yellow helmet), Celebrants (yellow, orange and red armour) and the Brazen Claws (quartered red and blue armour).



The space marines are also relatively simple models. They are a very good army to create custom colour schemes for because of their clearly segmented armour, iconic shoulder pads and large, flat surfaces. Plus, and this point is of utmost importance, they look cool! A little generic? Yes, but cool nonetheless. They are the army which most represent the battlefields of the 41st millennium, the army which has seen the least fundamental visual change since their inception, and the staring point for the collections of many players.



Although they are often considered generic, each Space Marine chapter (well, most) have their own distinct personality, and this is something I like to play to in the Dawn of War series. If I know Iím going to taking on the Tyranids, then Iíll usually go Ultramarines, many of whom were wiped out by a massive Tyranid attack. The Ultramarines are a chapter that adheres strictly to the Index Astartes, essentially a playbook for Space Marines, which advocates a balanced approach to war and a rigid chapter structure. Well, they would, their Primarch (leader and genetic progenitor) wrote it!. They do, however, make one exceptions, by fielding specialist veteran Tyranid Hunter squads made of survivors of previous encounters with the Tyranids. Itís too characterful to pass up, especially in more squad-based Dawn of War 2.



There are other examples. Do you like to fight up close and personal? Inject a bit of character into your force by fielding the vicous Blood Angels or the feral Space Wolves. Enjoy a more vehicle-oriented approach? Field the technology loving Iron Hands.

Of course, you donít need to limit yourself to one the existing, recognised chapters. You can have a lot of fun designing your own one and leading it into battle. Hey, if you really like it, you might even want to grab a couple of miniatures and paint them up in your colours. My chapter is called the Verdant Fists:



Iíve not really got any back story for my chapter, but it gives a nice sense of continuity to go from playing on the tabletop to playing an online RTS with the same team. Dawn of War represents to me, in much the same way as the new Blood Bowl game, a bridging point between two hobbies. Over the past few years, Games Workshop have become a lot smarter over who they give their licences to and Iím really hoping this continues and that more games are created, whether interpretations such as Dawn of War or faithful translations such as Blood Bowl, to further bring GWís intellectual property into the digital realm and that these games are made to complement the tabletop original and, in doing so, enthuse and excite GWís core audience in the way that this game has so clearly excited me over the past few years.   read


6:36 AM on 07.06.2009  

The Reikland Bairns Plog: Undercoating [NVGR]

I was swithering over whether to post this one. Not strictly video game related, though it is gaming related in the wider sense, and it was inspired by a videogame. Oh well, I guess it's something a little different.

As you may have read, Iíve recently been very into the new Blood Bowl game by Cyanide Studios. Specifically, I love how faithful the game is to the original boardgame. It really has inspired me to paint up a new team as my old Orcs are looking very tired and fugly.



I said in my Blood Bowl post that I was going to paint up a team of nuns. I do have this team sitting on my desk, but Iím not going to paint them just yet, as I really only have the minimum number of them to form a team and although Iím looking forward to painting them, Iíd rather paint a full team, including subs, first. As such, Iíve undercoated a more generic female team:



These are a few selected models from the team. I really like the style of this team, similar to the official human one, but slender and in more dynamic poses. Iím thinking a blue and white colour scheme and the name, ĎThe Reikland Bairnsí as a tribute to my own home team, Falkirk F.C. Reikland, by the way, is a state in Empire, the main human nation in the Warhammer world.

Now, the team is looking good and the well-balanced human rules should serve me well. There was something missing though. The humans get an Ogre in their team to fill the Ďbig guyí role and heís great at stomping on those pesky blitzers on the other team. Heíd look a bit out of place, however, in my otherwise all-female team. Iíd need a female Ogre.



Perfect!

The team is so far undercoated in white and I hope to start painting them over the next couple of days. Iíll update when Iíve made some progress.   read


5:58 PM on 07.05.2009  

My Threesome

Everyone has that close little group of friends who play together, or more often multiple groups which occasionally overlap. In my case, regardless of what game Iím playing, I can count on my two closest friends to jump in and help me out, or to shoot me in the face with a rifle-grenade.

Itís an awkward number, three. We canít split ourselves in to even teams. On consoles itís always Ďwinner stays oní and any game that pits the three of us against one-another is subject to alliances which last until one player turns his back long eough for another to stick the knife in.

Recently, our main games to play together have been World of Warcraft (though two of us have kicked the habit), Call of Duty: World at War, Sins of a Solar Empire. Iím going to talk briefly about each, and what makes them so suited to our 3-man party.



I started playing WoW about a year before the first expansion and it took me almost all this time for my first character to reach 60. I just wasnít that into it. I had a few alts, I didnít invest all that much time, and I was beginning to wonder why exactly I was continuing to pay a monthly fee for a game I just didnít play all that much. I was quite close to just leaving it, until one of my friends (weíll refer to him by his WoW name, Puncho) decided to give it a go and got very into it, levelling to 70 with me very shortly after the release of the expansion. The other (henceforth referred to as Gilius), soon followed and although he didnít invest as much time in the game, we formed a solid team.

Three players in WoW doesnít immediately sound like the ideal setup. Most things outside of dungeons can be done solo, and you need five for an instance run. However, we found that with our good healer, tank and DPS setup, it didnít really matter who else we brought in. We could pull most sub-par DPS through any dungeon. As is the way with WoW, we all three became hopelessly addicted. Despairing of por leadership in the first guild weíd ever joined, we moved on to start our own one, with our three characters forming the core of our raid team.

We stayed with WoW until eventually clearing all of the Wrath launch content. Weíve tried Ulduar, but two of us had rather lost interest already. Puncho is still in the game, however, and has cleared Ulduar.



More recently, weíve taken to playing Call of Duty: World at War. Gilius and I had been paying CoD4 on-and-off for a while, and it was the Steam weekend deal for World at War which brought Puncho into the series. We started off finding empty servers and agreeing on set 2v1 challenges or free for all bouts. It was good fun and although we often visited busier servers for bigger games, we got quite annoyed when people burst in on our smaller, Ďprivateí matches.

This frustration led to us renting out our own server. This gives us the flexibility to play our private free for alls or to open the server up to more people when we want to. Iíve actually been quite surprised by how quickly the server fills up when we open it. With such a close-knit little group, it gets very competitive, with much shouting, taunting and personal vendettas! Weíre even starting to see regulars show up on our server, really establishing an Ďextended familyí feeling to our games.

We all have our little trademarks too. Gilius loves controlling the tower in the Roundhouse level and hates anybody using machine or submachine guns. Puncho canít stop himself groaning at the stupid catchphrases and taunt that Gilius come out with, and gets rather pissed off when caught by one of the Bouncing Betty mines.



In the past couple of weeks, weíve added another game to our repertoire. Sins of a Solar Empire is a game that Gilius and I have been playing infrequently for some time. Puncho recently picked it up and weíve taken to playing some incredibly cutthroat matches. Iím particularly notorious in our tryst for being a tad untrustworthy in strategy games, so Iím usually betrayed mercilessly as a pre-emptive maneuver.

The most recent example was the other night. Puncho and I had held a strong alliance for the whole match and we had formed a casual cease-fire with Gilius whilst we finished off some computer-controlled empires. Having done this, I agreed with Puncho to end the cease-fire and to take on Giliusí fleet whilst he (Puncho) attacked Giliusí planets. Needless to say, I was double crossed. I crushed Giliusí fleet, but not before Puncho had ripped through three of my own planets. As an aside, I still won that game, which made a nice change.



Iím sure you all have such anecdotes, and that many will be more interesting than the examples Iíve given, but I do have a point. Gaming with my two closest friends is what really keeps me in the hobby. Itís what made gaming interesting in the first place, competing with them in Worms and Street Fighter 2, working with them to finish off Super Mario World and Sonic 2, and running clans and guilds with them in WoW and Gunbound. I really take objection to the outsiderís view that gaming is an antisocial pursuit as, without gaming, I would never have really gotten close to my best friends and more recently, when we all went our separate ways for University, we would most definitely not have stayed in touch to the extent that we did.

We would have phoned one another, sure. Weíd have had Skype and MSN, but I donít think that would have done it. The reason we stayed so close was our shared love of gaming, and making time a couple of nights a week to sit down, connect to Skype and blow the shit out of each other on various online games. Thereís no way any of us would spend a solid three or more hours on the phone, talking about our day, the latest news or gossip, or just random crap without the interface of a game, a shared activity we all enjoyed.

Essentially, despite the scaremongering Jack Thomson and all the other anti-gaming advocates, I thoroughly believe that I owe the two most enduring and rewarding friendships I have, to gaming.   read


6:04 AM on 07.05.2009  

I'm selling out too!

Say what you want guys, but the Examiner guys are getting paid. Anyways, on with the blog.

Hello! and welcome to Tavendale's blog, sponsored by MSNBC! I dont really have anything to post about, but I can probably fill a couple of paragraphs.

Today I'm goin to work. It sucks, because that means can't watch MSNBC! However, I'll be back in the evening to do one of threIe Blog Posts I had ideas for. It will be titled BB Project Log, My Threesome or WHY I LOVE THE MSNBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WLLIAMS!

I'm not sure which yet, but I thought I should let y'all know.

TtYLMSNBC

(I'm sorry, I need to pay for teh games!)   read


4:47 AM on 07.02.2009  

Blood Bowl: First Impressions



So I paid the stupid amount (£40!) for the early digital distribution of the Blood Bowl game. I had to. Iím impatient and was incredibly excited for this game. You knew this, weíve already talked about this. You see, I know Blood Bowl. I love Blood Bowl. Iíve long been a fan and player of the board game on which the new videogame is based. The board game is a mix of American Football and the miniature wargame, Warhammer. The game is also set in the Warhammer world, albeit a more comic interpretation.



Itís probably the best game that Games Workshop has ever produced and it most definitely my favourite. There are a wide selection of teams available and i tend towards the Orcs. Iím not going to post a picture of my Orc team, as Iíve been using the same one for many years and the paint job is a bit crappy. Iím halfway through painting up some Lizardmen and have recently purchased a themed Human team from a different manufacturer. I wanted something a little different, so I got myself a team of Nuns from a small Australian company.



You may have gathered by all this babbling that my expectations from this digital interpretation of my true (gaming) love would be rather high. Would the game offer a faithful translation of the classic board game? Would it allow me to relive the tabletop experience with geek friends who consider tabletop wargaming one nerdy step too far? Would it work?



No.

Now, I should qualify this. I stumbled into the Ďreal timeí mode. This is quite a big step away from the board gameís turn-based origins and I wasnít really ready to try that out. I gave it a shot and it left me disappointed. It wasnít until a couple of days later that I would have another chance to play and to try out the classic, turn-based mode, based entirely on the official Blood Bowl rulebook (available for free for any who are interested). I had a quick shot as a Human team to try it out.



Yes. yes! A thousand times, yes! I am impressed. I am relieved. I am in love. The game is not an innovative re-imagining of a classic franchise. The game does not move Blood Bowl in exciting new directions. The game gives what it says on the tin. It is the Blood Bowl that I know and love, right down to the letter. I lost that first game, by the way, which further demonstrates the authenticity! I was actually surprised by the faithfulness of the translation. Although I lost the first game, I did score a touchdown with my Ogre, the dash for which I have captured for posterity:



So far, so good, right? The thing is, although one-off Blood Bowl matches are fun, the real enjoyment comes from fostering a team through a league. As the league progresses, you add players to your roster, level up and get skills for existing players, use the money you earn to pay cheerleaders, apothecaries and mercenary players (and to bribe the ref), and develop your team from a cookie-cutter mob of whatever race into a unique and personalised squad.

For my first campaign, I decided on a team Iíd never tried in Blood Bowl, though I do play them in Games Workshopís other games, Warhammer and Mordheim: the Skaven. Skaven are vicious mutants: Half man, half rat servants of the Great Horned Rat, ruled over by the Council of Thirteen. They are fast and fragile, though able to hire out a fearsome Rat Ogre, the foul creations of the Master Shapers of Clan Moulder. The bulk of my team would be made up of clanrats pressed into service as Linemen, backed up by a Catcher, two Stormvermin and two of Clan Eshinís swift and evasive Gutter Runners:



Iím not far into this campaign, having won only the first cup. I have played numerous matches, however, and have noticed that AI is somewhat brutal. The tactics it employs donít seem to differ much from race to race, however, and I found myself facing diverse teams (such as slow-and-steady Dwarfs and another Skaven team), all employing the same strategies.

Visually, Iíve heard complaints from some parties, but I donít see any issues. The graphics are great and the models are well detailed. There arenít many extra effects though, and although I admit that weather, motion blur or similar tricks would have been nice touches, they are not necessities and the target audience, used to playing with pieces of metal on a cardboard pitch, can probably cope without them.

The music is good, and fits the game well. It changes based on whatís happening too, most noticeably when a player is nearing a touchdown and the crowd really starts to cheer on their team. The real highlight sound-wise, however, is the commentary.Sure, you might get a little tired of it as there is a rather limited selection of phrases, but it adds a lot to the feel of the game and is genuinely funny.

Click here, here and here for mp3 clips.

The game is a bit buggy. There are a number of small bugs, but the biggie is the crashing on load screens. In a recent patch, all players had their resolutions reset to one the developers though to be optimal. I really donít see why I shouldnít be able to play the game at 1920◊1080, which is offered in the menu, but until itís fixed, a lower resolution will be ok. Thereís also the issue that if someone drops (or crashes) out of an online game before it loads (i.e. before the game starts), the game considers this a draw, which I guess would be quite annoying if youíre on a winning streak and the other guy drops out. Hopefully this will be addressed too.

Overall, I am delighted with the game and the faithfulness to the source material. Itís not perfect though. In terms of bugs and a lack of more advanced visual effects, the game could use a bit more polish. As flaws go, one is fixable and the other is most likely unimportant to the core fanbase the game is clearly aimed at. The real time more is an odd beast and although Iím steering clear of it for now, I could well see myself dipping back in and trig to get the hang of it. This is a game I intend to play for a very long time, though it will not replace the board game in my affections. This is as close an emulation as I could have hoped for, but it does not replace the feeling of painting and using your own miniatures in games against other painted teams, fielded by similarly enthused collectors. I am delighted by this game, but Iím not packing away my board just yet.   read


6:02 AM on 06.28.2009  

Untapped Potential: On Placing Products

I've never really understood the outrage that arises in gamers when they believe someone is actively trying to sell them something. I'm talking about product placement, the practice of inserting images of a product into a game with the intention of drawing attention to the brand. It's not new, but it'ssurprisingly uncommon in games and even more shockingly unpopular.

Don't get me wrong, I don't really like adverts either. I don't sit down in front of my 360 and wonder what brand of toilet paper Big Daddies prefer, or ponder the carbonated beverage of choice for the discerning Jedi Knight. But I recognise that it's increasingly difficult for companies, specifically those sinking huge budgets into their game, to turn a profit and that allowingNestlť to stick a couple of chocolate bars into the in-game stores and billboards represents an attractive source of funding. Hell, let's not forget the Cool Spot games, the protagonist of which was actually part of the 7-Up logo!



Folks, it doesn't get much more blatant than this! Regardless of the blatant commercialism, however, I thought the game was a pretty decent platformer. Oh sure, it dated a lot quicker than Mario or Sonic but, for the time, it was a good game.

Squaresoft (as it was known at the time) also dipped their toe into the advertising pool, allowing the characters of Final Fantasy IX to endorse Coca Cola in Japan:



Granted, this was not an in-game product placement, but it was a well-established, respected development house and publisher allowing proprietary characters to be used to promote another company's product. This was clearly a golden opportunity for Squaresoft, to use their popular characters to earn themselves a hefty (I hope) chunk of Coca Cola's vast advertising budget. Does this dilute the Final Fantasy brand? I doubt it, but I daresay it helped pay for the development of later titles in the series.

Other games have employed limited product placement. Some subtle, some less so. One interesting example was that of Theme Hospital. I don't know if they actually got paid for it, as I've heard rumours that it was more an homage than an ad, but they featured the logo of the Kit Kat chocolate biscuit on their vending machines:



If this wasn't a paid ad,then it should have been. It was a well-placed advert that was not intrusive or distracting and, most importantly, was appropriate to the setting.

That an advert fit the setting is essential. If Coca Cola had made an actual in-game appearance in FFIX, it would have been a jarring, immersion-breaking sight: completely out of place in the high-fantasy setting. Some games lend themselves so product placement more than others. Dead Rising, for example, would have been an ideal candidate for such advertising. It is set in a mall. Come on! How more commercial can you get? Would a scene such as this one have any effect on your immersion?



I'm sure they would have made more effort to blend it in. Seriously though, for little or no impact on gameplay and immersion, Capcom could have collected a modest sum of money to put towards promoting the game or sink into a new project. How can this be considered a bad thing?

Now, Iím all for limited product placement, but some companies do take a slightly dubious approach. Battlefield 2142 featured in-game billboards on which the publisher could post targetted advertising. This means that the game included spyware-ish elements to watch the browsing habits of their customers in order to generate ads tailored to each individual.



I see the attraction for games publishers and advertisers in employing a targetted approach to advertising. It makes so much more sense to focus on serving ads that the individual would actually be likely to care about and take the time to look at as they pass by. But to turn your game in glorified spyware does not seem a particularly good way to do it. This move caused a great deal of animosity amongst fans and although it represented a new revenue stream to fund development, it did so at the cost of public good will.

I'm not an economist. I've never run a business. I can't give you figures or anything of any real use beyond my opinions and photoshopping of corporate logos into videogame screenshots. What I can tell you is that it really does seem that games companies are missing out on a source of income that could, if done sparingly and with thought to public image, prove invaluable in surviving this tough climate and continuing to produce quality entertainment products for our consumption.

TTYL, and eat fresh!

Eat Fresh!

  read


8:33 PM on 06.26.2009  

Excitement!

This is the first time in a long time Iíve been really excited to get my hands on a new game. Iím currently in the process of downloading Blood Bowl and, man, I canít wait to give it a spin!



Iíve been really looking forward to this game, based manly on my love and adoration for the board game itself. Iíve long been a Games Workshop fan and really need to find the time and motivation to paint up my Nun team.

Anyways, download almost finished! Woot!   read


7:08 AM on 06.26.2009  

Adding a Random Element to Your DToid Blog

I'm a naturally indecisive person.

Seriously, I mull over decisions as long as possible. It's not always a weakness: important decisions demand due consideration. Choosing a blog banner might not be so important, but I still find myself dithering over what to use, It would have to be one of my favourite games, however:



This was a problem I actually faced when setting up my non-DT blog. The solution I came up with was to implement a random image script, allowing me to use three or four (currently twenty five) different banners on a random rotation. Scroll up to the top of this page and hit refresh a few times. You'll see how well it works.

Go on.

I'll wait here.



Cool, isn't it? If you'd like to do this yourself, it's actually quite simple. You will need to download the PHP script and place into a folder with a selection of images, like so:



It's really as simple as that. All that's left to do is to actually use it. When posting an image, you must link to the php script instead of the image file, which will then redirect to a random image in the folder.

Hopefully I'll get to see people having some fun with this on their own blogs. If you're giving it a go, please leave a comment so I can take a look!

TTYL

edit: I should have mentioned, the script itself came from a friend, after I explained what i was trying to do. I didn't mean to misrepresent anything.   read


9:10 PM on 06.25.2009  

Evolving Design

This (very image-heavy) entry was inspired by an excellent article by Bulletmagnet in which he discusses the community that built up around the TripleTriadX.com site several years ago. He also explains that his own role in the community was primarily as a card maker.

I shared a similar experience in the same community. I too took an early interest in cardmaking. My very first pieces were saved as some proprietary format used by Microsoftís now-defunct Picture-It Express. I would upload these bloated files and wonder to myself why they refused to show up online. Yup, I was an idiot, I know. The early stuff is long-lost to the ether, so I canít show you any truly cringe-worthy stuff. I did manage to find some older, quite bad pieces, however:



Blurry, badly cut, badly positioned, slightly dodgy number placement, low image quality and the old, slightly wonky and unbalanced templates. Not actually that bad for the time they were made, but still, weíve come a long way baby!

It didnít take all that long for someone to redo the templates to clean up the wonky balance, grainy backgrounds and very rough numbers. They were then redone again several years later by a player with the username, Stoicism. his latest revamp is, in my opinion, the perfect interpretation of the classic FFVIII set, cleaning up our previous versions and giving up clearer, sharper templates for our cards. Here are a few later examples of my cards:



Now, as wonderful as the classic templates are, people began to get more adventurous, adapting and theming the templates and often going so far as to create their own from scratch. Some were very interesting, but most were just small changes to the existing templates. These adapted templates were often the worst and I decided that for my own attempts, Iíd try to make then from scratch. It couldnít be that difficult, could it? Here are a few of my earlier attempts at creating own template sets:



Yeah, ouch. Again, they arenít really that bad, and I maintain that theyíre a lot better than most others at the time, but Iím just not happy with how most turned out. The first of the above examples is rather boring, as I just started with a solid block and cut bits and pieces out until I had something I considered Ďcoolí at the time.

The second was a template for more difficult to cut images. Instead of cutting out an image and putting a coloured background behind it, I put coloured orbs on each side which would change between red and blue in the same way as the traditional backgrounds.

The third is one of several templates based on a series of Zelda wallpapers. The templates are nice, and Iím really happy with the backgrounds, but Iím not sure how practical this very thick border actually is, even though I spent a lot of time cutting it down from my original, much wider one. Itís also visually very Ďloudí and distracting.

The fourth border, like the first, used no source images for the border. Itís completely original and very simple. I think it looks very good and the grey version is even better, but I had no examples of this handy. The background is also scratch made, using various photoshop filters to arrive at the effect. The set was intended for a Neverwinter Nights deck, hence the numbers using the NWN font.

As an aside, I took the templates from number four and the number set from three to have a little fun with Link:



Of all the custom templates, the most impressive was Kasí Triple Triad Realms templates, created for use in a spinoff game combing classic Triple Triad gameplay with several RPG elements. I saw these templates and utterly adored them. Here are some of Kasí original sample cards:



Amazing. These are still stunning templates and itís real pity that the game did not get made. It did, however, inspire me not nlyto up my game in designing my own templates, but also to work towards my own spinoff site. At the birth of TTX there was a short-lived sister site, mainly used to test code before it got added to TTX, called TTMon, based on Pokemon and general anime. I actually preferred this site to TTX, mainly because the site had a more open, minimalist design built on white, rather than black. It used the classic TT templates. I do not have any cards from the original site, but I do have a standard template card I made a few years later, just to give you an idea of how they looked:



They look ok, but in working to relaunch TTMon, I decided that custom templates would help set the site apart from the parent site TTX and establish a unique look for the game. I knocked together some rough ideas, but it was actually a patterned desktop wallpaper created by Moonlady, one of the TTX admins, that really got me going. I used this patterned background for my own card backgrounds and to texture the borders. It was a simple pattern and produced some basic templates that although quite primitive compared to later incarnations, were well received by the community:



Basic but functional. I was quite happy with the borders and backgrounds, but was not particularly happy with the numbers or the elements. I resolved to make the numbers more characterful and to design a new set of elemental symbols. The next template sheet demonstrates these new components:



Oh. My. God. Those elements are so fugly. The numbers I love, and apart from some slight adjustment, they remain the same to the final templates, but those elements are just hideous. I have no idea why I kept them around for so long. Look at the ghost one! Itís like a fried egg! Another issue was that everything was so flat. There was no depth to the cards, which didnít work well with my intention of adding overlaps to the edges of the cards. I was trying to imply depth through the overlaps and it did not look quite right. As such, my next step involved adding a little more detail to the borders themselves:



The lower two borders, those for card levels one to five and six to seven, were thinned slightly and give a slight bevel to imply depth. The upper templates were completely redesigned, drawing on the experience and feedback I had accrued in developing and presenting the earlier versions. The most work was put into the level ten border with the large embedded pokeball. I was extremely happy with these new templates and turned my attention to the elements and backgrounds. The elements Iíd designed were, frankly, awful. I tried, but could not come up with anything better. In the end, I went through the mini sprites and picked out a selection of Pokemon who, to me, best represented each of the elements. Pikachu for thunder, Koffing for poison, Dragonite for dragon and so on. The backgrounds used the same source image, but zoomed out a little further to give a slightly more complex, higher resolution image. These were more visually pleasing on their own, but as part of a card, they were too Ďbusyí and distracted from the subject image. I decided to try a new source image:



The starry sky background was a big breakthrough. It really made some nice looking cards, was simple yet interesting, and just looked damn good:



I was pleased with this but there were a couple of issues raised in feedback. Fist, the image is a little dark in places. The Pokemon that took up a lot of space tended to be quite difficult to discern identify as red or blue due to only dark areas being visible. The white dots also made it often look as though the subject image was badly cut out with bits of background still stuck to the edges. My solution was actually to remake (not reuse, but remake at higher quality) my Neverwinter Nights set background as seen earlier in this post:



And there, done, I was happy. It only took about three and a half (probably more) years of tinkering and starting and restarting the actual deck, but I had templates I was happy with. I did tinker a little further, adding a Limited Edition template fixture and playing with the idea of using the pictured Pokemonís own mini sprite and showing element via the three-letter element code used in the actual videogame:



The change to the elements was still not definite when I finally gave up on the deck. This happened shortly after our then-parent site TTv3 shut down It was a real pity that it shut down as v3 was the last good, innovative and well-intentioned TT site and on going under, it took with it three sub-sites, including TTMon.

We did consider trying to branch out on our own, but Iím no coder and had already decided it was time to move on. Before I end this, I have two last things to cover. One is the adaptability of my templates, and the other is the branding of TTMon.

The templates were designed to be used on a site featuring not only Pokemon cards, but cards featuring other games and cartoons. Here are a couple of the alternative versions I produced as experiments (ignore the text on Dende, that was for someoneís sig):



I was very pleased with the flexibility of the templates and I was rather looking forward to playing around with different themes for different decks.

Iím not going to comment too much on our branding/site design, but I do still have a few images showing the evolution of our branding from the early, banner through to the late development forums and the idea for a renamed site:









TT Chikara was intended to take the ĎMoní out of the title, separating us from the idea of a pokemon-exclusive site.

I hope this has been somewhat interesting and sorry itís been so image-heavy.

CIAO   read







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