I think I should confront reality and accept the fact that this is really a once or twice a month blog, not a weekly blog. In the future, I think I might look at trying to transition to an honest-to-goodness author website, and make my blogging one of the features there. But for the next couple of months I’ve got plenty on my plate, so that’s a “when I get to it” kind of project.Not much new to announce in the “What have I been up to?” category. I’ve been doing a lot of work on the Emerald Spire super-dungeon for Goblinworks and Paizo, mainly concentrating on getting the framing story for the dungeon put together and writing up the town of Fort Inevitable. I’m still working on comic books, and I still can’t say anything more than that yet. But as soon as I can, I’ll make sure to let you all know!
Gaming: You know, it’s been 10 years, and I’m still sore about Master of Orion 3.Master of Orion 1 and 2 were great games. The combination of choosing research, designing ships to incorporate new technologies, and controlling those ships in simple tactical battles was just awesome. When Infogrames announced that they’d be publishing a MoO 3, well, I was giddy with excitement. Then Master of Orion 3 came out, and it was terrible.
Perhaps in its own rights MoO3 was a decent game. My problem was that it broke the franchise’s promise. You didn’t get to *drive* your ship designs in combat the way you could in Master of Orion 1 or 2. Instead combat was a much more “realistic” subgame where you now watched tiny dots like radar blips motor around in vast, empty star systems and do things you couldn’t control. Instead of 4-color comic-book ship designs and alien races, we got an impenetrable interface that looked cramped, lifeless, and colorless. Somehow the developers had convinced themselves that Master of Orion was a game about resource management and industrial production, and they built MoO3 as a game for people who didn’t like fun.I think it all came down to “grognard capture.”
Grognard capture is a game industry idea that goes like this: Your most devoted and involved fans—the grognards—are the ones who communicate with the game designers; they want down-the-rabbithole increases in detail, complexity, and realism or simulation value; the game designers cater to the grognards, and they make a game only the grognards like. (The term grognard, by the way, refers to Napoleon’s Imperial Guard—old soldiers who complained a lot but were his most reliable troops.) Most people played Master of Orion 1 and 2 to build fleets of battleships and blow things up. The best MoO players played a game of industrial management to *produce* enormous, unstoppable fleets, and crushed all opposition beneath a relentless tide of production. Space battles were boring to them, since the battles were foregone conclusions and the battle system was ridiculously simple. Guess who the MoO 3 developers built their game for?There are plenty of examples of grognard capture around, if you look for them: Star Fleet Battles, the Third Reich-World at War game system, even some elements of Magic: The Gathering (although Magic was smart enough to retarget new player acquisition with Magic 2010 and the subsequent yearly core sets). I would even argue that D&D suffers from grognard capture in places like, say, Forgotten Realms story material or character optimization. Keeping your grognards a little happy is good business—these guys are the core of your customer base. Letting them drive development is probably not a good idea. Sure, they’ll grumble when you don’t fix things to their specifications. But it’s the nature of the grognard to complain, and soldier on.
Anyway, back to Master of Orion: I’m still holding out hope for a Master of Orion 4 someday that reverts to something closer to the gameplay of MoO 1 and 2. I know there are a zillion MoO clones available, but I just don’t have the patience to master interfaces and rules sets that I used to have. If you know of one that I should try, well, I’m all ears.
Politics/Current Events: Nothing new this time, but I’ll elaborate a bit more on my Second Amendment views since I don’t think I was clear about that before.First, I believe that all human beings have a “natural right” of self-defense. You are allowed to protect yourself, your family, and your property from injury or theft. The framers of the Constitution clearly recognized the existence of natural rights; even today, no one would argue that if you are being pummeled to death you must wait for authority to intervene, and aren’t allowed to throw a punch to save your own life. Likewise you can act to stop someone from beating your wife or child or parent to death, or even victims you don’t know.
In our modern world, guns are often necessary to exercise the natural right of self-defense. First, you may be accosted by a bad guy with a gun. But even if you aren’t, bad guys can inflict lethal injury or grave harm to you and yours without guns. Maybe if you’re a 6-foot, 200-pound man you feel you can defend yourself with your bare fists against most assaults. But if you’re a 5-2, 110-pound woman attacked by that 200-pound man, well, your right of self-defense doesn’t mean much without a weapon that doesn’t care about relative physical size and strength. As the saying goes: God created all men, but Colonel Colt made ‘em equal.That leads me to believe that responsible gun ownership is protected by a right and principle even older and more sacrosanct than the Constitution itself.
Now, as for the Second Amendment: I think the “right to bear arms” means “the right to arm yourself just as the nation-state does.” Back in the 1780s, “arms” generally referred to flintlocks, swords, or cannons. An individual citizen could equip himself with weapons as deadly as those available to the soldiers of the day without much trouble. Today, that same reading implies that everyday citizens should be allowed to own machine guns, tanks, rocket launchers, fighter jets, or Aegis cruisers, if they can afford ‘em. But this is where that troublesome clause in the Second Amendment comes into play: “A well-regulated militia.” We have an armed militia of citizen-soldiers in this country, and they do indeed keep machine guns, tanks, and fighter jets. It’s the National Guard.In short, I think the Second Amendment is about the right to organize local and state militias and arm them as regular armed forces. But I think the natural right of self-defense is what gives people who aren’t in the National Guard all the right they need to own firearms for personal protection. A government that tried to deprive its people of the means of self-defense would be acting out of all bounds. However, reasonable measures to regulate firearms are okay. I think we would all agree that there should be a minimum age for a concealed-carry permit, for example. Some regulations are clearly warranted—everything else in this debate is about wrangling over details.
The Finer Things: The second album I ever received when I started listening to music as a young teenager was the Yes Album. My uncle Jeff gave it to me because he was a fan and he thought it would be up my alley, and I’ve been a Yes fan for something like thirty years now. When I need to really put my head into a “fantasy world” space, I’m likely to put Close to the Edge or Relayer into my CD player and loop it for hours. In fact, I wrote the Last Mythal in pretty much this exact method. Anyway, Yes is touring this year, and their set list is simple: the Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One, each song on each album played in order. I’m trying to talk my wife into going when they play in Seattle, but she isn’t having any of it.