Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Town Where Things Besides People Live


Some of you may know about a little Japanese Role-Playing Game called Yuuyake Koyake. Or maybe you know it by its English moniker, Golden Sky Stories. If you don’t, somewhere, someone referred to it as the Totoro RPG, and it’s not the worst description. The game is not about adventure in the traditional gaming sense. There’s no dragons to be bested, no empires to overturn. Instead, the game is about the little adventures, the day-to-day trials of regular people doing more or less regular things in a small, rural Japanese town. But you are not one of these people. This is a town where things besides people live. You are a henge, an animal spirit, and at your disposal is a little bit of magic. Not much, but enough to help the people of this town.

After reading that, you may already realize Golden Sky Stories is a different kind of game. There's no dice, no statistics in the traditional sense, and not even a chapter on combat. It truly is “heart-warming role-playing,” a kind of experience where you’re more likely to help a boy overcome his fear of the haunted house at the end of town than stomp goblins.

The setting and focus are not Stories’ only charm. The illustrations throughout are captivating, cute to the point of endangering bicuspids everywhere, and go a long way to setting the mood. Of course, deciphering the moonspeak of the original Japanese book is an endeavor most of us aren’t equipped to do.

Luckily for you and me, Ewen Cluney, along with the other half of Starline Publishing, Mike Stevens, translated this special game and will be bringing it to Western readers soon enough. I’ve had the opportunity to read Ewen’s top-secret (well, okay, not-so-secret) English manuscript for Golden Sky Stories, and it’s a real joy. But that shouldn't be any surprise — This isn’t Ewen’s first rodeo after all. But the text is only a part of the job. Someone has to take this text and give it a home in the pages of a book once again. That someone, as it turns out, is me!

It’s a great privilege to take part in bringing this game to life, and I look forward to sharing with you all my progress. Be sure to check by for further updates, and of course follow Ewen's blog and the Starline Publishing website for all the latest news about Golden Sky Stories.

...Oh? Why is this an entry for Turtle Tuesday? Throughout the book, you’ll meet a cast of lovable characters, including Elder Turtle. Here he is patiently listening to Riko, the tanuki henge, as she frets over some dilemma.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Far-Off Promise

A new year lay ahead, and the promise of a new set of days inspires the best intentions. The world echoes with countless commitments to work harder, be healthier, to care for each other, and to change in ways we hadn’t the year before. The sentiments are as often enough as vague as they are well-intentioned, the sort of positive thinking that we can stretch and contract to the size we can make room for.

But I want to do more than that this year. I want a game plan, as much for myself as for the accountability saying it outright provides. That’s not to say 2011 was empty of accomplishments. After all, I helped Minion Games ready no less than six games for sale in a single year -- no mean feat! And I took part in a graphical overhaul for DriveThruRPG and its sister sites that will be rolling out soon. Yet, for 2012, I want to get my things done.

So, here it is, my plan for the year. (Split up for your convenience and mine.)

My Blog 
I’ve been moving to a new computer, an iMac, for the past month or two — the lengthy travails of which I'll have to detail one or these days — but I fully intend to get this blog back on track. Besides my usual excursions of fancy, I'm launching several bi-weekly columns.

You’ve seen a taste of the first one with the Digital Gameboard. I’ll be making a point of covering all the gaming apps I come across, especially those involving euro-style board games and their kin. I stand by that the iPad is a great platform for classic board gaming fun and can use all the coverage it can get.

I’ll also be penning my foolhardy quest to play every console rpg ever. It's something that’s become ever more difficult as my list of unplayed and unfinished games grows longer. But maybe by adding you all to my party, this quest may become less of a foolhardy one.

And for those of you wondering, yes Minion Monday will eventually finish out its run. I’m waiting on my own physical copies of the games so I can better show off the components. It’s just taking a little longer than expected.

My Games
While there’s a certain anime-inspired elephant in the room, I have up my sleeves a plethora of games I've tinkered on in perpetuity, and I’d really like to finally get some of them out the metaphorical door and into the light. While finishing, much less releasing, all of them in this revolution of the sun is a unlikely accomplishment, I do want progress, and I want to share that progress with you. Here's a highlight reel of what to expect.

OVA — Yes, the oft-promised return of Wise Turtle's flagship product is still very much in the works, and I’ve made a commitment to its release in the early half of 2012. Long-time fans may have dim memories of several supplements that I hope to talk more about and bring closer to release. You can see a sample of artwork for a sci-fi-themed supplement on the left of the header, done by feguimel.

Legendary! — While I love all my work for Minion Games, and all its games are special to me, they’re still not mine in any true sense of the word. Legendary! is a fantasy dungeon-crawl of a board game inspired by fond childhood memories of Dungeon, but with enough twists to the formula that I believe in its ability to give something new to a crowded and often trite set of games. It’s infused with lore from a lifetime of love for console rpgs, and the very talented Honoel Ibardolaza certainly brings it to life. That trio of numbskulls in the header is his handiwork.

Last Legend — Before OVA, I was a devoted follower (and sometimes contributor) to the Returner Final Fantasy RPG, an attempt to capture the spirit of the eponymous video games in pen and paper form. Eventually I left that community over a difference of opinion...whereas most were concerned with copying the actual game mechanics and number crunching of the video games, I felt the rules would be better served trying to approximate the feel of rpg battles and leave the math for the CPUs that spawned it. Last Legend is my on again, off again take on the subject. You can see some art from it in the header, this time the inks in the background that are once again provided by Honoel.

iOS — Tied in with all these is a general interest in the iOS platform. Now that I have an iMac (more about that in a future post), exploring the world of iPads and iPhones is a real possibility. While the likelihood of me gaining enough prowess with programming to create a game of any decent measure is not good, having access to the tools does open other interesting opportunities. OVA-dedicated apps to aid with dice-rolling, character creation, and even easy rules reference would be a great resource to provide players, and iOS versions of the various Minion Games would be cool indeed.

My work for others
While I said I wanted to make 2012 a year for my projects, there is at least one outside job I'm really excited about. If you follow Ewen Cluney's blog, you may already know what I mean. If not...well, be sure to check by Tuesday for my own official announcement!