Saturday, February 25, 2012

... And how to make it Better.

When last I left off, I was trying to used car salesman Adam Ryland's Wrestling Spirit 2 as a viable entry to any gaming library. But like all used car salesmen, I wasn't entirely up front concerning the less than shinier bits.

While there are several tournament-type modes in Wrestling Spirit, the drawing card of the game is in its Career Mode. It is there that you have the option of either starting your own wrestler from scratch, or taking on an existing wrestler and guiding their career. Promotional inner workings (card lineups, title matches, hirings and firings, etc.) was largely built off the core of Ryland's Total Extreme Wrestling 2004.

Frankly, it never really worked for me. Besides the actual 'fight engine', for lack of a better phrase, the single most important aspect to a wrestling game needs to be a logical method of match-making.

Mr. Ryland's booking engine works... for Total Extreme Wrestling. After all, the player is doing the booking of their own promotion in that series. What the AI-controlled promotions do is always on the peripheral - and even when studied, makes enough sense.

In Wrestling Spirit, the AI controls all promotions; your character takes the bookings assigned to them. Sometimes those bookings make sense. Sometimes not so much.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Adam Ryland's Wrestling Spirit 2...

Adam Ryland is known as the King of Text Based Wrestling Games. It's true. You can ask him yourself.

If modesty prevents him from admitting as much, his fans will certainly back it up.

Mr. Ryland started his ascent to the throne by way of his freeware Extreme Warfare series of text-based wrestling promotion simulators. After hooking his fans with a heroin-like addiction, he would eventually tire of providing freebies to the masses. Total Extreme Warfare, released in 2004 out of the now defunct .400 Software Studios, was his commercial breakthrough.

The following year, and to incredulous looks by no man, Ryland would cement his status as the wisest of the wise. Not only would he jump from .400 Studios to Grey Dog Software - a much more stable company, he would also change the completely inappropriate name of his series to Total Extreme Wrestling. The TEW series, as it would come to be known, would see updates in 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Never one to beat a dead horse - unless the glue factory demanded it, Ryland released part one of the Wrestling Spirit trilogy in 2004. Rather than plot a successful wrestling promotion, Wrestling Spirit focused on the individual's career in the 'Sport of Kings', as Mr. Gordon Solie called it. Being text-based, the game was an imagination-fueled depiction of life as a professional wrestler; finding bookings, making friends backstage, earning money from fight purses... basically everything a fan of kayfabe wrestling 'believed' to be true of the 'sport' (wink, wink - nudge, nudge).

The game pretty much sank like a rock*.

* = in relative, uninformed comparison to Mr. Ryland's previous titles.

Monday, February 13, 2012

RPGs for Kids, Take One: Adventures in Oz

Inspired by an online article entitled, ‘RPGs for Kids’, I have sought out some of the better role-playing games for children on the market. In the upcoming weeks I will be offering various sized reviews of the games I find notable for my own children.

Whether or not I ever play all of these games with my kids is another story.

Today I will be reviewing the print version of one of those games I have played with my girls... F. Douglas Wall’s Adventures in Oz (also available in both pdf and epub formats).
Mr. Wall self-publishes the print copy using the print-on-demand service, which I have found to be respectable. The book is 135 pages, Perfect-bound paperback on 6.0” x 9.0” paper. Illustrations are by Loraine Sammy, Adam Dickstein, Amanda Webb, Brad McDevitt, and Brian Fowler; all are black & white, and all handsomely fit and benefit the source material.
The book is obviously a labor of love by Wall, Art Director K.A. Green, and Jessica McDevitt, who is responsible for the layout. The cover, alone, shows much intelligence in Mr. Wall’s approach: Ojo, riding the Hungry Tiger, is joined on the Yellow Brick Road by Scraps the Patchwork Girl and Captain Fy-ter. Similar enough to the quartet of characters familiar to fans of the 1939 MGM movie, yet different enough to conceivably pique the interest of those very same fans, the cover nails the adventurous side of Oz quite nicely.

It must be stated that Mr. Wall’s game is a faithful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s series of Oz related books (14 in all). Those looking for darker, more mature slants on the Oz mythos might want to look elsewhere – though you would certainly be missing out if you did. The author provides detailed write-ups of the various countries in Oz, including geography, citizens of note, and adventure hooks. All-in-all, there is a ton of great information for any Oz setting.

That isn’t to say that a group of players could not go a darker route using Adventures in Oz as a base system. While Mr. Wall celebrates the light-hearted wit of Baum and the subsequent ‘official’ authors in the series, he does provide story ideas that can take less idealistic turns. One interesting adventure hook asks ‘what if Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, wished to enslave Princess Ozma and rule all of Oz herself?’ Another gives the option to turn the Baum era notion of radium into the cancer-causing radioactive property it really is.

Heady stuff.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Death of the Territories, aka 'The Wrestling Game'


An interesting cat named Charlie Warren runs an even more interesting blog entitled, The Semi-Retired Gamer. As the name implies, Mr. Warren is an old school gamer (and game designer), mainly focusing on tabletop role-playing games. His recent discussions on game design have provoked a lot of thought amongst his followers; myself, included.

One thing his musings have inspired me to do is to finally post this here bloggy bit. I've kept it in dock for several years now simply because it clashed with the disjointed (and low key) concept here.

Tip of the hat, Mr. Warren.


Games have pretty much been in my blood for as long as I can remember.

My father inspired in me a great love of dice and chits and game boards. Countless games were played between us during my more formative years; Stratego, Dogfight, Mille Bornes, Dungeons & Dragons, Brian Blume's Boot Hill, and TSR's Vampyre: Game of the Hunt for Dracula; Frankly, I've forgotten more titles than I can remember.

Another thing the old man gave me was a healthy dose of do-it-yourself creativity.