Friday, June 23, 2017
The mission is on schedule for a Saturday morning release. What is included in Operation: Void Hunter? You'll find fully detailed NPC hunters in addition to other NPC's you can interact with, including a couple that might be useful resources in future missions. Mechanics are included for several weapon options, there are menus with exotic food and drinks, and there is even a small shop with some unusual, modified weapons. There are full colored maps and map icons for all of the alien lifeforms, including the new and very dangerous Mokaru, illustrated by John Fell. Full-color art and great art design is peppered throughout the mission to enhance the experience, and to top it all off, the storyline of Operation: Void Hunter is the beginning of a larger story arc that will span across future missions. It can be played and completed as a separate mission, or played as part of a larger campaign. I hope you like what I've put together and enjoy the characters, battles, story, and everything else included in Operation: Void Hunter. Have fun!
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Players will have to make a lot of decisions in their investigation. After landing at a Hunter refuge a few hours from the coordinates of the Voidrunner landing, they may want to learn from the locals about the planet before plunging into the hostile wilderness. There are even NPC hunters that might be willing to join the team and guide them--for a fee. Gathering information will be easy with some NPC's, but others might require more from the characters. Playing a few gambling games, buying some drinks, or stroking a few egos might yield useful intel. Once they are ready to face the wilds, though, players will be up against the natural world of Sa'mesh. Survival will often depend on some of the choices they make more than the firearms they carry.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Why are the players' characters being sent to Sa'mesh? The Union Guard is acting on a tip that an unregistered Voidrunner starship was spotted landing somewhere in the forests of Sa'mesh. Voidrunners are unique Reln starships that can enter--and return from--the deadly dimensional rift in space known as the Voidsea. No other race has managed to survive the Voidsea, but the Reln have somehow figured it out, and have been collecting artifacts from an advanced alien civilization that was obliterated when the Voidsea was formed. These mysterious and powerful artifacts are classified secrets by the Reln government, but on rare occasions, smugglers and spies have managed to bring some of these artifacts to the black market. The unregistered Voidrunner landing on Sa'mesh is highly suspicious, so the Union Guard is sending you and your team to investigate and to stop any illegal activities.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
This mission takes place on the Krissethi planet, Sa'mesh. You may recall that earlier in the year, I released the "Explorer's Guide to Sa'mesh," which details the planet and culture, including a few NPC's, two new weapons, the details of local cuisine and a guild, plus a mission involving a new lifeform, the Green Jegu. The Explorer's Guide is actually a helpful supplement for fleshing out the world of Sa'mesh, and can be used as a great companion guide for creative GM's that want to detail the experience as much as possible. However, you don't need the Explorer's Guide to fully enjoy the Void Hunter mission. I wanted players to be able to visit Sa'mesh at earlier levels (the mission in the Explorer's Guide is level 8), so I designed the Void Hunter mission for characters of level 3-4. Players beware: though the Krissethi planet is officially labeled a wildlife preserve, it is actually a commercialized hunting ground full of deadly lifeforms. Do you think you can survive the wilds of Sa'mesh?
Monday, June 19, 2017
I am nearing completion of this exciting new mission for Solar Echoes, and hope to have it ready to purchase by Saturday this weekend. During the spring of 2017, I worked hard on the demo, "Operation: Flash Strike," and developed a lot of new techniques and standards for missions. The Void Hunter mission is looking really good, and is packed full of content, including lots of colorful artwork. I've added a lot of role-playing content to the mission as well, detailing a number of NPC's the characters can interact with. There are also some options included that are derived from opportunities detailed in the Mission Controllers Guide, so players will have a chance to try a few creative modifications. Tomorrow, I'll share a little about the mission setting...
Friday, June 16, 2017
I'm not a fan of Star Trek, but the Star Trek: Bridge Crew game had me really interested because it involves players working together to operate a starship (similar to the starship game system in Solar Echoes.) I bought the game and went through the training tutorial. It was very impressive: I could design my character's appearance a little and then look down at myself and see my hands, arms, and body in VR. After learning the different roles (Captain, Helm, Tactical, and Engineer) I tried the game with some AI-controlled crew. It was very impressive, but the true fun started when I tried it online with real people. It was like we were all in the same room together, talking, laughing, waving, and blowing up angry Klingons as we worked together as a team, each of us with our own crucial contributions toward the operation of the ship. This game shows me that the developers got it--they understood that designing a game for VR is largely about creating a gaming experience from a perspective that puts you into the character's shoes and allows you to actually physically do the things that character does. One of the coolest things about VR are my memories of playing the game: I have to remind myself that it wasn't actually reality, but my memories feel like I was really there!
Thursday, June 15, 2017
The problem I have with teleportation in VR games is that it totally ruins immersion, constantly reminding you that you're in a game. This is fine for some styles of games that are more arcade-like, but I think it totally spoils the experience of role-playing games, for instance. Supposedly, Bethesda Game Studios is going to update Fallout 4 with VR, but in their first reveal, they indicated they are only using teleportation (some say that has changed, though I've not found official confirmation). In my opinion, teleportation should always be an option for players, but free movement should be an option for those that don't get nausea and have developed their "VR legs." The recent release of first-person-shooter "Farpoint" allows free roaming movement, and though I don't have the game (yet), I've watched people playing it online and have read that the nausea-factor has somehow been minimized. An important thing to note, though, is that not all games need to involve free-roaming environments to be great in VR...
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Another major concern that you may have heard talked about is the nausea factor. I'll be totally honest: Yes, it is an issue. Several of the VR games I've played have made me nauseous, because there is a disconnect your brain experiences when your eyes tell it that you're moving but your body is not in motion. It depends on the game and each individual. Some people have no problems, but others have immediate reactions. One thing developers are doing to address this issue is they are increasing the frame-rate. This helps--Sony has been putting out suggested parameters for developers to adhere to, in order to reduce or eliminate dizziness and nausea. Another approach that has worked is including graphics on the perimeter of your view that are stationary, to sort-of "ground" you in a stationary spot, even if the rest of the screen is in motion. However, there is one solution a lot of developers are using that I don't like: point and click teleportation...
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
I want to address some of the issues with VR that still have some concerned. Price is one thing that deters a lot of people, and it is expensive. The Sony PSVR is $400 for the headset alone. You also need a camera, and the experience is seriously lacking without two "Move" controllers. You can get the headset and all this, plus a collection of games called "VR Worlds" for $500. It's obviously not a cheap entry fee into virtual reality, and many doubt it will be worth the experience--until they've tried it. The reason the system is selling well so far is because people have been blown away by the experience and the amazing potential of this new technology. The reason I haven't regretted buying it is because I, like so many others, have faith in the incredible possibilities that VR brings to gaming and entertainment in general. I can't wait to see what they do with it next! Update: At E3 it was just announced that Bethesda Game Studios is bringing "Skyrim" to VR! It looks amazing!
Monday, June 12, 2017
Some of you may remember my review of Sony's Virtual Reality system, the PSVR, when it released back in the fall. I haven't said anything about VR since then, mostly because of the games that released for it a few months after the big titles. A lot of indie developers were, in my opinion, trying to make a quick buck off of the early adopters of PSVR, putting out poorly designed games, if some of them could even be called "games." These early releases were over-priced and under-par in quality. Many people worried that PSVR was not going to see significant developer support, and hesitated to buy the device. Many developers watched and waited--they weren't willing to invest in game development for what might be an under-adopted device. Despite some hiccups along the way, though,I think PSVR has finally arrived...
Friday, June 9, 2017
Solar Echoes 3D-printed miniatures at Shapeways are now much more affordable! In the past, printing miniatures with high-detail in the “Frosted Ultra Detail” plastic was quite expensive: It was almost 3 times more expensive than the cost of printing in the lower detail, “White Strong and Flexible” material. For example, the low detail Omul figure costs $7.48 but the high-detail Omul used to cost $23! However, Shapeways has changed their printing process and upgraded their machines, so now the cost of printing a high detail Omul is only $11.86! That's just a little more than a $4 difference, which is really fantastic and much more approachable. Shapeways sets their prices by cubic volume and material, so the most expensive high-detail Solar Echoes miniatures are the Archaeloid and Chiraktis: $13.42 and $13.36 respectively. The cheapest high-detail Solar Echoes miniatures are the $9.70 Reln and the $10.24 Erwani. Still, the low-detail prints are great quality, too, with a price for the figures ranging from $6.07 (starship) to $8.11 (Chiraktis). I hope you enjoy the great figures sculpted by Jeremy Gosser (characters) and Charles Oines (starship), and that they help make your Solar Echoes games even more exciting!
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Skirmishes! I already have the cover art for another project--remember a while ago I shared the development of the Archaeloid vs. Omul fight scene? I haven't shared the final art because I still have a lot to do on this product, but I am planning to put together a small rulebook for conducting competitive games with Solar Echoes characters. This will involve a lot of maps, so it will take quite a lot of time, but I'm hoping to make more progress on this product over the summer. Considering that I'll be attending the Shorehammer convention for Warhammer gamers in December, it will be interesting to get the feedback of seasoned competitive wargamers on this new product!
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Speaking of more art, I'm hoping to involve artist John Fell in a bigger move to produce a lot more art work for Solar Echoes. If things work out, I have a number of plans that involve art pieces. One project I've been hoping to do is design a dossier of NPC's. This would provide information about a variety of characters that GM's can use in any game. The NPC's would each be illustrated and would include stat information, background stories, motivations, tactics, and possibly some mission seed ideas for GM's looking for a good way to fit them into a scenario. This archive of NPC's will include each character detailed on a full character sheet that can be printed out easily. The NPC's are also part of a larger story, too, and will give GM's a deeper glimpse into what is going on in the Solar Echoes universe. John Fell's civilian art already demonstrates his capacity to design a variety of NPC characters (see art below), so I can't wait to get started on this project with him soon!
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Another plan I have for this summer is to revisit past mission releases and give them a graphical overhaul to match the new format I've been using. If you haven't yet downloaded the free demo, Operation: Flash Strike, you might want to do so just so you can see what I'm talking about; full-color art, borders and highlighted areas, with other minor improvements such as better headings, nicer tables, and overall, better organization. It will be a lot of work and time to improve everything, but I think it will give everyone more value for their money and make the game even easier to follow and more exciting. Who doesn't like more art work?
Monday, June 5, 2017
Summer has arrived! Soon, classes will end and the summer will be underway. Sometimes summer is busier for me than the school year because my schedule is less consistent, but I'm looking forward to these three months with a bit more time available to invest towards Solar Echoes. I have a lot of plans, and I wanted to keep you updated about the future. One thing I plan to finish first is the new mission, Operation: Void Hunter. I tested it at the Balticon convention recently and the adventure was a success. There's something different about this particular mission, though: It's part of my plan for a larger, over-arcing story that will span several missions. I'm excited to continue the story, and my hope is to have part two of the series out before the end of the summer. Void Hunter should be available in a week or two--I'll let you know!
Friday, June 2, 2017
The mission I ran the most during the Balticon convention was Operation: Flash Strike, which you can download for free at RPGnow, or directly from my dropbox, here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rz093jqqf7f430i/AACAM64n8TPtFgzIzR9XI7C2a?dl=0
It was exciting to see how each group handled the situation differently. A few moments across all those games stick out in my mind, though—many times, people decided to use the overhead air ducts for recon before attacking the smugglers in the warehouse. This allowed them to get a view of part of the warehouse and help the rest of the team waiting outside to prepare for breach. However, once the signal was given and everyone attacked, the air-duct operatives all tried to open the air vent and jump down from the 15' drop. Only one out of the 5 people that tried this actually made the athletics check and landed safely. One dropped right in front of someone with an assault rifle, and three others fell and hurt themselves when they landed. One character was shot and immediately threw up a nanite wall to protect himself (see photo: the nanite hedge was represented by a red rubber-band). Another incident that sticks in memory is when two smugglers jumped into a car, preparing to speed away, but a female Reln character managed to run up to the car, open the door, and shoot the passenger. As he shot back at her, she dove for cover and avoided being hit while the passenger died from his wounds. There was some pretty amazing stuff that went on, including exciting car chases, aggressive interrogations of prisoners, and clever wordplay.
One of my very favorite moments was during an interrogation with the arms dealer: Each team member tried, using diplomacy, bluff, and intimidate, but the arms dealer managed to resist and shut down their attempts. After everyone had failed with him, the Omul character finally decided to try, and using his only Influence die, he actually rolled well each time! He managed to improve the dealer's posture enough that the group could extract the information they needed. The only failure of the Omul was near the end, when he failed his Discern Motive check and heartily agreed to the arms dealer's demands, promising him witness protection, a million credits, and his very own starship.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Another memorable moment during Balticon was when a very large team (7 players!) was heading into the deadly forests of the Krissethi planet, Sa'mesh. They were soon surrounded by a pack of reptilian, dog-like creatures with whip-like tails called “Snapwhippers.” As they fought the dodgy lifeforms that ran around and wore them down with tail strikes, the Archaeloid on the team decided to get away from the pack of creatures and approached a nearby river. He succeeded at his Awareness check and noticed some very odd fish with tentacles sprouting from their mouths, but decided to swim the river anyway—he's an Archaeloid, after all! Unfortunately, that did not go well for him, because as soon as he entered the water, the fish-creatures attacked. One fastened itself to his neck with its tentacles and started draining his blood. When he emerged from the water on the other side of the river, he grabbed the creature to remove it, but discovered it had venomous spines in its fins. Though he successfully pulled it from his neck and threw it back into the river, he began to bleed profusely because of the anti-coagulant venom in the creature's saliva, not to mention his muscular convulsions from the venom spines. The poor Archaeloid was in bad shape—and separated by the dangerous river from his friends, who were still fighting the snapwhipper pack. When he sent a signal for help, he added, “DON'T GO IN THE WATER!”