Nathanael Cole / Alliterated Games

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Episode One of “The Cape” is Exactly What I Wanted it to Be

Two nights ago, I got around to watching the pilot episode of the brand new hero drama The Cape, and I was wowed. That first episode was pulp vigilante heroism at its present day greatest. For me, it combined all of the good from Dark Angel‘s first season with raw “Vengeful Father ” fury.

And yes, some spoilers of the first episode follow, so read at your own risk. Read More »

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“Sunshine” Killed My Happiness

When I was in second grade, I started having these really bizarre (to me at the age) dreams about a fellow classmate named Meg. In those dreams, she would exist as some sort of wonderful beneficial thing, and her rare touch was addictive, the ambrosia of life. I remember waking up after each of these dreams with this intense, skin-crawling disappointment that she wasn’t there, and each of the places she had touched me (arms, cheeks, etc) would then feel even worse. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing my first actual crush, along with the longing and let-down that often accompanies such a trial.

Around the 1:15 time mark of the movie Sunshine, I experienced a feeling eerily similar to that post-dream sadness, and it still sits with me well into the day after. This feeling was born in my realization that the director had destroyed a beautiful work of art that was in its final stages of achieving perfection.

I was primarily recommended to this movie through friends and Netflix, due to my love of the movies Moon and Pandorum. Watching its first hour, I can definitely get the connection to the former, as that sense of isolated claustrophobia really drives down deep in each moment of the film. Moon did a near-perfect job of connecting me on a personal and emotional level with its cast of one (of which there were two). I felt like i was right there, with him the entire time, and when he cried, I cried. In the early part of Sunshine, the effect was the same; when the guy kept repeating “I fucked up! I fucked up!” I wanted so badly to reach over and grab his shoulder in a firm but understanding grip, letting him know that he needs to calm down, but also that I know exactly how much it sucks to make such a human error. And later, when that same guy sees the consequences of his fuck-up, I’m still right there with him. As a member of the audience, that effect, that expression on his face just tore me apart.

But the connection to Pandorum is one with which I can’t agree. Pandorum was a horrific sci-fi thriller, and I knew that going into it. It’s gruesome scenes fit perfectly within the context of its established subject frame. The “something here is killing us and I don’t know what it is” theme was introduced early in the movie’s story development, and everything that branched off of that resulting narrative was exactly as it should have been. In Pandorum, murders and chases and distrust and “run for your life they’re coming!” was all part of the premise, and exactly what I was looking for.

With Sunshine, the introduction of that new theme was so unexpected and heavy-handed as to be anathema to the intense-yet-enjoyable tension that the movie had fostered up until that very moment. Mere seconds after perhaps the most powerful scene of the entire movie, once the computer utters that one line involving the number five, everything the movie had built up was obliterated. The turn towards the slasher chase was unnecessary and unwanted, and I struggled to pay anymore focus to the screen as the movie finished its course – not because I was disturbed by the new delve into gore and terror, but because I was absolutely bored with it. Because my feelings were hurt. By a movie.

Were this any other movie, I would likely dismiss it, and tell my friends to stay away from it. But the buildup and execution of the first full hour of this movie is so wondrous, so compelling that I won’t be doing my heart any justice by telling everyone to avoid the film. So, instead, you should watch it up until the “hall scuffle” scene around 1:10 or so, and then turn it off. Just walk away, think about it, buy the soundtrack (which is simply stunning), press play and then sit down and write out your own ending. Take this story and make it your own.

Then send me the scripts you write, so we can enjoy them together.

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What Music Inspires Your Game Design?

I’ve found lately that I have been listening to two specific albums more than anything else while working on my design projects. They are:

  1. Forbidden Forest: Impressions of George Winston by Taliesin Orchestra. There’s something about this album which deeply inspires me in the way no other music does. I’ve listened to all the original piano pieces upon which these tracks are based, but the originals just don’t compare to the orchestrated renditions. Starting with the very first track on the album, “Tamarack Pines,” I am swept away into a different realm of my creativity. Thanks immensely, Chris, for introducing me to this one.
  2. Silent Hill Shattered Memories – original soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka. This is so far my favorite of the consistently amazing Silent Hill soundtracks, narrowly edging above the previous favorite, Silent Hill 4: The Room. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s vocal performances are stellar, as always, and in my opinion this album showcases the best work she’s done so far on the series. Something about the haunting ethereal underscores mixed with stellar (and sometimes totally rocking) vocal tracks keeps this one consistently repeating in the background while I work. I actually attempted to make a mix of nothing but McGlynn’s vocal tracks, but the project was only partially successful: the playlist was pretty damn awesome, but I found I couldn’t stop rocking along with the music long enough to get any actual work done.

There are a few others in rotation, including Danse Macabre by The Faint, Vegas by The Crystal Method, Nothing Lasts… But Nothing Is Lost by Shpongle, and the musical score to the movie Master and Commander. These play pretty frequently on my background mixes, but it is the two albums detailed above which always start it off, and which I always kick back into play when I hit a lull in the process.

What are yours?

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Warhammer FRP 3rd Ed: First Hands-On Experience

This past weekend I had the unexpected pleasure of running a last-minute session of the new Warhammer Fantasy RPG – the 3rd Edition boxed set from Fantasy Fight Games, to be specific. The folks over at Gnome Stew have an excellent “unpacking” article on the game, with lots of pictures of its juicy innards, so I’ll skip that part and get right to the fun.

I’ve had this for a couple of weeks now, and have been itching to give it a test run. I wasn’t expecting to break it out in full game mode so soon, having only read the player book and most of the GM book (and not even touching the magic books yet). But when the call came in, it was the first thing that popped into mind, and in hindsight, I think it was a great idea. Despite none of us having any real experience with it, the end result was a very positive one. Read More »

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Another Cannibal Contagion review is live

It’s pretty spot-on, I believe. Check it out on

“Cannibal Contagion is an enjoyable game that stays true to the design goals. It’s fun, easy to pick up, and has some very nice features for player interaction and character conflict. The scope, of course, is quite narrow both in terms of what characters can and can’t do and the environment they interact with. Others elements are inevitably dealt with a lot of hand-wavin’ and impromptu rules; the game is about “comedic survival horror” and not really much else. It is firmly located in the beer-and-pretzels one-off genre of games and should be seen in that perspective, which it achieves admirably.”

Thanks, Lev!

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