Cracked LCD- A Conversation with Brett Murrell (DOAII Designer), Part 2


Here it is, part 2 of my conversation with Duel of Ages II designer Brett Murrell. If you missed the first part…well, what’s wrong with you?  Get to gettin and catch up’, or carry on with the following.

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Brakketology Confronts the Dragon… Despairs

Excalibur Merlin

Look upon the eyes of the dragon and despair. Merlin was, of course, talking to Morgana when he said that, but he could easily have been speaking of game designer and “monetization design consultant” Ethan Levy, who wrote a piece on F2P success at Games Industry Biz. It is insightful, based on sound data, and wholly abhorrent to anyone who actually cares about games. A snippet, cherry-picked to set you against him:

When I compare Arkham Origins to Gods Among Us [ed: the F2P releases, not the "real" games], my sense as a player and a game designer is that NetherRealms has made an undoubtedly better game, but a worse free-to-play product. They have made fundamental changes that will earn them brownie points with gamers wary of free-to-play, but have a negative impact on P&L. Even more damaging is the effect of diverting resources from a top grossing, live game to build a new product. I know from firsthand experience how difficult hiring talented team members can be in a competitive space like mobile game development. But by shifting resources instead of growing the overall mobile team to support multiple games (which I assume is the case solely based on the credits) Warner Bros. has not only delivered a lower performing product, they have missed months’ worth of opportunity to add new features to Injustice that would grow player base and profitability.

I bang my anti-F2P drum on, very nearly, a weekly basis. This kind of stuff is why. These games aren’t games. Games are creative expressions and therefor are art forms. They may often be very low art, but they are creative endeavors and while there is money to be made (nor can they be made without it), you are not making great games if your primary design axiom is built on how you get players to stop in the middle of what they’re doing and fork over more money, and then do so again a session or two later (and again, and again). And that, of course, is F2P’s problem. When games are designed and built to get you coming back to the feeder bar as much as possible without getting too pissed off to abandon the title outright then they are no longer games of any substance or worth. If you eat, sleep, and breathe that business, then you’re not Satan exactly, but you are the guy who goes into the corner store to buy Satan a pack of cigarettes. (Points for you if you know where I’ve stolen that line from.)

Make us a good game, rather than a nickel and dime delivery system, and we’ll pay you for it. Speaking of real games…

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/11


This is it folks, week one of our two week entrance into the next generation of console gaming. With both consoles needing day one patches for various levels of functionality, it’s going to be a rough go of things. I think we can take that as a given. That being said, keep calm, keep in mind that all consoles have launch problems and threadbare lineups and for God’s sake, if someone wants to buy a new console at launch (like me) and they’re not taking your games and/or money to do so then by all means, let them have their fun.

The first console out of the gate is Sony’s PS4, which also happens to be the one I’m starting out with. I’ll get an Xbox One eventually, just not at lunch. The PS4 is launching with a bunch of games, too many to list out individually but follow that link and you can stuff yourself with super hi-def goodies. Me, I’m going with Skylanders, AC IV and Killzone. Yeah, two of them are already available on other systems but if I can push more pixels, why not do it? The third is because Killzone is gloriously stupid and sometimes you have to sit back and marvel at Teh Stoopid.

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Hornet Leader & Cthulhu Conflict Review


When my children were small and I didn’t get out much I played a lot of solitaire board games, and I decided that I didn’t like solitaire board games all that much. It’s hard to see what they give you that a strategy video game doesn’t, except lots of annoying overhead. There was, however, one exception: Vietnam air-war game Phantom Leader.

It’s part of a whole series of related air combat games from Dan Verssen Games. Hornet Leader is one of the more recent and critically lauded entries, and after my experiences with Phantom Leader I was pretty excited to try it out.

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Cracked LCD- A Conversation with Brett Murrell, Duel of Ages II Designer (Part 1)


I made it abundantly clear, I hope, that I absolutely love Duel of Ages II in my recent review. I think DOAII is a brilliant game that manages to get at some very elemental concepts of play that reach all the way back to schoolyard games like cops and robbers while also creating a vast, “anything can happen” framework for players to create narrative. The designer, Brett Murrell, has been working on Duel of Ages for over a decade at this point, first releasing the game and a series of expansions back in 2003. The new edition arrives at a very different time in the boardgaming hobby, and at a time when I think it may just be the game that we need to cut through the crap and get back to old fashioned fun.

Mr. Murrell was kind enough to offer his thoughts up about DOAII and design in an interview, so over the course of the next two Cracked LCDs I’ll be presenting the results of this conversation that we held over email . I think Mr. Murrell has some interesting things to say and I hope you’ll enjoy his insights. Continue Reading…

Brakketology Waxes Nostalgic


I was innocently strolling through my Feedly feeds a couple days ago, window shopping for things that looked interesting –things that would justify my desire to not have to, you know, be productive– when I ran across a reference to Vale having taken the wraps off their internally-developed Steam box. And then another. And then another. These are, of course, signs that an embargo just lifted.

I can name the number of times I’ve been invited to go behind the scenes to get an early look at something and then write free PR about it. It was always a fun experience just because you got to actually see stuff that only a small group is privileged to see and you got to meet people in the business (almost universally great people) that you would never ever get to meet in any other situation. Getting to sit down and have a casual conversation with someone like Fred Wester (Paradox Sofware) or a Mike Laidlaw (Bioware)? That’s awesome. Getting home and realizing you now have to try and write something unique about an experience that was exactly the same for a dozen other people who saw the same thing and are also about to write about it? Blech. Waking up and seeing them all online at the same time and then coming across the one or two utterly brilliant iterations that aren’t yours and make you feel bad about yourself as a writer? Vomit.

This is all to say that while I miss getting to have some of those experiences, I absolutely do not miss the sheer pointlessness of the work involved. It’s much better to look from afar and call attention to the stuff worthy of  your attention. Which I’ll do right now…

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/4

This week brings the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts, the last big release before Microsoft and Sony trot our their consoles and start massaging numbers to declare who “won” the holiday season. I like the above CoD commercial however for it to be realistic, one of them has to be a twelve year old racist, one has to be doing nothing but tea bagging a dead soldier, two of them have to aggressively sexually harass Megan Fox and none of them are work together.

If soldiering isn’t your thing, see if you can drop a few pounds before the busy Holiday Eating season with Zumba Fitness World Party. Or, and here’s an idea, you can stay seated and play The Guided Fate Paradox or Castlevania Lords of Shadow Collection. You know, whatever works. If bugs are more your thing, Daedilic’s Journey of a Roach unlocks on Monday. If bashing monsters is more your speed, Final Exam releases this week. I’d be more interested in reunions if I could bash in a zombie’s skull at one.

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Jumping the Shark Episode #194

No High Scores Podcast Logo

Image: Filomena Scalise /

This week’s Jumping the Shark brings the exciting return of the musical interlude! But not in the way you think I mean. Also, I do a little night-walking in Neverwinter, as I reach back into my gaming library for a taste of Neverwinter Nights 2′s D&D 3.5 ruleset goodness. Find out what makes this still a game worth getting into despite some frustrating pieces that’ll never work quite right. Seriously, little NPC dudes, stop running headlong into traps! Brandon, meanwhile, has created a scourge of Echo soldiers in the recently released iOS game, Echo Prime. He comes away mightily impressed. Not so impressive was his journey into the streets of Gotham in Batman: Arkham Origins. Did no one at Splash Damage notice that they have Batman standing blithely around while a dude gets straight-up murdered and think to say, “Hey, this is kinda out of character?” Finally, we get to the real issue of the day, in which I explain to Brandon what made Pacific Rim a far better movie of metal monstrosities punching things than Transformers.


Production Note: We’ve brought this up in the show a couple times, but just to make sure you’ll all fully aware, we’ve officially gone to the every other week model for JtS releases. Our apologies to those of you who liked getting your weekly dose, we love you all, but with just two to three of us available (and sometimes not even that) in any given week, there are too many “real life” commitments going on to keep it going weekly. Hopefully, however, you’ll find that the extra week gives us more to play and more to talk about, resulting in better shows!

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Musical interlude, “Gentle Autumn Breeze,” by Garret Dwyer.

Cracked LCD- Warmachine/Hordes High Command in Review


There’s a lot to like about Privateer Press’ High Command card game, available in Warmachine and Hordes flavors (or Warmachine-Hordes swirl if you own both). The production design is outstanding, with great illustrations. As a lapsed Warmachine player, I’m happy  to see Privateer Press leveraging its fertile, proprietary settings to create games outside of their usual tabletop miniatures domain. And overall, it is a good card game with a couple of impressive ideas, despite some fairly routine gameplay processes. It’s billed as a deckbuilder and that may illicit some groans from the audience since that particular genre is quickly becoming as exploitative and cash-grabby as themed versions of Monopoly are, but it really isn’t anything like other games in its class. It’s more of a Battle Line-descended contested location card game with an interesting way of gradually increasing a player’s options over the course of a game by drafting cards into a play deck from a personal reserve. Continue Reading…

Brakketology Is Out of Its Element

Big Lebowski Reunion

This is from my buddy’s annual best of its breed Halloween party last weekend. Call it an unofficial and wholly fictional Big Lebowski reunion tour. On one hand, being asked to be Donny is both A) uninspiring – I mean how do you replicate Steve Buscemi’s look in that movie? Guy wears bowling shirts and Dockers. Done. And B) debilitating to one’s soul, because you know you’ll spend the entire evening being told, “Shut the fuck up, Donny.”

On the other hand, this collection is incomplete without Donny and these dear friends of mine did an unbelievable job replicating Jesus, Walter, and The Dude. Walter in particular is just an eerie likeness. Also, given A and B, there may be no one else in the world, and certainly not in my social circle, better-suited to manning the role. That may be a dubious distinction, but if you’ve got it, own it, right? Plus, as a collection this is completely awesome.

On to business. In this week’s Brakketology rock lives, Mythic’s free-to-play designers ruin beloved franchises, Enemy Within gets some hands-on time, there’s more Xbox One/PS4 comparing and contrasting, and Star Citizen is the game that refuses to take “no” for an answer.

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