Dominique Vial: Domsware

domsware

Name: Dominique Vial

Company: Domsware

Position/Title: indie iOS developer

Favorite Classic game: Dungeon Master

Why is this game your favorite: The answer is not easy! But each time someone asked me this question it’s always Dungeon Master on top. I was 17 years old and I spend my days and night playing with DM with a friend: one playing and the other managing a map. My friend’s bedroom was full of DM maps pinned on the wall. We played on a cracked version of DM — sorry we were young — and from time to time there was a reset and we must start back from zero! And each tim we updated DM, the reset point was a little bit later in the game but still exits. I wonder if someone succeeded in cracking DM 100% !

We were on our final “lycée” studies and we needed to prepare THE french exam named “baccalauréat”. It’s very important to make a big score to this exam because it’s the passcard to university and High Schools. Anyway. We spend a lot of time playing DM instead of working our final exams. Locked on my friend’s bedroom, our parents believed we were working on our studies! Ah ah ah! It was a really immersive and addictive game. And, for the story purpose, a friend of my elder brother was working on some computer science laboratory on some kind of “network”. He was helping us by providing us printed listings containing the precious answers to hard DM’s issues: these was from this mysterious “network”. Later and later I found the name of this guy on a W3C document: I then understood he was one of the first working on the internet and that was the mysterious network. He was a pioneer while we were exploring dungeons !

novae

Check out his latest iOS game, Novae!

Open RPG

 

orpglogo

I mean, really, how often have you used a virtual table top? Let alone an online one… Anyway, it seems they can come in quite a bit handy, provided you’re not looking forward to putting your ornate tequila glass on them, but rather using them for some lovely pen & paper RPG gaming with your friends. Online, that is.

You see, them virtual tables provide gaming groups with everything they need to play their RPG of choice without having to physically meet or touch any sort of dice, which might seem quite the antisocial thing to do, but can be very helpful for playing with friends living thousands of kilometers away or for spending some truly productive time at work. Open RPG for example offers players and GMs an integrated environment complete with miniature map, die rollers, chat, data organizer and the ability to run ones own game server, that’s flexible enough to host any game system imaginable.

What’s more, Open RPG is absolutely free to use and you can download it here. A huge variety of plug-ins can be found here, whereas online-gaming maps are available here and quite a few hand-drawn “miniatures” here. Oh, and if you really feel like paying for something you could give Fantasy Grounds a try.

As for us, well, you know, being the happy cheap ass gamers we all are, we could give this online RPG thing a go. The entity behind from the gutter seems to be interested in it already, and rumours have been heard of a Call of Cthulhu session. Anyone interested, please, do leave a comment or drop me a line. Could be fun you know…

Introduction: Pen and Paper RPG’s

PenandPaperrpgs
So, uh, let’s start with a disclaimer, shall we? Lovely. If you are one of the few proper pen & paper RPG gamers frequenting this site, then you really don’t need to read any further. Really. You’ll probably know all there is to it. If, on the other hand, you are video gamer or preferably a video gamer that can appreciate the intricacies of Fallout, the vast worlds of Morrowind, the demented setting of Planescape and truly enjoy your average (or garden) video game RPG, then you might just be interested in finding out a bit more on them pen & paper RPGs, the sources of inspiration behind every CRPG from Ultima to Fallout 3, in which case you should probably read on.

For starters, in an ideal world, nobody in their right mind would ever dream mentioning pen & paper before the RPG bit. The later should be enough, mainly because the vast majority of computer/video game RPGs (CRPGs) lack the actual roleplaying bit, at least in the more traditional sense, which of course you wouldn’t know unless you had already played a real RPG, something rather impossible as you wouldn’t be reading this very article, would you now? Anyway. All a CRPG ever did to earn its role-playing title was borrow some ideas (e.g. character creation), game mechanics (e.g. combat, hit points, to-hit modifiers) and/or setting (e.g. The Forgotten Realms, Shadowrun), but never came close to emulating the true, traditional, wholesome, imaginative, wholly satanic and ridiculously time-consuming RPG experience.

So, what is an RPG? Well, it’s a role playing game, that’s what it is. Players assume roles and act out impromptu parts -following certain rules and in thoroughly defined settings- much like actors in radio theatre. Only, this is interactive theatre. You not only take part in a story but actually help tell it, as you’re absolutely free to do whatever crosses your mind.

How is this achieved? Simple. One of the players assumes the very important role of Game Master, Storyteller, Dungeon Master, Keeper, whatever. Let’s call him -as most RPGers do- the GM. Well, said GM’s job is to act as the other players’ senses, describing everything they see hear and smell, as the general organizer of play, as the narrator of the main plot and as the ultimate rules referee. His or her job, essentially, is to be what a PC or games console is -say- to an Oblivion gamer: the screen, the speakers, the physics engine, the enemy A.I., the voice of Patrick Stewart.

The major difference though is that a GM, unlike even 2 PS3s supported by a Pentium 5, can react and adopt to absolutely anything a player might come up with…Hence the importance of the rest of the players in the storytelling part. They are free to experience, twist, enrich, play through and ultimately shape the GM’s plot, always following some rules, not unlike those a video game would impose on a gamer. Rules, that determine whether a player kills a monster, is stealthy enough to bypass a drowsy guard or even adequately desirable to organise an orgy. What’s more, and just like in the vast majority of CRPGs, players get to create a character, an in-game persona, typically called the PC or Player Character, as opposed to the NPC or Non Player Character, obviously played by the GM.

 

What must absolutely be understood is that the GM is not the adversary of the players. He or she is just an instrumental part of a group of people enjoying a storytelling game. After all, there is no antagonism among players. Nobody can win in the traditional way and the game never really needs to end, as PCs grow older, more experienced and set forth for new adventures (in true MMORPG fashion). RPGs are collaborative, social, storytelling, imaginative affairs, totally unlike board and war games, even though they might share the use of dice -usually to determine the success of an action, be it combat or not.

Now, provided you’re even slightly intrigued, here are some pretty popular games/systems/settings (they usually come in the guise of books, you know, them nice papery things) to get you started. Surely you’ll recognize some of the names… Dungeons and Dragons (the father of the modern RPG, pretty complex, but perfectly balanced rules, huge variety of mostly fantasy settings), Call of Cthulhu (simple rules, fantastic insanity system, spawn of Lovecraft, brilliant and comfortably short scenarios) Vampire / WoD (simple and extremely versatile rules, Gothic feel, excellent prose), Shadowrun (very tactical, smart hacking mechanics, cyberpunk meets fantasy setting), Rolemaster (more complex than an accountant’s spreadsheet, but weirdly enjoyable) and the utterly notorious Aftermath!.

Anything else you care to know? Well, that’s what the comments section is for, you know…

Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games

Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games

I grew up playing a ton of board games, card games, and pen-and-paper RPG games but for many years now I’ve been sick of playing them and have favored video games ever since multiplayer and playing online against other people became abundant.

Battletech Box
Battletech Box

Well, even before then back in the days of hotseat (hotseat is multiple players playing on the same system at the same physical location), especially on my Commodore 64 and Amiga, as well as my friends’ NES, Sega Genesis, and SNES consoles, I would rather play a good balanced video game than deal with the arguments and drama that playing traditional games came with.

Now I love board games, card games, and RPGs but the problem I found throughout the years is that most people you play with will cheat at every opportunity or they don’t really know the rules of the game or they create their own house rules that sometimes make the game have nothing to do with the original game.

I grew up playing Monopoly, Sorry, Talisman, Battletech, Hero Quest, Munchkin, Guillotine, Chez Geek, Magic the Gathering, Jihad (the Vampire the Masquerade card game), Dungeons and Dragons (every version; AD&D every version as well), Shadowrun, Mechwarrior, and Vampire: The Masquerade. I’ve played more but those are the ones that easily pop into my head right now. I remember playing Battletech at a game store called Gamesters here in Miami with my friend Tom Birmingham and it was us two against two other players. The other players would do shit like waste time then make their guys move twice and fire twice. Even with their cheating, we decimated them.

Munchkin Card Game
Munchkin Card Game

For card games, especially Munchkin, there would be so many arguments that one time my friends stayed up all night playing the game and they decided to wake me up at 5 AM asking me to make a rule judgement. The conversation went something like this:

Friend 1: “Yeah we wanted to know how to interpret the Loaded Die card…”
Me: “You have got to be fucking kidding me. You know I’m going to kick you guys each in the balls the next time I see you.”
Friend 2: “I told you not to wake him up because of the game.”
Friend 1: “Shh… Anyways, we want to know if you can counter a Loaded Die card with another Loaded Die card.”
Me: “Yes, now please fuck off and never call me again not even if there’s an emergency. And yes, I will cock/cunt kick you all next time I see you. Good night.”

Vampire The Masquerade book
Vampire The Masquerade book

For pen and paper RPGs people would cheat on their die rolls just so their character would always do well. What’s the point of doing something if there is no penalty? How about playing a game where your character can actually die? What would be the point of real life if no bad things happened? Another problem that I found is that almost nobody knew how to actually role-play anything other than being a combat monster useless fucking character that killed everything that the Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) had spent hours designing. I always think of the D&D sketch by the Dead Ale Wives when I think of RPGs. For that I’d rather go play Diablo, at least that’s the point of that game!

Anyways, I grew tired of people ruining games for me so even as a kiddo I knew that unless the controller was broken in hotseat or somebody was using a bot online, video games would solve all that shit by preventing arguments from happening. Whereas on a traditional game you have to enterpret the rules and logic, in a video game everything is happening much faster (no need for die rolls other than internally within the program) and everything is more fluid. Whereas before playing something like Battletech, a battle would take 4 hours of real life time, that would translate into a 5-10 minute match in an RTS game.

Spy vs Spy on the c64
Spy vs Spy on the c64

The logic is simple and it’s even more obvious to me these days as I grow older than video games will continue to propagate even more and those old games will just continue to die. Now yes, I do agree that they should continue to exist. What are you going to do when a natural disaster happens and there’s no power? They’re great for that. Sometimes they’re great for parties so that at least you can play something with a non-gamer.

Auto Assault Box
Auto Assault Box

Now I’m not encouraging people to play an MMO unless it’s something like Auto Assault or Mechwarrior (two dead games) or PlanetSide (still around but almost nobody plays it) where skill and strategy mean something but more something along the lines as playing Starcraft or any favorite FPS game or anything else for that matter, so long as it’s not a gear based shitty game.. Just be careful with the online cheaters that will employ bots to win like a little bitch!

Another problem that traditional games have versus computer games, especially pen and paper RPGs is that they would take up so much time that it essentially became a ritual that you would have to dedicate time for each week. Think of it as the dedication a WoWhead gives their guild for raiding and other stuff in that game, except instead of clicking on World of Warcraft from any computer to connect you have to go to their house, buy food and drinks, and then drive home (usually really late that night or the next morning). It was even worse as a kid because of parents imposing curfews but I guess that doesn’t matter these days since parenting has gone to shit. =P With online gaming these days, you literally can play any game 24 hours a day and find people willing to play with you. You can’t beat that (although that does create problems like gaming addicts and more but that’s another topic for discussion)

Ur Quan Masters Battle
Ur Quan Masters Battle

I’d rather play a video game against a friend where it’s much harder to cheat than play a traditional game that could potentially ruin a friendship. I’ve seen some of my friends get into a permanent feud both over traditional games as well as video games but not as much for video games. Anyways, I’ll take something like a hotseat game of Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters) over a shitty game of Monopoly! However, just because I love video games that doesn’t mean that I won’t join you for a quick board game or card game or RPG session either!