Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Disney's Universe...

...we just live in it.

Lego has its own Universe, and now Disney wants theirs. Disney isn't going the full massively multiplayer route (they already own Club Penguin), but is instead creating a minorly multiplayer game for Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360.

Disney Universe will be the first time characters from all of Disney's different realms (classic and contemporary animation, television, Pixar, and live action) will appear in a single property (other than a theme park). Gamers will be able to "suit up" as 40 different characters from movies like Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Tron, Lilo and Stich, and others. There has been remarkably little information on the project, which is odd given its Fall release date. Thus far, there's no complete list of characters, only two screen shots, and the teaser (below) to show what it might be like.

We do know that players get specific tools and abilities based on the character costume they're wearing. They'll be able to explore 6 different world to solve puzzles and defeat enemies, in either co-operative or competitive play. The Disney Blog is reporting that Alice in Wonderland and Monstropolis will be two of the game worlds.

Disney Interactive just published Traveler's Tales Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, which is the same classic gameplay (and some of the same classic annoyances) as other Lego games. Disney/Lego also struck a deal for Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean Lego sets. Could we see a Lego Toy Story game in the near future?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Warren Spector Does DuckTales

WARNING: Comic book geekery ahead.

While game designer Warren Spector (Deus Ex, System Shock) was still working on Epic Mickey, he was already expressing a desire to do a DuckTales game: "A day does not go by where I don't tell somebody at Disney: 'Uncle Scrooge, come on! Donald! Huey, Dewey, and Louie! Come on, let me do a duck game!' So yeah, I would love to do a duck game."

Spector didn't get his Uncle Scrooge game, but he got the next best thing: the chance to write BOOM! Comics' new DuckTales comic book. The series relaunched this week with the first issue of Spector's new storyline, and the results are ... unfortunate.

Let's back up a little. Uncle Scrooge McDuck is one of the great comic book characters of all time. His greatest adventures--best chronicled by Don Rosa and Carl Barks--are epic quests for treasure. First Barks, and later Rosa, evolved an elaborate mythology and cast of characters, with Rosa in particular taking pains to turn the Barks "Duck" mythos (it's like the Cthulhu mythos, only more feathery and less tentacally) into a coherent storyline. Rosa's Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is one of the finest achievements in comic history.

Scrooge isn't a villain. He's hardworking, brave, austere, adventurous, clever, and, yes, very stingy: a perfect Scottish stereotype. His money and treasure were earned through sweat, courage, and negotiation. This is the core of the entire 60 year history of the character.

And that's what makes Spector's first issue of DuckTales such a misbegotten mess. He gets off to a promising start with some fan service as Scrooge tours through a museum filled with treasure from past adventures. And then Webbigail (the annoying mini-Daisy Duck from the DuckTales TV series) takes center stage and turns herself into the Voice of Moral Authority. And she does it while running a game of D&D (Ducks and Danger) for Huey, Dewey, and Louie, no less! She begins by complaining that D&D is just about "taking things that don't belong to you," and then proceeds to lecture everyone about how wicked Scrooge is for collecting (not stealing, mind you: earning) all his treasure and how he needs to give it all back.

I so wish I was making that up, but the whole premise of Spector's storyline is a rebuke of the entire series. I was going to title this post "Warren Spector Wrecks DuckTales," but I'm still hoping this is all a setup for some clever turnaround. Perhaps by issue 2 Webbigail will wind up as a tiny serving of Peking Duck in a Chinese restaurant and the whole notion of returning treasure will turn out to be a bad idea. The issue ends on a promising note as Huey, Dewey, and Louie--hectored and sidelined for most of the issue--make a surprise appearance, so perhaps they finally found that page in the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook that says "Ignore self-righteous little girl ducks."

The comic reviewer at PopMatters is applauding the new storyline for reversing "a pernicious and recursive problem in Uncle Scrooge, the slide into an oligarchical, messianic view of Western paternalistic attitudes to native cultures." That's the kind of anti-Western, jargon-laden, leftist nonsense you can only write after earning a "doctorate in literary and cultural theory." McDuck was a pennyless immigrant who earned his money by his wits and hard labor. He's an example of The American Dream, and some of us still believe in that.

I get the appeal of reversing the standard treasure-quest storyline, but the premise is the worst kind of politically correct revisionism. Spector has a fine storytelling sensibility, and he certainly has a lot of good geek-love for all things Disney and Duck. That's why I'm hoping the rest of the series turns out a lot better than issue number 1.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Report From Joplin

Photo: Josh Edwards
Josh Edwards (of Board Game Reviews by Josh) posts a lengthy report about losing his house in the tornadoes that hit Joplin, Mo. Here's how he begins:
Hi. My name is Josh. For a while, I have been using this blog to exclusively write reviews of board games. I've debated back and forth in my mind for a while whether I wanted to include "site news" posts or not, but thus far have refrained. However, something has happened that has caused me to go ahead and start that section. Bluntly, my house was blown down in a tornado.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spiel des Jahres: Nominees for 2011

"Spiel des Jahres" is German for "Game of the Year," and it's the most prestigious award in board gaming. A select group of German game critics puts forth various nominees in several different categories, and the winners (and even the nominees) can always expect a considerable spike in sales.

The Game of Year nominees are:

  • Qwirkle (an old MindWare title that was just released in Germany this year: it's on sale for 57% off at Amazon)
  • Forbidden Island (Matt Leacock's family friendly version of Pandemic)
  • Asara (Rio Grande Games)
A new category called "Kennerspiel des Jahres" was introduced this year for more complex games. Those nominees are:
  • 7 Wonders (Asmodee)
  • Strasbourg (Pegasus Spiele)
  • Lancaster (Queen Games)
A third category, "Kinderspiel des Jahres," nominates children's games. This year, the nominees are
  • Das ist der Wyrm drin (Zoch)
  • Magician's Kitchen (Playroom)
  • Monster-Falle (Kosmos)
I believe only four of these games are easily available in the US right now. Those are:

Who Are The Associated Gamers?

Some of you may have noticed the little "Associated Gamers" brand in the corner. AG is the brainchild of the Kevin Schlabach, of Seize Your Turn and Play in Public fame. It's essentially a broadcast channel where a  group of Eurogame bloggers can share their links in one handy place. Although I'm not strictly a Eurogame blogger, Kevin was kind enough to ask me to participate, and I think it's a great place to get links to all your news and reviews in one place.

This is probably a good moment to reiterate what State of Play is and isn't. This is a personal blog focused on games of all types in order to bring interesting items (news, games, puzzles, reviews) to a mainstream readership. There are a number of people covering Eurogames far better than I. Writers and podcasters like W. Eric Martin, Tom Vasel, Dice Hate Me, Board Games Reviews by Josh, the members of Associated Gamers, and many others do a terrific job. And, of course, there are always the BoardGameGeek forums for the brave or foolhardy. I do cover Eurogames, but I don't single them out as the only "good" kind of game. I'm just as likely to write about chess or playing cards or videogames. (In fact, my playing card posts--particularly playing card art--get far, far more hits than anything else here.)

Associated Gamers is also helping to create a sense of community among various game bloggers, which brings me to the most important part of this post. Through the AG messages on Posterous, I've been able to exchange comments with a number of different writers, including Josh Edwards of Board Game Reviews by Josh. Josh lives in Joplin, Missouri. He writes on Twitter: "I and my family are all safe. Unfortunately, my house (and boardgames) were completely lost. So... Yeah... Don't really know what to say."

Someone on BGG has already started a thread to help Josh and his family as they try to rebuild their lives. As I learn more, I'll report it in a future post. Our prayers are with them all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Free RPG Day

In the tradition of Free Comic Book Day, game stores and publishers are coming together to make June 18th "Free RPG Day." Participating retailers will have free quickstart adventures, dice, and similar items from White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, and other companies. Check out the official site to find a store near you.