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FRAG! January, 2010
By: Charles Rector | Newsletter | 12:43pm, January 30, 2010
Issue 102, January 2010 "Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat."
~ John Lehman

  1. The January Editorial Introduction
  2. News Direct from the Frontlines of Shrapnel Games
  3. Trivia Time
  4. Focus On: BRAINPIPE: A Plunge to Unhumanity
  5. Small OOB Update for winSPWW2
  6. The Dice Of War: Panzer General Allied Assault
  7. Sizzling Sellers and Those Special Offers
  8. Link O' The Month
  9. The Crystal Ball
FRAG! is Edited by Scott Krol

To manage your FRAG! account: Manage FRAG!
To drop your subscription: unsubscribe

To visit our blog please go to: Our Blog

My folks were always on me to groom myself and wear underpants. What am I, the pope?

When it comes to musical acts that can still sell out large arenas and headline festivals there isn't a very long list: Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones, Madonna, U2, Aerosmith, and perhaps Pearl Jam. With the exception of Pearl Jam it's interesting to note that all these acts were big prior to the '90s, and except for the Rolling Stones all were most popular in the '80s. Today I can't think of a single act from the past twenty years that has the power to draw fans like those acts.

Now consider the classic designers of computer gaming and who comes to mind? Sid Meier, Lord British, Chris Roberts, Will Wright , John Carmack, and Norm Koger. You may have a couple others you can think of, but right off the top of my head these are the folks that came to mind. Much like the musical acts highlighted in the first paragraph most of these folks made their name in the '80s or the early '90s. Since then we've had a couple of folks whose names may mean something (Gabe Newell, CliffyB) but overall standout names that everyone knows is rare today.

"When was the last time someone brought a new genre to the market?"

So what happened? Is anyone making classics anymore? Or is there simply so much noise happening that it's now extremely hard for any one individual to make a name for themselves?

I think it's a little bit of both. For the most part the computer game industry (and when you start referring to something as an industry you can pretty much write off any creativity that was once found in it) has evolved into safe games that are designed to please focus groups and make money for their investors. Just like you're never going to go anyplace if you're a

Kansas tribute band, as a game developer your name will never be mentioned in the same breath as Meier if you're churning out cookie-cutter games. Heck, just consider that many of the great designers also managed to launch entire genres. When was the last time someone brought a new genre to the market?

A potentially bigger problem though is how much chaff someone has to cut through to get to the wheat today. It's mind boggling how many titles are released in a year, and even more mind boggling when you consider that the vast majority will never rise above eliciting a 'meh' response from most gamers. No wonder no one is singled out anymore when you're one voice amongst tens of thousands.

Of course there is something else to consider and that's the fact that game development today is wildly different from the early days. Making a name for yourself is considerably easier if you're the entire development team, whereupon today a big name title can have scores of worker bees.

Maybe it's just become harder to spot the great designers. I think anyone reading our newsletter would have no trouble acknowledging the contributions of Illwinter, Camo Workshop, Digital Eel, ProSIM, and KE Studios to the gaming world. Their names may not be as familiar to the average gamer as Lord British or John Carmack, but I promise you that in twenty years folks will look back at their games and realize there was something special going on.

Here's to the unsung heroes of the game world!

Howdy folks, welcome to the new year of twenty-ten! If you see a big black monolith in your backyard don't panic. Hopefully everyone made it through the holidays all right and managed to avoid such pitfalls as the Fruitcake of Doom and the Office Party of Boredom.

Here at Shrapnel Games we've been gearing up for the coming year and while unfortunately we can't say anything yet, it should be a very exciting time. I suppose throwing in a "stick around kid, you ain't seen nothin' yet" would be cheesy...but what the hey...

Stick around kid, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Since our last newsletter with most of the news happening behind the scenes there is not a lot to report on. In December a new upgrade patch was released for winSPWW2, bringing the game up to version 4.0. This was covered in the last issue of Frag!, but in case you missed it there is a link to the patch that can be found later in this issue, along with a link to where to download a small update to the patch. It seems that a couple OOB errors slipped through but the Camo Workshop has released a correction.

The French e-magazine Cyberstratège, one of the best websites for computer strategy and wargaming news out there (although you do have to speak French or filter it through a translator site), announced their candidates for best strategy game of the year and wouldn't you know it War Plan Pacific is one of the nominees.

War Plan Pacific is KE Studios' first effort and what a first effort it is! Covering the entire war in the Pacific at a grand strategic level, War Plan Pacific can be

played in a single session. Both single and multi-player is supported, with both the ability to play online or through PBEM, along with basic modding (some aspects of the game are hard coded, but users can create new scenarios and modify unit stats).

Besides the fact that it's a wargame that is meant to be played to completion even in today's busy times there are other cool factors to it. The board game feel to the design is sure to please old time counter pushers, while the variety of victory conditions allow players to try out a number of different paths to victory, something often missing in many conflict sims.

If you haven't experienced it yet be sure to check out the demo, found at the War Plan Pacific product page.

Getting back to Cyberstratège, the site has a public poll that allows fans to vote for the game along with two other titles. If you're a fan of the game please consider taking a moment to click on War Plan Pacific. It'll only take a moment and every vote counts.

Vote for War Plan Pacific at Cyberstratège's 2009 Lauriers here.

Join us again next month for another Frag!, and remember that in the meantime you can always check our homepage (www.shrapnelgames.com) for the latest news, and stop by the forums to discover special monthly savings and other happenings.

In 1492 the island of Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who then claimed it for the Spanish crown, naming it Hispanola. Spain controlled the entire island for about the next two hundred years but in 1697 Spain gave the western third of the island to France with the Treaty of Ryswick.

France controlled most of what is now Haiti up until the Napoleonic period. In 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte sold French interests in the new world to the United States (the Louisiana Purchase) and began to ignore French colonies in order to concentrate on the European war that he was waging. And so in 1804 the independent nation of Haiti was created when independence from France was declared, although France would not recognize Haiti as a sovereign nation until the year 1825.

The 19th century for Haiti was plagued with revolts, coup de'tats, and violence but it was not until the early 20th century that the United States began to get involved. Between 1911 and 1915 Haiti had six different presidents, all of whose reign had ended either in death or exile. In 1915 the then current leader, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, was hung in Port-au-Prince in response to his execution of 167 political prisoners. The country was once again on the verge of revolt and President Woodrow Wilson, fearing for American business interests, sent in the Marines on July 28th, 1915.

While the intervention of the Devil Dogs was publicly considered a means to keep peace and stay anarchy the fact of the matter was the United States was extremely nervous about Germany gaining control of the country by exploiting the current troubles. Fear of a German controlled Haiti had begun years ago when German citizens on the island began to economically dominate the island even though they numbered only

in the hundreds. Haiti would make an excellent naval base (and in fact during the 1800s the United States attempted unsuccessfully lease a port for such activity). War Plan Black, one of the Rainbow plans for battle planning against various possible belligerents, in fact posited a take over of Caribbean islands by German forces.

The campaign for control of Haiti lasted only through 1915, although active resistance continued off and on until 1919. During that time the Marines proved themselves once again masters of battle, eliminating during the occupation thousands of revolutionaries at the loss of very few Marines. It was during this time that six Marines also earned Medals of Honor for their actions against the revolutionaries (referred to as 'cacos').

The Marines and United States remained in control of Haiti until 1934. While a network of roads, a modern telephone exchange, and a public health service were all created during this era the seeds of revolution were never quite stamped out. In 1929 US Marines killed ten protestors, leading to rumblings of another revolution brewing. Due to the increasing potential of governing problems and the United States own woes, then President Hoover began the withdrawal of US forces from the island which was completed under his successor, President Roosevelt.

Post-US occupation Haiti continued to be home to violent thugs for rulers, and the US almost had to intervene in 1994 when it looked like there was not going to be a peaceful change in rulership. In 2004 the US did send 1,000 Marines as part of a UN peacekeeping force after yet another uprising, and now in 2010 US forces are again in Haiti, this time as part of a peaceful recovery mission due to the recent earthquake that utterly destroyed the country.

Back in the days of the coin-op arcade a game didn't need high priced voice actors, long winded narratives, or the ubiquitous buzzword 'immersion' to be entertaining. Usually all that mattered was a fun hook.

BRAINPIPE: A Plunge to Unhumanity hearkens back to the good ol' days when games were just plain fun (and everyone was perfectly okay with that). Billed by its creators Digital Eel-the folks behind Weird Worlds-as an alien mind control program BRAINPIPE is a colorful journey through ten levels of spatial gaming goodness.

Control is so easy a dead Roswell alien could play the game. Using a one button interface the player experiences the path to unhumanity via a wireframe iris. Always moving forward through their psychedelic subconscious the player can at times slow the progress down but never actually stop it. Using the iris players capture glyphs while avoiding eight bizarre obstacles.

The goal is to reach a state of unhumanity which translates into a really good score. That's right, you're playing for a score. How often do you see scores in games anymore? On the way to that score you don't (repeat, do not) have to deal with non-interactive cut scenes, thousand item inventories that only vary in color, griefers, campers, wall hacks, or Securom. What you do have to deal with is a pure sensory assault and plenty of entertainment.

Winner of the 2009 Independent Games Festival's Excellence in Audio category and a favorite of critics, BRAINPIPE: A Plunge to Unhumanity is an electronic glory ride that will mesmerize you for hours at a time. Unpretentious, this is a pure game that does what a game should do best: let you escape into another world for a while and upon exiting leave you with a grin plastered from ear to ear on your face.

BRAINPIPE: A Plunge to Unhumanity is available for both Windows and Mac only as a download.

BRAINPIPE: A Plunge to Unhumanity

For more information please visit its official product page.

Last month the Camo Workshop released their latest upgrade to their winSPWW2, bringing the game up to version 4.0. Post-release it was discovered that there were three OOB errors in which three nations (Poland, Russia, and the USMC) had a second thousand pound bomb added in place of an existing weapon.

The Camo Workshop rapidly pounced on the problem and has released a small update for the game to correct the OOB issues. You can download the file (which comes in at less than 60k) to update your version 4.0 game at the forum.

And in case you missed the news about version 4.0 here's the basic rundown of what is included:

  • 22 New scenarios
  • 52 Revised scenarios
  • 6 Revised campaigns including the ANZAC campaign
  • 96 New or revised photos
  • 29 New Icons
  • 36 Updated OOB files
  • 40 New or revised text files
  • 4 Revised Sound files
  • 17 Revised graphic files
  • Upgraded ScenHack, MOBHack, and Cost Calculator

In addition to the above changes there are twenty gameplay modifications, enhancements, and corrections ranging from the potential for casualties from collapsing buildings to a new explosive class and more.

winSPWW2

With the version 4.0 upgrade you now have a game featuring 12,143 units, 4,626 weapons, and 6,769 formations. How's that for content?

Grab the upgrade patch at the official product page.

Panzer General Allied Assault (Petroglyph)

Let's get this out of the way. If you're familiar with the classic SSI Panzer General series beyond the fact that the game uses prestige as the cost of doing business there is nothing similar to the computer game of yesteryear. While somewhat disappointing to play on the nostalgia of gamers with such a name Panzer General Allied Assault (PGAA) thankfully is enjoyable enough as its own board game that the tie-in was not even needed.

PGAA is a "light" wargame of the beer and pretzels variety. Scenario based (and with the nice touch of including both scenarios for solo play and play between two opponents) the game covers the Western Front on WWII from the D-Day landings until the end of the war. While the name may have allied in it don't expect to see any British, Free French, Polish, or other allied forces as only American units make an appearance in the game. Of course, as we all know that just means the game has room to expand in the future.

Much like Memoir '44 there is no given scale to the scenarios so whether you're fighting at a tactical level or higher is unknown. The gameboard is created using a set of thick cardboard terrain tiles. Unlike Memoir '44 there is no base board in which the terrain is overlaid, rather the tiles themselves become the map. The game is also entirely played with cards. The units that move and fight on the map are cards, while the players also use cards to alter combat or change the gameplay.

For some players the idea of the map construction and use of cards as playing pieces may be a new thing but this is not the first time a design like this has appeared. Fans of the game The Last Crusade (originally published by Chameleon Eclectic and then later by Pinnacle) will recall that it used terrain cards to create the playing map and units were cards that moved and fought on the terrain cards. In fact, other similarities include the fact it focused on the US drive on Germany from D-Day onwards (though under Pinnacle a Russian front expansion was released) and that gameplay revolved around supply points while in PGAA it revolves around prestige points.

I point out the similarities between PGAA and The Last Crusade not to be a slight against the design, but rather to point out that if you enjoyed The Last Crusade, which was by far the only collectible card game worth a damn, then you can pretty much stop reading right now and know you'll enjoy PGAA. If The Last Crusade means nothing to you, continue reading.

Gameplay is very easy to get into. On a given turn a player will draw cards from his unit deck and/or the action card deck (action cards naturally having plenty of cards that "break" the rules), move units, place new units, dig in, or start a fight. Placing new units on the board or using action cards cost prestige, which is gained at the end of a player's turn based on what map tiles end as friendly controlled.

Combat uses a diceless system which while straightforward can seem a little involved since there

are sixteen total steps in a single combat. Actually, there are potentially twenty-eight steps if the target is not eliminated by the attacker immediately.

Units have one defensive stat but two offensive stats, one for hard targets and one for soft targets. Combat involves first computing the total attack strength versus the total defensive strength with modifiers for morale (the equivalent of hit points in other games), terrain, and support fire. Randomness is introduced by both players and the system itself. Players can influence the combat by playing combat cards while the system will influence the combat by the pull of a card that alters the final attack strength. The final defense value is subtracted from the final attack value, and if as long as there is a positive difference damage is scored. Damage is not done on a one to one basis of the difference, but rather based on a combat chart which dictates the damage (which ends up being about roughly half the actual difference).

The system works well enough, and with the ability for players to play combat cards to change the numbers combat never feels like it's already been decided from the start as some diceless systems behave. At the same time there is enough built into the system that it is very difficult for players to change the outcome of a lopsided fight, so the results never end up feeling too far fetched. In other words, unless you have a completely awesome hand of combat cards and are willing to spend them all in a single battle don't expect to pit a scout car against a heavy tank and drive away unscathed.

Thanks to a very thick deck of cards players always have numerous options for strategy and there is definitely something to be said by the pokeresque risk factor players must take during a turn. How important is that battle to you? How many cards will you spend on it? What cards will your opponent play? The more cards you play on your turn the fewer cards you will have to react to your opponent. Likewise, since cards cost prestige will the net gain be worth it?

The lack of toys may turn some people off but the use of cards allows the game to have a fog of war effect missing from plastic miniature gaming systems. This is another nice aspect of the game as one never knows if that unit creeping towards you is a heavy tank or a bunch of old men with sticks.

With a nice scenario selection of solo, two player and DYO guidelines PGAA packs a lot of replayability. Factor in the inherent randomness of a card-based gaming system and you extend the life even more.

Panzer General Allied Assault may not replace Memoir '44 as the light wargame of choice for many but it does complement it nicely. Gamers looking for another BAP game that is quick to setup and play with a WWII theme won't go wrong with Panzer General Allied Assault.

We ended the year of 2009 with the usual suspects continuing to reign as the champs of the Gamers Front, although with a slight change in order from the previous month. In December the top three selling games were Dominions 3: The Awakening, winSPWW2, and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. Hopefully this meant a lot of folks were waking up Christmas morning to some great independent strategy games beneath the tree!

Dominions 3: The Awakening and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space are both available for multiple OSes. Dominions 3:The Awakening supports Windows, Mac, and Linux while Weird Worlds supports Windows and Mac. winSPWW2 does not officially support anything other than Windows but there are forum reports of folks getting it to work under Linux. Since the non-Enhanced version is completely free it's probably worth a download to your Linux folks to try it yourself. After all, the Linux world definitely needs some good wargames.

Dominions 3: The Awakening sees and crushes all!

Dominions 3: The Awakening

winSPWW2, the last turn based tactical WW2 game you'll ever need on your PC.

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, it's like Futurama and Star Trek had a love child.

The Gamers Front specials of the month can be found here.

For the month of January we have on special Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War and Scallywag: In the Lair of the Medusa.

Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War normally retails for $44.95 but is on sale for only $39.95. It's available as a physical product for Windows with the option to immediately download and start playing while waiting for your package to arrive.

Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War is part of the exciting ProSIM line of command-time modern land warfare simulations. Using an enhanced ATF: Armored Task Force engine Raging Tiger puts players in command of the joint US-ROK advance into North Korean territory on a mission of regime change.

The terrain of Korea brings an interesting challenge to gamers, along with the type of warfare that would be expected as high tech weapons clash along front lines that begin in an almost WWI trench line-like state. Scenarios also highlight operations outside the players control, allowing gamers to experience a total war.

Scallywag: In the Lair of the Medusa is for Windows and is available either as a download or physical product for the sale price of $25.95 (normally $29.95). Scallywag is both a single-player Rogue-like experience, with randomly generated dungeons and the thrill of descending deeper into the earth, and a complete tool kit for crafting your own adventures.

New adventures can be modded using standard Windows software or, for those of you with some coding experience, can use more elaborate methods. Mods can be as simple as changing the effects of the base game's inventory items to totally replacing the bestiary with monsters of your design. The only ceiling is your imagination and commitment to your mod!

If you're a university student or part of the US military be sure to stop by the Gamers Front and check out the Savings for Scholars and Soldiers program and save money with each purchase.

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space is a game meant to be played over and over again. Not only does the core gameplay allow this with its random setup but the game is very easy to mod. Why, it's almost like it was meant to be modded.

Forum user 'sgqwonkian' (aka R.B. Bergstrom of Seattle) has created several really wonderful mods for Weird Worlds such as Teeming With Life and Drives 'R' Us. You can find these mods and his other work at our official forum for the game, but you can also follow his work on these projects and other Weird Worlds modding projects at his blog, Transitive Property of Gaming.

While unfortunately not solely dedicated to modding Weird Worlds he does have a decent amount of content regarding the game and his mod work. To save you the trouble of searching for it all, the included link will bring up the targeted information.

If you're a fan of Weird Worlds be sure to check out his superb mods and stop by his blog and maybe drop him a note about his efforts.

Visit the site at:

http://transitivegaming.blogspot.com/search/label/WW%3ARTIS



Scallywag: In the Lair of the Medusa

All American: The 82nd Airborne In Normandy: 2010

Eat Electric Death! (Board game): Production Pending

Copyright © 2009 - Shrapnel Games, Inc.
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