This is Audio EXP for the 5th of September 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘Big bets on the digital future’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #60]
Is Harley Quinn better off without The Joker?
Harley Quinn was created for the Batman animated series, and this makes her pretty much the only superhero/supervillain to go from TV and the wow the comic book fans. She was created to be The Joker’s love interest too.
Harley has become so popular that she’s able to go it alone these days, with her own shows and movies. She’s a success story.
At the start of the year, Geek Native had a little Harley Quinn lamp to give away and so, as is traditional, ran a survey competition to pick a winner. To enter the survey, you had to say whether or not you thought Harley Quinn was better off without The Joker.
I won’t stretch the answers out until the end of the podcast. I’ll tell you now. Most people thought she was better off without the Clown Prince.
- 66% of women thought she was better off without the Joker.
- 61% of men did, too.
- 63% of people who identify as neither man nor woman, also thought Harley was better off without him.
Those numbers are pretty consistent.
I’m catching up with these survey write-ups, I quite like discussing or revealing the results in the Audio EXP podcast along with the usual article on the blog.
There’s often, but not always, competition on the site. The easiest way to find the latest competition is to scroll to the bottom of Geek Native until you get to the black footer. The second column there lists regular columns on the site, including the Audio EXP podcast, but also links to the competitions.
There is a competition on right now and it’ll run for the whole month. The prize is a hugely popular card game called 6 Nimmit!
In the game you’re playing basically a game of bluff and dare against friends, trying to work out whether they’ll play safe or take a risk to avoid collecting penalty points.
On the competition page, I’ve popped a video review from Shut Up and Sit Down, who love the game and explain it clearly in less than 15 minutes.
It’s not common for people to tweet Geek Native and praise the prize as being a great game – perhaps because when it’s game giveaway it’s a new thing that no one has played yet – but that’s what has happened here.
6 Nimmit! is a German game, you might also see it as Take 6!
Another German game featured in this week’s news is a D&D 5e setting called The Wagadu Chronicles.
Trust me. It’s not yet another 5e campaign setting. Two things make The Wagadu Chronicles stand out.
Firstly, it’s free right now. Links are in the transcript which you’ll find in the show notes.
Secondly, it’s an Afropunk setting. It’s a fantasy game inspired by African folklore rather than European. It also looks gorgeous.
So, why the developers, Twin Drums, giving it away for free? The D&D 5e setting is one half of the project. The other half is an MMO.
To get your free 5e tabletop version of The Wagadu Chronicles, you supply your email and, if you want, opt-in to future communication from Twin Drums. You don’t have to. They’ll be hoping that you like the world so much that you become curious in the MMO.
I like this approach to marketing. I also note that the tabletop setting becomes a freebie, a marketing cost, to support the digital game.
We’ve seen this before with Desperados, a setting which was free and accompanied the THQ Nordic computer game Desperados III.
I’ve seen a heap of praise for The Wagadu Chronicles. I’ve not seen anyone moaning about using tabletop games as marketing collateral. Once again, it makes me think that we, the tabletop community, treated the Wendys, the burger people, a bit harshly for their free RPG Feast of Legends.
Now, we’ve snuck on to the headline of today’s podcast; Big bets on the digital future.
Why? We’ve been talking about tabletop settings are being given away to support the digital game. Even with Wendys, we’ve a game distributed digitally to tap into the growing gaming community.
In February of this year, I wrote up Hasbro’s London Toy Fair presentation. They talked about Magic: The Gathering and about Dungeons & Dragons. It seemed to me as if they were saying the future of D&D is digital.
Skip forward 7 months and to a recent article on the Andreessen Horowitz blog. Andreessen Horowitz is a venture capital firm famous for clever and big bets on tech companies like Skype, Twitter, Facebook and more recently Roblox.
In other words, knowledgeable people get paid a considerable amount of money to think about the future.
They also think the future of tabletop games is digital. If they’re thinking about making an investment, they’re not so silly as to signal to the world which company they’re interested in, but they do talk about D&D, about Critical Role and Girls, Guts, Glory. They also talk about Warhammer and The Last Gameboard.
So, The Last Gameboard is a bit of tech that Geek Native wrote about a year ago. It’s a flat-screen designed to show game boards and know where models are placed on it. You can use it to subscribe to a library of games. Reporters will no doubt use the phrase “Netflix of board games” to describe it.
We saw similar technology demo’d at Virtually Expo this year too, but with a bigger screen and more expensive tech.
I don’t know if this is the tech that has Andreessen Horowitz’s interest, I think they tend to prefer software investments than hardware, although they did back Stripe. I’m interested that they’ve investigated the area and written it up.
I’m sure that big bets on the digital future are being made.
What else from the digital future? Well, this week Astral Tabletop increased its integration with DriveThruRPG. You can now buy Astral Tabletop adventure modules in the DriveThruRPG marketplace.
If you’ve heard of DriveThru, but not Astral, you can see straight away why that’s important. I don’t think there’s much to buy yet on the DriveThru side because we need publishers and developers to make them first.
What’s in it for DriveThru other than a chunk of the sale? Well, once gaming groups pick a virtual tabletop, they need their futural digital purchases to be compatible with it, and Roll20 has its own marketplace, and D&D Beyond’s parent company is working on another.
A virtual tabletop that did something impressive this week was BattleMapp. That’s the same one, with two Ps, that I mentioned last week. The developer procedurally generated 50 free battle maps and gave them away. Download links in the transcript.
It’s not quite the same quality as you can commission from a professional tabletop cartographer, but it’s pretty good. And it scales. I reckon you could combine this with something like Gameboard 1 and have an entire procedurally-generated tabletop adventure.
It’s a virtual tabletop boom. Wizards of the Coast’s D&D Celebration 2020 will host some 600 virtual games over just three days.
That’s a harsh contrast to the Jim Likes Games story. Jim Likes Games was an online retailer of tabletop games, and now all retail operations have been closed due to the lack of conventions this year and the political attack on the American postal service. It’s too expensive for Jim to send physical games in the post.
That’s a real shame.
It’s not all D&D, of course. Hunters Entertainment are working on the next edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse and at the same time NACON and Cyanide are working on Earthblood, a violent computer game based on it.
The latest trailer is out.
It shows the hero, possibly anti-hero, Cahal a Fianna, attack a Pentex owned petrol processing plant and get in a fight with a mech. That game is due out over Epic and for both the PS4 and Xbox One.
Another interesting game, or interactive comic, to pay attention to this week is Lovecraft World.
It’s been written by an AI company that specialises in voice interaction. It’s designed to be played on a Google Home device with a screen although I think anything with a Google Assistant on it will work.
I said you might consider it an interactive comic because it shows you slightly animated scenes, leaves you on a decision and you speak your response out allowed. It understands your intent and takes you to the next scene.
That’s incredibly impressive. That’s a new form of immersion right there—a whole new digital future for games.
You heard it here first.
And on that note, let’s call it a wrap. Keep safe, stay out of melee range and see you next week.
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