Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Call for Submissions: A Haunted Yuletide

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 11, 2019

“Bring back the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas!”
“You know what this Christmas party needs? Ghost stories.”
“Why does Nightmare Before Christmas have to be a Halloween or Christmas movie? Why can’t it be both?”

Immortal Works has heard your pleas and we are excited to announce our latest anthology, A Haunted Yuletide, slated for publication December 2020. And we need your submissions! We’re looking for stories that send shivers up and down your spine and make you want to check under your bed for monsters. We want stories that will make you afraid to to go sleep on Christmas Eve, because who is this Santa person, really? Tell us about the family home in New England where Aunt Enid is buried under the floor. We want to know about the ghost of that little kid who keeps hanging around the bakery downtown. In addition, please note the following:

  • Contributions should be short stories (between 1,000 and 10,000 words in length) that include ghosts and Christmas, although other winter solstice holidays will be welcome also (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc).
  • Stories should adhere to Immortal Works’ submission guidelines, i.e. they should be free from graphic sexuality, gory violence, and use of the f-word.
  • Send your work to jbarnson+subs@gmail.com as an attachment in .docx format, and put Haunted Yuletide in the subject line.
  • Use the standard Shunn short story format (found here: https://www.shunn.net/format/story.html)
  • The submission deadline is midnight (MST) on 29 February, 2020.

The editors of A Haunted Yuletide will be Jay and Julie Barnson. Jay Barnson is the author of the BloodCreek novel series. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Julie Barnson is a professional storyteller of the oral tradition who has spent years terrifying audiences with her ghost stories. She knows about the things that go bump in the night.

As compensation authors will receive a percentage of royalties and an ebook copy of the anthology.

Filed Under: Short Fiction - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Salt Lake FanX

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 5, 2019

I will be at FanX in Salt Lake City Today, Friday, and Saturday. If you want to find me, I will be at the Utah Speculative Authors booth, #2400, in the vendor hall most of the time. I’ll be available to sign books, shoot the breeze, whatever. 🙂

Filed Under: Books, Events - Comments: Comments are off for this article

Din’s Legacy Released

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 28, 2019

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet of late. At least I can say that this summer hasn’t been boring. Anyway… I wanted to pass this along. Din’s Legacy has been released as a full on 1.0 version. I’ve played the Early Access a little bit, and I’m looking forward to playing this final version. I’ve been a fan of Soldak’s RPGs for a long time, and Din’s Curse is an old favorite of mine. I didn’t play around much with the mutation system to really get a good feel for it, but everything else looked like a more refined, cooler, more exciting game in a series that has always been ahead of the mainstream competition.

Din’s Legacy Released.

Filed Under: Computer RPGs - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Fyrecon 2019 – My Schedule

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 13, 2019

Hey folks! I will be at Fyrecon 2019 next week in Layton, Utah (June 20-22). Part of the time I will be attending a master class, and much of the rest of the time I will be participating in the new Game Development track there.

Thursday, June 20, 4:00 – 4:50 PM (Room D3-302) – Worlds Within Worlds: Using Virtual Reality in your fiction
From the Holodeck to the Matrix, and from Oasis to Sword Art: Online, virtual reality is growing into a subgenre of its own in science fiction and fantasy. Learn to make it more believable and dramatic in your fiction.

Thursday, June 20, 6:00 – 7:50 PM (Room D3-205) – How to Build a Computer RPG in a Week with No Budget
Let’s say you have seven days to build a computer RPG (or Roguelike), and you have little or no money to spend on tools or content. How do you do it? What tools do you use? How do you design it? This is a 2-hour workshop based on an old but very popular article I wrote years ago called, “How to Build a Game in a Week From Scratch with No Budget.

Friday, June 21, 2:40 – 2:55 PM (Readings Area) – Jay Barnson Reading
I share an excerpt or two from a recent (or upcoming? 🙂 ) work…

Friday, June 21, 3:00 – 3:50 PM (Spotlights area) – Spotlight Signing: Jay Barnson
If you want to get a book signed by me, this will be where you are guaranteed to find me. 🙂

Friday, June 21, 5:00 – 5:50 PM (Room D2-303) – The Future of VR and Video Games (Round table)
We get together and chat with whomever is interested about what the future holds for… um, VR and Video Games.

Saturday, June 22, 3:00 – 3:50 PM (Room D3-205) – Writing Stories for Video Games: Mixing Oil and Water
How do you mix good storytelling with good gameplay? What makes a good story in a video game? How do game developers and writers work together?

If you’d like to register for one or more days of this conference… packed with tons of valuable career information for creatives – you can sign up at https://www.fyrecon.com/registration/

If you can make it, come say hi!

Filed Under: Events, Game Development - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

Dungeons & Desktops 2nd Edition – the History of Computer RPGs – Now Available!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 29, 2019

Matt Barton’s outstanding history of computer role-playing games is now out in a second edition. I haven’t read the whole thing yet (it’s HUGE), but the last ten years have brought about some enormous changes and tons of new games to the genre. This is kind of funny to me, as Matt had kind of closed the previous edition on a down note, thinking the era of quality single-player RPGs had come to a close.

Oh, Matt… The indies, the kickstarters, all that was only beginning to hit its stride. He admits to the failure of his crystal ball and rectifies things with a vengeance in this new edition, featuring a lot more content, color screenshots, and a lot more colorful commentary. (And to be fair… in some small ways, he has had his own influence over recent developments. So he’s been helping to make the history he’s recording… )

Oh, and Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon has a mention in the appendix. Yay, I’m in the history books! Well, a history book. THE history book. 🙂

Besides the new material, the original book has been revised and refreshed. I haven’t compared all the changes yet, but like the original it covers the origins and “evolution” (I hate that term when describing how RPGs have changed, but … there it is) of the genre. Aside from the dice-and-paper origins, it also goes back into the early mists of history, uncovering the ancient predecessors of modern games as they existed on university mainframes  in the 1970s (and were frequently deleted by administrators, making this a very challenging area of research). Matt traces the different styles and influences through almost fifty years of history, maintaining both objectivity as well as letting his absolute love of the subject matter show through.

Matt has always had an entertaining writing style, but the assistance of Shane Stacks and the additional commentary throughout has made this *anything* but a dry read. After all, it deals with an obsessively fun style of game, so it ought to be a fun read, right? Mission accomplished!

Yeah, this is not a cheap tome, but it is well worth it IMO. You can grab it from Amazon at this link, and probably other fine book dealers.

Filed Under: Books, Computer RPGs, Impressions - Comments: 12 Comments to Read

My Favorite SteamVR Games

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 8, 2019

When I’m actually home to enjoy it, I’m still having a blast with my Pimax 5K+. While some of the newest headsets are going for a simpler, plug-and-play user experience, the Pimax 5K+ remains the best hobbyist / enthusiast headset for the consumer market. And… to be fair, I have less issues with it than I do with a Vive Pro (especially audio).

Between sales, bundles, and just wish fulfillment trying to take advantage of the VR I’ve been waiting half a lifetime for, here are the VR games on Steam VR that I personally enjoy the most, the ones that I use the most to share VR with others, and the ones I am most looking forward to. I confess that I am a lot less critical of VR-based games than games on other platforms. I still take VR as an experience first, and a game second. This is not something I expected, just something that I discovered.

My Personal Favorites:

Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) / IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles Series / X-Plane

Right out of the gate I’m cheating with three titles at once.  Since you are inside a cockpit instead of directly out “in the world,” I assumed flight sims might not be the most thrilling VR experience. I am happy to admit I was wrong. If you are flight-sim inclined, these are three fantastic, high-end titles with built-in VR support. There are others, but these three are (currently) the best. X-Plane 11 is one of the top civilian flight sims on the consumer market, and has a ton of third-party support – but not all third-party aircraft support VR. Do your homework if you get a plane for VR use. The latest modules in the IL-2 series (Battle of Stalingrad, Battle of Moscow, etc.)  is a fantastic World War II combat flight simulator well-optimized for VR, and it now includes early access modules for tank combat and World War I aircraft. It’s hard to express how awesome dogfighting in a biplane cane be in VR. Last but not least, Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) is pretty much the one to beat for hard-core realism in mid-to-late 20th century air combat. While there are a handful of easier, lower-fidelity modules (which don’t work as well in VR because the cockpits aren’t interactive), most of the aircraft in DCS are study-level sims with almost every switch, dial, and button realistically modeled, and the weapon systems and flight models painstakingly created to simulate things as close to real life as possible. The result is amazing, if you have the time and patience to actually learn how to fly a sophisticated fighter jet. It also supports some aerobatic / trainer aircraft and World War II aircraft.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR

Skyrim VR for the PC is fantastic, if a little clumsy because it wasn’t designed from the ground-up for VR. But it’s beautiful, and fighting a dragon in VR is absolutely amazing. Stalking through the dungeon with a bow, ready to shoot a necromancer in the neck is similarly an awesome experience I’ve dreamed of since childhood. If you are a fan of VR and RPGs, just get this one. It’s also compatible with most mods. I played Skyrim back in the day for many, many hours back in the day… until I really just got tired of it. While I’m going through familiar territory now, I’m a long way off from getting tired of it.

Beat Saber

Okay, I wasn’t going to let this one go. At all. Beat Saber has sold a million copies, making it the highest-selling VR-only game out there (I think). Many people have already heard about it even if they haven’t played in Virtual Reality yet. My best way to describe it is “Dance Dance Revolution with Light Sabers.” You hit the incoming blocks in the right direction, timed to music, getting points for your accuracy in slicing them in half.  Sounds simple (and it is), but it can be crazy hard at high levels. If you have VR for the PC (or PS4VR, or the upcoming Oculus Quest), you must get this game. It’s as simple as that. The game has been expanded on and has added DLC since its first release, all of which makes a great game even better.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

In theory, this is a perfect idea. You get to sit at your station on the bridge of a Star Trek starship (including, now, the original Enterprise and the Next Generation Enterprise-D, besides the stealthy USS Aegis), executing your role to perform missions. ON BOARD THE FRICKIN’ ENTERPRISE. It’s got cool factor all over it from there. It’s magical. The one down side is that it plays best in multi-player, and assembling a team a good team can be challenging. If you have three other friends who have the game and can play at the same time (or even just a couple of friends), then you are golden. Otherwise… I haven’t tried to gather a pick-up game since it released, but my results were generally good, but one of the team was usually a little drunk, which made it funny, but not particularly successful.

Vivecraft (Minecraft mod)

Minecraft has its own built-in VR mode, which I’m sure is great, but it only supports Oculus and Microsoft Mixed Reality. I’m sure if they wanted to support SteamVR, they could, but so far… nada. Enter Vivecraft, a mod which solves the problem at the low cost of being a few versions behind the latest. As this was still several versions beyond where I’d last played, I got to enjoy the latest features and changes as well as being able to play Minecraft in VR. And let me tell you… Minecraft in VR is a whole ‘nother story.

Catch & Release VR

Okay. This is a totally stupid game that I’d be totally stupid to buy and play, and I still can’t help myself but spend a bunch of time sitting on a chair pretending to fish with my VR controller. Especially after a long and stressful day at work. Don’t judge me… 😉


If you want an excuse to play VR games, this is it. It is a fitness-boxing trainer, ignoring any actual competitive boxing in favor of teaching you (I believe) boxing technique and then having you max it out in a DDR-style experience that will build up the right kind of sweat (not the “I’m feeling sick” kind) in no time.


Favorite Games to Share:

These are the games that I like to use to introduce other people to VR. Beat Saber was already mentioned – it’s still a crowd favorite.  Sometimes just showing someone the main menu cave of Skyrim VR is a better approach. There are a few experiences–not really games–that are also good for introducing someone to VR. The Blu is a classic. Apollo 11 VR also shows the power of VR as an educational tool. Google’s Tilt Brush is another one that helps people “get” VR.

Space Pirate Trainer

Another oldie but goodie, this is a great “wave shooter” that has been popular for a while, and for good reason. It’s clean, fun, and polished. Built from the ground-up as a room-space shooter, there’s no need to teleport. Just dodge, block, shoot, and enjoy power-ups.

Superhot VR

I didn’t play this game until the VR version came out. Be the hero in an abstract-world action movie, moving at “bullet time” to fight off bad guys with guns, throwing knives, or whatever little objects happen to be at hand. It’s incredibly fun, and the heavily stylized world makes the imagined violence a lot cleaner. I heard that the VR version of Superhot has finally outsold the original. I’m not surprised. I’ve only played the VR version, and I have a tough time imagining how the game is played without it.

Paranormal Activity – The Lost Soul

For those who can stomach the tension and scares, Paranormal Activity – The Lost Soul is good and creepy. I haven’t played it enough to comment on its gameplay, and I don’t know how it’s non-VR cousin is. But taken as a spooky experience with puzzles and so forth, it’s fun.

Bonus Titles:

Honestly, I don’t have as much time to play as I wish, and I have several games that may become favorites once I get a chance to really give them a good test run. Project CARS 2 and Redout are racing games that are made much better in VR. VR Dungeon Knight was an early favorite, but it has changed substantially since I first played it, and I haven’t played it enough recently to really get a handle on the new changes. Or, like, go through more than a single dungeon without dying. Island 359 is a chance to play “Jurassic Park” in VR, and Arizona Sunshine is the zombie apocalypse VR experience that you didn’t know you always wanted. I really haven’t had time to give Elite: Dangerous a fair shake, but every time I play it I am thrilled.  I never really came to grips (pun intended) with the controls in X: Rebirth – VR Edition. I should probably give it another shot.



Filed Under: Virtual Reality - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Quick Take: Proton Pulse

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 9, 2019

I’ve loved Breakout style games since I was a kid. The more advanced versions are more commonly referred to as Arkanoid-style games, and that’s not too unfair. Arkanoid added an awful lot of interesting ideas to the mix.

There have been several attempts at a 3D version of the game, and I’ve universally disliked them, but I keep trying. It just never worked for me.  At least, not until VR, and Proton Pulse.

Proton Pulse is not a very elaborate game. It’s simple, and it’s fundamentally an Arkanoid-style game, but imagine playing it in a racquetball court. There are tons of variations… even boss levels and the end of each world. You can play either by moving a paddle with your head tracking, or with your controllers (but beware your play area boundaries!). It’s probably not a game to play if you are subject to epileptic seizures.  It’s pulsing, neon colored, and bombards you with light and movement. However, all that being said, it’s fairly polished (unlike too many indie VR games you can find out there these days). It was released on PSVR, so maybe that added some polish requirements.

I don’t think it’s a game you want to play for hours at a time (I try to avoid playing any VR game for hours at a time. But sometimes Skyrim gets away from me). While it scratches the Arkanoid-style itch and leaves me feeling like I left a 1980s arcade, it’s definitely a different experience. Lots of fun, IMO. At about $10, it’s a reasonably cheap but enjoyable addition to a VR library.


Filed Under: Impressions, Virtual Reality - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Pimax 5K+ Impressions – The First of the Second Generation of VR

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 2, 2019

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a Virtual Reality enthusiast. I’ve been looking forward to the coming of consumer-level Virtual Reality since the early 90s. I expected it a lot sooner than it got here, to be honest, but I’m glad it’s here now. I love that I get to work with it as part of my day job. Anyway, I have been willing to sink a bit of cash into it this hobby… to the extent that I pre-ordered a Pimax 5K+. Offering about the highest resolution out there and 170+ degrees of field-of-view, it seemed like a game-changer for PC-based VR.

My headset arrived a few weeks ago. Due to crazy work hours, I haven’t had as much time to play with it as I’d like, but I thought I’d share my impressions so far. The company and the PiTool software are still kind of young, so there’s plenty of room for both to grow. In fact, that’s probably the first alarm bell you should be hearing: There’s always a chance that one big disruption could cause the company and all its support of this product to disappear tomorrow. It’s no longer a “boutique” product, IMO, and has been growing to meet demand. My pre-order took months to arrive, but I understand that lately people have been getting their orders within 3-4 weeks. So… it’s improving.

Since it arrived, there have been a ton of announcements of new and impressive VR headsets for 2019. I’m going to state for the record that I’m calling this the second generation of VR hardware. Yes, annoyed pundits have their own list of demands for second-generation hardware, a bunch of revolutionary changes, but I call tough toenails. It is what it is, and the latest stuff coming out is definitely pretty exciting. I count the new Pimax headsets to be the first of this new generation. For the next couple of years, you’ll be able to treat yourself to much higher resolution, bigger field of view, inside-out tracking without the need of external sensors, untethered (or standalone) use, lighter weights, foveated rendering with eye-tracking, and improved frame rates for cleaner tracking. The problem is… I don’t know of any system coming out that will give you all of the above (or even a significant subset of the above), at least not at a consumer price-point.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to describe a VR experience. You can’t even show videos, really, that capture the experience properly. All I can do is offer comparisons and hope that it works.

Construction / Appearance: Construction feels a little more rugged than the Oculus Rift, but not as solid as the Vive / Vive Pro. It’s lightweight, though, in spite of its wide size and beefy lenses – less than the original Vive, I think. Anyway, I dig the LED Cylon-looking thing across the front. Maybe it makes me look less dorky or less like a hammerhead shark when I’m wearing it, but honestly, I don’t care. While it looks weird, it works. All is good.

Fit / Comfort: The strap that comes with the Pimax 5K+ is… well, functional. Kinda like the strap that shipped with the original Vive. I ordered some 3D-printed adapters for less than $10 that allowed me to hook up my Vive Deluxe Audio Strap to my Pimax, and it worked GREAT. I mean, really…. it feels like it belongs there. Pimax is coming out with their own version of the DAS for the Pimax, but I have a tough time imagining that it’ll be any better than this. I keep saying the Deluxe Audio Strap is a “must buy” for the original Vive, and it holds true here, too. With the strap, the Pimax is plenty comfy.

Some caveats, however: If you wear glasses in VR, you’ll need some thicker padding and adjustments to make it work right. Also, it seems to me that you really need to dial in your inter-pupillary distance (IPD) pretty closely… it’s not as tolerant as most headsets to being off by a couple of millimeters. If you don’t do this, you’ll probably see double and feel some eye strain after a while.

I’ve played for up to 90 minutes at a time with no significant feeling of eye strain or discomfort.

Setup: Getting things working with my computer is always a little bit of a chore, requiring software installation, reboots, etc. However, once it was set up, everything worked and kept working. Sometimes VR is finicky. The Pimax (currently) requires Lighthouse base stations (for position tracking) and controllers only available from HTC, which is great for an upgrade from the Vive, but not so great for new owners. However, Pimax is supposed to have both available really soon now, if they aren’t already.

Image Quality: Okay, here’s the biggest part – how are the visuals? In a word, fantastic. But you probably want more. Compared to the early 1st generation headsets, they are amazing. Compared to, say, the Vive Pro (which I have available for comparison), I think they aren’t quite as good. The LED display isn’t quite as bright and vivid, and the vertical resolution is about 10% smaller (1440 instead of the Vive Pro’s 1600). The horizontal resolution for the nearest 110 degrees (the standard FOV of headsets today, including the Vive Pro) is as good or better. The images do seem a little bit sharper than on the Vive Pro, and the screen door effect is hardly noticeable for me.

Of course, the selling point of the Pimax 5K+ is the wide field-of-view (FOV). It does not disappoint. The software allows three display modes: Small, Normal, and Large. Small FOV is about the usual 110 degrees that other headsets offer. If your game is having a really tough time running at higher resolutions at a decent frame rate, try this. “Normal” offers about 150 degrees of horizontal FOV, and it’s fantastic. “Large” opens up an extra 10 degrees on either side, giving you 170 degrees of horizontal FOV (they advertise 200 degrees “diagonal” FOV, which is a bizarre way to measure it that only marketing schmucks could come up with). Honestly, the difference between “Normal” and “Large” is hardly noticeable, and that last sliver is a little distorted by the lenses anyway. It’s really just good for catching stuff in the extremes of your peripheral vision. However, I didn’t notice a big difference in frame-rate for the large FOV, either, running on an RTX 2080Ti. So… YMMV. I may switch to “Large” mode in the future, but right now I’m extremely happy with Normal mode.

Normal Mode captures most of what your eyes see. You no longer feel like you are wearing blinders.  It’s more like ski goggles than scuba goggles. This makes it much easier to “check six” in a flight simulator, or to catch a glimpse of bad guys attacking you from the sides in a shooter. Some people say they can’t go back after experiencing the wider FOV for a while. I don’t have that problem, but it really is nice.  The higher resolution and sharp image quality make it easier to read the instrument panel in a flight sim, or to spot the details in Skyrim VR. And again, the peripheral vision or the ability to glance behind without having to turn almost all the way around is a really big deal in some games.

Looking at hard numbers: The original Vive and Oculus Rift offer 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye. The Vive Pro offers 1440 x 1600 resolution per eye… about a 75% improvement in resolution. The Pimax 5K+ has up to 2560 x 1440 resolution per eye – 184% better resolution than the original Rift and Vive, and about 60% larger than the Vive Pro… but it’s also spread out over a 55% wider field of view.

Software / Tuning: The Pimax 5K+ is compatible with SteamVR. I haven’t found anything that doesn’t work yet. However, you do need to run support software called “PiTool”. There are a lot of things to tweak here, in addition to the options inside SteamVR, in order to get the performance optimal for your tastes. Tweaking stuff in PiTool requires a restart of SteamVR for many of the changes to take effect. One of the most annoying issues is that a lot of older VR programs require the “Compatible with Parallel Projection” option to be activated.  This forces a slower rendering system to avoid seeing double, and it’s a significant hit to performance. Unity games and the newest Unreal games don’t require this option (and, happily, neither does DCS). Sadly, IL-2 Sturmovik requires this option, and I can’t get a solid 90 fps anymore in this game. Still, I’m generally ranging near 80, so it’s not terrible.

Other options include changing the field of view, modifying the brightness of the display, enabling their own version of Motion Smoothing (“Smart Smoothing,” which I don’t like as much as the one for the Vive), allowing “hidden areas” to be left unrendered (which can sometimes be noticed in the periphery of your version, but increases performance), changing the frame rate target (to sacrifice max FPS for a smoother frame rate… very important) and a bit more.  One size might not fit all games — particularly with Smart Smoothing and parallel projection compatibility. However, I like that they enable so many options to try and get the optimum performance / quality balance.

Overall: The VR landscape is about to get a bit more complicated, but as of right now, I’d say the Pimax is an excellent upgrade to the original Vive, if you have a machine beefy enough to keep up. You can keep your Lighthouse sensors and your controllers, and even keep your Deluxe Audio Strap if you have one. Put the original Vive in a box to remember it fondly, and rock on to the new, higher-resolution, wide-FOV new world. I consider it an upgrade over the Vive Pro, but not nearly as significant. The positives and negatives in the differences in visual quality probably balance each other out. The Pro has a wireless adapter allowing untethered gaming, but the wide FOV of the Pimax is a huge improvement.

If you do not already own the Vive “Lighthouse” base stations and controllers, it is a far more expensive system (even before you consider the costs of the PC). Pretty much the cost of a Vive Pro.

Is  the high resolution and wide FOV a game-changer? Not exactly, but for some games it really makes a tremendous difference (especially flight sims). I think foveated rendering doesn’t make much sense until you go outside the 110 degree FOV window. It’s a big enough deal that my next VR upgrade a few years down the road will have to offer a similarly wide FOV. Nothing announced so far is giving me any semblance of buyer’s remorse. If I didn’t already own the Pimax, I might be looking very closely at the upcoming HP Reverb or the Vive Cosmos. Then, I still might choose the Pimax. 🙂  I think it probably represents the hardware limits of graphics cards for the next few years, and unless you really MUST have an untethered experience or the absolute bare minimum of Screen Door Effect, I think this headset looks like something that will grow with me for several years.


Filed Under: Impressions, Virtual Reality - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

No Man’s Sky Goes VR This Summer

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 26, 2019

I played over 70 hours of No Man’s Sky when it was originally released.  Unlike others, I wasn’t disappointed. Yeah, it got repetitive and lonely at times. There was a starkness to it that no amount of lush procedural visuals could overcome. It’s changed a lot since then, graphically, in gameplay, and it has true multiplayer. Sadly, I haven’t had the time to devote to it. Yet.

But now… it’s getting a VR update this summer. So… I may have to see if I can possibly find some extra time. And with a major multiplayer update, maybe I’ll have to see if anyone else I know is playing… 🙂

Hello Games emphasizes that they are treating this as a native VR game and not a port. I hope this means they’re adopting comfort-level control options. Because I really wanted to play this game in VR even before it launched… then I discovered how susceptible I was to VR sickness. Bleah. While I have my VR legs now, the problem hasn’t completely gone away. I want a game I can play for a couple of hours at a time with no problems. (Something I can do easily in something like Skyrim VR, or even in a flight simulator if I’m not going too crazy…)

Anyway, I can’t wait. I’m also looking forward to the announcement of the third major feature of the free No Man’s Sky: Beyond update, and more details of what their big “online” update really means.

Filed Under: Space Sims, Virtual Reality - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

The original Diablo is available at GOG.com

Posted by Rampant Coyote on

Diablo 1 is now on GOG.com. It’s $10, so it’s not exactly super-cheap, but compared to the trouble I went through getting Diablo to install and run on my last computer (requiring some downloaded mods just to get it *mostly* working), it could be worth it to you.

Diablo 1 at GOG.com

Why bother? Blizzard hasn’t supported it in ages. There have been many, many, maaaany games that have built upon this formula since its release over 20 years ago, and have improved upon it significantly. Frankly, I played a LOT more Diablo II than the original game over the years, which was pretty objectively a better game, and that one is also extremely long in the tooth. So why should anyone be interested in Diablo, apart from historical curiosity?

For me, the answer is in the mood and theme of the game. Diablo II didn’t have it, in the name of providing a greater variety of content. The Gothic horror of Diablo 1 was present in its sounds, music, graphics, and even the font. The artwork would grow more cartoony in subsequent releases, lacking the stark, CGI-rendered, and admittedly overly dark images of the first offering. Since then, of the “Diablo-style” games out there, the only one that comes close to really capturing that flavor for me has been Grim Dawn. There may be others I have missed, but that one is the one that felt closest to the original Diablo, at least in style and feel.

However, another aspect of Diablo that I think most of its spiritual and literal descendants have tried to avoid is the good old-fashioned dungeon crawl. At some point in Diablo’s development, it was envisioned as a turn-based game. Yeah, much closer to a traditional Roguelike. While the style of “Diablo-like” games have kind of evolved from there, it’s interesting from a game design perspective seeing what they did when they didn’t have a tried-and-true blueprint to work with.

And that’s another reason for my own interest in playing the game. I like seeing how these games evolved. What got lost, what was kept. If you are interested in this, I recommend the book, “Stay A While, And Listen” by David Craddock. It tells a lot of the story behind Blizzard North and their creation of the legendary game.

But on the most bottom of bottom lines… as much as spiritual successors like Grim Dawn or Torchlight 2 might provide a superior overall experience, the original Diablo is still a great deal of fun.

Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Retro - Comments: Comments are off for this article

Blood Creek Beast is OUT!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 12, 2019

It is Launch Day! My second full-length novel, Blood Creek Beast, is now out in the wild. I hope you enjoy it.

This is the follow-up to last year’s Whitney award finalist, the contemporary fantasy Blood Creek Witch. Blood Creek Beast follows up a few weeks later. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers for BCW, but the book focuses on the adventures of Jack and Jessabelle, and suffice to say the adventures don’t start in the same place. The Coven has plans for Jessabelle, and she soon finds there is much more to them than just a few witches serving the “man in the white suit.” Meanwhile, Jack goes into a town for supplies, and ends up … well, let’s just say giants, intrigue, murder, and a all-out war may be involved.

You can grab it today in eBook or paperback from Amazon:

Blood Creek Beast (Blood Creek #2)

If you haven’t read Blood Creek Witch yet, GREAT NEWS! It’s on sale! You can check it out here:

Blood Creek Witch (Blood Creek #1), now on sale




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Blood Creek Beast Launches on Tuesday! First Review In!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 7, 2019

Hey everyone! Just got back from a surprise business trip overseas, so I’m way behind in just about everything. Which sucks, because there is a major event coming up just next week:

Blood Creek Beast launches on Tuesday, March 12.

You can preorder the paperback HERE, or the kindle version HERE.

In other news, Guildmaster Gaming has reviewed the new book, and liked it even more than the first book! 5/5! You can check out the review here:

Blood Creek Beast Review at Guildmaster Gaming

(In case you are interested, you can read their review of Blood Creek Witch HERE)

I’m excited for you to read it!




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Blood Creek Witch is a Whitney Finalist!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 12, 2019

My novel, Blood Creek Witch, is a finalist for the Whitney Awards. I was not expecting that. I’m kinda floored. My category is “YA Speculative Fiction” (Fantasy is kind of its own thing with these awards, based on entries… so contemporary or urban fantasy gets put into speculative). Since it’s also my first novel, I’m eligible for the Best Novel by a Debut Author award as well. I’m thrilled, honored, and … well, reeling.

The awards are in May, and it’s a nice formal event. I’m looking forward to going. I have a friend who is a finalist in the same category (Ali Cross, and her urban fantasy, “First Kisses Suck.”) so we can cheer each other on.

Speaking of Blood Creek Witch, the sequel–Blood Creek Beast–will be releasing one month from today, on March 12. I’m really excited. Yeah, it’s impossible to top the excitement of launching my first novel, but this is another really big deal for me. I’ve got the nervous experience worrying that it’s an adequate follow-up for the first book. Watch this space for more info!

Also… this week I’ll be at LTUE in Provo. You can see my schedule here. They’ve tapped me mainly for my game development experience this year… which, granted, significantly exceeds my writing experience. I’ll be on a panel about how to “write” a video game (focus on narrative and story), launching an indie game, developing for consoles vs. PC, and on magic systems in games.

So… yeah. It’s an exciting week for me. (That’s not including the frantic deadline we’re trying to meet at the day job…) But hey, at least I am not bored, right? 🙂


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Magical Diary: Wolf Hall Crowdfunding Campaign

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 28, 2019

Man, I kinda miss the days when game devs would make a game, and THEN people would buy it. Of course, that requires people, you know, BUYING games. We’re getting to the point where crowdfunding is often as much of a marketing and sales tool as a funding tool. But hey, that’s indie… you gotta stay agile and go with what works.

Anyway, to that end… Hanako Games is crowdfunding Magical Diary: Wolf Hall via Kickstarter. I really enjoyed Magical Diary: Horse Hall many winters ago, and I’m glad Hanako is finally coming out with a sequel. Hanako is a very established company, and has been doing these games for years (including some outstanding hits like Cute Knight and Long Live the Queen), so from a crowdfunding perspective, this is pretty low risk.

Magical Diary: Wolf Hall, assuming it continues in a similar line as the first one, is a hybrid RPG. One part RPG (complete with dungeon crawling… of a sort), one part dating sim, and one part visual novel, you play as a student in a magical academy in Vermont (*cough*NotHogwarts*cough*). Flunking out of the school is a possibility. Dying is a possibility (at least in the first one). As you gain powers and magical abilities, you not only use these powers to navigate tests and puzzles down in the dungeon (with multiple approaches and no single “best” way to overcome the challenges!), but sometimes to navigate the storyline as well.

I’m looking forward to playing this one.

Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Crowdfunding, Game Announcements - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Ghostbusters and Sequel Suckage

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 22, 2019

Last week, Sony released a teaser of a Jason Reitman-helmed Ghostbusters. Not a reboot like the lame 2016 film, but a direct sequel.

Like the lame 1989 sequel.

For the record, I had high hopes but only moderate expectations for the Ghostbusters 2016 film. I was only somewhat disappointed. The stellar cast was wasted in a poor film with clumsy writing, a weak plot, and jokes that I can only assume were watered down to the lowest common denominator in order to make it easy to translate to scores of international markets. Then they depended on a divisive, political marketing campaign that insulted fans. And then they followed up on its less-than-stellar release by alienating fans even more in a shaming campaign.

So now, they are trying it again. I hope it’s awesome, but I also think the timing is bad for this new film. They really have to nail it. I don’t know if they can, regardless of cast. The lesson learned from Ghostbusters 2 was that even the original cast and original creative team had trouble catching lightning in a bottle again. Yeah, it did pretty well at the box office (the 2016 movie also did “okay” at the box office… it made money), but it was nowhere near the original. Of course, there’s a certain point (like in Star Wars) where the nostalgia and hype means any attempt at a follow-up is doomed to some level of disappointment.

Here’s the key that Hollywood and pretty much the entire media industry seems to have forgotten about creating follow-ups and adaptations to popular properties: You have to respect and honor the source material. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been doing so well, and just about everything else has been tanking. Films like Batman v. Superman, the 2016 Ghostbusters, and yes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi have, to me, felt like ego projects where the people in charge were more focused about “leaving their mark” on the franchise. Or, just as bad (with many adaptations) — they don’t seem to have done any research on the source material to understand what makes it tick, but simply apply the ol’ formula and swap the names from their chosen IP.

It’s not just Hollywood. I’ve seen efforts made by writers taking on material now in the public-domain with attitudes that actually seem hateful and spiteful towards the original material. Maybe in their egocentric worldview, they think their writing will supplant and replace the original? I don’t know.

Anyway… hopefully a suitably repentant team of filmmakers with an ounce of humility (in Hollywood? Tall order, I’m sure) will produce a film that is finally worthy of the original. In the meantime, may I offer a plea to all artists tasked with working with someone else’s IP: Your job is not to “make it your own” (even if we all hope to hear that this is what we accomplished in the end), but rather to make something that feels like it seamlessly belongs there, side-by-side with everything by the original creator(s). Find out what makes it “tick” and why audiences love it. Use that as your guiding star. Then, at least if you fail, it was only because you were overly ambitious… not because you were a jerk.

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Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries Releases September 10

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 9, 2019

Yeah, I know what I’ll be doing…

Pre-orders are up with lots of bonuses to existing players of Mechwarrior Online here. It also includes access to the closed beta, which is nice if you really like your big fighting robots.

That’s definitely me. I was a fan since the EGA Mechwarrior I days (and Crescent Hawk’s Inception). I played Mechwarrior II over the Internet using Kali to pretend the Internet was one big LAN. I’ve probably played more of the new Battletech PC game than is strictly healthy. And yeah, I’ve spent enough hours in Mechwarrior Online to hold my own and max out a couple of skill trees. I’m really looking forward to a new single-player Mechwarrior simulator-style game.

It’s been a while since they announced it, and maybe it won’t happen, but at some point they promised VR support.  Of course, this was back when investors and the tech media were hyping themselves up to believe the VR was going to be the next iPhone, forgetting that there were several generations of cell phones of varying degrees of smartness prior to the iPhone’s appearance. Since VR failed to meet their unwarranted lofty predictions, they’ve declared the technology dead repeatedly, yet it stubbornly continues to grow despite the industry’s sour-grapes backlash. So… I’m really hoping it’s there. I’ll be okay if it’s not, but VR is a big deal for me these days (if you haven’t noticed…)

To be completely honest, the new gameplay trailer isn’t overwhelming me, although the highly destructable environments are nice. But … I’m confident it’ll be a good time.


Filed Under: Game Announcements - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

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