Tag Archives: pennyarcadeexpo

Dante’s Inferno: The Video Game

7 Sep

Practically since video games were invented, groups of geeky bookworms have passed the time joking about a game based on Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s masterful epic poem known as the Divina Commedia. “Hey, and Minos could attack you with his giant tail! Ha ha! That would be great.”

Heads up, nerds: EA finally did it.

Dante's Inferno booth

I went to the Dante’s Inferno booth at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo intending to annoy its staff with smartass questions about how closely the game adheres to the poem. (Maybe a dick move; but turning Inferno into a video game is potentially also a dick move, so let’s not get judgmental here, okay?) As it turned out, the EA rep at the booth was completely prepared to address whether players would encounter various obscure political figures from 14th Century Italy in his company’s hack-and-slash video game.

“The biggest change we made was to turn Dante from a poet into a warrior,” the rep said. Indeed!

Real Dante:

Real Dante

Game Dante:


I’d contend that the biggest change EA made is theological. (By which I mean everything that the poem is actually about.) Confronted with the reality of sin and sustained by a vision of his love Beatrice, Poem Dante recognizes his dependence on God. From what I heard and saw, Game Dante is a warrior in a secular universe where human and cosmic evil can be defeated through skill, muscle and intelligence. Game Dante is on a mission to fight his way through the Nine Circles with a badass scythe made out of a dinosaur spine or some crazy shit, and rescue Beatrice from Satan’s clutches. He looks as if he might be able to pull it off.

By telling a story of a human hero who tries to get the better of Satan through strength or cunning, the Dante’s Inferno game could be located in the tradition of Western folklore. Exploring this idea further would make a great blog post that I’m never going to write. Much better than this one.

He was of course thinking this in 14th century Tuscan dialect

But anyway, yes: the EA rep said that they couldn’t put everyone in the poem into the game, but players will meet many of the historical figures that it mentions. Dante’s earthly enemy Filippo Argenti will play a large role in the story. Players who want to know what’s going on and who all these people are (as opposed to blowing past them as quickly as possible to get to the next battle) will have many opportunities to be enlightened by Virgil.

The game’s website contains some good information about the poem, and who knows? Maybe kids who dig the game will check it out. Attention, teenagers: Dante’s Inferno contains demons, people being cut in half with huge swords and people drowning in a massive river of shit. Beg your teacher to assign it to you.

Posted via web from Rockett Science Labs

I will be at Gnomedex and PAX

14 Aug

DUDE: Let me drop 900 pounds of pure TRUTH on you.

I will be attending some EVENTS over the next few weeks:

I\'m Going

Gnomedex, Seattle’s premier conference of smart techno-geeks with big, crazy, awesome ideas, from August 20th – 22nd.


Penny Arcade Expo, the gaming event that I look forward to all year, from September 4th – 6th.

If you’re going to either of these fine events, find me! Unless you intend to kill me, in which case don’t find me!

My notes from the Art of the DM panel at PAX 2008

10 Nov

Mike someone (didn’t catch his last name or company)
Chris Perkins: Wizards Of The Coast
Chris Pramas: Green Ronin
James Wyatt: WOTC
Mark Jessup: WOTC

What do you look for when picking a DM?

Someone who listens to players, knows the rules, keeps the focus on the player. Also: has a good cloak.

Perkins: Someone who watches a lot of episodic TV.

Pramas: Need to be creative and improvisational, but also a good manager.

Wyatt: Is this someone I want to hang out with? I don’t care if the DM knows the rules. (Rejoinder from another panel member: “I do.”) We can adjudicate the rules communally.

How do you know when your players are disconnecting from the game?

Pramas: When people are bored, they become more selfish in their play. (“I go off to the tavern and start a fight.”)

Wyatt: People start stacking dice on top of each other when they’re bored.

Pramas: The backstories people create for their characters will tell you what kind of campaign they want.

How do you encourage engagement?

Jessup: Use the “say yes” rule of improvisational acting.

Mike: Talk it over beforehand. What kind of campaign do we want? Dramatic? Funny? Combat-heavy? Make it totally collaborative.

Perkins: The rules be damned — when a player wants to do something, give them a shot.

Pramas: Devise the main plot, then ideas for side stories that players can run with or not. Weave it in with characters’ individual narratives.

Wyatt: Playing D&D with my son taught me a lot about listening.

Steal ideas from your players during the game. Listen to their speculations about what is going to happen, and make that thing happen. It makes them happy because they were right.

How do you adjudicate?

Wyatt: Saying “yes” is not the same as saying “you succeed”. If you want to try something, go ahead. I used to fudge die rolls, but with 4th Edition I’m now convinced that the system’s math is robust enough that you can let the dice fall where they may.

Pramas: When the rules get in the way of the story/momentum, throw ’em out or make up a quick and dirty rule. I’ll fudge non-key die rolls. But I always roll in front of my players.

Perkins: I DM as a friend to the players, not as an opponent. I’m rooting for them to win.

Mike: I’m harsh but fair. I ask the players whether THEY want a looser or stricter game.

Do you warn players when they’re about to do something stupid?

I’ll ask, “You do realize that showing a severed head around town WILL get you arrested, right?”

(Unrelated) I do a TV-style episode recap at the beginning of each session, to get the players’ excitement up and get them back into the world. “Previously…”

Top 3 things any GM could do?

Perkins: Do funny voices. Write down which voice goes with which NPC. Cast the NPC parts with actors you like. In my campaign, all Drow speak with French accents. Keep a drawer full of maps at the ready, for when players go off on tangents. Don’t spend days developing weird details. Hand players a 3-10page description of the campaign setting beforehand.

Wyatt: Don’t over-prepare in general.

Pramas: Be prepared to change your plans.

Mike: Ask yourself why you’re a DM. Recognize that you’re there to provide a good time. Give players a good villain they can hate. Use props — I once used a plastic T-Rex from Archie McPhee.

Pramas: Actually, a lot of the original D&D monsters — like the Rust Monster — were based on Chinese toys that Gary Gygax and his friends had lying around.

Wyatt: Loot hugely. Play up the fantasy aspect of the game — blow their minds.

Pramas: Let the players DM the game once in a while. Make it a shared world. This keeps it fresh.

Perkins: Regarding villains, look for ways to demonize them and ways to humanize them. I had a villain once who was a blind female orc. Her blindness made her sympathetic, but it also conferred certain advantages — she was immune to illusions, and she could hear through players’ lies. This made her intimidating.

What do you do with a party that can’t cooperate, or argues?

Ask them, “Why are you here?” Invite that conversation. “What do we need to do?” If necessary, boot a player.

Remind them that they’re all on the same team. Everyone will get cool stuff.

Pramas: Actually, Green Ronin is doing a game based on Game Of Thrones where the players plot against each other.

Perkins: Assign minor quests to individual characters that benefit the whole party.

How do you balance fantasy and reality in the game?

Pramas: We once wrote a campaign set in the Old Testament. It was really cool, but people were put off. It didn’t sell.

Perkins proposes a campaign like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell — a familiar historical setting, but you never know what’s around the corner.

How do you handle a group consisting of different types of players: actor, storyteller, instigator, power gamer?

Be patient with each other. Pretend to have fun while the others are having their turn.

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