All posts by Wil

I'm just this guy, you know?

Tabletop: games and guests

Today is the end of our first week of production on Tabletop’s third season. I’ll probably sleep for a thousand hours tonight, have my version of the weekend, and start the second half of production on Thursday. I’m so very, very tired, and it’s entirely worth it.

I thought I’d round up all the games we’ve played so far, as well as the guests who’ve joined me for them. Please note that this is just the order in which we shot the episodes, and will likely not be the order in which they are released.

  • Tokaido – Jason Wishnov, J. August Richards, Chris Kluwe
  • Concept – Joseph Scrimshaw, Rett and Link
  • Roll For It and Sushi Go! – Jason Ritter, Jennifer Hale, John Ross Bowie
  • Forbidden Desert – Felicia Day, Alan Tudyk, Jon Heder
  • Love Letter and Coup – The Fine Brothers and Felicia Day
  • Hare & Tortoise and Council of Verona – Jessica Merizan, David Kwong, Alison Haislip
  • Sheriff of Nottingham – Meredith Salenger, Ashley Clements, Derek Mio
  • Stone Age – Nika Harper, Jesse Cox, Jordan Maron

Today, we’re shooting a two-part episode, and I’ll post photos of the game and the guests from the set in a few hours.

Play more games!

Tabletop Season Three: Days Zero Through Two

Today is our third day of production on season three of Tabletop, so I thought I’d share some pictures from behind the scenes so far.

IMG_20141007_193827

Here’s our hardworking production intern, Melissa, writing some of the 7000+ names of the backers who chose the “make Melissa and Kevin write my name on the set” perk.

Continue reading Tabletop Season Three: Days Zero Through Two

Voice Actors! SAG’s national board needs to hear from us. This proposed contract is a disaster for us.

Proposed contract for voice actors is a disaster
Click to embiggen

This is really important: currently, 100% of voice work for streaming video on  demand (Netflix, Amazon, etc., — you know, the future of our business) is budgeted at “under 1.3 million dollars” and for the next three years of this proposed contract, voice actors will be doing work that will run forever, without those actors receiving residuals for their work. Even worse, there is no minimum scale, no limit on number of character voices, no limit on session duration, and no limit on episodes per session.

The proposed contract, if ratified, will create conditions for voice actors that are essentially identical to working without a union to protect and negotiate for us. This contract is a disaster, and we must not allow it to be ratified.

Voice Over actors, today is the last day we can contact our national board at SAG and tell them to not ratify this proposed voice over contract. It’s a terrible deal for us, and while (speaking as a former board member) I believe that the national board will do the right thing if they know and understand how this will affect voice actors. But I don’t know how many members of the national board are voice actors. I looked at the current board, and I don’t recognize a single name there from our part of the industry, and that worries me.

I don’t know if they understand how much this will hurt voice actors, and if they understand that if this contract is ratified, we may as well be working without a union at all. I’m sure that, when they do understand that, they will refuse to ratify this terrible contract.

But they have to know, and they have to understand.

If you are a union voice actor, please contact the SAG national board TODAY, and tell them to vote against this proposed contract. Today, Friday, October 10th, is the deadline to contact the board before its next meeting.

Further, you may wish to make it clear that voice actors deserve to vote directly on a contract that affects us, instead of our livelihoods and working conditions being put into the hands of people who may not work behind a mic as often as we do.

Big Shot Rob

From a reader, printed with permission:

Check this out…

Years ago I was watching some NBA game. T-Mobile (or some carrier) had this Five Friends, or some damn thing, promotion.

They were asking players to name their top five moments.

So, Horry listed five of his big game winning shots, and of course, you know his nickname is Big Shot Rob.

The interesting thing is he said that in one game he was 0-for-10 going into the final period and another game he was 0-for-11. So, two of his five career defining successes came when he was on the brink of total failure. Had the teams lost these crucial games, his complete 0-for meltdown would be brutally scrutinized. ESPECIALLY, if he had taken the final shot and missed. Coaches could be fired. Players traded. Obviously, this shit happens when teams lose a playoff or finals game.

So, some observations...

First, the coach was willing to put a player in who was DEAD FUCKING COLD that game. In the fourth quarter, at a key moment, in a huge game. That says everything about Horry’s reputation.

Second, Horry himself took the shot and did not let his previous failures affect him. As someone who has played basketball for decades, I know that when you start to miss, it gets in your head. But Horry (and most professionals) play their average. They know if they miss five, they can easily make five in a row and get their 50%.

Third, NOBODY remembers Horry going scoreless in those games, leading up to the final shot. I’m a lifelong Lakers fan and I didn’t know it. All they remember is he’s Big Shot Rob and that’s all that will ever stick to him.

I remember one game where they showed the Lakers locker room before some big showdown with the Kings or someone. Everyone was jacked up or anxious and Horry was stretched out on a bench, asleep.

Big Shot Rob.

Tabletop Season Three: Shall We Play A Few Games?

For the past several months, my producer Boyan, and I built a list of about 140 games that were potential candidates for Tabletop. We spent the last five weeks playing them to find our final list of games for season three of Tabletop.

It was a very fun process that was also very challenging and kind of exhausting. #GamerNerdProblems

Before I tell you what some of them are, I wanted to talk a bit about the selection process, because it comes up all the time.

I did a Not The Flog all about this, but the basic rules are:

  • I have to love the game.
  • It has to be in print.
  • It has to be teachable in roughly five minutes (there are some exceptions to this rule).
  • It must have a good ratio of luck to strategy.
  • It shouldn’t have player elimination.
  • It can not have simultaneous play.
  • It needs to have good production values.
  • It needs to play in under 90 minutes with four players.

I’m sure there are some others that I’m not thinking of at the moment, but those are the fundamentals.

We also put games into categories, like:

  • Worker Placement.
  • Area Control.
  • Bluffing.
  • Co-operative.
  • Co-operative with a defector.
  • Bidding.
  • Negotiating.
  • Storytelling.

And so on. If we end up with two or more games that we really like that fit into the same category, we pick the one that we think would look best on camera, or is in some way a better representation of the category for some reason.

There were games that I loved, like Daniel Solis’ Belle of the Ball, which just won’t work on our show (Belle joins Sentinels of the Multiverse, in that regard). There were games that were so infuriatingly awful, like [GAME THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED], they made me literally angry with rage. There were games, like Escape, that were supremely fun, but feature simultaneous play, so we can’t use them. There’s Rampage — which really needs to be played at human scale at conventions using cardboard buildings and plushie Meeples — that we can’t play because it’s impossible for us to shoot. There were games that seemed promising, but just fell apart at one point or another.

So we took over 100 games that we thought looked promising, and eliminated the ones that broke one or more of those rules. I’d say that left us with about 45 games in all those categories, which we played many times. I guess we’ll call those games the finalists, because I can call them whatever I want, since this is my show. In fact, we’re going to call them Batman.

So we took the Batman games and played them intensely over a span of about five weeks, ending up with 23 games to be played in 20 episodes. They’re all really great games in their various categories, and I’m super excited to see how they play out when we film the show.

I thought it would be cool to share some of the games we’re playing before we get into production, instead of making everyone wait until the episode comes out, so anyone who is interested in them can pick up a copy before the Tabletop effect hits, and also because I like the freedom to be open like this that comes with our crowd-funded season.

So, here are a few of the games we’ll be playing this season:

Tokaido, by Antoine Bauza [Boardgame Geek | Website]

Tokaido

This is a gorgeous, perfectly balanced game, where players take a journey from Kyoto to Edo, along the East Sea Road.  It’s from the same designer as Takenoko and Rampage.

Libertalia, by Paolo Mori [BGG | WWW]

Libertalia

In Libertalia, we’re all pirates trying to outwit each other and bluff our way to the best treasure. It’s super fast to learn and play, has massive replay value, and allows us to talk like pirates. Yar.

Sushi Go! by Phil Walker-Harding [BGG | WWW]

Sushi Go!

We describe this as “7 wonders express”. We’re all trying to have the best meal in a sushi bar, passing cards around the table and trying to keep what will help us, while we try to mess up what everyone else is trying to get. I just love this game, and it’s one of many that are simply outstanding offerings from Gamewright, a publisher that is increasingly becoming one of my favorites.

Five Tribes by Bruno Cathala [BGG | WWW]

Five Tribes

This is one of the few “gamer” games we’re going to play this season. It’s published by Days of Wonder, a company that usually publishes “lighter” games (like Ticket to Ride and Pirate’s Cove). I’m most worried about how we’re going to make this game work, because it has a ton of meeples and the art on the game, while beautiful, may feel cluttered on camera. I love it so much, though, I am determined to make it work. I even had my editor come over yesterday to play it, so he could give us ideas on how we can best film it. Not that it matters, but this was my favorite game at GenCon this year, and is so far my favorite of 2014.

Oh, I guess I should tell you a little bit about it, right? All these different colored meeples are on the board, and we pick them up and drop them off like in Mancala, as we use them to claim spaces, score points, and collect resources. It’s a little complex to learn (just because there’s a lot of information to digest), but once you climb the steep learning curve, the gameplay is very intuitive and easy to understand. Because it’s set in ancient Persia, there are Djinn that can help players, and it’s heavily thematic.

Also, while we were playing it yesterday, I got up from my crummy card table (I’m waiting for my Geek Chic table to arrive), bumped the table leg with foot (well, maybe I kicked it really hard because DEX is my dump stat), and not only did I knock all the meeples off their tiles, I spilled my iced coffee over all the djinn cards, and knocked a bowl of almonds to the floor.

Five TribesOH GOD I ANNE WHEATON'D THE TABLE
Click to embiggen and get the full horror of my Anne Wheatoning.

It was the most epic and total destruction of a game I have ever witnessed, and I’ve been to France.

Not that it matters, but I ended up winning the game after we restarted with an entirely new setup. I’m really good at this game, so when I lose on the show like I always do, it’s going to be rough.

So there you have a few of the games we’re playing this season on Tabletop. Over the next few days or whatever, I’ll post some more of them. We go into production on Thursday the 8th, and we shoot until the 20th.

OH! And there will probably be a MAJOR AWESOME ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT SEASON THREE in the next few days. I hope you’ll join me in getting excited about it.

There Came An Echo

I’m working on a video game this week, called There Came An Echo. It looks amazing, the story is fantastic, and cast is pretty great (if I do say so myself).

Here’s a little spoiler, with some of the dialog I recorded yesterday:

TCAE_Dialog

Bittorrent Bundles are awesome.

I’ve written before about how useful I believe the bittorrent protocol is, and today I wanted to share something with you guys that you may not have known about (I’m pretty with it, as the kids say, and I didn’t even know about this until a couple of weeks ago): Bittorrent Bundles. The BT Bundles are all legal, official, and released by artists to promote and share their work with their audience. Instead of paying for server space and bandwidth, artists seed files, and let the bittorrent community do the rest.

You can find tons of bundles at https://bundles.bittorrent.com/. Here’s Moby’s Innocents, De La Soul’s Smell the Da.I.S.Y, and Thom Yorke’s newest solo work, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes . Most of the artists release a couple tracks for free, with the option to pay them for the full album. These are incredibly fast torrents, too, because so many people seed them.

Whenever someone tries to argue that torrents are just for piracy, I show them the BT Bundles, because it’s such an effective way for artists to promote themselves and share their creations with their audience.

Rose City Comicon and Portland

This weekend, Anne and I went to Portland for Rose City Comicon. While we were there, we visited my sister and her family, saw a strange ball of fire in the sky that I don’t usually seen in Portland, and had an absolutely fantastic time at the convention.

I took a bunch of pictures, and I think they tell the story of the weekend very well, so this is mostly a picture post. I’m going to put the rest of this behind a jump, so my blog doesn’t take forever to load.

Continue reading Rose City Comicon and Portland

From the Vault: In Which I Fail A Vital Saving Throw

In a few hours, I’m hosting a conversation with Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd, author of the awesome book What If? (I hear the audio version is pretty great), and a really great guy who I am privileged to call my friend.

Of course, the first time I met Randy, it didn’t go very well for me, which is the subject of this post From The Vault, In Which I Fail A Vital Saving Throw – originally published in August, 2008.

It was the end of the day, and my blood sugar was dangerously low. Colors and sounds were louder than they should have been. My feet and legs had been replaced by two dull, throbbing stumps that barely supported the weight of my body.

Most of the day, I’d been signing autographs for and talking with countless excited fans. Some of them shook my hand too hard and too long with a sweaty grip that trembled a little too much. Some of them stared at me uncomfortably. Some of them rambled incoherently. All of them were genuinely friendly, though.

I took it all in stride, because I’ve done this convention thing for — my god — two decades, and even though I don’t think I’m anything worth getting excited about, I know that it happens sometimes, and I know how people occasionally react. I never laugh at them or make them feel lame. I never make jokes at their expense. I am understanding and grateful that they want to talk to me at all. I wouldn’t want to talk to me if I was trapped with me in an elevator, and I certainly wouldn’t be excited about the prospect if faced with the option. I am always grateful, and take nothing for granted.

A voice boomed over my head, blasting right through my eardrums and exploding inside my skull. The convention floor was closing, it announced, and it was time for all of us to get the fuck out.

Red-jacketed security guards emerged from shadows I hadn’t noticed during the day. A handful at first, then a dozen, like zombies pouring through a breach in a barricade. They shambled forward relentlessly, single-mindedly driving a mass of exhibitors and straggling fans toward the doors.

I picked up my backpack, inexplicably heavier than it was before I emptied pounds of books from it earlier in the day, and heaved it onto my shoulders. My back screamed.

“You have to vacate the hall,” a girl said to me. She couldn’t have been older than eighteen, but clearly wasn’t going to take any shit from anyone, especially someone in my weakened state.

“I’m on my way,” I said. I turned to say goodbye to my boothmates, and saw the unmistakable visage of Jeph Jacques walk past behind them.

I’ve done this convention thing for a long time, so I knew that it was unlikely that I’d have a chance to say more than three words to Jeph before the convention was over. If I didn’t seize the moment, I probably wouldn’t get another chance. I smiled at the girl, faked to my right, and spun to my left around her. I nearly fell over from the effort.

“Hey . . .” she began. I took two quick steps away from her with my last bits of strength.

“Jeph!” I called out. He kept walking. He’s done this convention thing before, and, like me, knows that when someone calls out your name at the end of the day it’s best to pretend you didn’t hear them so you can just get the hell out of the hall and to a place where you can recover your hit points. This place is usually called a bar.

“Jeph! It’s Wil Wheaton!” I called out. I don’t know Jeph well enough to call him a friend, but we’ve talked at shows before, and I’ve always enjoyed our limited interactions. Maybe if he knew it was me, and not some random person, he’d stop so I could say hello. Maybe he wouldn’t want to talk to me if we were trapped in an elevator, but I knew the security guards were closing in, and if I could get into his Circle of Protection: Exhibitor, maybe I could stay there for a couple of minutes.

He stopped and turned around. He smiled wearily, and said hello. We shook hands, and I noticed that he’d been walking with someone.

“Hey, have you ever met Randall?” He said.

His companion turned to me and extended his hand. My brain screamed at me, “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THAT’S RANDALL MUNROE! BE COOL!”

Before I knew what was happening, my hand shot out from my body and grabbed his. I incoherently babbled something about how much I love his work. He tried to say something, but I just. kept. talking.

My brain screamed at me, “SHUT UP! YOU’RE MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF YOU ASSHOLE!”

My mouth, however, was out of my control. I continued to ramble, vomiting a turgid cascade of genuinely-excited praise and gratitude all over him.

A full minute later, I realized, to my abject horror, that my hand was still shaking his. I held it too hard in a sweaty, trembling hand. Darkness flashed at the edges of my vision, and I felt weak. I pulled my hand back, a little too quickly, mumbled an apology, and shut my mouth.

They said things to me, but I couldn’t hear them over my own brain screaming at me, “GET OUT OF THERE YOU COCKASS. YOU HAD ONE CHANCE TO MEET RANDALL MUNROE AND YOU BLEW IT! I HATE YOU! YOU GO TO HELL NOW! YOU GO TO HELL AND YOU DIE!”

A hand fell on my shoulder. I turned toward it, and saw the security girl.

“Sir, you need to leave the hall.” She said. “Now.” She had backup: a pair of similarly-aged teens, two boys working on their first mustaches. They fixed me with a steely-eyed gazes.

I have never been so relieved to be kicked out of anyplace in the world as I was then.

“I guess I better go,” I said. I took a short breath, and lamely added, “it’s really nice to meet you. I really do love your work.”

My brain did the slow clap.

His reply did not penetrate the wall of shame I’d constructed around myself, though I clearly recall that he didn’t make fun of me, or make me feel stupid, or let on that I was a sweaty, shaking, raving lunatic. He didn’t appear to be grateful that we weren’t trapped in an elevator, though I suspect he must have been. As I fled the hall, I was grateful for his kindness, patience, and understanding.

Once outside, I went to a place where I could forget my appalling embarrassment.

That place was called a bar.

 

tidepools

Anne and I were standing at the edge of some tidepools, watching tiny fish swim around in them.

“They look just like little versions of the fish we see on the reef,” I said.

“I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what they are,” Anne replied. A wave crashed against the rocks nearby, and the water near our feet gently rose a few inches. As the tide ran out, it created a small current between two tide pools, drawing some new fish into the one we were watching. They swam around together, like they’d always been there.

“You know how I like to think about nature being really simple?” I said, “like how it just repeats little things over and over again to make bigger, more complex things?”

“Like when you talk about fractals?” She said. Another wave hit the rocks, splashing brilliant white foam into the air.

“Yeah, sort of, ” I said. “So let’s look at these tide pools, and consider that the fish who live in them have no idea that, just a short distance away, is the entire ocean, and it’s filled with giant versions of themselves.”

“It’s not necessarily a short distance for them,” she added.

“Dammit. You’re right. That messes this up a little bit, but go with me for a second.” I put my hand into the water and the fish darted away. “These fish may not even know about the fish one tidepool over, separated by a few inches of rocks, unless the tide pushes or pulls them there.

“So. Imagine that we are in this tidepool, and we have no idea that there’s a huge ocean just a short distance away. Or imagine that something is looking at us in this tidepool, and we have no way at all to even perceive that they are there.”

“Woah.”

“Right? And the tidepool can’t exist without the ocean, and the tides can’t exist without the moon, and the moon can’t exist without the Earth, and the Earth can’t exist without the solar system…”

She looked at me, and I trailed off.

“I’m just saying, I think it would be neat if we humans could get out of our tidepool, someday. I’d like to see what’s on the other side of the rocks.”

She clasped my hand in hers. “Let’s go for a swim,” she said.