Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A Favourite Quote of Mine...

Dusting Off An Old Film

Do you know that, years ago, I wrote and directed a short film, shot on 35mm? Back in 1992 shooting on "thirty-five" was a big deal. Now we have smartphones with higher resolution...

Do you know that I was, in a sense, "discovered" by John Board... a producer who worked closely with Cronenberg? John was willing to finish it, but because of circumstances beyond his control, we were unable to do that.

How did it not get finished? It's a long story which I'm not going to dwell on.

But I am going to get it out there, now. I think it's time has come. I'm dusting it off... what I have left of  it (just a video transfer of an answer print)... I'll be editing it and then I'll post it on Youtube shortly.

Here's a bit of the first shot...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Tuk Lai: A Wargame

Tuk Lai is a documentary about some friends playing a double-blind wargame - a semi-fictional military scenario set in Vietnam, 1967.

Filmed in 1997, it's one part realistic operational simulation, one part silly toy soldier fun... with a generous dose of black humour added... and a new rock and roll soundtrack, guys!

Watch as Steve and Peter, the Viet Cong players, attempt to infiltrate and destroy an American firebase, commanded by Orion and Jon, while I (Tim "XFunc" Carter) pull gamemaster duty.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

SERVICES: The Counter-Strike Documentary

The original SERVICES poster, 2000
You are about to see what may be one of the most influential documentaries in videogame history... even though it's never been broadcast (until now).

SERVICES: The CounterStrike Documentary. 

(I've uploaded it to The Sand Table, my Youtube gaming channel.)

SERVICES was seen in three places only:

- At its informal premiere at the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2001.

- At Digifest 2003, "Electronic Cities", in Toronto...

- And at Valve, creator of CounterStrike. Valve first saw SERVICES about 2002.

In fact, it was almost broadcast on television, back before Youtube paved the way for game documentaries, but this was blocked because of "flickering screens".

How much has this documentary influenced this history of videogames?

SERVICES: The CounterStrike Documentary

Produced & Directed by Tim Carter

Video Interview by Mike D'Abramo & Tim Carter

Counter-Strike by Valve Software

Special thanks to all the players who participated.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Reprint: How To Save Counter-Strike

I'm linking to an old article I posted on, more than 10 years ago, called How To Save Counter-Strike. It was, I dare say, first-rate business intelligence, and I also dare to say that Valve mined it for all of its worth. But I'll let you decide whatever for yourself (though it helps if you were around over the past 15 years of gaming to see how Valve, Counter-Strike and Steam evolved)...

Oh yeah, fair warning: it's a bit of a plug for my film SERVICES: The Counter-Strike Documentary. After all, I made it waaayyy before the wave of Youtube gaming videos began -- indeed, it was made before Youtube existed! Back then I had issues getting the release from Valve to broadcast that documentary. The flood of Youtube gaming videos that have since come out have paved the legal precedents for me to now upload SERVICES. I simply didn't have the energy or resources to do that legal work on my own (as a way-back-at-the-start-of-it-all pioneer).

I might also say it has shadows of autistic-spectrum stuff.... but anyway, if you don't like that, tough. (That's how I roll.)

Here's the link:

Thursday, 19 March 2015

On The Assassination of Nemtsov, Russian Opposition Leader

Stalin got into power by a fluke of events... He was only included in Lenin's inner circle because Lenin figured they needed one of the prole's... After all, it was a "worker's revolution", but the leaders were all intellectuals. So Stalin, a token yob, but also a petty burglar, was included.

Problem is, the Bolsheviks wrote a slapdash constitution which emphasized putting control into the hands of one guy. Not a lot of thinking went into this. It was a system which, as is the achilles heal of communism, was susceptible to the cult-of-personality.

Then Lenin died unexpectedly of a stroke. And somehow things just gravitated to Stalin. Stalin, having more streetsmarts than the rest of the booksmart inner circle, knew how to manipulate things at the personal level. He was a good liar and not hesitant to knock off anyone who got in his way.

We then see the various purges and so forth, and we all know Stalin's rule was marked by unbelieveable atrocities, incomptence and terror.

There begins also a long chain of power passing from one hand to the next.

With Stalin's death in the 50s, all who were left were incompetent yes-men. So began the "crapulent" phase of Communism... shortages, economic stagnation, etc... leading all the way to Glasnost and the collapse of communism.

Putin got in essentially by proving himself as a yes-man for Yeltsin, and guaranteeing his (Yeltsin's) safety.

But we see today the shadow of those past mistakes, echoing again in what's going on now in Russia. Rule via the cult-of-personality continues. Putin's expression of condolence following Nemtsov's assassination is particularly chilling.

The problem is, nobody is guaranteeing Putin safety. And he knows that. As soon as he's out of power he'll probably be arrested.

And this is why we are here now.

--- 27 February 2015

Monday, 2 February 2015

Frontline Pandemic: A Prototype

Just a heads up on my latest project... Working title: Frontline - Pandemic.

(This is NOT offiically connected to the Pandemic boardgame franchise...)

(The photo is of the mockup. If it gets published, I imagine all the graphics will change.)

I've spent the last 9 months or so (since ebola began to break) redesigning this commercial boardgame prototype, which I originally submitted to the publisher of the popular boardgame Pandemic back in 2010. It draws on what I learned doing tabletop work to train hospital staff to deal with epidemiological events. In this game a team of players cooperatively manage a hospital responding to a pandemic.

The first prototype was in submission for almost a year. This time I've overhauled it, simplified it and fine-tuned the balance design. The game has benefited from more than two years of design, redesign and playtesting. Particular thanks go out to my friend Chris MacAllister for his time in playtesting.

The game now I think has arrived. It takes about 90 minutes to play out, and it presents players with definite puzzles which they have to truly think about to survive the epidemic. Things get a little "grindy"... in other words, you must spend some time focusing on the details... but I couldn't get away from some of this. It is simply the nature of this scenario: dealing with patient loads, dealing with resupply of materiel and personnel, finding space for the patients, and so on. That's what an epidemic looks like in a hospital. To try to manipulate it otherwise, in my opinion, is to be dishonest to the subject matter.

The Pandemic publisher rejected it I think mainly because the game's frank honesty frightened them. They felt squemish about the subject-matter. Well... Sorry, but patients sometimes die. Sometimes in waves if you aren't smart. But this is a pandemic, after all. Oddly, while the Pandemic game franchise deals with... erm... pandemics, and all the apocalyptic destruction native to plagues, disease and so on... that franchise has a reputation as being light and fun. So I guess they didn't want to disrupt this light funness with... you know... dealing with people who are sick and sometimes having to face your inability to save everyone. (That's one thing that new doctors and nurses have to face... That human limitation of medicine.)

Anyway, not everyone has that aversion to healthcare issues. That's why there are hit hospital shows like ER, Grey's Anatomy, House, etc.

One of the most satisfying parts in this game is the Healing Phase. If you've done your job well, you get to discharge many formerly sick patients, sending them home and increasing your Dedication score. It is a very light and fun thing to do, and dealing with the devil of the details is the investment you make to win such a reward.