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Active developer.png This user is an active contributor to PARPG!

Active developers are currently contributing to the project and have done so over a longer period of time.

  • (First) name: Ben
  • Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Timezone: UTC-8
  • Operating system(s):
  • Mac OS X 10.6
  • Department: Mechanics, Writing
  • Main areas of interest:
  • Global Game Design, RPG mechanics, background and story
  • Nicknames:
    • Forums: Zenbitz
      IRC: zenbitz_*
      SVN/Trac: zenbitz
      Wiki: Zenbitz

This is my personal page where I tell you about my motivation for working on PARPG. Furthermore there is additional information about my skills, the tasks I plan to take care of and about the person behind the nick.



I guess my first experience with post apocalypse RPGs was with a FGU game called Aftermath! in the 80s. Sometime, during the 90s I was interested in writing a GURPS supplement called "Post Apocaylpse" but I never got past ~10 pages of notes. I never played wasteland but I remember some cool 2d game on the apple II or something. I have a vague recollection of this. When FO3 came out (still never played, although I have it for the xbox now) I found I had some time for a single-player cRPG... but didn't want to shell out $50 for FO3 and then hate it. I bought the $15 3-pack of Fallout1/2/tactics , installed it in the XP partition of my macpower book, and was hooked (that was December 2008)

My Story & Design Philosophy

My original idea for a PA game came sometime last year. It could have been titled "The Worst MMORPG in the World". The idea would be to have an ultra realistic multiplayer online post apocalypse game. It would have crazy stuff like Calorie input/output - so not only how much food you ate but how active you were mattered. You would have to sleep - and find a safe place to do it. God help you if you got wounded - even a scratch had to be taken care of or it was likely to get infected. There would be no levels, no experience - you would just try to rebuild civilization, tear it down, or make along any way you could. One especially evil idea was to have 3 types of environmental threats - radiation, biological (virus), and chemical. But each player only started with a detector for _one_ of the three. You would have to cooperate somehow (sure you could kill the guy and take his chem sniffer... but remember, getting wounded is really bad.). Anyway I was chatting about this idea with a coworker who plays WOW (I never have, but lots of friends who play it, and City of Heroes, etc.) She was like 'sounds cool... as long as there was stuff to do'. I said 'what do you mean?'. 'You know, like quests and stuff'. I frowned. 'No way. Unless "suffering" is a quest'. I never had a hope anyone would ever play such a game (unless they were really sick like me) but ... then I found Fallout.

Now, FO is not much like this game idea I had (and neither was Wasteland)... but it was a great game none the less. I also found out that it had this hardcore following of people who really liked the "hard core role playing parts" of FO. Now, I was an old school role player, and FO (or what I have heard of Arcanum, etc.) doesn't really qualify... but I did see the point. I started reading NMA, and following various MODs, and Indy "Falloutlikes" like Shelter. I am still churning through FO2 at this point. I get some ideas for mods - "realistic combat", "what happens on the FO map during FO2?" - stuff people already thought of. There are lots of interesting projects, and I planned I trying some FO scripting for a mod when I finished the game.

Then I get mvBarracuda's post on PARPG. After emailing with him - I realize what a cool guy and great asset he is on a project like this, and I jump in with both feet. Also, I miss python, since my day job is a Perl (OO!) shop. I also have a history fetish - another hobby I don't partake in much are HUGE table top monster war games. Like 3000 pieces, 4x6' map. Set up for 6 months. But they are time/space sinks, and there aren't more than a half-dozen people in the SF bay area who play them. So I really liked the "Soviet" theme background.

Well, that was long winded - but getting to the crux of the matter: I would like to design a PA game that is:

  • Immersive (buzzword - I just mean you feel like you ARE that dude in the leather jacket)
  • Realistic combat system (while STILL being entertaining, and doesn't take a lifetime) - that doesn't scale into the "ubermench"
  • Non combat mechanics that give the player the CONCERNS of his character: Do I have food? Do I have enough shells to shoot that guy, or do I have to slit his throat? Is it worth starting a fight with those thugs? Should I hole up in a cave and wait out the storm or press on?
  • A character system where:
    1. "Carrying capacity" is not a key survival or "game fun" trait.
    2. Characters advance in realistic, believable ways
    3. Characters have a "back story" and "motivation" - and these effect how they deal with challenges in the game
  • Pseudo-historical, "low" tech setting - more axes and crossbows. I think I posted in the forums: The "BFG-equivalent" should be a couple of old hand grenades that you hope still work.
  • Scientifically sound threats and hazards from weather, contamination, wild animals (not to mention other humans)
  • Natural and realistic NPCs - whether they join you, fight you, or buy and sell stuff from you.
  • A consistent and engaging setting.
  • AIs that are not totally moronic.
  • An "organic" world. Not a cave full of 22 polar bears waiting for you to wander in. Polar bears have to eat. Towns have to trade with each other. Military "classes" need the support of food-bearing territories.

Now the above is just my vision. I fully expect to sacrifice some of my harder-core ideas... but I am going to fight for them. PARPG is a collaborative effort, and last I checked, we aren't getting paid. No one is going to work on something they don't think is cool/fun/"going to work". I think we can do all of the above. I think we make the game fun - even for hack-n-slash dungeon crawlers. I think we can blow the gaming community away if we deliver something that accomplishes half our lofty goals.

Final note - there is nothing concrete in the above. I don't even say "no levels" and certainly not "no quests". But I plan on slaughtering a few sacred cRPG cows.

What kind of experience I have to offer

  • Old timer PnP RPG and Wargamer experience
    • I started with D&D in 1980, played Runequest, GURPS, Call of Cthulu, Aftermath! and others until about 1993 when I was in Grad school in NYC.
    • Around then, I switched to detailed historical hex board games - but I barely have time to play these.
  • Self-taught programmer, trained Scientist with experience in computer simulation
    • I am a scientific software engineer/manager at Stanford for the Yeast Genome Project
    • I have a PhD in Molecular Biophysics from Columbia University; This is where I learned to program (C++, Perl). I also have a good background in Biology, Physics and Chemistry (especially Biochemistry)
    • Spent 3 years as a Bioinformatics Programmer using Python
  • Experience with the following development tools: Eclipse, Wiki, Unix stuff, CVS, some SVN.
  • Management and experience in working with a group
  • Native english speaker/write, with well average writing skills.
  • Mac OSx and Unix experience (although no Linux 'puter at the moment)

What I can NOT offer

  • 2d art creation skills.
  • 3d modeling skills.
  • Windows OS experience

My key tasks

  • My primary focus is on gameplay design, and game mechanics
  • I am also interested in world development, programming and scripting (especially AI)

Some personal remarks

I put some history in the intro, but other vitals: I am 38, live in San Francisco, have a wife and kid (4.5 years old, I teach him to play games like Settlers of Catan!). I have always loved games, and at the moment I am bitten by the post-apocalypse game design bug!


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