Thursday, October 4, 2012

[Q&A] Todd Downing & Mark Bruno (Deep7)

[19:06] <+deep7dude> Todd Downing, co-founder of Deep7 Press (formerly just Deep7), publishers of Arrowflight, Red Dwarf and the 1PG beer & pretzels line of games (among others)
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[19:07] <+deep7dude> sorry.. (done)
[19:08] <+markbruno> My name is Mark Bruno and I've been writing for Deep7 for well over a decade now. I've had my hand in pretty much everything they've published, most notably as line developer and creator of Mean Streets
[19:08] <+markbruno> I also developed Shriek XPG and had a hand in writing Red Dwarf, some 1PG titles and RADZ.
[19:08] <+markbruno> done
[19:09] <~Dan> Now, I've reviewed several games for these guys but am willing to play dumb for the sake of being informative. :)  However, does anyone else have any questions first?
[19:10] <~Dan> Okay then!
[19:10] <+deep7dude> Mark, you're going to love the Shriek X layout...
[19:10] <~Dan> Guys, what can you tell us about your "house" system?
[19:10] <+markbruno> I can't wait, Todd.
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[19:12] <+deep7dude> We really started with the development of Arrowflight in about 1995... XPG is a simple self-test (i.e. roll under) system using 2D6 for task resolution.  It's stat+skill = target.
[19:14] <+deep7dude> Arrowflight first edition had a *bunch* of developers working on it at the eleventh hour, so it was released with a "bucket o' dice" randomizer and a bunch of stuff welded on top of it that I always felt should have been optional.
[19:14] <+deep7dude> We fixed those things in 2E. :)
[19:15] <~Dan> Can you give an example of something optional that you fixed?
[19:15] <+deep7dude> The 1PG system is really just a stripped down, uber simple version of what XPG is now.
[19:16] <+deep7dude> Case in point, Arrowflight's magic system was template based.  For 2E we went back and opened it up to let players have access to the same spell creation toolkit we used as developers.
[19:17] <~Dan> Do you consider Arrowflight your flagship game, and if not, which one is (if any)?
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[19:18] <+deep7dude> As far as traditional game lines go, Arrowflight is our D&D.  But I would say that the 1PG line has been a strong seller for over a decade, even when our bigger titles go through peaks and valleys. :)
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[19:19] <+deep7dude> For a while, Deep7 was our bread and butter - everything took a backseat to it while we were working on that line.
[19:19] <~Dan> Heh. :)
[19:19] <+deep7dude> Red Dwarf...
[19:20] <+deep7dude> Not Deep7.
[19:22] <~Dan> Actually, would you guys like to give us a basic rundown of your games?
[19:22] <+markbruno> So. many. games!
[19:23] <~Dan> True. Covering all the 1PGs would be a bit much. :)
[19:23] <+deep7dude> There are over 30 titles, but there's the 1PG line (Shriek, Star Legion, Bloode Island, Dime Heroes, etc)...
[19:24] <+deep7dude> Arrowflight (fantasy), Mean Streets (film noir), RADZ (apocalypse with attitude), Bloode Island XPG, Santa's Soldiers (paramilitary Christmas elves)...
[19:25] <+deep7dude> Red Dwarf (based on the BBC sitcom, now out of print)
[19:25] <+deep7dude> We're about to release Shriek X (an XPG version of the game of teen horror)...
[19:26] <+deep7dude> Doing a third edition of Santa's Soldiers, a second edition of RADZ, and a few new titles...
[19:26] <~Dan> Do you have a supers game?
[19:26] <+deep7dude> Only the Hero Force 1PG currently...
[19:27] <+deep7dude> (although Gavin has a blueprint for one - we just need the time and bandwidth)
[19:27] * ~Dan nods
[19:28] <~Dan> What do you think makes your games stand out from the crowd?
[19:29] <+markbruno> The XPG system really is a thing of beauty because it scales very well to whatever genre is thrown at it.
[19:29] <~Dan> Do you think it could handle something like cosmic-level supers?
[19:30] <+Aeolius> itty bitty living space?
[19:30] <+deep7dude> It's also very simple, by design.  We have nothing against simulationism, but it's not generally what we like to play.  And yes, Gavin's supers tweak to XPG would handle a huge power range. :)
[19:30] <~Dan> Cool. :)
[19:31] <~Dan> What about in terms of setting? Any stand-out aspects there?
[19:31] <+markbruno> I've run games in studio apartments, Aeolius, so I know it will work in small spaces :)
[19:31] <+deep7dude> LOL
[19:33] <~Dan> Like, what makes Arrowflight stand out from the "typical" fantasy RPG?
[19:33] <+deep7dude> I like to think we put a different spin on whatever setting we're putting out there.  Arrowflight has some standard fantasy tropes but everything has a reason for being in the world - RADZ is more like playing an RPG version of Wizards or the last segment of the Heavy Metal film than just a usual post-apoc setting...
[19:33] <~Dan> (Whoops, sorry. :) )
[19:34] <+deep7dude> Great minds...
[19:34] <~Dan> :)
[19:34] <~Dan> (You know that there IS an RPG version of Wizards, right? ;) )
[19:35] <+deep7dude> (yes, but that was only a small part of the influence behind RADZ. :) )
[19:36] <+deep7dude> Mark can speak more to the RADZ setting...
[19:36] <+markbruno> Yeah, there are no dirty, stinking faeries in our game.
[19:36] <~Dan> One thing that struck me about Arrowflight was the tech level. Want to comment on the world design in that regard?
[19:36] <~Dan> (Oh, and then we can address RADZ. :) )
[19:36] <+markbruno> (no worries :))
[19:38] <+deep7dude> Depending on where you go in the Arrowflight world, the tech levels will vary somewhat, but it's generally late-Renaissance, supplemented by magic
[19:38] <~Dan> (Also, I hope that unlike in the Wizards RPG, you don't have to be a max-strength human-sized dwarf in order to use a battle-axe. :D )
[19:38] <~Dan> Bordering on Enlightenment, isn't it?
[19:38] <~Dan> What with flintlock muskets, for example?
[19:39] <+deep7dude> Yes, there are flintlocks, so you're right - almost Enlightenment
[19:39] <+deep7dude> balloons & airships, etc...
[19:39] <~Dan> And actual Musketeers! :)
[19:39] <+deep7dude> Yes!
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[19:40] <~Dan> You seemed to emphasize the "weird" tech a bit more in the 2nd edition. Was that all from 1e supplements? The steam- and clockwork-tech, the airships, etc.?
[19:42] <+deep7dude> Absolutely.  Some of it was stuff we had wanted to put in 1E, and some stuff we developed specifically for 2E.
[19:42] <~Dan> Really? What was totally new to 2e?
[19:42] <+deep7dude> One sec - let me check my book. :)
[19:44] <+deep7dude> Offhand, the Lab Magicks were all new to 2E, to my knowledge
[19:44] <+deep7dude> They'd been in development as a 1E supplement
[19:44] <~Dan> Do those include weird tech?
[19:46] <+deep7dude> Mechanical (which includes clockwork and steam), yes
[19:46] <~Dan> Gotcha. Cool. I love that you added dwarven steam tanks, by the way. :)
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[19:47] <+deep7dude> We also included far more general world info and less detail on one specific kingdom, which fits the current support scheme much better.
[19:47] * ~Dan nods
[19:47] <~Dan> (Howdy, Melum!)
[19:47] <~Dan> Okay, as promised... Mark! Care to tell us a bit more about RADZ? :)
[19:47] <+markbruno> Sure!
[19:48] * ~Dan swivels the virtual camera in Mark's direction
[19:48] <+deep7dude> :)
[19:48] <+markbruno> You guys had mentioned the Wizards RPG earlier, which actually came up during a conversation Todd and I were having while we were conceptualizing the premise
[19:50] <+markbruno> One the things we wanted to stay away from was taking inspiration from other notable post-apoc RPGs that came before it, so we took inspiration for a wide variety of sources
[19:50] <~Dan> (back in a sec -- please continue, Mark)
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[19:51] <+markbruno> For me, I wanted to create a post-apocalyptic game based around the hostile stance of 1970s and 80s counterculture, much like what Vaughn Bode did with some of his works like Cobalt 60 and War Lizards.
[19:52] <+markbruno> Hence the heavy use of street slang throughout the book, not only in the setting but also in the actual rules.
[19:53] <+markbruno> The book's artist, J.D. Green was also a major inspiration. We ended up riffing off a lot of his artwork
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[19:54] <~Dan> (back)
[19:54] <+markbruno> In that regard I think RADZ was a perfect marriage of art and game development.
[19:55] <+deep7dude> Big, angry artwork full of ridiculous animated overtones
[19:55] <+markbruno> Oh, yes! That's what JD does best!
[19:55] <~Dan> So, as you mentioned, the Tarna segment of Heavy Metal?
[19:56] <+deep7dude> Yep.
[19:56] <+markbruno> Absolutely. And also the track that was featured in that segment, Black Sabbath's "Mob Rules."
[19:56] <+deep7dude> Cobalt 60, Cheech Wizard, and lots of really crunchy music.
[19:56] <+markbruno> Powerman 5000 :)
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[19:57] <~Dan> So what "kewl powerz" are in RADZ?
[19:57] <+deep7dude> Lots of Killing Joke's 2003 album
[19:57] <+markbruno> Todd had a big hand in developing the Wikkid, so I'll let him elaborate...
[19:59] <+deep7dude> So in the RADZ world, there are these folks called the Wikkid, who have learned how to harness ambient radiation to power their "magic"
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[19:59] <+deep7dude> It's part psionics, part mathematics
[20:00] <~Dan> Mathematics in a Lovecraftian sense?
[20:00] <+deep7dude> Because it's more of a fire and forget environment, we created a no-fuss spell menu - it's not the open-ended thing in Arrowflight, but it totally fits the RADZ world
[20:01] <+deep7dude> yes - I'd agree with that to a point, Dan.
[20:01] <~Dan> (I mean in the weird "universal rules we don't understand" sense.)
[20:02] <+Delgrim> Deep7? Ok, wikipedia calling.
[20:02] <~Dan> (Dreams in the Witch House type stuff.)
[20:02] <+deep7dude> The byproduct of RADZ "powerz" is that each time a spell is cast, the caster runs the risk of a mutation.
[20:02] <~Dan> Oh, good! There ARE some people awake in the audience. :)
[20:02] <~Dan> Speaking of which, what are mutations like in the setting?
[20:03] <+deep7dude> It's all that gross post-apoc anime stuff, like poison glands to extra limbs to gills or horns or spines...
[20:03] <+Delgrim> Sorry, was checking local candidates at this falls election. Took more time than I thought.
[20:04] <~Dan> No problem, Delgrim. :)
[20:04] <~Dan> I know you guys don't go for classes, but are there any general character types?
[20:05] <+deep7dude> We've always used archetypes that players can customize and build on - they are essentially "classes"
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[20:06] <+deep7dude> it's a lot more based in the WEG Star Wars tradition of "here's a character template with some basic occupational stuff - go fill it in and let's play."
[20:06] <~Dan> (Whoops... Lost Mark, there.)
[20:06] <+etaoinshrdlu> (Mark accidentially disintegrated)
[20:07] <~Dan> Can you give some examples? Are there cyborgs, mutant animals, mutant plants, etc...?
[20:08] <+deep7dude> There's a race called Fungoids which are humans overtaken by a fast-acting toxic spore...
[20:09] <+deep7dude> There's a species of pterosaur (because I'm contractually obliged to include them in everything I write) that act as the flying mounts for the Wingz enclaves...
[20:09] <+deep7dude> That kind of thing...
[20:10] <~Dan> Are there cyborgs and/or robots?
[20:10] <+deep7dude> Very much in that '70s animated Heavy Metal aesthetic
[20:10] * ~Dan nods
[20:11] <+deep7dude> ROM Gypsyz are the remote tech guys - they build and operate ROMs, which are basically remote mechs... and there are primitive cybernetics and such... if that's what you're asking. :)
[20:11] <~Dan> So can you play a guy with a buzz saw hand? :)
[20:12] <+deep7dude> Oh heck yes.
[20:12] <~Dan> Good man. :)
[20:12] <+deep7dude> And ride a pterodactyl over the irradiated southwest.
[20:12] <~Dan> What's the scope of the bestiary? Are there many mutant critters?
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[20:13] <~Dan> (Other that pterodactyls, obviously. :) )
[20:14] <+deep7dude> The bestiary isn't huge - it's a playable setting in under 100 pages... but near every critter in there is mutated :)
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[20:15] <~Dan> I want to talk Shriek X, but I'd like to wait for Mark to get back first... Is there another one of your big games you'd like to discuss, Todd?
[20:16] <+deep7dude> Shriek X is actually the next one due out, so that would be where my focus is.  We just released Mystic East for Arrowflight, so there's some bushido goodness for your fantasy...
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[20:17] <~Dan> Ah, yes! Would you like to talk a bit about Mystic Eas?
[20:17] <~Dan> East, even
[20:18] <+deep7dude> This would be the best ever time for Gavin to be here.  He's the primary architect of that title.  But sure, I can give you some basics.
[20:18] <~Dan> (Howdy, Wondy!)
[20:19] <+WonderRat> (hi)
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[20:20] <+deep7dude> Mystic East covers the D'junn Empire in the far northeastern corner of the Arrowflight world.  It lays out an elf-dominant bushido-like culture influenced by several Asian civilizations.
[20:20] <+deep7dude> And... war mastodons.
[20:20] <~Dan> (Hooray for war mastodons!!)
[20:21] <~Dan> Are there any new races?
[20:21] <+deep7dude> New magic, new martial arts, new critters, a few new playable races, and a new species of greater dragon
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[20:22] <~Dan> Nice!
[20:22] <~Dan> Would you say the predominant culture falls in the "good guy" column? Neutral? Evil?
[20:23] <+deep7dude> As with Northern Empires, it profiles the history, culture, economy and geography of the area
[20:23] <~Dan> What's their attitude toward Chaos, for example?
[20:23] <+deep7dude> Hard to say - the D'junn culture is very alien to western eyes.
[20:24] * ~Dan nods
[20:24] <+deep7dude> Ah - it's a very pragmatic, metered approach.
[20:24] <+deep7dude> Almost bonsai to the Web of Life
[20:25] <~Dan> So Chaos is just another aspect of the big picture to them?
[20:25] <+deep7dude> Western cultures typically favor no chaos - no cutting the Web
[20:25] <+deep7dude> The D'junn don't take the black & white view
[20:26] <+deep7dude> They cultivate through disciplined use of chaos
[20:26] <+deep7dude> So, very different for players who may have been used to playing Corvellian characters
[20:26] <+deep7dude> :)
[20:27] <~Dan> Disciplined chaos? :)
[20:27] <+deep7dude> I know, right?
[20:27] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:28] <+deep7dude> But the D'junn don't view it as chaos - they see it as pruning and trimming, not wholesale destruction some of the hardcore chaos practitioners do
[20:28] * ~Dan nods
[20:29] <~Dan> If I can zoom back out to Arrowflight as a whole for a moment... I've described it to some people as a brighter take on Warhammer. (Not that that's saying very much.) Would you agree?
[20:29] <+deep7dude> Somewhat.
[20:30] <+deep7dude> There are definitely some overlaps in look and feel.
[20:30] <+deep7dude> And it's definitely not as generally dark (depending on the political upheaval going on in your campaign)
[20:31] <~Dan> A little bird just informed me that Todd needs to go eat dinner.
[20:31] <~Dan> So I'd like to thank Todd and Mark for stopping by!
[20:31] <+deep7dude> I do like that the old WHF RPG had occupations
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[20:31] <+deep7dude> Thanks again for having us, Dan.  I'm totally up for another
[20:31] <+deep7dude> I'll lock down Gavin so that he can talk about Shriek X
[20:31] <~Dan> Great! Why don't we plan on doing that so that we can discuss Shriek X.
[20:32] * ~Dan high-fives
[20:32] <+deep7dude> :)
[20:32] <~Dan> Just let me know via FB when he can make it.
[20:32] <+deep7dude> Thanks so much all!  6:30 in Seattle, tummy is a-growl!
[20:32] <~Dan> In the interim, please feel free to stop by any time!
[20:32] <+deep7dude> Peace!
[20:32] <~Dan> Enjoy!
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[20:33] <~Dan> Oh, welcome back, Mark!
[20:33] <+markbruno> Sorry about that!
[20:33] <~Dan> No problem!
[20:34] <+markbruno> Uh oh....did I miss anything? LOL
[20:34] <~Dan> Todd just had to bow out. Want to pick up where he left off? He mentioned setting up another chat with us with Gavin at some point, too.
[20:34] <~Dan> Todd was just talking about Mystic East.
[20:35] <+markbruno> Ah, okay. I haven't been involved much with the Arrowflight 2e stuff, so maybe I'll rejoin them when Gavin can come on board
[20:35] <~Dan> Want to say anything about Shriek X? That's your baby, right? :)
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[20:36] <+Cassie> Sir Dannington. :)
[20:36] <~Dan> (Howdy, Squide, Cassie!)
[20:36] <+markbruno> Yes! I started development on the game several years ago, just before Samantha Downing passed away.
[20:37] <&Le_Squide> (Hey!)
[20:37] <+markbruno> We kind of shelved the project for a bit as Deep7 went through a restructuring process
[20:37] * ~Dan nods
[20:38] <+markbruno> But now it's almost ready for the light of day :)
[20:38] <+markbruno> or dark of night, if you prefer
[20:38] <~Dan> Heh.
[20:38] <+markbruno> :)
[20:38] <~Dan> It uses XPG but is based on a 1PG, correct?
[20:39] <+markbruno> Yes. There was a rudimentary setting for the 1PG version that I expanded for the XPG edition
[20:40] <~Dan> What is the setting like?
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[20:41] <+Gyr|Laptop> ... sigh.
[20:41] <+markbruno> It's Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Halloween meets the X-Files more or less. We pretty much threw in the entire kitchen sink when it comes to teen horror themes.
[20:43] <~Dan> Everything from UFOs to vampires?
[20:43] <+markbruno> What's nice about this particular XPG title is that the rules can totally be divorced from the setting and it still works great for re-creating classic teen horror
[20:43] <+markbruno> Yes
[20:43] <~Dan> Nice. Modern-day by default?
[20:43] <+markbruno> Yep!
[20:44] <~Dan> You mentioned Buffy... How tough are the PCs? Victims or butt kickers?
[20:44] <+markbruno> Both, actually, although the game works best when players are the victims of the referee's depravity :)
[20:45] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:45] <+markbruno> We have a neat system in place called Stupid Risks that add to that concept
[20:45] <~Dan> I sense that the game isn't entirely serious... :)
[20:45] <+markbruno> It doesn't take itself seriously, no :)
[20:45] <+markbruno> And neither should the players :)
[20:46] <~Dan> Cool. :)  Care to say a bit more about Stupid Risks? I'm assuming it rewards "splitting up to cover more ground" and the like?
[20:47] <+markbruno> Stupid Risks are basically in-game scenarios that the referee can interject into the game to lure the players into doing something, well, going into that dark basement when you KNOW the killer is probably hiding in a dark corner.
[20:47] <~Dan> (Oh, Squide: Currently talking to Mark Bruno about his horror game, Shriek X.)
[20:47] <&Le_Squide> (Neat)
[20:48] <~Dan> (Please feel free to ask away if you have any questions!)
[20:49] <+markbruno> If the player survives the encounter then they can acquire points that can be used for bennies to help get them out of future encounters, like suddenly finding the keys to the ignition as the killer is barreling toward your car
[20:50] <+markbruno> So, yeah, it's a fun little game of knife, scream, run, die. Haha!
[20:51] <~Dan> Is this the first time a "Drama Point" type mechanic has shown up in an XPG?
[20:52] <+markbruno> Sort of. Other XPG titles use destiny points that give the players advantages during the course of play, but nothing as specific as what we put into Shriek X. It's a system that was fully designed to take advantage of those things which are unique to teen horror movies.
[20:53] <+markbruno> And it's cool because it fosters a competitive spirit between the referee and the players.
[20:54] <+markbruno> It literally the job of the referee to kill off as many player characters as possible, while the players try to survive for the impending sequel :)
[20:54] <+markbruno> or sequels, as the case may be ;)
[20:54] <~Dan> Isn't it rather easy for a GM to do that...?
[20:55] <+markbruno> Yes, and the players know that going into the game. It's one of the things we carried over from the 1PG version; that you're not guaranteed to make it through the end of the game.
[20:56] <+markbruno> The fun part for the players is see how creative they can get in taking and surviving a stupid risk.
[20:56] <~Dan> Well, I mean, what's to keep the GM from making a monster completely unstoppable, if his job really is to kill off the PCs?
[20:58] <+markbruno> Well, certainly, the GM wants to make for an entertaining night of play. If that means killing off the entire cast, and his players are cool with that, then all the better. It's really for each group to decide how they want to play the game. If the GM wants to take a lighter approach toward the players, there are also rules for advancement for the sequel.
[20:59] <+markbruno> And there are also systems in play that can give players the upper hand by way of magic and or psionics
[20:59] <~Dan> Ah, I was about to ask about that very thing.
[21:00] <+markbruno> It's the same system we used in Bloode Island XPG but with a more occult-like flavor.
[21:00] * ~Dan nods
[21:01] <~Dan> Is the basic assumption that the PCs are all typical horror movie victim types?
[21:01] <~Dan> Or does it support, say, Delta Green-type organizations and other more proactive PC types?
[21:02] <+markbruno> Both. Like other XPG titles we provide templates that players can use as a guideline to create their own stereotypes.
[21:03] <~Dan> Cool.
[21:03] <+markbruno> But, yes, the basic assumption is that the players are horny teenagers. :)
[21:03] <~Dan> If you will indulge my bestiary obsession for a moment (lol re: horny teenagers), how large is the collection of beasties?
[21:03] <+markbruno> But you can be a horny teenager that can start fires with your mind!
[21:04] <~Dan> Well, that's damn near ideal!
[21:04] <+markbruno> lol
[21:04] <~Dan> A horny teenage you can make ANYONE hot!
[21:04] <~Dan> (teenager who. Sheesh, can't type tonight.)
[21:05] <+markbruno> We break down the band guys by type: undead, supernatural, aliens, creatures, homicidal maniacs, et al and then give referees a whole list of baddies they can use to throw at characters.
[21:06] <+markbruno> I'm not sure if it made it into the final game, but my original design had a system for referees to create their own bad guys.
[21:07] <+markbruno> If it didn't make it in then that's something I definitely like to put into a supplement, if there's interest for it
[21:08] <~Dan> Do you make the creatures distinct from, say, their Arrowflight counterparts, where they overlap? Is a Shriek X zombie more powerful than an Arrowflight zombie by default, for example?
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[21:09] <+markbruno> I can't speak to Arrowflight, but I will say that all the creatures were designed from the ground up to fit into the mold of horror movies.
[21:10] * ~Dan nods
[21:10] <~Dan> Cool.
[21:10] <+markbruno> It should be fun. I can't wait until we release it.
[21:10] <~Dan> So the aliens are definitively horror aliens?
[21:10] <+markbruno> Yes.
[21:11] <+markbruno> I think we have everything in there from The Thing to Reticulans.
[21:12] <~Dan> Just FYI, we're technically in "overtime"; however, I'm more than happy to hang out and continue chatting as long as you're available.
[21:13] <+markbruno> I should probably call it a night, actually. By day I'm really a mild-mannered layout artists with bills to pay :D
[21:13] <+markbruno> But this was a lot of fun.
[21:13] <~Dan> Glad you could make it, Mark! As I mentioned, Todd would like you guys to come back when Gavin is available.
[21:14] <+markbruno> Sounds good! Thanks for all of your support over the years, Dan. We appreciate it!
[21:14] <~Dan> Also, I'll have the log of this chat posted shortly in my blog and will link you when it's up.
[21:14] <+markbruno> Great!
[21:14] <~Dan> Absolutely! I hope to get a chance to review Shriek X. ;)
[21:14] <+markbruno> You're first on the comp list :)
[21:14] <~Dan> Sweet! :)
[21:15] <~Dan> Have a great evening, Mark!
[21:15] <+markbruno> Take care, Dan, and thanks again.
[21:15] <~Dan> Sure thing!
[21:15] *** markbruno has quit IRC: Disintegrated: (Link: ajax IRC Client

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