Desert Law: School Bus Mounted Howitzer

desert-law_w1010.pngMy Steam library is filled with post-apocalyptic games. Generally, I’ll pick up (or at least wishlist) any apocalyptic game I come across. Desert Law, a real time strategy game, has been in my library for about two years. I picked it up on sale, played it for 10 minutes, and then uninstalled it. However, enough time has passed that I thought the game deserved another chance. Unfortunately, the game aged about as well as a bloated corpse in the wasteland sun.

Desert Law’s narrative makes Wasteland Angel look complex by comparison. After the apocalypse, tribes of road warriors kill each other over booze and car parts. What kind of apocalypse is this? We don’t really know. The entire world is a desert and some places are populated by angry sentient zombies napping beneath the sand.
Here’s the story: Generic wastelander Brad wants to woo a girl for mating season, but rival tribes of gangsters and pre-apocalypse military keep mucking up his plans. Brad convinces his tribe to kill everyone in their way until Jane (the love interest) notices him. Continue reading

Smegma Crazies, Gayboys, and The Golden Youth

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On the surface, The Road Warrior is a fine action movie that defined the post-apocalyptic genre and put everyone involved on the map. If we put aside the action and go a little deeper, we start to see some interesting clues about the Humungus tribe. As we already saw with Lord Humungus and especially Fury Road, George Miller loves adding cryptic details into his films. Perhaps the most discussed and yet mysterious of these details revolves around the Humungus tribe’s not-so-subtle homoeroticism.

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What is MUTATION: The Wasteland Survival Guide?

MUTATION: The Wasteland Survival guide is a six episode long series exploring the quirky and unusual world of MUTATION, as seen in The Journal of Joe Junkman. The show itself documents the writing of the Mo-Javi Wasteland’s very first survival guide. Charged with writing this book is wasteland legend James Gray and local shyster Joe Junkman. Throughout their journey, our heroes will struggle with radioactive dust storms, water scarcity, and each other.


I want to break character for a moment to say how excited I am to be moving forward with this project. The world of MUTATION has gone through a lot of change since its conception. What originally began as a pen and paper RPG has transformed into serial fiction, a website, and a show. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

To make a long story short, Ben and I got together in the summer of 2015 and began brainstorming ideas for this short series. Although we have all the footage, brainstorming was about as far as it got. It seems embarrassing now, but we didn’t have a script or anything. Essentially, we had a concept for each episode and a location. For better or worse, almost every scene is improvisational.

When I first established this website, I had no idea what the response would be. These past few months, I’ve been consistently amazed at the hospitality and support I’ve received from the online post-apocalyptic tribe. Thank you for giving us a chance and following our stories week after week.

I’d also like to announce at this time that Ben and I are planning to attend Wasteland Weekend this year! I’ll be in character as James Gray and I believe Ben will appear as Joe Junkman.

We hope to see some of you there! The Rad-Lands wouldn’t be here without you.

-Ron Welch

How A Boy and His Dog Established a Genre

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Like science, fiction is often built on the shoulders of those who came before.  That is to say, most images from our imagination comes from putting a twist on what we’ve already seen. In horror, we can see a very clear progression from Poe->Lovecraft->Kolchak: the Night Stalker->X-Files. Though it seems odd to say it, building on the work of others is the surest way to come up with new ideas.

In the 1970s, post-nuclear fiction had been developing into a small (but growing) genre for nearly 20 years. Many nuclear holocaust films in the 50s and 60s were about the start (and end) of WWIII rather than survival in the radioactive wastelands to follow. Dr. Strangelove, for example, is counted as a nuclear holocaust film.

In 1975, something happened to solidify the tone of a desert wasteland. Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog provided audiences with a visual medium to express the post-atomic world. The little details in storytelling, set design, and costumes would inevitably shape the Mad Max franchise, the Fallout franchise, and much more.

A Boy and His Dog would define the tone of the post-nuclear genre in 4 ways: Continue reading

The Little Details That Make Mad Max Great

The Mad Max game (2015) is loaded with small details that make the world feel like a living breathing entity. The wasteland is full of lore and history which shows in every area. Everything in the environment was placed with gentle care. Quest items are hinted at through decorations in the world. To illustrate this, I’ve collected the top five small details that make Mad Max great.

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  1. Thrall Rustlers: Slavery plays a big part in the wasteland. A handful of main characters are slaves. Nearly every camp has slave cages. The player hears a lot of discussion about the slave trade, yet there aren’t slave caravans or opportunities to free slaves in the game. What there is however, is a very interesting idea.
    They only appear in one mission before Max wipes them out, but the Thrall Rustlers have a very cool concept. A slaving guild that only kidnaps people with strange deformities or useful skills. Had this been developed a bit more, this could have been an impressive faction.
    For the Thrall Rustlers quest, I would have enjoyed seeing Max use Chumbucket as bait (since he is a renowned mechanic with a deformity), then follow the slavers to their hideout. This would also better establish the relationship between Max and Chum. There was a lot of opportunity in this quest for something really interesting, if only it had been given an extra push.

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Show, Don’t Tell: Scarcity in Mad Max

Resource management is nothing new to video games. Survival games and RPGs have had players carefully manage their supplies for over a decade. However, Mad Max (2015) took that concept and ran it in a completely new direction. In the Mad Max franchise, the oceans have dried up, crops have withered, and the great machine of society has sputtered until it finally ground to a halt. The future belongs to those who control the last precious drops of water and guzzolene. By giving glimpses of a backstory and making resource management an integral part of the gameplay, Mad Max makes players fear scarcity both in the game and reality.

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In Mad Max, the player can only be healed by drinking water or eating food. Water is kept in an accessible canteen, but food can only be used once and always consists of either wild animals, canned dog food, or corpse maggots. Since the local warlord has deployed hundreds of his men into the dried seabed, Max will need to heal quite often. This gives the player a sense of risk over reward: they could waste their precious water to heal or they could explore the enemy camp a bit longer and hope they find some food before a murderous war-boy finds them. Continue reading

The Complexity of Lord Humungus

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 The Lord Humungus is a perfect example of how an outwardly one-dimensional villain can become human through small details. Looking at The Road Warrior’s script, one would get the impression that Lord Humungus is just a means of creating conflict, but the visual medium of film allows this character to become two dimensional. Cleverly, director George Miller planned for this from the beginning by writing backstories for each character in the Mad Max franchise. Continue reading