Tag Archives: Game

Announcing New Project: MINDWRITERS

I am pleased to announce the inception of a new project for 2011, one that has absolute blockbuster potential. Part “epic movie”, part heist, part X-Files, and all mindblowing.

It has far too much depth for a short story, which means another novel-length project. And one that will pack a much harder punch than FRAGILE GODS — even in the outline, I am starting to really love and fear the characters.

In addition, some of the “negative” feedback for THE WHISPER KIDS was that people wanted to know more. This strikes me as less of a complaint, and more like evidence I should consider novelizing it. While I haven’t put that much depth into THE WHISPER KIDS, these comments have put me back in the novelist frame of mind.

MINDWRITERS follows a team of telepaths who perform heists. Able to manipulate the minds of their subjects, they have been virtually unstoppable. But when they discover that others know of their powers — and are capable of countering them — the game turns deadly. They will have to outwit opponents who are more powerful, better informed, and better funded. “Survival” takes on new meaning when you can no longer trust your own thoughts.

It might just blow your mind.

11 minutes ain’t bad

I’ve been trying to compile a gameplay video for Spore for a buddy at work…sort of the JRP version of “try before you buy” for a game that can’t be rented.

It’s far longer than I originally wanted, and I cut what felt like a metric ton of content for the video, and much of what’s left goes really fast. But I’m trying to represent hours and hours of gameplay (which itself purports to loosely represent 4 billion years of evolution and progress). DISCLAIMER: This video includes none of the Galactic Adventures expansion, mostly because I felt the video was too long already.

Video editing credit goes to no less than four different applications, none of which I’m going to name because I’m unhappy with all of them — else why would I have needed 3 more? Credit for capturing goes to Fraps, and no thanks to Gamecam which, although has served me well in the past, has recently proven very unreliable to me.

Music credit goes to Eric Johnson for Cliffs of Dover, and Bear McCreary, the score composer for Battlestar Galactica, for two pieces called One Year and Prelude to War. (You’ll know which is which, I think.) All remaining audio was taken directly from the game itself apart from one quote which I’ll disown you if you don’t know. And for your old(er) timers, I chose the version I remember best from my childhood; no offense to the original, eh?

Without further ado, then, this is what I have so far of the Spore Gameplay Video. (There are still a few takes I think could be done better, but this is my first attempt at a video this cohesive, and I’m out of patience to keep tweaking without sharing.)

If the embedded version doesn’t work, you can download the whole thing here. I hope you enjoy.

The most fun I’ve ever had

lava“You fell in the lava!”

I’ve said this countless times in childhood, pretending that some particular surface was “lava” and everywhere else was safe.

“The lava is good for your health,” my cousin Johnny would say when he wanted us to fail at a game so that his turn would come faster.

Occasionally, when taking a walk with my wife, I still insist that the grass is lava and see if I can’t nudge her off the sidewalk and into the impending mortal doom of…walking on soft grass.

This simple and universally understood game was the inspiration for my second adventure in Spore galactic adventures:

You’re marooned on a planet of…well, you know…and the heat is interfering with your transporter signal. Fortunately, it just so happens that there are a series of platforms and jump pads in front of you which can lead you to the safety of high ground! That is…if you can navigate them successfully and not plummet to your fiery demise.

Platformers have been a crowd favorite almost as long as video games have existed, and one of my personal favorites is the all-too-rare breed of 3D platformer, successfully realized in Mario 64.

But if I thought playing a 3D platformer level was fun, it has nothing on designing one — at least not for a creative mind like mine. Deciding just how high to place each platform, just how large the landing area has to be, and just how highly powered each jump pad is were just of a few of the things I enjoyed about the process.

The most brilliant aspect of Spore GA is that when you’re adventure building, the playtest button is right in the editor, and takes literally zero time to load. Wonder how your jump pad will work? Hit ‘play’ and find out.

I spent hours at this, making certain the level I built was difficult, even intimidating, but beatable. Like most platformers, if you know exactly what to do and where to go, it’s far easier than stepping into it for the first time.

But the real reward came when I had finished the adventure and got to see my wife play it the first time through. Her exclamations of delight and frustration were more rewarding to me than just playing a video game ever has been — and if you know me, you know that’s saying a lot. The infuriated look she gave me when an apparently “safe” platform warped her back to the beginning of the level was so priceless it sent me into gales of laughter.

So far, more than 40 people have played the adventure, and it has a well-liked rating in spite of the fact it is also ranked in the highest difficulty class. And I have already all but forgotten my first Spore GA creation, a plot-based mini-RPG with 11 different goals across 8 acts instead of just one. But if I had to guess at this point, I’d wager I’ll be building more platformers than stories.

Avoiding lava, especially while flying high through the air in inhuman leaps and bounds, is just plain fun.

If this isn’t good enough, what is?

GRR!When I was in college, there was a girl who called herself a writer. She carried around a little notebook (like 4″x6″) in which she hand wrote “chapters” of a vampire story, stream of conscious. She never edited or revised, so far as I could tell, and once when she asked me to type up a few of her “chapters”, they turned out to be no more than about two pages each. (Her “novel” was about 15 pages long in total.)

Her friends who were asked to read her work said, “It’s good” and handed it back. Then she asked me to read it.

I have long been of the belief that when someone asks for criticism (this goes for me, too, folks) you are NOT doing them a favor by sparing them. In the realm of physical activity, you can’t argue with results; unless you’re running a certain speed, or winning by a certain number of points, it’s hard to fool yourself and others that you are. It’s much easier to convince oneself of being a good writer or painter or musician even if the opposite is true.

Imagine if a basketball was visible only to your eyes, and a potential player kept asking you to evaluate his game. If he consistently misses the basket, are you doing him a favor by telling him he’s hitting it? What’s going to happen when he goes to try out and his form is awful?

This girl’s protaganist was painfully Mary Sue. The writer also portrayed Pope Jean Paul II personally performing acts of intense torture. I didn’t care about any of the characters or events.

As a result of my critique, this girl did…absolutely nothing.

Rewind the clock further.

I’m in high school, after English class. For some reason, I’ve given a classmate a copy of Swordplay, the Neolithic precursor to my amateurish Shadows of Prophecy.

Classmate: This was really good.
Jason: Thanks a lot. Are there any problems with it that I can fix?
Classmate, amazed, glances at the teacher to see how to interpret this request.
Teacher: He really does just want to know what to improve.

Fast forward back to college:

acheposropheMy friend, whose writing I greatly respect, was in a creative writing class. We’ll call her Alice. Another girl we’ll call Betty was also in the class; I was not. This is kind of cruel, but we were young and…well…cruel. Alice was so annoyed at Betty’s horrific writing that Alice would let me read them so that at least someone could share her incredulity. Betty’s writing was full of concepts like half-vampire/half-dragon people. (Traditionally, vampirism is a disease, not a race. Vampires don’t even breed via offspring with each other, much less with other races. “Half-vampire” makes about as much sense as someone who is “Half-Cancer” or “Half-Polio”.) Her scenes were full of Chickification, Purple Prose, Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma, Rouge Angles of Satin, and worst of all, How Do I Used Tense. (Man, I wish I’d known the names of these tropes in college!)

Both of the girls described above are in the same writing-career category as I am:

Unpublished.

(Technically, my non-fiction has been purchased for stock content, but that’s just not the same, damn it!)

If these two young ladies have continued to pursue a career in writing fiction, and I sincerely hope they have, then it likely they are also in the process of finishing and submitting stories — probably to some of the same publications. All three of us write speculative fiction.

Now comes the frustration. Perfect Justice may even sit in the same pile with authors still stuck on How Do I Used Tense. And I’m getting the same form letter in reply.

I take too much pride in my work to think I could possibly be stuck in Rouge Angles of Satin or How Do I Used Tense. I check my spelling and grammar rigorously even for intra-office email. In online venues, I have oft earned the appellation “grammar police”. I’m so relentless, in fact, that it annoys me that “Vampirism” and “Soteriological” are words which spell-checkers think are wrong, even if I have looked up them up elsewhere to make certain I’m not just making them up.

Furthermore, far from avoiding or ignoring criticism, I’ve been seeking extra helpings of critique for as long as I can remember; even before I really took writing seriously myself. The way that Perfect Justice has morphed from its original (annoying) version is proof.

So if I’m not making any of the obvious mistakes, even after multiple revisions (even bestsellers have the occasional misprint or typo), what else is wrong with the story?

Are my characters Mary Sues? Is my conflict boring? Are the characters not identifiable? The situations aren’t suspenseful?

I would assume one or all of the above is true, except that Perfect Justice has given people nightmares and the ending has evoked anger. One person insisted he cried at the end of Woman’s Best Friend, and another has expressed sadness over the fate of a character therein.

I’m obviously connecting with someone. Or is it only because friends, family, and co-workers are too forgiving when they read something by me? Not consciously, perhaps, but sub-consciously?

I’m a good writer. What I mean by “good writer” is not that my work is amazing —  not yet — what I mean is that I’ll do whatever it takes to GET amazing. But when there’s a problem, I need to know what to fix. The form-letter rejection leaves far too much room for interpretation. Apparently my story was just as bad as those full of Rouge Angles of Satin. Or if it wasn’t, it was bad enough to get lumped in the same category.

Ouch.

Now what do I fix?

It worked…

addictedRather than quitting World of Warcraft cold turkey (which I have done before, but it didn’t stick in the long run), I have instead tried the the route of discipline:

Simply playing less.

It worked. When I feel the urge to game, I will attempt to scratch the itch by playing much more cyclical one-player games instead. I don’t know how others feel, but for me single player games don’t cut it anymore; I just get bored with seeing the same content over and over. Cheats, mods, savefile editors and such can add a certain additional replay value, but those grow stale even more quickly than the original game.

So then I pace the apartment. I check chess.com compulsively every five minutes. I watch *gasp* television. (Streaming with no commercials, still, though.)

And then eventually…I get bored enough to write.

Success!

I wrote for some 7 or 8 hours Saturday and another 4 on Sunday. Furthermore, I managed a personal first: Diving directly into another story while the ink from my last project is still drying.

I considered putting up another poll to ask what you want to read next, having now (re)finished Perfect Justice. But then I’d want to give the poll time to gather enough info — the last one took about ten days before all votes were in, and even then I only garnered nine votes in total.

Instead, I decided merely to write the next story.

For those who are keeping up with me, I’ll go ahead and tell you the next one is going to be Second Chances; you can read the synopsis over on the sidebar.

I will also introduce you to a new project on my idea board:

Road Rage is about a guy so frustrated and angered by the idiotic and dangerous ways of rude drivers that he finally decides to do something about it. But he isn’t content with merely taking your license. Violate his rules, and he’ll be taking your life.