Weekly Wyrm: Achievement Complete

game screen

This week I’m working on my fantasy RPG, because last week I finished the final edit of my fourth novel, wrapping up eight months of working almost every minute of every day. My novels are epic length (130k+ words). I’ll start publishing this fall.

So I think I’ve written the same amount as Tolkien at this point. I have five books–a trilogy and two one-offs that expand on the most important characters and settings (Earth, Tartarus, Elysium, and Heaven). These add to my published short stories.

My novels aren’t pure genius, but they aren’t crap either. They’re *so* much better from having been written all at once.

All five novels have had 10-30 full re-writes or revisions over fifteen years. I took two years off work. I tortured, maimed, murdered, and enslaved a respectable number of characters who had perfectly nice lives before I came along.

I invented my own language–Demonic.

Instead of using a profound Tolkien knowledge of linguistics to create Demonic, I channeled the syllables from an Atlantean spirit guide named Neemoo. So don’t make fun of my Demonic language, because Neemoo is just a boy, and you might hurt his feelings.

Do I even read novels anymore? No. I’ve read a thousand works of fiction, but almost none in two decades. I was busy writing for like 10,000 hours.

*Must* You Use The Product To Be Good At Making It?

I was thinking today that I don’t agree with Linda “Brasse” Carlson‘s hiring strategy, as discussed in a previous post here about Trion’s livestream, where Linda and company were talking about getting hired at Trion.

Linda wants to hire people who are passionate about video games, but that seems like only hiring carpenters and plumbers who are passionate about “houses”–i.e. passionate about living in houses, decorating houses, a nice patio for barbecuing, a foyer to die for, raising a family in a house, and enjoying the fruits of houses.

Was Howard Roark (Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead) passionate about office buildings? No. He was passionate about designing and building buildings. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the stuffed shirts who lived and worked in those buildings. He just wanted to cut the crap and reach for his vision.

Gamers often lambaste devs with the suspicion that they don’t even play their own games. That’s probably true most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t raise the roofbeams like nobody’s business.

There are too many metaphors to even start supporting my point, and Linda Carlson’s point is probably more complicated in terms of human resources. Walter White (Heisenberg) also says no, and video games seem a lot like methamphetamine.

RPG Writing Ruminations

So this week I’m back on my video game project. I’m posting a screenshot here of my interface so far (open in a new tab to see a larger size). The game is playable except for combat, which needs a lot of (boring) thought about strength and intelligence and spells, and worse of all, animation.

Animation is a pain, precious.

I’ve made some important and interesting changes based on my observations of what worked and didn’t work in recent games I’ve played, mainly Pillars of Eternity. I wanted to write down my thoughts in a mini-developer diary.

The first companion characters in Pillars (Calisca and Heodan) are my favorites, and yet Pillars throws them away. This is a mistake. So why are these characters my faves? What qualities do they have, which the later characters don’t show, at least not right away?

Love-at-first-sight Bonding. I’m starting to wonder if the first people you meet in a game world form a special bond in your brain. It’s like being born into a new world, and your mind grasps onto the first friendly face you see. That’s why the first characters are so important.

Of course, the most important character in the story is you, the player.

Calisca and Heodan have strong goals. In the Pillars opening sequences, this means survival against an immediate threat. My Jedi master of writing, Jack Bickham, stresses the importance of the immediacy and realness of the threat. Pillars nails this.

Goals are imperative for NPCs. We can do better than “sure I’ll come along, why not, safety in numbers, I wouldn’t mind–”

Calisca and Heodan have inter-character conflict. Right away Calisca and Heodan are at odds over which path to take. You decide, and there are consequences. The only way this amazing starting survival scenario in the cave could be stronger is if your decision develops your own character a little more.

Conflict is super-important not only to create tension and move the plot forward, but also to develop characters with emotion. So I need to hit these important points with the NPCs. Conflict, goals, and the first characters you meet are highly important. I re-wrote the beginning of my game (again) because of these observations.

Electronic Arts CEO: “Life Is Better With Video Games”

This afternoon, CNBC interviewed the CEO of Electronic Arts (Andrew Wilson) live from E3. The interview ranged from the new Star Wars: Battlefront game to virtual reality games, which Wilson thinks are years off. Wilson’s punch line for the interview was the following:

“When you play more games, your life gets better and better.”

That just sounds weird to me, not to mention wrong, unless you interpret “better” to mean less sex due more divorces and less dating, which means less babies, which means the world is saved, or at least ecological Armageddon is forestalled a little longer.

To me, it honestly sounded like a slogan for a happy pill. It sounded like someone was pushing addictive happy pills and knew it. That was my reaction to the interview.

Electronic Arts was pushing the new Star Wars: Battlefront game at E3. The clips during the interview looked really good, like an old-school Star Wars: Jedi Knight game brought into the year 2015.

For everyone who ever wished Star Wars: The Old Republic looked better graphically, which is pretty much everyone, we should be looking forward to this game. This is surely the best snow landscape I’ve ever seen.

My only criticism of the Star Wars preview videos is that the ancient, used-a-million-times Star Wars sound effects and music sound a little stale. I hope Disney’s movie productions will come up with something new.

Weekly Wyrm: The Frisky Witcher

Sex in video games right now feels like the 1980s movie industry. Porn (in games in the United States) is under the radar of the polite public, mostly foreign sleazy stuff that no one really talks about.

When a rare game with sex hits the screen, like Witcher 3, it provokes a lot of discussion, interest, juvenile jokes, and late night comedy. Still, it’s the exception.

Thirty years after the 1980s, sex and nudity in movies has become commonplace. No one bats an eyelash unless the line between artsy-sex and porn becomes even more blurred. Clearly it won’t take another 30 years for sex in video games to reach the same levels of devil-spawned sinfulness.

Angry Joe reviewed Witcher 3 this week with an impressive 10/10. I don’t play male protagonists. I’m waiting for “Witch 3″. Maybe someday, maybe never.

witcher unicorn sex
source – Dearly Admired Moon

Hearthstone Tournament And Reynad

I’m still playing the world stock markets instead of video games, although I watched a lot of the Hearthstone tournament last weekend. Reynad lost in the final, but he deserved to win.

Phonetap was a crowd favorite, but he sort of got lucky. The final should have been longer than 5 games, just like the 7-game series in basketball finals.

Reynad seemed stressed in the final. He was also on-tilt cocky, stressed, and pressured on his stream tonight. He’s awesome when he’s just relaxed and being himself.

I hope Reynad doesn’t go all Kurt Cobain on the community. I’ve noticed he keeps sniffing and wiggling his nose. And his mom’s basement looks a million dollars nicer than Kripp’s mom’s basement. I don’t really know.

Gaming Stocks

In stocks, I’m out of Akamai and Equinix now based on the charts and Apple’s announcement that they are building their own network, which is now the trend. This threatens to leave independent cloud-specialized providers very pressured.

Akamai broke down yesterday after a downgrade and the Apple news, since Apple is a big source of their revenue. The stock rebounded strongly today, however, I assume with rumors they might do a deal with Netflix, or something, and big pent-up demand for investors wanting this stock.

I’m also out of Blizzard. I’m holding AT&T, Valero, Gilead, Biogen, and Silver metal (Silver – that’s me – get it?) Never trade stocks on emotional sentiment or something as trivial as the stock being your online handle. Kitty covers ears.

If I own another gaming stock soon, it might be Sony through the EWJ (Japan) ETF. Blizzard had its run, and Electronic Arts is just no. It’s funny and curious that EA has these big sports franchises, but their product is literally killing sports and fattening asses. They might as well be selling cigarettes.

Weekly Wyrm ~ Toy Cars and Plutonium

Bethesda announced Fallout 4 today. The trailer is plain brilliant. We’ve got a strong character, a little story, and heart-touching emotion. Wait, a dog?! A dog is a great solution for a character that doesn’t favor one gender.

This is one of my favorite trailers ever, and Bethesda even stretched their usual under-two-minute effort by a whole 50%. IGN reports the game will take place in Massachusetts.

The 50s flashback sequences are creepy, given the increasingly real renewed threat of nuclear bombs recently. Think Russia’s lax security and non-existent ethics, Iran, Syria and terrorism.

I think it’s only a matter of time before New York City is blown up, which is why I won’t buy and hold a stock with a headquarters in New York. Crazy? You heard it here first on the Kitty.

Just yesterday I sold my stock in Activision Blizzard on the launch of Heroes of the Storm, and today they announced Planes, Boats, and Cars for Skylanders, to release this fall along with Guitar Hero Live. The stock took off again.

It’s a nice idea.

Disney made horrible headlines recently by laying off 200+ tech employees and replacing them with cheap workers from India, exploiting a government allowance for temp visas for tech workers. These temp visas are supposed to be for tech jobs that employers can’t fill, not to displace American workers.

Just disgusting, and I’m just now finding out about it. I’m probably selling Disney and buying back Blizzard. I really hate investing in software, and especially game companies trying to turn joyful innocent games into gambling, addiction, and kid-sploitation. I guess it’s inevitable, just like drones looking in our windows.

Jim Cramer talked video game stocks tonight on CNBC. He opines that EA, Activision Blizzard, or Take Two–any way you’re winning. I still like Blizzard because of Tencent’s 12% stake. I was watching an evil video on Chinese style game monetization, and the speaker said everything Tencent touches turns to gold.

Speaking of competition, Cramer talked about the sudden resurrection of Gamestop (the game store), which everyone had written off as dead due to download purchases. They’ve mutated into other areas (phones and Apple knockoff stores) and reported a shocking quarter.

Cramer also mentioned Gamestop’s 40 million Rewards members, and he called them “loyal”. No. Gamestop practically twists your arm to join.

No one is twisting my arm to write these blog posts, and my morale is falling with my visitors. My Rift Newbie guide visits are down about 50% YOY. I’ve been watching Hearthstone a bit on Twitch.

I finished the Blackrock Mountain expansion last week. It was satisfying fun, but I’m not motivated to keep playing the PvP game. I just don’t know where I’m going without a story, MMO-like progression, or character development.

Also with no story or story quests, I’ve stalled in Guild Wars 2 with my Guardian at the exact place I stopped with my Hunter – around level 35. I’ve been working hard on my novels, and I’m taking the summer off school.

I might make the 4th a gaming weekend and celebrate my freedom by doing nothing constructive. Happy gaming, whatever you’re playing!

Weekly Wyrm: Memorial Day Edition

death screen

Last night I was watching the newly released season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on Netflix. He was in Vietnam, interviewing a Vietnamese writer. The writer explained that his father was taken away and evidently killed during the war, but he didn’t know how or when.

He couldn’t do the usual death anniversary ceremony.

That sort of ancestor reverence, apparently common in Asian countries, is kind of cool. It reminded me of the ancestor worship in Morrowind. The native religion of ancestors and living gods is a really interesting lore aspect of the original Morrowind RPG. The music is so creepy in those old crypts!

Death is often an afterthought or annoyance in video games, something that makes us shake our fists and press the re-spawn button. I’ve never played a horribly hardcore MMO. Maybe the worst I’ve seen is to start the whole dungeon over if your group dies, which happened in the original Wizardry.

The recent Sony remake of Wizardry tried perma-death with PvP, and that didn’t turn out so well. Blizzard is winning partly because it doesn’t do dumb things like this, but mostly because of characters.

Look It’s Snowing Blizzard: Winning With Great Characters

This week Hearthstone topped the Twitch charts one day with 50k viewers for a tournament. The games are ending a little more quickly with the increasing card power, this kitty thinks.

I played the Heroes of the Storm beta a few weeks ago, and I actually liked it. The game genre is not for me, but it was fun to see the Blizzard heroes. HotS is in open beta now, by the way. Massively also reported on a HotS world championship, because we have to have one of those.

Blizzard is leading the way with its great characters, and that’s why it’s winning now: with characters, and building them. Some game companies are still trying to figure out how to write characters. (Although hiring great ‘characters’ to the dev staff is the next best thing.)

Trion really crafted Goboro Reef well with Arethea and her songs in Nightmare Tide, and Turbine did wonderfully with their own fellowship of Horn, Nona, and company in Rohan (having mostly abandoned the real fellowship, the dwarves, and the Rangers at that point).

To toss your best characters is to abandon the winning formula, in this kitty’s opinion. The story is only as strong as the characters.

I also saw Heroes of the Storm make an appearance in an Intel commercial on Jimmy Fallon on Monday. Intel is advertising 2-in-ones with Jim Parsons from Big Bang Theory. Blizzard also broke out a HotS fanart contest on Deviant Art this week. The contest has some decent $USD prizes.

The Wall Street Journal also reported this week on Skylanders by Activision, which has apparently earned $3 billion in global revenue. How do you make $3 billion dollars? By making plastic characters that you can magically put into a game.

Angry Joe And SuperGirl

I also enjoyed Angry Joe’s commentary on the Supergirl trailer this week. His commentary at the end about the edgy, conflicted comic book version of Supergirl vs. the TV version were very insightful character-wise.

I agree with Joe. If CBS turns Supergirl into a Pollyanna girl version of Clark, it’s a problem. There are reasons that teens flock to Twilight, and it isn’t because Bella is a good girl who is sweet but of course clumsy, but always charming and dedicated towards the morally correct thing.

Maybe CBS was afraid to make Melissa Benoist too blonde because of the dumb-blonde cliff they’re approaching, a reincarnation of Reese Witherspoon.

This is memorial day weekend in the States. So if you’re getting drunk, watching sports, and grilling dead animals for the kids to chew on, don’t forget to honor the ancestors who made it all possible.

And then log onto Battle.net and play the Heroes of the Storm open beta, or some Hearthstone. I’ll be doing Blackrock Mountain (finally since it’s now fully released), and Guild Wars 2, in between the personal projects. I wish this weekend were three weeks instead of three days.


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