Tag Archives: writing

Final Super-Amazing Post, Then KKBB On Break

World of Warcraft Westfall Quest
This is my final commentary for a while, and I plan to go out with a fizzle of glory. I’ve known for a while that live streaming was going to kill written bloggers, and that’s happening. Or maybe I just suck. Let’s go to bullet points, then praise World of Warcraft writing, and lastly talk stocks.

  • Scientific American reported last month on studies of brain changes in gamers. Gamers who play fast shooter-type games are shown to get various mental benefits:
    1. Improved ability to focus on visual details.
    2. Higher sensitivity to contrasts.
    3. Better reaction time to sudden events.
    4. Better making of correct decisions under pressure.
    5. Visual search improvement.

    I have to wonder if there are any drawbacks, however, versus controls. Are these gamers developing nervous disorders, sleeping more poorly, or overeating, for example.

    Scientific American also reported on the serious health risks of poor sleep, since scientists have discovered that brains flush toxins (like beta amyloid, responsible for Alzheimers’s) mostly during sleep, through the newly discovered “glymphatic system“.

  • Korean voice actress fired. She tweeted herself wearing a shirt that said “Girls do not need a prince”. The Mary Sue observes that South Korea is a painfully repressive country with low rankings in gender equality, and where supposedly 80% of young adults want to move somewhere else.In response to the charges, the young woman said: “she is willing to take responsibility if she did anything wrong.” My reaction is the same as Mary Sue’s – …..
  • Overwatch. Kotaku reported today on the strong characterization of Overwatch’s new heal/snipe character, Ana. Ana is a complicated, deep older woman, in contrast to all the young, pretty characters more common in games. The players apparently love Ana as a character, and that’s totally awesome. That’s Blizzard.
  • Gaming Hypnosis. The dark wizard Vive has produced two new gaming files: Healslut, which gives you a sexy submissive thrill of service and pleasure for healing in video games; and Blog!, which gives you a thrill of submissive service for writing up helpful blog posts … like this one.Remember these hypnosis files are no joke. They seem to “wear off” fairly quickly, but training the brain with pleasure can have long-term subtle influences.

World of Warcraft Writing: Exemplary


This week I re-subbed to WoW, and was playing through Westfall with a Shaman to unlock the Lady Liadrin paladin hero in Hearthstone. I also ran many dungeons with my lovable Death Knight.

The blog image above is exemplary of Blizzard’s game writing, so I took a screenshot when I saw it. Here are the great techniques this MMO quest dialog employs, aside from the cute name:

  1. Sums up the story in case you forgot. This is so important, yet all RPG’s routinely ignore the fact that players start and stop the storylines – very often.
  2. Involves you, the player. You’re actually a part of this story. You feel important. You’re called by a term of endearment, a rookie. It’s the norm for the player to go through the motions like a quest drone, a one-dimensional gopher.
  3. A mystery to solve.  The writing ploy often used in some MMOs, but just as often underused.  There should always be mysteries in game worlds. There should always be a sense that you’re seeing only the tip of a vast, dark iceberg.
  4. Using named and non-named characters. Some RPG’s (and writing by George Martin) overload you with character names. Biobreak posted a short, cryptic comment on this last week.That snippet of dialog from Durance in Pillars of Eternity made a great impression on me when I saw it in-game, because it’s so true. It’s important to only use so many proper names that the reader can brain. Everyone else’s name should be a generic yet clever, subtle device to give a greater impression of the game setting, its population, and its prevailing ways and emotions.

Game Stocks


NVidia soared yet another 2.7% today, which is insane. Intel had modest results this week, but cloud results so far this earning season have been extremely strong, so maybe that’s helping NVidia. I was close to breaking down and selling Nvidia yesterday to protect ridiculous profits. I’m glad I held.

Curiously, AMD is also up over 100% in the last year, but I was impatient and sold my little speculative stake long before that happened.

My #1 mistake, by far, in the stock market is being impatient, afraid, not being confident of my picks. I would be up thousands since last year in Amazon, AT&T, and AMD, if I’d simply held onto those picks since last summer and not panicked.

Microsoft’s (MSFT) stock had goblin rocket boosters this week after showing off their cloud results, which I’ve noted a number of times on this blog as a tailwind. If you’re in MSFT, you’re golden. Unfortunately, at some point the cloud ramp-up is going to level out. Cloud margins will compress under more and more competition.

On the other hand, cloud providers have security services on their side. I thought it was so stupid last year when Wall Street analysts were talking seriously about up-and-coming internet security companies like Palo Alto and FireEye. Those companies were soaring.

Not so much anymore. It was clear to this kitty that the big cloud companies would reap the biggest profits in security services. That’s happening.

On the other hand, the HACK ETF is showing some very solid chart strength lately, so that diversified internet security play is something to look at if you like that sector for a future cyberpunk world. It’s too bad they don’t have holdings in Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, but at least Purefunds has big trading volume in that ETF, unlike in GAMR.

So I remain in Google, which is a rear-runner yet to really ramp up their cloud, despite having a strong position, and in Alibaba, which has a huge lead in China cloud.

A number of U.S. companies in the last two weeks, like Starbucks, have affirmed a very strong China this quarter, so I’m glad so far that I have a 25% weighting, but not in an ETF, since I’m afraid of the banks and insurance companies, which weigh heavily in China ETFs.

My China picks are Alibaba, China Mobile, and Tencent. I’ve looked at the Chinese solar stocks for various good reasons, like massive China pollution problems, but those companies have had issues, including some big names wanting to pull out of the U.S. market completely for some reason. The solar ETF (TAN) still seems like a solid pick that offers investment in a diversification of international companies.

On the topic of energy, due to oil prices breaking down this week and lackluster earnings results from Kinder Morgan (KMI), I sold that stock at a modest $100 profit before taxes. This paves the way for adding a sentimental favorite refining stock (VLO or TSO) if they ever turn around.

My only defensive stock now is Verizon (VZ), which was up strongly today on news that they are a likely buyer of Yahoo assets. I’m not sure it should be up on that, but I’ll take it. I’m a long term heavy user of Yahoo-owned Tumblr, so it would be nice to be invested, even if it’s business-wise something of a failure.

So that’s my final post for a while. I think my stocks are set in stone unless there is a really massive collapse in August that would force me out of the market at break even, only to start all over.

If I were to look at gaming stocks right now, I might buy Electronic Arts (EA) during a significant selloff in August. Blizzard is really short on stock “catalysts” after their Legion expansion, while EA has a bunch of releases and press coverage coming this fall.

Any August investments, however, are subject to terrifying U.S. Fed interest rate whims in September. The market went off a cliff last December when the Fed raised interest rates even a quarter point.

Gaming stocks have become a playground lately for stock traders, and the significant moves on game releases are clearly a bit silly (i.e. see: Pokemon doubling Nintendo’s stock, Sony soaring on E3 and VR, etc.) I’m tempted to sell Blizzard now and switch to EA, but I’ve learned not to sell Blizzard.

So there isn’t much to talk about now. I’ll sit on my Kitty laurels with over 300,000 total views on this blog. I’ll watch readership of my famous LotRO and Rift Newbie guides continue to dwindle into history.

Cheers, and happy gaming. Be safe, and take care of your body every day. Also consider making some investments instead of going into credit card debt. Your older, uglier self will give you a big hug.

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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.


Kobold’s Corner: Pillars Of Eternity Impressions: NPC Writing

kobold deekinMMORPG published an article a few days ago: 5 Things MMOs Could Learn from Pillars of Eternity. It was good to see characters and story near the top of this list.

Some reader comments on the article are skeptical, suggesting that single player RPGs and MMOs are different categories, but no. Characters should be the #1 most important thing in anything fiction, and every video game is fiction.

No? When you think of Mortal Kombat, what comes to mind? The gameplay or the characters? What about driving games? GTA is the best-selling driving franchise of all time, edging out Mario Kart. And Mario Kart is called Mario Kart.

MMOs tend to overwhelm players with too many throw-away character names. Pillars of Eternity tries to avoid this trap. Instead of naming every villager, PoE just calls them villagers.

One of the companion NPCs in PoE, written by Chris Avellone, is the Grieving Mother. She doesn’t have a real name, but she has a long and detailed backstory. This seems to be a self-conscious experiment in naming conventions. When you meet Durance, the priest companion, he says to you:

“You probably find names as useless as I do… The names that litter this world like debris are hard enough to wrap around the tongue, and what do they matter? It’s what’s beneath the skin and the names I care about, what burns within.”

The character of Durance was also written by Chris Avellone. Just a coincidence? No.

Currently, standard MMORPG writing gives a new name to every little quest giver and NPC with a role to play in every quest hub, and you forget most of them. While playing Elder Scrolls: Online, I feel the game is a little guilty of this.

I’m currently playing through Pillars of Eternity with both a good and ‘evil’ party. I’m super-impressed, but I’m not ready for a full critique. I’ve noticed that PoE companions are ‘played slowly’ with their backstory. PoE does a great job with mystery and subtext.


So what can be improved?


Emotion. In Pillars, my favorite NPCs easily are the first ones you meet. You bond emotionally with them through hardship, and they have likeable voice actors. Then they die. Why?

The PoE developers have excellent reasons to kill off these characters: establishing a gritty world immersion through realism and starting a heartwrenching quest that strongly supports the main story. I would rather have Calisca alive, and have a likeable companion with motivation and serious things at stake (helping her sister).

A sympathetic emotional aspect is important for the player to bond with the NPC, and if there is one nitpick I’d have for Pillars, it’s that the permanent companion characters – so far – lack emotion, including sympathetic goals in life and a sense of humor.

Like every RPG, Pillars needs a friendly, likeable sidekick in the beginning of the game. Planescape has Morte. Baldur’s Gate has Imoen. Vampire:Bloodlines has Smiling Jack, who is my usual example. Neverwinter has Deekin (I don’t really remember when he shows, but he’s so cute and friendly in his picture.)

Fewer, more important named NPCs. I would advocate more quests given by a smaller number of NPCs who are central to the story. This means more traveling to visit the same NPCs again and again, but modern MMOs have that covered with maps, portals, and horses.

How many times have you done a lot of work for a faction, like vampire Bodhi in Baldur’s Gate, or the Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion? Now, how well do you remember those NPCs compared to every other non-affiliated NPC in the game world. You remember them better.

You have instant sympathy from being on the same team, plus the extra engagement of your own personal trials and judgement, instead of just helping someone else, plus the human desire to rise in the ranks.


Personal


This week I’m pushing yet another revision of novel #3, with my eyes set on finishing my fantasy trilogy, which matches The Lord of the Rings in written length.

After 15 years of effort, I have hopes that these highly-polished epics (i.e. 20-30 revisions over the years for each 130k+ word manuscript) will do better than my published short stories. This writing effort involved sacrifices of money, relationships, my previous job, and a big chunk of my adult life.


Weekly Wyrm ~ Kiss This, Blizzard. Pulitzer Prize For PoE.

pillars of eternity dialog imagePillars of Eternity released a week ago and received strong reviews online with a Metascore of 91%, handily slaying Dragon Age: Inquisition, which stands at a respectable 85%.

I just now purchased PoE, and I’m looking forward to playing it tonight. Obsidian released the first patch for PoE, 1.03 on Steam this morning.

The game is built on the Baldur’s Gate isometric Infinity Engine. The writing is supposedly brilliant. A reviewer on Steam said the writing team of Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer, Feargus Urquhart et. al. should win a Pulitzer Prize.

I watched Cohh stream PoE for a few hours last weekend. I was impressed by PoE, even if the game looks a little too familiar at times.

PoE uses a text/voice combo to convey the story, setting, and characters. Since the arrival of full voice-overs (ESO and SWTOR), I’ve really been a defender of text. I hope game history will show that a combo like PoE is better than full voice-overs.

PoE uses a writing style that includes a lot more action and emotes in the text than ‘normal’, which is very interesting. I personally use a lot of action tags (or beats), in my fiction.

pillars of eternity dialog imageAction conveyed through text may also offer a cheap substitute for facial animations in a game where you can’t see the faces well.

I remember facial animations being a part of marketing for Fallout 2, a game made way back in 1998 by the same developers as PoE, when Avellone and Urquhart were helming Black Isle Studios.

PoE is going on the cheap, replacing the animated faces with text descriptions (and probably an animator with a writer, which doesn’t happen often enough). PoE was kickstarted for 4 million. I wonder how that budget compares to Fallout 2.


Torment: Tides of Numenera


If you like PoE or this genre, don’t forget that Torment: Tides of Numenera is also scheduled to release this year, and it’s also a Chris Avellone (and others) writing production.

Torment is supposed to be “primarily story-driven, giving greater emphasis on interaction with the world and characters, with combat and item accumulation taking a secondary role.”

Tides also has an award-winning erotica writer on its staff, while PoE offers no scripted, evolving character romances. For me, this is a strike against PoE, and this issue literally pulled my paw back from the buy button at one point last weekend.

It’s fantastic to see this classic genre making a comeback. I’m worried that PoE has lots of strategic combat. Wave after wave of enemies were the reason I quit playing Wasteland 2 and Baldur’s Gate Enhanced, and also the reason I didn’t buy Diablo 3 on a 50% off sale last weekend.

Thankfully PoE offers an “easy” mode. So, we’ll see.

Escapist dropped an article this week on eight amazing isometric RPGs. I’ve played them all except Divinity. Torment should be on the list instead of Icewind Dale, in my opinion.


Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain


So what made me buy PoE today? Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain released yesterday.

I logged in ready to play what I’d paid for, but only one wing released. Why would I want to play just 20% of an 8-hour (or whatever) expansion, once per week, for the next month and a half?

I asked in the forums why Blizzard is releasing Blackrock strung out in little weekly pieces like a TV serial, and my legitimate question was insulted and buried in immature negativity.

Blizzard also put a new daily quest in Hearthstone this week – a quest that makes you watch a friend win a game to complete your quest. This quest isn’t a special one-timer.

It’s implemented on purpose to fill up one of your three slots – annoying you, hindering your questing, re-appearing if you reroll it, and most importantly – getting you to invite your friends.

Blizzard is also sweetening their expansion by advertising a “free” card back, while calling the card back a “limited edition” in their advertising. New card backs come out all the time. They have no real value.

I borrowed some ‘friends’ off of the forums, but this whole scene just feels really manipulative suddenly. Hearthstone is Free-To-Play, but I’ve been paying. For some reason I expected more class from Blizzard.


Elder Scrolls: Online


So I’m done with Hearthstone. I’ve just downloaded 14GB of Pillars of Eternity, and I’m also back playing Elder Scrolls Online.

I was happy to see a revamped starting sequence in Elder Scrolls that helps you establish a friend in Lyris and connect with real emotion. It’s working much better. The story is still a little opaque, but hardly more so than Rift, and it’s more personal.

In this week of headline news about Indiana’s new laws allowing religious discrimination against LGBTQ people, I’m also pleased to support Elder Scrolls because Zenimax/Bethesda supports the LGBT community. So happy gaming, whatever you’re playing.


More Reading on Pillars of Eternity:


Overview Video of Pillars of Eternity on MMORPG


Weekly Wyrm: Feb. 21, 2015

Last week I wound up Rift for a while. I have a raid-ready set of gear. I joined a large guild full of really nice people. I also successfully healed several expert dungeons as a Chloromancer for the guild group. They said I was really good!

Those were all of my goals. It’s time to focus on the novels. In recent weeks, I polished off ten years of work on my first two manuscripts. My second book is even better than the first, I think. I brought in more thoughtfulness and philosophy. It’s up to the readers to give the final verdict.

Now I’m trying to finish my third book so I can publish the trilogy all at once. I can’t publish only the first two because the second book throws such a tragic ending and cliff-hanger in the reader’s lap. It’s The Empire Strikes Back on crack.

The third book resolves the main romance arc (not the overall main story arc, which ends in my manuscript for book five, concerning vampires), and also addresses big questions in my head about love and desire.

Is it a good idea to hold love above all things? What sorts of love exist, and how can fictional characters be properly tortured by these sorts of love? Fiction writers are sadists at heart.

I shy away from too much horror. It’s a fantasy, after all. I don’t like books to be too depressing. We have real life for that. We also have old school, when things were more grim, when we had plagues, wars, and fires that destroyed entire sections of cities.

Actually, my books have a stereotypical world-ending plague, lots of fires, and the greatest war of all, the one between good and evil, so never mind.

On that topic, I’m also wanting to get back to the elven spiritual path. I want to read poetry and spend more time in the woods. I’m house sitting out near the mountains in a few weeks. I might have to take a few long walks.

The motivation to make this post was to try Tumblr’s new “EMBED” feature for HTML and Javascript. Surely this can’t possibly work on this free WordPress blog, but if it does, then the GIF files will show below. The question in this kitty’s head is: Why hasn’t anyone done a cats and dogs MMO? Would it be so much more boring than pirates and wizards? You heard it first here on Kitty Kitty.

(Ok, it looks like they give you a link if the script fails. So there you go. As if boys needed more encouragement to act like animals.)

http://thinkthroughtheheart.tumblr.com/post/68887226991/10knotes-kiggor-what-if-your-friends-acted