Spicing Prose, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue III, Oh My…

Just a quick plug: Superhero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight from Emby Press has been released for Kindle (and is expected to be print a little later), which contains the origin tales for the forthcoming Outliers universe. Expect a more formal announcement with the upcoming catalog for the summer season.

Sutton_Hoo_helmet_reconstructedOn Monday the 15th of June, I wrapped up the last major edits for the novel. For this round, anyway…

The work still isn’t complete but I can count the number of hours it requires with one hand. A beta reader has been providing invaluable input and is only seven chapters from completing the entire book.

However I discovered a slight problem. I’ve been tracking ratios and numbers of superfluously applied words and realized that “glance,” “look,” “up”, “gaze” and “upon” were serious offenders, often being cited almost a hundred times. “Eyes” too. I’m a huge proponent of body language during dialogue, although I recognize that not everyone is attentive to subtle hints. The next time I juggle multiple characters, I’ll probably adjust the passages involving facial expressions and gestures to reflect how observant the POV character is of people.

I spent two hours last night undergoing a process I’ll call a “Thesaurus Spicing.” But it’s not enough to locate and replace every other use of those words; I also had to check if I repeated the same phrase on a page and decide how often I can tolerate their re-occurrence. Once every three to five pages was occasionally acceptable. Once every ten to fourteen pages is perfect. But spotting the word two or three times on the same page? Pass the paprika please.

With regard to ratios, I considered the difference between a short story and a novel. A short is, at maximum, 10,000 words but often stands at a range of 6,000 to 8,000. The novel’s size is something just over 80,000 words (and shy of 300 pages, just the right length.) So word recycling is a bigger deal in a book— one can’t allow the reader get bored! Even if the same word is used a full 100 times (which I’ve reduced to 40 to 50 now), that’s just .1% of the overall manuscript which really isn’t that bad. The problem then is really about the literary lumpiness.

The real problem of Thesaurus Spicing is when you accidentally place an alternate word or phrase that already appears nearby. So when you modify the manuscript, you have to double check any previous queried and updated passages. The only downside is that I’m going to need to quickly skim through the entire manuscript a final time before submitting the finished product to my waiting publishers.

The end of editing came at a strange time. I heard of not one but two highly wished for titles being announced; Shenmue III and the long coveted Final Fantasy VII remake. As if Fallout 4 and Doom 4 weren’t awesome enough.

final-fantasy-vii-remakeI’ve been cynical about the possibility of a remade Final Fantasy VII before, and according to some sources so were Square-Enix’s board. Yet as I mulled on the possibility, I realized that the game only needs two things to be acceptable.

The first is a good battle system since the ATB (Active Time Battle) mechanisms of yesteryear are a touch dated for the new generation. Still if they add a “classic” battle option with ATB instead of whatever nouveau system Square-Enix conjures, they can probably satisfy old school fans as well as the fresh ranks of players. If I recall correctly, Star Ocean II did something similar.

The other requirement is faith to the original story, including the weird quirks like the brothel in Midgar and some of the side quests. Unfortunately I think that’s the one request we won’t get. Final Fantasy VII has had a number of peripheral spin-offs and additions, like Advent Children and especially Crisis Core, which shoehorn new details into the original story. I doubt the canon will remain unscathed.

But with regard to Shenmue III, it’s just so awesome that KickStarter can bring to life that which otherwise would not be. What a time to be alive.

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Ouya and London (No Relation)

You are so small! Is funny to me!

You are so small! Is funny to me!

I’ve been quietly watching the Ouya with growing respect.

The Ouya is a new console due out in about six months. Best described, it’s an attempt at a console revolution: free-to-play games, open source, no licensing needed for developers, hardware modifiability. It uses the Android 4.0 operating system, has a USB 2.0 port, ethernet and can allow for up to four wireless controllers.

Ouya got its start thanks to a promising Kickstarter campaign that brought in over $8.5 million in seed money from over 63,000 backers. So far, the list of confirmed games is somewhat small, but they still have six months to gather partners. They also have a few mentionable names thrown around, such as Square Enix’s Final Fantasy III (confirmed) and Minecraft (in discussion).

Ouya’s biggest selling point is it’s potential: the development creativity of the PC meets the accessibility of the living room console. You know those addictive flash games you play on Newgrounds? Imagine if you could play them on your television with up to four friends.

Skeptics are not wrong when they point to the long list of failed consoles, such as the Turbo Grafix-16 and 3DO as cause for concern. Ouya is competing with three major giants in Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, and that’s not including the diverse and somewhat independent PC gamer types. But Ouya has time to get its act together before its release date in March of 2013.

No promises as to whether I’ll get it, but I’ll be watching.

Oh, and I’ll be heading to London in November.

P.S. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Valve Software will open up its free-game selection from Steam to Ouya. If nothing else, then just Team Fortress 2. Given Valve’s recent move to produce for Linux, it’s safe to assume that the eggheads at Valve are at least scratching their chin about it…

Final Fantasy VII Remake Explained

History repeats! But not for these guys...

History repeats! But not for these guys…

Both Kotaku and IGN have released stories about the shareholders meeting over at Square Enix. And the reasoning they provide as to why they haven’t created a remake actually makes perfect sense: They have yet to make a Final Fantasy better than VII financially and critically anyway. Although in all fairness, the most financially successful Final Fantasy was the first MMORPG, XI.

I had to add financially and critically. There’s always that guy who is quick to say, “FF7 was not my favorite,” as though their opinion obviously meant all the difference in the world.

So the gist of what we’re told is that if they do a FF7 remake before topping the game, then the Final Fantasy series is finished. That would be admitting that they cannot do any better than their crown jewel of the past. So until Square Enix is in a dire financial situation or they finally do come out with a title that tops FF7, it’s not going to happen.

I, however, have a slightly different theory as to why Square Enix doesn’t want to do it. Pride.

Hironobu Sakaguchi left the company Squaresoft in 2004, after the colossal bomb that was Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. Although he did not direct a game since FFV, his creative touches were felt in the well remembered VI and VII (and several others). To not make a game better than those Sakaguchi helped to create is to admit that they will never be as successful as they once were.

And that’s not a message of weakness Square Enix would want to send.

Additional Music for Writing

I do this for Aiur! ... Wait, wait, wrong game.

I do this for Aiur! ... Wait, wait, wrong game.

So a day ago, Narravitium and I were chatting about the works of Aaron Dembski-Bowden. I mentioned that his book titles Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver made me wonder if they were influenced by the Legacy of Kain game series. Oh no, of course the Night Lords legion aren’t vampires, but they damn well feel like them sometimes.

Still, it’s a stretch of the imagination. But the plus side is that I remembered some damn fine music for writing. So I raided my old game collections to find some ideas. Time for a nostalgic trek.

  1. Ozar Midrashim, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver OST.
    I certainly liked the Legacy of Kain series. They were not the best made games technically, but the story was solid and involving and the puzzles were a turn on. I hear rumors, unconfirmed, that a reboot maybe in the works but we shall see. This link is actually both Ozar Midrashim and the ending credit music, but both are quite good. It’s an incredible piece that screams “war against the light” in my mind.
  2. Artificial Sky, Armored Core 3 OST.
    Armored Core is another of my favorite game series and has a faithful cult following. Both my brother and I loved playing it. I like the customizations and the nice multiplayer aspect to it. I await the day that the developers really create an end-all game that is fully networked for co-op and competitions. I may talk about the background of Armored Core in a later blog entry. You may also want to check out Precious Park but it has lyrics.
  3. Contra Rock-Metal Remix, by Vomitron.
    Contra is one of the most beloved of games by testosterone junkies. Imagine a movie with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in their prime, killing alien possessed humans and no limit to the amount of ammunition. And then forget the movie and just turn it into a game, and that is Contra. Sadly, a lot of these old school NES game series have not transitions as well to newer consoles. But someday, someone will do it right. Maybe a game that mixes first and third shooting with side scrolling levels and…
  4. The Legend of Zelda Orchestrated, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
    I loved the old school Zelda games. The newer ones took the series in a slightly different direction. That, and they kept pumping them out non-stop. The over-franchising kind of ruined it for me, but I don’t hold it against people who love it anyway.
  5. Staff Credit, Final Fantasy Tactics OST.
    Sigh. I love this song. It reminds me of the challenges I faced, the characters, the story and plot that were deeper than an ocean. It makes me nostalgic for the first game I ever owned on the Playstation and, to this day, one of the greatest games I will ever play. I know, I know, new titles for Final Fantasy Tactics came along, but they just weren’t as incredible from what I played. The direction Square Enix has taken the Final Fantasy series in general has been too goofy for me. But I still have my classics.
  6. Love Song, Dragon Warrior 2 OST remixed.
    Old school as they come, Enix software was the only real competition Squaresoft had in NES RPGs for quite a while. The first game was simple, but they got better, adding parties and abilities and developing better stories and characters. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to listen to this song.
    But thou must!
    But thou must!
    But thou mu- okay, I’ll stop now.

    I really hope this line is used in The Dark Knight Rises.

    I really hope this line is used in 'The Dark Knight Rises'.

  7. Batman Level 1 Remix, by Farmhouse Media.
    Sunsoft made a decent platform game when it brought the Batman series to the NES. But the one thing that has stuck with the gamers throughout the years has been the very impressive soundtrack that came with it. Take a hard look at the sheer number of remixes for that game. That, and the fact that he’s the goddamn Batman.
  8. Megaman X – Storm Eagle Theme Remix, by Chikusho Sound Team.
    There are many harder and faster remixes than the one issued by Chikusho Sound Team. But I pulled myself back and reminded myself that the music I’m finding is primarily for writing. If you want something more intense however, check out the Powerglove Remix version.
  9. Double Dragon theme, by NESkimos.
    If there was anyone I’d want to see do a Double Dragon remake, it actually would be Rockstar Games. And I’d want them to reboot the series, adding some moral grey areas that let the player decide between being the good or bad, taking over gangs and the streets or helping people out. And as a result, which of the two brothers you are at the end of the game. The Warriors on PS2 was both my favorite game and one of my favorite movies. That sir, is a remake and franchised game done right.
  10. Main Theme Orchestrated, Secret of Mana OST.
    So too many of my themes have really focused on pumping up their audience. This one is much slower, much more mystical. The game itself was mystical as well, being a 3-player RPG that my buddy Ben and I played throughout our youth. It was a colorful game, a very basic fantasy story. It’s a shame that future titles just did not deliver like the first one, but I’ll never forget the first title.