Steaming up the Summer

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The Steam Summer Sale is on. Go. Buy things. I highly, highly recommend the cheaper Don’t Starve as it’s getting a multiplayer version this September. I intend to buy like 3 copies to give to friends.

It’s been a productive month. Not crazy, “I just finished five books and learned the guitar” productive, but a steady progression of words down, pitches readied, business, working out and so on. A really balanced approach to problems and progress towards what I want to finish.

The super hero novella quarterly pitch, which we’re calling the Outlier Universe for now, has been fired to our potential publisher. It’s amazing what happens when you get five guys to sit down and come up with a shared story. But we’ve got it all: Realistic government agencies built in reaction to these strange events, a philosophically charged organizations whose splinter cells engage in anything from small time crime to straight terrorism.

We’ve got fleshed out characters with plenty of personal inclinations and reasons to be involved, big time “Billionaire’s Clubs” who find ways to turn the changing circumstances to their advantage. And a designer drug that causes new characters and dangers to come out of the woodwork.

And all of this takes place in the same universe. The events influence each other. Envisioned stories flow back and forth from smaller, personal pieces to address changing view points and philosophies to larger, meaningful epics. And whenever possible, connecting how the former relates to the latter. It’s kind of the ultimate power trip to see a person’s opinion on matters have such a potentially powerful impact.

What I love the most is that we don’t do run-of-the-mill origin stories either. The moral compass isn’t clearly defined, and many of our so called heroes have some shady backgrounds. But we haven’t reached that point in our timelines of introducing the ultimate evils yet. And I don’t know what will happen to our gray characters when that shadow falls upon them.

Another thing the guys and I haven’t addressed yet is what happens when a character dies. Marvel and DC Comics have tendencies to resurrect the dead all the time, which seems to make all violent struggles nigh pointless in the long run. I’m more inclined to bury my characters when they die unless there is an extremely, compelling reason and a steep price tag to bring them back (and for us, that “price tag” will probably include nothing less than a complete story, which is expensive to the writer’s time.) What’s the point of death if it isn’t permanent?

But one way or the other, we’re ready for some damn fine story telling.

The novel writing however, is slow going. I got on a roll and finished two and a half chapters, but there are still 24.5 more to go. I’m fairly happy with the direction, but as I write I wonder, “What if I shifted this chapter here and this one there? Or cut up and reshuffled these chapters so they more evenly tell the story?”

Once the novel is through the beginning I’m happy with the way it flows. But the opening tends to be lump, preferring one group of characters over the others. But that’s an issue for editing and it’s more important to just get the words down for now.

By the way, have you seen “Expiration Date” from the Team Fortress 2 development team?

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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…

The Best of All Worlds

demand this in wallpaper form. It’s like Mass Effect meets Team Fortress 2‘s Pyroland meets Portal. Snowballed into goddamn AWESOME EFFECT.

There was a picture posted here early, but I decided to remove it out of respect for the artist. I wasn’t asked, I just changed my mind.

The State of Entertainment

Reading: The Vampire Genevieve by Jack Yeovil (real name Kim Newman)
Playing: Portal by Valve / Diablo III by Blizzard
Watching: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Sure, I could and have gotten more eclectic mixes of entertainment before. But as far as my current RPW, this is pretty strange. Let’s do it from top to bottom.

So far, I’m well over five hundred pages into The Vampire Genevieve. The anthology is a few short stories and at least three novels (Based on the anthology’s structure, this isn’t exactly clear to me yet). The first two novels were quite good but were started to create a predictable pattern: Stage manager Detlef throws a play. His lover, reasonably good natured vampire Genevieve, happens to be around and lend a hand when some evil rears its head. The third book is a murder mystery that I’ve not finished yet.

One thing of interest is that the name, Genevieve Dieudonne, has been used multiple times by the author in other writing with many traits maintained. This unusual aspect makes Genevieve less of a written character and more a fictional actor.

I admired how Newman dived into the cultural aspects of Warhammer, creating a lot of background fluff amongst the fictional writers and plays in the fantasy universe. The names of plays and artists thrown out create some details that can be mentioned in future work, as to both create a greater sense of connectivity within Warhammer fiction and to “tip one’s hat” at a senior writer.

Diablo III has slowed down for me. I still play, but my Barbarian reached something of a dead end for now. I do not have the cash to purchase the goods he needs to really hack it in Hell difficulty, nor am I having much luck with my drops. My Demon Hunter however, is excelling considerably. So I’ve decided to stick with him for the time being.

Portal has received almost two hours of my time, and I suspect that I’m nearly finished playing. For me, it’s only a matter of catching up with the popular culture I’ve skipped out at. It was available for $5 thanks to Steam’s summer sale, so I grabbed it.

I think the most amusing aspect of Portal is how it challenges the player’s perception of narration. The last few years, many players have been sucked into being “told what to do” at all times by the games themselves. Come here. Do this. Do that. I would imagine dropping $50 to be told what to do is… rather lacking.

Being given an objective is fine. Being told with detailed instructions is not. I think a metric Steam should have captured was how many players failed to act when they saw the fire pit nearing them after the first part of the game. It would have greatly begged the question of just how many players are thinking for themselves. I’m all for breaking the fourth wall to make people think and act, and not just do what they’re told.

I’ll let you know if I finish watched Audrey Hepburn’s flippant mannerisms.

Idea for Meet the Pyro

Mm mmm'mph mrph mm mmrrr!

Mm mmm'mph mrph mm mmrrr!

Dear Valve,

If you are reading this, then I must first claim that I am not responsible for any loss of hair or sanity as a side effect of your literary tastes. But more importantly, I wanted to suggest an idea for consideration for the upcoming (someday) “Meet the Pyro” video.

I recognize the difficulty in creating a video usually narrated by a guy who doesn’t even speak beyond the muffling sounds of his mask. So! Rather than do the usual thing, involving either narration or some long, many drafted idea like the “Meet the Medic” piece, I thought…

Why not make “Meet the Pyro” a music video? This would skip over the difficulties in narration for Pyro and give a great backdrop to show off the Pyro’s skills and abilities. And it preserves the Pyro’s mystic.

As a matter of fact, I could think of one particular song that not only fits the Pyro, but also kind of touches upon the whole concept of where Team Fortress 2 has been and where it’s going. That song being Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire“.

I understand if this cannot be done because of difficulties obtaining the rights to the song. But TF2 has been around for some time and if this is the last video coming out for the classes, I figure why not go out with a fiery bang?

What has two thumbs and writes sincerely?

-This guuuuuuuuuuuuuuy

5 Things I Want in Space Marine

A fan should enjoy the game and yet always ask for more. It’s not greed, but a desire not to let a developer relax their laurels. So after some thought, I put together five ideas of content to add to Space Marine, of which two I scratch out for reasons I explain, leaving three potentially good ideas and two ideas which need work.

What would M. Bison say about this? Click on the picture to find out...

What would M. Bison say about adding this guy to Space Marine? Click on the picture to find out...

  1. Terminators.
    Shadowhawk and I had a quick, enlightening discussion about how it should work. I offered two ideas. One was a single Terminator for a team, which spawns for the person making the most kills that match. The second idea was simply for it to be a class who cannot sprint, roll or use grenades. Instead, the Terminator gains more powerful weaponry like the Heavy Flamer, and Storm Bolter each with Power Fist. Since Terminators are both Chaos and Imperial, it balances. Adding Terminators also brings us too…
  2. Space Hulk.
    If you’re going to do a four player co-op mode where you smash AI controlled bad guys, do it right I say! Sure, Exterminatus is going to be fun, but everyone aches for the suicidal charges, firing down long halls and orgy of destruction that is Space Hulk. Four Terminators, one Space Hulk and a boat load of Gene-stealers on a suicide mission… If you really want to do something cool, make it five players with the fifth one controlling the Gene-stealers.
  3. Scouts.
    A lighter class, faster with an easier load out of equipment? For sure! It’s easy to imagine a nimbler character with a smaller missile launcher or sniper rifle. At least, until you realize that Chaos has no equivalent. Indeed, no one is entirely sure how the recruitment process for Chaos works, though there are many reasonable theories. Some could offer a substitute class, such as a Mutant or a twisted traitor Guardsman. But Mutants are generally random and it would suck to be an ordinary man, and not very canonical to imagine he could fight a Scout on equal terms. As I mentioned before, there were five ideas but two I shot down myself. Scouts were one of them.

    Hey, I'll take a Tank if they won't give us a Dreadnought...

    Hey, I'll take a Tank if they won't give us a Dreadnought...

  4. Dreadnoughts.
    Imagine, if you will, that once a round, each side gets access to a Dreadnought. It happens at the same time, with the highest scoring player respawning as a Dreadnought with unbelievable fire power and intense hit points. Kind of like the Tank from Left 4 Dead 2. Such a development might necessitate the use of melta bombs as a means to counter it on foot.
  5. Random classes.
    Again, another idea I had to scratch. At first I thought it was a decent one to choose from being an Assault Marine, Tactical or Devastator. But then I sat back and realized, it’s a bad idea.

    Truth be told, not every map is made for every class option. Some have lots of low ceilings which hurt Assault Marines and Raptors. Others are small stages which really hurt Stalker Pattern Bolter carrying Tacticals or Las-cannoned Devastators who benefit from ranged fire fights. No, Random classes I think are a terrible idea. Hence, it’s an idea I put forward that I now scratch.

    So there you have it. I can’t claim that Valve doesn’t influence my game design thinking, but the fact is that Valve makes fun games. Everyone can learn a thing or two from them.