November 17, 2012

NaNoWriMo update: Life is such a distraction

At first I was not writing in the blog because of the fact I was actually making a lot of headway with NaNoWriMo, and didn't want to suffer burn out.

And then out of nowhere, I did.

I think it was a combination of factors--I volunteered to do extra things for my LARP (will be posting about that soon), I had a whole weekend of friends when I usually work, and my schedule is now topsy-turvy with the holidays and scrambling to get ever last paid vacation day off.  Yeah, those can sneak up on you, at least until you kids from what I see.

On top of that I have a lot of things I would like to write about here, and at a point I was feeling guilty since I should be working on my NaNoWriMo story.  But I've decided that's a silly thing--I love the blog and I love my readers I have gathered the short time I've been doing it, so I can't abandon you!

Right now I'm right under 8,000 but I'm not going to give up.  I want to finish this story and I also want to get to the goal, but the first is a little more important than the second.  I will have a lot of time off around Thanksgiving, I'm hoping to catch up then, but we'll see.

I should be able to do this, anybody who went to college is able to write 50,000 words, right?

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween or NanoWriMo Eve!

Readers, I've been having a serious case of writer's block, but it is actually a good time to do it--I'm going to try National Novel Writing Month again.

I need to.  Certain habits of mine have died down, and I think if I force myself to write more, they;ll come back, and I'll be a happier person and better writer for it.

Please feel free to read my twitter, @d20sapphire, as I update.  I'm trying to do the 1667/day goal, or possibly more when I have more time.  The thing is this will force me to make more time, and if I get into that habit, I'll finally be able to chuck out some of these stories that have been floating in my head for years, over a decade for some.

Wish me luck!  And those of you joining me, all the luck to you as well!

P.S. no Halloween Costume, but tonight I'll be joining nerdy friends for a game of either Microscope, Final Girl or Zombie Cinema.  I'll let you know how it goes!

October 17, 2012

Finally watched season 2 of The Walking Dead

In fact I finished the season a little over a week ago but I just didn't get a moment to sit down and compose my thoughts.  I wanted to do it before Season 3 premiered.  Oops!

Season two of The Walking Dead did not kick nearly as much ass as the first season did.  In fact, a recent photoplasty from Cracked.com explains a good half of the problem.



I was so excited to see crazy situations that would push survivors to brink.  I was excited to see who was going to bite the dust, and who was not.  I was excited to see what fucked up situation would involve creativity and strength and endurance.

Less than half the season was about that.

The first two and the last two episodes had a lot of the same things I loved in the first season.  Starting with the scene of people hiding under the cars, and ending with Rick announcing to everyone that this whole group was no longer a democracy, that was the kind of drama in an apocalyptic setting.  But instead what we got was a lot of people yelling at each other.  Or even worse, just nagging back and fourth.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I don't get how many times the writers thought they should talk about life questions: "opting out" of the harsh existence, continuing the human race despite this horrible setting, the treatment of those who have wronged and been wronged.  But in this type of drama, you really only need to devote 30 minutes of conversation to it before you have to put some serious action in.  You don't need 3 suicide moments, you don't need a love triangle that lasts almost the ENTIRE FUCKING SEASON and seems to be one sided.  You can only have the character you hate be right so many times until the audience says "Hey you stupid characters!  He's crazy but he's going to save you're life!  Shut up this time!"

It seems like the writers were forced to think about character development and hit a brick wall.  And another one.  And then another one with a piano falling on their heads.  Shane was a great example.  He could've been there to show us that survival was harsh and cruel in this new zombie world, that you can be complexly conflicted with what you have to do to live and who you want to be.  Instead, Shane was just vilified left and right.  Every chance they had to redeem him got swept away by him being a huge asshole, and most of the time for no damn reason.  We see the main characters make horrible survival choices, romantic endeavors prioritized in the story over other interesting lines, characters good points written poorly and bad points overemphasized.  I still watched all of it because I loved the characters from the last season, but Angie's angst, Daryl's whining, and the disgraceful inconsistencies in Lori's every action in every episode had me pulling my hair out.  And to top it off, the women were poorly written for this season, except Maggie, who wasn't great but just okay.

The setting being stuck on Herschel's farm also slowed everything down, which must have been intentional on the writer's part to use it as a place to station half the season as monologue central.  And that was a huge contribution to it dragging.  Notice how the episodes that were best for the season consistently mostly either off the farm or getting off the farm.  The magic, idyllic famrhouse was not the best place to really progress the story or the characters, they stagnated.  The zombie drama does best with the idea that NOWHERE is safe for even a significant amount of time.  You must keep alert and keep struggling if you want to live.  We lost that appeal early on.

The end of the last episode really did save it for me.  We see Rick struggle over doing the right thing (and almost fuck up royally every single time) and never get any gratitude .  It is about time for him to tell everyone to either put up or shut up.  So I'm excited to see where season 3 takes us (and again, not waiting as long as I did for Season 2) but they better learn from their mistakes from season 2.  If they don't, I will not be watching this next season through.

October 8, 2012

Fantastic nerdy birthday haul!

I would've posted on Friday if it wasn't for me having a joint my birthday slash my mother's CPA party.  Oh yeah, by the way my mother is a CPA!  She passed every test!

Since Friday was the party I didn't get some  of my awesome nerdy swag until later.  It includes:

-A poster of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Super-Heroes! comic, when they first fought Loki, God of Evil.  I need to frame it.

-A couple of puny That's What She Said beer glasses.  If you know me in person you know it's one of my favorite jokes to pull.  Granted not every five seconds like a teenager.

-A bottle of Stark Raving Red, which looks like it has a picture of a mad steampunk scientist on it.  I love me some red wine.

-A Twilight card from friends who were amused to annoy me.

-Dice from Mystic, because he knows that d20s are a girl's best friend.

A very decent nerdy hall this year.

October 3, 2012

Once Upon A Time: Something I should've written about months ago

Around the same time I was giving Grimm a chance was the same time that Once Upon a Time came out on the scene.  I was more excited about Grimm just because of how one friend had described the premises of both shows.  I was also afraid that it would be too close to Fable, the comic book series that I read a bit of when a friend lent it to me in college.  By the way, what I read was also pretty good if you're into non-superhero based comic series.

But then you may remember when I decided not to go back to Grimm, and at that point a different friend was telling me about how amazing Once Upon a Time is.  I went on hulu and I decided to catch up.

The first season is probably one of the best written dramas on television I have ever seen.  I sincerely mean that, as someone who appreciates a lot of great shows from the past and present.  Recently comedies have been getting a lot of the writing talent, with a few dramas surviving the test of time.  Lost and a couple others have been able to survive, but very few have been able to.  Oh my god, I don't  remember if I ever told you about the time I tried to keep up with The Event, but that was painful.  Very painful!

Once Upon a Time's first season revolves around the strange happenings in Storybrooke, which happen around the time Emma, our hero who is unaware of her fate, turns 28.  Henry, her son she gave up for adoption ten years before, finds her and lures her back.  He is convinced that the people of Storybrooke are fairy-tale characters that have been cursed to this little town, and that his adoptive mother, Regina, is the evil queen that sent them there.  Emma writes this off as a child who's very attached to this book he just read.

But Henry is right.  And as the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, Emma is the only way to break the curse.

Through season one you don't only see the fairy-tale characters coping with these new lives they don't realize they've been stuck in for the last 28 years, you see who they were before and the kinds of characters they were.  And because ABC is able to play with the Disney universe, you see references to  your favorite interpretations to the lore you grew up with.  Each episode shows the background of a character and their present situation.  I was so impressed that almost every episode had a twist that I did not see coming.  You get totally invested in the characters you love and the characters you hate.  Both are written with great depth and thought.  Hearkening back to Grimm, there was not a "Hitler is a Werewolf" moment. The cast is also fantastic.  They are definitely great at portraying their characters consistently through the show, which is vital.  My personal favorite is Rumpelstiltskin as played by Robert Carlyle.  He gets down the mischief concealing his power plays pretty well.   All around it was a great package.

Here is my suggestion to you if you haven't done so already: watch all of Season One.  Netflix has it now, and if you have hulu plus you may be able to get it there too.  Watch it IN ORDER because the season is soooo well written that you have to watch it in order to appreciate the universe in it's entirety.

I just saw the first episode of season two, and it has taken the show into some dark places pretty fast.  I am sure they've got an idea on how they want to do this, it's just not where I expected it to go.  After you're caught up on season one, watch season two.  Please feel free to let me know what you think of it.  Seriously, shoot me an email about it!  It's the kind of show that's great watching it on your own, but even better if you have someone to chat about.

October 1, 2012

Guild Wars 2: Yes you should play it.

My asura had a tree climbing phase. 
It's really hard to write anything when you have a game as well made as Guild Wars 2 waiting for you to play.  I didn't get a chance to play it's predecessor, but Mystic liked it so he convinced me to try Guild Wars 2.  I never did the MMO thing before (other than a brief foray into Star Trek: Online that didn't impress me) so I promised Mystic I would give Guild Wars 2 a try.  I have to say, I'm glad I've waited until this game to get into them.

Let me go over the basics.

Of course you start with character creation, which has some fantastic options.  The face and hair choices for each race are a little limited right now, but that's something I'm sure they'll expand upon later.  It's pretty easy to get a character you think looks awesome and that you'd like to play.  You choose a race (human, norn, sylvari, charr, and asura) and a profession (necromancer, mesmer, elementalist, ranger, engineer, thief  guardian and warrior) and the get to customizing.  Again, not the best range in choices for some things but you are able to make a choice in every facet of your character's look.  Your first set of armor is selected for you and you have a base set of colors, but over time you are able to collect dyes that will help you personalize the colors of your armor even more.

After you know your character looks great, a quick introduction story gets you a easy to follow tutorial where you start already playing with people.  From there you're dropped off at a starting place for your race and free reign to explore!

The tasks that you can pick to gain experience are scattered all throughout the map, indicated with gold hearts.  As you get close it'll let you know what you can do to help with the task, which is usually one of several things.  Yes you can get significant XP without having to kill everything in site, and you don't get punished severely if you do just want to kill everything you can.  You also get rewarded for reviving other players and NPCs, and for crafting.

Oh man crafting.  You can cook, sew, build, smith, and smelt a ton of items that you'll find around the Guild Wars 2 world.  Cooking is popular for helping you level up fast, and jewelry is a craft people like to take to they can make some serious coin.  I personally like being able to make my own armor.  It's also super easy to pick up and learn how to make new things.  You'll be given some basic recipes but soon you'll be able to discover a ton more.  Not sure what to do with that new shimmering dust you got?  See what ingredients you can mix with it!  You can only practice two crafts at a time but if you leave one for a while and pick it back up, you'll start where you left off.

The best thing is that this is an MMO where you don't need to go out of your way to play with people you know.  Your story line is a well written plot where your choices matter, sometimes more than other popular games that used to advertise how much your choices matter.  No one story will be exactly the same unless you go out of your way to imitates someone's preferences.  It also makes it more interesting to go back and play as a different character, you know you're not repeating a lot of the same stuff.   Along with a well written story to keep you playing when your friends are not, you also have loot that is individualized and incentives for working with people.  Again, revives give you XP, so why not help your fellow gamer?  And if a stranger helps you with a kill, you both get XP for trying to kill the same thing.  It's like the looked at all the annoying things in MMOs that frustrate people and improved upon them. A gaming company that listens?  The world's ending!

And if none of that convinced you, I will leave you with a video of all the different dances of Tyria.  There is no shame in buying a video game merely to have your character dance.  No shame I tell you!


September 28, 2012

Belated Birthday Wish for the future

Yesterday I celebrated turning 26 years of age.  Woot!  I did make a wish off my birthday cake that I did not share with anyone and refuse to until it comes true.  But it's not the only wish I make.

The news that warp drives may actually be possible returned a hope in me that I didn't remember since I was a child.  Space was a place that was magical and fun.  You could float!  You would discover new things!  You may even meet aliens!  Why wouldn't a child want to go?  Many of us were taught to reach the stars.  Why not reach literal stars?

As you get older you realize the reality of that dream.  Space is cold.  You need a lot of fuel.  You need food.  And you have to build an efficient shelter to sustain yourself.  Space travel is hard work!  How are you supposed to do it?  They make it look so easy on Star Trek!

Now it can be easy like Star Trek.

So I wish out loud a long term wish, which is part of the reason I feel safe saying it.  Because it's not a wish you can put a little hope out in the universe and pray to yourself it hooks on to something good.  It's a wish that's going to take a lot of dedication, a lot of work from the right people.

I wish that my grandchildren will be able to comfortably live on Mars.

September 26, 2012

The Art of Video Games: Why you should see it.


Part of the reason I haven't posted in what seems like forever (have you missed me?) is because I was getting ready for a trip to the D.C. area to see family there with Mystic.  He met some family there for the first time and it went great!  But we also wanted to go to D.C. to see The Art of Video Games, which is only at the American Art  Museum until September 30th.  And it was amazing.


Above is the screen you could see on your way in.  A video which showed a bunch of the video games featured in the section.  It was a small three room exhibit the power of it was immediate. 

The artwork that helped with development was in the first room, with some great quotes from developers talking about it's artistic qualities.  You see here we saw some great art from the first days of Starcraft.  There was also some comparisons to the animation process.





After that you went into a room where five legendary games were available to play: Pacman, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower.  You could only play a little bit of each, but it was still a great way to understand what those games were about and to get a taste as to what people saw in them.  

Finally you were able to see the history of the games and their types from console to console.  The genres were divided into adventure, action, target and tactics.  Each console would show an example of each genre and how it changed and evolved as a visual and tactile storytelling device with artistic choices in development made all throughout the way.  

I got really emotional seeing it.  This is a hobby that is dear to my heart, that I play because of it's artistic merits and great narratives as well as for escapism.  It has been too long compared with other children's toys.  At this point, we took a step ahead in gaming to comparing it was a medium similar to books and film, or dare I say a combination of the two.  It was touching to see a serious take on the art in the medium, and to see people happy to learn about it.  I had to wipe away tears as I was reading serious takes on games I grew up with like Sim City and Star Fox, and finally seeing some of my current favorites being celebrated, including Mass Effect 2.  

The Art of Video Games is only at the American Museum of Art until the 30th, but as you can see it could be coming somewhere closer to you in the next few years.  See it.  Experience it.  As a gamer, it'll make your hobby proud.  As a non-gamer, you can see why adults pursue these virtual stories.  






August 22, 2012

Some Similar Villainy

Sitting in my car listening to whatever comes up on my iPod, I realized something:

One of my favorite villains from my childhood is extremely similar to one of my favorite villains of today.


Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas has a lot in common with Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time

Let me list my thoughts:

-Both work toward selfish gains
-Both rarely ever take pity
-Both are obsessed with making deals, bargins and gambles
-Both prefer to hide away from normal society, and selectively interact with it to pursue their own goals (Oogie Boogie with his trick-or-treat crew, Rumpelstiltskin with magic)
-Both seem to take a darker, goldish/brown hue
-Both try their best to make sure the odds are entirely in their favor

If you know Rumpelstiltskin's back story from the show, you may know this wasn't always true, but a good chunk of it is when you first met him.

Now that I type it out it doesn't seem that significant, but it shows in my life I've always had a favor toward certain bad guys.  I never could get the whole "I want all the power" or "I'm just merely evil" motives.  It just made more sense you would have bad guys who just do stuff for their own gain, and be clever enough to get away with it.  I think maybe it was easier to relate to--we've all known someone who likes to make sure they're dealt the best hand in life.  And to be honest, who could blame them?

Will have to confirm my hypothesis by watching The Nightmare Before Christmas sometime soon.  Halloween is almost around the corner...

August 17, 2012

"Fake Empire"--when LARP imitates art. P.S. don't f%@k with Chicago.

My character Ellen Peters was in kind of a slump for a while.  She was serving a prince to Chicago who was kind of a dick and with the Invictus, who by definition in her head are all dicks.

Before one game, a friend of mine sent out music videos to friends that reminded her of their LARP characters.  This one was mine:  Fake Empire by The National.




It definitely hit Ellen's heart strings. She was the only member of the Carthian Movement who could keep any respect in the city, and even though she still aligned with them, she had to play nice with the big boys of the Invictus.  Ellen made her own friends with even more monstrous people that she felt she could trust more, and laid low.

And then came the Prima Invicta from the East, trying to convince everyone to join their empire that continued to grow.  They had met some resistance but nothing too serious.  They came to the Prince of Chicago and offered him Vicerory of several states.  He took it.

Chicago proceeded to say "What the hell?!"  I won't go into the long story, but that character is no longer Prince.  And Chicago has continued to tell the Prima Invicta that they can go choke.

Meanwhile, I think back to when my friend chose this song, and think about all those out East...

"We're wide awake in a fake empire" is what some of them must be thinking to themselves.

August 8, 2012

Planning Enough

I am so afraid for DnD I do not plan enough.

Part of it is because I like to run my games with a plot line encased in a very open world.  It's like Skyrim (which I've been playing a lot of these days), but I'm hoping a better received main plot line.

The problem with this is that you never know what your players will latch on to and want to pursue.  It's not only the little tidbits you thought would be easy to have your players forget, it's also the players interpretation of the big things.

For example, the last two times I ran a game in my setting, I definitely had players who took the role of working for the King seriously.  They had experience and honor and lineages that they wants to make sure came into play.  They knew that they were the best of the best for a reason, and it was an honor to be serving the King.

These players feel they are not the best of the best.  They have bad habits and not the most impressive histories.  Two of them are from a friendly kingdom, and aren't entirely 100% sworn to the king (they already have one).  One was busy trying to sell potent potables to the public as a druid.  One is busy trying to impregnate every lady he can.  And one is merely amazed that he has a warm bed and food provided to him as a courtesy.  They know they are not the best of the best, and if anything it makes this same setting feel more desperate.  This isn't a position of honor.  This is proof that the Kingdom needs to be pitied.

With the same introduction and the same world, the feelings are entirely different.  Imagine then the difference between the person who knows everything in the world as "God" so the speak, and the difference between the players who only know what I tell them.

Therefore, considering all the unknowns with the decisions made, you cannot plan enough.

July 29, 2012

How about a lady nerd talks about lady nerds?

A friend of mine actually introduced me to a bit of a controversy in the blogosphere via facebook.  It started on CNN's Geek Out with an article by Joe Peacock, called Booth Babes Need Not Apply.  Peacock is tired of sexy ladies taking advantage of men's engrossment of the female form.  How dare women dress up in nerdy costumes merely seeking attention and not actually give a rat's ass about high scores or critical hits or comic book artists!  You need to earn the right to play dress up around male nerds and seek their attention.  You can't just claim to be a nerd because you look good dressed as Laura Croft.

How dare you be attractive when you don't know the master cheat code to Contra!
In comes John Scalizi. and he's here to save all geeks from this vile persecution.  Peacock doesn't get to choose who's a geek.  Nobody does!  Ladies can be geeks if they dress up for attention, and no one should give a fuck!  All you need to do is share the geekitude, spread the love, and you'll be a geek.  No one can tell you otherwise, no one!

Be free to be sexy and nerdy without judgement,  pretty lady!

Alright, stop it.  Stop it with the circle jerk of I AM THE DEFENDER OF MY PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET.  Both writers are guilty of this.  Peacock is trying to defend his fellow geeks from being assaulted by others who don't get it.  That's fair.  Nerds are used to having to explain themselves and having people tell them they're weird or a freak or need to lay off the magic cards.  Geeks can easily get  defensive.  Part of the reason I wear my nerdy hobbies on my sleeve is the anticipation of being the weirdo.  Luckily, things have gotten better overtime, and if my kids are as serious of Star Trek and dice rolling as I am I doubt they'll get nearly as much grief as I have had, let alone what my mother dealt with.

The era of having to be over protective is over.  Sure, there are still jerks out there.  But with the internet and conventions and main stream acceptance of quirky hobbies, you are never alone.  So when a woman is paid by a company to look attractive as your favorite sci-fi character, it's not an attack on you or a way to trick you into trusting the wrong person.  It's a sales tool, which is never anything against you.  If anything take it as a compliment.  It's something that any person in any hobby or walk of life experiences deals with when they're considered important in this capitalist era we live in.  Everyone deals with it, and anyone who can should have the right to earn money for looking good in (little to no) clothing.

I do agree with Scalizi for the most part.  There is no hierarchy to decide who is a real nerd and who's a poser.  If you have a hobby that you love and like to share your enthusiasm with other people, then it shouldn't matter what the technical labels are, just have fun.  I just don't like the way that it had to be him to swoop down and defend women in the geek world.  More importantly, I don't like that it had to be a him to have the legitimate voice.  It had to be another male saving women from male persecution.  Well, okay, it's not really persecution, no one's rights are at stake or anything like that.  But still a man had to be the one to say "It's okay for women to do things!"

This just might be my little inner feminist (by the way, feminist is not a dirty word) coming out and saying that this is one of those instances where we need the "patriarchy" to say what is okay for women to do inside the "patriarchy".  Although I've seen the gender disparity in the geek world lessen in the short time I've been participating in it, it's still a male dominated set of hobbies.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that.  What's frustrating is that since it's mostly guys in that world, it's mostly guys having to justify not only when a gal is "good" enough to participate but also call out other guys for being assholes.  And you know what, Scalizi is right.  No one should care who's doing whatever fun activity in their own little nerd sphere anyway.  In turn, no man should ever has to disqualify or requalify a woman's right to do something nerdy.

I wish there were more women in better positions, or even just more willing, to swoop in and call out the assholes.

We nerd women need to be the ones to tell people, mostly men, to back off and let us enjoy our hobbies.  We shouldn't need to have some guy to say it for us.  We need to be the aggressive defenders of our hobbies.  There are some of us out there that are responding to Pecock's article, and that's exactly what we need to do.  Stop picking on us, we'll bite back.  We need to do it in full force.  We need to do it at the same time.  Part of the reason that some people pick on a certain group in a hobby is because they don't take the group serious.  Well dammit, we nerd ladies are seriously into our nerdiness.  We'll be happy to let you know.

Finally, for any person that has been in the real world, we should ALL know that there will ALWAYS be people seeking attention.  Yes, sometimes that's sexy cosplay, and it works, but there are plenty of men and women who do many things because they crave the attention of others.  If you haven't encountered this, you're a hermit.  This is one of those frequent personality types you'll meet and have to accept.  The best thing to do is note it and move on.  Some things in life you can't change.  One of them is that attention seekers exist.  If you don't like, how about you stop giving them attention.  At least then they'll stop pestering you for it.

July 24, 2012

My brother plays Settlers of Catan? Why I'm a little shocked.

I think my brother is letting his inner nerd out more often. It might be because he's now at a school where you can be smart and cool at the same time, not just a party school. But he's always had it in him, it's just nice to see it come out again. He was actually the one to first get into video games. Our aunt had received a SNES from her boyfriend (now husband) and wasn't into it, so passed it on to my family. From age two my brother would play Super Mario World for HOURS. From then all the way through highschool he was a huge video game fan. Nintendo has been our roots, and my brother was the one to completely embrace that. He was a serious Mario and Zelda fan. At the same time he was ridiculously into SimCity on the console, which possibly harbored his love of urban planning. Actually, that combined with of living down the street from a famous architect's home and studio are probably the reasons he even considered that line of work, when of course he's not laying down some ridiculously entrancing beats as a DJ. In college he still did play, more toward the Xbox, but he is not the hugest fan. He still plays the Civilization series like a mofo though. Not many other nerd pursuits, at least that I knew he did. Until today.

 His nerd cred has just recently grown. It was his idea this year to go to Medieval Times for his birthday. I don't know why, he just decided he was going. Fortunately, I live near it so it's easy to coordinate. I call him today to let him know I got the tickets and how we'll meet up and he mentions he's waiting to catch up with a friend so they can play Settlers of Catan. 

I was kind of taken aback. Settlers of Catan, if you haven't played it, is a nerd staple in the board game world. You establish rival towns and cities with your fellow players, managing resources and essentially making your country the best country ever. It can take hours with strategic people but is something that's really fun. My core nerd friends in college played it a lot.

So to hear my brother, who has kind've been the cooler of the two of us since high school, is actually anticipating to play this ridiculously nerdy game. I knew there was a bit of a geek in there for the longest time, but it's kind of nice to know that I'm not the only geeky sibling. Sure, my parents can be huge dorks, but different generations geek out to different things.

My brother was surprised that I was surprised. He just assumed that since he was a fan of Civilization that it was a given he'd love Settlers of Catan. Maybe that's on me, but I don't think I could assume he'd hang around with the kind of people who'd love to introduce that kind of board game to him.

At least this makes his birthday gift shopping easy. I'm getting him a board game of his own.

July 18, 2012

Two ideals that help me plan an RPG game.

Getting back to planning a game as a Dungeon Master is fantastic.  Part of the joy of running a game is that you get to see people directly react to your writing, and then add to it.  It's a storytelling conversation, that's really an art form.  It's improv with statistics and stricter structure.

By the way, if any of you visit Chicago and you have a chance, do the walking tour at Second City.  It's definitely fun and funny and you learn some things about Chicago and improv as an art form.  Did that yesterday with a college friend and it was fun.  Sorry about that interruption.  Back to the RPG talk!

The writing skills you need to create a great game for your players are a little different than the ones used for a standard fiction piece.  As a writer you should create a linear path for your reader to follow as your main characters go through a hardship and overcome it.  But when the person enjoy your story is also producing the main character of your story, there are a couple of things you have to consider when writing.  These two rules tend to guide me, and a couple of friends of mine who also run games, into making a game a fun venture for everybody.

1. You must know where you want to go.
My friend who runs my Obsidian game always reiterates this tip.  Specifically he says "If you run the scene you're in without knowing where you want it to end, you have already failed."  He's absolutely right.  In college we though having an open game without railroading the players meant presenting 1 piece of a puzzle and expecting the players to build the rest.  But with any game, you have to establish a thread for the players to follow.  Whether they know it or not, most players spend the game looking for that thread.
Games that don't do this dwindle fast.  When I first started running my D&D day, I built in days where nothing would happen thinking my PCs would go do their own thing those days.  But most of the times my players were just waiting for something to happen.  As the DM/GM/ST you are in charge of the action, and you know what's coming.  Your players don't.  Sure, you may want to give them some time to investigate something, and some games you know for certain that they will, so you'll set aside that time.  But you can't assume they'll have motivations of their own every single game, especially when you first start.  Set up that thread for your players to follow.  They are trying to see where it is, and will at least like to know where it's going.


However, at the same time,


2. The players will decided where you really go.
You have to be ready to set up a ton of things for the players to do, but you also have to be ready to be directed by their responses.  Just because you think that your players will hold on to one clue or be captivated by one situation doesn't mean that they absolutely will.  They may find a certain NPC worthy having as a friend or a lover.  They may decide that certain monsters can be trained for good.  They may even decide to start a taco stand on the side.  You will never be able to 100% predict what a character my want to do.  And you don't want to deny them something that they'll find fun.
The great thing about this is that this process is how you can add to the thread that you start.  Sure, you may have wanted to have your players explore the catacombs of the city, but certainly you could tie in your plot points for when they try to raid the local sheriff's office.  Maybe that NPC noble your players like to antagonize is actually helping them out where they least suspect it.  The players pursuits are a tool for writing the plot.  You have to be flexible enough to go with the flow.

But why should you make a path that your players are going to veer from anyway?  Because then you know better is is off the beaten path.  If you know what you would like to have happen, then you have a better idea of what will happen if your players make other choices.  And that helps you more if they through you a curve ball.  I've had many a times where characters pursue flavor text, but because I had at least made the time to include flavor text, it was easier for me to think up something on the fly.  That helps game flow and consistency, which make playing in a particular universe more fun.

In the end, you still have to write a story with a path, but willing to continue in a different direction when the players introduce it.  That makes the most successful RPG campaigns fun and memorable.

July 11, 2012

My (delayed) Response to the Expanded Endings of Mass Effect 3

Right when I just spoke to you guys about writing more and making time for it, my boss at work quit so now we're severely understaffed.  Woo!

Anyway, now we're talking about the ending of Mass Effect 3, which many of you know about but for those of you who don't, be aware that there are SPOILERS AHEAD.


So, what did the extended endings actually do?  Well in almost every option we now have available at the end, we have choices that do make somewhat of a difference to the universe that is no longer in complete and utter shambles.  The Mass Relays can be repaired, all the races can rebuild their worlds, and Shepard is considered a hero in every ending.  There is still no concrete way to officially save Shepard, the Destroy Option merely hints at it, but we don't have to sacrifice a lot to get an ending where the legend lives on and Shepard did officially save the day.  Also, you now have the Refuse option, which unfortunately dooms the current cycle but gives hopes for the next one.

What does it fix? You do get your cathartic moment.  You can say "Yes!  I did save the galaxy!"  And you get to see how the rest of the galaxy is coping and rebuilding together.  You don't have to assume the worst. You get to see the final big choice you made actually mean something as well.  Each ending has a slightly different montage, noting what your choice meant.

What does it not fix?  There are some counter arguments from the Space Child now, but the Space Child still seems out of place and unnecessary.  If they had replaced it with almost anything else that would've been relevant, I would've been okay with that.  The Synthesis ending, although appealing to my ideals of unity, does NOT make any sense, so you will have to be okay with the idea of Space Magic(tm) for that ending to work.  Considering that mass effect fields essentially filled that purpose before, it's not the hugest leap I've ever been asked to make.  Also your EMS score now means diddly squat, which is super annoying because many of us would've liked a Refuse ending where the EMS score mattered. You can't just ignore a mechanic in the game after it's released in my humble opinion, because the player will always remember it's there and remember the developer totally ignoring it.

In my opinion, this extended cut fixes the biggest problems with the original endings, and hence giving us a conclusion that in the long run makes the fans go "meh" rather than "what the hell?!".  I think a good amount of us gamers expect horrible endings because we're not used to good writing.  That's part of the reason why there was such an uproar about a well written series like Mass Effect ending on such a disastrous conclusion.  It was above average in many different ways, and that's why it had such a strong fanbase that wanted to fight for a better ending.  We now have something better, thankfully.

However, there is still a bitter taste in my mouth.  I think that this new extended cut ending should've at lease been in the game originally.  It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but if I had received this ending instead of the bullshit slung at me months ago, I think I would've been okay.  I don't think I would've spent weeks disappointed with the hours and money I invested in BioWare.  Part of me will never understand why the fans had to practically pull teeth to get an ending like this.  I'm not going to forget it.  I'm going to remember what happened, and now for certain companies, I know for sure I'll NEVER preorder.  It's not worth it.  It's better to wait and see what happens.

Soon, I will replay the game and figure out which ending I want to give Desdemona Shepard.  In the meantime, if anyone wants to meet me up on Mass Effect multiplayer, feel free to hit me up--d20Sapphire is my handle of course!

July 4, 2012

HAPPY FOURTH AMERICANS!

To my U.S. based readers, happy Fourth of July!  When you think about it, the idea of a new world is something that sci-fi focuses on a lot, and I think the founding fathers would've loved to write or read some speculative fiction.

I also want to apologize for not writing enough to you guys on the blog.  There is always a lot to talk about and time is really the issue.  It has been said that one needs a room of one's own to be able to write.  One also needs time to be in that room.  And I am looking for that time.  Some of it is coming up, but I think some other things will have to change to make that time.

Someone told me that the writing is the real job.  I'm going to do my best to remember that.

Expect in the future some more Mass Effect rants (did you notice the extended endings came out?), some continued RPG sheenanigans, and more gender analysis.  And if you ever have something you'd think I should take a look at, email me at d20sapphire@gmail.com.  Suggestions are welcome.

And thanks, everyone!

June 12, 2012

I can't bring myself to care about E3

In the last couple of years I used to do an analysis on the big three conferences.  I would detail good business moves and bad ones, interesting new ideas coming out for the console, and horrible ones.

This year, I honestly am not invested with what's going on with E3.  

Just starting to watch the conferences just makes me depressed.  Sony wasn't super bad, but I'm not convinced that some of their exciting titles will stay nearly as exciting as they were presented.  Beyond is a story that can easily be fucked up, and boat stuff from Assassin's Creed's new installment looks totally staged.  Those are obvious complaints though.  The not so obvious complaint is that it seems Sony took many of the strategies that Nintendo and Microsoft introduced the last few years and just put Sony paint on it.  Also, there's not a lot of genuinely new things to be excited about, but that is a problem with the console industry as a whole.  Really, it's a problem with the video game industry, but that's another post for another day.  Sony is a frequent offender.

I love Nintendo like family.  It is the company that introduced me to gaming and the company will always hold a special place in my heart.  But man, did that conference have too.  much.  talking.  Nintendo is also a great example of focusing way too hard on social networking.  Most social networking that is successful evolves more organically than what they're trying to do.  Also, I have to agree with Cracked.com that there will be phalluses all up on your screen with WiiVerse.  Last year Nintendo won back the hard core gamer, just to lose them again this year with karaoke and online theme parks.  However, I'm sure they'll sell more unit again WiiU is being sold as an all around entertainment system, not just for video games. 

Microsoft had the longest conference, and it had some of the most exciting points.  Too bad those exciting points were not about genuine electronic entertainment.  It also had some of the least exciting points.  I will admit that I'm not a sports fan at all, so devoting a fifth of the presentation to sports game did not inspire me.  And then to add another huge chunk of "look, I can watch movies, and then I can watch them in Spanish!" was not impressive.  Voice control no longer a huge deal, since you've presented it the last three years.  And  no, Usher, despite being an attractive, rich singer, is not going to entice me to play your games.

I think, my fellow gamers, we have to admit to ourselves that we can no longer look to E3 anymore to provide us what we're looking for.  It is now officially covering the broader market of Electronic Entertainment, not just video games anymore.  Sure, there were some relatively smart business moves made this year, but none of them were really for the hardcore gamer, or even a gamer period.  They were for a broad market of consumers, broader than those of us who have lived by the high score and the controller.  

E3 is no longer for us, it's for everyone.  

We should've seen this coming as soon as the Wii became as popular as it did.  I don't want to fault Nintendo for the whole evolutionary change of E3, but it was the beginning of a new era, when it wasn't just for the elite fan who grew up with an Atari or NES in the living room and has had a console ever since.  Sooner or later a company would've have branched out in this way, and it makes sense it's Nintendo, who unlike Sony and Microsoft are, or were rather, wholly invested in video games.  To stay big, they had to branch out, and preferably be the first to do it.  Of course this is the solution.

For those of you feeling abandoned or neglected, do know that there is still a ton of devoted companies hoping to gain your allegiance for their video games, hoping you'll like their new thing.  I'm noticing most of the new things are on the PC, or come out on the PC first before graduating to digital downloads for Microsoft of the PS Network.  But it's definitely no longer going to be about the new video games at E3.  It's only going to be about new entertainment.  

Next year, I think I'm going to be even less invested in it.  I doubt I'm the only one.

June 8, 2012

Gender Analysis: Half Life 2

Hello everyone.  I apologize for the delay and I will tomorrow be posting about the abysmal showing at E3 (the structure of the critique will be a bit different this time) but I need to keep to a promise I made.  I am introducing my Gender Analysis on Video Games.  I decided to start with a game that has gotten some acclaim for representation of women--Half Life 2.  Specifically, the representation of Alyx has been hailed for being one of the best lead female characters ever in the field of video games.  But how revolutionary is the game itself in regards to gender equality?

We've tackled physics and crab zombies, let's tackle social constructs next.


My standards I discussed in April post introducing the idea can be found here.  For this test I played the first five hours of the game and with the help of Mystic took the necessary notes for the review.

Gender Ratio of Main Characters (female to male)
2:6

The side characters did seem evenly dispersed, but when it came to main characters that affected the plot overall, it was heavily male.  For every 3 main characters that are male, there's only one woman.

Sexualization of Characters (female to male)
0:0

There were no characters whatsoever that were sexualized in this game in the first five hours.  Not even close.  Considering the setting, it makes sense that no one is worried about that.

Gender Assumptive Dialogue
0 counts

Although there was an old doctor hitting on Alyx that kind of gave me the creeps, there was never anything spoken that had to be qualified with gender.  Getting hit on isn't a gender thing, even if it's creepy.  Also would like to note that the two female main characters I met were possibly breaking a couple stereotypes by being scientist and engineers, meaning they're well educated and savvy with math.  Not something that gets recognized a lot in the real world, let alone in fiction.

The Bechdel Test
Did Not Pass

Alyx speaks with Judith Morrison for 20 seconds about something other than a man.  May I also add that they're bickering about something.  Not only are there only women you see in the first 5 hours, they're not allowed to like each other.

CONCLUSION 

The main character line up unfortunately falls short.  You also don't have women have a decent conversation amongst each other.  The trope of women being against each other because women can "never get along" is overdone.  But women are obviously equals, not sex objects or people to be rescued.  They are equals when they are given a chance to shine, and they can look out for themselves and be intelligent allies.  I can see where Alyx has received the praise she did, and I honestly wish there were more female characters like her--strong-willed, smart, and not an object to be won. 

I would rate this game above average for a video game.  It's a step in the right direction to making women equal and not other.  If more video games took this step we'd be on the right track to better representation.  But there is still work to be done.

I said I wouldn't do a number rating because you can't necessarily put a quantitative conclusion with all the numbers we will be looking at.  They just help show why the quality of a games gender quality is better or worse than average.  For this spectrum of quality we'll be looking at, I would definitely put Half-Life 2 closer to true equality than not even though it could take wider strides to have women better represented.

I'm going to go through what I have in my gaming library first and then branching out to other games, we'll look at past and present games to see how things have changed and how they've stayed the same.  Feel free to recommend a game or two.  Remember, the analysis isn't to seek out what games are most women friendly per se, it's to see how the industry as a whole is in it's mindset toward women.

May 29, 2012

I did a video review on Terraria

Mystic wanted to make sure Terraria was a review done for his Indie Shot series, but initially never got into the game as much as Minecraft.  I love Terraria and was happy to oblige:



May 23, 2012

Coming Back to Terraria

I while ago I got Terraria and took a dive in, and totally got into it for a while.  I amazed Mystical because he couldn't understand how at the time I was definitely not a fan of minecraft but I was totally enamored in Terraria.  Something about the 16-bit adorable world along with the already integrated parts of adventuring was more addictive.

As with many games I haven't played it in a while but then yesterday I went back to it... not realizing that is had been updated to the nines with a new crafting system and other cool stuff.  GAH!  My old world wasn't ready for this.

I started a new world with a new character and was finally able to get a friend to join my game.  And fun times were had!  We built a ton of stuff, fought some zombies, fell to our deaths here and there.  We got some essential building done, and got some of the new crafting tools out of the way (like the saw mill and the loom).  Also, seeing our little sprites with the copper helmets is hilarious.  Have you seen those?  Ridiculous!

I had first played the game by myself, which even on the easy setting is a bit of a struggle.  It's a game with a lot of searching and avoiding baddies early on.  It's kind of nice to have two people looking for iron or to have a friend who'll help slice zombies in half while you catch fallen stars.

I will be doing a guest Indie Shot for Mystic sometime in the next couple of weeks for Terraria.  I still have to delve into the new system a bit more so don't expect this to be what I say in my review, but I'm definitely having a fun time with the new mechanics so far.

Finally, a little off topic, be on the lookout for my first video game gender analysis in the next week!

May 16, 2012

I missed tabletop

In a way, video games are one of the easiest nerdoms to get into, along with TV shows and some books, in the sense that it's something you can easily find and get into.  I think that's part of the reason I devote a lot of time to video games in this blog.  It's something that easiest for me to enjoy after a long day of work.  But I really became a full fledged nerd with tabletop, and now I'm finally getting back to that.

You all got a peak of my character in a friend's Obsidian game Amy Valencia.  I had never really played a truly carefree character before so I decided in this universe I would play one.  She is kind of a ditz following the easiest path of a high power, a high demonic power.  She's not entirely stupid, just entirely honest about her love of drugs, parties and the occasional visit to the masseuse.  It's been very liberating playing her because she is not one to give two shits about most dramatic stuff.  I think the most concerned she got was when a bomb was about to kill her and her group in a tiny office.  Having traditionally played characters that have stressed out very easily, it's great to play one that is not.

I think my experiences with Amy have colored my choices in playing a new character in another game.  I got invited to play in a Apocalypse World game that has been going for some time but had some people playing new characters due to old characters dying off or becoming unplayable.  I came in with Iris, the classiest brainer in the tree town.  Brainers actually can manipulate people with their psychic powers and find out personal things just by touching people.  Usually people go for the mystic in rags look for brainers.  I went a little more fabulous.  She has her kinky hair in an up do and wears a shiny pants suit with a corset.  Still weird, but a bit more approachable.  Like Amy she is a social creature who looks for the fun in life.  Unlike Amy, she strategizes more in the long run.  She's not really book smart but she is definitely world-smart.  If someone has recently become very powerful, you damn well make sure that you are their friend.  Things like that.

On top of those two games I am also running my 3.5 D&D campaign again!  I'm super excited about it.  The last two times I ran the game we had a ton of characters who were honored, privileged and eager to serve a king to the 2nd largest kingdom in the world.  This time I have a lot of hesitant characters who decided to go along merely because is somewhat fulfills their alternative goals, which include siring a messiah and selling potables to whoever will buy them.  The first session happened last week and even though it ran so late I was working on low brain power, we all had fun.  Next session will immediately start with combat!

It's so great to go back to my roots.  I really became a nerd when a friend of mine in high school invited me to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons that her father was running.  I'm not sure how nerdy I really was before then, but after that there was no turning back.  It now feels like I'm really a nerd again, spending a significant amount of time rolling dice and playing make believe with friends.

May 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Mystic!

I would like to wish a happy birthday to Mystic, the boyfriend.  I won't give away his age, that's up to him.

As one of his many presents, I am asking that you help me help him.  Season Two of Super Minecraft Adventure has started, and Mystic and another friend are now suffering through one of the most difficult fan maps on minecraft.

Mystic is doing this for charity.  Laugh at his countless fumbles and acts of nerd awesome, and then donate to Free the Children.  The goal is $5000 to help build a well in a developing nation.  Please donate!

Here is the first episode of Season Two for your viewing pleasure:



May 2, 2012

This is how not to discuss representation of women in RPGs

As a nerd woman I'm used to being in the minority and having to fight a couple of battles here and there about how I'm represented (if at all) in my nerd spheres.  The only nerd circle I knew to not have such a disparity is Anime, but let's not touch the plethora of gender issues in the genre.

So when someone wants to discuss the complicated issue of gender representation in RPG art, there is a lot you can actually say and a lot of opinions you can have.  That's the kind of article I expect to read, an article that expresses a concrete opinion.  Not some drivel that merely states I'll draw it because I'll get paid.

Jon Schindehette's article had an opportunity to truly engage with a point of view with someone who had industry experience.  Instead, we got someone who affirmed that he draws what they're given and asking several times for a reader's opinion without asserting his own.  The reason that this is excruciatingly frustrating is that this totes itself about addressing gender in RPG art and then discusses nothing.  Not the history, not the depictions, not even a personal opinion developed from years of experience drawing for the industry (specifically the most well known series that started the hobby).

If we continue to pretend we're having a discussion, there is no resolution.  We're not even sure what the resolution is because the industry has barely ever talked about the problem.  And yes, it can be a serious problem.  I do know at least with my experience, DnD has tried to be somewhat equal, but at the same time there are plenty of other RPG publishers who have gone out of their way to not be because they "know" that they have to cater to a male audience.

What's my opinion?  I personally don't like that the usual archetype for a chick who kicks ass either has to become male in her mannerisms or becomes the incredible eye candy with a gun.  I'm tired of it.  Not all gunslinging women have their tits out, just like not all gunslinging men eat raw meat and smoke 2 foot long cigars.  I want characters to be complex, no matter what setting I'm in and what gender or color or size or whatever the heck physical aspects they are.  That would show some maturity in the industry.  It's getting there, but we do have a long way to go.

The next time that someone wants to write an article, please, for the love of the written word, actually SAY something.

April 27, 2012

Beware of CISPA

I don't want to ramble on and on about the rights to privacy we as citizens in the United States should appreciate (especially because it's boring to readers not in the U.S.)  but for those of you affected, check out what's happening with this CISPA bill that has passed in the house and is now going to the Senate.  Essentially, the way the law is written now you will not be allowed any privacy to your doings on the internet as long as the government deems you a risk to the internal structure of a site or other net function.

I just want to make sure people are aware so that way if you want to take action, you can.  Things like this easily slip through the cracks.  The time to react is before it's law, not after.

April 24, 2012

Rewriting the Campaign

They beauty of having a world you invented is that as long as it's not officially published, you can change it.

I have been looking on and off at my notes for the last few days for my first game, and at first I thought I wanted to just organize the notes in a different way.  Something wasn't right, something was off about how I began this... did I just have to retype it in a different format?

Nope, upon further inspection I just realized I had done some silly stuff as "DM porn", where there was a character I was definitely excited to introduce to the PCs, but definitely introduced way too early.  Other structure things... including long times of boring where I was like "Here's a place where you can do stuff!", not realizing that PCs are usually pretty good at letting you know when they're doing something without being given a gap.

Unfortunately only experience would teach me about that stuff.  It'll be interesting as I go on and rewrite this to have it make more sense.  However, the big events are going to stay the same.  I'm not telling anybody those yet, who knows what future players may be reading...

April 20, 2012

Shedding light on women in video games

For a while I was thinking of doing a series of let's plays for video games to shed some light on games who have good representation of women, but I'm finding that most video games do NOT.  Not even the ones I love.

So instead, I'm planning on reviewing the gender equality in video games I played and play.  There are not a lot of games that get it awesome enough that I want to encourage people to look to it as a great example.  With the research I've done (not a lot but from good sources) I have come with a few tests to see what can be revealed about the gender equality in a video game title or series.

Gender Ratio:  What is the representation of males to females?  Is there a story or technical reason why it may shift one way or the other?  Or is it just poor planning?  This will be rated on the ratio found for the main characters--characters that are absolutely necessary for the gameplay and story.  Having an even balance of background characters will not make up for having only one female lead in the story.  There will be a nod if gender identity is discussed in an intellectual way.

Sexualization Ratio: How many men are overtly sexualized versus women?  This is comparing the representation of a person's sexual identity compared to how much one could expect to see on the street.  How a character is dressed (or more importantly isn't dressed) is not the soul factor of this ratio.  It's how it's portrayed, is that sexuality something inherent to understanding the character in the context of the game?  Is their heightened focus on their attractiveness or prowess in the bedroom?

Gender-Assumptive Dialogue:  How many times do you hear something akin to "She's tough enough to fight with the men." or "He's extremely sensitive, I expect him to have PMS with the ladies."?  Anything that assumes a personality or physical trait that is not sex but gender oriented is marked down.  This is marked by number of times I've noted it during my play.  Again, sex is a scientific classification, gender is a social construct.  Sex is the fact a woman has a uterus, gender is the idea that only women wear dresses.

The Bechdel Test:  How many times can you find two women talking to each other about a something other than a man?  It has to be dialogue that last at least 30 seconds or longer of talking time.  I like to thank Feminist Frequency for enlightening me for this test.

For all of these test, I'm going to account for at least 5 hours of gameplay.  within 5 hours of gameplay of any part of a game you should be able to get a good idea of what the dynamic will be for these characters.  I'll be honest with where I started and stopped, and I won't begin right at the first cut-scene.  I'll start after the tutorial (which tends to be the clumsiest part of most games).

After these four factors, I'll do a qualitative analysis of the overall experience.  No number will truly give a good idea of how gender-equal a game is, but they will help give an honest impression to do the overall analysis.

I'm going to start with a good amount of games I play and know, but then I'm going to branch out to other stuff.  There are some games I'm really interested to see how they play out (like the Half-Life series that I haven't played yet because I'm a horrible nerd) and this will also be an awesome way to replay some games I love.  I'll also need help with multiplayer games I have, so please feel free to message me on Steam or Origin (d20sapphire) and help me conduct my research.

Please leave some suggestions as to what games I should play!

April 18, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer is toying with me

Ever since the multiplayer for Mass Effect has been around, I have wanted to be the Quarian Engineer.  Not only do you get cryo blast and inferno, but I have always had a soft spot for Tali as a character.  On top of the fact that engineer is the most underestimated class in the game.  I tried being an engineer after being a vanguard, and if you have drones you kick so much ass!  It's kind of amazing what you can do with that and a little overload from time to time.

So I've been hoping with each pack I buy with the credits I earn in multiplayer that I will get a quarian engineer.  You start our with a human male and a human female, which I haven't played.  Then after some time I got the salarian engineer, who is cool but still not the same as the quarian.

Then on the 10th they added new races to the classes.  Including Geth to the engineers.  And I just got a pack that gave me a geth engineer.

So now I have every kind of engineer you can have in the game unlocked EXCEPT THE ONE I WANT.

Basically, what I'm saying is that my life is so hard.

Okay not that, but still some cruel partner of fate is laughing at me so hard right now.

April 13, 2012

A Writer's Dilemma

I've recently have had some serious writer's block when it comes to my fiction ventures.  It's not that I don't know what to write.  On the contrary, I have a ton of ideas to write onto the page.  It's that when I finally write down something, I become a horrible perfectionist.

I just started rewriting the trilogy that has been stuck in my head longer than I've been an adult, and I'm already paralyzed with fear that I'll mess it up.  It's almost like I care too much to put it on the page.

I just hope this is just a phase and I'll be able to start writing everything down again and worry about perfecting the story later.

April 10, 2012

Little Random Bits of Awesome

I'm sorry that I haven't been keeping up with the writing, but nerd things have been distracting me, including a redo of my campaign from college.   Which I'm working on today and tomorrow.  Other things include serious development of LARP characters and planning on playing the new multiplayer release on ME3.  FREE DLC TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT TODAY!

In other news, I found a couple other awesome things you guys will appreciate.  Like a case study of women whipping off glasses and the associated increase of sex appeal.

Better thing here is the story of Caine's Carboard Arcade in East L.A.:




Let's all encourage creative kids to figure out how to solve problems with what little they have!  And make new things from old ones!  

March 28, 2012

Your Audience Is Not To Be Belittled

I'm still kind of flabbergasted how the Mass Effect 3 ending drama has blown out or proportion in some arenas.  Sure, fan anger can last a while, especially since the game came out less than a month ago and we still have waves of people finishing them every weekend and going full rage tilt on the forums.  I'm also not surprised that Bioware is slowly responding.  The developer has a couple opportune moments to announce what the next step is on their end (even if they're not going to fix anything).

I think what is really interesting for me to watch is the way that that the video game journalists are now up in arms about this fan disappointment.  You've already seen me respond to Colin Moriarty of IGN post a video claiming Mass Effect fans were being entitled and whiny.  I don't know what he thought he accomplished when posting this video, but really many of us interpreted his ill-planned video like this.

Moriarty is not the only video game journalist who has lashed out.  Before and during game release, many of the reviews loved Mass Effect 3 on the whole, and only a couple of reviews even mentioned that the ending may be lackluster.  The fans were not even mad at the reviewers until they started lashing out saying the fans were demanding something that compromised "artistic integrity" and would be "bad business".  Obviously, in many's view it was the fans that were wrong and they as professionals in the right.  Never mind the fact that in every other medium in the past two centuries has an instance where endings and universes have been changed because of fan response.

I don't want to focus on the fact that changes to endings have happened before, or that legitimate criticism needs to be not only from editors but from loyal readers/watchers/gamers.  No, I want to focus on how this shows when a lot of writers are insistent that they know more than their audience, and how this is always doomed to fail.

One of the authors I admired most when growing up was Tamora Pierce.  I read the first three quartets she wrote for the Tortall setting.  Right before the last of Kel's stories, Lady Knight, was published, she went around the country doing readings of the first chapter and answering a ton of questions from adolescents girls.  Many of them were eager to become writers in their own right.  Including me.

I was lucky enough that she answered my question about censorship in books.  It was something that I only became aware of because another story book, and I was afraid that would mean that my writing would always be shut out.  In the midst of answering my question, Tamora Pierce enlightened me to one thing: never assume your readers are dumber than you, or need to be talked down to.  Your readers will appreciate you more for it.

I've kept those words in my head because I remember thinking how I felt when writers thought I was too dumb to understand what they were giving me.  It is a key way to become a horrible writer.  You either over-explain, under-develop, or self edit everything to remove all the complex layers that make any character or plot.  Not every reader may be as smart as the writer, but you want to reward the smart readers regardless.  That shows a respect for your readers, and an appreciation for their patronage to your story and universe.

This is true for all writing.  You have to respect the people who read your story, and not presume that they don't understand anything as well as you do.  It doesn't matter who your audience is, after a while, they're smart enough to see if you think they're too dumb.  Once they're that insulted, they'll stop reading.

When the first defensive reactions came out, Mystic said he had a joke for me: video game journalism.  I don't agree it's a joke, but I do agree that some video game journalists are definitely showing why they are not meant to be writers.  I can understand defending your review in an intelligent article that sparks a conversation.  I myself still say everyone who loves a good action RPG should play the entirety of the Mass Effect series.  There are plenty of ways to justify the high rating after a 5 minute catastrophe to an ending.  Calling your audience ignorant by saying they don't understand art and that they have entitlement issues is not a respectful way of going there.  You've essentially told your audience you don't respect them.  Why should they even respect you back?  Why should they read what you write now, if you don't value their opinion?

This is a relationship that is vital between writer and reader.  The writer must respect that the reader has their own opinions, intelligence and experience to work with, and vice versa.  Just as people shouldn't disrespect the writers who wrote the ending because we don't know what their logic was at the time, writers shouldn't dismiss an audience who doesn't react favorably to their creations.  Sometimes it's good that an audience sees something you didn't realize you create.  Sometimes it's good your audience doesn't agree with you.  That is part of how art grows.  This is part of how a business enterprise grows. A video game like Mass Effect is a combination of the two.  Video game journalists, who write about a hobby and medium we all love, interact with the two all the time.

So I hope that anyone who is even only tangentially aware of this situation can take this lesson away from it all.  You have to respect your audience, and you have to respect your creator.  It is not the same as liking or praising them.  It's something more important than that.

March 22, 2012

The Boyfriend's on YouTube: Awesome Let's Plays.

I'm all for supporting worthy projects and creative endeavors.  Mystic and I have always had the same problem of having too many in our heads.  But he has started a couple online Let's Plays that I want to see through, and I hope you do as well.

First, Mystic and our friend Jester are doing a charity Let's Play for Free the Children, which they've titled Super Minecraft Adventure.  I know, very creative on the titles, eh?  They're going through the super docile and super hostile maps that have been made for Minecraft in hopes to raise some funds over time, so take a look and spread the word.  First video of the journey is below:






Next, in response to a lot of the blow up due to Mass Effect 3, Mystic has decided to do a Let's Play.  I'll have him describe it himself.



So please take a look at what the Boyfriend has been up to.  And help him raise funds for Free the Children!

March 20, 2012

I've been done with Grimm

I posted about Mass Effect a lot but it hasn't been the only nerd thing I've participated in the last couple of weeks, even if the internet can't stop talking about it. I could talk about it for days, but if you want to, just send me an email and I'd love to. Writing wise, I should move on to complain about something else that disappointed me for now.

I remember when I first told you all about Grimm, which in the beginning of the season I definitely liked. I've always been a fan of crime dramas, growing up with parents who were heavily into the Law and Order franchise as well as The Wire. I think that's part of the reason I liked Grimm, because of that take that I hadn't experience in some other series before (even though I will admit it isnt' a fresh new take on a fantasy setting). As the series went on I wasn't as thrilled by it, but I kept watching it, more for the side character Monroe and the side plot for Captain Sean Renard than any of the stuff presented for Nick's storyline. Nick is a good character but his story isn't the most interesting. Sometimes that's the writers, sometimes producers, sometimes directors... with a tv series that is expected to appeal to a broad audience you don't know who's messing up the final product.

I think with this latest grievance though, I am going to blame the writers, because this is an old idea that went out of hand. In the episode Three Coins in a Fuchsbau, Nick is chasing down these coins of power that inflate the ego and bravado of who owns them. The feeling of power is so great that people have fought and died for these coins, even though they ultimately lead to the demise of whoever possesses them.

My complaint comes in when they tie these thousand year old coins to the Third Reich. I'm not against tying anything in to an alternate history in your alternate world. I'm just bored with the whole "Nazis did it" that happens so much in sci-fi and fantasy. Back when this first got started it was refreshing to think that our enemies could only succeed with supernatural help. But now the trope has been used so many times before that it shows the writers wanted to associate with evil and Nazis were the easiest thing to take down from the "evil" shelf of ideas. There's no work into making Nazis bad, which is why a lot of writers use them in instances like the coins. Really guys? There are definitely other things you could've associated them with that would've been more compelling and interesting. But you chose Nazis.

I decided I was done with watching the series when Nick plays an old movie reel he found that is of a speech Hitler gave at the end of the episode. You see the coins on the lapel of his jacket so I was like "okay, nice tie in there." I wasn't totally disenfranchised until they decided to show this:

Blubadt?  Are you serious?

Yes, everyone, Hitler was a Werewolf.

How needless was that? How unnecessary was it to have him be a werewolf? How does that even add to the universe in any useful way? Hitler is dead and no longer a threat, knowing that he had the coins was enough of a tie-in. A werewolf?

From now on, whenever something is needlessly added into a story, I'm going to label it the "Hitler was a Werewolf" moment, because dammit that is how frustrated I am with this concept. Feel free to use that phrase in your daily vernacular.

March 13, 2012

Video Blog Response To Colin Moriarty of IGN

I broke down and recorded myself this morning.  I woke up to Colin Moriarty of IGN saying that Mass Effect fans like myself are entitled.  I'm arguing against many of his issues, mostly that it's not entitlement to expect high quality product from something that has had that reputation.


SPOILERS.  SO MANY SPOILERS.  DO NOT WATCH IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS.



Also, this little video theory gives me hope.  Even if the ending was an accident with these hints, it's a great point for BioWare to pick up and make a fantastic ending to the ending we all hated.


AGAIN THERE ARE SPOILERS.  IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO SPOILERS DO NOT WATCH.


March 12, 2012

Mass Effect 3: My Opinon





Part One: No Spoilers.

So you ready to kill the Reapers?  Not so fast, here comes ME3, reminding you that  team effort is necessary.  I mean, dude, there are tons of Reapers!  Humanity can't do it alone, even if The Illusive Man thinks so.

The start is kind of abrupt, but then you get into it.  Story is solidly well written and characters new and old are fantastic to have on the ship and bump into while you assemble the best war militia the galaxy has ever seen.

Also, I think this is the most complex they've actually made Shepherd.  You delve into what breaks your Shep's heart and how to pick the hero up and start punching reporters again.

Gameplay is fantastic.  Everything is smoother than ME2, which already seemed like a godsend compared to ME1, and leveling up feels a lot more compelling.  Powers are great, and strategy is still at the forefront.  That is, if you're not doing the narrative version which weakens everything.  Then you can do whatever you want.

And still scan those planets, but with half the tediousness!  Seriously if you want to win you really should scan those planets.  Just sayin'.

Multiplayer helps you with the end game part for ME3, and even if it didn't it's worth playing.  Now if only I could finally get my friggin' quarian engineer I'd be completely satisfied with the multiplayer.  Aww darn.

Don't forget that this is the end.  Some of your favorite people will sacrifice themselves, so be ready.  I've talked to grown men who admitted tearing up at parts.

And some of you, like me, will find it hard to say goodbye, even though you know you have to.  I was weeping and sniffling and wailing when I was saying goodbye to my squad before we did the last battle.  I am one to get super attached to fictional universes of this proportion.  This was it.  I will never get a chance to shoot things with Garrus, smash things with Wrex, or pontificate with Tali possibly ever again.  I am going to miss these characters.

Everything is extremely satisfying, and the end game is super epic.  Until the last five minutes.  When you think it's over, just escape before the credits roll.  There is a reason the internet rage exists.  However, this is less than 1% of the game, and luckily alt+f4 fixes it for you if you want.

Do I recommend playing Mass Effect 3?  Yes.  Sure, you'll get burned by the largest chunk of horrible writing at the end of the game, but there are so many other moments worth playing for that you'll kick yourself if you don't enjoy the other 99.5%.

Part Two: Spoilers

NO SERIOUSLY NO LIE SPOILERS IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS DON'T READ THIS.

I hope that works.  People are touchy about that on the internet.

For those fans out there who have finished the game, I want to encourage you to think about the game as a whole and ignore the last "choices" part.  I've been seeing a few arguments for this on the internet and I have to agree.  Mass Effect 3 is more than just the last five minutes.

There are so many epic parts that I do want to relive again and I will.  The little moments with Garrus, Tali, hell I even started to like Miranda and she got under my skin in ME2.  There are things you didn't realize you love.  Eve showing us female Krogan are the best!  Udina taking a bullet because now everyone sees he's a legitimate dick!  Lasering a Reaper face!  Telling Cerberus to suck it over and over again!  And of course, getting back with the man/woman/alien you love.  My first playthough was a femshep dating Garrus, and it was sweet without rotting your teeth out.  And there are parts I can't wait to play with my "Renegon" Obama shep and my full renegade Alexi shep with their different choices and outcomes.

A lot of us got burned on the ending.  It's horrible.  It's like a freshmen year philosophy major smoking weed on the quad defecated all over the end game and Bioware didn't bother to see where the foul smell was coming from.  I totally understand.  I've lost sleep over this ending, and I think I'm catching a cold because of that.

But there are too many great things about this game that I wouldn't want to miss as a die hard fan.  It's worth playing the majority of it, especially if you know the ending is going to suck because then you know to avoid it.  Focus on what made this a fantastic game, and it'll be a lot easier to forget that child VI that gave a whole finger to the universe by limiting our choices to nothing but suck.

Okay yeah I'm still bitter about it.

The only other legit critique I have is that I don't necessarily like how multiplayer is necessary to get a "decent" ending.  Which isn't that decent and I hardly found satisfying enough to consider playing.  So Shepherd possibly breathes for a second in the wreckage.  Big deal.  Doesn't mean Shep stays alive or is anywhere near the planet that the Normandy lands on to restart civilization as we know it.  Fuck that.  In other news, a whole bunch of people are now stranded on earth with no where to go and depleted resources.  Yeah, there is no way that's going to end well.

Alright I got into the bad zone again.  Look, loyal readers, please understand that I'm not trying to defend what happened to the end game.  But there is a lot of stuff worth loving about this game, and now that you've played it I suggest you think about all the choices, dialogue, cut scenes, and fights you genuinely enjoyed.  They have to outweigh what happened in the last five minutes enough that you cane play up to that point and then quit.  You'll feel a lot better for it.