Saboten Con: The Sabotening
Hey guys. Sorry for being so late. Had a BLAST at Saboten Con. We had a packed room, great players, AMAZING prizes, and a great story or two to share.
We recorded everything so we plan on sharing that. Until then, enjoy a few stills. Miles and Sharon, thank you so much! It was great!
Saboten Con Eve
Man, it was a long trip today. Sorry to get this post in so late, but I didn’t have a lot of options. I know blogging while driving isn’t specifically forbidden, but I’m thinking the spirit of the law may not be in harmony with that plan.
Anyway, I’m less than 24 hours from Saboten Con and, of course, meeting up with my good friends Miles and Sharon. I’m so excited. I’ve been busy almost nonstop since yesterday writing, editing, uploading, and playing ( for review purposes).
Nothing big today, but I’ll try to upload some pictures from the Con tomorrow. Until then, I think it’s time to pass out.
Pitch Wars pt 2
I've never written so much, polished so much, and created so much in such a short time before. But this morning at about 11 am, after hovering my mouse over the submit button for what seemed like hours, I finally clicked. I'm in Pitch Wars.
Why is this such a big deal? Why am I so anxious? Pitch Wars IS submitting to agents. It's just a real as if I sought out the agents myself and submitted. The rejection or acceptance will be just as real. And the consequences of my success will be just as real if I can get a mentor. If one of them likes my work, sees potential in it, it could finally open the door for me. I could finally start that long, hard road to publication.
So, yeah. I'm a little anxious. I won't know anything until October, so I have until then to occupy myself with getting everything as polished and pretty as I can. With being ready to give them the manuscript at a moment's notice. With being ready to work my tail off to get this book off the ground!
But I don't have time to dwell on that. After all, I won't hear a word until October, so I need to turn my focus to this Friday. Yes... it's Saboten Con and if you're in Phoenix, AZ this coming Friday, stop by the Sheraton hotel at 4pm to catch my panel. I'm teaming up once more with Smash Fiction creator Miles Schneiderman and his awesome wife Sharon to host Surprise Party, with prizes provided by Bookman's in Phoenix.
Man... I'm excited. I love being in front of groups. I love performing. I love telling stories. This will be my biggest audience yet and my best chance to get my name out there. I'm headed out tomorrow, so expect a shorter post. And until then...
Don't Forget to be Awesome!
Oh man. I guess I didn't have enough stress in my life. You know what I just heard about? I'll give you a hint, it's in the title. Yes... Pitch Wars.
If you're not familiar (which I wasn't until just recently) it's a contest of sorts where people put together a full agent pitch and submit it to a website and some mentors. The pitch consists of the first ten pages/first chapter of the novel, the synopsis, and the query letter. Those who win will get the chance to have a published, experienced author/editor work with them to turn their book into something amazing and good enough to put out there.
Needless to say, this is a big opportunity for me. Submissions opened last night and close tomorrow night, so I'm rushing like a madman to put some last minute polish on my query and synopsis. And you know what? I've decided I absolutely HATE queries and synopses.
Now, I needed to have a query letter and a synopsis anyway, so it's not anything I shouldn't be doing. But man... if there's one thing writers are bad at (or maybe it's just me) it's telling people what our story is about. Give me 300 and I'll spin you a yarn or two you'll love. Ask me to summarize that story in 500-1000 words...eh... er... it has vampires. Wait, no, it mentions vampires. Um. Werewolves! There are werewolves! Two different kinds, even!
Point is, everything else, my short story, my side projects, they're all on hold because I need to focus completely on this. I have less than 24 hours to get my query and synopsis up snuff. This is an incredible opportunity for me. Will I get picked? Maybe, maybe not. But if I don't submit anything, I definitely won't get anything.
Feel and Aesthetics
Sorry for the late blog update today. My wife is feeling under the weather and I've been taking care of her. Not a wonderful excuse, but I did lose track of time. Still, an obligation to this blog is still an obligation and so, today I've decided to talk briefly about style and aesthetics.
It's a broad subject, yes, I know, but every story has something to it, a signature feel, if you will. For instance, while I can't talk much about it right now, the current game I'm reviewing has it's feel down. The game oozes with character and constantly reminds you of that. It's a fine line to walk too, as I know plenty of novels or games that have tried to bash you over the head with their aesthetics, be it film noir or space opera, and have just pushed too hard.
So what's the key? Well, I'm not entirely sure, but if I were coaxed into taking a stab at it I'd say knowing your audience. If you'r going for something grand and over the top, something with flair and oozing character, well, I suppose it wouldn't be out of place to bash your audience over the head, supposing it's done right. Of course more subtle genres and feels require a gentler touch. For instance, because The Paladin is an urban fantasy, I like to let the reader forget they're in a fantasy novel every once in a while. I play up the mundane, the common features of a place, then occasionally remind the reader that, yes, this world does have bars and fast food, but vampires sometimes frequent those establishments.
Is that the proper way to do it? Well, to be honest, I don't know yet. I know that subtlety has value in my genre and there's great value in letting the reader drop their guard so you can hit them with big things down the line. But as to whether it's a "proper" way to do it, well, I honestly don't know. If anything, I've learned that each writer needs to find their own proper.
So if you're playing with your theme, your feel, and your aesthetics, I say play around. Editing is the time to correct things, so for now, try it all out. Hell, I've recently decided to replace an entire scene because I feel it didn't quite mesh with the aesthetics the rest of the novel provided, and you know what? I'm happy I'm doing it. So go out there, write, revise, and write some more! You'll only find your feel by trying different things out.
Don't forget to be awesome!
So... I was thinking about something today. I've been filming for C+ Studios for a few weeks now and I've been doing a lot of fun stuff with filming and editing for them. It's been strangely fun, actually.
I spent two years in Las Vegas doing, essentially, what I'm doing now. Filming, editing, doing some minor special effects, and working with top tier, expensive equipment. The only difference now is that I'm using much cheaper equipment, and yet I'm enjoying this so much more.
What this really tells me is that it's the environment you're doing your work in that defines your happiness about it, not the work itself. I'm not doing anything special, but the workload is light, the friends are awesome, and I have a degree of creative control. Now I love what I'm doing.
I once saw an instructional video about this fish market in Seattle, I believe, where people come from all around just to see these dudes handle fish. They sing, the chant, and the toss fish through the air, all having fun while doing it. I think I'm starting to understand that now. It's not the job. It's the environment. I mean, if I have a nice green screen, better software, and higher grade film equipment, I'd be thrilled, but if I just kept filming with my DSLR and using Sony Vegas, I think I'd also be happy.
I wonder if I can fit this into a character's bio...
So I've got this gig next week where I'm hosting a panel at Saboten Con in Phoenix. If you're in the neighborhood, you should come check me out on Friday. I'm doing a game that my friends at Smash Fiction created called Surprise Party! Prepping for it has me thinking a lot about the tropes and archetypes we utilize in writing and how fun story telling games can be. Well.. with the right crowd. I have no disillusions about this stuff being fun for everyone, but if you have a free and wild imagination, this stuff is awesome.
I'm sure I've given the rules before, so I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say, the game is fun. You draft a part of adventures to replace the core group in an established story like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, and then explain why your group of adventurers would do way better. I love it. I love the thinking on your toes. I love creating a narrative on the fly. It's competitive, but superbly creative as well.
I have to give it to Dan, Claire, and even the non-Mulkerin members of Smash Fiction for the creativity that has going into the games they've created for Smash Meta Fiction. Obviously, Surprise Party is my favorite, but after describing it to friends, I have other people wanting to try out Collaboratory and Shipwrecked for themselves. They're fun games, great for a night when no one brought a board game or if you're at a Convention and want to try things with a pick-up group. They're all engaging, hilarious, and most of all, fun.
All of these games are a strange, fun form of group storytelling, something I rarely get to participate in (unless you count table-top RPGs...). Did I really have a direction for today? I guess it's just that collaborative storytelling is fun and I really wish I could engage in it more.
More World Building
First, I'd like to say that I'm doing something cool I've never done before. I'm actually playing and a game for review purposes that hasn't come out yet! Obviously I can't tell you what game it is or what I think of it, but man... it's pretty cool.
Anyway, let's talk about more world building, shall we? I think it's fair to say that good number of writers enjoy world building. It's a chance to be creative without any restraints. For instance, I'm reading The Color of Magic right now and their world... well... it's a disc being held up by four elephants all standing on the back of a giant turtle swimming through space. And you know what? That works. The logic is consistent if a little weird, but it works.
And I think that's the most important part. The Discworld books aren't meant to be overly serious. They're certainly not Lord of the Rings. Their logic and humor works for them, but wouldn't necessarily work in another fictional world. And I think that's the key: your logic has to work for your story. Your humor, your rules, your gods, your world, it all has to fit right for your story.
What does that mean? It means there needs to be consistent logic. Things need to work in a predictable manner, even if that manner is bizarre. Some writers take this opportunity to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, but I think you need show some restraint and caution here. Rewrites are a long, tedious process, and if your world is bizarre and strange, your edits are going to take forever to make sure your internal logic is consistent. Hand waving is sign of a lazy author, so I believe if you take your time in the planning stages, you'll save yourself a headache in the rewrites.
Does this mean your world can't have floating islands? Of course not! Just make sure that you know why they float and why other chunks of land don't. Can your magic wielders draw their power from sugary sweet drinks? Yeah, why not? Just make sure you know why those magic Kool-Aid pouches don't give others magic, too.
Try to avoid the allure of creating something just because it's cool. Make sure you understand the words and topics you want to include in your story before you start writing them. If people already have a concept in their heads about a certain topic or idea, you're going to have to give them a good reason to change it.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Game Review: Noahmund
My latest game review just went up over at GeekNifty, so you know the drill. Check out the official review there, then swing back here for my extended review. Or... vice versa, I don't care. Just make sure you check those guys out.
So... let's talk about Noahmund. For starters, it's an RPG by Estudio Ábrego. Coming into this game I was really hyped. It looks beautiful, the combat sounds different, and the music is fantastic. Unfortunately this game didn't really live up to the hype, and the saddest part is, it really, really could have.
Let me get this part out of the way: my review is tainted by a bad user experience. From the start I was having issues with this game; I couldn't load it, it wouldn't recognize my Steam controller, it would freeze, the English subtitles wouldn't load, etc, etc. You can see that I was coming into this game already frustrated, so, if you feel you need to, take that into account.
What's the game about? Honestly, I barely know. It's not for lack of attention. The opening cutscene, while gorgeous, wouldn't load English subtitles and my Spanish is only so-so. So... I missed all that. What I did get was a girl named Gallina was rescued by an order and taught their mysterious ways of synergy or something to that effect. She acts as your party's healer and, if you have all three party members, you're joined by her guardian and a sort of rogue-type character, all in pursuit of a foe called the Divisor. Or the Divider. Seriously, the game's translation was a little rough and they changed their mind halfway through. Oh, and if you decide to go to the graveyard, bring your Spanish dictionary: nothing got translated there.
The characters interact well and the world seems interesting enough, but even with a colorful cast, the navigation, commands, and combat just drag the game down. First off, let me introduce you to the two keys you're going to use constantly. Q and E. Not Enter. Not WASD. Q to cancel, E to accept. Fine, whatever, your hand gets used to it. Time for combat.
You're on a grid that I believe the Kickstarter page referred to as "Chess 2.0." I don't know if all that's true, but you do move square by square. Oh, did you think this was a turn-based strategy game? No, it's real-time combat. Real-time combat that's restricted to up, down, left, and right movements within a defined grid. Weird... but you can get used to it. Now, attack with spacebar. Wait, scratch that. Attack with spacebar PLUS a direction. A little weird, but okay. By the way, make sure you understand what you're doing, because the tutorials aren't terribly helpful and they don't repeat any past lessons.
You'll control either Galina, who acts as the healer, her bodyguard, who can take stance and is your default tank, or the rogue character who attacks from afar and sets traps, and can switch on the fly. These would all be neat in either a turn based or normal real-time combat system. In this strange hybrid though, I can't say which role I do best because being limited in my mobility really makes all of them difficult. If you enter combat with a foe you can't defeat, you're kinda boned. You can restart the battle (by pressing "E") or return to your last save. And those save points are far between. And since you can't use Galina's heal ability between battles, you might go into battle with everyone at 1HP because of a poison attack in your last battle. And before you can heal anyone, you're all alone because your comrades rushed in and got ganked.
Let's get to the world. It's gorgeous. Hand-painted backgrounds and incredible music. The world looks great, if a little retro, and feels alive. It such a shame that moving across it is torture. Remember that grid stuff in combat? Yeah, why not do it on the world map, too? Yes, one square at a time, just pick your direction and hit "E" to confirm. Oh, and let's do it isolinear, so your cardinal directions are at an angle now. Does the up arrow move you up and to the right or up and to the left? Don't hit the wrong arrow or forget something on a previous screen, because you're in a for a long trek if you do. Oh, and two little things to top it off. I know the characters are perfectly capable of moving anywhere on the map without going square-by-square. There's a glitch in the second world where my party won't move the one square over to the next section, but instead run (nonstop) around the entire section of map to come to the other side. Because reasons. And just to remind you of how long you're taking on that map, moving one square at a time, there's a lovely little counter in the corner. Why? I honestly have no idea. It didn't help with puzzles. I was never on a time limit. All it did for me was remind me that I took 72 turns to cross this stupid map.
With the major frustrations out of the way, let's look at the weird stuff. For one, early on in the game the save points are rare and one use only. This is not a game to just pick up and set down, they demand commitment. Later on they become a little more useful and act like normal save points, but why they chose to do this in the beginning, when we're all making decisions about the game, baffles me. Speaking of save points, after a certain point you're allowed to use them to return to town for shopping. Do you teleport back? No. Make trades remotely? No. The main character remembers her town. Remembers. While remembering your town, you can barter for armor, potions, or accessories using whatever treasures you've picked up along the way (there isn't a currency, you literally have to guess how many leaves the blacksmith will take for a sickle). When you're all done, you move square-by-square back to the town entrance and... return to the present. And... I guess all those potions and better armor are just things you forgot you packed? Seriously, I'm imagining Galina and her crew barely surviving a fight, complaining about how they nearly died, and she's like "Oh! I forgot, I have a sword upgrade for you and some armor for you. I wondered why my backpack was so heavy!"
Look, there are some good things. I'm sure the story's nice if I knew what it was. I mean, what I was informed about was intriguing. The music is incredible (though again, I don't know what the singer was saying), and the characters are fun. Unfortunately the experience as a whole just fell short. It felt like it was so close in so many places to being a good game, even a great game, but... the experience, for me, was fundamentally broken. I had no fun playing it, and in the end, that's what makes a game good. Maybe if Estudio Abrego spend more time on the mechanics or even just on the localization, I could give it a recommend. As it stands, I can't. It's a game full of promise but with no substance.
Time for a little self promotion. Which... is actually par for the course, now that I think about it. This IS my website. Huh. Anyway, I've got another panel coming up! Yay!
So if you happen to be in Phoenix on August 31, I'll be teaming up with some of my friends from Smash Fiction to put on another Suprise Party! panel at Saboten Con. Yes, if you've ever wondered if Captain American would be a better choice to take the One Ring to Mordor or if you think Professor Farnsworth would devise a better strategy to deliver the Death Star plans to Princess Leia, well, Surprise Party! is your game.
I'll be hosting it at Saboten Con this next Friday at 5pm, along with Miles and his lovely wife, Sharon, both veterans of Smash Fiction. Might be able to squeeze in a special guest host but no promises. On top of that we'll have some lovely prizes for our winners provided by local comic shops, so make sure you swing by if you're able.
I have to say, I absolutely love Suprise Party! It was one of most fun things I've ever done hosting that panel. It's a story-telling game, and I feel like today, there's just not a lot of those. Sure we have a few DnD sessions (like the Extraordinary League games I host on the regular) but overall, I don't think there's enough games to challenge your creativity.
A big thanks to Smash founder Dan Mulkerin for both creating that game and giving me his blessings to share it with the masses.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.