Playing vs. Producing: Fight!

It’s true that I’m using time I could be productive to play a computer game. I could be finishing one of my in progress stories. I could be working on improving one of my in progress RPGs. I could go back and improve one of my existing RPGs. But I’m playing computer games.

Here’s the thing: I’m less and less motivated to produce RPGs for anyone outside a very small group of people, mostly my local group – though they likely just want me to stop designing shit and stick with one campaign for more than 10 months.

And there seems to be a very, very small group of people interested in reading my fiction, which is the one thing that I might actually feel guilty for not producing.

PrintDon’t get me wrong. This isn’t a sob story. This is a liberation.

I likely won’t bother with another Kickstarter after Nefertiti Overdrive is done. I love writing and playing RPGs. I am getting really tired of producing them. It is a huge effort to project manage these, especially since I am very personally invested in them. For Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, I got paid less than 5 cents per word for my writing and nothing for project management.

Yes, I love writing RPGs. I also love playing computer games. And they don’t cost as much.

Will I ever publish again? I’m making plans. I’m thinking about it. I have at least two games and a setting I want to get out. I bloody well have stories I want to get in front of readers as well. Do it for free? I might. The effort that goes into getting games or stories presentable makes it just easier to do stuff for myself and hold it close. So I’ll be looking at ways I can get paid something decent and get my work out to people who care.

I’m a mercenary hack. It’s what I am.

Now, back to Borderlands!

You can see the financial for the Centurion Kickstarter here.

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On the Border . . . lands

So big. So angry. So dead.

If you recognize that quote, you know where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. And what I’ve been doing is playing computer games.

It’s not all I’ve been doing, but it has taken up a lion’s share of my time. And the rest . . . well, for the rest you can go to SEP, because everything else I’ve worked on has been RPG related.

But let’s get back to the quote. That’s from Borderlands, which I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale (oh, how that sale hurt my bank account!). I’m loving it. So much fun. It’s about the right level of challenge for my very limited ability, and it’s got a kind of “Loony Tunes” violence thing happening. It’s oh so bloody, but not quite serious. Wile E. Coyote would fit in perfectly in this setting.

And it is actually a very cool setting. Now, for me, nothing is going to touch the post-apocalyptic western that is Fallout: New Vegas. I loves me FNV. Borderlands has got that, but it’s also got a whole lot of insanity, like a part of the planet that is a massive garbage dump, and people live in this garbage dump.

Yes, things will be quiet here as I spend the time I am not working on RPGs virtually shooting things in the face. I also picked up Borderlands 2, Mass Effect, and the Bioshock trilogy. Lots of SF action and adventure awaits me in the virtual world.

You can find out more about the games I’ve been working on here.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Steam here.

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Gone Baby Gone – A Review

I liked Ben Affleck’s directing in Argo and I loved the Town. I don’t think it’s a great choice for a director to also be the star, but Kenneth Brannagh has proved me wrong on many an occasion. Friday night, when my wife and I were flipping through Netflix, I saw Gone Baby Gone in the listings, and I remembered that was Ben Affleck’s first movie. I also remembered critics generally liked it and that it was a neo-noir.

We gave it a shot.

I’m very glad we did. This is very much a film noir. The fingerprints of hardboiled fiction are all over it. Casey Affleck did a great job, and they played up his lack of physicality – though I think I would have preferred Jeremy Renner (who did a great job in the Town) or another actor that could deliver on the acting but could also provide a more physical presence.

The plot is properly labyrinthine, and the character of Patrick Kenzie is an almost perfect modern redition of the hardboiled detective. I don’t think his partner, Angie – played by Michelle Monaghan – is portrayed as well. She certainly seemed the smarter of the two, but it might have been better just to remove that character. She seemed superfluous, used more as romantic link than as a partner. Perhaps it could have been just Angie’s case, removing the character of Patrick. If there only has to be one character, and you want to do something a little edgy, give us a hardboiled female detective.

My wife commented that the movie seemed a bit slow-moving, but we were about to watch the Raid: Redemption until she remembered she had, in fact, already watched it, so I think this was more about her expecting an action movie. For an almost two hour movie (114 minutes according to Wikipedia), I found it went by very quickly. Then again, I was completely engrossed. The movie really held me.

I give Gone Baby Gone 4 taste-bags out of 5, mostly because I think one of the partners was completely wasted, which weighed the movie down a bit.

You can read more about Gone Baby Gone at Wikipedia or IMDB.

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Weekly Round-Up for 29 June 2014

When I’m Small” by Phantogram. I said I had to check this group out. On the way to the Canadian Aviation Museum with my girls last week, this came on the radio. It caught my attention and I made a note to try to get the info from the DJ (or whatever you call them now). All I caught was Phantogram. I went through a bunch of songs to find it. Not a waste of time. Phantogram has a lot of pretty cool tunes, and this is one of them.

Dr. Lankov’s AMA. Dr. Andrei Lankov is a Russian expert on North Korea – mostly culture and economy – who resides in South Korea. Having had the honour and pleasure to meet him and chat, he is incredibly approachable and affable. He is also scary smart on North Korea and the changes that are taking place in its society and economy. If you have a passing interest in North Korea, his “Ask Me Anything” will bring you up to speed. His recent book, the Real North Korea, is a great read, but is written for a general audience and in a very conversational tone.

Strike Back: Vengeance. I’m now on Episode 3 and it includes an actor I find very watchable, though because he is of Moroccan-descent (though French-born), he’s relegated to being Mr. Bad Muslim Terrorist. I picked Saïd Taghmaoui to play the Serpent (when that character was male . . . no time to explain) when I first through up Nefertiti Overdrive. Episode 3 is set in Niger, and my willing suspension of disbelief may have been stretched out of shape already, but I was more ready to believe the characters were in Niamey than Mogadishu in the last episode.

Nuka Break. Maybe I haven’t mentioned it, but I was a very late-comer to Fallout, getting seduced by Fallout 3 under a year ago and becoming truly addicted to Fallout: New Veagas. I found this fan-made and very cool series on You Tube through its Kickstarter. I found the rewards over-priced, though others didn’t and it was funded. It’d obviously fan-made, but still very watchable.

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What Would Dumas Do?

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing for RPGs. This is happening less and less, but it still happens. The other night I went back to a story tentatively titled “Boltcutter” about mercenaries returning to an African country in which they had previously worked and getting dragged into a conspiracy involving one of the military leaders of the country.

Suburban Shopping

I’m getting very close to completing this story, but every time I work on it I hit the same problem. After an hour or so of work and enthusiasm, I have a moment where I wonder what is going to happen to it.

I am a mercenary hack. I have never made any excuses or denials. One of my motivations for writing is money, and I stand in good company in this. Looking at “Boltcutter” – and another African thriller/adventure piece I have evolving tentatively titled “the Detachment” – I wonder what I will do with them when they are done. I have no idea of the markets to which I might submit these. Worse, I have no idea of the state of the genre. I don’t read short thriller/adventure fiction. It’s more than a little presumptuous to try to sell to a market about which you know nothing.

View from the Safehouse

So I am stuck. I will likely continue to putter along with these stories, and maybe I will finish them, but they will be orphans. They are unlikely to find a home. Creating art can certainly be its own purpose and its own goal, but I am someone who has set a different goal, and I have work that I feel has a good prospect for making me money.

It’s not that I don’t love these children of mine, I just don’t think they’ll ever move out of the house.

You can read more about “Boltcutter” here.

You can read more about “the Detachment” here.

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Weekly Round-Up for 21 June 2014

Ways to Go” by Grouplove. This was the earworm of the week for me.  It popped up on the radio a few times and then when I was listening to streaming music at work (I’m a bad, bad man), it popped up again. Not complaining. It reminds me of the 80s, which I actually remember (parts of it). Seeing the video . . . that’s interesting, and somewhat off-putting. I need to stop looking up videos. I guess that’s supposed to be Kim Jong Un? Strange intersection.

Songza. The firewall at work keeps out almost anything that would allow me even the slightest break in the silence. A colleague of mine had music playing in his cubicle, so I had to ask, and BOOM, now I can listen to music at work. It has an interesting “concierge” service that provides advice, though I have been using it mostly for its genre playlists.

Urban Shadows. This RPG powered by Apocalypse World (the same foundation as Dungeon World) is Kickstarting right now. It’s been funded, but you can still get in there for early access and Stretch Goals. The Accidental Survivors chatted with Andrew Medeiros, the game designer. To be honest, I know Andrew relatively well and he’s a friend of Rob Wakefield’s. To also be honest, he’s a hell of a cool guy and is exactly the kind of person I love to see succeed – smart, capable, humble and humorous. Also, Mark Diaz Truman is on board with this, and if you don’t know that name and are interested in RPGs, you need to read up on the man. He is a force of nature. Go support this game and support great designers and their great games.

Edge of Tomorrow Soundtrack. The mighty Mark Richardson of Green Hat Designs mentioned this soundtrack on Twitter. I am a huge soundtrack junky. I find them excellent background music for writing. I got a chance to test it out on XBox music for free – the only good thing about Windows 8 is XBox music free 10 hour streaming per month. Excellent stuff. Fits really well into my existing collection. I’m buying it from XBox not because I love Microsoft, but because it lets me listen to the entire album before buying and its the same price as iTunes.

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Far Strike Cry Back

Last week was a bit odd. I had an intersection of TV, computer games, and Africa.

I got a chance to see the first two episodes of season three of Strike Back and I picked up the game Far Cry 2 on sale. Both of these were set in Africa. They just weren’t really set in Africa. It was kind of annoying. I’m not a complete expert on Africa, but I know enough to be perturbed at lazy writing.

Strike Back is not a bad show, it’s just that the show runners aren’t willing to do a bit of research and seem to be contractually obligated to include gratuitous nudity at least once every episode. The breasts don’t annoy me, per se, but it really cheapens the show. These are gratuitous of the level of Alice Eve’s bra and panties shot in Star Trek Intro Darkness. It’s just silly.

And using some urban decay areas of South Africa as a stand-in for Mogadishu is really, really lazy. I understand that there are budgetary constraints. So work within them. There are a lot of places those parts of South Africa could easily double for, including parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Mogadishu is a whole other level of decay, closer to Armageddon than abandoned industrial.

I laughed out loud when they patched into the CCTV on the Mogadishu docks. Seriously, why not say something like “our UAV is on line” or “the American drone is in place.” Honestly, that’s believable. A CCTV system in Mogadishu that is both working and networked to allow for the UK’s secret squirrels to hack it is really pushing on the willing suspension of disbelief.

Far Cry 2 kind of ended up being the same. So, it’s a computer game. I get it. It’s in a fictitious African country. I get that too. What I don’t get is why there are so many white mercenaries running around. There’s a supply and demand issue going on right now with mercenaries in Africa. While demand is huge, there is an equally huge domestic supply. This is not to say there are no white mercenaries in Africa, there surely are, but they are not manning checkpoints or chasing random vehicles in technicals. They’re flying the jets, training the armies, and assassinating the troublesome human rights advocates.

It also seemed a little crazy that the dudes at the checkpoints were only interested in shooting the stuffing out of anything that moved. I’ve got diamonds, guys. I’m willing to bribe you. There should be a mechanic in which you can carry whiskey, beer, cigarettes, stuff like that, and then use those to bribe the guys at checkpoints. The more you bribe them, the better your reputation with them, and you actually build a relationship.

Okay, probably too complicated for a game that is predicated on shooting anything that moves, but like the show runners for Strike Back, it shows a real ignorance of Africa. Yes, there are civil wars going on and there are mercenaries in those civil wars and diamonds are paying for a lot of it, but as a mercenary in that zone, your greatest weapon is a smile and cold beer.

You can learn more about Strike Back here.

You can learn more about Far Cry 2 here.

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