My Life In Neon

Sci Fi / Fantasy writer Autumn Nicole Bradley – Dream in digital, live in neon

Archive for the category “Video Games”

Reset: Code Snipets and Source

Node map of your apartment

Your apartment, as seen from above

“So, can I trust you with my source code?”

In the interest of sharing resources with others using Twine to create, here’s the code snippets for all the things that used javascript in Reset:

Color Changing

This is what is used to create the color changing effects. The passage they were placed in was called “Style Changer”. The macro layout here was modified from the Timer script by Stefano Russo (right click to download).

The macros were then called by <<display “Style Changer”>> <<typical>>, <<redgreen>> etc…

<<silently>>
<<set $StyleChanger = 
function()
{
 macros['typical'] =
 {
 handler: function(){
 document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].style.backgroundColor="#333";
 document.getElementById("passages").style.color="#ddd";
 }

 }
 macros['redgreen'] =
 {
 handler: function(){
 document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].style.backgroundColor="#333";
 document.getElementById("passages").style.color="#ddd";
 }

 }
 macros['cb'] =
 {
 handler: function(){
 document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].style.backgroundColor="LightSteelBlue";
 document.getElementById("passages").style.color="DarkSlateBlue";

 }

 }
 macros['badcolor'] =
 {
 handler: function(){
 document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].style.backgroundColor="#b38201";
 document.getElementById("passages").style.color="#009900";
 }

 }
}>>
<<print $StyleChanger()>>
<<endsilently>>

Prompt Box

Rather than just show off how to create a prompt box, this is the segment in which the result the user types in is actually used immediately to determine which of the color schemes should be displayed. Since the user is given one of the Ishihara plates and asked which number they see, the two common answers are 29(typical) and 70 (red-green deficiency), and I also included a guaranteed answer in case either they saw nothing or entered something other than the two options. This is from the “erozha gnuj” passage.

<<set $numberSeen = prompt('#?')>>Not-you see you. Not-noise.
<<if $numberSeen eq 29>>[[Two touch things. Five-and-four touch things.|typical]]<<endif>>
<<if $numberSeen eq 70>>[[Five-and-two touch things. No touch things.|redgreen]]<<endif>>

The useful thing to note about this is that you can use a variable collected in a prompt on the very same screen the prompt appears.

Alert Box

For the alerts, I wasn’t able to find a macro to simply display the alert. So I set it to dump the result into a variable which means it has to be evaluated as JS. You can find this in the “Plug it in.” passage.

<<set $alert = alert('Warning: Attaching device could allow unauthorized access to digital as well as biological function.')>>

I think(?) the value  $alert will evaluate to is true if the player clicks “Ok” and false if the user escapes/closes the box without responding. But I’m not certain on that.

Confirm Box

Ah, yes. Turning yourself over to Alison’s control. I wanted to use this moment to mimic the normal experience of having to explicitly permit a different user to use administrator or root privileges.

The way this works is that clicking “Ok” sets the value returned from confirm() to true, while clicking “cancel” or “X” sets it to false.

<<set $confirm = confirm('You are about to grant user [Administratrix] ALL access privileges. Are you sure?')>>
<<if $confirm eq false>><<display "wrong">><<else>><<display "surrender">><<endif>>

Again, just like with the prompt box, you can use the result of clicking “Ok” or “Cancel” right away. In this case, I have two other passages, and whichever gets displayed depends upon whether the user accepts Alison’s control or not.

Full Source

You can download the full source of Reset here.

With regard to the license, this was a tough one for me. 99% of the work of this lies in the writing, not the code, though the interaction between JS and Twee code makes some obvious things in JS not so obvious in Twine, which is why I wanted to share those insights here. As far as the “code” stuff, I don’t really have any particular attachment to it. Use the JS stuff as you see fit, since much of this is so trivial (from a development standpoint, not necessarily a learning standpoint) that protecting a function call under copyright seems a crass assertion of that power. The CC license is meant to protect the prose, setting, and story arc from unattributed use before I turned it loose.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Complete nodemap of Reset

Complete Nodemap

Reset: Post Mortem

Rediscovering My Art

So, I can’t even start this without mentioning CYBERQUEEN by Porpentine. There’s really nothing I can say specifically besides this: it pushed all the right buttons in just the right order at just the right time to remind me of something terrible I had forgotten: I actually really love games and writing. For the past two years, transition and school have taken up so much of my focus that I, essentially, forgot why I love them.

Frankentwitter’s Game

This is the fateful tweet that started this game:

LifeInNeon: In the future, "I'll let you play with my source code" will be the ultimate offer of dom-sub trust

“I’ll let you play with my source code”

See, Reset started out as a bunch of ideas cobbled together from mostly-sometimes-joking replies to Porpentine on twitter. My usual conversations with her go something like this: Porpentine posts some decontextualized short-form genius, I invent a context and reply with an equally decontextualized statement that presumes we’re inhabiting the same context. Powerful emotions ensue, one hopes. Or just laughter, camaraderie, and the erotic validation that only nice hard faving can supply.

Then I have a moment of:

Other Lydia: Hey Lydia.

Lydia: Yeah, Other Lydia?

Other Lydia: We just came up with something really cool.

Lydia: *Blink* *Blink* *Scrambles to find a pad to scribble an idea fragment down*

The words are scrawled at an angle to the lines of the paper. It feels proper. It's your way of signaling to yourself that this was an idea you wished to be reminded of so you could develop it further in longer, with-the-lines writing.

Reset: the Crumpled-up note

In fact, there’s a scene in the game that reflects this:

I actually have a bin in my cube shelf just for collecting notebooks, note pads, torn notes, and all the other things on which I have scribbled idea fragments. (Fun trivia fact: the text of the note is from an idea I had nearly 7 years ago for a different story. It fit perfectly, and also foreshadows the situation the character is trapped in before the player realizes the nature of the trap.)

The inclusion of the note the character couldn’t remember the significance of was yet another idea fragment spawned by twitter banter:

 

The emotion of finding something you had written down but realizing it no longer means what it meant then

A very complex emotion

 

The Horror of the Transhuman World

My relationship to my body has changed a great deal in the last two years, but in doing so, it has also changed my relationship to the transhumanism movement. I grew up on stuff like Neuromancer, and the fastest way to hook me into your story was to provide a world where body replacement was feasible and accessible. Now, don’t get me wrong: I only see this as a trans thing in retrospect; back then, transsexual was not something I even remotely associated with myself—I just wanted to be free of my bodily limits entirely. However, these days, now that my body is sliding into alignment and *gasp* I actually like it from time to time, my pressing “need” for settings to include body replacement is gone, but in its place is a different need:

I don’t need body replacement to like your story, but if you include it, you must also tell a more mature story.

If you simply project modern day forward and add this one aspect, I want to hear the stories of the people who don’t have access to all the cool stuff because capitalism has prevented them from getting it, or the ways in which enhancements become tools of exploitation to serve the needs of the still-at-the-tops. I want to hear the stories that don’t just sweep disability away by saying “we fixed that”, but rather the stories that talk about the new disabilities created by technology when someone comes a long that it doesn’t work for (after all, every disability arises in a social context) .

So I spend a lot of my time these days fantasizing about the nightmarish horrors of the transhuman future, not the idealized dreams. Dreams are easy. Horrors are hard to face, and if we don’t, they’ll be what we get.

But there’s another aspect of meditating lovingly on the horrors. For some of us, the belief that we can overcome these nightmares keeps us looking forward to this future. This game is not meant to be a Luddite warning that brain hacking is too scary of a possibility and therefore we should halt all progress (impossible, but folks try). I do not raise the spectre of the worst that can happen in the hopes of frightening others away from the future. If I’m being candid, in this hypothetical future, I imagine the absence of scarcity will remove much of the threat of unwanted violation, such that violation as expressed in the game becomes an erotic and dangerous but ultimately recreational act engaged in consensually,  not a selfish or criminal one.

Simultaneously, I’ve been playing a lot of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. So I have a lot on my mind regarding the shortsightedness of Get Augments -> Become White Upper-class Demigod Corporate Enforcer in a setting beset by racism and poverty, and virtually defined by the way everyone except the player needs a drug, Neuropozine, just to survive. I had a very involved conversation recently with Merritt Kopas about that very shortcoming. So that genre was already tumbling around my head when the Big Chaos Twine Jam came along. (I’ve also been working on another game that deals with this: Cuts, which I hope to finish by the end of January, that deals directly with the issue of access and affordability in the era of print-on-demand organs.)

The Mechanics of Sensory Control

One thing I wanted very much to include in this game, as fitting with the “mind got wiped in a cyborg kink scene” theme is the idea that when a person’s brain computer got switched back on, it would need to be recalibrated. With a text based game and no 2D art talents to speak of, I had a limited palette of senses to play with. I chose to focus on two: color vision and language.

Luckily, one of the themes of the challenge was CSS formatting, so I decided to use some fun javascript to alter the colors on screen throughout the game. I chose to make the text onscreen deliberately difficult to read before the calibration takes place, and the color scheme makes it even harder for people with red-green color deficiency to play without highlighting the text on screen. Very early in the game, I alleviate this strain (I made it the first recalibration so as not to go from immersion to punishment of the player), and I do so using one panel of the Ishihara test. A pop-up box appears asking for what number the player sees, and depending upon either of the typical answers (29 for full color vision, 70 for those with r-g deficiency, nothing for full color deficiency) it recolors the game to something more tolerable.

The macro for the color changing:

<<silently>>
<<set $StyleChanger = 
 function(){
     macros['typical'] =
     {
          handler: function(){
          document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].style.backgroundColor="#333";
          document.getElementById("passages").style.color="#ddd";
      } 

}>>
<<print $StyleChanger()>>
<<endsilently>>

The CSS for anchors (links) and backgrounds were set to “inherit” from the body and from the passages, so changing one background and one text color overhauled everything relevant. Since Jonah loads the page once and just fills in the passages <div> each time a new passage is loaded, styling it once each time does it for the entire page until the next time the player hits a style point.

Update: For those looking for more code snippets from the game, I made a followup post here.

I used a reversed rot-13 cipher to garble the text and simulate aphasia. I chose a cipher instead of simply random text strings because language has a structure, and just because the character doesn’t understand the language being used doesn’t mean that structure disappears. I have auditory processing problems; occasionally people speaking to me sounds like wordless babble. I could even repeat the words back to them, but they have no meaning. So I occasionally have to ask people to repeat themselves even though they might be the only person in the room with me and no other sounds to distract me. But there’s still some sense of meaning that gets through: I still understand tone of voice, I still understand that I am being spoken to and not the wall, I might have an inkling of the subject being discussed. But the words themselves are incomprehensible for a few seconds. Like a mental hiccup. So I leaned on another test: the Rorschach test, to “re-align” symbolic language processing, allowing the player to freely input whatever they saw in the ink blots.

I wanted to simulate that experience of aphasia: the words being said by the doctor still have a structure and a meaning; there is still a purpose and if the player chooses, they can actually use a translation tool to decipher the text. It’s just like I have to in my real life: I think about what was said to me, playing it back from memory like a recording, and “re-hear” it, just as the player must (if they are dedicated) re-read it to translate it.

Likewise, the narrative has a greatly reduced vocabulary palette to choose from: concepts like “touch-thing” for finger, or “not-you” substituted for any person that you recognize isn’t yourself. It felt incongruous to use a full linguistic spectrum when simulating a scene in which the character-as-player-as-character has no access to their words. “What would it be like to be reduced to the vocabulary of a 2 year old?”

The color vision one is dipping into dicey territory because unlike the language, I do have full color vision (and from what I’ve been tested, on the high end of my ability to discriminate colors). So I absolutely could not go forward with that in the game without providing a safe way out: there is a color-fuckery-free way to play the game because as hard as it is on those with full color vision to look at the absolutely garish color palette, it’s even harder on those with color deficiency. Likewise, the intended compensation mechanic—using the mouse to highlight the text—is not available to players who play on many touchscreen devices or who have difficulty manipulating the mouse. (Full disclosure: as a stimming method, I compulsively highlight and unhighlight any text I am reading, so it still forces players to play as I would in a roundabout way.)

The Kink Metagame

Both of these things constitute a metagame layer: the game is playing with the player as much as the setting is manipulating the player character. Since the second-person article “you” is used throughout, it seems appropriate.

That makes the kink scene a lot more complex, because I’ve already established a dialogue with the player that they are in fact the one experiencing what the character is experiencing. I wanted to provide incentive to keep going with the kink scene: the further you go, the more the story gets revealed in memories. Likewise, to emphasize the submission and control held by the Administratrix, I realized I could undo the re-calibration done at the beginning. This also bookends it, giving the sense that it was a scene like this one that led to being in the hospital in the first place. Indeed, one could end the game on that belief when it loops back to the beginning.

The Safe Words and the True End (SPOILER ALERT)

Because of that metagame layer, because the game was telling the player they were experiencing the kink, I wanted to provide the player as much as the character a safe way out. So I made the choice to make everything from beyond the beginning of the kink scene entirely optional. Like kink off-screen: it’s there if you enjoy it, but if you don’t, no worries, mate. Likewise, it ends when one of the players says it ends.

Therefore: the safe words are always available to the player from the initiation of the kink scene to the end.

If a player ends at the initial loop back, thinking the Administratrix reprogrammed their head and put them in the hospital, I think that is a satisfying-ish ending as a story, but it says some deeply fucked up things about kink (or what folks might think I feel about kink).

It was very important to me that the game actually end without it being some nefarious plot: there was no murder, no jealousy, no cheating, no revenge fantasy, or any of that. It ended when the player/character said it ended, and reaffirms the trust placed in the Administratrix. If anything, I feel I was a little rushed with the ending and may not have provided enough aftercare in the form of confirmation that the player/character is back in the “real” world.

Recursion, Foucault, Soc1ety

Obviously recursion is a big deal in this story. The player/character is breaking out of consecutively deeper loops until they arrive at the real world. This is echoed by the very safe phrase used: turtles all the way down, a concept of cosmic recursion when one postulates that the universe rests on the back of a turtle. What’s the turtle standing on? Well, it’s turtles all the way down.

If you haven’t read anything by Foucault, you probably should. If you enjoyed this game enough to reach this line of this post mortem, you ought to know what the man had to say about the nature of power and control and structures to maintain them. Even if you can’t get through his full-length works (guilty), get the notes from someone who has. And grab a strong drink and prepare for some soul-searching on how to get by in such a deeply fucked up world.

Soc1ety is, of course, a panopticon qua social network service accessed through one’s headware. The analogues to it in our present world should be obvious. But I had to include it, since this entire game was spawned by a transhuman version of “Hey everyone, I lost my phone. PM me your number!”

Thank you

I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Much love. Take care of each other. <3

_-*

Reset: A game by Lydia Neon

Screenshot of Reset by Lydia Neon

Play Reset

Reset is a game about the bizarre, frightening, and exciting possibilities for kink in the cyborg / transhuman future.

Who can you trust with your source code if you can’t trust your Administratrix?

Reset was created with Twine as part of the Big Chaos Twine Jam.

 

Play Reset Here

 

 

Twenty Years In The Making

I beat Final Fantasy 1 with my dad this weekend while I was back home. That may not seem like an accomplishment to most experienced gamers, considering the prevalence of things like the Single Character Speed Run, or The Final Fantasy Challenge. But there’s a story to this one.

When I was a young boy of 8, I broke my arm in a BMX jumping accident. No gore, just a dislocated elbow that bent the wrong way. It’s a lot cooler to talk about than it was to go through, but having gone through it, I say it makes for a very fun thing to tell people. “I once bent my arm backwards at the elbow!” However, in my month-long recovery, I could do two things with my left hand: hold a piece of paper in place (no escaping homework!), and work the D-pad of my NES.

So, being the sympathetic (or addiction-enabling, I haven’t decided) parents they are, Mom and Dad bought me Final Fantasy. Having grown up already on a steady diet of Mario Bros, Zelda, Gauntlet, and River City Ransom, I was ready to devote my entire after-school life to this new game.

The one thing I hated about it was the battles. Too frequent, too boring. Somewhere along the way I lost that initial hatred of JRPGs’ core game mechanic long enough to enjoy the real classics like Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger, but at this young age, I was just a little too impatient. So I would run from every battle.

Now, I realize there are Low Level Challenges premised on this very idea, or even the Low Level Class Change Challenge that involves running from every battle until the Castle of Trials. However, this was my first play through and I had no idea what was in store for me or what I needed to prepare for. I had no handy walkthrough to tell me all the stuff I needed to successfully complete a low level challenge.

Therefore, my policy of running from every battle because battles were boring had three predictable consequences:

1) Eventually, I was so low level that running away took more rounds than fighting. (Did I stand and fight anyway? No.)

2) Boss battles took ages because I’d have to restart from my last save which meant doing the entire dungeon over again.

3) When I finally reached the Temple of Fiends Revisited, I had no chance in hell of beating Chaos.

All throughout this, my dad and I would take turns with the battles. Unlike me, he would actually fight through them, with me cheering him on to run so we could get back to the “interesting” stuff, which for me was exploring, buying new gear, getting the airship and getting the class change.

(I will admit: I am a sucker for upgraded sprites. If you tell me a game has a class change and the new class has an upgraded sprite, I will love it in spite of all other mechanics. Warsong, I am looking at you.)

By the time we beat Tiamat, my arm had healed and I was just playing to beat the game. I was in such a rush to the end that each day I would make another two or three attempts at beating Chaos. To explain for those who have not played (and kudos to you if you are still reading), to reach the final boss, you need to defeat all four previous bosses in order, and then fight the final boss, all in one dungeon. Which means no saving after each one. (This was changed in the DS and iPhone ports, thank god.) I would just play right through to Chaos, fight, lose, and try again. I know now that the much more profitable course of action would have been to fight through right up TO Chaos, cast Exit, save, and do it again a few more times. (In fact, this experience is probably what taught me that very fact.)

So, rather than watch me repeat this cycle of wasted hours and futile attempts at the final boss for another week, my dad stayed up all night leveling up our party. According to my mom, he got up somewhere “in the 80’s.” My dad wanted it to be a surprise for me, so he didn’t say anything before he left for work. Some of you can see where this is going.

That morning, I woke up and said, “I’ve had enough.” I started a new game, with a new party, and resolved to actually fight all the battles on the way to the end. I only had time to beat Garland, the first mini-boss, before school. So I went back to the Inn, saved my game, and hopped in the car.

To my dad’s credit, he didn’t say a word about his prior night’s work being destroyed. When I told him I started over so that I could be strong enough to beat Chaos, he just grinned and said, “Is that right?” It was years before my mom told me the real story of what happened that night, and being the gamer that I am, it haunted me ever since.

I have long since sold my original NES on eBay and swapped my collection for emulators. It’s easier, more convenient, and suits my PC lifestyle. But this year, SquareEnix released an updated iPhone port of the Dawn of Souls version of FFI, so I paid the $8.99 for it because I knew it was the only way I was going to beat this game. I knew I’d only play it during all those inconvenient times I didn’t have anything better to do: buses, subway, Amtrak. Luckily for me, this weekend I had just reached the Temple of Fiends while I was home.

Around 8PM on Monday evening, after four attempts (made so much easier by being able to save one step in front of Chaos), I beat Final Fantasy 1. I brought my phone downstairs to the living room and my dad and I crowded together to watch the end sequence play 20 years after he had deserved to see it. Looking at it now, I read the final text and think it is the cheesiest writing ever, and Dad agrees. But it was worth the painfully bad writing to be able to share it with him.

Fallout: New Vegas Liveblogging – Day 2

9:12 AM

1) I don’t care if it’s a sin to tell a lie.

2) I’ll tell you where you can shove that big iron on that hip.

3) There’s only one Johnny with a guitar, and that’s Johnny B. Goode. And you, madam, are no Chuck Berry (or Marty McFly).

10:03 AM

Holy shit radscropions are tough. Not enough armor piercing ammo at this stage of the game.

The hand-shaking scrap metal statues are awesome. One thing New Vegas did right is their landmarks. That’s what narrative architecture is all about: something to draw you towards, and then something to reveal when you get there. A rollercoaster, giant statues, a big cross. I can’t wait to see what the rest of them are.

10:27 AM

ALJFEOIJW:OIJF WOIF:WOWEI JF:WBFWBUEF!!!!!

I’ll corrupt your data, assholes!

I just lost everything back to the gunfight in Goodsprings.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

10:51 AM

Insult to injury: now my graphics card is acting up.

Fallout: New Vegas Liveblogging – Day 1

I’ve decided to do something a little goofy. I’ll be liveblogging my Fallout: New Vegas experience.

11:01 AM:
[singlepic id=117 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Installing right now. It actually surprised me that this was a Steam-based installer, even on the the disk, which meant had I not been a Steam user, I’d have had to sign up for Steam to verify my game.

Up side: It’s Steam, so even without the disk I can still get it again.

Down side: Eh. I’m not a fan of online DRM. But I can understand the desire for it to delay (not stop) piracy. Also, since it’s Steam, it means I can’t choose an install location. It has to be where Steam puts it.

Feedback so far: Needed a DirectX update and Steam patch. Slowing things down.

11:07 AM:

HOLY MOUSE SENSITIVITY BATMAN!

Even turned all the way down, mouse sensitivity is WAY too high. If anyone has a solution to this, let me know in the comments. The fixes posted for Fallout 3 don’t seem to work.

Found it here

11:19 AM:

For those who got the Mercenary Pack with the game, the instructions leave out one crucial step. After activating it on Steam and downloading it, you need to actually activate it for the game. This takes place before the game is running.

In the launcher, there is an option called Data Files. Select that. Once your Mercenary Pack is finished downloading it should appear in this list.Click the little checkbox next to it. Now hit play and you’ll have it in game.

Also: Hardcore Mode

It’s in the manual, but if you’re flipping through the game options before playing, you might see it here. You can’t turn on Hardcore Mode until after you create your character. Don’t worry, you’ll get to be hardcore soon enough.

[singlepic id=118 w=320 h=240 float=left]

11:39 AM:

Intro was classic cool. The “War. War never changes.” still gets me every time.

New things: You’re not a vault dweller this time. That surprised me. Also, it seems as though Vegas’s vault is Vault 21, which makes sense. (In a tabletop game I had made it the Lucky 7 Vault)

As you can see in the screenshot, the character generation is meta-included by use of one of those goofy novelty machines that tells you everything about your sex drive for the low cost of a dollar.

12:41 PM:

So, I created a luck/intelligence monster as I usually do for Fallout games. We’ll see how that goes now that there’s no Gifted or Bobbleheads. There’s still Intense Training though. I also chose the Wild Wasteland perk which I guess is some sort of weirdness magnet.

The distinction between magazines and books (for temporary and permanent skill gain respectively) is a little annoying, mainly because it becomes a pixel hunt mousing over every single book in the game again.

2:17 PM:

Rounded up a posse to kill some outlaws. I feel like I’ve played this intro storyline before. Still, with a wild west flair, it’s still a lot of fun.

Encountered some strange graphical glitches during the sandstorms, though. We’ll see if it happens again.

Seems like some objects don’t get cleaned up properly when fast traveling. They remain floating nearby or their emitters travel with you.

3:02 PM

Found the prison that’s been taken over by the prisoners. Ever since the original Fallout I’ve wondered why we’ve never seen a prison as a location. They seem like natural places to go in a post-apocalyptic scenario: fortified, stocked, and usually remote.

Good lord the music is annoying. I kept the radio on the whole time while playing Fallout 3. But New Vegas’s music rotation is so short that in 20 minutes you’ll hear all it has. The reason I find it annoying is I like the radio updates from the DJ. Looks like it’s time to find a fan-made patch already.

5:30 PM

Last one for now. Time to take a break for dinner.

I found some red balls on a ridge near Goodsprings. They were next to a body of a guy named Jimmy, and pointing off northeast. I’m wondering if this is tied to my Wild Wasteland trait? Perhaps there will be more and with them one can triangulate a location?

I’d love to post a screenshot of it, but the screenshot is corrupted. Great.

Steam Engines GO!

A few days ago, I was debating which of two ideas I wanted to pursue for NaNoWriMo. Well, I have decided:

Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine

One day, Lewis Mulligan was a scrapper in a textile mill, and the next day he was the cabin boy and apprentice navigator on the TRA Nevermore, a second-hand airship just leeward of ruin. But while transporting a clockwork contraption known as the “Pandemonium Engine,” the crew runs afoul of Church inquisitors, a secret society of alchemists, and a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Now, it’s up to Lewis to steer the Nevermore to freedom, or at least go down with style!

My goal for the crew of the Nevermore is a steampunk Firefly. Granted: different medium, one story arc vs 14 episode arcs + 1 movie, and I’m not Joss Whedon. But still, if I can get halfway there, I’ve achieved all I wanted for NaNo.

I’ll be posting Crew Profiles for the ship in the next few days.

Fallout: New Vegas comes out a week from tomorrow. Now, if I had done it right, I’d have made my planning schedule end on October 18th, and reserved the 19th-31st for Fallout, and called it “story research.” Instead, I still have benchmarks and milestones sprinkled throughout the rest of October.

Happy Birthday To Me

28 years ago today, I decided I’d call Earth home for a while. Not to get maudlin, but it’s a frustrating reminder that there are people who have built decade-long careers and people who have burned out by now. And I’m still getting started.

Writing’s a different animal, and we can’t all be the children of trust fund PR and Marketing agents who can catapult their kids to marginally-deserved fame by borrowing the ideas of others and putting dragons in it. And at 28 I’m still well, well ahead of the career curve.

Looking back:

– I finished Calc 2. It was the most challenging class I have ever taken. If you rolled up the next three most difficult classes I have ever taken (I’ll even let you count all three times I took Calc 1 as one class), it’s still harder. And I loved every fucking minute of it. There was so much nerd squee in that class I actually got annoyed that I had to do the homework. I could just sit and listen to the lecture for weeks. Dr. Maltenfort has a gift for teaching, and Calc 2 tackles some really cool problems. Calc 2 was like Chem 2. It’s where the final piece of the puzzle fell into place and it all made sense (even if I got the answers wrong, I was finally asking the right questions). I finally understand what Lori found so fascinating about really cool mathematical proofs. They’re like the universe’s poetry.

– I finished a 600 page novel. That’s further than 95%* of people who take a shot at writing a novel. Even if it isn’t good, it’s done.

– Bands I was turned on to this year by some awesome friends: The Birthday Massacre, The Protomen, The Polysics

– I built some kick ass scripted systems for Legacy: The Dark Ages, including a player reputation system, replacing D&D slots with Spell Points, and a customized spell teaching and learning system that doesn’t use scrolls.

– I have become a shameless fan of Shojo Kakumei: Utena

– I beat System Shock 2. Seriously. Why did I wait this long to play this game?

– I <3 Steph.

Tonight, drunken debauchery!

*I’m making this up, but I’m sure the real statistic is actually higher.

The Last Leg

After a month of moderate progress and much distraction, I am officially in the final leg of Root of the First. The file size is under the goal of 600 pages, and there’s still more that’s pre-ordained for cutting. So not only will I reach my goal of getting it under 600 pages, I’ll beat it. Possibly by a fairly large margin.

It was a bit slower going than I had hoped. I was thinking I’d be at this point nearly a month ago. But on my most recent read-through, I realized just how much maudlin crap was weighing down the third quarter of the book. In some parts, it was clear that it took so long to write that I had just plain old forgot that I had just covered that same information 2 chapters earlier. Other parts, it seems like I didn’t think the audience got the point the first time I said something, and repeated it three more times in different chapters.

There’s an important lesson there, that related directly to the theme of the novel. When I was drafting it, I obviously didn’t think I had made the theme apparent by the actions of the characters, so I reinforced it with a lot of heavy, needless narrative and dialog. Part of me is glad it was there to be cut, since it helped remind me what the scenes were really about. And it also gave me plenty of room to cut without digging too deeply into the plot.

In this most recent revision, I decided to cut a character from the ending that used to be there. Originally, he reunited with the group. But now, I keep the group separated and end his story a little differently to set up for the sequel. I wrote the section in a fairly self-contained way, so that his entire “end plot” can be pushed off to book 2 if need be. It’s not exactly a cliffhanger either way, and it cleans up the plot a fair bit to keep it at the end of book 1, but exactly when it takes place chronologically is pretty negotiable. So if that gets cut, there’s at least another 60 pages.

The home stretch is going to be the hardest of all. While I have renewed enthusiasm, I also just got my hands on the Unity3D Iphone development license, so I need to focus a bit more time on that. I also need to almost completely rewrite the last hundred pages of the book from scratch. I rearranged the end plot so much that there’s not much salvageable text left. Sad but true, but I think the new stuff will be so much better that it’ll be more than worth it!

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