Of Serpents and Foxes

Hello again everyone. I’ve been away, and busy, for a change but I want to start writing again on Mythic Bios at least once a week as I originally planned. I didn’t actually feel like writing anything until I got another Project of mine finished, but I feel the need to you updated on some of the things that I’m doing and to keep a record of some of my work as well.

It’s been tough for me this past while. I’ve had this Twine idea in my mind for some time and it was only at this year’s Toronto Global Game Jam that I’d been able to even start on it beyond the modest notes I’d researched and taken.

Unlike last year, I didn’t force myself to stay up until twelve or two in the afternoon to finish off my game. Aside from the fact that I had a headache during the Jam, even when I was better I realized that rushing through it and making something out of pure exhaustion would only give me sloppy work and very little to show for it: never mind the fact that it wouldn’t have even been a working narrative.

I’d gotten as far as creating an entry for it on the Global Game Jam site. At the moment, my Twine creation is called The Serpent and The Fox. I spent a whole night trying to think up a good abstract summary and a title for my creation in progress. Unfortunately, the late first night of the Jam cost me in stamina: to the point where I couldn’t even create an outline.

In the end, though, it was just as well. Most of my creative works each have their own unique processes and this one didn’t really want a pre-existing outline. Rather, it wants to use the fragments I’ve written down or have in my mind and flesh itself out from there. However, what’s really interesting about this interactive narrative is that it may well be the most structured Twine game that I’ve made to date.

Each part of my story is going to be an interlinking series of haiku: a poetic structure of five syllables, then seven on the next line, and five on the last. Of course, for the sake of storytelling — and sanity on my part — they are probably not all traditional haiku. They don’t all deal with descriptions of nature, and while I attempt to capture emotion in them, sometimes I need to use them to detail other matters. And while haiku apparently aren’t supposed to utilize metaphors, I might have to break those rules: if only to make them part of a metaphorical structure themselves. And while I will be using the five/seven/five schema when I can, I will vary up how many lines I use in each section and take essential creative liberties.

This brief discussion of poetic structure aside (and years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of talking about this, never mind finding it remotely interesting), I am particularly focusing on the perspective of the story. I can tell you right now that my story seems to start from a third person perspective, but depending on the choices that you make as a reader — on where and what character you click on — this will change.

What I am pondering at the moment is whether to follow the usual Twine and interactive choose your own adventure tradition of the second-person perspective, or go right into the first-person.

If I make it first-person, then you can see into the minds of the characters themselves even as you can choose their actions. However, ironically enough the perspective of “I” can be alienating for a reader: it’s just another divide between them and the character even if it might provide more insight. One of the texts that inspired me to make this Twine uses the first-person and I can see its strengths in that.

On the other hand, the second-person flat out, through its use of “you” makes you — the reader — into the character. It places you into their mind and body. When you make the choices that the game provides you with, you could feel a greater relation to that character. But then there is the issue of what happens when the character feels something and narrative attempts to claim that you are feeling it or thinking it too.

Either way, there is going to be some audacity involved. Another issue is that I wonder if I can get the different character perspectives to intersect again at some point and become unified depending on what the reader-player chooses: without being totally boring and repeating myself. And would the second-person, would “you” be able to relate to another character and feel the beginnings of some kind of relationship compared to whether or not you are an “I.”

I will have to find a healthy medium and keep exploring this issue further. I was reluctant to talk about this, link my entry to Mythic Bios, or even mention the name of a work that isn’t finished yet. I generally like to either link to finished works or just hint on the unfinished. It’s been weighing on my brain for a little while and taking up a good portion of its memory (I am also a less than closeted perfectionist).

Me and my Head

 

But it’s been a while and I thought you’d find this digression interesting in some way.

I hope I will be able to continue and finish this. I want to see how people react to it and I want to move on with my writing and other plans. I hope the world is treating you all reasonably. Hopefully I’ll be back next week. Until next time.

Reflections On The Return of the Sixth

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I had a busy weekend.

It was the most social I’ve been outside of the Internet in a while. First, I went to the Global Game Jam Videogame Expo at Bento Miso where I presented my Twine game: The Looking Glass. Next to the 3D and cell-shaded games, mine looked pretty “under-dressed”: especially near the corner of the room. It looked a lot like some strange, old, lost game that you’d find in a creepypasta.

Even so, some people played my game and we talked about it. I was told that my writing is flowing like a river and it has a poetic rhythm. Of course, that is only a sample of the kind of writing that I actually do but it was still good to hear.

I had fun walking around, talking and playing some other people’s games. I even got an opportunity to draw on the white board. I drew a spiral and some words underneath it. I wrote: “A mark appears on the wall. You are Agent Red and you have a choice to make.”

Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring my camera with me to take a picture and the one picture of me that came from the event is … less than flattering.

This same lack of foresight on my part is also the reason why you will find no pictures of me at the GeekPr0n Third Anniversary Party. It’s just as well, really. Compared to my compatriots, and not unlike my game from the previous event, I was very under-dressed.

But I had a lot of fun. I’ve been working at GeekPr0n for a while now and it was only that night I got to meet most of my co-writers and fellow staff for the first time. After I realized all I had to mention I was “Staff,” I got a VIP mark on my wrist and I went to the back section where I hung out with these really nice, geeky people that I’ve come to know. Over the excellent mixes of DJ Misty, I geeked out with them–mainly about Star Wars–and then slowly and inexorably found myself relaxing.

We even got some presents: specifically action figures. I got a figurine of Smiley Bone and a Manhunter from the Green Lantern.

It’s funny how things work out.  A year ago, at another location, I attended GeekPr0n’s second anniversary as a fan. I’d been a long time since I went to any club downtown. This year, GeekPr0n had their third anniversary at the Velvet Underground: a club I used to go to a lot. In fact, it was the first club I ever knew about that had gothic music. We had a lot of history together, but most of it was me dancing in the background and being known by very few. The rest of it was the results of belatedly growing up.

Years later, I find myself in the VIP section of the club eating snacks and chatting with my fellow GeekPr0n staff members who are friendly, nice geeks like me. And it made me realize something. All those years ago, when I went out to these places on my own, lonely, young, afraid and wondering, what I was really looking for were friends: and a family.

And even though there is so much more to do and many details to consider, looking back on all of this and in the words of Darth Vader, “The circle is now complete.”

Though, of course, given that there will be three more Star Wars films and extra media, I think the circle is expanding–becoming a spiral, if you will–and hopefully not a rabbit-hole. But that, my friends, is a post for another time.

A Surprise Post Appears! La-Mulana, an Age, and Solo Jamming all Entwined.

I have been meaning to write here for a very long time. So I am going to write behind my own designated schedule and wave hello at all of you.

So I am still alive and I am hoping to write here again a lot more often now. For those of you don’t know, I went on something of a hiatus to finish a short story that may have me see actual print: as in something actually published in print in addition to my poem in the art book Klarissa Dreams. That is all I can really about that at the moment, but please stay tuned.

In the meantime, however, I have been busy with other things as well. So where do I even begin?

Well, I participated in the Unwritten RPG Kickstarter Campaign. I essentially made an Age for them. In case you don’t know, Unwritten is a table-top RPG based on the universe of Myst: in which you must go through several Descriptive and Linking Books that connect to other worlds. The D’Ni civilization figured out a way to write Books that allowed people to link to other worlds or gradations of a particular world: or Ages as they are called. I read the books and played two of the games in my formative years and for about a decade I had an idea for an Age and a people.

There were some changes I had to make, but what resulted is pretty impressive based on a creative collaboration with the team. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can show people that I was part of the Guild of Writers and I finally made my own Age. My nineteen year old self would be proud of what the thirty-one year old me has become capable of doing: at least to that regard.

I also admit one other thing. So you know the game I vowed never to play? Well, I am playing La-Mulana now. In fact, very soon the La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter will be making more Fan Art Updates and my Twine story The Treasure of La-Mulana will be featured in one of them. I will be on the look out for that and at some point I will link that update to all of you. It’s funny. I have gotten to know quite a few people through this game and it is perhaps one of the few sources of real community that I’ve felt in a really long time, if not ever. I am not a game-designer in the programming sense. I am a writer. Of course, Christine Love herself said the same thing and look at the places she is at now. Granted, she has programming knowledge and I don’t. But that’s ok.

In fact, I hit another milestone relatively recently. I attended the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam. As some of you know I participated in the event last year, but armed with a basic understanding of Twine, I registered as a Solo Jammer and completed my first Twine game as such. I go into a little more detail about that on my G33kPron article Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam, but given what this Blog is about I wanted to talk a little shop about my game.

The Looking Glass was an experiment. After my Treasure of La-Mulana fanfic, I realized I could tell an extensive story with Twine, and use the hyperlinking transitions to control how much text the reader sees, and how much I wanted to pace the narrative. My Haunted Twine was an earlier attempt at this, but it was a lot clunkier and it still has issues that I need to address in future works. But I wanted to add more of an interactive element besides clicking on words this time around.

In addition, I was following a person’s experiences with a particular game online and, as my brain often works, I combined a few ideas together and came up with a concept and a few notes that you can see in all of their natural idiosyncratic handwritten glory down below.

I had a choice between this and a game about a serial killer. I was at first happy with neither of these concepts as I wanted to make something very personal and me for this Jam, but when I realized that my version of a “choose your own adventure” Twine game about my experience at the Jam itself would not be good enough at this stage in my development, and not really feeling the killing thing by the second official day of the 48-hour Jam I went with my original, very complex yet simply elegant idea that I should have taken more than two days to do. I may create more games like this one in the near future. In fact, I may be personally showcasing this one at the Toronto Global Game Jam Arcade in April. We shall see.

So now that I have at least four working Twine games or stories, I decided to expand a branch of Mythic Bios to contain them. You can find it on the menu bar above or click here on this link. I thought I would only make two relatively big Twine novels, but it seems my brain had, and needed, other plans. Perhaps sometime in the near future I will see what will be done with those.

And seriously ladies, gentlemen and other sentient beings, this is it for now. As I said before, I hope to be writing here more often again and I have some plans, as always. I have a few posts that are overdue and I want to fee more time to explore while continuing some of the work that I have been cultivating in my long self-exile. Poor January only had one post. Let’s see how many posts February will have as result shall we? 🙂

La-Mulana 2

Oh and before I go, please support NIGORO and Playism’s La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter Campaign. The universe of La-Mulana is both an archaeologist’s and a gamer’s dream and worst nightmare: it will challenge your ingrained assumptions about gameplay and mechanics. It also has a really nice unfolding story and a quirky character about it that few other games I’ve seen can match. So please check it out. You will not be disappointed and we might get to unlock some goodies without the spikes.

Mostly. Err …

Take care everyone.

What I Got Myself Into

I’m sorry this took so long to post, but I underestimated just how potent post-Game Jam lag can be. There have also been some tech issues, so you can look at the previous sentence as a double entendre if you’d like.

In any case, I had my first Toronto Global Game Jam! Yay TGGJ 13!

I started off the day by appropriately enough finishing off Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, House Wives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form (which is an awesome book of historical and cultural perspectives as well as the seed to make you want to make more games) before making my way to George Brown College’s Game Design Centre.

There were many possible scenarios in my head as to how this was going to turn out. And I have to say that none of them actually happened. I registered as a Solo Jammer with the belief and understanding that I would have a chance to become part of a group. What I didn’t know, and what I should have realized in retrospect is that many people would be attending the Jam with their own pre-established groups.

I knew a few people at the Jam and I got to socialize a bit with them before the ultimate theme of the Game Jam was announced: which was the sound of a heart-beat. So after this really excellent theme idea was revealed, I found myself with two choices. The first was to actually Solo it and learn how to use Twine–a text-based choose-your-own-adventure video game maker–on the go while making an entirely new story from scratch, and the second was to find or make a group with whoever else was interested.

So I found a group of two other people: another writer and a graphic designer. We realized that we lacked a programmer or coder, so we decided to make a Board Game. There was a lot of brainstorming, debating and spirited arguing but together we managed to create some working game mechanics. I also kept using the quote from William Faulkner’s Banquet Speech that George R.R. Martin likes to bring out whenever he talks about character development, namely: “the human heart in conflict with itself.” This was an appropriate quotation on so many levels and one that helped me work with the Jam theme.

I don’t know. There was one point where the lack of sleep, food, and the concentration on game rules and content, began to intermix with Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game inside of my head. I started to realize or remember that games are rituals in which we interact with other people and a created reality: an experience. During those two days, we were all essentially working and manipulating cultural information to create an interactive art form: making some kind of new meaning: or add our own personal touch for others to experience in some way.

Or something like that. At least I didn’t start calling anybody Magister Ludi.

So our group finished the game dynamics and some of the background notes. My fellow writer was taking notes as I was throwing out various ideas. Unfortunately, he had to leave early and he didn’t come back on the last day. In his defence, he did say that I had this, ;P. Also, all printing shops in the immediate area were closed so even when it was just myself and the designer, we didn’t have an accessible way to make a material copy and I didn’t bring any supplies to make a crude prototype. In the end, I had to interpret my co-writer’s notes and charts and tried to make everything as simplified as possible for the designer and myself.

Then to top it all off, we and a good majority of the Jammers missed the deadline for uploading our games and writing files onto the Global Game Jam site. The rules were there, but they were surrounded by a lot of text and weren’t completely clear. I’ve heard that one of the organizers might be talking to the Global site about letting us upload our games, but I have yet to hear back about that. If this does happen, I will definitely give you all a link to the game on the site. If not, I will see what I can do about this.

I think some of the most fun I had at the Game Jam was when I could actually just work on the writing without feeling like I had to manage other aspects in addition to that. I am not technologically skilled and that was why I counted on being in a team to begin with so I could focus on the field that I was good at. But I did learn a lot and we completed what we set out to do.

We made a game.

I also got to socialize a fair amount. It is really something to be surrounded by a group of friendly introverts–volunteers and game-makers–working on their own thing, or sleeping, or drinking free Starbucks coffee and tea, and shooting each other with Nerf guns. I slept on a mat. Someone slept in my sleeping bag and then returned it to me. There was pizza.

And I also helped a new friend with his own game after both my teammates were gone. Talking with other game-makers (now I am getting a Hunger Games reference in addition to The Glass Bead Game, I’m sorry to mention), made me remember my own old attempts to create video games when I was much younger.

I was the kid that messed around with Mario Paint for animation purposes and had vague ideas to record the animations to make a continuous pixelated cartoon with my own music. I made Warcraft II scenarios. I also used Civilization II Fantastic Worlds’ editor to make my own icons and game scenarios. I won’t even go into the board games I’ve made as well: which I had much better skill in doing (inspired by Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, and The Addams Family Board Game and such). When I talked to people at the Jam about Super Mario Brothers, it occurred to me that I had started playing it in the late 80s, while many of them had played it much later on. I remember when it was all new. It can feel strange to realize that you are suddenly old.

You know, I had a really good time. And I learned some valuable lessons too. If I do plan to be in a group, I will either come with a friend or with a pre-made group to do food runs, stand in lines, and do shifts as we work or whatever we decide to do. The second possibility is that I will learn how to use Twine and come Solo so that I can work on an interactive short story challenge and pace myself: allowing myself time to socialize and relax into the writing process. It all depends. I could go either way.

So, if I were to summarize GGJ 13 into an appropriately creative sentence, I would end it and this post in the following manner:

“I’m sorry, but your princess: she is in another castle … with some coffee and a machine gun.” 🙂

P.S. It also occurs to me that we were all recorded by camera people and even interviewed once. So I might have a link to that as well. I might even go into more detail on our game. We shall see.