Weekend Round Up #15

Image Source: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/weekend-roundup-november-8-11/

This blog entry is me formalizing a format that I started earlier in the year of just giving a quick rundown of some of the highlights of my weekend. As I tend to do most of my writing, gaming, and media consumption on the weekends, it makes sense to give a brief summary/overview of some of the more important aspects of my weekend life, considering they all have relevance to my life in general, and the blog, in particular.

Gaming

Nothing major to note. I got closer to finishing the driving game Gravel. Actually, I’ve already finished it (seen the credits roll after completing the main campaign, but I’m hopeful that I can earn the ultimate reward for my dedication, a Platinum Trophy, in which I complete all the required conditions. I’m currently sitting at 97% complete on the game–needing only 2 online trophies to finish the game. However, that might be a hard task based on the fact that no one is really playing the game online anymore that I can see (on the PS4 anyway). We’ll continue to see, however.

Writing

Managed to send off a story (reprint–Faerie Knight) to a YA podcast looking for Halloween, Christmas, and Dinosaur stories (Faerie Knight falls firmly in the Halloween category). I’ve had very little luck (none at all, if I’m honest) in the reprint category–none of my stories have ever been reprinted in a different magazine from their original publication, but since FA was a Halloween story (it takes place on Halloween night), I thought I’d give it a try. In other news, I started planning a short-story “duology” over the weekend. I’ve actually already written the first story (I, Magi) and I now have a “sequel” for it in mind. I will be working with it over the week to get a “rough draft” down on paper and then put it on hold until I finish Project Dog, Project Skye, and Project Independent. I feel as if I have too many outstanding projects and I really need to finish some of them off before moving on to others.

Media

Not much to see here this week. Not into Game of Thrones. I hate the whole “Bad things happen to Good people” sub-genre, no matter the genre (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), so I refuse to be a part of the cultural conversation here. I did start the Amazon Prime show Hanna, but didn’t actually finish the first episode–although I will. I don’t think it would be right for me to give my impressions until I do, however.

School

So, this is where the bulk of my writing time went this weekend. I had a school assignment due at 11:00 pm Sunday night for my Victorian Literature class (on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). I finished it right around that time (after working on it since approx. 7pm). I really feel the Sunday night time-frame is a good writing time (when I’m not writing until 11:00pm or 12:00am), so as soon as school’s out (i.e., I’m finished with my classes, I would like to use this time-frame to actually work on some of my (many) “Projects.”

Well, that’s my weekend for this week–hope this week is a good one for both you and me!

Sidney

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  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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Anthem: Wait and See

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I’m interested in all varieties of games, from racing to action to shooters. However, I have a soft spot for science fiction action games, no matter the genre (about the only exception to this is “puzzle” games, but even then, if the game maker can really sell me on the concept, I’ll at least take a look). However, after being burned by Mass Effect Andromeda two summers ago, I’ve taken a more “wait and see” approach towards games published by EA (Electronic Arts) as they seem content to release games that are not quite finished in order to 1) not disrupt their “pipeline” with future releases that that have in the works for later in the year and 2) satisfy their investors over their game-playing audience.

Early Reviews

So, Anthem “partially” released to subscribers of EA’s early access “subscription” platform and the reviews have been, for the most part, mediocre. While most praise the graphics and the flying and the gorgeous world, many are also criticizing long load times and the multiplicity of loading screens, bugs/glitches, and a story that doesn’t necessarily delve as deeply as many fans of the developer’s (Bioware’s) stories. Early reviews are generally speaking a 7 out of 10–okay, but not great.

Yes, I know you have a whole slate of games planned for the fall–Jedi: Fallen Order is one that we know of, and rumors persist of a “new” Need for Speed game, but Anthem is an important game for EA, so why not give it the time it needs to finish “baking?”

Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me

So, I’m waiting on the game, even if EA isn’t willing to do this. EA would prefer that I buy it and wait for them to fix it over the year and make it a good game, so that they already have my money to add to their numbers for their investors. I’m looking for a good product for my purchase price. So, unlike Mass Effect Andromeda, I’m not going to pick up my preorder based on both my perception of the game (in its current state) and the early reviews of the game. While I think that the graphics are top-notch, I’m not as sold on the flying/combat as even the reviewers are based on their reviews, and I’m certainly not impressed by the frequent loading screens. To be honest, the game reminds me of Knights of Legend, an Origin game that really wanted owners to own a hard-drive, but came out on the Commodore 64 (C64) with a disk drive. I was always switching out disks based on whatever activities that I needed/wanted to do–the same seemed true with Anthem. Everything that I was doing seemed to need a load screen (and that’s with the 2nd demo–for me, the first demo was plagued with the “infinite loading screen bug” where I couldn’t even load into a game for most of the afternoon). After buying Mass Effect Andromeda brand new (which also had major issues due to lack of development time), I’m choosing to (at best) wait quite a while before purchasing the game.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekly Round-Up (February 3rd-9th)

potpourri

Writing

  • 2nd Draft–Starlight, Starbright: “Exposition” — I worked on the beginning of the story and reworked it to add in more characterization, more character backstory, and to revise the introduction of the story so that it matches the changes that I made in the middle of the story in the 1st draft (I didn’t go back and revise it as I figured I would get bogged down and not finish the 1st draft which is what I wanted to do.
  • The market that I’m aiming this for is a yearly one and it stops taking submissions on February 28th. I already missed a different market that stopped taking submissions on Jan. 31st (& will have to wait until June for their next period), so I don’t want to miss this one and have to wait an entire year (along with it having a different theme, to boot).

Gaming

  • So, I finished the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II published by EA. I bought it on sale (9.99) and I bought a digital copy. I played the first one (only because it was Star Wars) “day one,” and while it was fun, I really did miss having a campaign (I rarely played the first game, so it was money wasted). I decided that this time I would wait until the game went on sale before purchasing it. I thought the campaign was good–although Iden goes through a character change quite quickly about a third of the way through–and while I liked it, I did find it abrupt. I didn’t even bother with the multiplayer which is this game’s bread and butter because I didn’t like the “loot box” controversy–just let us play games EA, stop looking at you gaming customers as stupid sheep to be fleeced for your shareholders. Not cool.
  • Speaking of multiplayer, this week saw the release of Apex Legends, a first person shooter which mixes the best of Battle Royale games (like Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBg), “character shooters” (Overwatch) and cartoony action/combat (Fortnite). This game was released on Tuesday or Wednesday and it has taken the gaming world by storm. 10 million players have played it in approx. 72 hours. Whether it has staying power remains to be seen. Oh, I also one my first match today. It is a three-person team, and my contribution was healing, revives, and calling enemies, but even though I wasn’t the “star” on the team, my help was both necessary and critical to the win! 🙂

Miscellaneous

  • So, not much going on outside of work–for school and for my second job.
  • Oh, I got new contact lenses, but I don’t think there going to work out. I’m extremely near-sighted so we added a “multifocus” lens so that I could do better at reading, but in doing so, the distance is now very blurry and limited and I’m not really “feeling” them. While I can’t go back to my old pair (too old), I may have to try to see if we can’t give up some “reading” clarity to get some clarity for my distant vision because of all the driving that I do.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Day’s Gone — An Open-World “Zombie” Game

Day’s Gone is a game that I am quietly optimistic for later this year. This is an “open-world” game, meaning that there is a large map that you the player can explore. It is also a “zombie” game–the reason there are quotes around zombie is that technically they aren’t “zombies,” but “freakers.” In the game’s fiction, these enemies are alive, they eat, and they sleep. However, functionally, they act as zombies would–they shamble/run after you, they exhibit “horde” mentality, and they are extremely hard to “kill.”

I’m a Fan

So, I’ve been a fan of this game every since it was announced and demoed at Sony’s Press Conference a couple of years back. Many of the reactors were disappointed as the trailer was shown towards the beginning of the show and then the gameplay was revealed in the “last slot” of the show. Too many commentators, both journalists and fans, ALWAYS want that last slot to be a Steve Jobs’ “One More Thing” Iphone moment–whether or not that makes sense for the particular company (and/or moment). When they didn’t get their “new” thing that blew them out of the water, they turned on this game (Knack for the PS4 had a similar reaction, including people who should probably know better–“Knack is kack” proclaimed a former editor of OPM on the podcast covering original announcement of the PS4–knowing full well that he wasn’t the target audience for the game).

I, however, feel that (like Knack) this is a game that is worthy of my time (& money) as it does many of the things that I want from a “zombie” game. Like my favorite movie in the genre, World War Z, this game puts one character against a swarm of zombie-like creatures. While I’m not completely sold on the “biker” world of the game, I am sold on the character and the “freakers.”

A World War Z Biker Game

I may be putting words in the game designers’ mouths, but to me, this game is much like World War Z, but with a biker twist. Although it isn’t in the above trailer, your bike is an essential component to the game and you need to maintain it or else it could leave you stranded in the wilds.

I also like the focus on various types of “freaker” groupings (in this trailer), along with little bit about the weapons (also in this trailer). While I probably have too many games already, although I managed to finish one earlier this year (did I tell you that I got a Platinum Trophy on Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands? I did, well let me tell you all about it one more time . . . no, don’t leave, I’ll save it for another time.) 😉

Still, I feel that this game isn’t getting the attention that it probably deserves because of the “One More Thing” expectation and the idea that “zombies” are old hat and gamers are looking for something different. I could go off on diatribe about the damage that The Walking Dead “brand” had on the whole “zombie” movement, but I’ll leave it for now and say that, in the gaming space, at least, this looks to be a fairly awesome zombie experience that I’m (again) cautiously looking forward to playing in the near future.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Writing the Platinum Trophy Way — Going through ALL the Stages of Writing

I finished my first short story of 2019! YAY! Here’s hoping: 1) I finish many more and 2) the time I use to write creatively doesn’t come back and bite me in terms of my schoolwork. 🙂

One thing I noticed, however, is the sense of accomplishment that I felt when I finished my story, Starlight, Starbright. It was a mini-version of when I actually get something published and the feeling of being published is very much earning a Platinum Trophy in a video game–a sense of both accomplishment and mastery that I love to feel and is what keeps me both writing and playing games.

The Sony Playstation Blog team put together a 2018 Awards Post that really crystallized how I think of the writing process.

What is a Platinum Trophy?

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So, my goal when I play games is to “finish” them and see the credits roll. Sometimes that’s enough, and once the game is over, I’m done with it and will move on to another game. In the late 2000s, Microsoft introduced a series of points when one accomplishes certain goals in the game, you get points that accumulate and add to your “gamer” score. Sony took this idea and ran with it, creating a similar system based on “trophies.” Bronze trophies for fairly common/routine game achievements, Silver trophies for harder achievements, Gold trophies for some the hardest achievements (or for finishing a game), and Platinum trophies for earning all the trophies in the game.

Bronze Trophy = First Draft

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Finishing a first draft feels a lot like earning a Bronze trophy. It is fairly easy to accomplish, but still challenging enough at the same time that one might be lulled into a false sense of security. I don’t have to worry about continuity, or characters/characterization, or anything like that–I just need to get the draft finished (which can sometimes be a real accomplishment just by itself).

Silver Trophy = Second Draft

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This is where the real work begins because this is where (for me) the dramatization happens, the characterization, and making sure the work is internally accurate. I’m working on Starlight, Starbright and The Independent now in this area. It also (generally) isn’t as much fun as the first draft because all of the mystery/excitement has been expended getting it out onto paper. Now, its just work and (for me) this is where quite a few of my projects break down. What I’m finally realizing is that it is the character that really needs to drive this draft. Getting a character that I really enjoy working with and investing in will help me see the project through the hard times and hard work of the character.

Gold Trophy = Third Draft

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If I can get the project through the second draft, then I usually submit from there (or sometimes at the first draft stage). I sometimes add in a Gold Trophy stage–for polish and making sure that the story is consistent. I try to do this on my own, but I find that I miss a lot of simple things, even when I follow common “tricks” like reading my work aloud, or reading with a “reader’s eye” rather than “writer’s eye.” This, I think, is where a second pair of eyes might be helpful, but as I only have “one pair,” I think the Writing Center will have to suffice until I graduate and then we’ll see what happens.

Platinum Trophy = Publication

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So, this to me is the “holy grail” of writing. It is also the only step that is out of my hands. I can’t control whether or not I get published. The only thing I can do is make the story as interesting as possible and mimimize the grammatical mistakes so as to create a compelling story that isn’t bogged down by errors in grammar that hinder communication with the reader. Just like a Platinum trophy where I can’t control the list that the developers of the game create–if the list is too hard or onerous, I won’t do them because it would be a futile & frustrating waste of time (I have 16 Platinum Trophies with over 100 games). However, there are many, many gamers who have only 1 or 2 platinum trophies (or none at all). My 16 Platinum trophies puts me in rare company–as do my publications. I’m I as successful as Hakoom, the current PlayStation trophy leader, or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, both undisputed leaders in terms of money and prestige as writers? No, but just being published is an accomplishment all by itself, and working towards publication is just as satisfying (to me) as working towards (accomplishable) Platinum Trophy.

Time + Effort = Success!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

What’s on My Bookshelf? Dawn of War (1 & 2)

Image Source: https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/warhammer-40000-dawn-of-war-review/1900-6108038/

Sorry this blog is a little late–I debated whether or not to write this entry now, or wait until later, but I thought I’d get it out of the way as I’ve been wanting to write it for over a week now. I have two games that want to quickly mention as being on my bookshelf and why I like them.

Now, I have a confession to make: even though I bought them and have them registered on Steam, I’ve actually not played them. I know, shocking right? Me, not play a game? Have pigs begun to fly? Well, hear me out. I bought the games fully expecting to get a new computer by now, but then I started down the path of graduate student and all my money went away (there are other games that I have that are in this same boat–American Truck Simulator, I’m looking at you–but I’ll cover those at a later date).

Why Dawn of War (& what is it, anyway?)

Dawn of War is a real-time strategy game that is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe (aka Warhammer 40K). This is a grim universe in which humans in powered armor that in enhances there physical abilities, explore space and destroy the enemies of the Empire and its Emperor. You can find out more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warhammer_40,000. Essentially, its humans in Iron Man like armor blasting enemies away with various futuristic weapons–my kind of setting.

Why did I choose the game? Because I’m a sucker for Real Time Strategy (RTS) games and I really like the universe. There are two Warhammer universes–the 40K universe which is science fiction and then they have a fantasy one, just called Warhammer, and that’s the one I really enjoy. If there had been a RTS in the fantasy universe–there is now, I think, but not when these came out–I would have bought those instead.

Real Time Strategy

I think I said it before, but I love Real Time Strategy games (RTS’s for short). They are like being an armchair general commanding one’s armies and implementing tactics and strategies to defeat the foes in the game. I love building units, mixing different cohorts to maximize my forces’ capabilities, and using real military tactics such as flanking in real-time.

What I don’t love about the genre (& the reason why I don’t often purchase games in it) is its focus on resource gathering. Games like early WarCraft and StarCraft (the two most popular and influential game series in the genre) focus heavily on the gathering and harvesting of resources, turning many games into a click heavy race to see who can gather the most resources the fastest in order to field one’s armies the quickest. I HATE that! I prefer a more tactical game that minimizes resources to focus on units, tactics, and strategy. My favorite games of the genre, Kohan and Kohan II (I’ll talk about these later) were specifically designed to minimize the focus on resources to focus more attention on combat.

While I’ve not been able to dig into the Dawn of War games, I remember buying them because of that reason–hopefully, I was right. Like Jak: The Last Frontier, I’m going to watch a playthrough of it since it seems like I’m not going to get a new computer anytime soon to actually play these games.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Using Games to Finish Stories

Four soldiers in a desert landscape with a mountain backdrop.
Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/24/ghost-recon-wildlands-hands-on-with-the-future-of-military-shooters

So, this is one of those video game posts that do from time to time. Some times I do them while playing the game, some times I do them to point out the glitches, some times I do them to point out broader practices in the video game industry, and some times I do them just because they are fun or rewarding or have some sort of meaningful accomplishment for me.

For me, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands falls into this latter category.

A Year of Wildlands

The game is one that I’ve been playing for about a year–I got it for Christmas 2017. I’ve played it pretty much every weekend for a year. I wanted it for a while and I asked for it. It was a good story, but I didn’t think that I would finish it, but it turns out that after assidously playing it for a year, I finished it in late Oct./early November. I’ll do a Mini-Review for it soon, but today I just wanted to talk about the power of making an accomplishment.

Today, I finally “got back on the horse” and wrote part 1 (of 3) of a Revision to an older project entitled, “Rocket-Man.” I’ve submitted that story several times, but it has never been sold. I went back and reworked the character and the situation.

The Key to Writing (for me) is the Key to Gaming

So, today I just tried to do what I did when I played Wildlands. I found a day to try to write. Today I have class, but I have time after the class where I can simply sit down and draft. That’s what I’m doing. I have 3 projects currently on the hopper (4 if you count the graphic novel), but my goal is to completely finish one project by writing them in 3 stages (beginning, middle, and end) and then moving on to the next one. However, I’m going to do this on a weekly basis. I know I should probably be using this time to read (& I hope using it in this way doesn’t come back to bite me in March), but I really feel useless if I don’t write. A writer writes and by putting 2-3 hours on a project (with music) and without distractions (such as video game systems, tv, and the like), I’m able to be as productive on my stories as I am when I game. Hopefully, in a year’s time, my diligence will pay off (as it did with Wildlands and I’ll be able to share successes with you in this blog.

One More Thing . . .

I was going to close the blog out, but happened to click on an email that I receive monthly from Playstation that tracks my gaming time and number of gaming “trophies” (accomplishments in games) for the month and for December, I logged 43 hours of online gameplay and earned 19 trophies. Now this is well above my average of 4-5 hours on a Saturday afternoon/evening for about 20 hours a month, but just think of all the projects that I could write if I devoted the time that I do for gaming, or more importantly, what I could accomplish in my school related endeavors with the same amount of time. I used to do that for reading–now I just need to get there for school work and writing.

The only problem I see is that somewhere in there, I’ve got to find time for sleeping. 😉

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)