Pushback Against Liar’s Year 2020

Today I want to “push back” against a couple of assumptions in a YouTube video. I want to be as respectful as possible as I feel that there’s too much negativity out there, especially when one person disagrees with another.

Liar’s Year 2020

So, the YouTuber in question is Jim Stirling and the video I want to push back against is his latest Jimquisition episode: Liar’s Year 2020. A little context: Jim is a video game’s journalist who started his own YouTube channel. While he does discuss video games, he takes it upon himself to point out various corporate shenanigans and duplicitous schemes within the larger corporate paradigm, but most specifically inside of the world of video games. As noted above, while don’t agree with him on some of his points (this obviously being one of them), I do watch his videos as he is one of the few voices that actually discusses the excesses of corporations–although I wish it could be done in a less strident way.

However, in this video, he rails against several game companies for not showing gameplay footage at their “gameplay” reveals or showing footage that is “aspirational” of what next generation will look like in the future. He takes Sony, Epic Games (Unreal Engine), Ubisoft, and Gearbox (among others) to task for their propensity in a new console generation to exaggerate, stretch the truth, and outright lie about the capabilities of the new machines. While he isn’t necessarily wrong, I do feel that he 1) overstates the case and 2) ignores the changes at least one company has made (Sony) to address his concerns.

Gameplay = Gameplay

Let’s start with that second one first, as it is the impetus for me writing this blog entry. Sony takes it on the chin (yet again) in this video. For as much as Sony is discussed, you would think that it was them, and not Microsoft (the true guilty party) who held a “Gameplay event” with trailers that barely showed any gameplay (or only stylized, non-representative gameplay). Sony, however, had the misfortune of releasing a Killzone video that was unrepresentative of actual gameplay in the early 2000s.

The reason I feel this is so wrong is that Sony has spent an entire console generation making up for that previous mistake. I’ve linked an entire 18 minute gameplay trailer for their upcoming game releasing this year: Ghost of Tshushima. It even included (what appears to be) HUD elements.

Now this isn’t the first game that Sony has done this for. Most of its major titles this generation have gotten this treatment: Infamous: Second Son, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, The Last of Us, Part II, Until Dawn, God of War, The Last Guardian, The Order 1886 and even Killzone Shadowfall got “gameplay trailers” that showed actual gameplay. Below is a video of young woman skeptically wondering if the Horizon Zero Dawn “gameplay” trailer was actually “true” and being absolutely thrilled when she realized it was:

Sony has spent an entire “console generation” trying to win back the trust of gamers when presenting games to the public. While most Sony games are presented without UI/HUD, for the vast majority of their games, the game you see in the “gameplay demonstration” is the game you end up playing.

All Microsoft has to do is utter the words 12 terraflops and Gamepass and gamers (not necessarily Jim, but the gaming community in general) and Microsoft is forgiven for trying enact one of the most restrictive consoles policies and launches in the history of video games.

Overstating the Case

The other problem I have (in this instance) is that Jim “cherry-picks” his examples. For instance, nowhere does Jim discuss the original C. D. Projeckt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 48 minute gameplay demo in which the developers take pains to point out how much is in flux. This is the nature of game development in general. The exact arguments he levels against Sony, Epic, Unreal Engine 5, and Ubisoft are the very same arguments used by the developers of Cyberpunk 2020 to illustrate that they were still iterating on the design.

No where does he mention that this gameplay demonstration was presented in the same light as the gameplay demonstrations that he is objecting to, but Cyberpunk 2077’s gameplay wasn’t in Liar’s Year 2020, but 2018. This video has over 19 million hits and is insanely popular–but in the first 5 minutes of the video, the developers hedge the features and look of the demo, not once, but twice.

The start of a new console generation does allow developers, marketers, and executives to perhaps stretch the truth, but that’s not necessarily all on them–that’s also on us. One of the mantras should always be: check the reviews! Too many people buy games sight unseen based on the marketing materials.

Who Do You Trust?

In conclusion, I guess I really wanted to push back that the console generation switch means that “lies” are the only thing that is a part of the experience. When you have a console maker spend several years trying to make up for a mistake and show “gameplay” and when have another console maker not show “gameplay” at a “Gameplay Reveal Event,” it calls into question the credibility of the argument.

Whenever Sony does show its line-up, I have a fairly high confidence that what I’ll be seeing is what I’ll be playing. While I know that the Unreal 5 “tech demo” was just that, a proof of concept of what is possible on the hardware, it isn’t the prerendered trailers that we’ve been shown in the past and it represents what is possible at this time. Yes, much of it could be marketing hype. However, given the track record of Mark Cerney, chief architect of the Playstation 4 and Playstation 5, and the fact that games like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last of Us (Parts I and II), Spider-Man, and God of War actually looked like and played as their gameplay demonstrations showed, I’m willing to give them more credibility versus an actor who is put in a game and is brought out on-stage to try to sell a game (Ubisoft & Microsoft, I’m looking at you). It is highly possible that the Unreal Engine 5 will not be able to do what it is promising, but based on Sony’s recent track record (especially in light of Microsoft’s), I’m willing to take that bet.

Sidney


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Don’t Be Creepy, Google

An image of a clown with a white face and painted red noise and lips smiling evilly on black background with the words, "Do You Know What Google Knows About You" in red letter, except for the word Google which is in the company's multicolored font.
Image Source: https://mensworldhq.com/creepy-things-google-knows-about-you/

Over the weekend, my mother and I were discussing my apartment where I go to school. I was telling her that I thought it was okay, but she wasn’t so sure. I assured her that I would go up to check as soon as possible, but she was also worried about that eventuality because the Murfreesboro/Nashville area is one of the hardest hit areas in the state with virus (at least initially). Somehow the discussion turned to insurance, and I went to look something up on Google to show her. I noticed the first couple of results were ads for an insurance company I’d never heard of before, Lemonade–yes, I promise you it is an insurance company and not a drink maker–but scrolled down to my results to find a site that had the information that I was looking for to show her. Imagine my surprise and consternation when, later that night, while looking at videos on YouTube (owned by whom? That’s right: Google), 15 second ads for Lemonade insurance began popping up before my videos. All through the day, I was “served” ads for various home and auto insurance companies, even though all I wanted was “information,” and not looking to purchase a product or service.

Scary, right?

Sketchy, Google, Very Sketchy

Now, I try not to curse, but I’m going to use a term that is in wide circulation these days as euphemistically as possible: Google, selling ads to consumers is one thing, but selling ads to information seekers is “sketchy AF.” I’m a writer, and if I search for “famous mass murderers” for research purposes for a story or an academic paper, is Google going start serving me ads for local “hitmen” in the area? Yes, I’m being reductive here, but I’m trying to illustrate a point. How does Google know that what I’m searching for has any correlation to what I’m looking to purchase?

The answer is: they don’t. They rely on their almighty algorithm to guess at my intentions. I know what I’m going to purchase when, and I don’t need Google, or any other company, selling ads to try to influence my purchasing decisions.

Yes, I know all this could be avoided by searching when I’m NOT signed into Gmail on browser, but I’m trying to 1) winnow down the absolute deluge of email that has come about recently and 2) I’m moving to a new email address and need to have them both up as I switch email accounts over. Now I’m going to have to go and find the settings that controls Google’s Ads and pretty much turn everything off. See, Google, we trust you “not to be evil” and you betray that trust. This is why it is so hard to ever give corporations the benefit of the doubt–you betray the trust over and over again because you become either a monopoly or part of an oligopoly and take out all the competition to necessary services.

Alternate Browsers/Alternate Search Engines

After turning off my ad preferences, the next step that I intend to take is to start using other browsers outside of Chrome. Now obviously, since I use a Chromebook as my main computing device–at least, for now, as I finish up by graduate work, a lot of searches will still go through Google. However, there are other lesser known search engines out there (although most have gone thanks to Google’s stranglehold on the market). A quick search (on Google) shows that its service handles over 91% of the world’s searches.

There’s a reason why America had such strong Anti-Trust laws in the past, but over the past 100-125 years (as of this writing), there has been a slow, but concerted to effort to weaken these laws (this movement accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s) until we are where we are today. I can “turn off” the controls provided to me by Google (and I’ll see what effect that has), but I don’t have a true competitor to Google if I want to find information on the web effectively. Companies move to limit choice–through acquisitions or market share–and then the consumer has a limited number of options should they want to take their business elsewhere. Companies “lock in” consumers rather than competing on price/service–look at the web search engine market, or even the cell phone industry.

My point is that we always hear that competition is great for the consumer as if forces companies to compete with one another on prices, services, etc. to win customers. However, Google doesn’t compete for me–instead, it entangles me in a web of other companies vying for my (limited) amount of funds in order to entice me into purchasing (consuming) things based on what it’s algorithm perceives that I “need”/”want” whether that assumption is valid or not.

Hey Google, how about letting me make the choice on where and how to spend my time and money and not your algorithm, okay?

Sidney


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The War Against The Playstation 5

Image Source: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/playstation-5-everything-we-know-so-far-launch-gam/1100-6466357/

Here is a quick summary of some of the headlines that pop up when you search for “PS 5 News” (as of this writing 5/20/2020):

  • “Forget PS5: PCs With RTX 2070 Super Can Handle Unreal 5 Demo” (Tom’s Hardware).
  • “Xbox exclusive inXile RPG will use Unreal Engine 5 says Microsoft” (Metro)
  • “Has the PS5 already been bested by a mid-range gaming PC?” (Techradar)
  • “PS5 Won’t Beat Xbox Series X on Power, Says Epic” (Tom’s Guide)

And this is ONLY in the last 24 hours! If I really wanted to make the point, I would only need to begin to track the “headlines” since say the first of the year (January 2020). I mean, to see one egregious example of the point I’m trying to make, one only needs to look at a headline from a week ago, before the discussion of the Unreal 5 demo premiering on a PS5.

  • “Xbox Series X vs Playstation 5: Microsoft has 4 Big Advantages Over Sony” (Forbes).

Now remember, these headlines are ALL appearing under a search for Playstation 5 news. Not only is there bias in these headlines and articles, but there seems to be a concerted effort to sway readers away from a Playstation (Sony) based product and to a XBox (Microsoft) based product.

Journalists: Please choose–Reporter or Fan?

Notice I said, seems. This isn’t the case, but this is how “mainstream” media gets “tagged” with the perception that they have an agenda. Slant, that lovely new word in journalism in the late 80s/mid 90s, has come back to haunt the “mainstream” media in terms of trust in the 2010s and 2020s. Journalism may not be old, stodgy, “just the facts” reporting anymore, and may be punchy and vibrant, and sometimes edgy, but that comes at a cost and the cost is the trust of your readers. Readers who agree with you are going to love what you say, but those who disagree are going to ignore you or actively work to “push back” against your reporting.

This can’t be seen any clearer than in the video game journalism industry. Too many “journalists” are not really reporters of the news, but rather “fans” of the industry whose opinions cloud their reporting. When I search for information on a particular console, I shouldn’t get editors, writers, and “games media” trying to sway my opinion (in either direction, but especially not in the direction of the competitor of the product I’m researching.)

THAT’S NOT THEIR JOB!

I can’t say this strongly enough! If there are no facts out about a particular console, please don’t discuss rumors, leaks, or things that aren’t confirmed. If there’s a “conference call,” sure, report that–but in this 24 hour news cycle, the need for clicks, and click-baity stories, journalism and journalists have to understand there is a PRICE that they are paying to get money for the company–and that is to their reputation as people who are impartial.

The PS5 Era in Games Journalism Looks a Lot Like the PS3 Era (and not in a good way)

You see, I’ve seen all this before–but the last time it happened, I let it pass without comment. The Playstation 3 may have had its issues (price, custom chipset, etc.), but those problems were exacerbated by a journalism community that 1) found Sony far too arrogant and needing to be punished–something that the gaming community (and not the gaming press) had to turn around and do to Microsoft the following generation and 2) Sony gaming division needed to be punished for other perceived transgressions of other divisions within Sony (Sony’s Rootkit & Sony’s Spiderman movie font, anyone?).

Now, I understand from a fundamental level why game journalists do this:

  1. It is more interesting when there’s a “competition” between two or more brands. Having one “dominant” player in the industry hurts the opportunity to write interesting articles. How many times can you say how great console x (product x, person x) is versus how bad/mediocre console x (product x, person x) is. I get it–the closer the race the more “interesting” it becomes.
  2. Clicks–the articles are free, supported by ad revenue. The more clicks, the more people see the ads, the more money goes into the bank account. However, “news” needs to understand that this can be done without sensationalism. It’s just a lot harder. Ask Jason Schreier and see his Kotaku article detailing the breakdown of Anthem. Interesting, compelling, and I’ve clicked on the article multiple times because it is just so compelling. But I’m sure on Jason’s end, that was a LOT of hard work. And despite Bioware’s/EA’s response, he didn’t come across as either a fan of or a detractor of the company, but a reporter of what his sources told him about the working conditions and development process of the game. In a game of trust between Bioware and Jason, I’m inclined to believe Jason over Bioware given the evidence that is the game Anthem.
  3. Sony is NOT the “cool kid” on the block. Microsoft’s Marketing Department is second to none. Microsoft can market the “heck” out of a product, even when that product is not necessarily the “market-leading” (Zune). No one discusses (or seems to care) when Microsoft gets the lead in an industry and then stagnates (Internet Explorer 6, anyone?). No, everyone is more interested in discussing how much power their next console has, but not how that power will be utilized to create compelling gaming experiences.

When You’re “On the Clock” be Professional and Objective

No one says that you, as a games journalist, has to like Playstation 5, but when your job is covering it, then you have to at least appear to be unbiased and informative–at least, if you want to earn the trust of the public. When I search for information about one product, I don’t want to be told your opinion of why I should want a different product.

I want factual, sourced, unbiased information presented in a cool, clever way that allows me to make my choices with the confidence that I’ve made the best choice available based on the information at hand and taking into account my own personal likes and dislikes. It’s not about what you (as a fan) like, but rather, what’s available in terms of information. If there isn’t any, don’t make it up, don’t report rumors or leaks (unless there’s some credible truth/sources available to help confirm that information.)

Listen, I get it–there’s not a lot of PS5 information out there. Sony’s not giving any information out and is playing holding what they have close their vests (which may come back to bite them as I may choose to wait and get their console not at launch because they haven’t shown me anything yet to part with my dwindling resources–I’m a poor graduate student, after all).

But journalists, that is my choice, not yours. I don’t need you telling me that I need an Xbox when what I want is a Playstation 5. Thanks for understanding!

Sidney


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Epic, Unreal Engine 5, and the PlayStation 5

White and Black PS5 controller with blue highlights.
Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/13/21256959/playstation-5-release-date-no-delay-sony-fy-2020-earnings

Why did I skip yesterday’s blog and upload this one so late? Well, when you read the following paragraph, you’ll get some hint of where the is post was originally headed–rather than talking about the PS5, I went “deep” into bashing both Microsoft and the media’s love for Microsoft and their absolute disdain for Sony. However, I felt that I was way too negative and simply was contributing to the “toxicity” that is all too common on the internet these days. So as I was rethinking the blog post, Epic Games discussed their Unreal 5 game engine and showcased it on the PS5. So, I changed the post to reflect this new, more positive, direction in the games’ industry. I left the original paragraph below as I think it is germane to the discussion and would like games’ media to consider as they go forward in covering the transition to the next generation.

A recent “headline” in Forbes cried out in regards to Microsoft’s recent teaser for its upcoming gaming console, “Micosoft Just Showed an Uncomfortable Truth About the X Box Series X and the Playstation 5.” I wonder how that could be since, to my knowledge, no Sony Playstation 5 game was actually shown on the stage. Wasn’t the whole point of an X Box presentation to show how “great” Microsoft’s new system was going to be? How then, do you as a writer, justify linking one console’s lackluster debut to the other one? How does the “stink” of Microsoft’s mistake translate back to Sony? When Sony makes a mistake, such as a “boring” presentation, that in no way translated back to Microsoft, so how does Microsoft’s missteps always seem to translate back to Sony?

Moving On . . . From Microsoft’s Marketing to Sony Substance

Unreal 5 running on a Playstation 5

Luckily, Unreal 5 (a game engine that helps to power games) was announced today. What was notable is that is was specifically noted that the demo is running live on a Playstation 5! And it (in my opinion) is stunning! Now let’s not kid ourselves–X Box will get this engine too. However, the fact that it is an impressive demo, running on a PS5 and truly doing two things: 1) showcasing new technologies that will better enhance creativity and graphical fidelity and 2) showing visuals and enhancements to the next gen experience (something that MS’s conference didn’t do according to “social media” and the media) is something that needs to be applauded and should translate to Sony (and not Microsoft).

It is a tech demo, but does some really interesting things. The technology behind the demo sounds impressive and looks like it will handle the vision of artists in new and unique ways. The game design engine does what Sony tried to articulate, but was “booed” for (called boring and unintersting) by the public–and by the people who should have known better–the games’ media. This what got my ire up and why my “claws” were out in the earlier draft of this post.

Just because something isn’t meant for you (aka the public or the media), doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from it. Sony’s talk was originally for GDC (designers), but talked about problems that other consoles and generations weren’t trying to solve. Today’s event really helped, to me, crystallize and visualize what the next generation of games might come to life and this is just one company.

The Coming Future

My hope, in addition to breaking the love affair between Microsoft’s Marketing Department and the media, is that this announcement will be the beginning of getting the “conversation” started for the next generation of gaming. For me, the big take-aways from this announcement are 1) artist’s assets don’t need to be scaled down in any way from the platform they were created, 2) the dynamic light source, 3) sound separation and authoring (esp. in light that Sony is also trying to address the sound issue), and 4) water and the way it is generated and created in games (this was a small mention in the demo, but has huge potential for games as water is often the hardest to achieve, but is one of the best ways to aid in graphical immersion.

For me, the next generation discussion started today–and I’m so glad that Playstation 5 was the platform that got to help kick off the discussion in a meaningful (and positive) way.

Sidney


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Gaming Over the Weekend

spider-man_ps4_preview_swing_day1

So, this weekend, I didn’t really do a whole lot of gaming, but I did get in some gaming to help with the work-life balance.  I only played three games this weekend, so I’ll talk about each one below.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So, this was the first game that I played this weekend and I tried to do one main story mission and a couple of side missions.  I’m slowly closing in on the end of the game, but the super high difficulty that I’m currently playing at in the game world means that I go down with only two or three hits, so I have to play it pretty slowly and tactically (which, I’m sure is the reason why the game designers required me to move to this difficulty to continue to get in-game rewards for completing actions).  Without this artificial spike in difficulty, I would have been close to finishing (if not already finished).  As it is, I’m about halfway through this province, with 2 or three provinces left, not including side missions, of which I have about 2-3 in each of the game’s 10+ provinces. Hopefully, even at this reduced pace, I should finish the game sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving and I can move on and give my time fully to another game.

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4 Exclusive)

This one is an open world game in which you get to play as Spider-Man (& Peter Parker).  Those who have followed the blog know that Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel hero and they do him justice in this game.  The animations are spectacular (pardon the pun) and the story (even in the beginning) is amazing (again, pardon the pun).  Insomniac Studios has redeemed themselves in my eyes for their X-Box exclusive game Sunset Overddrive and their lackluster game Fuse, both of which turned me against them, but with the soft reboot of Ratchet and Clank and now, Marvel’s Spider-Man (both PS4 exclusives), I’m now back in their camp.  I’d love for them to cement a partnership with Sony, but I think they are too independent for that to happen.  However, the Spider-Man game is simple Astonishing (again, pardon the pun), from suits, to gameplay, to everything, this game if filled with Spider-Man lore.  I can’t wait to play more!

The Crew

This game is a guilty pleasure for me in that I’ve finished it and I’ve done all that I intend to do with it in terms of gameplay, story, exploration, etc.  However, I just love cruising around the truncated map of the U.S. for some reason.  My original love of the game didn’t come from the story which wasn’t great, but wasn’t as bad as many made it out to be (a revenge fantasy of sorts, against an enemy who killed the protagonist’s brother to take over his number one position in the car gang the brother started.  The kid brother did time for the crime that he didn’t commit and so he joins the gang to go after this killer once he gets out.  Typical story that you’ve seen a million times before.  What I loved about the game, however, is the “exploration” that you get to do in the game.  I love driving the roads to see what’s out there, off the beaten path.  That’s what I’m looking forward to in the sequel, The Crew 2 whenever I get it.  Still, there’s just something about driving those roads, even though I already know what’s around the corner, that still compels me to pull it out and play it for an hour or two each weekend.

Well, that’s it for this weekend–hopefully, I’ll be able to report a more diverse group of games next week (fingers crossed).  Have a good day!

Sidney




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  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
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Chromebook Nation

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Samsung Chromebook 3.  Image Source: https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/samsung-chromebook-3

Chromebooking It

I was able to, at the beginning of the semester, to get a Chromebook and it has really helped me to be far more productive.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still an Apple MacBook Pro fan. However, for general web browsing and research, the Chromebook has been a godsend (something I should have gotten over the summer and I would have been far more productive, but hindsight is 20/20).  A Chromebook, as long as you use web-based apps, and have an internet connection, is a perfect, cheap, alternative to most computers.  Is it as sophisticated and versatile–no, it isn’t.  However, it does the one thing that I need/want it to do: basic access to the internet and web-based platforms WITHOUT having to use Microsoft’s Windows.

Alternatives to Windows

Basically, until Microsoft stops 1) criminalizing users of its Windows Operating System by making them register copies of the operating system with a license that they can’t alter and 2) forcing draconian licensing agreements on users of its X-Box systems, I will NOT support them in ANY form (to the best of my ability).  In the age of corporate conglomeration, it is almost impossible to truly boycott a corporation’s products in order to affect change in any meaningful way.  However, Microsoft (along with Electronic Arts) is the poster-child for corporate machinations that I simply do not agree with no matter how much money their shenanigans make for their shareholders.  As such, I refuse to purchase Microsoft products or products that I know will directly or indirectly benefit Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, EA).  As such, I use Macs and Chromebooks because they 1) do what I need them to do, 2) allow me to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and 3) they DON’T benefit Microsoft.

Basic Web Browsing

My school (MTSU) uses a web-based platform (D2L) to help students and professors move into learning in a digital environment.  Since my wifi adapter no longer works on my 2008 Macbook Pro, it is very difficult to find places on campus where I can use an ethernet cable to “plug in” and find places where I can help my students become stronger students through grading and discussions online. However, the Chromebook helps me to achieve this as it is robust enough to handle the web-based nature of D2L.  Also, since most “apps” now have an Android app and/or a web-based presence, it is much more useful than one would think it might be based on the specs alone.  The true strength of the Chromebook is that, as long as you have an internet connection, it is pretty much a full featured computer and analogous to its “bigger” brothers–Windows PC/Macs.  Now this is really true if you’re not into gaming or any other processor intensive tasks, but if most of what you do/use it for is web browsing, streaming, light audio-visual, then it functions pretty much as (at least for me) a fully functional computer–allowing me to leave my MacBook Pro at home.  I’m able to MOST everything I want to via the web or web apps, it has long battery life (up to 2 – 3 days of medium to heavy use on 1 charge cycle), and it is highly portable, so it is the perfect solution where I have WiFi 90% of the time.

This isn’t a permanent solution, but it is A solution.  One that is helping to at least stay current in my graduate school and creative writing lifestyle.  Without it, I would be losing ground instead of treading water.  So, I say, until I can Macbook Pro it, I’m going to continue to Chromebook it.

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 #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

1st Try

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 8.22.29 PM
Scrivener Character Sheet.  Image Source: http://thinkingtoinking.blogspot.com/2013/03/writers-resource-character-templates.html

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

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 #1)

High Tech vs Low Tech

Samsung-1
Samsung Smart Classroom. Image Source: Samsung (http://www.upgrademag.com/web/2017/09/21/samsung-deped-reach-out-to-schools-in-rural-philippines/)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 21 (+1)
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 21/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 1/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Rough Drafted another page for the comic. Don’t really like these rough draft one day, draft the next day way of doing things, but I didn’t have time last weekend to rough draft out 4 or 5 pages, so I’m stuck doing it this way for now. At least, if all goes well tonight, I’ll be able to write another page in the story (fingers crossed). I did add to the “lore” of the story by adding an entry into the “bible” for the world.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Class Assignments–Graduate Teaching Assistant (Year 3)

Now for something completely different–today I’m going to leave off talking about Tai Chi for a while and move to a different form of education/training: Higher Education. As part of my duties as a PhD student, I’m a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), meaning that I teach up to 2 classes of Freshman Composition each semester. Last semester, I was a GA (Graduate Assistant), meaning that I helped out the English Department by helping a professor do research into various video game articles. Yesterday, we were given our teaching schedules and I have two classes of English 1010 (our version of Freshman Composition) that I’m teaching. I’m ecstatic as I really enjoy teaching writing at the college level. However . . . and you knew there was a however coming, didn’t you . . . however, I just finished “scoping out” my assigned classrooms and they couldn’t be more different.

High Tech vs Low Tech

So, these days, pretty much ALL (or most, at least) college classrooms feature some sort of technology in them. The professor’s podium allows the professor to hook a laptop to it, it has its own computer integrated inside it, should the professor not want to connect via laptop, it has a dvd player, display, and other media/interface ports.  It can pretty much display or illustrate pretty any type of media that the professor can through at it (again, generalizing here). These are termed “smart” classrooms as opposed to those with no technology in them whatsoever (the “traditional”) classroom. I personally would term these as “technology enabled” classrooms myself because only the professor has access to the technology.  However, what students have access to in the classroom is a different story all together. Only some classrooms are truly “smart” classrooms and those have, in addition to the professor’s media hub/display, there are computers around the room that the students can work at as well. To me, this is the true demarcation of a “smart” classroom–when both the students and the professor have access to technology.

 

IMG_5753
While this is called a “Smart” classroom, I consider it a “Technology Enabled” classroom. Image Source: Hostos Community College (http://www.hostos.cuny.edu/Administrative-Offices/Office-of-the-President/Conference-Center/Event-Venues/Classroom-Smart-Classroom)

“Double Dutch” Teaching

Having looked at my classrooms, one is only “technology enabled” classroom (smarthub/display for the professor) and the other is a “smart” classroom (smarthub & computers for students). This is going to be a challenge to teach in successfully. I taught this way Fall 2017 and I tried to create a “technology-rich” curriculum, but while the students in the smart classroom thrived, it was more difficult for the ones in the tech enabled classroom because they had to resort to their phones (only about 1/3 brought laptops to class) and such to view the documents/media online. I often took them to the library (especially on days when papers were due), but it didn’t have the same impact (in my opinion) as them being able to work in the classroom (too spread out, not able to ask me questions effectively).

My Plan

So, in the next two weeks before I lock down my syllabus, I plan to research different ways of teaching. My goal: make my technology enabled class as productive and as enriching as I felt my smart classroom teaching was a year ago. I should mention that my middle school teaching experience included a pilot program where the students where given Chromebooks to use at school (at first) and to take home as part of the education process (later), so I feel that I’m VERY comfortable with technology and integrating it into the curriculum. Perhaps that’s part of the problem, I may be so dependent on tech., that I’ve forgotten how to inspire true learning without it. Regardless, my goal for this year is to make both classes an enriching and rewarding experience for all involved. Fingers crossed and please wish me luck as I try to find the right balance between high and low tech!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Gamification of Writing

gamify-your-writing_slideshare

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Rebounded after a day with no words and was able to hit Scrivener’s goal of 167 words, but fell a bit short of my own 250 word (personal) goal.   203 words written last night. 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through.  Will post a non-spoiler mini-review when I finish.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua Fractal: A Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Moving Game Mode On to its own (Mostly) Weekly Post

Making a Game Out of Writing

I should have done this long ago.  Actually, I did do this long ago, but I set my goals to high and couldn’t reach them, so I gave them up.  What am I talking about?  Well, along with the change in the way that I write blogs, see A Peek Behind the Curtain for more information, I’ve also begun writing using the word count feature in Scrivener to help me “visualize” my way to success.  Like I said before, I’ve used it before, but I set my word count at unrealistically high levels (1000 words and 1500 words) and I could rarely hit my goals.  In general, based on what I seem to do in these blogs posts or when I have unlimited amounts of time to devote to a writing session, I seem to average about 600 words.  Generally speaking, it takes me about an hour to write 600 words, so I average (on general) 10 words a minute when creating a new work (I type at about 35-40 words a minute, but when doing creative writing, there’s a lot of time when I’m searching for the right word/right way to describe something).  However, now that I’m working on “filling up” a progress bar, writing doesn’t seem as much of a chore than it has in the past and I look forward to seeing if I can move the bar some more.

The Progress Bar

Scrivener’s Progress Bar feeds my own particular “OCD” meter.  I love seeing things get completed.  I get a satisfaction from seeing something going from empty to full (like a full tank of gas, or vice versa, like a dirty floor, messy floor becoming clean and empty).  A slight digression: this is why I was so great at sorting donated books when I was an employee of the Chattanooga Public Library.  I loved the feeling of wrangling the messy space of the donation area and making it clean and presentable.  The same is true for my writing.  I looked for sites that would give me what Scrivener did, a progress bar that kept track of my writing, but couldn’t find but a handful and they did not work the way I wanted them to, so I’ve gone back to Scrivener and I’ve used the Progress Bar to keep track of my words.  The Progress Bar feature lets you track words, pages, or # of words needed to hit a specific goal.  This latter choice is the way that I have it currently set.  I’m trying to reach 5000 words for Project Independence by July 1st.  Based on where I am in the story, I’m not sure that I’ll be finished, but that’s my goal.  Scrivener tells me that I just need to write 160ish words to hit it.  My bare minimum is that, but I try to go over if I can.  I count it a double success on those days when I go over and hit the 250 word goal as well.  I need to start buying myself a treat and rewarding myself on the days when that happens.

600 Word Writer

Now that I know that 600 hundred words (or an hour of writing) is my own personal sweet spot, I’m going to try to slowly increase my word count over the next years to see if I can get there per day.  Right now, I’m not going to try.  I really want to 1) habitualize my writing and really lock it in as a habit (too often, I let fatigue interfere with the process and 2) get some successes under my belt.  I’ve gone too long without a publication or even a finished project that I feel proud of submitting without reservations.  So, for now, 250 words remains my (attainable) goal.  Like a weight lifter, I need to be completely comfortable with the “weights” (word count) before moving up to the next tier.

Well, that’s it for today and WordPress is telling me that this post is 695 words long.  See, I’m in my comfort zone.  I may have to learn to stretch it, but for now, I need to learn how to make it a habit.  Have a good one!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Anthem: E3 and Me, 2018 Edition

anthem_engadget

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Rebounded after a day with no words and was able to hit Scrivener’s goal of 167 words, but fell a bit short of my own 250 word (personal) goal.   203 words written last night. 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through.  Will post a non-spoiler mini-review when I finish.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua Fractal: A Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Moving Game Mode On to its own (Mostly) Weekly Post

“Iron Man”: The Game

Anthem was first revealed last year, but got an extended look this year at a truncated game play demo at EA Press Conference.   Attendees to their event got to play the entire demo.  While I enjoyed last year’s demo, this one seemed strangely muted for me.  Perhaps, it was the way EA chose to demo the game with the developers giving a “deep dive” into the game which was really just a way to show concept art and not have to show the entire demo of the game.  While I do appreciate the Q&A format, in this case, it would have been better to have shown us the game and saved the Q&A for after the show.  Also, because the demo was obviously cut, it lost the emotional impact that it could have had.  Its like watching a two hour movie in half an hour by fast forwarding through bits/skipping “chapters”–you can do it, but it loses its ability to create tension.  Still, I’m sort of looking forward to it because players emphasize that it feels a lot like controlling “Iron Man” from the Marvel movies.  You decide when you want to fly, when to land, and the flight component is supposed to add a layer of strategy to the game as you can decide where and when you want to take the battle to your opponent.

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

So, normally, based on what I’ve seen of the gameplay, I would be super excited to play Anthem, but I have to say, I’m in a wait and see mode for this game.  Mass Effect Andromeda made too many of the same promises, but could not deliver in the end as EA did not want to allow ME:A the additional time it needed to come together.  While this game might make its February 22, 2019 release date, I wouldn’t be surprised if it got pushed back until Mar-early June.  That is as far as I could see EA giving it so that its marketing doesn’t interfere with the marketing of the new Star Wars game that was teased for holiday 2019 as well.  However, I’m waiting on reviews before I go anywhere near Anthem.  ME:A was such a disappointment (for which I paid full price) because I couldn’t believe that EA would be willing to ruin one of its core franchises.  Well, they were–to EA, the ME brand is an also ran, now they want what their competitor Activision has in Destiny and their willing to sacrifice the quality of their games to get it, so no buy for me until reviews hit.

Single Player Story/Multiplayer Open World

The design of Anthem is intriguing.  Apparently, when you’re in “The Hub” (where you get your missions and interact with NPCs), you get traditional storytelling elements, but when you’re out in the open world, you play with your friends in multiplayer.  I’m not sure if I’m going to like that aspect of it, but the devs. did say that one could play the entire game in single player if one wanted to, but it would make the game slightly harder.  While I did have a “crew” that I gamed with on Destiny, I’m not sure how many will move over to Anthem, so that is also something to thing about.  Anyway, those are my thoughts/impressions of the game.

Overall Excitement Level: C

I just don’t trust EA/Bioware to deliver the goods on this one after their poor performance with Mass Effect Andromeda.  While I’m skeptical that they can pull off something magical with this game, perhaps the additional time that they gave to Anthem and not Mass Effect Andromeda will pay dividends to the gamers this time, and not EA’s shareholders.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

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