FanExpo 2010 has come and gone, and damn I’m tired. But it was a fun show. I organized two panels – Writers & Producers, and The State of the Industry in the GTA – and I moderated the first.
Writers & Producers
My first time moderating a panel, and no one burst into fire (spontaneously or otherwise), or was mangled, or died, so I call that a success.
My two producers (Joseph Ganetakos from Ganz, whom I know well; and Alex Parizeau from Ubisoft, whom I just met and has a great rep) were terrific, and my two writers (Kim Sparks; Max Piesner) were awesome.
After the panel, Mia Herrera interviewed me about it for C&G Monthly. I think it went well, but I fear I rambled a bit while trying to restore my proper adrenaline/caffeine equilibrium. I’ll post a link when she shoots me one.
State of the Industry
Jason MacIsaac, from the IGDA & Electric Playground, graciously offered to moderate the second panel, and he did a fine job. Jason’s recap of the panel is here.
And one of our panelists, Ryan Henson Creighton, talks about it here. With much color.
The other panelists – Lesley Phord-Toy (Ubisoft), Ryan MacLean (DrinkBox), Ian Kelso (Interactive Ontario), and Philippe McNally (Longbow Games) were all very generous with their time, and I hope I thanked them all sufficiently.
It became very much a “how do I break into the industry panel,” but that’s ok as it’s clearly what the attendees wanted.
I’m already thinking of an expanded video game panel track next year, with a specific panel to address that. Not sure I’ll be able to put the time in, but I think we could easily cover:
* State of the Industry in the GTA
* How Do I Convince You To Hire My Rosy Cheeks?
* Writers in Video Games, and the Big Bad Boss Producers
* Bringing Your Art to Life – A Panel for Artists in/wanting to get into the Industry
* Hobby Games to Computer Games, Spanning the Bridge
I’m thrilled to announce I’m going to be moderating a panel at FanExpo this year:
Saturday, Aug 28
12:00 pm (noon),
While writing is essential in many video games today, the role of the writer is highly contested and often misunderstood. Writers are often seen at one end of the design spectrum, and the producer at the other. Producers are critical for getting the game done and out to market. Come join writers and producers to hear what challenges and hurdles they face; what producers are looking for, and the differences between writing for a cell phone game to a AAA game.
The list of panelists is terrific – click through to see the full list.
* I went to Ambercon 2010 for the first time in many years this past March. I co-ran a terrific dark superheroes game, “Where Angels Fear to Tread.”
* Just got back from GenCon, where I bought too many games (lots of Trail of Cthulhu,Armitage Files, Delta Green, and Ganonoque: the ice-people who fear the dawn is coming) and have a head filled with too many ideas.
* I’m in THE BONES. Why do you not own this book yet? It is very good.
* I will be at FanExpo 2010 in one week!
As I’ve likely mentioned, my good friends (Todd, James, and Jason) in Austin work on Wizard 101 – a pretty spiffy tween/family-oriented MMO.
Massive Gamer Magazine posted a review last month.
Gord and I often talk games, game design (he has a particular fancy for games like Gloom, Zombies, and Graverobbers from Outer Space), and movies.
Here’s Gord in his own words:
This is my corner of the web to rant, rave, and pontificate about things that interest me, which will likely be very heavily biased towards science fiction movies and TV, video games, and news on science/technology/archaeology/anthropology. I’m just going to dive right in tonight with my first post on today’s experiments running Windows 7.
You can see more of Gord’s writing at:
I’m guest-blogging over at Jeff Tidball & Will Hindmarch’s site, gameplaywright.
Pencils to Pixels
Last month I was lucky enough to attend GenCon, and I caught one of the “Pencils to Pixels” panels (apologies for all alliteration), given by Dave Williams (of Red5 Studios, formerly a designer at AEG), Ed Stark (of Red5 Studios, formerly of Wizards of the Coast), and Jack Emmert (of Cryptic/Champions Online & Star Trek Online, formerly of City of Heroes).
The discussion was on the transition of game designers from pen&paper RPGs to video games. Specifically MMOs in this case, but I think many of their comments are applicable to all sorts of digital game development. Although I’m nowhere near the designer that these guys are, I’ve worked in pen&paper games for more than 6 years now, and have about 3 years working for various computer game companies under my belt. So I figured I would try to riff on some of their ideas and add my own thoughts to the similarities, differences, and trends across the two fields.
Unfortunately, the way the pen&paper market has downturned so much in the past 5 or 10 years, it’s very hard to make a living wage doing game writing or design full time in hobby games. There are only a handful of companies big enough to employ a full staff, and salaries aren’t great at the best of times. Never mind working full-time as a freelancer.
Chillin’ out, trying to rest up (with marginal success). Haven’t been the most productive, though I have been able to test out Mario Kart Wii – I call it therapeutic research.
Working on a short story – in the urban fable motif. Hoping it will join several other ideas in a series around the same characters / locales.
I like the story, but it feels like all the dialog is:
How long ‘till your pals show up?
The boy pulled a cellphone from his pocket and glanced at it. No messages.
Uh, I’m not sure. Soon, I bet.
What did they say?
She cupped her hand against the glass to watch the big greaser more clearly. His eyes constantly roamed the street, never resting.
Um, they said they’d tell the Crow King, and he’d decide.
The Crow King?
Which is probably fine, as I’m introducing the reader to the elements as Jo learns them. But goddamn, it feels like call/response, call/response, call/response all through the piece. (or Q/A, Q/A, Q/A if you prefer).
There’s some names I’m unhappy with, and the end doesn’t quite work, but overall I’m happy with it.
We’ll see if that remains true after Dev reads & criticizes it.
(the image here comes from my brother Nate’s gallery)
This article is about a pretty amazing “puzzle house.” Basically, the woman gave her architect carte blanche to completely redesign, nay rebuild her apartment. With more than a touch of whimsy.
It all began simply enough, Ms. Sherry said, when she and her husband bought the 4,200-square-foot apartment for $8.5 million in 2003.
What Ms. Sherry didn’t realize until much later was that Mr. Clough had a number of other ideas about her apartment that he didn’t share with her. It began when [her husband] threw in his two cents, a vague request that a poem he had written for and about his family be lodged in a wall somewhere, Ms. Sherry said, “put in a bottle and hidden away as if it were a time capsule.”
That got Mr. Clough, who is the sort of person who has a brainstorm on a daily basis, thinking about children and inspiration and how the latter strikes the former. “I’d just read something about Einstein being inspired by a compass he’d been given as a child,” he said. The Einstein story set Mr. Clough off, and he began to ponder ways to spark a child’s mind. “I was thinking that maybe there could be a game or a scavenger hunt embedded in the apartment — that was the beginning,” he said.
And then it gets even more cool and all kinds of awesome.
But some of that furniture and some of those walls conceal secrets — messages, games and treasures — that make up a Rube Goldberg maze of systems and contraptions conceived by a young architectural designer named Eric Clough…
The apartment even comes with its own book, part of which is a fictional narrative that recalls “The Da Vinci Code” (without the funky religion or buckets of blood) and “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” the children’s classic by E. L. Konigsburg about a brother and a sister who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and discover — and solve — a mystery surrounding a Renaissance sculpture. It has its own soundtrack, too, with contributions by Kate Fenner, a young Canadian singer and songwriter with a lusty, alternative, Joni Mitchell-ish sound, with whom Mr. Clough fell in love during the project.
Really, it is the stuff of fantasy to have the money to design something like this, and find someone who is willing to do it (and I’m sure worked far beyond the money, no matter how good it was), and then have them do it as a surprise to you…like Willy Wonka meeting Holmes on Homes or something.
Not sure if I could ever work it into a story without sounding too far-fetched, but read the whole article here and see for yourself.
It’s been a long while since I’ve updated. It’s been a crazy and incredibly busy and difficult winter, but now that the snow is gone (it seems dumb to type that on April 20, yet I’m /still/ not convinced we’re out of the woods yet), things are starting to feel a bit more positive. I feel like I’m getting a bit more done (and I don’t just mean completing a song on Guitar Hero III).
Work is getting very busy, and will continue to be so for the next few months. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about what I’m working on. Our codename is Smurf Club, and it’s going to be really really cool. At the moment it’s research, playtesting, and drafting various internal documents. But you’ll just have to wait until I can say more. “The first rule of Smurf Club…”
In other news, Dev and I have finished the 2nd draft of our Western Horror script. (OK, that’s a lie, we have about 12 words in one scene that we’re still kicking at, but otherwise…). The second draft was a lot harder to do than I figured it would be. But it feels great to have pushed through. It was harder for a number of reasons, including:
* The worst enemy of the second draft is the first draft. (I think Goldman said that, though it might have been someone more recent. Regardless, it’s bloody true).
* The parts that we glossed over in our original outline, that we said “oh, we’ll just go with this for now and fix it later,” Yeah, those sucked. Giant roadblocks that forced us to grind to a halt for long sections. I swear we did 6 to 12 passes on one nasty scene in particular.
* Both of us suddenly having full time jobs and lots of things going on in our personal lives. Funny that…
* Corollary to the last, just having enough time to hang out together, watch movies, shoot the shit…all the stuff that is needed to fuel the writing process (though it can also be detrimental to it, if one overindulges). On that note, I finally saw 3:10 to Yuma. Um. It was OK. Not as bad as I feared, with a couple of nice scenes. But to say it’s the “best Western since Unforgiven” seems disingenuous at best.
But overall it was a great process and I’m very happy with the end result. At least, I think I am. Right now I’m in the zone of “God I can’t stand looking at this bloody thing anymore,” but I suspect after I’ve had a short break I’ll enjoy it again.
Now we just need to figure out what to do with the bloody thing…
I heard about Flight 190 on the drive home from work today. The first report was very odd. Something like:
“Flight 190 out of Victoria to Toronto was forced to make an emergency landing in Calgary after several passengers were critically injured on the flight.”
No explanation of what caused the injuries – mechanical, turbulence, crazy violence, space aliens, nothing. It was very odd. Almost immediately after they started filling in details: people were injured but nothing life threatening; it wasn’t mechanical, no it was, no it wasn’t; the plane was shaken by a jolt that threw some passengers into the ceiling…
“It happened really fast. One side of the plane went up sort of sideways and then came back down,” one passenger told CBC News.
She said she saw her friend, who was among those taken to the hospital, “fly up” and hit the ceiling.
“All of a sudden there were three big drops,” said passenger Andrew Evans. “I was in the very, very front seat of the plane and was watching dishes fly through the air.
…but in those first few moments it seemed like a tremendous thriller.
What if you started a story with:
- a plane forced off its flight path,
- landing in a foreign city,
- radioing for emergency medical assistance,
- a number of critical injured passengers and/or crew,
…and no one could tell you what the hell happened. Could lead somewhere interesting…
The 10 o’clock news tonight suggests it was likely nothing but turbulence. A type of violent high wind that only occurs in the upper atmosphere where jets cruise at their top altitudes, and that are very hard to detect. They had an image of a field of antennas, a type of “wind profile radar,” but it’s either one-of-a-kind or very rare. Interesting.