More word stuff I’ve enjoyed recently

Aliens by James Cameron

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I recently read the shooting script for Aliens. If you enjoyed that movie (or any well-made action movie), I highly recommend you take a look at this script. It’s pretty damn excellent. Use the above image to find a good copy to read.

Destroy/Wait by Pierre Chevalier

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A beautiful little Twine poem. Strong imagery. A melancholic mood.

Solarium by Alan DeNiro

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Structurally complex Twine story in a post-apocalyptic Cold War setting. The story is told in a looping, circling style, which Alan previously used in We Are the Firewall. His stories bring the reader back again and again to the same passages, but give them opportunities to experience those passages differently. He is the only Twine author that I know of who currently uses this style in this particular way. Besides the fun structural stuff, though, this is a wonderful story with a surprising and satisfying ending. Very much worth playing through completely.

Broke Down by Saguaro

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As you read each passage of Broke Down, you have the ability to add or remove detail, making the story more or less complex. Sometimes the details you add are interesting and funny. Sometimes they hurt, a lot. I like this (and Solarium to a certain extent) because I like stories that have “mechanics”, that have consistent and interesting ways of changing or presenting the text. One day I want to write a story that has a whole bunch of link “mechanics” like this one, all interacting in unusual ways.

Device 6 by Simogo

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Simogo previously created Year Walk, a popular iOS game about Scandinavian legends. Both Year Walk and Device 6 present worlds which the player must explore via strange and novel navigation methods– methods which encourage a refreshingly frank and direct interaction with whatever’s on-screen. Unlike Year Walk, however, Device 6 is a textual experience. It’s not hypertext, it’s not parser– it’s something completely different and weird.

Instead of linking to new areas or entering commands, the player scrolls along vertical or horizontal panes and lines of text that twist and turn to imitate the shapes of the imaginary spaces the story takes place in. Pictures appear in frames and slowly scroll or pan by beneath the text as players swipe from side to side. Some of these panes contain pictures of ancient electronic equipment, which the player manipulates using obscurely-labelled buttons. Sound, too, is central to many of the puzzles. A few gems require the player to do unusual things to the iOS device itself in order to uncover the solution.

The game’s visual presentation is all about layers– layers of text, layers of images– and the story itself echoes this. There are several nested layers of narrative in this game, and nested protagonists, too. Some of this is never completely explained.

It took me only about an hour and a half to play Device 6. I completed pretty much every puzzle within 5 minutes or less. None were particularly hard, but they were all satisfying to solve.

I highly recommend taking a look at this game if you have the time and money.

Visual resources for Twine

I’m a huge fan of pictures in Twine. Sometimes even extremely simple images can add a lot to a Twine story. For example, the small square pictures in Porpentine’s Climbing 208 Feet Up the Ruin Wall are beautiful, brightly-colored little accents. But sometimes pictures can be more than accents– they help tell the story, or do the major work in setting the mood. I recently played a super-throwbacky little horror adventure called Mad Dog which used simple but evocative images to set the story in time and place.

Using pictures in Twine games is not a problem; unlike prose or poetry, hypertext fiction doesn’t have thousands of years of rules to follow about whether it’s OK to stick pictures randomly in our stories or not. So I think we should! Pictures everywhere! More pictures in Twine games! They’re fun and they make me happy. I don’t see them enough.

HOW TO PUT A PICTURE IN YOUR TWINE GAME

Let’s pretend we have a picture we want in a story. The picture could be any file format that displays in a web browser– picture.png, picture.gif, whatever. Today, though, we’re using picture.jpg.

The first thing you have to do is put the image file in the same folder as the .html file of your game.

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Once you’ve done that, the syntax for placing picture.jpg in the story normally would be:

[img[picture.jpg]]

But what if you want to make the image clickable, like a word link? You definitely can! You can have the image act as a link to another passage in the story. Let’s pretend we’re writing a story where we want to have the player click on a map to find a buried treasure. The treasure is found in a passage called ‘treasure,’ and the image is called map.jpg. In that case, the picture link would look like this:

[img[map.jpg][treasure]]

You don’t have to save the image in the same folder as your html file if you don’t want to, though. You can also link images directly from the web:

[img[http://i.imgur.com/KN2Ht6q.png]]

You can also make images link to webpages instead of other passages:

[img[map.jpg][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Island,_San_Francisco]]

PLACES TO GET COOL IMAGES

If you’re looking for high-resolution pictures on a specific topic, it’s sometimes hard to find good art that you’re allowed to use in your own projects for free. However, there are some pretty reliable art resources out there that will connect you to creative commons or public domain images that you can use for whatever you want, or even modify.

1) Creative Commons Search

This website will search image databases that contain a lot of creative commons images. Images under a creative commons license are free to use, but some are restricted. If you want to find a picture you can edit yourself, make sure the little box that says “modify, adapt, or build upon” is checked under the search bar.

My favorite database to search on this page is Flickr. It’s huge and, of course, very frequently updated.

Remember to cite the creators!

2) Wikimedia Commons

Free-to-use images from Wikipedia’s media collections. They currently have almost eighteen and a half million images. This means that navigating the content through the category browsing links on the front page can be a little daunting and overwhelming. However, the search function is good.

Remember to cite the creators!

3) Getty Open Content Program

The Getty is a big art museum in southern California. It contains a lot of old and weird works of art purchased by an ancient captain of industry. They own the reproduction rights to some of the artwork they have. They also own a lot of art which is SO OLD that nobody has a copyright on it anymore. They’ve decided to release both of these kinds of images for free use to anyone who wants them.

The overview of the program can be found here. The full list of all the usable content can be found here.

The one thing about the GOCP is that searching this database can be hard. Addiionally, you’ll notice that most of the pictures here are pretty old, or are drawings of old things. We’re talking 1800s and older for most of the items in the database, including the photographs! However, if you’re doing something with an old-timey theme, this is a great resource.

Remember to cite the program in accordance with their rules!

Assorted Assertions

TOE SHOES
Those toe shoes are just as weird and ugly as crocs. Roughly same things are often said in their defense, too. The only reason we tolerate these shoes is because fit, active people wear them.

THE HUMANITIES
The humanities are even more important than the sciences, because they teach you the art of bullshit. Confident bullshitting is a critical life skill. It is tied closely to the arts of writing and public speaking, and all three are united by the art of persuasion. Teach your children these things early in life, before you encourage them to study a science.

FAN ART
People who obsessively create extremely high-quality fan works, in any medium, are robbing themselves of the ability to benefit from their own creative output. They should stop and invent their own things instead.

TRANSHUMANISM IN SCIENCE FICTION
Sci-fi plots focusing on transhumanist ideas or stories are not exciting when they are straight robot stuff. They don’t hinge on any issues that normal people have. Normal people do not worry about whether to become an android or beam of disembodied space energy. Mass Effect 3 should have dumped the transhumanist/robot life subplot and focused on Space Politics or Space Racism instead, because politics and racism are issues that real people think about. The only way to make transhumanism interesting is to turn it into a bodily-autonomy issue, since that is a real world issue that real people deal with. (This is what DX:HR did.)

SILICON VALLEY
Almost everyone in Silicon Valley is paid too much.

HUMOR
Humor is most definitely a learned skill, not an innate quality that people are born with. People usually learn to be humorous as children, often as a coping mechanism, but if you have enough confidence and the right kind of feedback, you can learn to be funny at any time in your life.

DEAD GAME GENRES
There are no dead game genres. All game genres assumed dead will eventually return in some form, when given the proper platform and cultural moment.

Games that are more than they seem

There’s a certain emotion related to the process of discovery that games have an easier time communicating than almost any other media.

Listed below are a few games which use “the thrill of discovery” in a very specific way. These games drop you into one kind of context, then give you the option of dramatically or repeatedly smashing that context into a million pieces.

And below that context lies another, bigger one, scarier and more exciting simply because you didn’t expect it to be there.

I can’t really say much about these games without ruining the experience for you. (It’s also made screenshotting some of these games very difficult.) Click on the names to go to the game or the game’s website.

Frog Fractions

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Candy Box

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Starseed Pilgrim

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Little Inferno

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Drop a Beat, Guiseppe!

DaBG

Here’s an interesting article that was recently reposted in several places– it was written several months ago by Starseed Pilgrim’s designer, Droqen. It touches upon the kind of thing (Droqen calls it “horizon breaking”) that a lot of these games are kind of doing.

Awesome character classes for tabletop RPGs I will never make

Plague Victim

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The plague victim does extreme DOT at touch range. The T of the DOT is extremely long, compared to most other spells. The D is very big (always completely fatal).

The plague victim has only four attacks: cough, sneeze, ooze, and vomit. However, the plague victim has a very large number of passive perks, many of which only activate upon death as retributive penalties upon the character’s killer (and anyone who gets near the corpse).

Plague victims acquire no XP and can’t level up. They are generally only good for one-off tabletop sessions or short, depressing Neverwinter Nights modules. They are great for that player who is absent, distracted during the session, or confused about the rules.

 

Childhood Bully

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The childhood bully does damage in the past. If the bully encounters a character with whom they wish to initiate conflict, they make a check to see if, at any point in the past, they ever bullied that character. Upon a success, the bully and the bully’s target then roleplay a flashback scene in which the bully shames and torments the victim.

Upon returning to the present day, the victim now acquires emotional hangups and fears in the form of severe debuffs. These affect the victim whenever they interact with the bully, unless dispelled with a successful (incredibly difficult) will check.

The childhood bully is incapable of doing damage in the present and, if resisted, will always lose. However, none of the players are aware of this, and the GM lies about the bully’s stats and makes the bully look as fierce and deadly as possible.

 

God

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The God can be aligned either as Wrathful, Benevolent, or Trickster. If Wrathful, God wins if the other PCs lose. If Benevolent, God wins if the other PCs win. If Trickster, God wins if the other players are all alive but very angry by the end of the session.

The GM designates certain NPCs as “religious” and allows God to roleplay them in whatever scenes they appear. God can make these NPCs say or do whatever. If the other players believe that God is behaving unreasonably or unrealistically, driving their NPCs to increasingly erratic or bizarre behavior, they can complain to the GM, who will unfortunately be unable to stop God.

God has no specific skills or abilities, gains no XP, and can’t level up. However, if God consistently achieves God’s goals, the GM will reward God by providing larger numbers of more-powerful followers to command in subsequent game sessions.

Some current comic book series which are not “about” “muscles”

… and which I am also actively reading:

(Click names for relevant and vaguely-relevant news articles and background information)

Hellboy in Hell

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BPRD: Hell on Earth

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Abe Sapien

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Fables

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Manhattan Projects

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Fatale

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Saga

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Hawkeye

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The Private Eye (Online purchase only)

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The Walking Dead

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“Hey, Laura! How can I tell if my comic book is about muscles?”

  1. Does the comic include a close-up of someone’s muscles?
  2. Are the biggest conflicts in the story purely physical ones?
  3. Would the average reader be aware of any character development (without outside/long-term canonical knowledge of the characters)?
  4. Are the characters wearing nonsensical outfits suitable primarily for showing off their muscles?
  5. Does the story use action or gratuitous pictures of muscles to cover plot holes?
  6. When you finish reading the comic and put it down on the table, are you thinking about the characters, or about the characters’ muscles?

The games I’ve played for the most hours, cumulative, in my entire life, arranged in descending order

  1. Minecraft (approx. 600 hrs)

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  2. Age of Empires (probably approx. 500 hours)

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  3. Age of Empires II: Age of Kings (ditto)

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  4. Age of Mythology (ditto again)

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  5. Caesar 3 (ditto, yes, shut up)

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  6. World of Warcraft (I don’t want to think about this)
  7. WoWScrnShot_071112_145205[1]
  8. Guild Wars 2 (I don’t want to think about this either) 

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  9. Sim Ant (well over 300 hours of my life)

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  10. Oregon Trail 2 (sometimes I still dream about this game)

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  11. Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (who the hell knows? 300 hours? More?)

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  12. Mount and Blade (>170 hours total)

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  13. Nethack (??????)

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  14. Star Wars: Republic Commando (ugh ugh too much time)

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  15. Mass Effect 1 (certainly more than 100 hours of my short, precious life)

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  16. Civilization 4 (same)

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  17. The Binding of Isaac (105 hours precisely)

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Things that occur to me after assembling this list:

  1. I used to play games for literally years at a time, as a kid
  2. I no longer have time to play games for long periods of time
  3. Although my favorite games today have strong stories, I didn’t play games with stories as a kid
  4. When I play games with strong stories, I generally do not spend hundreds of hours playing them
  5. Although RTSes do not even register on my list of favorite games genres these days, I have played probably thousands of hours of RTS games total in my life
  6. The number of hours you spend playing a game has nothing to do with how valuable that experience is to you creatively or entertainment-wise

Every Time X Does Y

Links:

A list of every time David Banner Hulks out in the old Hulk TV show

A list of every woman James Bond ever slept with in the Bond movies

A list of every person Jack Bauer kills onscreen in 24

A list of every time The Snail appears in an Adventure Time episode

A video showing all the kicks in the movie Kickboxer

A video showing every time Charlton Heston speaks in Planet of the Apes

A video showing every time the tenth Doctor said “sorry” during his entire run in Doctor Who

A video showing every time Picard said “tea, earl grey, hot” during the entire run of TNG

A video showing every one of Spock’s Vulcan death grips duing the entire run of TOS, set to obnoxious music

A video showing every time Link says “Excuse me, Princess” in the Legend of Zelda TV show