Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MI-5 (aka Spooks)

So I've been watching this British spy show, MI-5 (which apparently was called "Spooks" in Britian, which is a much better name) and it's interesting.

It's really really a lot like 24, with the picture in picture editing (where two sides of a phone conversation are shown on TV at once).

Except it's pretty, pretty British people, instead of pretty, pretty Americans, which makes this way more watchable than 24 somehow.

Oh, and each episode is a story, so I don't have to sign on for a year to see how it ends, that's also a plus.

And guest stars like Anthony Stuart Head, Hugh Laurie and Alexander Siddig (that's Bashir for you DS9 fans). Also a plus. I mean,24 had Lou Diamond Phillips, which is nothing to sneeze at, but he's sure no Alexander Siddig.

So now I have TWO espionage series on my must watch list: MI-5 and Sleeper Cell.

Branching Out (and some thoughts about writing for good measure)

So lately, I've been working on a novel outline.

It's been something really satisfying, a real spark to the creativity.

Along the way, I'm doing something I haven't had the chance to do writing games for a long time: learning something new.

Of course, that's not entirely true.

In the process of writing every book I wind up learning something, whether it's about Kabuki theater or WWII.

But when I say "learning something" what I actually mean here is learning about writing.

I'm fond of saying writing is craft not art and I truly believe that.

90% of every written work succeeds or fails on its technical merit.

Just like you wouldn't want to buy a chair with one leg, no matter how beautifully designed, if a work is poorly constructed, if it's loaded with technical problems, grammar issues, bad spelling, you're not going to read it.

Of course, a work can have all 90% of the craft covered and still be shit. It needs that 10% art, but the art is the electroplated gold on the solid, sturdy foundation of the craft, the technical writing.

So learning about how to construct a story, thinking about character arcs, about exploring this new frontier has been exciting.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New GamingSteve article

So, this is very unlikely to be new news to any of you guys, but I wrote an article for the gamingsteve site about first steps into the dark, shadowy world of tabletop rpgs.

Since most of you know how to put together a group and game, you can just read the first part and see what I think is worth recommending.

Chuck

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Puter checklist

1. Install Itunes.
2. Download every episode of the Hotspot.
3. Rip every Rush and Creed CD into Itunes.
4. Contact Apple customer service and ask very pleadingly politely for an "exception" to redownload purchased content.
5. Get said permission.
6. Download purchased TV shows and other videos (SNAP! I have the 1973 Michigan/Ohio State and the remastered Balance of Terror on here? I must have been drunk when I bought them. Watching those! Totally watching those!)
7. Install Civ 4. (Where did those three days go? What's that smell? Where did all this hair come from on my face?)
8. Work.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thoughts about character: Iron Man


Recently, as I've mentioned before, I've been re-reading all the old classic Iron Man stories. Reading these classic stories is a revelation in a lot of ways, especially looking at the early tales and how Stan established the characters.


An example is Iron Man. In his first story, Iron Man is literally making his armor under the gun. There's shrapnel in his heart, he's about to die, and the commies have told him to build him a weapon and they'll save him. Realizing this is bullshit, Iron Man builds his first armor instead which not only keeps him alive but allows him to break out of the communist camp.


That first armor (pictured here) was always something I remembered only being in the origin story. It wasn't decorated because it was makeshift. Iron Man was in his "golden avenger" armor, which is basically the same but colored gold in the next issue right? Not so. He actually appears in the second issue still wearing the gray suit. He changes it for a very specific reason: people are afraid of him.
This is a tiny moment, but it fascinates me for what it reveals about the character of Tony Stark. Let's contrast this with two heroes I think everyone is familiar with: Batman and Superman.
Batman would never have the dilemma Iron Man had. People being afraid of him? Good. That's what he's going for.
Superman, on the other hand, also never had this issue. People seem instinctively to like and trust Superman.

So here we have a hero in Iron Man that wants to be liked and trusted. But he has to work at it. It's not a natural heroism like Superman, it's a carefully crafted public image that he will refine further within a year from just gold to the now classic red and gold.
This fascinates me, especially as we look at the deeper flaws that have been revealed in Iron Man going forward.

The future

So I've posted another article to gamingsteve.com, this one about the continuing saga of gamespot and their terrible mistreatment of longtime employee Jeff Gerstmann.

Now for a look at the near future.

I've accepted a freelance gig from Empty Room Studios to do a d20 adaptation of their Steampunk Musha book into d20.

It's a great book, with a real Cowboy Bebop feel to it and I am employing a mechanical approach that should look and feel REAL familiar to folks familiar with my historical Legends of the Samurai books.

In fact, I think it's safe to say the books will work together rather seamlessly.

So along with Fantasci, it seems my trip into anime/Japanese themed RPGs will be a bit extended.

Also, my 4Color book, World Metahuman Factbook Germany lurched forward again today. The delays were mostly my fault, which sucks. I'd much rather have someone I can blame that isn't me.

Still, the book has now been edited and is actually in the hands of master layout guru David Jarvis, whose new Reality Deviants Press offering, Technothriller, looks FAMTABNABULOUS.

As for the far future, where we'll all have flying cars and be eating food from a pill, that's still a little tough to say.

Something involving superheroes perhaps?

Signs point to yes.

New Puter annoyances

So, I got the new laptop (blogging from it right now baby!) and I have to say, every time I get a new computer I am absolutely amazed at the amount of CRAP that comes pre-installed on it that nobody wants.

Note to computer manufacturers: no one wants this shit, and they especially don't want it all set to autorun when the computer starts up.

It's like buying a new car and the first thing you have to do is get a bunch of cigarette buts out of the ashcan and a bunch of crap out of the glove box.

To complete the analogy, what you'd be getting out of the glove box would be junk mail the car company had been PAID to leave there for you.

Nice work computer companies.

But other than that, I love the new puter. I love having something portable. And Civ 4 looks fabulous running on this machine. My last puter wouldn't run it at all, and the one before that could only run it with the graphics turned down to the lowest setting.

Great looking game.

There, I ended on a positive note.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stupid Puter

I mentioned this earlier, but my computer recently died. I tried to save some cash and buy a used one, and it lasted me about 7 months.

So I have a new one being built by Dell, but it won't be around until the end of the month.

During this time, blogging will be slower than usual. I'm borrowing a friend's puter and have to spend that time working.

On the bright side, not only is my new rig an upgrade, it's a laptop.

New GamingSteve article

Hey guys. As my puter issues drag on, blogging continues to be slow, as I have limited computer time and have to spend it working.

However, a new article by my is up at GamingSteve on the continuing Gamespot disaster-bacle.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What's now

Recently, in my "what's next" post, I shamelessly teased that I was going to try my hand at something new. Well now, that farflung future has arrived.

And though I still haven't gotten my damn flying cars or food in a pill, you can console yourself with my thoughts on video games as a new columnist over at gamingsteve.

Each week, I'll be covering the world of console RPGs as well as the places where they intersect with the tabletop.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Too anime

So in all the talk over 4e, one of the barbs commonly slung at the game by folks who wish there wasn't a 4e is how "anime" and "MMO" influenced its getting.

I decided to one up those guys and make a game with such obvious anime influences, its not even funny.

Over the next few days, I'm going to be providing a lot of crunch previews of Fantasci, a book I hope everyone enjoys as much I enjoyed writing it.

What's Next

So my next project is a freelance project for a company that isn't RPGObjects and isn't Vigilance Press.

I'll tell you more soon.

And besides Fantasci, there's also the World Metahuman Factbook: Germany, which is in editing. This is my Vigilance Press sourcebook for Phil Reed's marvelous 4Color system.

Finally, you're going to get a chance to see my writing in an entirely new arena soon. Again, more will be forthcoming on this when the news breaks.

Back from the holidays!

We laughed, we cried, many, many rounds were consumed.

So, what's going on? Well, I just handed in my first Fantasci draft to the boss, meaning the editing and revision process has begun on the first Modern20 setting.

I hope folks like it, it's got a lot of fantasy tools for the toolbox, as well as providing a science fantasy straight out of Japanese RPGs for your gaming enjoyment.

New Adventure for AZ on the Way

So, Adventure Locale #1: White Star Trailer Park is coming soon! It's a location based adventure for my zombie apocalypse game, AZ: Afte...