• Member Since 27th Nov, 2011
  • offline last seen Nov 17th, 2018

Soundslikeponies


Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

More Blog Posts127

  • 365 weeks
    Stepping Down from Fanfic Writing; Focusing on Life, Career, Game Dev

    This blog post might not come as any surprise given the last new chapter of anything I posted was a year ago. I meandered away from the site for some time, unsure if I would feel like coming back. I'm making this blog post because I'm pretty sure now at this point I won't want to write ponyfic any time soon. I really regret leaving A Darkened Land unfinished, since I did truly enjoy writing quite

    Read More

    14 comments · 1,495 views
  • 391 weeks
    An Update

    After being silent so long I guess I should start by saying this isn't a gloom and doom type blogpost, heh.

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    8 comments · 800 views
  • 404 weeks
    Unpopular Opinion #6: Learning Theory Can Kill You

    Okay, maybe "kill you" is a bit overdramatic, but "clickbait" is sort of a theme of these blog posts' titles anyway so yeah.

    I recently came back from Bronycan where I spoke on 3 separate hour-long writing panels. I got some pretty good words of encouragement from people saying they learned something, and actually in talking that much about writing I felt I learned something too.

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    6 comments · 1,011 views
  • 406 weeks
    My Slow Writing and Life Update

    I'm 4th year University student studying Computer Science. I'm into writing, art, programming, and game development. I tend to plan far in advance for the future, and previously I've mentioned A Darkened Land will likely be my last novel length fic.

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    2 comments · 616 views
  • 407 weeks
    Bronycan Details

    Hey there! So I'm all set for Bronycan and they've got the schedule up on their website.

    In a surprise turn of events, the coordinator approved of all of our panels! That means I'll be sitting in as a panelist on 3 of the 4 writing panels our little group is organizing. Here's the times/topics for all four:

    Friday:

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    1 comments · 586 views
Jul
16th
2016

Writing and Art and Games and Stuff · 1:48am Jul 16th, 2016

I've been very busy lately with life stuff. Mostly trying to figure out which fork of the road will get me where I want to go.

I just noticed that it's been over a month since I made one of these bloggamajiggers, so I thought I'd make one where I talk about writing, art, and game development.

During an interview, Jonathan Blow, talked about his road up to the release of Braid.

Braid, along with Castle Crashers, Super Meat Boy, and the first "summer of xbox live arcade", is about where the current ongoing "indie revolution" began. Since then the indie scene has blown up and we've gotten tons of amazing creative games thanks to it.

But anyway, during this interview, he talked about how, for a time, he was worried about games "going the way of comic books." There were all these sequels and violent action games being pumped out by triple A. In comics, super heroes basically took over everything in an almost snowball-type way. Most comics made are about super heroes > therefore most people who start reading want to read about super heroes > therefore most comics made are about super heroes. Basically one genre, and not very much artistic expression occurring in the medium. Recently with the internet, kickstarter, and patreon, non-superhero comics have found a comfortable home online. But the point is that comics were like how I described before for a long time.

The thing is, despite this ongoing indie renaissance, triple A is basically still doing what it was doing. They haven't really felt much heat because indie games don't really steal away their market.

Let me just say, making games is hard. It's pretty much a super set of the development which occurs in every other entertainment medium. Even simple games are surprisingly challenging to create, but more complex games require some ridiculous talent to pull off.

Triple A isn't feeling any pressure to release more "artistic" titles because indie games don't compete with them
Indie games don't compete with them because they don't create games which occupy the same "space"
Indie games don't occupy the same space as triple A because it's incredibly difficult

I dunno. Games just so far have very low standards for "art" when it comes to being thought provoking or influential or just impactful. I'd like to see triple A studios take just a teensy portion of their millions budget and hire something better than a bad fanfiction level of author. (Looking at you, Diablo 3.)

I still believe games have a ludicrous amount of untapped potential. For the past few months I've been lightly practicing art, steadily practicing it more and more. I want to be able to combine my knowledge of art and graphics programming to create striking visuals, then combine my knowledge of programming and writing to create gameplay with a good story. That's the end goal at least. It'll probably be a lot of work, but I hope I'll get there eventually.

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Comments ( 5 )

Well, the reality is that very few indie games are artistic; they're mostly artsy.

See also: Braid.

The reality is that there's nothing that makes AAA games special, but making a lot of games that occupy the same space as AAA type games is very expensive.

The problem with writing is that in game design, writing is secondary to gameplay. That's why you see very few well-written games; they center around gameplay, not story, and the story is an afterthought.

Are there well-written games? Sure. RPGs are often well-written. That's because it is their focus.

But most mainstream AAA titles will never be well-written because it isn't really their main selling point.

Also, indie games are mostly garbage and vastly inferior, while it is possible for an independent person to make pretty high-quality comics.

It is my sincerest hope that having Kojima off the leash of an increasingly questionable Konami will pull the industry in a more narrative-motivated direction. The contrast between Metal Gears 1-4 (even if 4 went a little off the rails) and 5 (the ham-fisted cash grab) is a stark one, indeed. I love good storytelling in my games. I'd go so far as to say I need it. Maybe that's the reason I haven't been playing nearly as many games, lately.

Also poverty.

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The problem with writing is that in game design, writing is secondary to gameplay.

I guess what I'm getting at is there are so many games that have a totally underwhelming or outright bad story. Even games which focus on story are pretty bad in comparison to stories you find in movies or in books.

Take for example The Last of Us or Mass Effect. Obviously there's an element with player choice and branching paths in Mass Effect's story, but still, if you hold up its story to modern acclaimed sci-fi books or movies, every given branch of Mass Effect's story would fall short.

The Last of Us was hailed as some brilliant new IP with brilliant writing, but really it was just a heavy rehash of McCarthy's The Road, executed worse than the book and worse than the movie adaption, with gameplay which is mostly a chopped up and modified version of Uncharted's combat, albeit with a bit more stealth and tension during encounters. It's far from a bad game, it's more of a "pretty good" game whose level of praise says something about the quality of other games.

You know what strikes me as ridiculous? The new DOOM had better writing than TLoU, in my honest opinion (emphasis). The story wasn't remotely the focus of the game. The premise was pretty uninspired, but it was minimalist and they played on cliches, expectations, and made it good.

There are a number of games which don't do much in terms of story, but still have good "writing". The Witness essentially has no story, yet the assortment of quotes on the island and the environment of the island itself manage to deliver on a type of "zen" in a really fantastic way almost as if there is an element of "writing" to everything in the game around you, if that makes any sense. DOOM, as I mentioned, manages to have stereotypical characters with some elements of subversion and good execution. Journey also has no writing, but tells a breath-taking story. The dialogue between characters in Left 4 Dead and Dota adds a great deal of character to the games.

To some extent, "writing" exists in games whether there's a story or not. A game without a story often still has characters, still has a setting, and especially still has a conflict which must be overcome.

Hopefully as more people manage to make games which are a whole cohesive package, others will build on things learned from them and things will improve over time.

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Take for example The Last of Us or Mass Effect. Obviously there's an element with player choice and branching paths in Mass Effect's story, but still, if you hold up its story to modern acclaimed sci-fi books or movies, every given branch of Mass Effect's story would fall short.

Yeah, but I'm not sure if that's a reasonable comparison. I mean, take something like Portal or Portal 2; both are AAA games. Both are rightly praised for their writing. But neither would make a particularly good story. They're good in the context of what they are.

The same goes for stuff like The Stanley Parable.

Pretty much all video games don't work as ordinary stories because a lot of the video game is about actively doing things which are not especially interesting to read about in a lot of cases, but are fun to play through.

I can see where you're coming from with like, say, Mass Effect (I haven't played The Last of Us), but I think that at least some of the characters in those games did connect with the audience. It is true that the story could have been better than it was, but I'm not sure if comparing it to a random sci-fi story is really right, either; Mass Effect is vastly longer than most stories would be, and has to be constructed differently.

Bastion is an example of a game that people adored the whole greater world in, but it isn't really much of a "story" either.

You sound like me 20 years ago.
I joined a start-up to produce literary interactive stories. We had great tech, great funding, but bad leadership.

At that time, Valve had just published Half-Life, a great game with a pretty good story. I interviewed at Valve and talked all about AI and story. After my talk, someone told me they'd decided not to do story anymore because Team Fortress was so much more profitable. Half-Life sold a lot of copies, but it took a lot longer to make.

The cost isn't in hiring the author, but in coding (and testing) the railroading. Game and story make each other exponentially more expensive.

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But, yeah, why don't people hire good authors? I suspect it's cultural. People who love literature don't usually go into game design. Or game playing. Ray Bradbury and Michael Crichton each wrote a text adventure for Tellarium. Neither became best-sellers. But I wouldn't expect great novelists to write great interactive fiction. It's different. It's an open question whether anyone has yet understood how to write interactive fiction. Certainly Infocom did it better than Scott Adams, and Andrew Plotkin and Adam Cadre did it better than Infocom.

I studied AI because I wanted to create interactive fiction, but at the time, I didn't know how to write good fiction. Now I know how to write good fiction, and PCs are powerful enough to run the int-fiction system I developed in the 1990s. I still hope to create a good interactive fiction system before I die. I'll try to remember to let you know about progress on that front.

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