When XCOM: Enemy Within turned into ‘Aliens’

xcom site recon

Last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my favorite games, largely because it left so much room for play sessions to turn into their own little emergent stories.

This week, a huge expansion to the game, called Enemy Within, was launched, and I’ve delved back into the game to try out the new stuff. The other night, I suddenly found myself playing until about 3 a.m. because one mission grabbed my attention and arrested my ability to think of anything else for a good hour — the emergent narrative, about my squad of soldiers fighting to repel an alien invasion of Earth, was in many ways akin to the horror and tragedy of films like Aliens.

Since it was so tense, my favorite experience with the game so far, I ended up laying it out on Twitter across something like 30 updates. I didn’t realize it would be as long as it was until I was midway into it, but I couldn’t just stop in the middle — I still found it too compelling. Because it seems like such a great example of some of the very interesting storytelling only games can do, I thought I’d put it up here, with a little more context.

Continue reading When XCOM: Enemy Within turned into ‘Aliens’

Six People Only: The Stakes of The Walking Dead

walking dead 5

I’ve got my pick for my favorite game released this year, despite a few more titles trickling out in the next few weeks. It is, far and away, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead adaptation.

The thing that’s remarkable about The Walking Dead is how well it tells its story. There’s the zombie plague, of course, but much more frightening are the lengths to which the remaining humans must go to survive. Sometimes they save and help one another. Sometimes they form unbreakable, close bonds. Often, they’re forced to be incredibly hurtful to one another, and undergo some incredible tragedies.

Continue reading Six People Only: The Stakes of The Walking Dead

‘Cabin In The Woods’ Pulls the Curtain Back on Horror

cabin in the woods

I finally got around to checking out Cabin in the Woods, a horror film about which I’d heard some great things, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out those things were mostly right.

Continue reading ‘Cabin In The Woods’ Pulls the Curtain Back on Horror

Time Travel Guide Genesis: Doing It Wrong

deja vu save her

Part 1 in a series about the development of SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE, from idea to proposal to book contract to shelves.

When tracing back the genesis of the project that would eventually become SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE: THE TIME TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO TIME TRAVEL, I suppose the very beginning would be my obsession with zombie fiction.

Way back in 2008, co-writer and hetero-lifemate Nick Hurwitch gave me Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide. After reading it, it was striking how true to concept Brooks stayed with the whole thing. I’ve heard the book described as being tongue-in-cheek hilarious, and you can read it that way if you want. You can also read it as being a serious take on the idea of being in the center of a zombie holocaust, given how methodical and logical the book is. It plays both ways.

Soon after I found myself watching the Denzel Washington film Deja Vu*, also at Nick’s suggestion. Being a big fan of time travel, I was excited to get into it, but I found it lacking in some ways. Continue reading Time Travel Guide Genesis: Doing It Wrong

Dead Rising 2 and plagiarism’s specter

Greene's Hardware

I’ve become something of an expert on Dead Rising 2, the upcoming massive zombie sequel from Capcom. I’ll be walking through the game next week (it really is huge, so it’ll take a while), and I did the walkthrough and the review for the piece of prequel downloadable content that launched a few weeks ago, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero.

Most interestingly, I attended the Greene’s Hardware Store promo event in Silverlake, down the street from my apartment, a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I am 8-Bit put on the event. Yes, I am friends with everyone in that company. Yes, it was purely coincidental, and totally professional, that I attended in the capacity that I did.

I actually got to cover Greene’s Hardware as a working journalist for FileFront. During the course of the event, I played the game (check out the hands-on preview I did for FileFront here) and spoke with Josh Bridge, an executive producer at developer Blue Castle.

Continue reading Dead Rising 2 and plagiarism’s specter

A script in 30 days, unfinished

The Script Frenzy outline in much rarely used writing journal. April marked the Script Frenzy challenge, in which writers were encouraged to try to write a 100-page script of one kind or another within a month.

A 100-page script isn’t really that bad, at least when you’re writing a screen play, like I did. Formatting helps a lot – there’s a ton of white space, character dialogue eats up pages and pages, and you get to make line breaks for different actions and things all the time. All in all, it could be worse (see Game on, novel writing, an entry about Script Frenzy’s sister event, National Novel Writing Month [which I subsequently failed]).

My 100 pages is finished. The untitled script is about Marney Friday, an intrepid high school journalist, who sets about chronicling the last days of her father’s life after he suffers a heart attack. Marney travels around her town, interviewing the people who interacted with Hal Friday before his death, and learns things about the man – and herself – she didn’t expect.

Problem is, 100 pages puts my script right around the end of the second act. In a three-act structure, this is, as we writers say, bad.

There are probably an additional 30 or 40 pages I need to write before I can set about revising this first horrible draft. I say “horrible” because, as far as my writing goes, this is one of the worse things I’ve ever put down. It’s not exactly a bad idea, and the writing’s not god-awful. But a good way to describe the project in general is, perhaps, “malformed.” Undercooked. Still incubating.

Ms. Friday needs some more time in the test tube before I unleash her upon the world. As such, I’ve given almost no part of the script to almost anyone, when usually I’m sending at least bits and pieces off to several of my writer friends for feedback. (However, you can read the unedited first 10 pages here.)

I don’t want feedback this time, because I know what it’ll be.

Meantime, one of the larger effects of Script Frenzy seems to have been that focusing for that long on one thing has got my brain swimming around in ideas for other things. I’ve hopefully got more than one zombie story for Wrath of the Damned forthcoming, as well as some other scripts I want to work on.

The only problem with that is firing up the old hyperdrive motivator in my head to get me working on some of them.

Or finishing that script.

Or revising it.

At least I’m not writing this in front of the TV. That’s one step in the direction of creativity.

How I found a real use for twitter

I’m fascinated by this Twitter stuff.

Tonight Nick Hurwitch and I worked pretty extensively on the “Wrath of the Damned” multi-author Twitter story, which consists of an on-going short story created by whoever happens to sign on and add to it. Caveat: We don’t tell each other what we’re doing until it’s up. Therefore, the story goes all over the place in a really organic, interesting way. (That’s @wrathofdamned if you’re interested.)

It’s a different sort of writing, that’s for damn sure. For one, the 140-character limit means you get right to the point. No screwing around. It minces things like description and complete sentences, but it also means a really pure story — find the best way to convey your thought or abandon it.

And not knowing what the other authors are going to contribute is extremely interesting because it means making up a new story at pretty much every turn. I had more than one good idea for what the story would become at key moments. Then Nick stepped in. Now we have something wholly new — like a dead main character. It’s really quite exhilarating, from a writing standpoint.

Just wandering around reading Twitter is a lesson for a writer, though, really. Snapshots of people’s days, of their lives, of their thoughts — you get quite a bit of information. It’s also a good way to see what is not interesting, at all. It’s almost better to follow boring people than interesting ones. I’ve learned some new stuff about authenticity, to be sure.

It’s kind of stark when you see reality condensed into tiny bites, especially when you read something profound. Fabricating that experience makes it all the sweeter once you’ve found the real thing.

Oh, also, I can get tidbits from Oprah.