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Progress Report: Fitness, Gaming, and Design

I finish my workout challenge, and I get sick. Ugh.

I think it’s time to start up another one. Looking through Darebee’s workout library, this one looks the most interesting and fun for me. It’s a martial arts-based 30-day exercise program. Having practiced some martial arts in the past, this would be a great way to bring back the muscle memory in my limbs while staying in shape. I’ll get on it as soon as I finish writing this.

In gaming news. I’ve been switching between a few games since reinstalling Windows 10 on my new SSD. The main one was Psychonauts. It’s a 3D platformer that reminds me of the classic console games from the days of Mario 64. The gameplay is just pure fun. The writing and dialogue is hilarious. It has one of the best (if not the best) expositional intros I’ve ever seen in a video game. I love it. My only gripe is that I’m having a hard time sharing it over Forge. It was crashing left and right, but when I solved the issue by running it under Windows 95 compatibility mode, it no longer streams on Forge. Since my social interactions online have been dwindling these days, I wanted to play a game that I could share with you folks. Oh well.

The other game I’ve been playing, as of two days ago, is Dragon Nest. It’s a F2P Nexon game. Yes, they prod you to spend money every time you blink. But it’s fun. It’s an anime-style action-RPG with dungeons/instances you can clear in 5-10 minutes. Not sure how long I’ll stay, but it’s a very low stress MMO. At least for now. I’m still level 19. Level cap is…70? 80? Not sure.

Anyone want to hop on with me?

As for my music challenge, I may switch over to a writing/design one for a couple weeks. My friends and I have been working on a game. The basic movement mechanics are working out fine so far. The basic story-concept is in place. Now we need to flesh out the mechanics more and work on the level/story designs. Art assets are another issue, but we’re not really at that stage yet. I think I need to spend a little time each day on this project if we want to move it along any further.

I will report as I make progress.

Over and out.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Fitness, Gaming

 

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The Meaning of It All

I’ve been doing some self-exploration.

I’ve been chasing a musical career for a while now through schooling, playing, directing, and a little bit of teaching. Even with all of this knowledge in my head and the many years of experience, I’m not sure that it’s the right thing for me anymore. I love music. I’ve loved it since I was little and envious of my older brother getting to take violin lessons, while my mom and I listened from the next room. I loved music while playing in my school orchestra, and loved it even more when I bought a guitar and started playing rock music with my buddy. After studying jazz and classical music in college, and then spending a few years at a prestigious modern music school–where everybody was better than me, and great music was everywhere–I loved it more than ever. But now I realize that–while I love it–it’s not something I wake up every morning feeling inspired to do. For one reason or another, it’s a difficult chore when I set my creative mind to it.

Composing music is not something inherently inspiring to me. The inspiration comes from the craft, and seeing simple ideas develop into a well-formed, multi-layered, intellectually and emotionally stimulating piece. And it’s much easier for me to appreciate another’s craft than to do it myself. Maybe it’s just a simple thing like not having a proper workflow, where I can lay out all of my ideas and come back to refine them later–like I do with writing. There’s probably some of that, since music is much harder to pin down than the written word.

Spending the last several years planning weekly performances, practicing with several bands of varying skill levels, and feeling the drain it leaves on me at the end of the day–despite the moments of joy when the music finally comes together–leaves me questioning whether this is really the life I want. I will never quit music, and will keep getting better–albeit at a slower pace than those dedicated to the art–but, I’m finally discovering things about myself that may lead me to the next step in my life.

While it’s difficult for me to be inspired to create music on a whim, I don’t feel that barrier with writing. Since last June, when I started my foray into this medium, I’ve discovered that I really do love it–even when what I thought would be a half-hour writing project turns into a three hour one. I never hated doing it in school, but at the time, I felt it was a necessary chore just to pass my classes. Now I see that it’s a way to set the whirling, chaotic mush of my thoughts down into a fixed, permanent form. It’s a way for me to contribute to the never-ending dialogue of ideas. It was probably all the fantasy and science fiction novels I read during high school and the intense daily MUDding sessions which somehow seeped into my subconsciousness. That’s a lot of text I must’ve read.

I really enjoyed the last few months I’ve spent writing, blogging and self-editing. But now I have some new questions for myself: Why am I writing? Am I writing for the sake of writing? What is going to keep me writing for the foreseeable future?

I’ve been watching, listening to, and reading a lot of Ken Levine interviews these days, as written in my last post. This has me really thinking about exploring the world of game writing and development. Will it fit my personality and skill sets? Is it something I can be excited about doing every day? Is writing for and/or developing a video game something I will be passionate about?

Years of musical study–as well as a lover of books, films, and video games–have taught me to be observant of the craft of “time-based” artwork. These things have a beginning, middle, and end. They take the participant through a journey and the experience is often multi-layered. For a song, there is the flow of the musical composition, perhaps from a simple beginning to a climactic ending, both in the build-up of musical ideas and instrumentation; and there is the lyrical content which reveals the story piece by piece, oftentimes repurposing lyrics which emphasize the story–and sometimes even changes it–when repeated throughout the song. A film may build up a story through its actors, cinematography, plot development and music, all to create an emotional impact in the viewer by the time the credits roll. A video game can use the player’s involvement with the characters to make it a really personal experience, all the while engrossing them in the story and action throughout. No matter the medium, all of the interlocking parts must work together to create something transcendent of the individual components.

There is a certain pacing necessary in all of these mediums to streamline the flow of user experience to funnel the participant into the intended emotional state; the craft and insight to cut out extraneous content that detracts from this goal. The act of intense, purposeful editing turns what was once just a bundle of good ideas into a cohesive, immersive, emotionally satisfying–and even life changing–experience.

I love editing. Well, no. I love crafting. I love to chisel out what I have in front of me to create the final product that I would be satisfied if I were the audience. Can I combine this skill with my newfound love of writing and make something of it? Do I have a compelling and personal story to tell, and deliver it in a way that can be worthy of your time? How much will I be able to do myself, and how much will I have to collaborate with other talented people? What form will it take? What will be the central mechanics of the gameplay? The more I work on this idea and the more I flesh it out, the more I see the possibilities and the limitations. But I am excited about it.

Maybe these months of blogging was a preparation for something else. Grabbing an inspired thought from my head as I go throughout my day, developing it until it becomes something substantial, and then editing it into a focused product. I have developed a writing workflow that works for me; something that I haven’t been able to do with my music. It’s something that I can open up my computer before work and tinker with–add new ideas, develop characters and expand on storylines.

As a creator, I believe I have several things to offer: the love of great story; the awareness of the importance of an emotional experience and its delivery; a critical eye for great writing and great music; awareness of “flow”; the ability to self-edit and be flexible to changes; meticulous attention to detail; decent writing ability. As an amateur, there are other things I need to develop: the craft of writing, especially game writing; the awareness of the possibilities and limitations of gaming systems; coding; and probably much more that I will realize as I go on.

It’s all new and daunting, and I feel severely “under-leveled”. But at least it’ll be an adventure worth taking.

Quest accepted.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Gaming, Life, Music

 

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The Bioshock Effect: From Ideas to Implementation

I think it was about two weeks ago that I finally went and finished the Bioshock Infinite DLCs. I had played the main game last year, but held off venturing back into Rapture. I am sort of a scaredy-cat when it comes to video games. The only Resident Evil game I’ve played is the first, which I never finished. I’ve never finished Doom 3 or Alan Wake either, and struggled to finish the first Bioshock. I only made it through my first journey through Rapture because of the game’s amazing narrative – and also because I gave in and switched the difficulty to Easy.

My feeling now that it’s over is that… well, I’m sad that it’s over. Not sad at the outcome–I can accept it and live with it–but sad that I have to say my goodbyes to these wonderful characters I’ve shared a part of my life with; sad that I have finally turned the last page of this amazing story. I fell in love with the captivating voice-acting of Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth), especially toward the dramatic final moments of Burial at Sea, and then again with her singing. I watched several interviews of her on YouTube, which led me to watch interviews with Ken Levine, the writer and director of the series.

Several weeks later, I am still watching, reading, and listening to Bioshock related content. But, more importantly, I am becoming more and more drawn to this whole world of narrative game-development. Ken Levine’s talk and interview at BAFTA was fascinating. So was his talk at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference. Also, this interview with GameSpot.

Wow.

It was very eye-opening to hear over three hours of insights and perspectives from the mind behind one of the most well-crafted, emotionally satisfying game franchises I’ve ever played. What really got to me is the fact that he is first, a writer, who had to take his “ideas” and execute them in an effective way–not just to create an enjoyable gameplay experience, but to also create a fully immersive world the players can “live” in; to also create a relationship between the players and these walking, talking, bundles of code; and to ultimately leave the players speechless, jaws dropped, by the time the end credits roll.

That is a lot to ask of yourself and your team. But he did it, and I’m so grateful that he did.

I enjoy masterfully crafted works, from books to movies, songs to video games. The end-effect of these masterpieces are that they transport me to a moment of wonder, a moment of awe, a moment where something shifts inside of me and my life is changed somehow. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite certainly did that for me.

This has me thinking. Can I create a similar kind of experience for others? Would it be through writing? Music? A video game? How can I create an environment where someone, who is not me, can experience all the nuances of a complex emotional state that I once experienced?

In a couple of those interviews, Ken said something interesting. He said that ideas alone are worthless without proper execution. That hit me as well, because that’s the whole reason I started to write. Because I had things inside of me that I wanted to convey to others; these formless, ethereal -somethings- floating within our minds. There’s no real way for me to know whether I am succeeding or not, but I can only try, and then keep trying, until it clicks in somebody else’s mind. There is a craft in conveying ideas, and I certainly have a lot more crafting to do.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Gaming

 

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