No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #245


Burnout is an odd thing. Thought I was burnt out on writing after most of the projects I completed in 2016 flopped. Only completing three short stories since, the last in mid-2017, seemed to support it. But I did write other things in the mean time, some of them very promising. In retrospect, failing to continue was more for lack of anything to say. All the bad stuff happening since then had a bigger impact than it seemed.

Then 2018 came, and most of the games I released this year also flopped. Seven months of furious activity, all for naught. And then there was the debacle with the digital marketplaces. It's a wonder I was able to keep working on coding projects for as long as I did.

(Problems with the new store have been resolved in the mean time, by the way.)

So yeah. I'm taking a break to write some fiction again for a change. Then hopefully it's back to my unfinished tabletop RPG and gamedev zine.

In the way of gaming news, everyone seems taken by surprise as Microsoft announces buying not one, but two RPG developers, while the crunch controversy hasn't died down quite yet. Unlike the IFComp, which only has a few days left to go. There's not much else, apart from two notable headlines:

The week started slow, but as of Thursday it's picking up, with Hardcore Gaming 101 posting a 4-part retrospective of the Command&Conquer games, starting with Red Alert, that I didn't know was the second. It's another famous series I missed, but its importance to gaming is just too big not to mark this. And there are many details to discuss from gameplay and features to alternate history, relative both to the real world and other games in the series. There's a lot to take in, so I'll let you read. Have fun!

So, I just finished reading a brand new tabletop RPG, a 90-page PDF you can get from on a pay-what-you-want basis. Save the Universe sports lightweight rules with laser-tight focus on narrative games where a rag-tag band of plucky heroes take on some evil empire or other -- that good old staple of space opera. The creation of settings, characters and plots is highly structured, which can be a good thing: all too often I see new writers struggling to figure out what should happen next in their story, and it's almost always for lack of a guiding line. Yes, advice in the book applies to static fiction just as well, one more reason for me to like it. Problem is, the setups produced this way are painfully generic, in the sense of, "the mighty X did Y to the people of planet Z with the help of his terrible W". You can see it all too well in the sample campaigns at the end, and it mars an otherwise excellent read.

The greatest galactic saga ever written still has people making up stories in the same dusty setting after more than four decades, and they don't seem to grow tired of its desert world, or its ice world, not to mention the jungle one. Make that two with jungle. No, three. We love them all thanks to the characters that were brought to life against those backdrops. If anything, we love the planet with a hut in a swamp more than the moon with grandiose ruined temples.

Make sure your worlds mean something to someone. That's how they become special.

With that, we only have five newsletters left until the winter holidays. Bye!