30 Nov

Why you’re Writing Technology Wrong

Technology Stabs You in the Back - Carrie Snow quote

Technology Stabs You in the Back - Carrie Snow quoteI love technology in stories. It works. It doesn’t require upgrades, it doesn’t crash and there’s no need to read the fine print in the manufacturer’s warranty.

The Terminator never needs to reboot (ok, he does but that’s because he gets pummeled into prickly metal paste and we need that moment when the eye fades then goes red again). No one aboard the Enterprise complains about the poor User Interface, or requires captain Picard to install ergonomic touch screens. Everything just works.

What a load of crock. Read More

23 Nov

How a 3-time Hugo Winner learned to Write Great Stories – An Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal quote
Mary Robinette Kowal quote

Image: © 2012 Rod Searcey

Mary Robinette Kowal is an award-winning novelist and puppeteer. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Her debut novel, Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010) was nominated for the Nebula, she’s won three Hugos and the 2008 Campbell for best new writer.

Here, she talks about how she learned to write good stories reliably.

In 2000 Mary Robinette Kowal suffered a wrist injury, forcing her to take a break from performing. Instead she picked up on her old hobby of writing fiction as a way to keep in touch with her niece and nephew and, in 2004, decided to start submiting her work to markets.

“I have always worked in the arts and my training was such that artists should be paid,” says Mary Robinette Kowal. “I rediscovered that I enjoyed writing, and it’s a little crass, but my thought was ‘how do I get paid for this?'” Read More

16 Nov

4 Easy Steps to Plotting any Adventure Game

Plot any adventure game quote

Plot any adventure game quoteYes, But, No, And.

There. Now you’ve got all the tools you need to plot any adventure game in the world. Or write any book in the world, since that’s where these tools come from.

Ok, I’ll stop being a Cornholio and unpack it a bit for you. These words (Yes, But, No, And in case you’ve forgotten) are a progression of plot point outcomes. Basically it’s asking yourself: our player needs to achive X, does she? Yes, But, No, And.

All right, all right, I’ll explain it better. Enough with the arm twisting already. But let’s start with an example.

Our hero, an intrepid fighter known only as the Vault Dweller, has to exit the Vault in order to begin his real adventure. That’s what he wants to accomplish: exit the Vault. Does he succeed?

Read More

06 Nov

Boost your Thematic Game’s Impact Through The Roof with Melodrama

Melodrama quote - Baz Luhrmann

Melodrama quote - Baz LuhrmannMelodrama. The mere word makes serious writers cringe.

Melodrama is simple. It’s overblown characters in improbable actions. It’s an appeal to emotion, the life of every 1930’s pulp novel. The Handsome Hero in his White Stetson and Pearl Handled Revolver rescuing the Damsel in Distress from the Dastardly Villain.

Melodrama is horrible in stories. It’s flat, overblown, overused and often based on idiot plots.

It’s perfect for games. Read More

27 Oct

Using SCRUM to design player emotions

I love Scrum. It’s a great way to run agile development projects, with a focus on clear communications, goals and measurable achievement. But that’s not why I love it.

I love it because Scrum is great for game design. Yepp, I said “design” not “development” (ok, it’s great there too, but bear with me). See, if you’re willing to bend the rules of Scrum a bit it becomes a fantastic tool to set, analyze and refine player experiences. It also leads to a player-centric design strategy.

A bit of an aside: you can analyze game design along multiple axises. You could, for example, look at interaction vs analysis where you’ve got player interaction (an extrovert activity) on one end and player analysis (an introvert activity, i.e. sitting and thinking) on the other. Of course this is a simplistic view, you can always make a model more complex (for example you could throw in a “group strategy” node and get a three axis model and then throw in a “beer & pretzels suitability” and get a six axis model and so on). But we’re going to look at a single axis here, mechanics-centric design vs player-centric. Read More

29 Jul

The rich, the poor and the abused – using extremes to test your design

Writing fiction is a fun craft. It allows you to create anything you want. Anything, capital A, no restrictions.

Writing fiction for money is a demanding craft. It allows you to create anything you want, and then you have to justify why it’s there and how it interacts with the rest of your world.

The best advice on this I’ve ever heard is from a Writing Excuses worldbuilding episode with Mary Robinette Kowal (if you haven’t listened to Writing Excuses, and are in the least interested in writing or reading science fiction and fantasy, you should check out Writing Excuses, it’s worth it [/shameless fanboy pitch]).

There are three things that have been really fabulous tools for me when dealing with new magic or new technology in a world: that I should look at how that magic or technology affects the poorest class, how it affects the richest class, and how it can be abused.

The rich, the poor and the abused. Doesn’t have much to do with designing games, right? Read More

03 Jun

Review – The Game Inventor’s Guidebook by Brian Tinsman

The Game Inventor's Guidebook by Brian TinsmanI got Brian Tinsman’s The Game Inventor’s Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-Playing Games, & Everything in Between! Amazon thinking that it would be similar in scope and concept to Jessie Schell’s A book of Lenses Amazon but from a business standpoint: something that would go through the different steps and hurdles of getting your game published and point out the things to look out for.

Not quite. Read More