This is where I would usually post part of a story I’m working on. Since it seems I can’t do that if I ever want to sell the thing, instead I will write this short blurb.
I have, at any point, two to four stories that I am working on. I find that the way my brain works, it’s better to have a few going rather than trying to plow through one that may or may not be working. Right now I have two main stories that are anywhere from a quarter to three quarters done. At least the first draft. Each of them will be around five thousand words.
It doesn’t take a long time to type up five thousand words. A few hours maybe. Putting together a story can take days, or weeks. It isn’t getting the words out that is the problem, it’s pacing, tone, pov, style. Working out the puzzle of what set of words works best for the feeling I’m trying to convey. That stuff takes time. Or at least it can.
I got about 3000 words into one story when I realized it wasn’t hitting like I wanted. I tried to solve that puzzle. It wasn’t working. So I switched gears and moved to the other story. The other story started strong but quickly floundered. I switched back. I got a little more done on the first story. I went back and forth like this for at least a week.
One morning I was exercising and one of the two stories solved itself. My brain had been running it as a background process for several days and then ‘pop’ it laid itself out. Beat to beat to beat.
I moved some style choices from one story to the other and I was off and writing again.
I don’t think there is any such thing as waiting for inspiration. To make anything you have to work through the steps and build it a little at a time. I didn’t have ‘writer's block’. I didn’t wait for the muses to speak to me. I was doing the work. Chipping away at the task.
I get that the process I outlined above can make it seem like I waited and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, I thought of the whole story. It absolutely did not happen that way. I considered the problems, attempted to tackle them in many different ways and then, having solved several smaller puzzles, the solution to the larger puzzle came into view. It just happened to be when I was exercising and not when I was writing.
Stories are as much a mechanical puzzle as they are an emotional puzzle. Getting the words out efficiently and in the right order is part of the problem. Making them land so that the reader feels what you want them to feel is the other. It’s not enough to solve one or the other. They need to be solved together. Sometimes solving those puzzles can seem like magic. It can happen all at once. It can be surprising and exciting. In my experience, the only way to solve the puzzles is by doing the work. Gradually, even slowly, grinding through the problems until they are all complete. Sometimes that means that you get a clear picture of the whole thing early, sometimes it can seem to take ages.
It would be nice to think that one second I was spinning away on the elliptical and the next I had a fully formed story in my head, but that wouldn’t be the truth at all. I have pages of notes. I have many cut paragraphs and chunks of story written two, three, or four different ways. I did the work, solved the problems. After I had solved enough of the small ones I was able to solve the large ones all at once.
Now I only have the other story to fix, because that one isn’t working at all.
Best Games - Gunblade NY
Some games just fill their niche perfectly. Simple, concise. No extraneous bits.
Gunblade NY is built to a spec.
You want a shooting game. How about if you never have to stop shooting. You want an action game. Gunblade never lets up. You want a short game you can enjoy for a few moments in an arcade or bar. Gunblade is only minutes long. You want to play with a friend. The game expects that you will.
This is a game that knows what it is, and more importantly what it isn’t. It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s ridiculous.
Let’s go back a bit. SEGA has a pretty good track record with light gun games. Most of that is on their consoles. Just a bit prior to Gunblade NY, Sega had a huge arcade hit with Virtua Cop. Virtua Cop is what you get when you take these newfangled polygon 3D game and pair it with tried and true lightgun shooting. Gunblade is what you get if you take all the best parts of Virtua Cop and get rid of everything else. All that’s left is high speed robot shooting action out the side of a physics defying helicopter. With a rip roaring soundtrack.
In a lot of these Best Games posts I like to look at a game that did one thing better, or earlier, or different, than all the other games. Something that blazed a trail. A game that designers can look to as a touchstone of the artform. Every once in a while it’s worth looking at a game that just does what it does very well with no missteps. A small, simple game that never claims to be more than it is.
In that same spirit, this is a small simple post that is only here to praise Gunblade NY. If you get a chance to play it, you should. Gunblade NY is one of the best games.
This weekend was the Alberta Game Jam. You know what I did. I didn’t do the Alberta Game Jam.
I thought about it. I registered for it. I forgot about it. I noticed a message about it a few hours before it was going to start. I watched the theme reveal. I got an idea for a game I could work on. Then I didn’t.
I don’t really feel bad about that.
Since using Twine a few years ago for a game jam, I have thought about using it again.
Twine is a sort of framework for text based, choose your own adventure and interactive fiction. It’s fairly easy to use and surprisingly powerful and flexible. As long as the game you are making is primarily text based.
When I made that previous jam game, I came up with a way to use 2D arrays for maps and navigation could be handled semi procedurally. I then found out that other people had the same idea and there were instructions and frameworks for just such a system. I ended up making a sort of hybrid. Taking parts of the system I found and the system I came up with to make something that worked for the random escape game I created.
Like all jam games, there were ideas that I wanted to implement that I ran out of time for. Like most jam games, I never went back to add those features.
I thought “here we go”. I had the opportunity and the idea that would let me add those missing elements to that Twine framework.
So I sat down and added those features.
I tested those features.
The features worked.
And I was done.
I found I didn’t really have any interest in making the game. It wouldn’t have been great. I don’t think I would be that happy with it. What I really wanted to do was tinker with that engine and add the stuff that I wasn’t able to before. Once I did that, well, I was done. And that’s just fine.
Sometimes you just want to make something. That something might not be that useful, or something that you need to share with others. Sometimes you just have to make a thing for your own damn self.
So I did. And I liked it. And I was okay with finishing it there and moving on to some other writing that I do want to complete. Something that I do want to get into a state that I can share with others. So I changed gears and did that instead.
All in all, not a terrible use of a weekend.
Best Games - Bushido Blade
One perfect stroke. Perfectly timed. Perfectly executed. That is what we are told wins a sword fight.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever plan on being in a sword fight. It seems dangerous. All ,like, sharp and whatnot. Stabby. I’ll be content with sword fights of the virtual kind.
Most fighting games, even the ones with swords, are not very realistic. I can hit a character in Soul Calibur with a giant axe and they will be back up and swinging a few frames later. It doesn’t seem like that’s how that would happen. Of course I’ve never been in a sword fight, so what do I know.
I have played Bushido Blade. There are no health bars. No timers. No points. In Bushido Blade one slice to the legs or arms will maim. One good slash will kill . No counters, no reversals. Just stab and then dead. This makes every moment tense. Every button press counts. You can stand out of sword range or attempt to deflect an attack, but really, what you want to do is wait out your opponent and strike when they are defenseless. A match can last several minutes or a few seconds.
Input in Bushido Blade is incredibly slow and deliberate. That might sound like a bad thing. Most fighting games benefit from snappy responsive control. The slow control is part of the game's design. You can’t mash buttons in Bushido Blade. You can’t jump in on your enemy. Nothing but steady precise attacks will win. The controls in Bushido Blade are telling you to slow down, focus, be patient, be decisive. Be a Samurai. Or at least pretend like you are a Samurai.
Bushido Blade isn’t the sort of game that gets played at tournaments. There aren’t going to be many master level players out there. There is a level of luck involved in the outcome of a fight. Skill alone won’t win. It just depends which player blinks first, strikes slowest, or misreads the opponent. Long stalemates are as common as instant wins. It’s not the best fighting game. What it is, is uncompromising.
When Bushido Blade was developed, the fighting game genre was in full swing. If you were looking to make a new one, there were many strong examples to “borrow” ideas from. Bushido Blade carved its own path. It’s a path that I don’t think any game will ever wander down again.
Games are made to be enjoyed. There are a lot of aspects of Bushido Blade that are not enjoyable. Stiff controls, impossibly high penalties for failure, and a singular focus that is almost adversarial to a casual player. There are a lot of aspects of Bushido Blade that would never pass a focus group or play testing. The game would be labeled “not fun” and that would be that.
What is here though, is incredibly compelling. You want to play round after round. You want to try different tactics, different weapons. You want to change up your attacks and play with adjusting stances. It’s a game that you want to play. You want to understand how and why it was made. How an idea so pure and uncompromised made it to release as a commercial product.
In spite of itself Bushido Blade is an excellent game and a really good time. There is some developer out there right now trying to capture that magic in their own uncompromised vision, and I wish them luck. Maybe they will be able to execute with one perfect stroke.
Bushido Blade is one of the best games.