Monday, August 27, 2018

Back from vacation

So, for the last two weeks I was at Lake Tahoe for a family reuinion.  I spent my days lying on a beach trying to pretend that the rest of my family doesn't exist.  I spent much of that time playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, (I have a solar charger that I use at work to charge my phone and speakers that I brought with me to keep all my gadgets running) but I also started work on Shadows of What Might Have Been, the next book to Memories of What Never Was, on my tablet.  Mostly I started on this book because the thought of spending one more minute editing instead of writing something new had me looking for a proverbial basket full of kittens to punch.  I wrote a little over 30k words of the first draft while out on the beach.  I have a long way to go, but I got pretty much all of the set up for the story finished.  This book is going to be a bit less dark than the first one (until the end, anyway) and it's going to have a bit more action in it.  Looking back, the first book has a big chase scene to cap out the first act, and a largely undescribed battle scene at the end (because the story was about the characters overcoming their demons rather than things exploding and armies clashing)  and that was about it for action.   But now that the characters have overcome their demons (outwardly, anyway) there's room in the story for more exciting things to be happening.

I'm not sure how much time I'm going to be able to devote to writing this in the next few months.  The Christmas meat grinder is about the drop on my job, yes, even now at the end of August, but we'll see.  I have plans to finish it up for NaNo this year if I haven't gotten a first draft completed by then.

Why start on it at all when I've yet to finish the first book, much less sell it to a publisher?  Well, because I need to be working on something, because I've kind of forgotten what to do with my time when I'm not spending it writing or editing, and I need a break from editing.   And, you know, writing the story is the fun part for me.  I don't really care if no one ever reads it, or if I never get it published.  Creating the story, and the world, and the characters is what I enjoy.  And I figure the first book will be a bit easier to sell if I have work on the second and/or third one I can say, look, see, I've got progress on the rest of the story.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

So, a few years ago, my favorite video game writer, Tetsuya Takahashi, released his latest game.  Xenoblade Chronicles.  He's the guy responsible for Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 7 and 10, Xenogears, and the Xenosaga trilogy.  It almost didn't make it to the USA because Nintendo of America were idiots that didn't think there was any interest in the game.  But luckily Nintendo of Europe took the initiative, translating and dubbing it into English.  And when they saw how well it was selling over there, Nintendo of America ported over the EU version for us.  I wrote a blog post a while back after I played through that game and fanboyed all over it.  It was an amazing game with an amazing story.  I loved every minute of it.  I actually bought a Wii just so that I could play it.

A couple years later, they released Xenoblade Chronicles X.  I was looking forward to it as the sequel to the best game I'd played all freaking decade.  I bought a Wii-U just so that I could play it.  And I was completely and utterly disappointed with it.  Instead of a deep and rich story around amazingly well developed characters, we got a silent protagonist (one of the things I absolutely hate in story based video games like this) no character, no personality, nada.  And the game itself was just boring, and not very well put together.  It tried to incorprate a lot of MMORPG aspects, and Skyrim-esque open world crap that just didn't work.  Plus they got a new music guy that just blew it to an epic degree.  To this day, I still haven't finished it, and I really have no desire to either.

But then I started seeing articles about Xenoblade Chronicles 2.  A game that, aparently, was pretending the X never even existed.  And Good riddance to it.  I've been a little poor over the last year or so, trying to pay down my student loans and car ASAP to get myself out of debt and buy a house.  So I haven't really had much money to spend on grabbing myself a Nintendo Switch.  But I just recieved a very large payout from work over being underpaid for a year a few years back, and I figured I might as well grab one while I have the chance.  Because I really, REALLY wanted to play Xenoblade 2.  The reviews for the game have been absolutely spectacular.  It seems like NO ONE doesn't like this game.

So I finally got my hands on a Switch, and a copy of Xenoblade 2.  And now, 90 hours of gameplay later, I have emerged from my cave to shout to the world how much I loved it.  It was even better than the first game.  It's a classic tale of by meets girl.  Girl turns out to be ancient superweapon that destroyed an entire continent.  Boy fights off entire world to keep girl from being used as a weapon again, because girl has all kinds of feels.  I mean, who hasn't heard that story before?  The character design is a litle more cartoony than the first game, but that didn't annoy me too much.  The characters are great.  The English translation and acting is surprisingly good.  They got the music guy from the first game back, and he delivered a soundtrack that was even better than that of the first game.  A soundtrack that I had to go buy, even though it was $45 due to being like 5 discs long.  Yasunori Mitsuda, composer of the Xenogears soundtrack, and writer of the theme songs for all of the Xeno games came back for the theme song to this one, and as the music supervisor with a few tracks that he composed personally here and there, and it's just as good as the others (and a big part of some real tear jerker scenes at the end).  The battle system is complicated and challenging without being too complicated to figure out.  There is a huge world to explore, and many secrets to find.  But the thing that stands out most is the story.  The story is very engrossing, and the characters are all very likeable and loveable.  It's got some really amazing action cutscenes, and some real tear jerker scenes near the end.  That's how you can tell they told the story well, when you start getting choked up when bad things happen to the characters you care about.  When I finished it, I just kind of sat around for a few days in complete awe over how great a game it was.  I did not hesitate for one second to shell out another $30 for the game's expansion pass, which comes with what is basically an entire prequel game that releases next month.  If the story and characters are even half the quality that I saw in the base game, it will be worth the extra money to play it.

If you have the means to grab a Nintendo Switch and a copy of this game, I highly recommend it.  It was even better than the first game.  It's probably the best game I've played since the turn of the freaking century.  If you don't have the means, you can watch all of the story scenes on youtube.  The way they did the story cutscenes is that there are only a few spots where it skips over fights that you fight in the game, but otherwise, it's like watching a 15 hour long movie.  You miss none of the story, and very little of the action by just watching the cutscenes.  But, I mean, get the game.  Give money to these people for their work.  They deserve it.  This game was amazing.  It seems that games like this are a dying breed, and that is a very sad thing to me.  I grew up playing story based RPGs, and though I don't have as much time and money to devote to the hobby these days, I still really enjoy a good RPG when they come along.  This one is one of the best of the best, and I can't recommend it enough.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Memories of What Never Was - Draft 5 done

So, I finished up the fifth draft of Memories of What Never Was, and you can read it at the bottom of this page if you are so inclined. 

And yes, it has only been a week since I finished the 4th draft.  This draft was basically just a read through out loud to see if all of the writing sounded natural.  I tweaked a few things here and there to make the writing flow better so I wouldn't get tongue tied reading it aloud.  I added in a few lines here and there to clarify things I thought might have been a bit too vague.  I also came across an instance where Brand acted wildly out of character for a page or so just to create a bit of momentary drama.  I kind of can't believe it took me 5 whole drafts to even notice the problem.  A character should always act like himself, no matter what.  No amount of momentary drama will ever make up for breaking a character like that.  If you can't think of another way to create the drama while also being true to the character (which I did) maybe the drama just wasn't meant to be.

Anyway, I think maybe just one more draft should finish this one up.  I'm going to head over and work on the final draft of Spires of Inifinty before I get to it.  If anyone out there of the two or three people who actually read my blog would like to play beta reader for me, I'll be happy to e-mail a copy of it to you so you don't have to read it off of my craptastic website.  Mostly, what I'm looking for, is not people who will tell me how good they think it is.  I can get all that I want of that from my mom.  What I need is someone to tell me what they don't like about it.  What they think I'm doing wrong.