Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Retrospect: How I Play Games

Last night I was having an interesting reflection about how I got into gaming and what sort of gamer I consider myself.

What Am I?
There really isn't a term or catch-phrase that encompasses what I am. On the one hand I consider myself a casual gamer, I enjoy many 'brain-dead' online games like Bejeweled, Diner Dash, Ponystars, the Sims and other games that don't require me to put in much of my time. I also play a lot of handheld games on my DS.

I'm not quite a hard-core player but I'm also a console gamer and enjoy several hours of fun playing RPG, Action/Adventure, and Platformer games. (And the occasional arcade fighter). However, I don't have the same dedication to a game that I see other players have. I know that I will never be the best so I don't even try. I'm just having a good time. But I do play for long hours when I do.

So I guess I would call myself an Active Gamer. A casual gamer seems to be the type who will play games on occasion, an active gamer would play games multiple days of the week if not a little every day. An Active Gamer would be the type of person to make time for games if they are busy (like myself. I'm earning my Master's degree and working.)

Where I came from.
It was a very long time before I actively got into console gaming, but I came from the generation where the SNES came out and was popular when I was six. I remember playing Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers at my neighbors house on occasion. We never got one. By the time I was seven I was in computer classes with Hard Disks that were actually floppy...which I think is a hilarious misnomer to this day. All I had then were computer games. That would be my experience for many years. So I got good at DOS, I used to know some BASIC and really enjoyed some classics like Oregon Trail, Treasure Mountain, and Designasaurus.

The next console to enter our home was a Sega GameGear, which we though superior to Nintendo's gameboy because it had a color screen. No comment on how bulky and huge the thing was and it sucked battery power hardcore. My brother got his for good grades, I got mine for good grades too so we each had our own console. Now, see this is unique apparently because most parents do NOT buy game systems for their daughters. (I've been researching women and gaming and it's true.) My sister even got a Nintendo GameBoy eventually. It must have been around 1995 then because she got the Toy Story game. Yes...I got my game gear in 1994 because I got the Lion King game. (I keep track of dates based on what Disney movie came out. )

I remember when the N64 came out. Our neighbors had it and it was so fun to play. We eventually got the N64 fairly close to the time when it would start losing popularity. That was an awesome Christmas. It was for my brother but we all knew it would be for the family. My parents would not buy another console for us for many, many years. The game cube came out and we couldn't care less. We rented a system once and literally got motion sickness. (I don't think eating oreos and whipped cream helped that any.)

We were completely satisfied with the system we had. Which honestly makes a lot of sense if you think about it. We also got some new game boys somewhere along the way but we got the systems when there were GOOD games for them out.

It would be my second year of university. And the sole reason I went out to buy a Game Cube was to play Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And if you remember, that is when the GC started going out. I bought my cube (and oddly enough influenced my mother to buy my youngest sister a cube) just as the Wii came out. Go us. But by then all the good games on the Game Cube had already come out so I had plenty to play while waiting for Twilight Princess. Which was honestly the BEST game for me ever and I'll elaborate on that later. ;)

A year after the Wii came out, my family bought one. (I helped find one on Ebay during the holiday season.) Which is odd because our family has a running track record of buying a system right before the next gen comes out. However, for my family it's the system that's had the most success so far. My mom enjoys it. My siblings enjoy it. And I enjoy it when I go home.

I did not buy my DS or PS2 until Graduate School. DS I bought because I like Pink and wanted a hand held system. PS2 did have many games that I thought would be fun and I do love DDR, but it was not until Odin Sphere that I was pressed to buy a used one off of Amazon. Mind you the PS3 had been out for a couple years now.

My Philosophy
My parents taught me well about being smart about my buying habits. Today will be the first time in several months that I buy a NEW game instead of a USED game. I've bought a couple of used games in the past few months...and one new one. And really it's the smart thing to do. Because by then several people have gotten good play out of a game and write reviews on whether or not it was good. Plus the online guides will be refined so you don't have to buy a strategy book. You also don't have to camp out for three days to get it. I mean seriously.

I played Prince of Persia Sands of Time for the first time this summer. Okay, I knew it was a good game because I saw some of my friends playing it ages ago. But I just had no inclination to buy it at the time, nor did I have a system. I actually bought 2 thrones first just based on the reviews of the game and never bought Warrior Within based on the game reviews. They all said the same thing: GREAT game play and combat system - Story = suck and music = wtf happened to that nice Arab-techno we had going and Characters = went through shitville and got lost at the bottom of a bottle.
(Rephrased by myself of course.)

But the best part is both these Prince of Persia games cost me less than $20. Two thrones was a trade in game and Sands of Time was $10. Buy it new it would be probably close to $30 or so.

Yes that's definitely the BEST part of buying a game used. The price is low for a great game! Downside is you may not get the cover box or manual. I'm sad my Sands of Time has neither of these things. :( But that's what the interwebs are for.

I certainly plan on Buying a Wii eventually. There are some good games already, but not enough and there are very few used games. and new games are $50 a pop.

Now I was going to go on a Legend of Zelda tangent but I think I'll pass until next time. :D

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Opinion: Fantasy Novel Geography

This is purely an opinionated piece that I just felt I had to get out of my system.
Late last night I had this thought bubble while writing down the details of geography for the world in Brind Songs and trying to set up a wiki.

I've drawn maps of my "worlds" and looked at other maps. Middle Earth, wherever the funk Eragon took place, Narnia etc. And even lots of online fantasy that I've read...the world is always incomplete on the map. It's always just a coast like Europe. Just a jut of land or a coast line, that's all you get to see. I've been guilty of this myself when I finally mapped out Gauland for my MSK novel and a few RP maps.

It's not very annoying actually so much as it is a common trend I've noticed. Of course the map is only going to show what matters to the story. That's all you need really. The rest is no man's land and no one knows what happens out there. No one.
"What's over that nearly impassible mountain range?"
"More land probably. No one cares...not even the creator."

For my story I knew there would be no stretch of land that I at least didn't know something about. It may not pertain to the novels but that doesn't matter. I need to know the world better than my own backyard. So when you see a map, you see the whole world. There will be no stretch of land beyond the edges of the maps. I have 3 island continents and that's it. (I still have to place the polar ice caps, but all in good time.)

This is definitely the most detailed world I have ever spent time on. It's shaping up pretty nice too.

Influences
It's funny where I get my influences for this story. The word "brind" simply came from the word "hind" which is a deer. I don't exactly remember when I settled on the word itself, but there were always going to be types or breeds.
The first four were based completely off some random drawings I did of the creatures. Unicorn folk that I just thought looked pretty. White, Water, Fire and Iron were the first four and the only four for a long, long time. (Of course I just used the Latin terms for the word and stuck it onto the word brind to make the different breed names.)

Originally there were going to be four islands, one full of cat people because I was writing this with my sister and she was reading the "Warriors" series at the time.

The sheep people were also my sisters idea, instead of having traditional fauns. There was also going to be fox people and wolf people, but that got nixed.

Elves and Fae have always been a part of my stories somehow. I take a very strong Tolkien/every-generic-fantasy take to my elves and fae. I always have. I've read some traditional fairy stories and these are just more fun to write and draw.

The magic in the world is not very obvious and I always downplayed on magic in my stories. Generally, I find magic is used as a loophole for easy explanation. I tend to prefer fantasy novels without strong use of magic, because magic tends to be abused. There are no laws...except for that Mercedes Lackey/James Mallory series that I read. I liked that system...but it was still abused. Narnia, Tolkein, and so on have magic as an undertheme, it was always something supernatural that could only be performed by supernatural. It also made the magic seem more common place and not something special like in Harry Potter. Magic was special even though it was common place in the "wizard world".

In MSK the comic, magic was visually there because it made things pretty. That's the only reason that I really cared about magic for that comic. In the novel on the other hand, magic was explained to be a natural phenomenon in elves and their technology. And that is only because the elves were originally extraterrestrials. Yes...something I never explained in my novels but had in the back of my head. It's silly but I like my alien elves. Lucius is an alien. :D

Back on topic, my point is that magic feels like cheating. So for this I tried to keep the "magic" as believable as possible. The only stretch I made was with shape-shifting. There's just no way to trot around that and say it's NOT magic. (Unless you go with INSTA-EVOLUTION. Available at WalMary).
So I went with things that seemed "natural".
Miracles are natural...they are...okay so they're a bit supernatural but that felt more believable than magic. Why? Because they occur in the real world (whether you believe it or not). Blind can see, lame can walk and the raising of the dead. It happens.
Withstanding heat and so forth seem very natural things. Healing is a very natural process.
I've also limited it to one creature that can truly perform "magic".