Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Stuff  

It's been a busy couple of days recently, so I'm going to skip coherence and just throw out a bunch of stuff.

Games: Finished Id's and John Carmack's Orcs & Elves yesterday on the plane back to civilization. I sort of take issue with him since he's so adamant about drawing a hard line between games and art, but I can't deny that the man knows how to make games. Look at this one, for example. It's a port to the DS of a simplistic dungeon-crawler that was originally made for cellular phones, and I thought for sure I'd toss it aside after one sitting.  

Naturally, I found myself coming back to it whenever I had a free five minutes and plowed through the end in a two-hour session. 

The animation is crap, but everything else about it is genuinely clever and shows a wise hand in design. Each level is discrete, perfect for gaming on the go, and the combat system is a great hybrid that looks like a standard FPS, but is actually turn-based. There were a few rough patches and optimizing everything for the DS would have been nice, but it was still a little gem with hyper-old-school charm.  In fact, I had so much fun I was sort of hoping that Id would announce plans to bring their Doom cellphone RPG to the DS as well, but no news there.

Half-Life 2 is still the game that won't end... every time I think I'm in the home stretch, it keeps going.   

And finally, the wife and I have been making a concerted effort to play more 2P Co-Op, so we rearranged the GameFly queue and we're doing it. Tonight we polished off Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes for the Xbox. It's a standard overhead hack-n'-slasher with nothing special going for it, but it was pleasant enough until the home stretch. 

I will never understand what drives game makers to jack up the difficulty of endgame segments to the point where players stop having fun and seriously start contemplating quitting, and this game was a perfect example of what not to do. Hordes of enemies that block all attacks, endlessly spawning enemies, crowded hallways that hinder movement.... ugh. To top it off, the story was weak and the usual thrill of collecting Phat Lewtz was nonexistent thanks to five different suits of armor that were all uniformly gray, and a series of underpowered weapons with no nifty tweaks.

...Needless to say, we were both glad to be done with it.

Books: Finished The Amulet of Samarkand yesterday, also on the plane. It's a Harry Potter-ish sort of thing with a slightly darker twist to it. The writing for the main human character was a little dull, but the main demon character was a hoot with multiple snarky asides to the reader and plenty of action. To be honest, I'm weary of the same sort of complicated politico-plot motivation that drives the main conflict in the book, but it was worth reading even though I feel pity for any author who tries to write this sort of thing today-- it's just impossible to not compare everything to HP.  

Moving on to Queer Fear 2, a collection of horror shorts with the sort of slant you'd expect from the title. I originally bought it on the recommendation of a friend who has a great little story in the book. He spotted a tale that had some similar themes to SIFT and thought I might want to check it out.  That story (The Narrow World by Gemma Files) was great and proved a very interesting read... some of the parallels were amazing, though our stories diverged in more places than we aligned. Most of the other stories in the book are quite good as well, one in particular making me laugh out loud (Night of the Werepuss), and one giving me a severe case of the creeps (Bugcrush). 

SIFT: Speaking of books, now that things are getting back into a sort-of groove here at the homestead, I need to get serious about sending out more submissions. I've hit the publishers I wanted to directly (and again, a huge debt of gratitude to MM) so now I need to get cracking on trying to find an agent. My goal is to send out the first round of query letters by friday, and then to start collating my notes and fleshing out my outline for SIFT2 (currently still in need of a title). 

And finally... It's good to be back home. 

What next?

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