Monday, December 22, 2014

There And Back Again...

My last update to The Crow was August 13th. On August 14 I came home complaining to Sula that my back was a bit sore. I've now been sleeping on the floor in the loft for four months and have half a diagnosis (second mri to come in January) of tendonitis and compressed discs (also some bursitis, but that is a result of sleeping on the floor).

I'm having physio twice a week and things are improving. I went back to work in September and, thanks to a stand-up desk, have been managing fine.  I'm feeling better. So, here's an update :)

Mr Joe Abercrombie has been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, and loving it:
The world isn’t truly open – it offers maybe ten or so regions you can open up and explore, but each of them is pretty damn big and beautifully realised, much less artificially enclosed than the likes of Mass Effect, and with all kinds of side quests and collections to get lost in.  Then episodes in the central storyline will occasionally take you away to other areas for some specific purpose, even into the world of dreams or a possible future… You don’t get quite the magnificent vistas, varied light and weather, and freedom of Skyrim, but the world still feels massive.  And there’s just a lot more actual people in it.  In Skyrim you feel you face the world largely alone.  In Dragon Age you feel you’re part of a group of companions, but also of a wider society, and there’s a strong sense that your actions impact on the world and people.
Full Story: HERE

Sula has also been having a grand time with DA:I, and while I fully expect to get lost in it myself, I am totally addicted to World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor at the moment. The wizards at Blizzard have added a wee sim town for me to design and build, and NPC followers to find and enlist, who can be sent out on missions to bring back gold and XP and items. One of them will even act as a bodyguard for the player, joining you out in the world doing quests. This expansion is squarely aimed at the solo WoW player who'd like a more fully realized experience of the world.  It's awesome, and the hooks are in deep right now.

Sula and I are both off work for the next two weeks and have much game playing and laughing planned. Happy holidays to you and your tribe! Thanks for reading :)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bloodborne Trailer from Gamescon

Oh my...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Hidetaka Miyazaki, the director of Demon's Souls and Dark Souls did not direct Dark Souls 2. Here's what he was doing with his time:

Looks like it will be a PS4 exclusive, sometime in 2015.

Confidence is high.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

More Dark Souls 2

I reversed my opinion of Dark Souls 2 when I entered New Game+, and discovered just how much game they packed into the (blood) sausage casing. I've now finished the game three times and am only four trophies away from earning a platinum, my first ever. So, I'm still very busy with the game that came in the box but From Software went ahead and announced DLC anyway:

I still think it's the third best 'Souls' game, but wow, there is a ton of game there.  I will write up my full thoughts later.

The first DLC - Crown of the Sunken King - will be out July 22.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Man Who Remade Middle-earth

Over at Boing Boing, Ethan Gilsdorf interviews John Howe, artist and illustrator, and the man most responsible for defining the look of Tolkien's worlds:
Thanks to the seemingly infinite production documentaries found in the Rings trilogy's Extended Edition DVDs, Howe has become somewhat of a celebrity—at least among the ranks of those who care about the behind-the-scene scribblers, sword-forgers and model makers who work for the special effects house Weta Workshop and Jackson's fantasy empire down in Wellington, New Zealand. With his colleagues, Howe has brought new levels of fastidiousness to movie production design. Someone had to design every dwarf axe, evil tower, hobbit mug, and orc prosthetic, and Howe had his hand in nearly every decision about Middle-earth's "look and feel."
Full Story: HERE


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Zen and the art of fantasy writing

Over at Boing Boing, Aidan Harte and Brian Staveley discuss, with much insight and honesty, the art of fantasy writing:
Another area where we differ is the invented texts of our respective worlds. The Emperor’s Blades make occasional reference to the sage Hendran, a cross between Sun Tzu and Dirty Harry, but it’s very subtle. I go the whole Meta hog with footnoted chapters of windy gibbonesque prose penned by a pompous historian. The interruption of the main narrative drove some reviewers apoplectic but I’m entirely unrepentant. Do you enjoy this kind of thing in your Fantasy, or is it just post-modern smart arsery?
Full Story: HERE


Saturday, May 17, 2014


Transistor launches May 20th for PS4 and PC

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dark Souls II bits

I'm already bored by Dark Souls II. I'll try and metabolize my experience with it and produce a coherent post, but let's say my dissatisfaction has to do with one of the most subjective ingredients: atmosphere.  In the meantime, Mr. Joe has written up his thoughts on the game (link) and posted them for all to see:
The basic tone and gameplay haven’t changed hugely.  Once again you are a cursed undead dropped into a mysterious, ruined world for reasons unknown, having to harvest the souls of small monsters, middle sized monsters, and flipping enormous monsters in order to improve your stats, assisted by messages from other players and occasionally by those other players themselves as you wrestle your d-pad in a slightly clunky 3rd person action adventure style through assorted dark forests, dark ruins, dark towers, dark caves, dark castles, dark temples, and well-lit toy emporiums.  One of those is a joke.  Can you guess which?
His thoughts on smoothing out the rough edges align with my own. Here's Adam Smith, over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, with more words on the same subject:
Here’s a bigger criticism – the quick travel detracts from the sense of claustrophobia, and of being lost in a cursed world. That feeling is central to my admiration of the Souls series and the quick travel softens it. You’re never more than a few minutes from a teleporter that will take you to the beginning of the game, which makes the world overlap itself and obliterates the sense that it has been left unfolded, Origami-like, or opened up like a ribcage before surgery. That’s how Lordran felt, spires like cracked ribs in the distance.
The rest of Adam's article is HERE. (It also points to his review of the original Dark Souls (link), and that is worth a read as well.)


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dark Souls II has me in its gaping maw, but there's another RPG sequel coming out later this year and I expect to be consumed by that one as well:

Dragon Age: Inquisition launches October 10, 2014, for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

On The 25th Anniversary Of 'Geek Love'

'Geek Love' by Katherine Dunn, is one of my favourite novels.  At times, not an easy read, often a darkly funny read, always a very moving and compassionate read.  And this year marks the 25th anniversary of its publication. Over at Wired, Caitlin Roper writes with wit and insight about this very odd book:
Geek Love knocked me out, too. Reading it for the first time at 16, I couldn’t shake it from my brain—I didn’t want to—even as I tore through other novels. It was that glorious age when reading isn’t an escape, it’s your actual life; when everything outside of books becomes suffused with the stories you’re soaking in. I recognized something in Geek Love that I’d always loved in comic books, the idea of a character’s strangeness as the source of her strength. Like the members of the Justice League, or the Fantastic Four, the Fabulon freaks are all misfits, each with a singular skill. As a kid, I wanted to have some special power—invisibility, especially; I wanted to be like everyone else, but also, somehow, secretly special and indomitable. In Dungeon Master, an early role-playing videogame I’d played on the Atari computers in middle school, you began the game by choosing your characters and their special talents. I loved the idea of selecting magical powers, of building a unique persona from a menu of skills and capabilities. The Binewskis, these incredible freaks, and their demented familial struggles helped me feel better about my own family problems, my own powerlessness. The book inverted the cold adolescent truth that what makes you different curses you.
Full Story: HERE


Female Representation In Desktop Dungeons

Some interesting and thoughtful stuff from QCF Design, the makers of Desktop Dungeons:
Quite frankly, we wanted the women in DD’s universe to be adventurers first and runway models second. This adjustment turned out to be startlingly non-trivial – you’d think that a bunch of supposedly conscious, mindful individuals would instantly be able to nail a “good female look” (bonus points for having a woman on our crew, right?), but huge swathes of our artistic language tended to be informed by sexist and one-dimensional portrayals. We regularly surprised ourselves with how much we took for granted.
It's very nice to see game developers engaging with this issue and interrogating their own experience. The whole piece is worth a read, right HERE.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Joe Abercrombie: Progress Report

Extra-ordinary Joe must have a serious work ethic. Or maybe he's possessed by a writing demon? Or possibly he just loves what he does and wants to do it all the time? Whatever it is that drives him it's good news for fans of his novels because according to a progress report he just posted, he intends to deliver all three books in his new trilogy within 12 months.
Better yet, the second book in this trilogy, Half the World, is done too! Well, I say done, the finished second draft has gone off to my early readers for a first opinion, which I shall attend to and absorb along with some thoughts of mine during March to produce a totally done 3rd draft. Which will then go to editors for further changes. Some more detail on exactly how those processes go down in due course.  There’s a fair bit of work still to do on the book, that’s sure, but I think one would have to say that Half the World is looking very good for its provisional publication date of Feb 2015, a mere seven months after Half a King drops.
Full Story: HERE

Half A King - the first book in the new trilogy - releases July 2014.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Magic Hat

Over at Fantasy Book Critic, Karina Sumner-Smith writes about creating a magic system:
At its best, a magic system should be an integral part of the overall worldbuilding – and, ideally, the character story. For some writers, this means that the magic system grows out of what they know about a world: the cultures, the land, the politics, even the weather. For others, the workings of the world’s magic – or the life of a character who uses that magic – is the source from which all other aspects of the world are created.
Full Story: HERE


Wednesday, February 5, 2014


...yet as disease and suffering spread, so too does a fierce anger...

The Thief series is my favourite game of all time. I continued to play it for a decade after it launched, only giving it up when we no longer had a Windows machine in the house.

Ubisoft has been working on a reboot for maybe four years and the first reports about development were not very confidence inspiring.  One of the lead developers left, it had Quick Time Events, and some kind of RPG experience system.  Thankfully, they dumped all that and this latest primer makes it look really good. I'll miss Stephen Russel, the voice actor from the original games, but I'm really looking forward to creeping around this rainy, gloomy-looking world.

Thief launches February 25 2014


Monday, February 3, 2014

The Second Draft

Joe Abercrombie writes here at length about his process for tackling a second draft.
The first chunk of serious revision, going from a first draft to a second, has really become the key phase in the way I’m working these days.  The first draft will probably have some dead ends, some wasted time, some plot holes, some blurry, indistinct characterisation, especially at the start.  The second draft may still be a little bland (further phases of revision will work on the detail of the primary and secondary characters, the backdrop and the language) but it should be coherent and consistent, with meaningful arcs and believable characters, with plotting that makes sense and is properly developed from start to finish, with no significant dead weight.  That’s the hope.  There may be some significant scenes to add, some others to take away (though it’s pretty rare for me to cut whole scenes).  There’ll generally be an emphasis on cutting – it’s amazing the improvement just cutting out sentences and paragraphs that no longer seem to help can make.  There’ll also be some general rewriting and sharpening of language wherever something seems particularly ropey or better ideas occur.
Full Story: HERE


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Background Noise

Fantasy Faction has a few pieces up related to the crafting of your fantasy world.

How To Create A Civilization
What resources are available is also important, whole wars have been fought over an area of rich land in our own history, and what materials are abundant can shape the economy of a nation. A civilisation of coastal cities would be likely become a mercantile trading empire with great wealth, as with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. To ensure the civilisation fits with your world, consider how their surroundings would have affected its development – your whole plot may even be about a resource an empire possess or a place of sacred importance.
Worldbuilding: It's More Than A Pretty Map
I know authors (and readers!) who hate fantasy worldbuilding. They hate it with a fiery passion. They even go so far as to hand wave whole settings, writing books that feel more like a screenplay – all dialogue and fight scenes – and less like fantasy novels. I’d argue that secondary world fantasy writers in particular sacrifice a lot of tension and richness by doing this, but I understand their motives. If somebody said I had to write a story in a contemporary setting, I’d flee for the hills. We all have different definitions of fun. We’re all in this for different things.
If you're starting to draft your own world, there's some thought-provoking data there.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

On Persistence, And The Long Con Of Being A Successful Writer

Kameron Hurley writes frankly about the persistence required to establish and sustain a career in writing, even after you've had some publishing success:
Another book deal, this time a keeper, a year after my former deal imploded. Books on shelves. Elation. Joy. End of a long road, right? 
No. Just beginning. 
Arguments with my publisher over white-washed book covers. Late checks. Money that stops flowing. Then the publisher implodes, sells off its assets – including you and your books. 
Take it over leave it. Fight the bullshit. Rage. 
Sheer, unadulterated rage, that the work I spent a lifetime to see in print is now an “asset” a “property” a casualty of shitty business practices.
I fight the situation. I persist.
I sign a new contract.
The spice flows again.
But I’ve lost my joy for fiction.

Full Story: HERE


Monday, January 13, 2014

"The war's not won..."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top Anticipated Fantasy Books for 2014

If you're wondering which fantasy novels to look forward to in 2014, Fantasy Faction has a handy list:
But, before I give you our opinion on what you should be looking out for in 2014, I just want to say WHAT A YEAR! I say that every year and I’ve already said it in our Best of 2013 article, but I honestly think this was the best year of fantasy literature in recent memory. We have been treated to some new series and stunning debuts such as Richard Ford’s Herald of the Storm and Brain McClellan’s Promise of Blood; some obscure self-published novels got picked up by big publishing houses like Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song and Jen William’s Copper Promise; there’s been some excellent entries from already established favourites like Peter V. Brett with The Daylight War and Myke Cole with Fortress Frontier; and a number of series have been completed, freeing the authors up to start new and exciting things in the coming years too: Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy, Anne Lyle’s Night’s Masque trilogy and Francis Knight’s Pain Mage trilogy for example.
Full Story: HERE


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