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Fancying things up with InDesign

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My motivation for taking the Sub-Editing and Design module was fairly utilitarian – I was hoping that having a bit more formal experience in this area would help me to get jobs in the future. Hopefully creative jobs, but still, I didn’t anticipate that it would benefit my broader practice quite as much as some of the other modules. Almost the opposite turned out to be true. Having a tutor around with a good knowledge of InDesign, and a practical purpose to put it towards, I’ve definitely come a long way with the software since working on Middle Spirits.

How to get text to follow the edge of a shape, how to crop images to precise shapes, make text transparent, arrange images in less crude ways than WordPress and Microsoft Word allow, etc. These are all pretty low-grade skills on the Creative Arts scale (or at least, not the kind to be the driving force of a big creative project), but so far they’ve allowed me to improve the basic standard of presentation in several pieces of coursework and job applications. Say goodbye to crummy word docs, and hello to snazzy pdfs!

Here are a selection of images from the magazine re-design I’ll be turning in on Friday, plus some screenshots of other things that ended up looking much nicer thanks to a good working knowledge of InDesign:


 

Nerd Jobs

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As a well as a year of side projects, its been a year of ambitious job applications. Turns out there aren’t that many entry-level writing jobs in the gaming industry. It seems to be a largely a matter of making your own games, putting them out there, watching them lose money, and then hopefully eventually one will make money, or you’ll be hired to work on a larger project. I’ve made some beginning steps in that direction, and tried to get myself a little bit of amateur freelance experience, but I haven’t let that stop me applying for every position I find. I’m determined to find myself a creative career that reflects my interests, and gaming is still one of the top candidates.

Zombies, Run! was one, a zombie radio play/fitness app that had an apprenticeship going. That was an enjoyable application, listening to the episodes (occasionally while exercising), researching the characters and trying to capture their voice of the characters I was required to work with as part of the application process. You’d think the fact that every episode had to contrive a way for the player to save the day by running somewhere would end up being incredibly stilted, but I was actually fairly impressed with the game’s plot and characters. Reminded me of Survivors or Day of the Triffids – way more like survivalist fiction than a standard zombie plot.

Runescape was another one. A bit less exciting as a creative prospect, but thinking about the development of an MMO and the design limitations of creating quests with fixed plotlines and events that have to hold up in a game world inhabited by thousands of players with large amounts of freedom was an interesting exercise.

Neither of those worked out, but I’m still at it. Games Workshop is the current target – they’re looking for writer/designers for their tabletop wargames. Not ever something I thought I’d be considering, but I’m already pretty familiar with the intellectual property, and I’ve already made it to the second stage – some fairly substantial writing exercises, including a bit of technical rule-building for the game itself and a book project proposal.

The InDesign skills I’ve been picking up from the Sub-Editing module have been remarkably useful. Between this and Out of Bounds, finding ways to collate and present complex information has been another common theme this term. My digital presentation skills have certainly improved, if nothing else.

But mostly its just been an excuse, if I ever needed one, to apply my creative practice to absolute, shameless nerdiness. Coursework deadlines are closing in, so there will probably be less time for job applications (both the fun and non-fun kinds), but its gratifying that these opportunities even exist in the first place. Good to keep my eye in, and the prospect of actual money/potential employment is certainly one way to find the motivation for new projects.

Cardgame/Boardgame Backstory

Been creating some backstory, character descriptions, etc, for two different games projects recently. One of them for a cardgame Northumbria University’s Game Development Society is working on, and one for a boardgame a friend and I have been brainstorming, based on Baltic folklore. Its been pretty fun, so I thought I’d drop some excerpts here:

***

The Bard/Jide Yado/Yado the Bard
“You see that bard?” asked Sven, taking a swig from his tankard.
“The one dancing on the table?” answered Jarl.
“That’s the one. I heard he’s leader of the revolution.”
“What?” Watching the little man sing and caper, he couldn’t help but laugh.
“I heard the Prince’s Black Hand wiped out his entire village by poisoning the well, and now he’s out for revenge.”
“Nonsense! That drunken fool?”
“He’s no fool, he’s cursed!” Chimed in Grog from across the table, “I heard stole the devil’s magic lute, but the devil drove him mad!”
“You’re all wrong.” Remarked the waitress, bitterly. “He’s a heartbreaker and a good-for-nothing rogue, plain and simple.”
And with that, the three men shrugged, and went back to their drinking.

Yado is a wandering bard, out for justice, freedom for the common folk and all that he can steal. He can embolden his allies with a rousing tune, but don’t underestimate his own prowess! With his magic lute he can set up strong and unpredictable plays, catching his opponents off guard.

Card flavour text: “Sex and drugs and second breakfasts” – Yado’s tour slogan
Lute flavour text: “Let me sing you the song of my people.”

The Valkyrie/The Furie/Fjola the Valkyrie
“Ah,” sighed Grog, watching from his chair as a young woman in armour passed along the street outside. “Would you look at that?”
“Beautiful,” agreed his companion, wistfully, “but she’s nothing compared to the Valkyries. Have you seen them?”
“Aye, I would do anything for a kiss from one of them.”
“Are you mad, Grog? They’re warriors. Angels of war. Got no eye for men or women.”
“He’s right,” added Jarl, “They fight day and night in that colosseum of theirs until one of them is ready to take on the Prince and his cronies.”
“Maybe we could sneak in and watch them?”
“Good luck with that! It’s on a floating island in the sky. The last time someone did make it up there, they threw him into a volcano.” Grog sighed.
“Maybe not then.”
“Aye, Grog, maybe not.”

Fjola is the champion of the Valkyries, sent to strike down the Fat Prince in the name of the Sun God. Strong and versatile, she can bring the fight to the Floating Colosseum for a homefield advantage and charge up a powerful sun strikes to bring her opponent to their knees

Card flavour text: If she starts to sing, that’s when you know it’s all over.
Colosseum flavour text: Common audience shouts include “Praise the sun!” and “Get good!”


The Trickster/The Black Hand/Zeb/Zeb the Trickster/Zeb the Spymaster
“You filthy cheat!” Cried Sven, throwing his cards onto the table in disgust as Jarl unveiled his perfect hand. “You’re no better than that filthy trickster Zeb.”
“Be quiet!” Hissed Grog, fearfully, “If you say his name, he can hear you!”
“Don’t be a fool. He’s a spy, not a sorcerer.” At this, Jarl leaned in with a conspiratorial whisper.
“That’s not what I heard. Some say it was him what turned the Prince bad, poisoned his heart with manticore venom so he could be the power behind the throne.”
“You’ve had too much to drink. The Fat Prince has always been bad.” Jarl shrugged.
“Maybe, but he’s gotten worse since Zeb became his Black Hand. That man hears everything. Some say he can even read minds.” Sven sighed in disbelief.
“Jarl Magnusson, that’s paranoid codswallop and you know it. Now take that bucket off your head and go get us another round.”
Zeb stalks the shadows of the Fat Prince’s kingdom, sowing fear and distrust in his wake. He’s a wily combatant, spying on his foes with a network of informants and using misdirection to create the perfect opening. If his poison arrow strikes you, it may already be too late.

Card flavour text: You’d be surprised how often ‘look behind you!’ actually works.~
Poison flavour text: The poison Zeb made. The poison used specifically by Zeb. Zeb’s poison.

***

Tribe: Telivar (Builders/the Diligent)
Hero: Shara, the Dawnsmith (Worker unit, anything she builds costs 1 less)
Bio: Claiming ancestry from the giant who forged the very sun, the Teliavar are second to none when it comes to building and blacksmithing. Now that the Warlord threatens their ancestral mines, they have also become skilled in fortification, and are ready to face their enemies with an onslaught of finely wrought iron and catapult fire.
Starting Bonus: You start the game with an additional ‘Construction’ and ‘Sabotage’ card in your hand.
Passive Power: Siege-Ready – Structures built by the Telivar have +1 health.
Active Power: Rain of Fire – Once per game at the start of a turn, you may declare ‘Rain of Fire’. All friendly catapults deal +1 damage this turn.
Traitor Bonus:
While you are a revealed traitor, all ‘Sabotage’ cards do +1 damage to structures.

Tribe: Zvora (Hunters/the Brave)
Hero: Medeinar, the Bearkiller (Archer unit with +1 damage and range)
Bio: Once peaceful hunters who ruled the forests close to the Mountain, when the Warlord appeared the Zvora were forced to become fierce fighters to defend their home. Lead by the wildest and strongest warrior in the land, and trusting in the spirits of the forest to uphold their birthright, the Zvora are expert archers and will not give up without a fight.
Starting Bonus: You start the game with an additional ‘Reinforce’ and ‘Ambush’ card in your hand.
Passive Power: Hit and Run Tactics – Archers built by the Zvora have +1 range.
Active Power: Tactical Retreat – Once per game at the end of a turn where 1 or more friendly units were destroyed in the same square, you may declare ‘Tactical Retreat’ and relocate them somewhere else with only 1 health remaining each, instead of taking them off the board.
Traitor Bonus: While you are a revealed traitor, all ‘Ambush’ cards spawn 1 additional enemy unit.

Tribe: Bezul (Scholars/the Wise)
Hero: Fabius, the Counter (Builder unit, whenever he builds a)
Bio: A tribe once torn apart by decadence and excess, the Bezul have since recovered and are now led by a family descended from the quartermasters of their original lords. Reserved and level-headed in all things, they have dedicated themselves to the accumulation of knowledge. They have built great libraries, and are willing to leverage every secret and every ounce of their cunning to prevent their books from going up in flames.
Starting Bonus: You start the game with an additional ‘Research’ and ‘Miscalculation’ card in your hand.
Passive Power:
Pragmatism – When you successfully research something, draw 2 ‘Results’ cards and pick one.
Active Power: Great Tribe Meeting – Once per game at the start of a turn you may declare ‘Great Tribe Meeting’, and draw 2 cards for each allied player, then choose and give 1 of those cards to each ally. Discard the rest.
Traitor Bonus: While you are a revealed traitor, all ‘Miscalculation’ cards count +1 against research attempts.

Computer is Bored

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I used to think that if I ever wanted to get involved in the creation of a game as a writer, I would basically have to make it as a writer first, then get involved in games second. I don’t think that’s an uncommon attitude, and if I ever do become a part of the games industry, there’s a chance it would on the strength of my other writing. But one thing I’ve definitely discovered recently was that it wasn’t so much my lack of IT skills that was holding me back from making my own games, but my assumption that it was something only ‘computer people’ could do in the first place.

I’ve been messing around with RPG Maker and Twine for a long time, and they’re fun tools. I’ll probably talk more about the various different bits of game or interactive fiction making software I have been or will be experimenting with in another post. But, for now, here’s some snapshots of the first ever coherent and complete game (in the sense that it has a beginning and an end) I’ve ever made. Its a fairly daft conversation game, in which a skynet-type AI is bored and must be ‘entertained’ through smalltalk to prevent it destroying the world.

Currently, I don’t have any screencast or videos that work with wordpress, so screenshots will have to do. At of the time of writing, it looks like this:

Which is pretty basic-looking. But on the other hand, it feels like a pretty big deal for something I threw together myself. Speaking of which, here’s the ‘boredom meter’ I cobbled together in MS Paint, to track how close the player is to a game over.

Apart from that, all the art and music either game packaged with RPG Maker or was filched from google images, so if I ever decide to do anything professional with this I’ll have to find replacements, at least for the computer eye graphic. Which is a shame, because I like it. Reminds me of Portal and Paranoia.

This is what the game actually looks like in the editor. Weird, right? Just a bunch squares. But that’s because this software is designed for grid-based RPGs. What you’re looking at is a grid, normally filled with tiles that make up a level of the game, with the transparent squares being ‘events’ that sit ontop of them. Normally these are the active or interactible parts of the game, like characters, doors, treasure chests, whatever. But I’m using this software to make more of a visual-novel type game, using almost exclusively the dialogue functionality, so I don’t need any of that. I just want units of conversation, organised in a way that helps me visualise the path of the game.

And this is what the actual code looks like. Well, its probably misleading to call it ‘code’. Its way more abstracted and simplified than that, presented in a very ‘natural language’ kind of way for less computer-savvy people like me to understand. RPG Maker does allow you to go into the code and edit it, and if I want to do anything more ambitious with the software that’s something I’ll have to learn. But for now, this does the job.

The left block represents one of the choices in the game, where the ‘Computer’ offers the player a choice of music for the last part of the game (which triggers when the ‘boredom’ variable reaches a certain level). The right block represents a linear section (the player gets no choices), but one that is influenced by the choices they’ve made so far (more specifically, by the impact those choices have made on the ‘boredom’ variable): the characters \V[****] prompt the game to print the value for that specific variable, and the conditional branches at the bottom determine which version of the ‘boredom meter’ to display (i.e. how full).

I also ended up using the characters \| and \. quite a lot in the game. When printing text (in this case, dialogue), these prompt the game to pause for 1/4 of a second and a second respectively, and I used these to try to make the in-game dialogue reflect realistic speech patterns and make it a bit more engaging to read. For example, when the Computer says something in inverted commas to indicate skepticism, I added a tiny pause before and after that work in an effort to reflect how it might actually be said. A minor feature, but it was interesting to play around with.

Stay tuned for more games projects, as well as possible updates on this one.

Video Game Maps

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Got a bit (re)obsessed with video game maps this last week, and spent forever making great big collages of particular levels and attempting to map various images, bits of story and bits of music from those levels onto them. Also got interested in real-world maps, and the potential fruits of comparing/combing the two. Overall, I think there’s potential to make an interesting project out of this. Just finished writing very wordy blog post about these same ideas over on my personal blog: here.



What Do We Benefit from Cross-Strait (Re)unification?

Unnamed QQ Screenshot20150514111344

Take, the creative enterprise into consideration:

DOMO is a Taiwanese team in game industry, whose production is second to none, largely due to the typical and classical Chinese elements it manages to incorporate into the creating process. What’s more, such elements have magical effects, fabricating virtual narratives that always echo with what is happening in reality.

What is upset however, is the fact that due to the current political tensions, the PC game issue from Softstar Entertainment Inc. (where DOMO works for and with) can not achieve a really free and equal entry cross Taiwan strait. This means, for customers from the Mainland China (let’s temporarily call it like this), a delay in obtaining such game products. Due to this, some crazy fans have to instead, consume the pirates, which harm both the economic interests and intellectual property of the company.

Thus from this fact, it is obvious what we can benefit from Cross-Strait (Re)unification.

Here are the details which shows at the beginning.

 

1644 In-Situ: Homeoffice

Image from: http://www.360doc.com/content/15/0313/18/7775975_454885752.shtml

Above WAS what happened in Far East. Here, <Far East> is used to show a geographically European centred perspective. The reason lies that the server of this blog is currently provided by a European country and its institution.

This may be what happens to Newcastle: http://1644-siegeofnewcastle.8k.com/newcastle.htm

A. D. 1644/04/25——a day to be remembered.

Recommended reading:

http://bbs.tiexue.net/post_6859763_1.html

 

@Barti@Clive@Edmund@

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Test: Whether do the group members of CAP browse each others’ blogs quite often or not?

Review: How did the icon @ first come up? We’ve been quite used to write our emails: xxxxxx @ xx.xx.xx, but who knows how it works in terms of machinery recognition process?

Group work: Remote X— A Virtual Treasure Hunting Game Creation and Enterprise, or Not?

People who are engaged: CCTV Controller, Cartographer, Urban builder/fan, Script Writer, Game designer, Sound designer, Interactive designer, Researcher (ethnographer/anthropologist……)

5 Steps to start it: (1) RPG research

(2) Plot writing

(3) Pilot/Testing

(4) Funding

(5) Equipment implementation

Exercise: Minutes writing (waiting to be criticized…)

Homo Ludens, Ludification : “Not interesting, but my responsibility”.

from: http://demul.nl/en/cv-en

from: http://demul.nl/en/cv-en

Encounter:

Date:2010/08/09-2010/08/13

Site: Imperial University of Peking, Peking, China

People: Jos de Mul (then the President of the International Association of Aesthetics (IAA))

The author (then the Secretary of the Congress)

Event: The 18th International Congress of Aesthetics

 

4 Years after the first meet, the website (http://demul.nl/en/) unfolds its way for the second encounter, where part of the book  <Contemporary Culture. New Directions in Art and Humanities Research> could be read and given critical thinking (http://demul.nl/en/publications/select-publication-catagory/book-chapters/item/1662-homo-ludens-2-0-play,-media-and-identity):

In it, Johan Huizinga’s idea of “Homo Ludens” was introduced, which emphasizes the cruciality of playfulness in shaping civilization. This, was echoed by the omnipresent playful characteristic around America and Europe since 1960′s, whether it’s expressed as computer games, or other artefacts, or even the teaching method (desert game) used in Culture Lab, Newcastle University, as the author herself has experienced in the early October, 2014.

Accompanying it, as has been observed, how people comment on something they don’t know have become accorded with this phenomenon—-”That is interesting!”—-they start by saying this. But, if that is all the motivation when people start researching on something, that might not be enough. Since, interest, like a child’s curiosity, is whimsical, transient, and can not support a long-term persistence, if it asks so, for instance, constructing a building or bridge.

As a style of personality, or as a result of education from the culture she’s been rooted in, the author has been quite used to bear responsibility, rather than pursuing pure interest. Isn’t this her sense of self-righteousness, or virture of humanity?