Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bad Family - still hammering away

The outline is nearly finished, and I'm about to send off the final requests for artwork. Not sure I'm going to make my self-imposed May 16 deadline, though.

The common wisdom around goal-setting is that you should always include a realistic but challenging deadline to achieve your goal by. I generally don't find deadlines that useful - I find them frustrating and de-motivating if I miss them. My preference is to set an objective and then stubbornly keep at it until it's done.

The one enormous exception to that is when I decided to film hopeless within a year. That got things done.

I'm still trying to reconcile these two things.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Supernatural - the Season 2 finale

Hmm. It was good, but it makes me wonder what the season would have looked like if it had focused on telling the over-aching story as opposed to filling a 22-episode order. I suspect it would have been considerably shorter.

Definitely interested in checking out Season 3, though. No spoilers: A main character made a decision very early on in the final episode that has set up a 'ticking clock' situation that I'm fascinated to see play out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why I'm Not Writing today

I'm busy pretending to be a hacker - playing Exploit, by Gregory Weir. Try it: it's got a fun, War Games, 1990s cyberpunk vibe to it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You tube time travel

And to continue with the time travel theme, a choose-your-own adventure delivered via youtube. Any ideas how make one of these things?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Second Best Thing ever

Click to embiggen.

The first best thing ever, of course, is this. [h/t and link to Billy]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Go Zack Kim!

If you are into guitars, music, the Simpsons or things that are awesome, then this is worth 1 minute and 38 seconds of your time.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bad Family - Progress Report

Bad Family is the Old Thing #3 that I've been working on. I've nearly finished restructuring the outline. I'm trying to far easier for readers to visualise how to play the game. I've sort of been using Jason Morningstar's process:

the rules have to be crystal clear about procedures, and call out what to do when, and flag points where what you do is a little off kilter. So how to do that?

I’ve been steadily revising a cheat sheet, a “what to do when” document, so I atomized that into a very detailed outline. Like this detailed: Keep any die that resolves a spotlight scene for your character in front of you throughout the game.

It’s four pages long and was a pain in the ass to put together. Then I cut and paste my current text into the outline by paragraph, wherever it referenced the outline. And here’s what I learned - there are big chunks of assumption, places where I don’t talk about what to do, when. There’s redundancy. There’s stuff that is presented subtly out of order. It was a really instructive and eye-opening exercise. It’s going to make the game text much, much clearer. I recommend it!

Jason's comment about stuff that's presented subtly out of order is very true of my project.

No idea if I'll make my May 16 deadline for producing an ashcan of this, but I'm making lots of progress towards getting the thing done and out of my life.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

[RPG] Why I'm enjoying PTA - The Other Side

I mentioned how much I'm enjoying our Tuesday night game of Primetime Adventures. Here are a few reasons why:

We've created a setting that we all love, and want to expand on. Our sessions are filled with improvising new details and quirks, and creating incidental characters. I'm keeping a chart of all the characters we've met, which we refer to regularly to reincorporate them. I, for one, want to see a return of the married animated doors that guard the King's treasury.

This is our second season with the show. We're familiar with what works, and we've fine-tuned what didn't.

Not only that, but the characters are all in really interesting and totally unstable positions that have emerged naturally from the events of Season One.

More focused. Previously Svend and I were co-producing, and playing a character each. Now Svend is the solo producer, he's dropped his character. It's more screen-time for each of us.

Celeste is playing a KICK-ARSE character, and her performance is riveting to watch. She has taken a secondary character who we all loved from last year, and turned her into something magnificent.

There's a lot of trust between all of the players that at any point we'll be able to come up with something fun/cool/inventive/appropriate.

We playing by the rules, which funnily enough is making the game easier to run. In particular, we're doing two things. First, we're focusing the conflicts on what the characters want, rather than trying to invent possible outcomes for the conflicts. Second, we're trying to keep the game 'in the moment', roleplaying stuff out rather than just saying "Then [this] happens, and then [this] would happen." Both those things are making the game flow more smoothly and more vividly.

We're using fanmail to reward the things we want to see more of - like Wayne being emotional, and Celeste being bold and evil. It's not just about input that we think is funny. I think the game is deepening as a result.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dollhouse 1.9

Spectacular. If this is the show, then it's the most interesting thing Joss Whedon has ever created.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Supernatural - the rest of Season 2

Supernatural continues to be a entertaining horror-for-TV show. It's been interesting seeing it mix:
  • brotherly banter and matter-of-fact attitude towards dealing with monsters
  • an episode of the week structure that uses several genre tropes (the Rashomon episode, the episode where they live a completely different life)
  • serious emotional character developments and philosophical arguments, and
  • a solid mythology for the show.
Favourite subplots so far include 'The FBI are after us', and 'Sam may go dark side'.

All the episodes have been fun, but the standouts for me are: No Exit (their take on 'Saw'), Nightshifter (weirdly, I feel it's inspired by 'Inside Man' and it's a great sequel to a Season 1 ep), Heart (werewolves, and a pretty amazing conclusion), and Hollywood Babylon (an satire of trashy Hollywood movies - Pearce, if there's one episode you should watch it's this one).

This second season has basically put all the pieces into place for a third season dealing with a war of demons vs hunters. I'm about to watch the two part season finale, and my expectations are high. The end of Season 1 had the highest proportion of cliffhangers-and-twists to running time of any episode of TV I've seen since the Season 1 finale of Twin Peaks.

Dollhouse - The original pilot screenplay

Just finished reading the screenplay for the original pilot of Dollhouse. Interesting stuff: overall, I'd say was a good idea for Team Whedon to do a rewrite/reshoot - not because the original version of the pilot is weaker than the broadcast version; in some ways the original pilot is stronger, particularly in its Act One introduction of what Actives are and what they do.

The problem is that it condenses a lot of beats that appear in later episodes into a single 54 page burst. That means that moments and plot developments don't have time to breathe or gain significance.

I feel there's a balance to found between this hyper-compressed version of Dollhouse and the first six episodes that were broadcast, but Team Whedon were right to unpack it they way they did.

Monday, April 20, 2009

[RPG] PTA - The Other Side

The Primetime Adventures games that I'm playing on Tuesday nights is fantastic. Season One was set mostly in a fantasy kingdom (orcs, elves and wizards) that's been colonised by American multi-national corporations. We're on to the second season now, which is flipping between that fantasy world and contemporary Earth.

The fantasy world has just suffered through a regime changes and is now struggling with the crappy leadership of a dangerously naive king (played by me). Back on Earth, Sam (an extremely emo teenager) is battling for the soul of his 9-year old sister with a fairy godmother from hell (literally).

It's great fun, and I'll go into more detail about why, later.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Supernatural - Season 2, the first 5 episodes

Supernatural: a show about two brothers who drive around the States in a Ford Impala killing monsters.

It should be the sort of show I hate with its 'kill a new monster every week' episode structure, but I really like it for two reasons: (i) attitude - the brothers are sarcastic, listen to metal, and kick monster ass with a variety of shotguns and crowbars, and (ii) sub-plots.

Right now, the show is juggling the grieving process, a hunters-bar sub-plot complete with an (I'm guessing) unwitting incestuous romance for Dean, the mystery of what Dad said to Dean, Dean is a psychic, (possibly) a crazy hunter who wants to get revenge on the brothers, (possibly) a peace-nik vampire, and a demon who wants to bring about the apocalypse. And it's doing it all fairly effortlessly while telling satisfying, self-contained stories every week.

I'm also a fan of the characterisation: what started out as a fairly simplistic 'Dean is a bad boy, Sam is a good boy' dynamic got nicely complicated about halfway through Season 1 when we realised that Dean has always tried to live up to his father's dreams, and plays the peace-maker between his Dad and Sam, who rebelled by quitting the family business of monster-hunting and going to university. I admire this because it was simply a matter of viewing facts we already knew in exactly the opposite way - and as a result it elegantly demonstrates that both brothers have elements of each other in them.

Nice, solid, 'horror movie but for TV' entertainment.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Zombies - Bad Plans and Romero films

Hat-tip to Simon for showing me this thread: a simple-minded teenager high on sugar products describes what he would do in the event of a zombie outbreak, and has his plan ripped to shreds by various asshats, gun fanatics, and people who take George Romero films EXTREMELY seriously.

BTW, I just watched 'Diary of the Dead', Romero's latest flick. Good cheap fun, not ground-breaking, but nice to see Romero doing a road-trip version of the zombie film. While the idea that the survivors travel around in an RV felt a little like 'The Walking Dead' to me, it was a great way of cheaply conveying a sense of scope to the outbreak (and that scope was nicely helped along by lots of internet footage).

Biggest problem: it doesn't quite figure out the right tone of how to mock its student film-maker protagonists.

Biggest asset: Samuel the Amish zombie fighter.

Biggest innovation: unlike 'Cloverfield', 'Blair Witch', 'Rec', or 'Doom', this film occasionally managed to really capture the thrills and terror of a first person shooter. Nice work.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I'm not writing - The Geography edition

Here's Globetrotter XL, a Flash game that tests your geography knowledge. I am fighting the urge to play it for the next couple of hours.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What I'm watching

With the end of Battlestar Galactica, my viewing habits are going to change. I'll be dabbling in TV shows, rather than following simply watching one till it finishes and then starting on another one. Currently, the shows I'm interested in seeing more of are:
  • Dollhouse
  • Lost
  • Supernatural
  • True Blood
  • The Wire
  • The Shield
  • Rome

More on these, later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Progress Report

Old Thing #2: I've sent off an enquiry email about The Limit. The second round of producer submissions has finally begun. Sean, you are now under strict instructions to stage an intervention on me if I attempt another unpaid rewrite.

Old Thing #3: I've figured out a way to structure the game's presentation; hopefully it'll be way easier to follow now. But there is much writing to be done.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Old Thing #1 is done

I've sent off the outline for this feature to the director. Probably a few more emails and meetings before it's all closed off, but as far as I'm concerned it's finally done.

Now to send the enquiry email and close off Old Thing #2.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dollhouse - The First 8 Episodes

Here's what I think: Dollhouse has the most untapped potential of any TV show I've seen in years.* The premise is that there are people ("dolls") who have 'volunteered' to have their minds first wiped and then replaced by programmable personalities. The show explores what happens to these dolls, and to the people who look after and control them.

Here are four reasons I want to keep watching this show:

It's using its premise to create inventive soap opera storylines and weird-ass relationships that are extremely uncomfortable and dysfunctional.

Caroline's backstory (as hinted at in the first scene of the pilot, and the most recent episodes) has been enough to hook me into watching the show to completion.

The sense of paranoia that pervades everything. This show has a mood, and it's not typical Joss Whedon wise-cracking territory.

From episode 6, I'm watching a show that's growing more interesting and layered with every passing scene. This is a show that's not afraid to take its time establishing its characters.


If you watch Dollhouse, I recommend you skip the third episode (which is weak). I'd recommend you skip the fifth episode (which I felt had a weak payoff) but it contains a small plot development which has an influence on future episodes.

Episodes 6 and 8 are strong and (coupled with the amount of exposition that dolled out in Ep 7) have me believing that Whedon is either aiming to:

  • complete his overall story for the series in a single season (in case Dollhouse doesn't get renewed), or
  • setting the groundwork for an amazing second season where the stories come primarily from the characters and situation, rather than an arbitrary 'Genre Movie Premise of the Week but with Dolls' episode structure.

    * Heroes felt like it had this sort of potential in its first 12 episodes, but it gradually slid into a web of relationships and conspiracies that was too tightly woven for my tastes (every character either being related to each other, or plotting against them).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lost - Season 5 so far

Very quickly (and yes, spoilers if you haven't been watching. Massive spoilers.):

  • Flaming arrows?
  • Sayid kills people with his feet? And a dishwasher?
  • Benjamin mother-fraking Linus?
  • Penny and Charlie?
  • Daniel Faraday's unsettling past?
  • Jughead is still out there.
  • Time travel? Exploring the island not only in space but in history? And putting an end to time travel?
  • Sure - they spent a little too long off the island, but the stuff that happened there at the very end was fascinating.
  • Sawyer and his band of sarcastic geniuses joining the Dharma Initiative? In 1974? For three years? Let me rephrase: Sawyer has been a happy and productive part of the Dharma Initiative for three years. W.T.F?
  • Killing off nearly all the remaining survivors of Oceanic Flight 815? And then crashing another fraking plane on the island?
I honestly have no idea where this show is going to go next. It's like Dollhouse in that respect. Hatches? Numbers? Frak that. We have just watched a team of writers dismantle their own premise, bury the parts, and simultaneously all drop acid. What happens from this point on is going to be fascinating.

Oh yeah, and ... THE STATUE IS BACK!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Graphic Design Practice #6

A revision of yesterday's cover - I wanted to create more white space, and use some contrast in the font for the quote.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Graphic Design Practice #5

I learned about 'gradient fill' with this one - the nice shading from dark blue to white in the background.

I tried mucking around with a lot of differents appearances and placements for the quote, but in the end I decided that keeping it simple was going to be the best thing for the cover. I did do two versions though - adjusting the colour of the quote so that it sort-of matched the picture.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Slightly Less Ambiguous Progress Report 2

Here's how things stand:

Old Thing 1: I am currently re-editing, and writing a little bit of new material one scene away from locking down this treatment (it's a scene I didn't expect to be problematic, but I think I can get through it if I just focus on the characters rather than the plot) and will probably get away within the next week or two two or three days.

Old Thing 2: I need to compose have composed an enquiry email to a producer about my feature - now to send the damn thing.

Old Thing 3: need to completely rewrite (with examples), integrate artwork, and try to release as an ashcan in time for Day of Games on May 16.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Graphic Design Practice #3

This third mock-cover is even simpler, but I tried to turn the quote into a tattoo (mucking around with the question mark to make it a bit more primal):

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Graphic Design Practice #2

For my second cover, I went for something a bit simpler, and I wanted to take advantage of the black border on the left hand side:

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Graphic Design Practice #1

I've been finding this graphic design challenge thread really inspirational - use a random wikipedia article as a title and randomly select a picture, and then turn them into a cover for a game.

I've never used Photoshop seriously before, and this challenge has been just the excuse I needed to start teaching myself.

Here's my first cover: