Category Archives: export

Stories are everywhere. Keep telling them.


In my final quarter of university, I had to take a ‘portfolio’ class. The idea behind the class was to help students tie all of their humanities learning together into something they could talk about. It was all about figuring out what we’d been doing in school and cementing those last few lessons the university was supposed to be teaching us (like how to sell our skills). Mostly it was a bollocks class that tried to teach me how to write a gods damned essay for the billionth time, we made roadmaps of our time in University of Washington Bothell (Pictures). The one thing I can credit the class with was it did help me realize that I love stories. As a mythology-focused anthropologist, writer and – at the time – game designer, I am fascinated by the stories we tell to define the world around us. As an educator, I’ve come to realize that one of the most important tools you can equip a person with is the ability to tell their own stories.

Stories are the life blood of humanity. Almost as soon as we can talk, we’re telling tales. Young children always have something they want to tell you, even if they’re literally retelling the last twenty seconds of events. But we put down these tools of imagination as we grow up, swapping them for the technical, quantifiable and testable skills of science, technology, engineering and math or abandoning them out of self-consciousness. By middle school/junior high, the kids who still fight invisible monsters and pretend to grand adventures are weird or childish. Either kids are aimed at the drama department or left to tell stories on their own time, with the implication that stories are for reading and the odd project, not real life. The script is wrong.

I have run Dungeon & Dragons, D&D, for middle schoolers, LARPed (live action roleplay) with elementary school kids in the woods and watched twelve-year olds write and draw comics far better than anything I could have done, and been paid for all of them. I’ve run programs for kids who wanted to make video games, stop motion movies, or live action movies. Seen kids who hate reading record themselves playing a game, pretending they’re Youtubers recording for an audience. Through all of them, I’ve seen kids learn how to communicate, cooperate and collaborate. They’ve learned teamwork, leadership and some sneaky math to boot. But most importantly, they learned that it’s still okay to express themselves in narrative. That ‘actual adults’ haven’t completely given up on telling stories. These groups of kids weren’t just the nerds and geeks of their peer group either. Jocks, preps and all the other social groups played D&D in the program. Even the most serious kids found a niche for themselves during the Live Action Roleplay where we pretended the camp was a feudal realm and hit each other with foam swords in the woods. The joy on their faces, especially the older ones, the ones ‘aging out’ of the world of storytelling, was a sight to see.

Now, I’m almost sure we’ve fallen trap of thinking here. How many of you kept thinking of books, comics and movies when I was talking about stories?  Maybe some of you went to plays instead, bravo. I knew the trap was there and I still fell into as I wrote this. I don’t know if we can truly avoid it with the way English is structured but the trap is still a falsehood.

There are the obvious ways to tell a story. You can write a book, an article or a poem. You can film a movie. You can act a tale. You can draw, or animate. But there are other ways, less obvious ways. Musicians, those who free style or those who play from sheet music are telling a story in the flow of the music. The composers of songs use the notes to tell the audience a tale, if you know how to listen. Dancers tell their own stories, and not just the interpretive dancers. Even the technically adherent ballerina is part of retelling a story of a choreographer. Artists of every type leave a story behind in their pieces. You can draw a literal storyboard but even the most absurdly abstract piece of art says something. That two thousandth still life study that a power art student is doing right now still describes the fruit and the moment in time, and in collection with the other thousand, the artist’s growth (or lack of). Photographers have their own maximum for it, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

Maybe you don’t want to be an artist though. You like all the science and maths you do. Great, but even the simple chemistry equation tells a story. Maybe not be an interesting one but it’s there. The least obvious of all storytelling techniques is the most common though. You can say it. Kids start telling stories before they start writing them, people have been telling stories since before writing existed. You do it all the time anyway, like when you talk about James from Accounting or tell your friend what you did over the weekend. The trick is realizing you’re doing it.

Tell stories on purpose. It doesn’t matter how; it doesn’t matter if they’re good; it doesn’t even matter if they’re math equations. Stories are the soul of humanity. No one has every truly stopped telling them and it’s about time we realize that.

Peak Into A Writer’s World Bible – Founding Myth

Hey Everyone, Alexander here.

I’m swinging in for a last minute clutch post because the first post of the month is always the hardest for us to organize. Since our writing section is more than a little anemic, despite me being a writer — and because, I’ve forgotten the post I wanted to do about four separate times in the last two days — I thought it’d be fun to take advantage of this chaos to give you all a little glimpse into my writing notes and pull something out that might not normally see the light of day.

I do so much writing that simply can not make its way into the shorts or novels in anything more than hints but that help me give the world a sense of depth that my readers can sense. Or, more honestly, let me stop obsessing about a particular idea. You might never see the detailed anatomy of a historic country’s geopolitical make up , hell you may only see the country mentioned once or twice ever. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t spell out its entire history from founding to “present” because it has its own natural effects on history.

Where does one start? Why in Myth and Legend, of course! This is how the Universe was Born.

The worlds have always been, The Firstbornes gave them life. For they were great travelers who first crossed worlds. Yet they grew lonely for the worlds they crossed were uniformly barren and lost, separated from each other and lightless. Some among the Firstborne saw the truth of creation, that the worlds they saw were seeds of hope and potential needing light. Those Who Saw convened a great council of the Firstborne to convince them a great sacrifice was necessary. The Firstborne knew it was their duty to creation to give these seeds a chance to blossom so Those Who Became sacrificed themselves by the thousands to give every world its own set of stars to guide creation’s potential. Yet, the Ones Who Set the Stars were of the same people. Thus the life of many worlds can interact with each other and indeed many creatures can thrive on worlds not their own.

But not every Firstborne joined their brethren amongst the heavens. Some were given a harder duty, for the young new species emerging would need the guiding hand of their elder to. Even the Firstborne knew creation could be cruel. Those Who Remained were given the task of protecting the new saplings from predations of that borne in the darkness. For some things only birthed themselves in shadow and lightlessness and they hungered for spark of life they lacked. Those Who Remained split all of creation into two kingdomsL the Praeskensha (Kingdom of the Guardians) and the Etominru (The Kingdom of the Starless). The Praeskensha watched over the worlds of Stars while the Etominru held vigillant in the worlds of darkness, the vanguard of all their brethren had sacrificed. So peace reigned and life blossomed.

That Seemed really clean and ready for publishing didn’t it?

Wanna see the OneNote Page?

OneNote Screen Shot - Glimpse in a Notebook Cropped

It’s Not quite as clean is it?

Oh and Don’t Worry. We’ll get to the Textile and Dye Materials Page. That’ll be Fun.

Well this was fun. Thanks for letting me indulge in parading my world-building around for a few minutes.

How Boy Meets World Depressed Me


By Alexander Pereira

Television, books, video games and Taylor Swift’s first album lied about Romance and dating to all of us. We were promised and taught to expect a certain type of future that was so incredibly unrealistic that it’s amazing any of us would’ve been stupid enough to fall for it. Except I did. This is what it did to me.

I’m an unfortunate mix of the bitter cynic, chronically shy person and a hopeless romantic all jumbled into a great bundle of angst and social awkwardness. I grew up with my head wedged deeply between the pages of Tolkien and Tamora Pierce, of Fantasy and Science Fiction with its might heroes and star-struck romances. I took to the idea of being a fantasy knight seriously. True love and fate became a part of my expectations for life in a way that still affect how I approach romance to this day. That stuff? Not really that bad. It makes things like casual dating or the idea of casual sex really hard to stomach for me personally but I don’t feel like it’s hurt me, just put me in hard mode.

The stuff I really want to talk about is the nonsense television shows like Kim Possible, Lizzie McGuire, and Boy Meets World ingrained in younger me. Those shows all promised you that no matter how awkward and social weird you were; you could find your soulmate in high school. Even more importantly, that soulmate was your attractive best girl/boy friend who you’ve known forever. The lessons were that you both know you like each other but neither of you wants to admit it. So I came to expect that the path to true happiness was to realize my soulmate was that best friend I’d grown up, fall in love with her, date through college with a series of sickeningly adorable adventures, get married after graduation and have 2.5 kids by the time we were 28. Simple. Easy. It’s exactly what everything society was saying happened after all. Now, I don’t know if I’m just an idiot or if this happened to a bunch of us but I got really invested in this model for life. I knew in my bones that I was destine for a story of true love and early life bliss. Everything would be perfect and we’d choose our colleges together, figure out our careers and build our life together. I became so married to this idea I could hardly conceive of a world where this wasn’t my life.

It goes without saying that this plan for a perfect life didn’t happen. It didn’t even come close. The first real love of mine broke up with me after three months (summer time fling), and we spent our entire senior year of High school sniping and claw at each other. It took us years to figure out what it meant to be friends and not ex’s and work through the anger and hurt but eventually we figured out how to be friends. We’re best of friends now. – Yes if you’re wondering, I wrote really bad angst blog posts and some fiction about it too here go check it out:  — This shocking state of affairs left me genuinely feeling like something was broken with me. It was as if I wasn’t a proper person because I didn’t have the same romantic arc of Lizzie and Gordon; Ron and Kim; or Cory and Topanga. I just knew that since I didn’t find that perfect happiness in high school, I’d lost that entire future forever. No family, no adorable daughter or beautiful woman to come home too (or hell, to have come home to me). Not even the white picket fence. I was heartbroken and I started panicking as I rolled into my freshman year of University because I didn’t know what my life was supposed to look like anymore. I thought my life couldn’t have meaning any more. There is another post to be told about me dealing with the depression I faced, and may still face, through my freshman year of university but I know for a fact that this helped contribute to it.

The older me, looking back at that time is really glad things worked out the way they have. I’ve seen a few classmates marry the high school sweethearts and it feels myopic. Like the people of Plato’s Cave ignore the existence of an outside world. Not that I don’t harbor a quiet mourning for that childhood dream but I know I’m a better me for having had to grow past it. I thought for years that I was the kind of person who’d be happy staying in the same town for ever. I thought about how wonderful it would be to raise my future kids in the same place. I’ve been slowly learning that this isn’t true. That I’m not actually someone who enjoys stagnation like that. I have a tendency to let myself become stagnated but I don’t enjoy it.

I’m also thankful that I didn’t end up falling in love with my childhood best friend because guess what? We’d have been (still would be) an awful couple. The things I’ve learned I need from a partner and the things I know she needs don’t remotely match. This post-knowledge didn’t keep me from confusing genuine, almost familial, affection toward her for romantic feelings several times over the years though. Every time I realized I was trying to force a square peg into the round hole of my expectations before I genuinely damaged our relationship but it was a near thing at times.

I’ve moved beyond the expectations for a high school soulmate, for obvious reasons of course, but I’ve also managed to uncouple my sense of self-worth and identity from the ideal.  I’ve become self-aware enough to figure out where other unrealistic expectations are come from. Things that Romantic Comedies have hammered in with their stalking ideation or even the idea that College is a sexual banquet for everyone. That last one did its own number on my ideas of self-worth but I’m running out of space. I’ve very careful to be mindful the media I consume, especially as we move in on Valentine’s Day because I know it can still knock me into a depressive cycle. I don’t like being single and the upcoming deluge of happy couples and “only couples are complete people” is always dangerous. For all of you, I hope this made you feel a little less alone.

Doctor Who and the Zygon Cease Fire

Welcome to Earth. Time period: Now. Population: Approximately 7 billion H umans and 20 million Zygons, plus sundry and assorted other aliens. Universe: Doctor Who.

Hey Everyone! It’s finally time [no pun intended]. PLIS is finally going to post in the elusive “TV” tab. And of course, as tradition would have it, it’s going to be nerdy, political and written by me. So let’s get nerdy.

In the finest traditions of Cold War paranoia, the Zygons (first introduced in 1975) were a race of shapeshifting aliens who can steal the identity and memory of their victim, provided they remain alive. In a time where the fear of the Other became obscured by the fact that the Other could be anyone, the Alien Infiltration trope gave birth to classic sci-fi such as the Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters. The Zygons remerged in 2013 as part of the 50th Anniversary Special Episode “Day of the Doctor” and only the intervention of the Tenth, Eleventh and War Doctors prevented catastrophe. As part of the treaty brokered, the President of the World aka The Doctor  agreed to accept 20 million Zygon refugees provided they disguise themselves as humans and live incognito amongst humanity. Refugees who were created as a result of the Time War—a great cataclysmic war fought between the Doctor’s species (The Timelords) and the ‘perfect warrior race’ the Daleks that spanned time and space itself, trashing across the universe. This is where it gets good.

While the “Day of the Doctor” brokered a deal in which Earth accepted war refugees from a war only the Doctor himself can claim direct connection with, it didn’t explore the ideas any further. The ninth season (counting from the reboot) returns to the Zygon plight in the two-part arc “Zygon Invasion”/”Zygon Inversion”. The episodes aired on October 31st and November 7th of 2015 respectively… just a week before the November 13th terror attacks in Paris. The truce brokered in “Day of the Doctor” is breaking down. While the majority of Zygons wish to live in peace, a radical splinter group, primarily made up of younger Zygons, has become fed up with the conditions of assimilation they live under. This splinter group begins pushing for a change to the treaty, to allow them to live as they want (un-shapeshifted) and “Truth or Consequences” becomes their rallying cry. You later find out that Truth or Consequences is also a town in New Mexico where a young Zygon had accidentally reverted back to its natural form, only to be killed by twitchy Americans and starting a whole war. The splinter group plans to unveil their own existence to the world, backing the majority of the peaceful Zygon population into a corner where they’ll be forced to either join their movement or die, either at the hands of the splinter group or the humans. Shenanigans happen, Peter Capald as the Twelfth Doctor finally gets to have his moment, in which the true nature of this incarnation of the Doctor shines through and the fans can start to understand him. (Seriously, I’m going to link to the speech, it’s that amazing) And in the end, tensions are dismantled and the splinter group returns to the fold but lives remain lost.

Does this sound familiar yet? In a brilliant bit of prescience and political astuteness, Peter Harness managed to encapsulate our current immigration and refugee crises while also exploring the nature of radicalization. The two-part comes complete with commentary about the effect drone strikes can have on their operators and civilians, a fake country called Turmeszistan and sleeper cells having infiltrated UNIT (the global earth defense force). It explores American paranoia of immigrants. The splinter cell uses a bold, easily tagged logo (Top picture) to mark its own operations. Even more impressively, Harness uses the now familiar imagery of Al-Qaida and Daesh propaganda videos with prisoners reading prepared statements and being executed and those videos being posted to the internet to reach their intended audience. The entire arc, and its conclusion especially (see video) are a scathing condemnation of our current societal panic and fear of the hidden enemy while also being a companionate warning about the horror and futility of war itself.

There is something else from this arc that I fell in love with and that’s how it depicts the Osgoods. A UNIT scientist Osgood finds herself duplicated in the aftermath of the “Day of the Doctor” and the two of them, coexisting as Zygon and Human consider themselves neither Zygon nor Human and come to embody the spirit of the treaty. One of them is later killed by the Mistress (the Doctor’s arch-nemesis and foil). Throughout the arc, various characters, including the Doctor, try to figure out which Osgood survived. Osgood however rebuffs the questions by simply replying “I’m Osgood”. Osgood gently but consistently demands the right to define her identity herself, pushing off the rest of the world’s attempts to define her as either Human or Zygon. This self-determined identity even rebuffs the Doctor’s attempt to logic his way to an answer, when Osgood reveals that the rules have changed and the host ‘body print’ doesn’t need to be alive if the Zygon has spent years sharing the identity.  We leave the story with the Doctor finally accepting Osgood’s chosen self-identity and I think it’s a beautiful subplot. Now as a cis heterosexual male, I’m not about to make any sweeping claims about how closely Osgood’s struggle to define her own identity mirrors the struggles of the LGBTQ community but from my own point of view, I found it a great analogy for the side of the struggle I’ve seen. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this, so drop a comment below!

I ended up watching this arc on November 14th and in the newly sparked American panic about refugees, terrorists and Muslims it stuck with me. Because of the context it was left to stew in, I think this might actually be my favorite two-part in Doctor Who. It was poignant and timely that I think very few other moments can match it.


Writer’s Corner: Why I don’t like NaNoWriMo

(Intentionally mildly pretentious image of me writing? Check!)

I wasn’t going to do it. You couldn’t have made me. There was no way in hell you were going to get me to throw in my hat into the “Hey guys it’s time for NaNoWriMo!” ring if you held me at gunpoint. But suddenly, here I am. Of course, it’s one of the biggest events for beginning and amateur authors of the year. Confused about what I’m talking about? No worries, it confused me at first. It’s November! Which means that NaNoWriMo is starting up (hey peeps, it already started by the time you’re reading this!). NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writing Month — go here: — The idea behind this event is to give you, the budding author, or the lazy one, a deadline and timeline to force you into writing a 50,000-word ‘novel’. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be trash, it just has to be 50,000-words or greater. What do you get for completing this Herculean task you ask? Why absolutely nothing, aside from the soul-affirming knowledge that you finished a 50,000-word novel in THIRTY DAYS. Oh and you have a 50,000-word novel now, of course. Why wasn’t I going to talk about this great idea some genius put together way back in 1999? Because, I don’t like it.

Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t think there is anything wrong with the program. I’ve ‘tried’ for the last three years. I have a bunch of writer friends who love it, it’s a fun sort of marathon for all us writer nerds, but it’s not for everyone.

I don’t know about any of you, dear readers, but November might be the most hectic and chaotic month of the year for me. It’s midterm season for many of the students in the US, you have Thanksgiving (American) and the whole month always seems to get really damned full. That’s the first reason I don’t like NaNoWriMo (hence forth Nanowrimo because capitals suck). November is an awfully busy month by dint  of not being December, when everyone is home with their families and being far enough from September that school tends to be really crunching down.

My second reason for not liking it? I don’t write in a way that’s conducive to Nanowrimo. I’m a procrastinator by nature –- yes, I’m sorry Sennie but this is not quite late! –- so I need deadlines and Nanowrimo’s fantastic for that, true. Yet while I have proven I can write novel length books at a George RR Martin speed (Seven years from inception to my first ever –- read: crap –- novel is pretty good in my defense) and I know I want to write novel length books, I just don’t like to focus on them. I created a rich and complex world while working on my first book and I love it dearly but it’s big enough, and I was stupid enough, that I have to create languages. Not one, multiple. The number of which will only go up as I explore this wonderful world. World-building is one of my favorite parts of writing, but the words and time I put in to world-building don’t count toward Nanowrimo. The fifteen short stories I run off to record as inspiration hits me don’t count either, sorry me. Part of this is a discipline problem, I should be able to write down the idea for those short stories and move on; I shouldn’t feel the burning desire to write a small essay about the caliber system used by the primary species in my story (because their guns don’t use bullets), or a 100-word history/bio about the pistol my main character loves… or the eight other weapons that manufacturer makes and their fire rates, ranges, accuracy, general methods of use and history. But for me, for a long time, that was fun and sometimes that’s all you need.

I wanted to –- read: want to and am still working on –- write novel length piece because it’ll show off all the wonderful world-building I love to do but Nanowrimo has proved to be an actively discouraging experience. Just because I can’t write 1600-words a day for an entire month because my life is busy or I’d rather spend that hour or two crafting a half-dozen civilian corporations that may matter later, but I’m inspired to do them now; I was starting to feel like I was less of a writer than my dear friends who were doing it with me. Which was ridiculous because if you’re not careful I have a forty-five-minute lecture on caliber (I call it TEOIS, which stands for Total Energy Output and Impact Strength) that comes all off the top of my head.

So this is me talking to all those other writers who struggle with Nanowrimo incredibly but know they can stick to a proper writing schedule. That when they sit down and focus, they can punch out a prodigious amount of words in a very short time and have already finished a writing project of some length before. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, Nanowrimo is to help light a fire under people’s asses; it’s not a contest or a measuring stick for writers to beat themselves up with, so don’t. Cheer on your friends who really do try it, help them out and all the while keep chipping away at your own. Do what you love, and do what you’re comfortable with. And HAVE FUN (or at least enjoy emotionally torturing your readers) because that’s why we started writing. We wanted to tell stories bubbling inside of us and we found the written word as our medium.

So keep writing 300-word break downs of every star nation’s ship classes and their traditional and non-tradition tactical and strategic roles… oh. That’s just me isn’t it? Very well then. How about we end with, keep writing.

Shameless plugs:

In case you were wondering, my big writing project a 200,000-word, seven-years in the making novel that is very much not for sale and a pair of short stories on Amazon that I self-published because I could.

Check them out:

Jirvaerka Anniversary:

Project Implacable

Lost In: Game Length – Are Games Too Long?

Promo Art for the Tomb Raider reboot

Hey ya’ll, I’m back for another piece and this time we’re going to talk about game length.

We live in an era of unparalleled technological advancement. Video games were born as a by-product of this era and though their origins were humble, they have always been in the forefront edge of technology. For most of it’s history Graphics were the benchmark that the industry held itself against. The most photo-realistic car for someone to drool over [Watch the Video, it’s ridiculous]. Or perhaps the best generic Nazi to shoot. Through it all, we saw rapid forward advances in the fidelity and technology… until now. Sure games still look better but now, graphics aren’t a real benchmark. Art design has become more important and so games found a new benchmark. Now, a game’s true “awesomeoness” can be measured by how much of a “Fully Realized Open World” they can make. These days, that phrase doesn’t just mean map that lets you wander anywhere but a proper simulation where the squirrels plant acorns that grew into saplings that dragons burn down all well you wander the world without load screens, This has led to what I like to think of as the “100-hour minimum”, its the point where you have to hit in order to prove your game pushing the limit. The Witcher 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V, just to name a few from this year There are countless other games that hover in-between 40-60 hours, which is just about the industry standard for normal games these days. 100 hours. That’s the 4 Days and change solid of your life, sunk into one game. 40-60 hours is a work week. This is often a considered great deal for the consumer, 60 dollars is a lot of money after all. Especially for us Millennials scrambling between random part-time and retail jobs, one game can last months.

Maybe I’m starting to get old [haha says me at 22] and, gods forbid, growing up but these 100-hour games are starting to become untenable. I have too many other demands on my time these days to feel good about playing through Mass Effect 3 as non-stop as possible [it was finals week] until I burst a minor blood vessel in my eye and finished the game [and aced my finals, cause yyeaaahhhh]. On top of that, most of these open world games demand your time in a fairly significant way. Play sessions seem to be intended to be  in the 3 to 5 hour length and story beats are portioned appropriately but even at regular 5 hour play sessions, you’re chipping at the behemoths 5% at a time. With a more industry standard 30-40 hour game that percentage sky-rockets to 16-12% respectively but even then, its hardly scratching the surface. I don’t have a lot of 5-hour time-blocks free and those I do, I try to wedge social events –board game nights and D&D nights– and chores into. Or writing. Or Homework [ew]. Ninety percent of gamers won’t finish any given game’s campaign but we keep making them longer!

Maybe I’m starting to get old [haha says me at 22] and, gods forbid, growing up but these 100-hour games are starting to become untenable. I have too many other demands on my time these days to feel good about playing through Mass Effect 3 as non-stop as possible [it was finals week] until I burst a minor blood vessel in my eye and finished the game [and aced my finals, cause yyeaaahhhh]. On top of that, most of these open world games demand your time in a fairly significant way. Play sessions seem to be intended to be  in the 3 to 5 hour length and story beats are portioned appropriately but even at regular 5 hour play sessions, you’re chipping at the behemoths 5% at a time. With a more industry standard 30-40 hour game that percentage sky-rockets to 16-12% respectively but even then, its hardly scratching the surface. I don’t have a lot of 5-hour time-blocks free and those I do, I try to wedge social events –board game nights and D&D nights– and chores into. Or writing. Or Homework [ew].

Now, I want to dig into the Witcher 3 realllllyy badly and Metal Gear Solid V sounds like fun game but I know that as my life is right now spending money on them is just going to add them to my pile of shame (my backlog). I also know that when X-Com 2 comes out, I’m going to probably put 20-80 hours into it. The Beauty of large 4X (Expand, Explore, Exploit, Exterminate) Strategy games is their inherent flexibility in play session. Sure, I’m going to play my entire Saturday irresponsibly because JUST ONE MORE TURN but I can make satisfying progress in a 30 min session squeezed between work and school. However, as far as story-based game go, I lament the slow death of the 8-10 hour campaign. The kind of game that takes just one or two sittings to burn through, leaving you with a well-crafted narrative paced completely and deliberately.

Last of Us, the Tomb Raider reboot, the Call of Duty or Halo Campaigns, are all these nice easily digested stories. These campaigns last around 15 hours, 14 hours, 3-6 hours respectively. Their campaign lengths all sit within  two or three steady play sessions and are paced much more naturally because of it. You get to experience the whole emotional arch of the story in a weekend or two of game play rather than stretching it out over two, or three, whole months. We need to respect these smaller campaign lengths because they offer richer, more tightly mapped narratives than their giant cousins in packages we as an industry can reasonably expect to people to complete. Really, I just absolutely loved Tomb Raider. Like irrational loved it for it’s shortness.

Thanks to anyone who made it this far listening to me ramble on about why games are too long these days. I know many people disagree and I love these behemoth games just as much as the next person but we’ve passed the point of reasonable length.

Lessons on Starting the Podcast and the Rest

 My Mic Stand. Professional.

Hey Everyone!

Today we’re going to talk about bit about how starting a website/blog/podcast has gone, a little over a month in from “Launch”. We’re still getting our feet on the ground but we’ve settled into something of a rhythm and we’re about to turn over to our first ‘normal content month’ (hahaha, we’ll see about that).

So what does it take to start doing a podcast/website/blog? Well, very little really. Note: I didn’t not say its a particularly good website, or a particularly Professional Podcast/Blog either, All I said was start it. Professionalism can come later… seriously guys we’re fixing the MS Paint Banner, I promise. All you really need is a techie (me), some boredom/free time, a few friends and someone who can harass them all into doing things (me). Oh and GOOGLE. I google a lot of things. While I”m going to go through my steps about setting up the Podcast a bit at the end of this post, nothing here is meant as a detailed tutorial. I can probably do one of those too if people ask but since I literally just learnt about the settings options in WordPress last night, I’m not sure how good a tutorial it is.

First things first, let’s talk people. We all have those friends who are absolutely gun-ho about any project you want to start but when it comes down to actually doing it, they sort of vanish with complaints about not having enough free time. Or they just sort of just dump it all on you. Yeah, those people are awesome guests but horrible partners. Go find your friends who you know you can depend on to do their shit, even if they probably should really be sleeping instead, and rope them into things. If you aren’t the kind of person to harass people into doing things, go find your friend who is and put them in charge. It might be your idea but you need a project manager or nothing happens. Everyone is going to be doing this in their free time and not getting paid, at least at the start, and you know video games/books/cartoons/football are just so much more interesting than doing Work. So find the people who really are overachievers and who’d be interested in helping you, and use them. It sort of defeated the baseline premise of our own site because 4 out of 5 of us actually have our shit sort of together but the friend’s whose lives are on fire are way too busy to do this exactly because they’re their sort to start and abandon projects. That core group (really aim for 2-5) of people, they become your team.

Now that you’ve got your people, it’s time for a website. Wait, it’s actually time for a name. Find a name, grab it (or a version you like) in every social media platform possible [Twitter, Facebook, YouTube/Google are the big ones, Twitch too if you’re going to do games). While you do that, make sure you can get the URL as well, because unified branding is important. WordPress is a pain in the ass but it’s not an impossible system to use, and you can find tutorials for most things. There are other build-your-own-site GUI programs too and maybe we’ll explore those in Tech at some point but the basic summary is find your favorite one, find a hosting service and use it to centralize all your stuff. It’s easier to monetize when you’re self-hosted or not relying solely on social media companies that don’t owe you a thing (YouTube) and it gives you a nice place to point people back to for them to go find the rest of your work.

Once you’ve set up your basic framework, it becomes time to figure out what you (and your friends) want to do. I don’t mean vague high ideas, I mean the a detailed list of the things people can/will do and brainstorm ideas from all of them… and actually listen to them. People are going to tell you things you disagree with, or don’t really get. You don’t have to everything they tell you too (Dad, not everything needs a blog, even we have one) but really you pulled together these specific people for a reason and you should probably listen to them.

You know what you want, you’ve got a basic site and structure setup and you’ve got people? Great! Scheduling. I don’t mean “Hey we’re doing the podcast on Sunday right?” I mean, Google Calendar emails, reminder texts and a content Schedule. Get people’s posts in a Month early (podcasts are different), set a typical time and day for your content to go up. We’re starting small-ish, 1 recipe on Monday mornings and 1 post on Thursday mornings, plus the podcast on Sundays (and up by Sunday night/Monday morning) but we’re going to stick hard to that schedule until it becomes second nature or we get a lot of content. Another things that helps? Not every post needs to go up immediately. Edit things, review things, and Queue things. You want a bunch of posts sort of sloshing around, giving you a month’s worth of backlog if you can, for those pesky times like Christmas and Thanksgiving, when people are busy with ‘real life’. Timely posts are different, obviously (Halloween Ones shouldn’t go up in Mid November) but try to build a backlog.

By now you’ve noticed that I didn’t mention a lot of little things you need. Like banner art, or a podcast graphic, some podcast intro music, maybe event and understanding of basic website design. You can do these things yourself, but maybe you shouldn’t (MS PAINT FOREVER!) and for those project you should look to those awesomely talented friends you have. If you’ve got friends in graphic design, music, webdesign, etc… who’d be willing to help you out ask them. Maybe bring them into the project but if you can’t/they can’t join the project, they still might make you that thing you need. If you got an artist who can make you something and you can pay them, PAY THEM. They live in this capitalist world too and even they don’t usually sell their art, paying them will ensure you get your piece right away and they’ll love you forever. You’re starting your own crazy project, support your friends who have their own projects. If you can’t pay them, THANK THEM. Put their name everywhere, constantly thank them, send people who might be able to pay them their way. One of the hardest things to find is a place to show off one’s own work outside the usual places drowning in other’s works but: EXPOSURE IS NOT FAIR PAYMENT. IT SHOULD NOT BE THE FIRST METHOD OF PAYMENT YOU OFFER. This is huge. We’re poor college students, or just poor millennials who just finished college. We can’t afford to pay our equally poor, but more talented, artist friends what they deserve for the work they’re doing for us, so we have to offer exposure instead. A bunch of them are just happy to do it for their friend as practice or an excuse to make themselves work on something but I work very hard to make sure we’re not taking advantage of them. If this whole crazy thing starts making us money, guess who is going to get Paid for doing more work? The people who helped us out in the first place. If they’re not your friend, or again if you can, you need to offer them money. Don’t expect ‘exposure’ to be fair payment.

Speaking Of Which Give our two Amazing people all the love:

Graphic Designer/Banner Designer

Matthew Jager


Music Maker

Peter Scott


Last, but not least, if you’re the organizer/central figure. Be prepared to do double the work of anyone else. If someone doesn’t come through with a post, if you forgot to harass everyone early, if something goes crazy, you’re the one filling the gap. We don’t really have an audio engineer type person, so I’m learning that stuff. I’m also one of the best writers on the team, at the moment, so I’m the editor. I’m also the web admin. I’m also the one who answers all the questions the rest of the team has. I don’t mind, I love being in control of project but its a lot of work on top of real life.

And Finally, it’s time for the Podcast ‘tutorial’:

  • Cheapassgamer has a fairly decent tutorial for how to make a really professional sounding podcast, although the tutorials about how to use the programs it asks you to use are a bit lacking (to google!). [ ]

All itreally takes someone with some savvy with Google hangout and a willingness to set up a YouTube/Google Account.

Google Hangouts Live! automatically publishes a YouTube video of the Live broadcast with no need for extra equipment or recording software and it’s own built in controls are fairly useful (except when you mute someone and don’t notice because it doesn’t mute him in the call). If that’s all you want, you can stop there and voila! You have a podcast!

Things get a bit stickier when you want to pull an Audio version but even then, it’s a simple matter of downloading the MP4 from Youtube, running it through Audacity and doing some editing-fiddling to make sure you trim out any bad parts (like the start of every live broadcast), maybe add some music and you’ve got your audio podcast.

Feederburner, a Google software for building RSS’s can pull from a WordPress Category so you set up your podcast(s) in a specific category. Point Feedburner at it and it gives you a RSS link, Search Engine Optimization and some other things to make proper Podcast Feeds easy. And it comes with Tutorials!

It also helps you way in the future, if you setup your WordPress site’s permalinks for the category/post name instead of the date and you number your podcasts 00X. But we’re no where near worrying about that (yet).

Some Useful Tutorials I begged, borrowed and stole information from: [ ][ ][ ] [ ] – This one is a bit confusing but to ‘upload a file to the server’, you just “add media” to the post, and it uploads to your host server.

Lost in: Act of Aggression and complex RTS’s

Let’s preface this with: This is not a review. I’m not sure we’re ever going to get into that messy formalized review structure that sites like Polygon and Giant Bomb are dealing with. For two real reasons. One: review scores are messy imperfect things that cause problems. And Two: I don’t expect to have time to play games the proper length needed and this site isn’t just about games. So instead you’re going to get us talking about games and pieces we like or don’t. And sometimes these may sound like reviews.

All of that out of the way, let’s talk about Act of Aggression, Eugen System’s newest Real-Time Strategy, RTS, Game and how it shows a coming problem for the genre. Like so many, Act of Aggression . Eugen System’s, aside from being a Bond villain-worthy name for a company is with a history of RTS under their belt, including one of my personal favorite popcorn RTSs, R.U.S.E. and one my least favorites, the Wargame series. Act of Aggresion is a slight half step between the two series, not remotely as cartoon-like and over the top as R.U.S.E. but not quite the highly detailed war simulation of the Wargame series. With heavy Command & Conquer influences visible, the fact that it is a step back from Wargame — which lacked enough of a tutorial to make it penetrable for me, much less a newcomer to the franchise –is welcomed but the game fails in the same place as Wargame does. They both want the player, the lone single officer with a creative brain (well any brain) to manage complex, evolving military situations down to the micro-level.

Think about it, these games put you in the General’s seat (or at least a Major’s seat) but ask you to do the one thing good officer’s never do. They ask you to micromanage everything, from flying the rescue helicopter to telling a squad to run to the next building for cover when they get flushed. In the real world, it’s tantamount to suicidal and you’re going to get good men and women killed. In Act of Aggression, you have to do it.

This isn’t Act of Aggression’s fault anymore than the lack of peripheral senses in First-Person Shooters is Call of Duty’s fault. They’re inherent limitations of the technology we currently have. But here’s the thing, military from the dawn of antiquity has understood that nothing can get done without good subordinates. The centurions, sergeants and other NCOs of the times could be, and still can be, argued to have far more importance to a military’s success than the generals, majors and other ‘brass’. Sergeants keep the cogs oiled and figure things out.

Act of Aggression has a feature that I absolutely adore, even if its just far too specific for me to worry about in a serious skirmish (which is why I’ve been playing against easy AI). The game lets you take wounded enemy soldiers (its a chance thing) as prisoners who can be used for a steady trickle or burst of rarer resources, depending on the faction of course. Aircraft or vehicles that get shot down/destroyed have a chance of spawning a pilot who is equally capture but will run for home if no enemies are around. Healing injured infantry returns them to the fight, a mostly worthless endeavor given the weight of tanks and artillery that get thrown around. But downed pilots grant you a 200 dollar bonus for being safely returned. More importantly, they’re downed pilots of mine and I’m going to everything I can to pull them out. You get access to helicopters that can carry infantry and the number of times I’ve launched rescue strikes to pull out my downed people borders on silly but I love doing it.

The problem with this mechanic is nothing about it is automated. Sure your pilots will slowly run back to base on their own but that puts them in massive danger. So you order a helio to pull them out and it flys over to pick them up, you go put out three other fires that started while you giving the order and maybe start an attack somewhere else. All this while the helicopter has picked up the pilots and is patiently hovering over the spot, waiting for more orders. Never mind that it should be high-tailing it back to base to get these poor bastards to safety, never mind that enemy anti-air is all over the region. It patiently just sits for you until its shot down or you remember it and order it to race for home. But even then your troubles aren’t over, because while it takes time to fly back home, you’re off doing a dozen other things that a cadre of half competent sergeants could do. One damaged tank siting slightly outside the repair radius while the rest of its squadron is fully repaired? Yeah, managing that is your job. Did a napalm strike just chase a bunch of your infantry occupying a bank out it? Well you’d better be right on top of that cause they’ll just stand outside the building roasting to death (or being shot to death, or blown up or any number of other bad things) until you tell them otherwise. Did they evacuate the building and survive (some of them) the napalm strike? Better tell them to reoccupy the tactically vital building they’d just been inside of because they’ll wait forever. While you’re doing all of this, guess what? That rescue helio that pulled out all the pilots? It’s hovering over base waiting for you to tell it to disembark them and then give them the order to run back into your HQ.

Everything in that last paragraph is a lot of fun, I have some other issues with the urban combat but every individual piece is great. But when you tie them all together and add economy, and combat micromanaging and macro-management of build queues, resources and build zones, it becomes more than one person should ever handle. The military has ranks for a reason. Ranks have jobs and they do their jobs so the ranks above them (or below them) can do their jobs. Games like Civilization strip out the micromanagement and tactical levels as an answer while the Total War series splits them into to separate but integrated pieces, and even its far more limited RTS elements suffer from this requirement that you the players does everything. They’ve answered this with a pause and queue order commands but it disrupts the feeling of being a commanding officer when you have to tell your elite legionnaire century that after they scale the walls they should run the 20 yards further along to engage the enemy guarding the gatehouse. Other games, like R.U.S.E. and Starcraft simplify both until the player can grasp it all.

In the end, I think the RTS genre is going to have push the edges of AI in games if they want to play at being a holistic war simulator instead of war-light like chess and Go. RTS makers need to understand that delegation and specific roles are why/how modern militaries function and not try to throw everything onto the player’s plate. Something as simple as letting two players control the same faction and base, something Starcraft and Halo Wars do, can go a long way to letting all those complicated matters become manageable but the only real solution is to give the players virtual subordinates smarter enough to do their jobs, something we’re not quite too.