Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good Advice

From Consumerist.com:

"If a man says he's a police officer and flashes a badge at you, then tells you to have sex with him or he'll arrest you, make sure the badge doesn't say Geek Squad on it first."


Friday, June 19, 2009

Jotting Notes on my 'Clues' talk from GC Summit 2007

(with apologies to Larry Hosken)

Some of this information is out of date, but there's still useful stuff in here. And no, I didn't do this merely out of narcissism; I'm writing up a "clue design primer" for general reference (and specific application to a planned upcoming multi-city puzzle event--more on that later), and I needed something to get me started.

  • What are your goals for the game?
    • Immersion, theme, cool puzzles, other?
  • Weekly GC meetings
    • frequency maintains momentum
    • there's always something you can do (even just talking)
  • Starting the clue design process:
  • Someone will have an idea
  • Bring a prototype to meeting
  • Example: "meat clue" from FoBiK called "food cryptogram" in development
    • Original idea was pencil, string, raw hot dog? ("gross food clue")
    • CKL: "There were only two kinds of meat."
      Sean: "Rancid and rotten!"
  • Set criteria for including clue in game
    • For FoBiK, every clue had to be scary, creepy, or disgusting
  • Packaging is very important
  • DeeAnn (logistics maven) isn't really into puzzles
  • Use previous clues as models/templates for new clue
    • Steal from clues you liked (cool encoding/construction)
    • Change it up, repackage it
    • Only so many encoding schemes available
    • Take an old idea and put a new twist on it
  • First playtest (clue prototype) within GC
    • Saves outside playtesters for more polished versions of clue
  • Playtesting parties!
    • More like conference-room puzzle hunts
    • You can draw playtesters from people who wouldn't play in your event
    • Usually go through 3 puzzles in 1 session (4-5 hrs, depending on attendance)
    • What did they like? Was it fun?
    • Worksheet - time data is crucial, helps us estimate average timing & spread
  • (DeeAnn should do a talk just about skipping)
  • Example: Hogwarts dry run
    • Good for testing integration of everything (clues, locations, etc.)
    • Also forced wand-maker to finish gadgets earlier
    • Showed us several problems we fixed before actual game weekend
  • Example: 8-ball was not significantly less work to do than full weekend game
  • Argument in JU about whether to do dry run
  • Living room playtest != in a van at 3am playtest
  • Every team eventually hits "the stupid hours"
  • Red: we find it takes any team at least 15 minutes to start working on a clue
    • confirmed; Crissy rode along with several teams on Zelda
  • Playtesting is like usability testing
  • Documentation? We do our best - Hogwarts wiki
  • We like to give our phone force a lot of latitude in giving hints
  • We're all about customer service - everyone has fun!
  • Red: Team Snood takes detailed notes during playtesting
    • Note times when solvers make each "leap of faith"
    • Help system comes directly from those notes
    • Sean: important to note false starts and red herrings
    • dry run helps to identify additional environmental elements which interact with clues
  • Red: in Overnightmare, noted playtest times including false starts
    • actual solve time + false starts = spread
    • not necessarily red herrings
  • Sean: "the perfect clue"
    • each predictable false start reveals a "signpost" to steer you back to right track
    • avoids too much feeling lost
  • little things can help you sort out extraneous bits of data
  • usually you find a dead end when you decode to gibberish
  • "Only Game Control thinks that's funny"
  • goes along with "not having fun anymore"
    • allows teams to give GC non-bitchy feedback (this isn't working)
  • JU Saturday night traffic on bay bridge - another argument in favor of dry runs


Friday Flash Fiction: "Kangaroo's First Day with the Eye"

This week's story features characters from Waypoint Kangaroo, the novel I'm currently revising. I still need to do a lot of restructuring and expand a few subplots, but I really enjoy writing these people.

Read "Kangaroo's First Day with the Eye" at 512 Words or Fewer


Surrogates Timeline

"From the time I started writing the first script until the time the last issue hit the stands, The Surrogates was nearly four years in the making."
- Robert Venditti, "Script to Page," The Surrogates TPB

May, 2002: Robert Venditti begins work on The Surrogates graphic novel (per CBR interview)

July, 2005: Top Shelf begins publishing The Surrogates as a 5-issue, bi-monthly limited series, illustrated by Brett Weldele.

March, 2007: Disney options film rights for The Surrogates (per Wikipedia).

November, 2007: Bruce Willis cast in lead role of Harvey Greer.

April, 2008: Principal photography on Surrogates begins in Massachusetts.

July, 2009: Graphic novel prequel The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone scheduled for publication.

September, 2009: Surrogates film scheduled for release.

The movie has changed a few things, of course; Greer is now an FBI agent, not a police detective in "Central Georgia Metropolis," and apparently the villain is actually killing people, not just destroying their robotic surrogates. I guess that's to "raise the stakes." I don't expect much from the director of Terminator 3, but hey, it can't be much worse than I, Robot, right?


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Whiteout Timeline

1998: Oni Press publishes Whiteout, a 4-issue comic book miniseries written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber.

2000: Whiteout is nominated for multiple Eisner Awards.

2001: Whiteout Volume 1 trade paperback published.

2007: At PAX 2007, Greg Rucka tell us that the Whiteout movie "[is] gonna look real pretty."

2009: First official trailer for Whiteout, starring Kate Beckinsale as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (apologies on behalf of YouTube for the unfortunate still image):

Movie opens in September. I remain cautiously optimistic.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

You know you're obsessed...

...with a video game when you start thinking about installing a special utility just so you can get hotkeys to make your gameplay more efficient.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction Twofer

I missed my regularly scheduled shameless self-promotion last week because of our travels in Europe, so I'm doubling up today:

The further adventures of Jake and Andy, futurismic detectives!
Read "The Color of Questions" at 512 Words or Fewer.

How does an overgrown script kiddie deal with the technological singularity?
Read "Ghost Machine" at 512 Words or Fewer