Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene: What Happened?

So a lot happened this weekend. If you're living in the Northeast of the United States you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't, you either live on the other side of the Atlantic—which is fine—or you listen to pricks like Mark Levin.

To clarify: Aunt Irene visited, and the flood has come and gone.

To clarify the clarification: We just got lambasted by a hurricane. Or, rather, a very large tropical storm.

I myself managed to avoid the brunt of the hurricane, but the destructive effects could be felt far and wide. Here's what I know what happened, as of this writing.

Vermont, from all appearances, was hit the hardest. The entire state has been affected directly by the hurricane, and most of the people there are still without power, and according to, the entire southern half of the state is separated from the north due to flooding. The eastern portion of New York has been hit pretty hard as well, with flood-waters destroying property, and even whole towns. The death toll, at the last count, had reached about 44.

It's astounding to think about such a disaster hitting the Northeast, a place where hurricanes and tropical storms are about as common as snow storms in Mexico. There are photos and videos all over the web over this recent storm, showing off the destructive power of Mother Nature. We can feel superior over Her with our Agent Orange and our motorways, but Nature will always be there to reclaim what we pave over.

I thought Irene would just pass over us and cause only a minor ruckus before dissipating. I was wrong, and so were so many other people. There was quite a hubbub over evacuating New York City, as it is, of course, a major city that contains an unimaginable number of people. Yet, comparatively speaking, New York City got off fairly easy.

But it's suffering for everyone, no matter your location, no matter how much you lost. This is not a Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Louisiana and, particularly, New Orleans when the levees were destroyed and flooded the entire city. But it doesn't change anything—so much has been lost, and so many people have been killed.

Yes, 44 people might not sound like a lot, but it is when you're the one going through the grieving process. My condolences go to those who have lost most of what they own, and especially to those who have lost a loved one.

Joseph Stalin has a famous quote: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” The truth seeping from this quote disgusts me.

Even if you're as far away as Australia, as you go through your daily life, I ask that you think about what has happened here, even if it's for the briefest of moments, even if you find yourself making jokes about it. Don't forget these little things, and what they might mean to others. This disaster might pale in comparison to Japan's tsunami, which struck several months back, but scale should matter not.

As the hurricane has inconvenienced many, myself included, I do not know when the next update will come. If possible, I will provide links to photos and videos of the goings-on around the Northeast, both during and after the hurricane struck.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Blog Post coming tomorrow! Got wrapped up in travel/other things, so it'll be coming tomorrow!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

An Experiment in Storytelling

Another week come and gone. I've amazed myself with how much writing I've done this week—about 20.5 pages of written material (written mostly in screenplay format), and to think that it was all written without a deadline! I am so glad college is a thing of the past now!

What the hell was all that writing about? Well, I'm glad my ventriloquism skills haven't been pointless, because I'm glad I made you ask that!

There is a small project I am working on for a game called Amnesia: The Dark Descent. For those who do not know, Amnesia is a first-person survival horror game with realistically simulated physics (you can pick up stuff, drag stuff, throw stuff, etc.). The game doesn't focus on nailing headshots like pretty much every other kind of survival horror game, and unlike drivel like “Saw 31 in 3D ” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the game induces horror by messing with your head, and NOT by including buckets of blood and gore (although there is plenty of blood in the game). It's one of the few instances of horror that is actually worth experiencing, because psychological horror is the only kind of horror—shock scares and disembowelments might make you uncomfortable, but they won't chill you to the bone like Amnesia will.

Here's the trailer, for those who are intrigued.

The project I am working on is a modification for the game, a “Custom Story.” Whereas Amnesia is a horror/puzzle game, the mod I am making is little more than an interactive narrative—there won't be any monsters or any serious puzzles to solve, there will just be the narrative and the level exploration.

The story is called “My Love,” and it is about a young man who becomes lost in his thoughts, and he must sort out his memories by diving headfirst into a traumatic experience. It will be told through personal narrative, through the echoes of past conversations, and through the uniquely-arranged level design—it is all about observation.

Here is the link for some more information on the project: "My Love"

There are numerous characters, and will require the talents of several individuals who are confident in their voice acting abilities to bring them to life. As it is, some talent has already been recruited for the project, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to just throw out a little advertisement. I AM LOOKING FOR VOICE ACTORS (See the link above for more information about it). If you're interested (and don't have an account at the Frictional Games forum), send me an email—it'll be posted on my blog profile.

Working on such a project poses some unique challenges for me, as I have never really delved into game design in any serious fashion. It is all well and good to write a few sentences in a word processor and create a complete, coherent narrative, but the process for creating a narrative for a visual, interactive experience is much, much different. How much of the story do I put into the actual dialog, and how much do I tell through the player's own observation?

Most players don't want to be spoon-fed the story with cutscenes and scripted events removing control from the player—but it's also very easy for the player to miss crucial information by skipping over notes and dialog by not directly pointing these things out to the player. As I work on “My Love,” I am forced to ask myself, “Am I being too blunt with his portion of dialog? Is there some way I could make it subtle, yet easily noticeable by the player? How do I draw the player's attention to this detail without big glowing arrows and sound effects?”

As an amateur writer and a total “noob” at game design, it's important to learn about storytelling from a new medium. Most professional writers for video games don't ask these questions and fail to translate the pen-and-paper narrative into an interactive narrative, and because of this, they take a potentially awesome story and grind it into the dirt (which is why there are so many games like “Left 4 Dead” or “Doom,” which lack any real story—it's much easier to just design a shooting mechanic than to create a cohesive storyline). And while the game itself might be good, the story is left to suffer.

Trying to combine gameplay with story—it's not easy, and I know “My Love” won't be the perfect blend. But I consider it to be a personal experiment in a new medium, in how to combine the two in the best what that I can manage. I am working the project pretty much entirely solo (except for the voice acting), so we'll see what it is I can manage with my limited set of skills. I hope, when it's released, and if you're the type to actually play games (much less actually owning Amnesia!) that you will be able to enjoy it for what it is, and not for what it is not.