Poetry: Connection

I’m not in the loop
And I don’t want to be
I am content
To let
The world pass by
Except

My writing would be hollow
Without advice to follow
Or a reality to create a simulacrum
Of words and images
Illustrating what is done

And as I go to the city far
Options, loneliness mar
I move in an act of desperation
To find what I don’t want: connection.

Art: Twin Stars

TwinStars

Here’s something I made in my sketchbook months ago, before I got my scanner, even.  I was inspired by van Gogh’s Starry Night – I forget why I was looking at it, I think it was a let’s play – and I decided that I wanted to use up some of my colored pencils.  The result didn’t scan well, not after the paper got ripples from the hairspray, but I still like it, and I’m happy that I got to share it with you.

A Note on Game Design

I deleted the post that I originally was going to put up today.  The reason I did this was that the piece I wrote was on a subject that I had no real experience with.  This meant that most of what I wrote was just other people’s ideas, rather than something I put actual thought into.

However, it wasn’t a complete waste.  It was a post about a game I don’t play, about the game design of one particular faction, and how that faction’s mechanics doesn’t, and cannot, line up with their core concept.  From thinking about what bothered me about this, I came up with two things that define how I think about games.

1.) A game is made of rules, in the same way a story is made of words.

2.) The most important thing about a game is how it makes the players act.

Rules create incentives, incentives beget actions, actions cause feelings.  In much the same way a story can be about something other than what the author intends, a game can make a player act in a way that the designer didn’t intend.  This is not the fault of the player; the designer simply didn’t know what they were creating.  And if the player needs to handicap themselves to keep the game fun, the designer made a mistake.

I feel I should note that I excuse tabletop RPGs from the handicapping criteria partially, but not entirely, because of the function of the gamemaster.  The format requires the GM to be an amateur game designer on some level, even if only to dynamically design challenges suited to the players’ characters.  Also, these games are cooperative, not competitive, so I can see at least some benefit to expecting those that understand the rules to not create a character that invalidates the other players’ actions.

However, if a character or splat is expected to throw themselves into their enemies, but turns out to be much more effective to the party when they’re standing back an slowly plinking away at a monster, something has gone wrong.  And if the entire game is full of such mistakes, the game is bad, and that’s the fault of the designer.

An important aspect of my evaluation is that story telling devices besides the rules (cutscenes, fluff, graphics, etc.) are only important to the game in as much as they inform the player why a strategy or technique would work, although they may be enjoyable in their own right.  For example, a player can understand that a unit that’s portrayed as flying can move over other units, which is good, but may not understand why an ability called ‘True Grit’ allows a unit to use their rifles like pistols, which is bad.  Beyond the basics of making a game intuitive and playable, the flavor of a game should come through in the gameplay, that is, through a player’s actions.

Poetry: Notes on Working a Blue-Collar Job

We obsess over food
Because lunch is the high-point of our day
The boring whine of machinery
Bores into the brain
At least manufacture is dignified
Unlike the cleaning
The cleaning that we do
To say that we are doing

I want to make
Not with my hands, but my brain
I have to get out of here
I can’t let this past drag me down
I have to tread on others
I have to take their time
I have act, not wait,
Or I’ll just fall of that cliff again.

Art: Oceanside Cliff

OceansideCliff

To those of you who ready everything I posted on Wednesdays this October, thank you.  Writing such short stories was an interesting experience.  I did it because very short stories seemed to fit WordPress, and I wanted to see how they would do.  The story itself was inspired by October being the month of fear.  That’s why the art after each chapter had such brief commentary.

As for this week’s picture, I like how the water turned out.  There are lines of white that could have come out more clearly, but there’s only so much I can do with ballpoint pen.  I also like how the foam where the wave meets the land turned out, except for the part where you can see the texture of the rock behind it, all the way at your right.  Of course, the water is transparent, so that kind of works.

Speaking of the rock texture, I put that there to imply a difference in color going up the strata.  I tried something similar to imply that the sky was clear and blue, with the sun somewhere out-of-frame to the upper right, but I don’t think it worked as well.

Worthy Life

He sat at the cliff, watching the ocean.  The waves went in and out, uncaring.

Someone walked up beside him.  “Are…are you feeling alright?” asked Darric.  The man didn’t respond.  The answer was too obvious to be said.

“We could use someone over there, you know,” the rat-faced creature continued.  “Someone to keep your people from sending their undesirables over here.  From keeping them from being dumped on us.”

“I- I can’t go back.”  He dried his tears on his knees.

Darric sighed.  “So where will you go?  Are you going to stare at the ocean until you starve?”

“I-” he said.  “I need to understand.   I need to be able to describe why what she was doing was wrong.”

“Well, it beats sulking for the rest of your life,” said Darric.  A moment passed, filled with nothing but the sound of the tide.  “Hey, you know what?  My sister’s making a meal for everyone we got out of there.  If you come along, you can talk to the other prisoners.  I mean, that would be a place to start, wouldn’t it?”

He let out a happy sob.  Slowly, he rose to his feet, and followed his friend to Darric’s home, to a new path in his life.

Sudden Termination

He breathed through the decayed slots of the door.  She wasn’t following.  At least, she wasn’t following him, which probably meant that she had gone after Darric.  He slumped to the ground.  If he wasn’t running for his life, what else could he do?  He could go back to the laboratory.  There were the other subjects there, still suffering from that woman’s experiments.  He could free them, like Darric freed him.

Decided, he got to his feet, and started moving back towards the nightmare.  His steps shook dust from the rafters, the ancient building the demon woman had moved into not holding up against the passage of time.  Shafts of the dawn’s light streamed through the cracks and holes, throwing even darker shadows between them.

Suddenly, heat and sound exploded behind him.  He spun around, just as she was emerging through the opening in the wall she had just made.  “YOU!” she screamed, swinging up her weapon to kill him.

He dodged to the right, just as the arsenic flash filled the air.  He couldn’t keep dodging forever, and there was no way he could hope to outrun the blasts.  His only choice was to go forward, to close for her to fire.

He bent down low, weaving side to side as he charged, keeping her from pointing the heavy, metal object at him.  When his shoulder passed its end, he grabbed at her neck, crushing her arteries with his thumbs.  She tried to swing her weapon at his back, but he was on top of her, she couldn’t get the leverage to truly hurt him.

Her eyes rolled up into the back of her head.  Eventually, she stopped breathing, and stopped thinking.