Friday, September 1, 2017

The Near Horizon: September 2017

I'll be completely honest: I don't have much for you.

My life is really hectic and chaotic right now, but not for any really good or consistent reasons. The biggest thing is that I'm just dealing with anxiety, the side effects of which primarily include not being able to sleep properly and it being harder to focus and get a very consistent amount of work done. Although it is definitely better than it was a month ago. If things keep going the way they have been, I think I should be able to get back to where I was before this started this month or next month.

On top of that, just a lot of side stuff has been cropping up. Real life problems and situations. Nothing serious, just tedious.

Because of that, I simply cannot really offer any promises or predictions for the month of September.

The DOOM Chronicles: Episode One is finished. I'm glad I got that wrapped up. I've decided it's going to go on hiatus until 2018 so that I can work on other projects.

Right now, Gone Home has begun posting. As I've stated before, it's already completely written and edited, so there should be no interruptions in posting. I'll be putting up a chapter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until it's finished.

After that? Well, I'm not making any promises for obvious reasons, but I do have an idea. If I can find the time, I want to tackle a story I promised like...three years ago. I finally sat down and planned it out, and it wouldn't be a huge commitment. But again, it really just depends on time allocation. After I do that project, I feel a bit more confident that I'll finally start tackling the novelization of Unreal 2. Honestly, I just want to get a few of these smaller side projects written and done so they aren't sitting there on my list bugging me.

My primary focus at the moment is my Sci-Fi/Horror Post-Apocalyptic novel for my other author name. Although I haven't been able to work on it nearly as much as I'd hoped, it is almost three quarters of the way written now. I'm hoping to pick back up steam on it and finish it this month, at least the writing portion. It's going to go through a few rounds of edits before I send it off.

My secondary focus has become The Shadow Wars again. In case you missed it, both Dead Ice & Dead Skies are posted, in full, to WattPad right now. I've also begun writing Dead Rain, which is the first new Shadow Wars related material written since December of 2016. I'm having difficulty finding time to piece it together, but it's going to take priority on the weekends now, which was normally set aside for fan fictions. I'm going to TRY to finish it by the end of the month, but I can't promise it. After Dead Rain is done, it should be pretty smooth sailing for the next seven novels, since all I have to really do is edit.

And that's really it, unfortunately. I wish I had more to say, or better news, but that's just not happening. Sorry. I hope you like Dead Rain, though!


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Game Talk #21: The Spryo Trilogy

I wanted to talk about the original three Spyro the Dragon games, because I used to play the hell out of them way back in the day and over the past year or two, I purchased and played them again, to see if they were as good as I remembered.

And they pretty much were.

But it also made me realize just how good the original trilogy was. So obviously that made me want to create a Game Talk about it. So let's get started.

Spyro the Dragon was one of those games that I remember from my childhood...because I played the absolute shit out of it. I was like ten or eleven when I first started playing it, and I became obsessed, my obsession only made worse by the fact that I didn't even have regular access to a copy. I never owned a PS1, my cousins did, so I only got to play when I was over at their house, which was kind of rare.

When I decided to pick up a copy of this almost on a whim last year (2016), I didn't know how much I would remember of it, or if I would be any good at it. I've lost a lot of patience for video games as I've gotten older, especially ones that have more unfamiliar difficulty. Except for a very narrow selection, I never got into like, platformers, for example. I mostly just like first or third person shooters nowadays, with some exceptions.

So I had no idea if Spyro would be an awesome nostalgic trip or just annoy the shit out of me.

Turned out, it was both.

It was great, because pretty much as soon as I fired it up, all the memories came flooding back and I beat like a quarter of the game in one straight go. It was a lot of fun.

For the uninitiated, here's a brief synopsis of the game. You are Spyro, a young dragon, living in a world of magic, dragons, and other things. One day, Gnasty Gnorc, who is lord of the gnome-orcs, (gnorcs), and a total dick, decides, "You know what? Fuck dragons." And turns every adult dragon to crystal. You, apparently the only adolescent dragon in the world, managed to slip under the radar, so now it's up to you and your awesome sidekick, Sparx the Dragonfly, to rescue the dragons, recollect all of the stolen treasure (gems), and defeat all the varied bad guys, as Gnasty has also transformed the gems into tons and tons of enemies.

The game is pretty addicting and, for being a PS1 game, has pretty good control. Although maybe I think that because I was playing it on PS2 this time around. It's also pretty expansive, with five distinct worlds, each with their own sub-worlds, which comprise most of the levels. You get a really nice tracking system that lets you know exactly how far you are in each world and what's missing, and an overall percentage on your save file.

That's a seemingly small feature, but it's really satisfying to see. Although the original Spyro actually goes to 120%.

The game has a pretty good mix of challenges, as you pretty much come into each world blind and have to explore it, scouring it for gems and dragons to rescue. Some of them are pretty well hidden and require you get fairly creative. There's also a lot of variety to these worlds, not just in environment but also the aesthetic of the worlds. There's a huge melting pot of enemies to deal with. The game designers did pretty well to keep the gameplay mixed up.

There's not much else to say about the game. It's a solid PS1 title from back in the day. And hey, I managed to beat it all the way again!

The team followed up Spyro the Dragon with an immediate sequel the following year: Ripto's Rage. The basic premise of this one is that at some point after defeating Gnasty Gnorc, Spyro and Sparx are forced to endure a particularly long string of rainy days and decide they need a vacation at sunny and luxurious Dragon Shores. However, while heading through the portal to get there, they are inadvertently redirected to another realm: Avalar, which has been taken over by a magical lunatic named Ripto and his minions. The locals beseech Spyro to help free their land, and, well, he just can't say no to being a hero again.

One of the things that I really liked about this, and the subsequent sequel, (the last of the original trilogy), was how consistent it was. All of the original gameplay elements were there, but there were a few new ones added, new moves and abilities, a few new styles of gameplay, lots of new enemies and environments and cool little touches added in.

There were new characters, too. Hunter the Cheetah, who's heart is in the right place but he's kind of an idiot. Moneybags the Bear, who basically acts as an artificial block for the game. You need to pay him gems in order to access new parts of the game. Elora the Faun, who is probably the only competent person in Avalar. And the Professor. He's apparently a mole. He's sort of the cliched unstable, absentminded genius scientist character who's always tinkering with stuff and blowing shit up on accident.

After having basically nothing but dragons that cropped up every now and then to offer like two lines of dialogue apiece, it was nice to have a more expanded and consistent cast.

In addition to collecting gems and now orbs instead of eggs, you also need Talismans from each level, although they can't really be missed. And then there's skill points, which are harder and require you to do something beyond the basics. Generally they're a pain in the ass, but they aren't insanely difficult and they unlock a cool epilogue.

Except for the turtle soup challenge.

Fuck that challenge.

All in all, Spyro 2 was kind of a perfect example of a sequel. It both continued the story and expanded the universe in a meaningful way while simultaneously maintaining the mechanics of the previous game while improving upon and adding to them.

Also, I beat it!


Although there were parts of the game I remember as being annoying, (sometimes maddeningly so), the vast majority of the game was fun.

Spyro the Dragon 3: Year of the Dragon.

Less than a year went by before we got Spyro 3, which is actually just called Spyro: Year of the Dragon. I wish they'd have kept the numbered titles.

Not that it would have mattered beyond this game.

Continuing the marathon that is the Spyro Trilogy, Year of the Dragon has pretty much everything I said before about the first two. It continued the good stuff while expanding on it without changing it too much.

As for new content, there was a lot of it.

Instead of just adding in some more characters to fill out the cast a bit, now you get to actually play as other characters, each with their own mechanics and style of play. Hunter's back, and you get to play as him in a few challenges. You get to play as Sheila the Kangaroo, Sergeant Byrd the Penguin (who has shoulder mounted rocket launchers), Bentley the eloquent Yeti, and Agent 9 the Monkey. Elora shows up briefly and the Professor is back as well. And you even get to play as Sparx the Dragonfly! There are four top-down shooter levels for him.

The story in this one is that Hunter has come back with Spyro to kick it in the dragon worlds from the first game, and during the Year of the Dragon, when new dragon eggs are hatched, a bunch of bad guys drill up from underneath the ground, coming from apparently the other side of the world, and steal a bunch of dragon eggs. So naturally Spyro and Hunter are like 'fuck that' and go after them, finding themselves in a strange, forgotten land. Apparently dragons used to live in these lands a thousand years ago, but for whatever reason abandoned them, and now the magic is gone from the lands.

The main antagonist is the Sorceress, a dinosaur-like despot who claims to be using all the eggs to harness their natural magic to restore the magic-starved lands. So it's about the same: fight the evil army, defeat the antagonists, recover gems and eggs, all the good stuff.

On a side note, I have to say again that I just love their data tracking system. Even from the first game you get a menu that gives you detailed access to every level and every world. If you're missing some gems, you can at least discern which level they are missing from. It's up to you to actually track them down, but it really helps narrow it down. And it's just nice to have an overall percentage counter and a clear, concise database.

Another thing that really impressed me, not just in Spyro 3 but across the whole trilogy, was how many different, distinct, unique worlds they managed to come up with. Each of them is fairly separate from the others and each has a clear theme, and there are a LOT of levels and worlds.

Unfortunately, I did not conquer Spyro 3. It conquered me. Although I did beat the game, (no thanks to the fucking boxing challenge. Seriously, the turtle soup challenge from Spyro 2 is nothing in comparison to this fucking nightmare), I just didn't have the patience for the post-game stuff. It was a fucking nightmare and I just wanted to be done with it.

That's how far I got out of 117%.

So that sucked.

But whatever, it was overall a fun experience. The Spyro Trilogy is great. I did end up trying to play one of the new ones, as someone got me a copy of one of the 360 games, but I hardly played it all. Whatever magic Insomniac captured with the original trilogy seemed to have been lost immediately. They managed to capture lightning in a bottle for three games. I'm not sure whether or not I can recommend it, because if you're like me and you played it back in the day and remember it lovingly, then you already know how great it is.

But if you didn't? I don't know how well it holds up today. I mean, it seemed like it had pretty good mechanics and gameplay, but it's a lot harder to tell, because I'm not a good judge of stuff like that. All I know is that I got decent at it back in the day and then I remembered it, so I know what to do. I don't know if it would be easy to learn sitting down to it right now.

If you do get it though, plug it into your PS2, since plays better there. You'll need a PS1 memory card, though.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Near Horizon: August 2017

I admittedly don't have a whole lot to report, although I have one cool thing to say.

First, apologies, for not having finished Episode One of DOOM yet. On top of being extremely busy, I'm having some pretty serious sleep-related problems. I think it's because I'm so fucking stressed and anxiety-riddled from all the work I've been having to do. I never thought I'd be at the point where I was *happy* to get just seven hours of sleep a night, but if I could reliably count on that, I'd be fucking thrilled.

If anyone cares, my main problem is that I can't *get* to sleep. I'm a night owl. I know the fact that I stay up very late isn't the problem, because it's been working for years now. Something's changed in the past few weeks. At first, it was that I couldn't get to sleep at my normal bedtime (4AM). I'd lay there, go into a kind of half-doze for about 20 minutes, and...then I was awake again. For like, fucking hours. I'd lay in bed for fucking HOURS trying to sleep, eventually passing out at like 7 or 8 in the morning.

A temporary solution was adjusting my schedule slightly. I found that if I went to bed after the sun came up, at around 6AM, I was so tired that I was thrilled to be laying down, and I'd go to sleep almost right away.

Then that stopped working. No idea why.

I'm doing things to try and fix this, (avoiding anything stimulating later in the day food/drink wise, stopping doing anything involving a screen before going to bed, reading), but honestly it's a total shot in the dark whether or not it'll work. Last Sunday night, tried and failed to get to sleep at a regular time, and I was so pissed off that I said FUCK IT, and decided that if my fucking brain and body was so fucking convinced that it didn't need to sleep, then I wouldn't give it ANY goddamned sleep.

If you can't tell, this is really bringing out my rage side.

I stayed up for 36 hours. Finally caved and fell asleep at 2AM Tuesday morning, slept til 1PM and felt a whole lot better. Tuesday night going into Wednesday, couldn't fucking sleep again. I was up until 9AM, had to get back up at 1PM. Thursday night went better, although it was a close call. Laid down to sleep at 5:30AM, woke up some short time later confused, exhausted and incoherent as hell. I'd been having a sort of half-dream about Fire Warrior (I'm reading it again right now), and found that I was having a bit of trouble differentiating between reality and my dream. But I could tell that I was waking back up. While I was laying there, exhausted out of my fucking mind, trying to figure this out, I apparently fell back asleep, cause next thing I knew, I was waking up to my alarm.

Since Friday it's been going...okay. I've at least fallen asleep when I've tried, but I've been staying up until 6:30AM or so because I'm so paranoid of it happening again. I'm...trying to deal with it in my own way, as I'm reluctant to put anymore pills in my body. It's not that I have a problem with pills at all, it's more that I'm just fucking paranoid. I've heard too many stories of people accidentally ODing on stuff, having lethal allergic reactions to basic stuff. I mean fuck, that's how Monty Oum from RoosterTeeth died. Then there's stuff like Serotonin Storm that can come up out of fucking nowhere from a basic psych med and KILL you. I'm aware that the chances of something like that happening are very low, but it only takes once, you know?

If it persists and I exhaust all other options, though, I'm sure I'll get there eventually.

So...yeah. I'm sure you're so thrilled that you got to read all that.

Anyway, about the story stuff.

The DOOM Chronicles has one more chapter and an epilogue, then it's going on hiatus. Then Gone Home will start posting. After that, I'm genuinely uncertain if I'll be able to return to fan fiction for several months. I really want to get The Shadow Wars wrapped up, republished, and put into paperback as soon as possible. I'm having a difficult enough time finding time to do so as it is, so I really think fan fiction needs to go on the back burner for a little bit. So that sucks.

Speaking of the Shadow Wars...Dead Ice has begun posting! It and Dead Skies should go up pretty quickly. Then the first stumbling block will hit: Dead Rain. I've got it planned out, but as for when I'll find time to actually write it? I can't say. I've begun working on it, but haven't made a great deal of progress yet. I'll make a real effort, but I can't promise anything. After that, though, lots more regular publishing. Then again I've gotta stop for Quarantine. Then smooth sailing all the way up to Into the Void, which is a total rewrite. Then, once Saturate is finished, six brand new shorts!

After that, paperbacks!

If I'm VERY lucky, and work VERY hard, I *might* be able to get paperbacks out before the end of the year, but I would absolutely not count on it.

So...sorry about all that. 2017 doesn't really seem to be my year. Partly because I'm working my ass off in an attempt to enter 2018 from a much better starting point.

Thanks for the support.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Game Talk #20: Call of Duty - Infinite Warfare

So, why has it been so long since I've done one of these?

I'm so fucking busy that I don't even know how to describe it.

So anyway, I've been obsessed with Infinite Warfare. This game is one of those like underdog, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the absolute last moment kind of games for me. Why? A little history.

I first became introduced to Call of Duty with Modern Warfare. It blew me the fuck away. MW2 only blew me away even more. It remains, I think, the best Call of Duty game, (although now Infinite Warfare is my favorite). Modern Warfare 3 I loved as well and that's actually where I got into the multiplayer. In fact, it was the only time I've ever gotten into CoD multiplayer.

I didn't care about anything that came before Modern Warfare, nor World at War, nor Black Ops 1 & 2. But when Ghosts came out in 2013, I was excited, because it sounded interesting. I got it, fully intending to get back into multiplayer, but it just didn't work out that way, mainly because I found the game lackluster. I didn't even beat the campaign first time through, but going through it a second time, I actually enjoyed and beat it. And then haven't played it since. Extinction was a great idea, too. I really wish that would have taken off.

Also, on a side note, while I gladly would sacrifice Ghosts 2 for IW, I am kind of disappointed that they just left that cliffhanger ending.

When Advanced Warfare came out, I really liked that one. Fantastic campaign and gameplay. I thought it managed to feel different while still also feeling like a CoD game. Not to mention, good lord, those cut-scenes still look cutting edge.

Then Black Ops 3 happened, and I grabbed a copy, brand new, full price, launch day, and played through the campaign. I was less enthralled with this one. I mean, at first, I really liked where it was going, especially with some light horror aspects, and later some psychological thriller aspects. Unfortunately, it didn't build to a satisfying conclusion. (Seriously, I was so confused by the ending, I had to go look it up, and even then it still seemed weird.) So it was a great idea with a bad finale. And I still didn't like the damned multiplayer.

It was after finishing up Black Ops 3 that I know what? I need to stop buying these games brand new, full price. I mean, I'm only playing the campaign through once, maybe twice, and that's it. I just don't care about the multiplayer, and I don't even care about the zombie mode anymore. (Advanced Warfare didn't even ship with it!!!)

Then Infinite Warfare started getting teased, and I was fucking amped. I have been waiting for Call of Duty in space, and I mean ACTUALLY in space, not just like in Earth orbit for like one level, but fighting on Mars and the moon and all over the solar system, for like eight years now, back when I first got the idea. And of course we all know how the IW launch trailer became the most disliked video on YouTube ever. Or close to it, anyway.

Let's talk about that for a second. Why are/were people bitching SO much about that? Like, listen, WWII has been done TO. FUCKING. DEATH. There are so many fucking books and games and movies about it, and it's all CoD even was before Modern Warfare came along and finally made the series actually interesting. And I know people are going to say the same thing about 'future' CoD now, but I honestly think that while, yeah, I was actually getting tired of fighting robots in the nearish future, Infinite Warfare broke through the ceiling and catapulted into an entirely new realm of storytelling. This wasn't just Earth in 2050 or 2080, with some high-tech stuff and robots. This was fucking actual, real outer space, for almost the whole game.

Ironically, I did not purchase Infinite Warfare in 2016. In fact, I kind of forgot about it, since I've got so much else going on in my life, and so many other games on my to-play list. In May of this year, I decided to take a quick look at the price, and saw that it was half-off, down to 25$ on Amazon, and figured, 'Okay, yeah, a good a time as any.' And I bought it. Started playing it, got pissed off in the prologue because of one poorly designed area, and...stopped playing for about a month and a half, since that whole busyness thing doesn't really go away.

Fast forward to this month, July, where I look at the game case and think, 'Okay, CoD campaigns aren't THAT long, and I started it, I've at least got to beat it once.' So I put it back in, started a fresh campaign, and got to work.

And then I fell immediately in love.

Currently, I'm on my like...fifth playthrough of the campaign. It's rare I do that anymore, especially when I'm playing it for the sheer sake of experiencing the game and I'm not going for any achievements or challenges or anything. I'm simply enjoying the story and the environment.

So why is that? Well, let's start with a quick plot synopsis to make sure we're all on the same page.

It's the future. The game doesn't specify the year, but we've got FTL flight and colonies all over the solar system and the Earth is basically unified. There's mining colonies on moons and asteroids, orbital shipyards, and research outposts and full colonies on several planets and larger moons. Now, some time ago, during the 'gold rush' era of space colonization, the Settlement Defense Front was a military force created to instill some law and order out there on the frontier. Eventually, they decided they could do it better all by themselves and went rogue, launching the Secession Wars and attempting to seize control of the whole system. Ultimately, it culminated in peace accords and the divvying up of the system.

Apparently, though, they never stopped thinking they could do it better, and were really just biding their time. The game opens with the SDF launching an all-out surprise attack on Earth and, in the process of driving them off, the Earth loses all but two of its space-worthy destroyer ships. In the chaos, the main character, Nick Reyes, a veteran combat pilot, gets put in charge of one of these ships. And now it's up to you and your crew to stop the SDF from finishing the job by kicking their ass all over the system.

So, pretty cool premise. Gameplay wise, the game has a little over a half dozen primary story missions. That sounds like not a lot, but not only are these fairly lengthy levels, often divided up into multiple parts, but the game is supplemented by an additional nine side missions that are either areal combat or more traditional FPS style.

It's a pretty solid campaign.

So why do I like it so much?

For the sake of transparency, I think that it's really more of a coincidence that I love this game. I don't love it because it's Call of Duty, or even because it has a truly stellar campaign or story or characters, but mainly because I finally, finally have a game where I can play in the solar system. I've never really had that before. I've always had a love of astronomy and the planets and their moons. I obsessed over it all when I was much younger, and today that translates into a passing interest that, if properly stimulated, becomes intense.

Like with this game.

All that being said, Infinite Warfare is still a great campaign. It has a simple but well-executed story, a very good cast of characters that aren't 'Generic Marine #7' or 'Typical Technician #28'. When you are onboard your ship, the Retribution, even the background characters feel pretty real and diverse. That's another thing, diversity. Most of the gaming industry just got its ass handed to it in terms of having an inclusive cast by a fucking Call of Duty game. That's kind of unreal, and awesome.

So what's wrong with the game then?

Right off the bat, I didn't try the multiplayer even once. Although I glanced at it a little, and I liked what I saw in that there's a bit more of a story to the MP, I'm still not interested. The wall-running and jump-jetting and gadgets and crap, it's too much for me. I'm boring in that I just want more old school, Halo 3 and MW3 era gameplay in my multiplayer. Also, again with that busy thing, I don't really have time for multiplayer.

To be honest, not much is really wrong with the game, per say. If anything, the complaints I had were really just me wishing there were more things.

The side missions. Although they did get a bit repetitive, (every single one of them where you get out of your space jet takes place on an enemy cruiser, I wanted to go onto more planets and moons!), they're still good missions in and of themselves. And furthermore, why didn't they DLC in more of these side missions!? It'd have been absolutely perfect for such an opportunity.

The ship itself that you occupy between missions. What there was, was pretty cool. But you were confined to a very small portion of the ship. I wanted to explore! I wanted more areas to see, more features, more conversations, maybe even mini-games? It was a hugely wasted opportunity.

The zombies. Okay, this is really my biggest gripe. The zombie mode in this was just fucking stupid. The story was so out there, so over the top, so unnecessary that I didn't even see the point. I mean, it has nothing to do with the universe or the campaign, as far as I can tell. Maybe I'm wrong and I missed something, but I don't even care. In a universe of gritty military sci-fi, I don't want to play a sub-game where I'm trapped in a carnival on the moon because an '80s horror director made a deal with the Devil to be immortal and...needs to feed people to zombies to keep it going? I don't fucking know.

All I know is that they wasted a perfectly good opportunity. Why not have it be part of the universe?! It'd be so easy to have like, a research station on Venus go dark, and you are part of a four-person squad sent in to investigate, and find zombies! That'd be so fucking awesome!

Actually, you know what? Fuck it, I'll do it myself.

The other real criticism I have of the story is the bad guys. The SDF. Their intentions are really kind of basic and as an enemy, they're a little lame. I mean, they have this asshole boss who is just a lunatic. At one point, he literally tells you all to 'surrender for execution'. Like, why even bother? Is this guy really so fucking stupid that he thinks that would work? If death is a certainty following surrender, what person wouldn't keep fighting?

Really, they just kind of came off as space Nazis. They basically think that they have the right to rule over the solar system because they're tougher. Seriously, that's their argument. We are tougher than you are, so you don't deserve your stuff. We do. I mean, that makes for a quick and easy bad guy army, I guess, but it would have been nice if there was some more thought put into this.

That's all I can really think of in terms of complaints.

Oh wait, one more thing. A lot of people have complained about the name of the game, and...yeah, I mean, I can see. Infinite Warfare. What does that even mean? It sounds like a really high-concept sci-fi, but this is decidedly not high concept.

What was wrong with Solar Warfare? Spacial Warfare? Interstellar Warfare?

On the good side, there's a few cool things worked into the game. Like your 'Most Wanted Board'. Basically, it's the command structure of the SDF, and they let you know every time you kill someone on the board, and they get crossed off the list. In most cases, you actually have to fight them. Typically in dogfights. Honestly, it doesn't amount to much functionally speaking, you don't get perks for doing it or anything, but it adds to the atmosphere.

And then there are Armories you can find scattered throughout the game. Finding these will give you tangible perks in the game like faster reloading, better equipment, increased accuracy, etc.

To be honest, the game is a little basic, and I feel like that was intentional. Either they left it basic so that there was a good and easy foundation to build off of, (they say they want to make it a series within CoD, ((PLEASE)), so that would make sense), or they were spreading their resources between campaign, zombies, and multiplayer, and this was as much as they could do. Either way, despite being a bit simple, the campaign is great and well-crafted.

So if you've got a love of the solar system, or really just First Person Shooters in general, give the campaign a shot! This is a solid game. (Again, just the campaign, no idea about MP.)

My only genuine concern now is that due to the bitching and the comparatively less sales of IW, they'll cancel their plans to do sequels. Please don't, Infinity Ward! Make more! Make many more! There's so much left to explore, so much potential for expansion.

Here's hoping.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Near Horizon: July 2017

Hello everyone!

So...this isn't going to be a happy update. I mean, well, it kind of is, but...okay, there's some good news and some bad news.

Here's the good news: I have finally unlocked the ability to reliably create print-on-demand paperbacks! This is something I've been trying to figure out for years now. I'm also in the process of getting The Shadow Wars up on other sales platforms. Or, I mean, I will once I have gone through the process of editing and adjusting the whole series.

Side Note: If you have missed out on it, I'm editing, touching up, or otherwise revising the entire Shadow Wars series, AND releasing everything on my S. A. Lusher WattPad account starting 08.01.2017. For the most part, everything will remained untouched, but the pertinent facts are that I'm going to expand Quarantine into a full-blown novel and The Blind War and Into the Void are being boiled down into a single novel, to be titled Into the Void, and I'll be adding a third novella to the prequels called Dead Rain. I'm also going to be releasing six brand new short stories that each feature one of the surviving main characters, taking place after Saturate, as well as a six novel sequel series to The Shadow Wars that takes place ten years later and features a brand new protagonist. If you want more details, check out the first post on my new blog for S. A. Lusher. Web Address:

The other good news is that I'm still making slow but steady progress on my new original Post-Apocalyptic Survival/Horror novel, although it is going slower and less steady than I would have hoped, as June, particularly the last half of it, was insanely busy. I'm looking for to, starting Monday, a huge segment of time where I just work on writing stuff with few interruptions.

So that's the good news. I'm basically going to be dedicating the rest of the year to writing my new novel, and editing, touching up, and expanding upon The Shadow Wars, and turning them into paperbacks.

The bad news is that this is going to cut into my fan fiction writing even more than before. Here's what I'll say: I'm going to keep writing fan fiction in whatever spare time I can find, but I won't be able to promise any kind of upload schedule.

So...sorry about that. I'm hoping that the return of The Shadow Wars, with new content, will make up for that.

Also, either to help make up for that or to make myself feel better, (because please believe me, I feel the pain, I want to write all the fan fiction, but I just don't have the time, and I have to sacrifice something), I'm going to talk about other fan fic projects I have planned in the future.

First of all, let's get the immediate stuff out of the way.

Gathering Darkness is finished. In case anyone is interested, I do actually have a couple more ideas for potential entries in that series, but it will be awhile before I even think about getting to them. All I can say is that the sequel will be REALLY weird and different and a fan fiction crossover of a game I don't think basically anyone ever has written about.

The DOOM Chronicles: Episode One is really close to being done. I'm going to try and finish it as soon as I can, and then I am putting that series on hiatus for awhile because holy crap, that was a LOT of writing. And the series isn't even close to finished.

As I mentioned earlier, I'll be posting my novelization of Gone Home as soon as The DOOM Chronicles Episode One is finished.

I've been blathering on about my secret project for awhile now, and although I've made some good progress on planning it, I've also been feeling a slow, subtle shift in my desire to write it right now. I honestly hate to say something vague and stupid like that, because it sounds like such a useless, wishy-washy thing to say. But that's really as well as I can put it.

Let me try to articulate it a little better.

I think the problem is that as time gone on, and will continue to go on, my desire to work on this project has diminished and my desire to work on other projects has gotten more powerful. The obvious answer to get over it and work on the project. And that's what I do when working on original fiction. But with fan fiction, I do it more for pleasure than anything else, as a kind of stress relief, and it's harder to do so if I'm working on fan fiction I don't want to. Now, obviously I don't abandon any fan fic as soon as I start to get tired of writing it. Once I start, I try really hard to commit to the end, and I've gone pretty well so far, I think.

So anyway, I'm not even sure what I'm going to do next and it doesn't even matter all that much right now since I just explained how little time I have. I'm hoping that, after a few weeks of consistency, I'll start figuring out how to manage my time better.

Right now, I think I'll probably tackle Unreal 2: The Awakening, but honestly, I've been fairly consistently fighting the urge to write some Halo fan fiction for a long time now. Like, since the beginning of the year. Technically longer, I guess. Gathering Darkness did a little bit to help, but it was kind of narrow in terms of getting to write in that universe. So...I dunno, maybe I'll start working on both of them? We'll see.

Now let's talk about everything else.

I do still plan on novelizing both of The Suffering games. Those are a pair of third person shooter horror-action games released back on the original Xbox back in the day. They are awesome. Lots of crazy monsters. I am going to try and also created a third story, closure, as there was never a third game.

Red Faction. I plan on doing a full novelization of Red Faction, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Red Faction: Armageddon. Red Faction will be a pretty straight novelization. I'm going to expand a great deal on Guerrilla, since the story was extremely threadbare. I also plan to make a big tweak to Armageddon's story as it had a massive plothole and it was a little weak, and I thought of an absolutely awesome way to make it more in keeping with Red Faction tradition.

Split Second. This one is an obscure, strange as hell buddy cop comedy/horror/action B-movie staring freaking Rutger Hauer of all people. I think you can find the whole thing on YouTube. It is so worth watching. I want to novelize it, and possibly even make a series of it. If the power is ever available to me, I want to purchase the rights to the film so that I can do it officially. A pipe dream, I know, but it's nice to dream.

Half-Life. I have an epic series planned. Much in the same vein as DOOM, it will feature a few different protagonists and span the breadth of the Half Life series...and extend beyond it, since Valve has officially fucked us over and abandoned the series because 'they just don't really feel like it right now' and 'the time just isn't right to make a new Half-Life' game. Seriously, fuck Valve. This one will admittedly be more difficult, as my stories take their cues from the games. So I guess I'll just have to continue the franchise in my own way. But I can at least say it's going to be a lot of fun.

Halo. I plan on writing a sequel trilogy to Halo 3. Halo 4 sucked. Halo 5...I didn't even fucking bother. And it seems like I was right not to. The franchise is dead to me now. But I suddenly got a pretty cool idea for my own version of Halo 4, 5, & 6 last year. I want to get to this, you know, someday. Eventually.

Before I get started on that, however, I plan on writing an epic Halo serial. If anyone here is familiar with any of my old Halo content like Through the Eyes of Another, To Be A Marine, or, more recently The Rookie Chronicles, it's basically a hard reboot of almost all of my Halo-related ideas I've ever had, put into one epic length series. It's going to be so long that it will put The DOOM Chronicles to shame by comparison. I fully expect to still be writing this particular fan fiction for five years at least. Probably longer.

See You at the Bottom. I haven't forgotten about this! It's still a secret. Sorry. But I'm going to actually try and get this one out of the way in the relatively near future.

Knights of the Old Republic 3. Yes. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, I wrote a 187,000 word epic called Heroes of the Old Republic, and it served as a sequel to KOTOR 2, and it was only the first story in a trilogy that never manifested. Now, granted it was overly wordy, and I could do a way better job, but I do plan on writing this one at some point. I've been thinking about KOTOR 3 for over ten years now and I've got a really, REALLY cool idea for how to end that particular trilogy.

Those are the most certain ones. I have a handful of other stories that I'm kind of certain about, ones that interest me, but I haven't really had any time to think about. I'll briefly touch on those.

StarFox 64. A little under ten years ago, I wrote what I felt, at the time, was the StarFox 64 fan fiction I had been trying to write for years by then. It was called Hero and it was my own idea for a sequel to that game. I ended up writing a sequel to Hero, and had intended to finish it off as a trilogy. However, by the time I could even think about writing that final story, so much time had passed that I realized I should probably rewrite the first two stories, because I had come a long way, writing wise. I actually still want to do this.

Dead Space. I was fairly disappointed with Dead Space 3. Not necessarily for the story, (interesting story/atmosphere), but for the execution and gameplay. God the gameplay sucked. But at one point I had an idea for my own version of Dead Space 3 before there even was a DS3. It was long and epic and I still might write it someday.

Friday the 13th. I've been a fan of this series for awhile, and I've incorporated Jason Voorhees into my fan fiction before, but I've never actually written a Friday the 13th fanfic. Well, after learning that, after years and YEARS of being in development, the new Jason movie has officially been canceled, I just said, "You know what, fuck it. I'll do it myself." I've got an idea for not just one story, but a sequel series to the original series. Again, someday I want to do this.

Star Trek. I've talked about novelizing certain Star Trek episodes. Horror ones, obviously. But those ideas faded...all except for one. One episode I keep coming back to is TNG: Schisms. Although I lament the ultimate payoff of the episode, (and so do the producers, according to some interviews), I think that the episode had a fantastic build-up. I'd like to expand on that with a novelization/adaptation.

StarCraft. I've toyed around with writing StarCraft fan fiction only a handful of times over the past fifteen years. I love the games, (though I have yet to play the sequel trilogy, someday!). But with the news of StarCraft: Remastered, I realized how much I missed that series, and how much I actually really do want to write fan fiction for it. At the moment, I have a tentative idea, and it'd be fairly standard fare for what you've normally seen me write, just StarCraft flavored. This is definitely another one that'll be a ways off, unless, of course, when I get StarCraft: Remastered (we finally have a release date!), and I not only get super amped and into the idea of a fanfic (that's going to happen, I'm sure), but I stay super amped for a month or more, then it might end up getting prioritized. I dunno, we'll see.

Right now, that's all I have written down in my database. I have a few other ideas floating around, but they're all pretty distant. A few more novelizations of obscure (and not so obscure but mainly forgotten) horror games. But to be totally honest, I really need to whittle down my current list before I can even think of adding anything new, and given how my primary focus right now is original fiction, that may be awhile.

Honestly, I'm hoping that by the time this year is winding down, I might be actually on the road to having a more viable and stable income. Is this is true, then I should be able to actually start posting more fan fiction more reliable. Also, I've been thinking a lot about machinima for some reason a lot recently. Someday, I really do plan to get back to it. I really want to finish the Not Alone Trilogy and continued beyond it.

But anyway, that's it. Thanks for the support everyone, I really appreciate it.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Game Talk #19: The Elder Scrolls - Oblivion

So, I have a lot to say about this game. Pretty much all of it good.

I'd like to preface this by saying that I had never played an Elder Scrolls game before Oblivion. I know, I'm a horrible blasphemer, I never played Morrowind. I actually tried it, but I just don't have the patience for it.

Let me set the stage.

It's late 2006. My mom had gotten an Xbox 360 for me for my birthday several months ago. At this point in my life, the most expansive games I'd ever played were World of Warcraft and Knights of the Old Republic. I had never really played an 'open world' game, and they weren't nearly so common back then.

I had been hearing so much about Oblivion and I finally managed to grab a copy. I knew that the game was going to be big, and amazing, and beautiful, but I really had no idea. One of my most distinct memories is playing the game with my wife beside me, (at that point, we'd been dating for just a few months), and I had just left the Imperial City and had crossed a bridge. Making my way up a steep incline, I killed a giant rat and immediately noticed the way its body actually reacted to gravity. I remember hitting it with my sword and watching it roll a few feet down the hill. It looked so realistic.

My mom came out and was like, "What the fuck are you doing?"

And we had to explain to her why physics like this in a game were so amazing.

Also, as a kind of final side note, there was once a period of time where my wife would come over after work and play the game until she had to go home. That's about an eight hour block of time. And she did this for several days in a row. She'd never really played video games before we started dating, but she'd always wanted to, and I became a gateway. At this point, she plays more games than I do.

In The Elder Scrolls - Oblivion, you play an unnamed, unspecified protagonist who has been locked up in prison. You get to determine basically everything about your character in true RPG style, and that was something that blew me away. Before, the most customization I'd ever encountered was probably KOTOR, which isn't really a lot, or WoW, which was more, but still not much compared to this game.

Honestly, is there anyone out there actually interested in this game who doesn't know the specifics of it?

The sheer amount of stuff to do in Oblivion was crazy. I mean, looking back on it now that we have Skyrim, it doesn't seem like all that much. Skyrim outperforms Oblivion in basically every way. And I imagine if you're going back from Skyrim to Oblivion, then it'd be hard to get into. But I was there at that perfect moment in time when Oblivion totally blew my mind. There were just so many people to talk to and entire towns with buildings you could go into. You could go into basically every building! I'd never seen anything like that.

And then there was the environment. It's obvious that the designers spent a lot of time painstakingly handcrafting that environment. It wasn't just beautiful, but also unique. There were just so many little things you could come across, so many little scenes with contextual storytelling. By that I mean, there were whole areas that had nothing to do with the main quest, or any quests for that matter, that had been set up to tell very simple little stories about the people inhabiting it or why it was there.

One thing I remember is coming across a tent with some garlic hanging down from the top and a book inside about vampires. Really basic stuff, but it just worked. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but little stuff like that was always so neat, especially considering they didn't have to do that. How many missed out on most of these little details because a lot of people don't naturally go exploring? It's actually a little depressing.

I could go on for pages about the specifics.

Final thoughts? The game has a lot of problems, but that's the nature of Bethesda games. When you make games this huge, there's going to be bugs. But Oblivion was, for me at least, and I imagine a lot of other people, groundbreaking. I understand that a lot of people who were already invested in the Elder Scrolls series, specifically Morrowind, were fairly disappointed with this game, as they felt it had been dumbed down and made into generic fantasy. Which, given how intricate and difficult Morrowind was, I guess I can see it. But this is just my perspective, and my opinion, and for me, Oblivion was simply amazing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Games That Should Be More Popular in Fan Fiction

I've been writing fan fiction for almost fifteen years now.

Something that's always bothered me, and continues to do so to this day, is that there are some games that seem like they should have a great deal more fan fiction than they do. And I've never been able to really figure it out. I guess this post is kind of asking for opinions.

Why do you think these games never got off the ground in the fan fiction forums?

Also, a few things to consider. When I go looking for fan fiction, I mainly go to and WattPad. I know there exist other sites for fan fiction, (and even WattPad is, well, debatable as to whether or not it caters to fan fiction, I don't consider stories about Youtubers and bands fan fiction), but every one I've come across tends to be far less well put-together and enjoy far less traffic than either of those two sites.

So, first on the list: ID Software games.

By that, I mean the unholy trinity that is Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein. I mean that in a good way.

I think there is an obvious and direct correlation between popularity and the amount of fan fictions. So why are these three series so dormant and unpopular in that regard? There might be somewhat of an argument for Quake and Wolfenstein, they're popular, to be sure, but fucking everyone knows about DOOM. I mean, come on.

And the numbers do actually reflect this. On, the stats for these three series are:

DOOM: 351 Stories
Wolfenstein: 23 Stories
Quake: 48 Stories

But those numbers seem abysmally low, especially considering that all three series have seen a resurgence recently. (Although the new Quake game is both non-story oriented and not out yet.) And, on top of that, both Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM were very good games with completely solid, well-crafted campaigns.

It gets even more confusing when you consider the fact that all three series were already well established by the time Fanfiction came online in 1998, AND you consider the fact that these are all the stories we have access to after eighteen years of continuous gathering. Sure, some people will have deleted their stories, but this is absurd. All three franchises have interesting storylines and universes that easily cater to fan fiction writers.

Okay, this one is even more perplexing.

Half-Life is really popular. Although it's past its heyday, it still has a very strong following if only because everyone is fruitlessly holding their breath for Half-Life 3.

The game is fairly legendary. Half-Life 1 and 2 were both pretty groundbreaking when they came out, and it was awesome when Episodes 1 and 2 came out as well. Given the sheer amount of mods, machinima, and other content related to this, you'd think fan fiction wouldn't be far behind.

And yet, there's just over 1,200 fan fictions on Sounds like a lot, but consider that Half-Life came out the same year that the website launched, and what you're seeing is the culmination of eighteen years of traffic. Also consider the more popular games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age or Final Fantasy 7, which enjoy tens of thousands of fan fics.

You'd think Half-Life would be up there, not just because of its interesting and huge universe, but also because of the fact that the series ends on a fucking cliffhanger.

(Side note: Fuck you, Valve.)

Next on the list is somewhat more understandable.

Sorry I couldn't find a better banner. Don't get me wrong, this one is nice, but I would have preferred a more series-encompassing one.

Anyway. The Red Faction series.

I was there from the beginning. I played Red Faction on the PS2 in 2003 and fell in love. I played Red Faction 2 and was deeply disappointed to learn that it actually wasn't a sequel to Red Faction, because it had nothing to do with that game. I had mixed feelings about the third and fourth game, but have come to really love them.

So what happened?

The Red Faction franchise takes place across over a hundred years, has had some comics, five games, (if you count Battlegrounds, which I never played), and even a movie. (That didn't totally suck! Is it possible?! A made-for-TV video game movie, handled by THE FUCKING SYFY CHANNEL, that didn't suck?!).

And yet there are a grand total of twenty eight fan fictions. The series was obviously popular enough to warrant three sequels and a movie. I'll grant that interest in the franchise has dropped off since Armageddon flopped, but there's been over a decade to build up the library.

Granted, SubNautica hasn't been around nearly as long as these other games, but this game has been in development and available to play for approaching two and a half years now. It clearly has a large following and a pretty solid community. Given that it's an open world game with a plot that has been largely absent until recent updates, (and is still, right now, incomplete), with a lot of mystery still left to the player's imagination, including a silent protagonist, this seems like the kind of thing that would have exploded.

And yet Fanfiction only has fourteen stories for it. Fourteen. WattPad has about as many, maybe more, (although I don't count those self-insert Markiplier stories, and, given the view count on a lot of those, apparently neither does almost anyone else).

So what's the story?

There's more, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. From a personal standpoint , I find it kind of depressing, and I plan on writing fan fictions for some of these, so I obviously have some kind of investment.

But really, it begs the question, why do some games take off while other games, which are just as popular, if not more so, get left in the dust, in terms of a fan fiction archive?

There are others, obviously, but these are the most immediate ones that come to mind.

So why is this? I don't have a lot of ideas, but a few things come to mind. In regards to the first person shooters, I think that fans of this genre just don't do a lot of reading and writing of fan fiction. Glancing over even the top twenty games being written about on, the only first person shooter up there is Halo. It seems to be the exception, not the rule. For whatever strange reason, it broke the mold.

There is also a very good chance that I'm just not looking in the right places. While FanFiction and WattPad are certainly popular, the internet is an enormous place, and I'm sure I'm missing a crapload of fan fics being written on smaller sites or forums.

Oh yeah, also Metro 2033 and Last Light. I know that the books have a huge following and the author even allowed a ton of other people to extend the universe with lots of other novels, novellas, and short stories. But there's less than one hundred fan fictions on FF for Metro, and the only section it has is in the game section. There's nothing for books. What happened there? Those two games were fucking awesome.