Category Archives: Personal

Personal

Best Games EVAR

For no particular reason (well, because I was thinking about it), here’s a list of what I consider to be the best video games ever made. It should go without saying that this list is incredibly biased and idiosyncratic, and since it only includes games that I have personally played and loved, a game’s omission doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that I either didn’t play it or it didn’t click with me.

Also, this is not an ordered list. Maybe I’ll make one of those later, but for now just wracking my brain for a list of games is hard enough without trying to decide what scale I’m going to use to decide which is my ALL TIME BESTEST FAVORITE EVER.

I’ve also included, in order, the developer, publisher, and the year of publication for my own reference (or the year I bought the game, if I played it substantially in alpha or beta). For series I loved, I just picked the best game.

  • Dark Forces (LucasArts, 1995)
  • Crusader Kings II (Paradox Development Studio, Paradox Interactive, 2012)
  • System Shock 2 (Irrational Games/Looking Glass Studios, EA, 1999)
  • TIE Fighter (Totally Games, LucasArts, 1994)
  • Kerbal Space Program (Squad, 2013)
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware, EA, 2010)
  • Age of Empires III (Ensemble Studios, Microsoft Game Studios, 2005)
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware, EA, 2003)
  • Thief 2: The Metal Age (Looking Glass Studios, Eidos, 2000)
  • Minecraft (Mojang, 2010?)
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (Firaxis Games, EA, 1999)
  • Unreal Tournament (Epic Games, GT Interactive, 1999)
  • Full Throttle (LucasArts, 1995)
  • Homeworld (Relic Entertainment, Sierra Entertainment, 1999)
  • Super Metroid (Nintendo, 1994)
  • Freespace 2 (Volition, Inc., Interplay, 1999)
  • Silent Hunter 4: Wolves of the Pacific (Ubisoft Romania, Ubisoft, 2007)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Traveller’s Tales, LucasArts, 2007)
  • Dark Souls (From Software, 2011)
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator X (Microsoft Game Studios, 2006)

Apparently I’m OCD enough to require that my list have an even number of items on it, so there you go. Some observations, now that I’ve actually got these written down:

  • Apparently I’m not a big fan of console titles. only three games above are console titles: Lego Star Wars, Super Metroid, and Dark Souls. Those last two the only Japanese games, also. I suspect that’s because a lot of genres that are very popular in Japan, like RPGs and platformers, aren’t genres I often get in to.
  • There’s a range of dates in there. I just bought Kerbal Space Program eight weeks ago but it’s already got a place in the “best games ever” category. On the flip side, TIE Fighter came out in 1994. Most of the titles are spread out over the intervening two decades, except…
  • 1999. Apparently that was a great year. 5 of the 20 games above were released in 1999, and Thief 2 was released in early 2000. All of those 1999 games (except for maybe Homeworld) are ones that I still play off and on.
  • Super Metroid is the only game above that I didn’t play at the time of its release. In fact, I’ve only played Super Metroid on emulators, since I never owned a SNES. I doubt the timing is coincidental: a lot of games, even if they stay awesome in some ways, aren’t always easy to play decades changes in graphics and, especially for me, interface standards can make old games tough to get into. That’s why you don’t see, for instance, Planescape: Torment on this list.
  • The mix of genres is well-represented. I don’t play many sports games or platformers, but I’ve got RPGs, FPSs, and both real-time and turn-based strategy games up there. Even sims! Man, I love sims and it sucks that most of the ones left are either too casual for my taste or too hardcore for the amount of time I have.

That’s pretty much it. What are your favorite titles? Strongly disagree with any of mine? Sound off.

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The Continuing Adventures

After a bit of a downer post on Monday, I first want to say that I’m feeling a lot better. I have actually gotten some writing done over the last few days, and even though it’s not exactly a thousand words a day it feels good. Real good.

I had two realizations this week that I think helped. The first one seems really obvious, but it’s surprising how easy it is for the newer writer to forget: write stuff you like to read. They say that you should write what you want to write, rather than writing for a market, which is obvious. “Ha!” I’d say. “Only losers try to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight.” And then… I go out and try to write something that I think could get published in Analog. I mean, I love Analog, but that’s still putting the cart before horse. Or in my case, leaving the horse out entirely, because I psych myself out of actually writing.

Realization two also sounds obvious, but I think it’s something I need to write down and staple to my forehead: just because writing isn’t my most favoritist thing to do evar, just because I like to do other things as well, doesn’t mean I can’t still be professional about my writing. It’s almost embarrassing to say, but that’s the mindset I was in, and it was seriously putting me in this spiral of despair. I’ll feel bad about not writing ten hours a day when (if) I’m writing full-time. For now, I have other things on my plate, and they need to be there.

Don’t worry, this is going to be the last post on this subject for a while; I don’t want to exhaust all of your goodwill.

I’ve made a few site changes, particularly in the sidebar area. As you can see, I now have a blogroll, and it’s looking a little meager right now. If you want your blog or website on it, go ahead and let me know. You can also subscribe to have new posts sent directly to your mailbox, and really, can you bear the thought of missing one of my posts for even a few minutes? Go ahead and admit it to yourself.

I didn’t get much writing done at all this weekend; I spent Saturday and Sunday hiking in the beautiful Tillamook State Forest. It was a nice chance of scenery, and provided a bit of inspiration for my next novel.

Compulsions

Yesterday I was browsing Netflix Instant and I stumbled across an A&E documentary series that demanded to be watched. It’s called Hoarders; perhaps you’ve heard of it? Each episode documents the cleanup/intervention of one or two compulsive hoarders, showing their incredibly hostile reactions to people trying to throw away the garbage that has utterly consumed their homes. It doesn’t go for cheap, exploitative finger-pointing, but tries to get into the head of someone who’s life is run by their obsessions.

It’s kind of cathartic to watch. “At least I’m not like those people,” you say, watching a woman break down in tears because she needs to throw away the rotted pumpkins on her floor. Yet, the longer I watched, the more I identified with those people. In one of the episodes I watched, a young man with clinical OCD had become convinced that if he threw away any of the dog hair clogging his carpet, he was directly shortening the lifespan of his dog. He loved his dog, of course, and so even while he was telling the show’s host, “This is stupid, this is so stupid,” throwing away that dog hair took a physical effort.

There are times–more times than I like to admit–where writing is the same way for me. I consider myself a good writer, and I think that I could make a career out of it. But when I actually sit down to write, the idea of not writing well paralyzes me with fear. I don’t mean failing at writing, I just mean writing poor paragraphs and scenes. That’s stupid, right? Obviously your writing is never perfect, and the earlier the draft, the less perfect the writing. The only way you fail at writing is not to write, and yet…it’s damned hard to start typing. And then I feel guilty that I haven’t started yet, and that starts a this downward spiral.

I don’t like to complain too much on the blog here; I feel like nobody wants to listen to me whine. Yet, I think this is literally by biggest obstacle to getting published and getting a career, and if there’s any chance that airing it to the world can help be overcome it, then I’m willing to tolerate some uninterested people.

You can’t tell a depressed person, “Just cheer up.” Likewise, telling myself, “Aw, just write,” doesn’t seem likely to help. I’m not sure what the solution is, here. I’m going to try to write a thousand words a day over the next week, just to get back into gear. It’s always hardest to start writing when I stop for awhile. Then, we’ll see. And hopefully, next post, I’ll have some better news.

Oh, and I don’t want to sound like, “wah wah, my life is hard,” because it really isn’t. So, don’t expect these types of posts to suddenly become the norm.

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Also, within the next two weeks, you’re going to see some changes around here. I’m finally going to be adding such novelties as a blogroll and list of links, and more than likely some pretty major formatting changes. I’m not sure what’s going to happen exactly, but I do know this: you won’t want to miss it.

It LOOMS

As of right now, I have 6.5 hours to meet my deadline for Fugitives from Earth. As you may recall, the goal was to get it done today so I could format it and send it to the beta readers this weekend. Well, I’m not sure if I’m going to make it; I still have about 7,000 words left to write. I’ll try as hard as I can, but I’m certainly glad that I’m not under contract.

Also, here’s a major lesson from the last few weeks: don’t take daylong breaks when you’re on a deadline. I didn’t write much on Tuesday, and that came off of a slow Monday, so by Wednesday, I was fighting serious inertia. That meant that I didn’t get much done that day, either, leaving yesterday. But yesterday wasn’t quite enough to make up for the early-week slacking.

I did make a bit of a discovery here, though. It turns out that if I’m not doing very much, it takes much, much more effort to write regularly. Despite having more times in the morning than I did a few months ago, I’m writing less. Likewise, I write less on my days off than on the weekdays. I suspect that this is just because, when  you’re doing nothing but sitting around, even getting up seems like a major undertaking, whereas when you’re already busy, one more task is just a drop in the bucket. This warrants consideration.

Fun news: on Tuesday, I attended the SFWA Northwest Reading Series at Portland’s Kennedy School pub. Some great readings by Ted Chiang, Nancy Kress, and Ursual Le Guin, and I had an even better talk afterwards with the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal. Ironically, thanks to the op-ed piece that Le Guin read, the Q&A focused largely on ebooks and internet publishing, and I was able to hand out a few NIWA flyers to interested parties.

Speaking of Mary Robinette, she created a fairly unique marketing tool for her novel Shades of Milk and Honey: a card game. I haven’t played it or even read the rules in their entirety, but it looks like a trick-taking game using characters from the novel, each of whom have various abilities and skills. Six characters are included in the PDF, but there are two special ones only available at her various appearances. She was going through them like crazy, even though she wasn’t even one of the listed speakers. I absolutely love board games, so I’m wondering if I can do something like this for one of my novels, if not Fugitives from Earth.

Anyway, I’ve written a lot, and it’s going to be a long night. Regardless, though: beta readers get the novel next week, and I can put it down for a while.

Not Quite

So, remember how I said that I wanted to have that bit of flash fiction for you today? Didn’t really turn out, believe it or not. I’ll try to have it tomorrow, but for some reason the muse wasn’t speaking today. Not sure why.

Okay, I do know why. It was because I spent all morning reading Catching Fire and everything that I tried to put down on the page looked like crap. It’s weird: writers need books to stay sharp, but there’s always the risk of backlash. Ah, well.

Weekend Update

I didn’t get much writing done this week. Despite the hopeful tone of my previous post, it was not a good week by any means, and in fact I was as depressed on Tuesday and Wednesday as much as I ever have been. Not a good place to be. Fortunately, as it always does, my mood gradually regressed toward its reasonably happy mean. Still didn’t help much with the writing, though.

But that trend breaks today. My deadline for the first draft of my NIWA story is Sunday, and I’m less than a quarter done with it by this point. No way I’m going to be the only guy that shows up without a story to pass, and if that means writing 4,000 words a day for two days, then that’s what it’s going to be. I’m a professional. Well, a semi-professional, anyway.

Given my unstable living situation, I’ve started to look seriously into freelance writing opportunities. I think that it’d be a great way to make a living, if not a fantastically lucrative one, and if I’m honest with myself, I think I have a chance to be successful. A chance, at least.

The problem is that I’m so rarely honest with myself. I feel a little awkward putting this out on the internet for everyone to read, but whenever I think about what I’m writing actually being read, or being paid for, I’m stricken with such profound paroxysms of self-doubt that I can barely proceed. My inner editor starts screaming at me, loud as can be, and I can’t put him away because I need him. I need what I write to be good. It’s not rational, but I crave that external validation.

I’m certainly not alone in this, so the pity party ends here. Sometimes it helps to get that out in the open, though, so thank you for reading (and, rational or not, validation is always nice).

And, self-doubt or not, there’s no doubt in my mind that this short story is going to get done, and that Fugitives from Earth is going to get done. That novel has been hard, much harder than I thought, but I feel like the book is starting to gel in my mind, like the characters are finally easing into the places they belong, rather than the places I tried to wedge them. I’ve still got a bunch of writing left to do, but it’s gratifying to see that end in sight, even if it’s not necessarily, you know, close.

As the Wheel Turns, It Gets Drawn Through the Mud

7 days is the longest I’ve ever gone without making a post, and it’s not something that I ever want to repeat, but I’m sure you all will be gratified to hear that I’ve at least got a good excuse. See, I found out yesterday that my hours are being dramatically cut back at my job.

This isn’t one of those, “Oh, the economy is doing poorly, we’re all tightening our belts” sorts of things. This is a case of dramatic mismanagement, a complete lack of a business plan, and an inability for my company to compete in a changing marketplace. I won’t get into specifics, but I feel like everything that’s happened to me was completely avoidable. I get to keep full-time status, benefits, and vacation, but I’m still losing about 25% of my income.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. I’ll be getting one more day off a week, and in addition to that, I’ll be telecommuting two more days. That means tremendously more time to write, almost as much as if I were only working part time. In spite of all the turbulent times, I can see this as kind of a golden opportunity. I figure, if I can get myself in the writing mindset now, then I could do it full time, as a professional. Not only will my production speed up dramatically, but it’ll be a chance to shift my entire mindset into professional mode.

Maybe I’ll even make a sale. In fact, now is as good a time as ever to actually submit something, terrifying as that prospect is.

On a more regular note, I’ve taken a break from Fugitives from Earth this week to write the first draft of my short story for the NIWA anthology I mentioned before. I don’t have a title for it yet, but here’s the breakdown: there’s a violent murder in the orbit of Saturn’s moon Titan, which is home to a technologically advanced colony comprised mostly of uplifts (that is, animals bred/engineered into human-level intelligence). The victim, “resurrected” as a clone, charters the main characters to find out how he died and who killed him.

Sound like fun?