How do you come up with stories?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very fantastic (as in, remote from reality) dream: I was a clone of me, created after I was brutally murdered. But I didn’t have my memories; I only knew, academically, what “my” life experience was like, who was important in “my” life, what “I” did and didn’t like. Reconciling this purely academic knowledge with my sense of self and my emotions was taking a toll. I sought rebellion from this version of me whom I didn’t know and yet who was controlling me so thoroughly. I began acting out – doing what I specifically knew “I” would not do, while conversely seeking experience that might help me to understand… well… “me.”

I don’t usually have such vivid, developed dreams, but this is not the first time a story has come to me in my sleep.

Anyways, I took this to a friend of mine and we began to talk about ways I could develop this into a story. I was also considering how I could mold this into an idea I have for our next big game (our clone-space saga). My friend, though, kept asking me “What’s the plot?” – and I kept giving a premise – “She’s trying to reconcile with being a clone.”

When I gave a few more details, they were all world-building and character development-based. None of them really were based on a sequence of events I wanted to present. And I realized: everything I’ve ever written or imagined started with a person and a premise. Then I thought about what the person would do in such a premise and called it a plot. I can’t really envision another way of devising a story. In fact, normally, my first step is creating a character sheet: drawing out the character (whether it’s an illustrated story or not), writing out his/her background and characteristics, and maybe a few key quotes from said character.

She thought I could play around with inverting this structure: thinking of a series of events and letting that inform a character. So far, though, it feels as though I can’t even conceptualize a series of events without knowing the person walking through them.

Creating the Lotus war was probably the closest to this I’ve come, and that’s because Justin was beside me on it – but I still became attached to a Taya-prototype and an Arinnel-prototype even before we knew what the end would be.

So I ask in a spirit of curiosity: any of you out there plot-driven writers? How do you come up with stories?

Creative Partners

I’ve always been a solo flyer. Back in middle school, I was probably the best drawer in most of my classes. Then Joanna Rodriguez moved into town, and I had to share that title – which was totally fine because she was a delightful girl. Moreover, up until then, my friend who’d moved over from Guam and I were just about the only kids in school who liked anime/manga. So having another girl around – the nerdy, artsy type who like Princess Mononoke and Sailor Moon and who could draw and play on NeoPets with me? Who liked hanging out with boys without necessarily having to like them? Who’d watch Toonami’s line-up of Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing? That was frickin’ awesome! It was a girlmance waiting to happen.

We immediately became a trio rather than a duo, and life was good. But dang it! I was just so possessive of “my” ideas. You know… we’d rip off of other cartoons and make our own characters, like ripping of the magical-pet shows of the 90s but with our own little spin. And whenever I found a new show to rip off of, she’d be drawing her characters, too. Man… I wish I had scans of our drawings to show you, but I left them all in my parents’ garage. That’s the beside the point, though; the point is that I’d start to get annoyed that she was “copying” me… even though honestly, I copied some of the things she did too (which she smartly pointed out). I think I eventually put those trifles to rest and we joined forces to create little narratives with our characters and magical animals. We stayed friends for pretty much the rest of school before the normal drift (I was in band, she was in tennis; I was in Block B, she was in Block A, I hung out with Mexicans, she hung out with Asians… what?) and are still on good terms. Heck, we’re Facebook friends! That’s legit! But that was really my first clue that maybe, just maybe *gasp* I was not a team player. For crying out loud, even back in school when I got a group of which I didn’t approve, I’d do the bulk of the work because I didn’t want anyone to mess up “my” project.

I’m getting better at it, because I have to be. Most employers want a “team player.” They want someone who won’t take new ideas or suggestions or discards personally. Friends, too, like to matter, their opinions valued. And the ultimate partnership, marriage, requires teamwork and communication. So what are my tips for working with a creative partner?

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Of course this is #1. Of course. You don’t have a team if you don’t talk. You have two (or more) people working on their own solo projects that hopefully converge. I’ve felt that way a number of times myself during this endeavor.
Because I’m mostly in charge of characters and the designing thereof, I sometimes feel out of synch with what Justin’s creating. He’ll show me a level he’s creating, and a little situation he was proud of, and instead of being proud with him, sometimes my reaction is, “I didn’t know you were going to do that.”
Ugh.
The best way to avoid these feelings is frequent and meaningful communication. “What are you working on now?” “What kind of ideas do you have going forward?” “Thinking of any big changes to the outline we had?” Not just asking these questions of each other, but asking them of ourselves and preempting the questions with our partners by bringing it up when possible.
2. Trust your partner
Not only should you cultivate trust in your partners through your project, but you should only partner with someone that you already trust. If you don’t trust this person to reflect the same standard of quality that you expect of yourself, you’ll only spend all of your time looking over their shoulder at their work, and not enough time actually doing your own.
When you divvy up work, divide it in such a way that each person does what plays up to his or her strengths. And when you can admit, “Ok, Justin makes music way better than I ever could,” you may find yourself able to let go of these tasks because of your confidence in your partner’s abilities.
3. Think it as “ours” not “mine”
That’s a bit of an obvious one, but perhaps not easily accomplished. It requires a measure of trust, as discussed above. But when you tie your name in with someone else, don’t think about how the work might affect your reputation. Your partner is an equal part in this venture as you, and both want it to reflect well for future pursuits. Furthermore, if you’re concerned about your partner’s feelings and reputation too, you will be given further impetus to produce quality work. Knowing that the other person feels that same way as you will help allay any anxiety that perhaps the quality is not up to your standard.
4. Write it out
Sometimes, people get into weird “debates” only to find that they actually have been agreeing all along. I don’t know why. Perhaps our diction is unclear, or perhaps we’ve afraid to take too firm a stance on either side of a debate because we don’t want to be offensive but thereby confusing the other person. I’m not sure why it happens, but it’s definitely happened to me. Or perhaps you really do disagree and talking it out is only making the argument heated.
Writing it out gives us clear communication, through which we can’t cut each other off and which we can analyze and re-analyze. We can read, take note, re-read, construct a solid point, choose clear words, and hopefully, through this, can come to a clear agreement.

All of this is easier to say than to actually practice, but that’s why they call it practice. We try and try and try again. Thankfully, Justin and I have trusted each other with a lot more for a lot longer, so this was easier for us. But trust is often hard-won and easily lost, and communication is a simple principle with perhaps more complicated factors (after all, everyone thinks and speaks differently; some are high-context, some are low). But when we view our project as worthwhile, that’s work that we’re willing to put in.

The Angel of Usui

I just started watching my favorite anime Initial D for a third – yes, folks, third time. And I just got to the point that always bothers me a little bit: Mako Sato, aka the Angel of Usui.

Most fans, I would imagine, are more bothered by the idea that the loveless Iketani finally had a girlfriend in his midst (spoiler!) – before standing her up for their over-night date out of stupid, blind jealousy over basically a celebrity crush and ruining their relationship for the next two seasons and the movie. Alas, we have never seen the two reunite. But alas! This is far more realistic than the happily-ever-afters we’re spoon-fed in American media; so while a disappointment, that’s not the point that bothers me.

Initial D, for those who don’t know, is a 90s (and actually ran through last year) manga/anime following the tales of Takumi Fujiwara and his fellow street-racers. Yes, in this series the main subject is a male-dominated world, it’s true. So I accept the absence of females besides for the occasional girlfriend. However, when they did finally decide to include a female street racer- well… let’s just say that it takes two girls to do the job of one boy, according to this series.

Yep, the best driver on Usui, Mako Sato, needs a “co-driver” in the form of navigator Sayuki – whose only job is to remember when tight turns are up ahead or whatever and to scream in her nasally, annoying voice, “Can you like- chill out?!” or “Mako punch it!” or “OMGEEZ! SLOW DOWN!!!”

So every single guy in the series, less talented than Mako or not, can drive alone and actually – *gasp!* – complete a race, but poor, simple little female Mako with feeble, feminine mind can’t remember her own home course – which she must’ve driven hundreds of times – without an annoying squawker in her passenger seat issuing orders. That’s the… only conceivable way a woman could beat a man?

Now, the series does make up for it later with the addition of Kyoko Iwase, who gave #3 driver Keisuke a run for his money, but that makes her basically the only full female driver in the series.

I know I talk about a lot of fictional women, what with my question about rabbits and guinea pigs, or my expression of love for Wonder Woman, or even my hang ups on Habibi. But hey, I’m a woman. And I’m a nerd. So of course I want to see my peeps represented in my favorite media!

While our game is definitely male-focused, our upcoming ideas for games let women take a spotlight, too, and beyond the mantle of eye candy or love interest.

What do you think about representation of women in shonen anime?

Swapping Out Females?

Justin and I had an interesting debate about the end of our game the other day. We’ve mentioned before that your relationship with either female character affects the outcome of the game, but to what extent has been our debate.

You see, I want a certain outcome for Taya to depend totally on your relationship score with her (I’m going to attempt to write about this while not giving away the end). I think that end, while in some ways not my favorite end… well… in other ways it’s a good ending; yeah, in a larger narrative sense, it is my favorite ending, absolutely and hands-down. It brings around certain plot points to a powerful conclusion that I think is very cool and very moving. Justin feels, though, that having such an ending for Taya necessitates an equal option for Arinnel, too. (Note: this does not mean that you if “choose” or girl or the other the event is triggered; rather, the event is triggered strictly by the number of relationship points you have with the character in question).

I’m going to use a totally fake example with no parallels to the real plot idea so that I can explain it better. Let’s say… if you have a high/low enough level of points with Taya, I want her to… um… get a bunny at the end of the game? A really happy, cute, fluffy little bunny. Because Taya… uh… has had a phobia of bunnies from the beginning of the game, and her getting one just totally rounds out her narrative. Justin feels, though, that if there is the option for Taya to get a bunny depending on your relationship points with her, Arinnel should also have the option to get a bunny… even though she hasn’t exhibited the same feelings toward bunnies. Just for symmetry, and not to show favoritism. By the way, this has nothing to do with babies.

My problem with both girls getting bunnies at the end of the game – which is a huge, game-changing event, really – is that the endings aren’t really different if we do that. It would render the endings the same, your choices won’t really matter; the endings would basically just be a mirror of each other. It’s not crafting a unique storyline based on the traits we’ve imbued into each girl. It’s treating them like stock-characters and plugging them in/out of one story. As much as I’ve made my girls out to be a bit of eye candy, I do agree that it’s time girls stop being just stock characters and start being… heroes, really. Or at least three-dimensional beings – not merely love interests (although yeah, that too).

Now, I’d be happy for Taya to get a bunny and Arinnel to get… a… guinea pig, or something, if Arinnel’s arc includes deep-seated feelings toward the little squealers. That would be fine. An equally important circumstance, although uniquely different to suit the character. That would be cool. It’s just thinking of what Arinnel’s guinea pig would be that’s the problem.

What do you think? Has media been lazy when it comes to developing their female characters, or do you think progress really has been made? Do you think it lessens the value of each character if their only function is to serve a particular purpose for the narrative of the protagonist?

Gone Home – Horror, or Exploration at it’s finest?

Had to take a break from our game development. Sometimes you just get in a rut or run into a problem, and the only way to get around it without settling for something less than what you really want is to get some air. I have a bunch of installed games never even touched waiting in my steam library, (I often buy them on discount and play them later) and nothing was more intriguing to me atm than a game called Gone Home.

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(…oh yeah, it’s a totally creepy game to play btw.)

I don’t want to spoil anything, but here’s the plot:

On June 7, 1995, Kaitlin Greenbriar returns home―a mansion in Arbor Hill, Oregon willed to Kaitlin’s father by his uncle, Oscar Masan―not long after midnight on a stormy night after a yearlong trip abroad. She spots a note on the door from her sister, Samantha, telling her to not go looking for answers as to where she is. As she enters the house Kaitlin realizes nobody is home, not even her parents, so she investigates the house to find out where they all are. Players guide Kaitlin through this process, learning some things known to Kaitlin along with new facts about her family and their experiences over the past year. 

So you find this note at the front door right in the beginning and that’s the big opening…Image

(Note: “Please, please don’t go digging around…” Sure, no problem, that only involves like… 100% of the game…)

The game uses sound, flickering lights etc. etc. to make it very horror-esque, but it’s not really a horror game. Don’t get me wrong; it’s totally creepy and may make your heart jump now and again through exploration. But it’s not really a horror game like all The Last of Us, for example.

But yeah, Gone Home is filled with creepy shenanigans. Like this Family Photo you can’t miss on the wall in the foyer.

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(Despite this picture, I assure you, it’s not really a horror game.)

The game involves you, as the older sister, rummaging through everything – and I do mean everything – to figure out what in the Kurt Cobain is going on! You’ll search through Journal Entries, Books, Letters, Notes, Crumpled Notes, and Mix Tapes (‘Cause it’s the 90’s, and the whole plot would be really dumb if Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and MyInstaTwitBookSpace or whatever kids are playing with these days, existed.)

What started out as a full blown horror game (An Amnesia mod) ended up being just as the title of this entry suggests: a game about exploration – detective work if you will. Just look at this screenshot of the prototype of the game using a different engine with the intended horror side of the game.

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( I’ll let you guess which is the demo and which is the one I played. One says your hear to die, the other says…well, you might die, but hey take a chance)

Overall I love this game. There’s something about nosily investigating ordinary, every-day things and people’s stuff, I guess. Or maybe it’s the thrill of the exploration itself, trying desperately to piece the story all together. Along the way you’re constantly putting together your little theories of what must of happened, or what went wrong.

Gone Home, to me, is very unique. I’ve never really played anything quite like it. The closest being Amnesia, but that’s a truly crap-your-pants brand of scary that doesn’t warrant the “Horror or Exploration?” question.

IMO, I’d say it’s a game that demands you search every nook and cranny for the answers and doesn’t require any real immediate threat to scare you. You’re alone, it’s a rainy dark night. Forcing yourself to walk into the next dark room and look for the light switch is it’s own monster I suppose.

I hope I didn’t spoil anything, and I certainly didn’t want to, so I haven’t gone into much detail about anything else. Yes, the game can be creepy but you’ll find it has its happy moments too. Like finding this Nintendo Cartridge!

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(Adventurous the cat 2! Oh boy, I can’t wait to plug it in, then take it out and blow on it!)

All in all, it’s a great game. It’s only about 3 or 4 hours max I’d say, but I also picked it up off of steam for $10 on sale. Gone Home is worth the play through if you’re into exploration with a dash of, omg-I-don’t-wanna-die. It’s also worth a play if you’re the kind of person who is constantly wondering what’s in your neighbors basement. Creeper.

 

-J

Endings

Because the last season of The Office has made it to Netflix, Justin and I finally got to sit down and watch the finale – and we were thoroughly satisfied. Similarly, Breaking Bad had a completely gratifying conclusion. Cowboy Bebop, of course is probably at the top of many an otaku’s favorite list simply because its ending was so epic and extraordinary and bigger than the series itself.

So what makes for a satisfying ending to any story-telling endeavor? A couple of factors I was able to identify (with spoilers):

1. It stays in the spirit of the entire rest of the work. I cannot be the only person disappointed by the 2004 Battlestar Galactica‘s ending. Why is that? Probably because at first, the series started off as an awesomely epic straight-up science fiction piece, dealing with robots and bombs and traveling through space. The extent of the existential thought challenges was maybe the mortality of the human race, and really making the audience think about whether humans are acting in a way that justifies our existence. The last season just got… weird. It got really metaphysical (which I guess was kind of present through at least the last half of the series) and did strange things with the characters (that whole thing with Starbuck, anyone?). As much as I still like the overall series, the ending didn’t give the final bow it deserved.

While “The Real Folk Blues” parts 1 and 2 may seem out of place with the rest of CBB and the goofiness that preceded the finale, really the episodes serve more as a culmination of the dark little hints dropped throughout the series – and in that way really did maintain the underlying spirit of the show. From the first episode with Spike waiting outside the church to, of course, the classic “Ballad of Fallen Angels” right down to the end, the audience always gets peaks that there’s more to Spike than fun and charisma… and green hair.

2. The characters get what they deserveBreaking Bad is a great example of this. I mean… it was pretty clear very early on that the series ends with Walt dying. One way or another, he dies. I thought it would be in a final act of redemption, and I knew he’d have to make amends with Jesse… but the question was always how.

Although Jack’s White Supremacists weren’t quite the biggest target they’ve ever taken down (I mean… after taking down the guy who took down the entire freaking cartel, what’s left?), they were probably the least moral. Gus Fring, after all, was a business man – and business was business. And many of the others were crazy and burnt from drugs. The White Supremacists seemed to be in their right minds… just really, really bad guys. They killed Andrea just to keep Jesse as a meth slave. Todd shot a kid who probably didn’t really know what he had witnessed when they robbed the train. And did I mention that they kept Jesse as a meth slave? Anyways, with Walt eliminating them and overall saving Jesse from enslavement, I’d say that he reached the highest redemption possible for him before dying.

Back to The Office for a moment, who would argue that Dwight got just what we were hoping for? After years of being the butt of pranks and jokes, years of being utterly devoted to his job but woefully unaware of how his actions reflect on his performance, and years of being lovably obnoxious, Dwight finally gets it. He finally sees himself and realizes that Jim’s not really his enemy. That he likes his co-workers. That Pam’s his best friend who looks out for him and talks to him. That he loves Angela. Pam gets to further her art with not one but two murals. Jim finally gets a job for which he’s not over-qualified. Andy realizes that fame is not all it’s cracked up to be, and finds a real-world job with the school he’s obsessed over for years. Erin meets her parents. Michael Scott gets to show off photos of his kids. Kevin gets fired (but still remains pretty happy). There’s just so much good in that finale, because we’ve watched these characters and we’ve wanted to yell at them and we’ve felt frustrated for them… and now all those things that bothered us are resolved.

And now back around to BSG… what did they do wrong? Okay, gee… EVERYONE married the wrong person. Tyrol never ends up happy; finds out his life was a lie and can’t reconcile with Boomer.

Speaking of Boomer, she never really redeems herself. Yes, she saved Hera… but that’s only after she herself kidnapped the baby and brought her into danger. The thing is, I feel really sorry for Boomer, and that never resolves: she feels like an outcast as a human, finds out she’s a Cylon, then feels like an outcast as a Cylon. She gets killed without justice and then she’s resurrected to find out about that – and that her soul mate got married to her killer. And then a majority of her errors really stem from trying to help the Cylons and humans make peace. I get what they were trying to do with her verses Athena, showing that individual Cylons are different and that experiences shape and mold them as any person. But really? Really, they destroyed a very pitiable character.

Starbuck and Anders and Apollo and Dee… and Billy. That whole mess. I don’t know if they just tried to keep the tension between Starbuck and Apollo going for too long until a coupling just didn’t feel right anymore. Or if they just didn’t want to fall into the normal television trope. But Anders ends up brain dead, Kara’s a ghost… angel thing. Dee commits suicide. Apollo ends up alone. Even Roslin, who did really crappy things throughout the show gets a bittersweet ending. But for three of the characters who made huge sacrifices for the crew and really carried the show… it was just bitter.

3. It ties up loose ends. That one’s pretty commonly recognized. And that’s another one that Breaking Bad accomplished – after all, the question on my mind was: is Jesse ever going to find out the truth about Jane? And he did. The ricin in the socket was recovered and used. Skylar got to hear what she’s always needed to hear.

I’d comment on Lost and how it… you know… didn’t tie up its loose ends. Except I never watched Lost – and after hearing about it’s disappointing end (which I knew was coming) never wanted to. I also abandoned Heroes after the Sylar saga because I knew it’d never be satisfying after that (even the end to that wasn’t great – Peter couldn’t just man-up and defeat Sylar like we all knew he could!)

There are my thoughts on the makings of a great ending. What about you guys? Agree? Disagree on any points or on my takes on any shows? Have some pointers to add?

On Contrivances, Coincidences, and Randomness

Some people feel that coincidences and random events are evidence are weak writing. Perhaps the author knows no other way to resolve plot lines. Perhaps overly-contrived or overly-convenient plot turns or resolutions are cheap or lazy. Or perhaps coincidences and randomness are also reflective of life.

For example: last week, I started working at a new job… except that during that week, I also caught a cold, scraped my car against a truck while changing lanes, then started my period within a span of two days!!!!! (Sorry guys) Talk about a wonderful series of events – and so coincidental too! You know… that so many awful things would happen to me right in a row.

One time, in ninth grade, I heard my cellphone ring tone in my head and that reminded me that I didn’t turn my phone on silent. So I set it to vibrate. And immediately after that, basically as soon as I put it in my pocket, I got a random call from someone who dialed a wrong number, but my teacher never noticed the buzzing. This was also, by the way, the class that was taught by a super-strict former nun who would not have hesitated to take my phone and make me an example.

Further example of coincidences? Okay, middle school… I liked my childhood friend Edward. My girl friend liked Scott, whom I sat next to in every single class. Like EVERY class throughout ALL of middle school. The summer into eighth, I went to Space Camp with a group of classmates and the only person in my sub-group that I knew was Scott. The guy was around me ALL the time. UNTIL I started liking him. And then we went to high school and he had literally the opposite schedule as me.

What I’m saying is, sometimes I feel like I’m on some really advanced version of the Sims and there’s someone manipulating my life events into extremely contrived circumstances.

See what I mean? So is it so strange that in Oliver Twist, some random orphan is adopted by a rich family, only to find out he’s a nephew to that family and thus an heir? Or that Bilbo just happens to find this all-powerful ring, it happens to get passed on to Frodo, who happens to be appointed ring-bearer, and then it gets thrown into Mount Doom thereby saving all of Middle Earth?

Maybe that’s what a great story is: unlikely (and some likely) events aligning themselves just enough to form a cohesive narrative that makes for an engaging read (or watch. Or play through. Or whatever).

In our story, Ren happens to be THE guy. Though he’s young and perhaps relatively inexperienced, he’s selected for an important mission. It is during this mission that he just happens to meet the first elf he’s ever known to speak Human Common (or whatever we decide to name their language). With the language gap closed, their conversation and the trust of someone important to him prove enough to break through potential prejudice and motivate the party to more deeply explore the circumstances surrounding the titular war.

Because without those coincidences, what would this be? It would be some guy, accomplishing what he planned to accomplish, while doing what he was supposed to do. And life often proves to be more interesting than that.

(Although, perhaps critics are talking about events that are not built or led-up to? They want some fore-shadowing? Signs of planning? But sorry, that’s not always so conveniently present in real life either.)

Anyways, what do you think? Do coincidences and random lucky events make a story seem lazy or contrived to you?

Motives

A friend recently told me that he took a “Which Comic Book Villain Are You?” His result was one that he did not agree with – The Red Skull. “Me? A tyrant? I don’t want to rule anyone! …You would be Scarecrow because you can’t fight so you do that.” And I said “Look less at what they’re doing and more at why they’re doing it.”

Because of course I can’t fight. Of course he doesn’t aspire to be a tyrant. We’re not super villains. We don’t desire any of that currently. What we’d want to focus on is what would motivate a person to go from being a normal (or… you know…. psychopathic) kid and turn into a Ganondorf. Or a Big Boss. Or a Darth Malak (you expected Vader, didn’t you? WELL HAH!)

You don’t always get an incredible motive, and that’s okay too – as long as the villains are cool and you can just tell that it’s because they’re too b/a for rules (I don’t particularly remember Malak’s motives, but you know… he’s evil Sith. That’s enough!). It happens a lot in video games, I notice. Of all the RPGs I’ve played or watched be played (by my brothers or Justin or friends), I actually can’t clearly remember anyone’s motives. Ganondorf didn’t like how the Gerudo were treated, I think? Or he was just cocky? Umm… Sephiroth… thought he should conquer the planet because he’s… part alien? Shuji Ikutsuki (Persona 3) wants the end of the world to come for… some… reason…

Now, I’m sure there exists people that can tell me all about these motives, but the fact is that video games are not expository by nature. They don’t take long departures from the current plot line to expound on the details of a character’s life (I mean… unless they’re by Hideo Kojima). Or at least, I really hope that they wouldn’t because you watch a movie or read a book for that kind of description. You play a video game to play. And play you shall in the Lotus War!

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It’s for that reason that Justin and I have decided to produce a comic to help expound on the motives of the main villain. A sort of prequel to flesh out the world and villain even further.

We definitely intend for the video game to be able to carry the story all on its own, with a slow-build and a piecing together of plot throughout the entire game play. But if the story piques your interest, I hope that the comic adds another level of depth and perhaps helps create a villain that is believable – one whose motive can be seen as one that would turn even a nice guy into a villain.

What are some of your favorite video game villains? What kind of motives did they have?

-D

The World of Genos

Genos is (currently) one landmass surrounded by water, but is very diverse.

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With several different regions, your party has a lot to explore.

Initially, all of Genos was beautiful and habitable.

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It was easy to cultivate, and the humans and elves shared it with ease.

When the Lotus exploded, much of the surrounding area was desertificated (desertified? Was is desertification a word but not the other two?).

The elfin homeland was already the more prosperous of the two, and they used their fragments of Lotus to stabilize plant life.

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Humans, on the other hand, have been using the remaining Lotus shards in their hands for technology, their land suffering.

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It's just night there. They're not in eteranl darkness or anything.

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This has added to the friction that existed, with the humans angry. While elves believe the explosion was due to a faulty containment chamber, as they banned magic, humans believe the elves lied and continued practicing it, leading to the burst. Now, not only have they destroyed the Lotus, but taken the better lands for themselves.

Though they had a tenuous agreement in the past to separate themselves, this bitterness and blame, exasperated by tough living conditions for the humans, has sparked war in recent decades.

However, is that truly the complete cause of war? Is it a wound that can be healed? How can one party of six resolve the tension?

-D

A Sci-Fi take on Magic?

If I’m going to be completely honest, I like fantasy fiction, but sci-fi has my heart. I grew up watching Star Trek: TNG, Star Wars, the X-Files, Blade Runner, Close Encounters, Back to the Future… I could go on (and I have gone on with newer sci-fi like Avatar, Battlestar Galactica (2009 series), Inception, Eternal Sunshine, and sci-fi anime). I would write sci-fi if I had enough knowledge of science to produce something viable (I do not consider the Time Traveler’s Wife as viable sci-fi).

One aspect that’s particularly appealing that sets sci-fi apart from fantasy is that sci-fi produces reasons for phenomena: causes. Fantasy tends to present a world, and the things within the world are there because they are. Gandalf has spells because he does. Or because he’s a god-being or whatever (what are those called?). Elfin cloaks can hide you from Orcs because they’re elfin and they do (not because their fibers contain light reflectors or benders that trick the eye). And I know Tolkein, being Tolkein and all, probably does go through reasoning as to why these things are, but for lesser fantasy, things are because they are – and that’s what makes magic. It defies explanation, it’s mystical, it’s magical.

While there’s no doubt that The Lotus War falls squarely within the “fantasy” genre – for example, the Lotus itself exists without explanation of where it came from or why or how it emanates its energy (or why its energy has the properties it does) – I have carried over some of my sci-fi-loving background into the development stages with me. In the case of magic for instance-

Magic in the world of Genos,  is “the manipulation of nature by non-mechanical means.” Not “mechanical” in having to do with machinery or technology, but without application of physical force to produce an affect. Magic might include encouraging a door to bend open without touching it. Or drawing items closer by shortening the space between you. Basically, it’s the manipulation of space-time – and that makes it very dangerous.

Even when tapped into a force that allows you to manipulate space-time (like when linked to the Lotus), if your brain can’t conceptualize the changes necessary to accomplish your goal, you can fail at magic. Or you can succeed at magic but fail at accomplishing your goal, instead affecting another facet of reality – usually for the worst.

Essentially, magic in the game is as strong as the mind of the person utilizing it – but weakly performed magic can cause untold damage to the fabric of the universe. And therefore magic had been banned but for a group of adherents to its practice.

What do you think? Does this explanation of magic in our game-verse take something away for you or does it add another layer of mythology?