Wednesday, 31 August 2016

LoTRO and the 2017 license speculation

Recently at Dadi's Lotro Guides, Cordovan, the community manager for Lord of the Ring Online (LOTRO) commented in an interview on the subject of the much speculated end of licence for the game, purported to be 2017.

"Cordovan:  I would like to chime in on the licensing thing too, it is something that comes up on the forums quite a bit.  What we do with LOTRO is not particularly different from other video games that operate under a licensing agreement for intellectual property (ex. super hero games, etc.).  They all have license holders and LOTRO is no different.  Typically these kind of agreements are pieces of business that are not really disclosed to the public.  As part of the corporate business decision making that is involved with the creation [and maintenance -ed.] of a game like LOTRO.  The LOTRO community has historically had some particular sensitivity over the licensing agreement, but the agreement itself has basically always been a routine piece of business from the very start.  So while we can understand that some folks like to talk about it on the forums and as you said; “doom say”, the reality is that it is just a private piece of business that has been routine (lawyers getting together).  Ultimately if there was a major issue with the license you guys would probably find out about it because the game would no longer be operating after a certain point.  This is not a reality show “are they going to get kicked off the island” thing worth speculating month after month, year after year.  It is basically just a routine piece of business and we have no reason to think this won’t be a continuation of that."

Now as much as Turbine may view this as "a routine piece of business" they need to realise that speculation from the community without any input from the company will have a severely negative impact on the business and the game in general, after all, who wants to invest time and money into a game with what could potentially shut down with 12 months. 

I was a die hard fan of LOTRO for seven years, though 6 months ago I started to lose heart. The game became too grindy with less and less content and to add to that, the constant speculation of the game's license ending made me step away and after close to 7 years of constant subscription, I unsubscribed. Now I can't be the only one driven from the game in that way.

So rather than ignoring the speculation, Turbine need to deal with it, openly and honestly and encourage those they have lost to return to this great game and give hope that there is a long term plan for the world they have lovingly created.

Blaugust 2016 Day 22 Blaugust Wrap up

And so that's the end of another Blaugust!

As mentioned at the beginning of the month, this was described as the 'Super Relaxed Edition' and the pressure to get a post out every single day was reduced leading to far less of a feeling of burnout with blogging that I felt last year. Having said that, I feel that pressure of previous years forced me to be more creative, finding topics I wouldn't otherwise cover. This year I managed 22 posts including this one out of a possible 31 so better than I thought I'd be capable of..

This year I approached things a little differently and invited guest bloggers, all authors that either write and game or their writing has connections with gaming. Not only did this take the pressure off me but gave some cracking articles from some far more talented writers than myself, so I'd like to thank Nick, Chris, Forbes, KC and Jason for their contributions. If you haven't seen them yet there's a link to guest posts at the top of the blog or if your lazy, you could also click here..

I hope to continue this collection of articles beyond Blaugust with more authors potentially lined up already so stay tuned and if you are an author and would like to contribute, drop me a line! If you're a reader and not familiar with these authors, buy a book or two. They are all outstanding (and you'll be supporting their gaming habits, always a worthy cause!)

So all in all, Blaugust was as fun as ever and I look forward to participating again next year. Congratulations to all the other bloggers that worked to put out as much content as they were able and I've enjoyed reading more blogs than I normally would too.

Happy Gaming!

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 21 - Mass Effect and writing - Guest Post by Author KC Alexander

For my 200th post, I'm honoured to welcome guest blogger K.C. Alexander, Author of Necrotech from Angry Robot Books, oh and she's played the occasional game.

Mass Effect & Writing

I think it’s no secret that I love Bioware games. With the exception of one—okay, two notable abominations, I have been a Bioware fanatic since Knights of the Old Republic (please, we will not speak of The Unfortunate Sequel). To date, I have over 500 hours clocked in to the Mass Effect franchise, creeping up on 400 in Dragon Age, and prepping for more as Mass Effect: Andromeda nears its release date.

Anyone who has read my books and played the games probably realize exactly how much playing these games flavors my writing.

First of all, Bioware has made a fucking art out of turning a protagonist into A Protagonist™. Of course it’s always about the player in a single-player RPG, but Bioware takes it a step farther. 

Between Bioware’s steadfast refusal to canonize Shepard, for example, and their loud and proud public line of validating the player’s choices, they make clear that whatever your Shepard did, it was their choice, the right choice for Shepard, and that’s that.

If it meant your Shepard was a stonecold bastard who Renegaded every chance he got and slept around with everyone he could before the romances tangled? Then that’s Shepard.

If your Shepard was a hardcore diplomat with a heart of gold, cozied up to Liara in the first game but fell for Thane’s “gonna die” zen in the second? That’s Shepard!

Did he die?

Did she live?

Did he make the choice to finish the mission?

Did she decide to play god?

Any option, all options, specifically chosen by the player in the moment, combined to create a powerful, solid, thought-filled (if not thoughtful) character. Was she woman? Who cares! Was he a man? Who cares! Did he sleep with other men? Who cares! Did she sleep with eeeerreone? Who cares!

You, as they say, got to do you, boo. And Bioware didn’t flinch.

Mass Effect inspired generations of gamers to believe that their choices, their character, their dialogue mattered, and they only got better with time.

So I thought to myself… Who says I have to stay in a lane designated by some old white guys back in the day? With all due respect to them, I am neither old (yet) or a guy (mostly), but I am white, and as a white female-presenting author, I was tired of being told that my protagonists had to be “heroes”. That they had to be “redeemed”. That they couldn’t have flaws that would make them “unlikable”—and counted among them, I felt, were protagonists of color. Of sexuality different than what the stereotypical “men can sleep around for virility and women can’t because chastity” trope demands.

My Shepard is a badass woman who talked a good Paragon game and pulled a fast Renegade hand. She’s a woman who fell for a crewmate and made a hard fucking choice, only to be betrayed by that same crewmate. She’s pansexual, hard-assed, with a sense of humor and a fierce protectiveness for her crew.

But she ain’t afraid to hit ‘em if they come at her. Or get punched for her troubles.
My Shepard has never been sexually harassed.

I took these choices—this right to make these choices—and I wrote Necrotech without bowing to the establishment. Riko is a thug: angry, loud and crass. She’s a multi-racial balls-to-the-wall woman—shit-talking, sex-loving, aggressively flawed and incredibly skilled. The kind of ambulatory tech-sporting bundle of energy and sinew you hope to god you never meet on the thrashdance floor because she’ll take you out at the knees and leave you with the trash when last call rolls up.

Shepard made choices that no one else can take away from her. So does Riko. As The Protagonist™, her story is her own. Maybe readers will see their playstyle or themselves in her, in her swag or her mistakes, but I never bend to someone else’s demand that my characters be something else. I didn’t start in Dragon Age, when that bastard noble interrupted my wedding, I didn’t start when those old white dudes in SF/F told me women weren’t supposed to act “like men”, and I ain’t starting to bend now.

So thanks, Bioware. Thanks for showing me that I could tell the story I wanted to tell, and that it could be epic and heartwrenching and badass and never even bother to take beauty, gender or tired old limitations into account.

Riko is what she is. She makes the decisions she does because of who she is. I stand by them.

Any good RPG would, too.

About the Author

About K C Alexander

K C Alexander is the mostly human, occasional Outer God, and author of Necrotech – a transhumanist sci-fi called “a violent thrillride” by award-nominated noir urban fantasy author Stephen Blackmoore. Previous writing credits include a critically acclaimed stint as Karina Cooper, where she won an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for her steampunk urban fantasy series and contributed to well-received collections such as Fireside Fiction MagazineProtectors 2: Heroes, and Last Night, a Superhero Saved My Life.

After peeling off sixteen layers of outer chitin and hiding the evidence across dimensional planes, K. C. Alexander is now indistinguishable from the rest of the human species. She intends to make the most of this by writing transhumanist sci-fi, epic fantasy, and speculative fiction of all stripes.You can find K C online at her website and on Twitter as @kacealexander

About Necrotech

Street thug Riko has some serious issues — memories wiped, reputation tanked, girlfriend turned into a tech-fueled zombie. And the only people who can help are the mercenaries who think she screwed them over.

In an apathetic society devoid of ethics or regulation, where fusing tech and flesh can mean a killing edge or a killer conversion, a massive conspiracy is unfolding that will alter the course of the human condition forever. With corporate meatheads on her ass and a necro-tech blight between her and salvation, Riko is going to have to fight meaner, work smarter, and push harder than she’s ever had to. And that’s just to make it through the day.

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Monday, 29 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 20 Red Markets

I've just signed up to play in a new Play by Post game over at Gamer's Plane in the newly Kickstarted Red Markets, described as "a game of economic horror where the world has ended and the rent is still due."

Set in a Zombie apocolypse, the characters play Takers, essentially hired scavengers in the wasteland called The Loss to earn their way into the safe zone, known as The Recession.

My character, Jimmy "Home Run" Larsson is a former Major-League Baseball star, or was about to be. After being headhunted for the Boston Red Sox, and a multi million Dollar contract, the world turned to hell. Now he is obsessed with money, looking for that big payday, with his only possession in the world, his trusty bat.

The One Shot podcast recently featured the game and the creator, Caleb Stokes gives and overview of the system at about 9:15

I'm really looking forward to trying out a new system and I can never pass by a good Zombie Apoc and this one looks pretty profitable!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 19 Return to Mass Effect 2 and a little pbp update

I've had an incredibly busy few days, with lots of work and no time to game. I got in a little No Man's Sky here and there but no major progress. Last night however I managed to carve out of a whole hour and decided it was time to tackle something from my list of RPGs from my Gaming Goals post.

Mass Effect 2 always comes to mind when I want to get a game finished so I dived in. I managed to get plenty in during that short time. I completed a mission I had been in the middle of retrieving a new member of my crew, Mordin Solus, the Doctor with a shady past in the Special Task Force, a great character with a very pleasing clipped way of speaking.

I also tracked the original Normandy and visited where it crashed, placing a monument to remember it by and finding a few dog tags from the lost crew.

It served as a good reminder how good the game is and I look forward to dipping back in.

Not much time for gaming tonight, I've been working on my Play By Post games. The Warhammer game is about to kick off with a new adventure and Call of Cthulhu: A Time for Harvest is heating up as the players approach the end of part one of the campaign and uncover something long hidden.

Blaugust 2016 Day 18 Dialogue and Tabletop Games - Guest Post by Jason Anspach

I was going for a hike during my lunch on a nearby trail. There’s a wonderful park with a stunning view of Mount Rainier just a block away from my office. The exercise is nice and the scenery is beautiful. It makes me feel like I’m travelling along a tree canopied path in a Tolkien forest, breathing in the warm scent of pine needles, blackberries, and leaves baked by the summer sun.

These walks also provide an opportunity to try out new dialogue.

The way I write, it’s rare for me to just sit down and—whoops—out comes pages of dialog. No. I spend hours thinking about a scene, playing it back and forth in my head like a movie so that when I go to my keyboard, I’m just transcribing what I’ve witnessed. Like a really thorough court stenographer who mixes their OCD with LSD.

Testing my dialogue is a part of my process. Is it something the character would say? In that situation? Is it something the reader would believe? I constantly mutter phrases and retorts to myself, listening for authenticity.

When I’m alone, I deliver the lines with the same intensity I see my characters using, like how I imagine Robert DeNiro reads his lines in a Hollywood trailer. I’m totally absorbed. Only, for me, it’s just going over a single line. Like a method actor cast as an extra, pouring over the deeper meaning of, “The mayor is on line one.”

So I’m walking along in Lothl√≥rien, and the line is from my novel, ‘til Death. The scene involves Frank Rockwell coming home to break the news to his wife that he’s been murdered. She tells him that she wasn’t expecting him to die for at least another five years. I channel Frank—a hothead—and respond, “I’m only fifty-one and in my prime. I had plenty more than five years left. My great-grandfather Sherman lived to eighty-nine!”

Cut. Print. Perfect.

I nailed the delivery. The dialogue was pitch perfect for the scene and if the Academy had heard it, there’d be a golden statue waiting for me after that performance.

Only, the Academy didn’t hear it. But I could tell by the subdued laugh from around the bend that someone had. At first I was exhilarated. Yes! Confirmation. An unbiased listener heard my line and laughed.

That gave way to embarrassment as the couple turned the corner and saw a man in his mid-thirties walking by himself, shouting about being fifty-one in the past tense. My finger was even pointed up in the air like Jackie Gleason. They gave me a wiiiiide berth and I had to cut my walk short and get back to my office, hiding inside with blinds closed as a pair of orderlies in white uniforms looked for me, commitment papers in hand.

Situations like that make me thankful for tabletop gaming.

A good game of Dungeons and Dragons or Sheriff of Nottingham goes perfectly with my need to test out dialogue. The rapport with players is helpful and constructive. Unlike online multiplayer gaming, where most conversation can be summed up in a message I recently received after a strong showing in Star Wars Battlefront: “ur gay.”

But there are no such insults (to my face) when I’m Dungeon Master in a game of D&D! There, improvisation and delivery are an art form. The game improves because of it, and going all-in enriches the experience and encourages the other players to relax and join in the fun.

I can take a quip or joke from a book, season it with BBC accent, and test it with my guinea pigs—er, players—to see what works.

As a writer, this is a HUGE help. Especially when writing humor, as I do. Masterfully.
A comic is only as good as his audience’s response. Comics die a thousand deaths, honing their act by gauging its impact on the audience until it’s…good enough. The same thing goes with writing. You’ve probably heard an anecdote from a storyteller who is sure—SURE!—that a goldmine of belly laughs is coming. And then…lackluster deliver, flat punchline, polite smile, courtesy laugh, awkward silence.

Only it’s far worse with writing because the awkward silence is the kindle being powered down and, unless the reader is looking for a unique way to punish their children—“Now sit there while I read you more of Anspach’s book.” “Daddy, no!”—they’re unlikely to go back. Let alone buy the sequel (available now).

Role playing games give me a tremendous opportunity to test out my writing with real people. One I haven’t had since they threw me out of the retirement home.

Does the party break out laughing? Keep the line. 

Do they repeat it like a catchphrase throughout the session? Put it on the cover.

Do they respond with silence before someone audibly sighs and says, “Soo…”? Send in a Beholder for a total party kill. 

That’ll teach them.

Jason Anspach is the author of the 1950’s Paranormal Noire Comedy Series ‘til Death: The Rockwell Return Files. He’s also a cast member on the hilarious podcast, SciFi Writers Playing Old School D&D.

You can pick up ‘til Death, a book readers have called “Hauntingly Funny,” “a fun romp through a supernatural hard-boiled adventure, with plenty of laughs and adventure along the way,” and “not quite as funny as I was expecting it to be.”

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 17 - Art Imitating Fun - Guest by Author Chris Pourteau

Art Imitating Fun

When Knifesedge Blogs asked me to write a guest blog about how gaming and writing come together for me, I was stumped. For about ten seconds. Then Eureka! I realized just how much crossover there is between the two for me.

I write post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror fiction (not all at the same time, most of the time), and if you think about some of the more popular visual media products in those genres—Star Wars, The Walking Dead television series, the Left4Dead and Fallout games, to name a few examples—they all have one thing in common for me: great storytelling. (In the case of Star Wars, I’m talking Episodes IV-VII—so go with it.)

In Other News…The Sky Is Blue on a Sunny Day

I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, tell me something else I don’t know. But you’d be surprised how often the fundamental idea of great storytelling gets glossed over. Take DC versus Marvel movies, for example. We can debate the merits of both franchises and how Batman can kick Spiderman’s ass every day of the week and twice on Sunday, but the reality is, Marvel has been much more careful about how they’ve rolled out their multiverse. They’ve taken the time to do it right and aren’t trying to cram ten years’ worth of storytelling into a handful of movies—unlike DC. Turns out: craft matters.

On the other hand, look at DC on TV—specifically, The CW’s Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and now Supergirl series. (Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of these shows, though LoT could use some improvement, IMHO.) Television—as a serial medium, with each episode acting like a chapter in a season-length novel—is a great medium for telling comic-book storyarcs about interesting characters and their problems and how they solve work through them by pummeling bad guys.

If you’re interested in more thoughts comic-book storytelling in different media, check out Episode 15 of Geeks of a Certain Age, a podcast that I co-host with my geek brother from another mother, Hank Garner.

Thanks, Professor. What the Hell Does That Have to Do with Gaming?

Great games are like great visual media of any kind—they immerse you in a world that doesn’t involve making your mortgage payment and they let you project your fears and hopes and gym-workout-best intentions on buff, smart, funny player characters. Left4Dead (and its sequel) are, boiled down, a redundant, fairly predictable series of FPS games. But they have fun characters who regularly bark at each other (especially when you shoot one of them in the back—oops). From the chapter subtitles (“No Mercy: Curing the Infection…One Bullet at a Time”) to the graffiti on the walls in the safe rooms to the aforementioned PC snarking—the game has great humor. I’m not a big fan of FPSs, but I’m a huge fan of the L4D series. I’ve played all those precious few chapters over and over, again and again. My family and I make a “zombie night out” of it on a regular basis.

When I write—especially darker stuff—I try to connect with readers in the same way. I personally believe that every one of us enjoys gallows humor and dirty jokes. (How much we let others see that side of us depends entirely on how well we know them—right?) Humor is a huge part of my horror fiction; as is helping the reader get to know the characters I’m writing about—even secondary characters and especially bad guys. I do my best to not create one-dimensional placeholders. They’re boring and offer nothing to the reader that reflects back to them a little piece of who they are.
That comes straight out of what I love about roleplaying games. I grew up reading Star Trek novels before ST novels were cool. (Remember Ballantine Books?) I played D&D in the late ’70s and early ’80s (and if you’re interested, you can hear me do it again with some other great gamer-writers on the podcast Sci-Fi Writers Playing Old School D&D). It’s all about character and character experiences in RPGs—or at least it’s mostly about that. Action too, of course. Plot’s important to keep me interested, right? But I couldn’t care less about what’s happening if I don’t care about character, first and foremost.

Similarly, my personal writing philosophy is this: everything derives from character. The plot moves forward not because lightning strikes, but because Sam the Hero chose to go out on a stormy night. If lightning strikes—well, he should’ve made a better choice. Games like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead—a favorite of mine from the past couple of years—shows this in spades. The gameplay itself is fairly simple (point-and-click combined with branching decisions that influence gameplay and what other characters think of you), but the storytelling is intimate, sometimes harsh, and always engaging (just like the series it’s based on). It’s about relationships between the player character (you) and the non-player characters. It’s about the human connection. And that’s the core ingredient in great storytelling, whether in fiction or gaming or television or movies.

The Play’s the Thing

I’ve rambled on a while, so I’ll sum up. Relatable, complex characters; humor (the darker the better in difficult circumstances); action that gets the heart pumping—all aspects of games I really enjoy (like The Witcher III, which I’m currently playing). Depth, breadth, immersive experiences—a world I can lose myself in (like Total War: Warhammer, which I’ve also spent a couple hundred hours in over the last few months). For me, these are the hallmarks of great gaming and great storytelling. And they’re the same ingredients I stir into my storytelling when I write fiction.

But overlaying all? Fun! Good novels, like great gaming, must be fun. Even when they’re dark. Especially when they’re dark. At the risk of pontificating (further), I’ll finish up with this thought: the closer a great game (and story) can connect to the person experiencing it, the better experience the reader will have. That means both gaming and storytelling have to impact the gamer or reader emotionally—whether that’s a complex family drama novel or the simple emotion of adrenalin-pumping fear you get from your favorite FPS. 

Relatable, complex characters; humor (the darker the better in difficult circumstances); action that gets the heart pumping. Depth, breadth, immersive experiences—a world I can lose myself in. These are the hallmarks of great gaming and great storytelling. And they’re the same ingredients I stir into my storytelling when I write fiction.

Think back on your favorite gaming or reading experiences and drop a comment below—am I right? Am I wrong? What makes a great gaming experience for you? When you finish a novel and go, “Whoa! That was awesome!” why do you react that way? Knifesedge and I are curious…

If you’d like to see if my fiction lives up to my claims in this blog, here are some options for you:

·         The Serenity Strain: Stormbreak. The first novel in a trilogy about the end of the world set in Texas. The sequel, Ironheart, came out recently. The final novel is on the drawing board.

·         Tales of B-Company: The Complete Collection. A collection of novellas set in Michael Bunker’s Amish-Sci-Fi world of PENNSYLVANIA. Pew-pew sci-fi with Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos roots.

·         Unconditional: A Tale of the Zombie Apocalypse (short story). What if The Walking Dead occurred from the perspective of the family dog?

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 16 Epic Battle

Today marked the end of a two month battle with a boss fight, or at least that's how it felt afterwards. I'm talking about my fish pond. For the last couple of months the pond has been close to empty of water, seemingly a leak draining it every time I topped it back up. I tried everything prescribed on various pond sites,

Brandy Bottle Lily in full bloom
I removed the edging rocks and made sure the liner was in the right place, I topped up the water and poured milk on the surface, which apparently causes a whirlpool type effect at the site of the leak, I spent  several hours visually inspecting the liner around the water level, I scrubbed the now ten year old liner of algae in case I was missing a hole but no joy. I even cut out two massive root sections of the Brandy Bottle lily, almost two thirds of the entire plant that covers the surface of the pond.

This weekend was my last resort. Replacing the liner with another would cost close to £200 or a pre made fibre glass one, closer to £400. I climbed into the now dry upper shelf of the pond and inspected inch by inch, lifting creases and removing more algae. Eventually I found it, a couple of inches below the water level, a one inch gash, partially hidden by a fold. So I removed more water, cleaned and dried the hole, patched it, double patched it and refilled. By last night I was jumping for joy, the pond stayed filled. The sense of satisfaction was incredible. Hours of work had been poured into thi little hole, time I'd much rather have spent gaming or gardening. 

Today I installed a new pump to feed my filter/waterfall and set up my old pump to act as a fountain. The thing sprays a good seven foot in the air and looks wonderful! I just hope my fish are as happy as I am!
Happy Fish!

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Friday, 19 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 15 - No Man's Sky and increasing inventory space guide

One of the early tricks I learned playing No Man's Sky is how to increase your personal inventory space in your suit. Upgrades are basically available from Drop Pods, found at Shelter sites. There is a trick to finding these and you can do this multiple times, even in your starter planet.
First off, you need to find one of the settlements and it must have one of these Signal Scanners, that sends an orange light shooting into the air. In order to use this device, you need a Bypass Chip, an item easily crafted with the most basic of materials, 10 Plutonium and 10 Iron.

Using this device you can then select which building to track. Select Shelter and the scanner will then find the nearest one. You can also use these when exploring to find Monoliths, Colonial Outposts and Transmission sites.

If you then take your ship and fly to that shelter, with a bit of luck, you should find a drop pod. Land your ship and head straight to it.

If there is a drop pod, it will look like this. Head inside to obtain your upgrade.

This is the upgrade. The first one is fairly cheap but the more you obtain, the more expensive they get, the priciest running to 50000 Units.


This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 14 - Guest Post Forbes West

Once again I'm delighted to host a guest post from proper-writer, Forbes West, author of Medium Talent: An Apocolypse World Weird Book and the forthcoming Nighthawks At the Mission. He' s also a gamer. All yours, Forbes...

Full disclosure: I am not a hardcore video game like some author I know (let’s call him Rick Gnole).  The latest video game purchase I have made was Skyrim. I still play Skyrim. I’m half way (?) done, I believe, and most of my time is spent running Guild missions for the people living in the Sewers in Riften and attacking NPCs outside the city.  Yes, it’s 2016. I understand. I should get something new.  I should do better. And it’s not like I don’t love video games- I absolutely do. I am just very, very, very particular where my disposable dollars are spent, and I like booze. A lot. And that stuff that’s getting slowly legalized in every state north of the old confederacy. 

So my entertainment dollar is usually not spent on video games because I have some issues and am quietly self-medicating.  But every once in a while, I’ll buy a game- maybe every six years or so. Once in a blue upon blue moon, when the stars are right. And the reason I do is because certain games have a certain story, setting and characters that just make me want to live in that world and explore.  Breathe its pixelated air, interact with its fake dangers and its artificial intrigues, and most of all, the game looks like it will inspire me to be a better writer.  

Certain video games out there, especially role playing ones, are some of the best stories ever written brought to virtual life- the writing is on a level way beyond what most of us would ever seen in the theaters or what is doled out on Barnes and Nobles bookshelves marked “Science Fiction” or “Fantasy”. 

Who doesn’t remember the twist and turns of Fallout 2 and the arrival of the Enclave and discovering the United States Government still existed? The shift from fighting Shinra to saving the world from Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII and the death of Aerith? The writing of such games covers hundreds of hours of dialogue, virtual books to be read, scrolls to be viewed, etc. The world building, too, in these very certain cases, is much more fleshed out than anything else out there- and seeing what a team of imagineers can do makes me want to be a better writer. To know my science fiction story setting so in and out that anyone reading it would feel as if a portal had opened and they had fallen into some other reality. 

Video games, being an art form unto itself, challenge my imagination and makes me want to do something as good as their programmer/writers had done, just as movies or novels have since forever. Skyrim inspired my novel, “Nighthawks at the Mission”, which is available in the link below. So did Fallout 3Final Fantasy VII, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  

Any writer out there who wants inspiration, who needs a virtual muse, who wants to see some awesome imaginary settings to get a charge off of, should play a game or two. It’s helped me. It’s definitely helped that Rick Gnole guy’s imagination. 

You can read more of my crap at

Monday, 15 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 13 - Gaming goals for the rest of 2016 and beyond

So with four and a bit months left to go of the year, I have decided I want to make concerted effort to work through some of the games I have started or bought intending to throw myself into. As I don't currently have an MMO sucking me in, this might be a good time, if I can drag myself away from No Man's Sky and Diablo 3! I can't say I'll get through these by the end of the year, but I'd love to make a start.

Fallout 4 - My aim is to finish the story. I've been far too bogged down with base building and need to focus on it. Not too concerned about DLC

Dragon Age : Inquisition - On PS3 so doesn't appear on my Steam list (and probably why I keep forgetting about it)

Shadows of Mordor - Another PS3 title. Really want to get through the storyline

Batman: Arkham City - PS3 again. Fully intend NOT to buy the more recent Arkham game until I get through this.

BioShock Infinite - I'm a fair way through this but find I only play in short bursts. Really need to get it finished.

Mass Effect 2 and 3 - I played through 1 on the XBox but has started again on the PC to go through the whole story. Currently on 2 but barely into it.

 The Witcher 3 - It's there, installed and mocking me. Not even started yet but I really want to sit down and play this. That might take up most of 2017.

The Walking Dead Season 2 - I enjoyed season one but never got back to play through the second part

Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Started and really like it

XCom Enemy Unknown - still haven't finished part one and really want to try part 2

Any suggestions on where to start?

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 12 More No Mans Sky!

Falling behind on my planned daily schedule but I'm honestly not concerned. Bel announced this would be a chilled out version of Blaugust so I'm not going to stress. I may post a couple in one day and catch up but that ain't gonna be today!

Today I have been trying  to fix my pond. It seems to have acquired a leak at a certain level. So far I estimate I've spent 15 hours over several days trying to find it, but to no avail. It's coming to the stage I want to strip the whole thing out and get a new liner, but at £100+ that might not be the solution.

What little time I had for gaming was spent on No Man's Sky. I'm very nearly 20 hours in and haven't hit that boredom threshold yet that some are grumbling about. I picked up my first replacement ship today. Only 18 inventory slots and fairly cheap but I love it as it resembles Boba Fett's ship, Slave One .

 I'm just sad we can't rename our vessels (yet!) . That would be a great addition. I also found out how you can expand inventory so I've almost maxed that out. My plan is to explore my home system as fully as possible, then make use of my newly acquired Warp Drive and explore further afield. I let the kid lose on the naming of things, so now we have a planet full of beasts named after her class mates.

I've also managed to line up some more guest posts from genre authors who are involved with gaming, so keep an eye out those in the coming month!

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 11 No Man's Sky

It was late at night, several hours after the PC of launch of a game I have anticipated for years, No Man's Sky. I had wanted to buy it at launch but started reading reviews to get a feel for any issues that may have occurred, something anyone buying on the first day is aware of. It didn't look good. Steam reviews were mixed , with 51% being negative, lots of complaints of the game not launching or for those that did get in, terrible lag and stuttering even on high end systems. It didn't look good for me and my two year old machine with a GTX 555 graphics card.

I checked Twitter and the feed showed the same picture. Huge amounts of people complaining, warning people against wasting their money. I'd had a similar experience with Total War :Warhammer that took ages to get fixed. To add to that, I noticed a friend was playing on Steam so I hit him up and asked him how it was going. Not good came the response, Had been following all the suggested fixes and despite having a fairly high end machine, couldn't get it to run.

I wished him luck and went to play Diablo 3 as I've been doing the last couple of nights but it wouldn't load. I tried out the Battlefront Star Wars Trial that Origin are offering (first four hours for free, highly recommend it) but after finishing the tutorial, I glanced at my Steam friends list. Now four people playing No Man's Sky. So I buckled. I bought it, downloaded and started it up.

It loaded first time! And not only that, it ran incredibly smoothly. No lag, no hitching and damn, this game is beautiful! and the sound - just amazing. I was hooked and three hours later, at 2am I got my spaceship to fly to big black. I can't wait to get back in tonight. Here's a few screenshots from my first session.

My homeplanet, later renamed Knifesedge Alpha. Stranded with a broken spaceship

View across what is now known as the Knifesedge Badlands

We have liftoff!

A great feeling of achievement when you finally take off

Why does this Space Station AI remind me of Hal 9000?

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 10 - Giveaway! Read Only Memories

A bit of a cheat but today's post is a giveaway, a Steam Copy of Cyberpunk puzzle and exploration game, Read Only Memories.

Read Only Memories

In Neo-San Francisco, a vibrant city of low life and high tech, you will witness the world's first sapient robot, learning how to grow and live as you become embroiled in the darkest scandal of 2064

Steam Link

To be in with a chance of grabbing a copy, leave a comment on the blog with your steam name. The Winner will sellected on Friday 18th August at 6pm UK time.

Spread the word!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 9 - The Last Leviathan First Impressions

The Last Leviathan is currently a fairly unique game, at least in my own experience, though I have heard it compared to a game called Besiege. The game is at it's heart a ship building simulator allowing players to build anything from a small raft to a massive multi-gunned battleship. As easy as this may sound, the game very heavily incorporates physics, so overweight one side, the vessel will tip over as soon as it hits the water (as  I discovered on many building attempts)

In its current form, the game has Creative mode, where you play around with the tools to create your different vessels, Battle Seas where you get to take on ever increasingly more powerful NPC vessels, Versus mode where you can battle your own creations or those in the Steam Workshop and finally events that allow the Devs to pit players against special challenges.

There is another mode in the works, the one I'm most interested in, Voyage Mode, which potential will be more of an adventure style mode. This should also introduce sea monsters and the titular Last Leviathan.

Still in Early Access, The Last Leviathan has a way to go but even with what you can do now, it's well worth £6.99 on Steam . Here's the Official Trailer.

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Blaugust 2016 Day 8 - Guest Post - Author Nick Cole - Hey! You got your Game in my Idea!

I'm both excited and incredibly humbled to host a post from one of my favourite writers of the moment, Nick Cole, author of Soda Pop Soldier and CtrlAltRevolt who when asked to write a short piece on gaming and writing came up with the following opus. If you haven't already, go check out his work and thank me later. Take it away, Nick...

Hey!  You got your Game in my Idea!

Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.  We take ‘em for granted nowadays.  Like peanut butter and chocolate are some naturally occurring substance.  Imagine that farm!  But, back in the day, before all this, there was some genius who put those two together for the first time... and the world was forever changed.  Even early Reese’ Campaigns focused on the craziness of such a concept as combining peanut butter and chocolate... as though only some idiot savant or mad genius might dare violate the laws of time and space to get their flavor on.

Puttin’ stuff together...  Sometimes it’s crazy enough to work, and, other times it’s an awful disaster.

Nowhere is this more evident in the world of video gaming.  Some concepts work.  Some spiral downward and pancake in a glorious conflagration of internet rage and hot potato corporate blame.  Who would’ve ever thought a game like Minecraft would storm the entire world.  And like most games it’s merely a conglomeration of concepts that fit together nicely.  Blocky eight bit nostalgia, farm sim, and lego.  Go kill a whole bunch of hours in your head.  My personal belief, and Minecraft proves this, is that gamers don’t need a lot of story, or background world-building.  I think they’re telling their own stories and sometimes the game gets in the way with how they’d like you to enjoy their opus.  But I digress.
It’s always an opus, y’know.  That’s what every developer wants you to think.  Including whoever made that SuperMan the Game.  Y’know with the rings.

I’m a writer.  And a gamer.  Writers are really good at putting peanut butter and chocolate together.  Our Pope, Shakespeare, basically ran around gluing history and black sheep family drama together.  And the rest of us have been doing it ever since for the occasional paycheck.  For instance, he would take histories and then mix in a lot of standard intrigue and family relationships, just like any of today’s Star Wars movies and voila, he had a show to stage at the Old Globe.  The Globe was essentially the Sixteenth Centuries XBOX One.  Except everything was multiplayer.  As in everyone watched the same show and even, often participated via insults or vegetables.  In fact, shows were written with scenes intent on breaking the fourth wall.  Scenes expecting the audience to get caught up in the action.

Neat, huh?

Fast forward to Now...

While Big Budget movies and Agenda-driven TV circle the ratings drain, gaming is becoming the next big arena for people to not only get involved in, but even watch via Youtube and Twitch.  And game developers are looking for that peanut butter and chocolate combo that will set the world aflame and earn them a cool sixty million in take home.  Sometimes they’ll do movie tie-ins in hopes of catching the zeitgeist of some nostalgia (Sorry Ghostbusters the Game but you folded a studio) or they’ll try to re-invent the wheel with a brand new Call of Duty or World of Warcraft (Which seem to be the two most popular things in gaming to re-invent.  Not because they’re awesome games, but because the Producer and Studio that’s going to pony up the front dough want those epic levels of fabled return.  So they’re taking a “chance.”)

Putting stuff together in gaming is fun.  And profitable. If it works.  If you nail Peanut Butter and Chocolate.

Like I said I’m a writer and I write video game fiction. Stories set in a world where gaming is huge.  Or a big part of the story.  Not stories set in a video game brand like Halo or Warcraft.  But stories where the hero is a gamer playing a game to solve a mystery, win a bunch of stuff, and hopefully not get killed.

In my book Soda Pop Soldier, my hero, a guy who goes by the tag PerfectQuestion fights in a massive MMO that’s a cross between Call of Duty and Battlefield (My Peanut Butter and Chocolate is a game made up of both.  See... putting things together J.) for a weekly paycheck from a soft drink company.  But he needs some extra dough so he games in this thing called The Black.  It’s illegal and its basically World of Warcraft meets the seedier side of Vegas.
(AAAaand... I’m putting more things together)

Truth is the public is turning away from movies and their fantastic failures as of late.  They’re getting tired.  Whether it’s hacky re-treads of golden age nerdstalgia, or the fact that they, the audience only watch, something’s not working in the solely visual mediums.   Maybe they want to play?  Y’know, be a part of the story?  Get caught up in the action.  The gaming community is hot, huge and growing, and unlike Hollywood, which tries to shut down valid criticism by review sites so no dissent may be brooked regarding their latest re-invention of the same film they’ve shown you the past twenty years, gamers instead have always been passionately vocal about what they don’t like, and what they love.  And even though some people complain about that, well, that’s actually a strength for the industry.  Criticism weeds out the Suicide Squads and Ghostbusters of the video game world and challenges producers and developers to go deep and bring us the next big experience.  And we don’t like it stupid.  It’s got be smart. 

Games like No Man’s Sky are proof that game developers get this and they’re still trying to earn your buck with that WOW! Factor.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate can happen at any moment.  You just gotta try some weird stuff and see what works.  And if you do, throw your heart over the bar and make something you’d want to play.  I think that’s still possible in games.  I’m doing it in my writing.  I’m writing fiction about games I’d totally want to play.  In fact, next project’s looking like Twilight 2000 meets Civilization.  So... Game on.  See you in whatever that looks like.

Nick Cole is a former soldier and working actor living in Southern California. When he is not auditioning for commercials, going out for sitcoms or being shot, kicked, stabbed or beaten by the students of various film schools for their projects, he can be found writing books.

Soda Pop Soldier is Call of Duty meets Ready Player One in this fast-paced, action-packed novel from the author of The Wasteland Saga.  Gamer PerfectQuestion fights for ColaCorp in WarWorld, an online Modern Warfare combat sport arena where mega-corporations field entire armies in the battle for real world global advertising-space dominance. Within the immense virtual battlefield, players and bots are high-tech grunts, using drop-ships and state-of-the-art weaponry to wipe each other out.  But times are tough and the rent is due, and when players need extra dough, there's always the Black, an illegal open source tournament where the sick and twisted desires of the future are given free rein in the Wastehavens, a gothic dungeon  fantasy world.  All too soon, the real and virtual worlds collide when PerfectQuestion refuses to become the tool of a mad man intent on hacking the global economy for himself.

Get it here... or here in the UK

"This smart combination of video-game action and stinging dystopian satire is meticulously assembled... [The narrator] manages to be a tough, snarky warrior battling his corrupt society's worst excesses. This is a cheeky and enjoyable effort by an author to watch." (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

"Gamers and action adventure fans will find something to like here. I devoured this book over the course of one day. I might have finished earlier, but work got in the way." (SFRevu)

"With Soda Pop Soldier, Nick Cole twists realities and bends minds for a wild ride of an action thriller. Inventive and lots of strange fun." (New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry)

"Without a doubt this book is going to be a classic gamer required reading. It is a science-fiction and first-person gamer's nirvana. ...This book is a five out of five stars." (The Nameless Zine)

"Pumping action, and fantastic futuristic battle is matched with a take on modern advertising that I can't help but love. I'm really impressed with how well Cole writes action, I did not want to put this down!"

Follow Nick Cole on Facebook over at

Or go to

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog