Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Category: fantasy (page 1 of 3)

A new game arises

One of the things I’ve had in the back of my mind to do for some time is make a video game. While it’s a daunting task for one person to do, it’s been done, and many times done successfully. Encouraged (and emboldened) I have set about getting things together to bring this game into fruition. I’m going to be reticent with details such as the game name, but it’ll be a “visual novel” set in the world of Aesedra, dealing with the life and memories of one of its long-dead rulers.

A few details (major updates 5/2/2018):

  • I’ve gone with ren.py
  • It will be a visual novel, complete with books, scrolls and plaques that the player can read.
  • There will be no combat or inventory
  • It will feature forests, streams, ponds, a pool, a large manor house, a basement, an attic, a crypt and a rotunda. This is at the least. I may even add more.
  • It will feature both music and ambient sounds/effects (Foley).
  • I hope to make it cross-platform, though I have zero idea how games work on Macs.
  • I’d like to release it on Steam and offer achievements and trading cards.

As far as knowledge goes, I’m starting at near zero. I am no artist or graphical designer, I am no musician, I am no programmer. What I can do is write a story – look around this site for evidence – and I have the self-belief that I can learn the skills necessary to bring this game to life. I don’t know how long it’ll take to make – a year, two years, I don’t know.

The materials I believe I’ll need to make this game. Check means I have it already:

  • ren.py – check. Its a free download. What powers the game.
  • Blender – check. It’s a free download. To create 3D structures and other assets.
  • GIMP – check. It’s a free download. To draw textures, colour materials and structures. Scrolls, books, plaques, gravestones, etc.
  • ProjectLibre – check. It’s a free download. This tool will be used to manage the game project.
  • Freeplane – check. It’s a free download. This is a Java-based mind-mapping app which will let me visually lay out the game.
  • Audacity – check. It’s a free download. This program is for editing sound files and Foley, as well as the voice-overs.
  • Inkscape – check. Free as well, for the backgrounds and some character art.

While storyboarding software would be nice, I can do this stuff in a word processor or text editor, or even Freeplane which will do the job visually. Mind-mapping tools are marvellous for laying out things like timelines, brainstorming etc.

The design computer is my gaming rig:

  • Windows 7 64-bit
  • Intel i5 6600
  • 8 Gb x 2150 DDR4 RAM (I have another 8Gb I need to fit).
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD (C: drive)
  • Toshiba 2TB “spin” drive (D: drive)
  • Asus Strix AMD 390x video card – 8GB VRAM

My linux computer – which I’m writing this on, is an old AMD K6 with an Nvidia GT210 in it. NOT a gaming computer! What it can do is run the Java-based apps such as ProjectLibre and Freeplane, and maybe some of the audio editing. It’s easy enough to move files between the two computers – that’s not an issue.

So where am I at with the game? I have a very rough map of the “game world” drawn – the actual area the player can explore. Just the exterior so far. I also know what the story will be like as I’ve touched on it in a couple of stories I’ve written. My next steps are to watch tutorials on UE4 to see how it works and what can be done with it. I’m already investigating programming (Javascript) so I’m on the way from that angle too.

Stay tuned. I will have more in the future to present!

🌞

Jack Williamson – Darker Than You Think

Darker Than You ThinkDarker Than You Think by Jack Williamson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got the nagging feeling while reading this that it should’ve been better than what it was. It started off so well, with its mysterious woman and promise of some great mystery – but that mystery largely evaporated a third of the way into the book. While it never turned into a stock monster/vampire tale, I felt it was lacking, and most of that lacking lay in the character of Will Barbee, who spent the entire book in denial.

There’s a certain misogyny about the whole thing too, even accounting for its 1948 vintage. Williamson refers to April Bell throughout as a “white bitch”, and while he means it as a matter-of-fact descriptor for her lycanthrope state, the term and its 21st century connotations can’t be easily put aside. He plays April as the great evil seducer, an amoral Whore of Babylon leering into the face of poor Will Barbee and teasing him.

But as I said, most of this novel’s problem is Barbee himself, drifting about in complete and abject denial of the reality that’s brutally in his face. His abnegation of reality becomes annoying quickly, and as a result the novel suffers.

Withal, I can see why this work is regarded as a classic of dark fantasy, but it’s difficult to read it without allowing 21st century sensibilities and mores to intrude.

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Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels – David Pringle

This is in regards to a well-favoured book that came out in 1988, that listed the best 100 novels in the fantasy genre since 1946. The author’s idea of what fantasy is mightn’t coincide with the popular view and for sure, some of the included works would raise a few eyebrows. Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Fowles’ The Magus wouldn’t ordinarily appear in your average list of great fantasy books. Neither of those two are what you’d classify as light, entertaining reading.

Sporadically over the years, I’ve tried to read all of these books and as of the writing of this post, I’m woefully short of even halfway. I’m at twenty-three, and of those, I couldn’t even finish a few of them – like The Third Policeman and Glory Road. I found them unreadable.

But a number of the author’s choices are among the best things I’ve ever read – Lord of the Rings, Lord Foul’s Bane, Titus Groan, Eyes of the Overworld, etc. The Lord of the Rings make most best-of lists, and Titus Groan and the other Gormenghast books occasionally do too. And, a little while ago, I was actually quite chuffed when Rupert Murdoch’s news.com.au included The Dying Earth as one of its 100 Must Read Books.
the dying earth

So, the point of this post? I suppose I’d better get to it. I will endeavour to read all of these in this list. I own a few of the unread ones, and most that I’ve seen can be had cheap off Ebay periodically. Failing that, there is the e-book route (Amazon, et al).

Stay tuned.

Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis – Dragons of Winter Night

Dragons of Winter Night (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #2)Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not as good as the first one. It lacked a certain something, and the way the narrative jumped around wasn’t ideal either. I found it a little harder in this instalment to care about the characters too – the authors obviously want you to care – but for mine, there wasn’t enough given reasons to care. They’re not as cardboard-y or as stock as in some other D&D novels out there, but because of the frequently discursive narrative, there’s not enough time to build up a rapport.

And dare I say it, but of all the D&D worlds, I have a preference for the Forgotten Realms. Ed Greenwood may have his faults as a writer of fiction, but the world he created is a compellingly deep place. Krynn? Not so much – not yet, I suppose. Over the length of two books, it hasn’t really taken on more lustre than you’d expect from imaginary places on a drawn map.

In Krynn’s defence, I’m only two books in. With a few more tomes under my belt, maybe this initial shallow impression will deepen. I just hope there aren’t too many more blah instalments like this one.

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Kate Novak – The Wyvern’s Spur

The Wyvern's Spur (Forgotten Realms: Finder's Stone, #2)The Wyvern’s Spur by Kate Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3.75 out of 4. Not quite on the same entertaining level the first novel was, and that’s primarily the fault of the character Giogioni Wyvernspur, who spends the first 75% of the book a well-meaning doddering fool. In the end, when he mans up as such, things get moderately better.

The character of Flattery, the villain of the piece, is intriguingly written too – he’s a nasty piece of work, even resorting to hitting women, not something I expected to see in a D&D novel. Congratulations to Kate Novak for making a genuinely unlikable character.

As with the first book, Olive Ruskettle is the most well-rounded character here, morally and ethically ambivalent, though he rings true in the end. I enjoyed her knowing and cynical take on things.

Congratulations also for making an entertaining D&D novel where there’s almost minimal adventuring. All of the books in the Forgotten Realms series have been picaresque adventures. Not this one. The action mainly takes place inside and a few miles around Giogi’s manor house, and it works. There’s no need for a-roving I will go here.

Overall, a slightly weaker effort than the book before it, but it’s among the better non-Salvatore Forgotten Realms novels I’ve read.

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Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis – Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Dragons of Autumn Twilight  (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #1)Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alrighty then, this was a fun and painless read. Of course, it was completely non-challenging as far as literature goes, but that’s not the point, and rarely is the point for this kind of work. This is entertainment, and entertain it did, which is why I’ve awarded it four stars rather than three. Naturally, it was extremely derivative of another fantasy story a few people may have heard of, and the characterisations were sourced from central casting.

Despite this, it was written with verve and an obvious love for the land, times and culture of the world the book is set in. In saying so, there was a certain amount of grey room syndrome here, as playing the Dragonlance modules beforehand may have been a given. From the narrative, it’s clear the reader was meant to have some familiarity with Raistlin, Sturm, et al, before delving into this book, despite being the first in the series.

All in all, I liked this story, for all its “me-tooism” and stock characters and situations. It flowed well, and it rarely sagged or got bogged down. Sure, I’ll read the rest of them.

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Kate Novak – Azure Bonds

I’ll preface this review by saying that Curse of the Azure bonds is the only Gold Box game in the Forgotten Realms series I haven’t played. I own it, so I should rectify that…

Azure Bonds (Forgotten Realms: Finder's Stone, #1)Azure Bonds by Kate Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great fun and it’s one of the better D&D books I’ve read. The ending was vaguely familiar to me and I was wondering if I’d read this book before, maybe when it was released. It’s hard to say, as I don’t generally forget books that I’ve read. Either way, it’s fast-moving and entertaining and doesn’t suffer the saccharine and soppy moments the Ed Greenwood books do. And despite characterisation not being the strong point of these D&D stories, there was something obliquely appealing about the characters of Alias and Olive Ruskettle.

Very good. Bring on the sequels.

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P N Elrod – I, Strahd

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire (Ravenloft, #7)I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire by P.N. Elrod
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A five star Dungeons and Dragons book? Yes, this is it. Everything clicked with this instalment – the narrative, the characterisations, the pacing, everything. Elrod’s erudite and understated style is a welcome change from the usual quasi-fanfic renditions some of these D&D novels are – hi Ed Greenwood!

Elrod makes Strahd incredibly three dimensional. He was a cipher in the previous books in this series where he featured – a bad Hollywood Dracula – but here? It’s incredible to watch his descent from determined and honourable soldier to self-serving and self-absorbed vampire. You almost sympathise with his plight – almost.

I, Strahd is a cautionary tale like no other, and if the rest of the Ravenloft franchise is half as good as this, then I’ll be happy to read them.

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Ed Greenwood – Hand of Fire

Hand Of Fire (Forgotten Realms: Shandril's Saga, #3)Hand Of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wow…I struggled to finish this. It’s just that bad. Which is a shame as you don’t want your Forgotten Realms books to be bad – you want them to kick ass (even if it’s all popcorn). But when the milieu’s creator writes an execrably bad book, then what can you say?

Basically the protagonist and her whiny husband nuke, obliterate, annihilate, incinerate, deep fry, fricassee, broil, roast, scorch, blast and excoriate every one of the legion of over-confident bad guys that contend with her. Just endless waves of them. It’s like the literary version of Serious Sam 3.

That’s it. That’s what happens in this concluding tome. There’s zero character development at all, no suspense, and the marvellous world the author created barely gets a mention. Every dangerous encounter is swept aside by Shandril’s super-powers or the timely arrival of her equally faceless Harper allies.

Oh, Shandril dies at the end but she’ll come back as a ghost to keep a watch on Narm, who gets sent off to find himself another wife. Narm…urgh, through the course of these three poorly written adventures, he’s the common denominator that weighs them down. What a nobody! His single purpose is to provide a pillow and a shoulder for Shandril to cry on after she’s finished vaporising the opposition for the day. He’s an ineffectual and annoying cipher.

Summary: a godawful book. On to fresh woods and pastures, etc.

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J Robert King – Carnival of Fear

Carnival of Fear (Ravenloft, #6)Carnival of Fear by J. Robert King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 4.25 out of 5 but marked down a tad for routine characterisations.

What a pleasant little surprise this was. Of the six Ravenloft books I’ve read, this one was the icing on the cake so far, just edging out the first in the series . Of all of them, this is the one that actually delivered dark Gothic horror the best.

This is an effectively and chillingly nasty book, peopled with ugly characters (if a touch wooden) and a very ugly and unpleasant setting.

Some genuinely horrific things go on in this book, and that my friends, is what Ravenloft is meant to be about, no? The previous five books in this series flirted with the concept, sometimes dipped their toes into it, but this book is completely doused and drowned in it.

It’s not classic literature by any means, but it’s darkly entertaining and fast paced. Well done.

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