Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

What’s up with “VR Experiences?”

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 23, 2018

I’m a gamer. I’ve been a gamer for a long time. I had a career making video games. When I first started getting interested in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (two elements of “cyberpunk” that actually sounded desirable), it was the early 1990s, and there was very little of either technology to be found outside of university labs. Being a gamer, the obvious and most important application for this technology (whenever it would arrive… which I optimistically expected within just a few years) was gaming. I wanted to play VR games. The upcoming crop of 3D games (without hardware acceleration, back in those days…) would be so improved with faster computers and VR.

Now we’re here. Gaming is still important to me. But I’m still finding, even now that I’m getting a tiny bit jaded, that what I want out of the technology isn’t just gaming. It’s experiences. Gaming is a category of experience. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t just seem to be me. I’ve noticed the word “experiences” being slung around a lot in relation to VR. Me from a few years ago sneers at the term, but the me who uses VR almost daily has come to embrace it.

The thing is, VR is so immersive that many gaming conventions actually break it. There were only half-joking comments among the developers about how Skyrim VR would take players twice as long to play because it is just so cool to stand around and look at things. It really is a thing. What’s up with that?

There’s a theory  that “fun” is the brain’s reward for learning or mastering survival techniques, a hardwired reaction. Now, the deep lizard brain in charge of this stuff is still pretty primitive, but adaptable. What excites it and makes it believe we’re improving our chances of survival is a little fuzzy, and is a little different for all of us. In general, however, the closer we get to to basic survival in the physical world, the more likely it is to release a chemical hit of fun. Memorizing our multiplication tables in elementary school is probably a bit further removed from that basic experience to give most of us much of a thrill. Hitting things with other things in a first-person shooter, or identifying patterns and “gathering” or removing pieces from a board in video game, match real-life analogs of primitive survival skills for hunting and gathering, and more easily feel like “fun.”

VR is exponentially more convincing and “real” to that primitive part of the brain, which doesn’t listen to well when the cognitive and reasoning part of the brain tries to tell it, “Hey, this is just an illusion.” I have learned the hard way that it can be dangerous to try out a brand new VR experience right before bed. If I do, I may be tossing and turning for a couple of hours, even if I went to bed dog-tired. That deep part of my brain is too busy trying to process what I just experienced, convinced that it just went to a new place, and is frantically trying to come to grips with what to do and how to adapt.

But that just makes the VR “experiences” so much more compelling for me. Something like Apollo 11 VR – which would be mildly interesting to boring played on even a big-screen monitor – becomes something magical and epic. The attention to detail paid off in spades, and I couldn’t help but spend time just exploring the tiny, cramped cabins and looking over the dizzying array of instruments on the consoles. More than anything else, I came out of that one with a renewed appreciation of what an in incredible feat the moon landing had been.

My friends laugh when I say that sometimes I just like to sit in a virtual theater in BigScreen Beta and watch a show on Netflix. What’s the point? I have a big monitor with much better picture quality than I get in my Vive headset.  I’ve confirmed with other regular VR users that it’s not just me. The experience feels like a much bigger mental “break” than just watching the show by itself on my computer. Maybe it’s the novelty factor. Granted, going upstairs and watching something with my family on our very nice HD flat-screen from the comfort of the couch is even better, so everything is relative. Real reality still trumps virtual reality. I’m more than okay with that. 🙂

Unfortunately, some developers (especially indies) have taken this as a cue to produce pretty low-content “experiences” that aren’t worth the $0.99 they sell these things for.  They are just phoning it in and trying to cash in. That sucks. Usually. There are a couple of surprise gems in there, but a crap experience is just crap.

As a gamer, I still want my games in VR, but they aren’t just an evolutionary step in gaming technology stretching back to the old arcade systems. Virtual Reality is really kind of its own thing, now, along with its cousin, Augmented Reality. We’re barely exploring the surface of the potential of the technology. I’m pretty excited to be able to (finally) do that.

Bring on the cool experiences.

 


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The Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 21, 2018

Melissa McShane has a new urban fantasy series coming out, “The Last Oracle,” starting with this brand new release from Curiosity Quills, The Book of Secrets.

The teaser (short version):

“Helena Davies just wants a job that will get her out of her parents’ basement. Abernathy’s Bookstore is disorganized, out of the way, and smells funny, but it pays well and promises to at least be interesting. She has no idea how interesting her life will become. By the end of the first day, Helena has a dead boss in the basement, an unexpected promotion, and the news that she is now a part of an endless war against creatures from another reality.”

Nope, I haven’t read it yet. I’m reading another of McShane’s books right now (Which is a lot of fun). But I will, soon.

You can get the digital version of The Book of Secrets at this link. The paper version should be available soon.


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LTUE 2018 Report

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 20, 2018

Okay, it’s been a little crazy ’round these parts. Mostly crazy in a good way. That’s my introduction and apology for being slow on the blogging front.

Of course, the novel is moving forward. The Advance Reader Copies have gone out, and we’re releasing Blood Creek Witch on March 13th. I’ll have a couple of launch events thereafter.

The day job is awesome, but it’s taking a lot out of me. While the stuff I’m working on is not strictly VR-related, the VR side of things is heating up. I love it, but it does mean I end up spending long hours in the office. It’s definitely cool stuff.

I did get to take a couple of days off and go to Life, the Universe, and Everything 2018. I got to be a panelist on a couple of panels – one focused on Virtual Reality – and a moderator for another. Fun stuff. As an attendee, I hit as many subject-matter panels as I did professional writing / game development panels. The panels discussed topics like powered armor, the history and development of combat aircraft, and what makes a space ship spaceworthy. Some were more down-to-earth like how black and gray markets develop. While there wasn’t much new information, I thoroughly enjoyed a class on the Ultima, Wizardry, and Might & Magic game series.

I got to meet authors Sarah Hoyt and Todd McCaffrey on a panel I moderated, which was kind of awesome.  I also made and renewed quite a few connections locally. I received lots of reminders of what I should be doing. Sometimes we need that. I also picked up a few old classic books and some new ones by new authors.

Anyway – it was exhausting, but good. Lots of fun.


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Bound for Life, The Universe, and Everything 2018!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 9, 2018

This time next week, I’ll be at LTUE in Provo, Utah – “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” It’s a symposium for writers, artists, filmmakers, game designers, academics, and students all about science fiction and fantasy. The panels and discussions range from nuts-and-bolts craft and technique to specialty subjects like logistics of how you keep an army supplied and fed, or presentation of papers like “Dead Dad, Bad Dad, No Dad, Real Sad: Perpetuation of ‘Mother-Madonna, Father-Devil’ in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.”

I will be on three panels this time around. On Friday the 16th at Noon, I’ll be on a gaming panel on “Emergent Narrative.” I’ll definitely be approaching it from a video game perspective, but it’s bound to be a fun discussion on how you structure a game to interactively develop a story with the players (or encourage players to come up with their own narrative). FUN!   At 5:00 Friday evening, I’ll be on “The Future of Virtual Reality” which should be a very lively discussion about a technology near and dear to my heart, which I now get to play with professionally. 🙂  The following hour, I’ll be moderating the “SF/F – Were they ever the same?” panel. I’m really excited about this one. It will include Scott Tarbet, Sarah Hoyt, and Todd McCaffrey. I’m assuming the answer will not be an unqualified “no” from each of them, or it’ll be a really short panel.

Following that, there’ll be a mass book-signing which I’ll be participating in, along with a whole lot of others. It’ll be fun. Two years ago I participated and mainly signed copies of Sibyl’s Scriptorium. Last year I just bummed around and talked to other authors. My novel isn’t out yet, but I’ll have copies of at least StoryHack #1, Mirages & Speculations, and whatever other anthologies / magazines I can scrounge up.

During the rest of the symposium, I’ll be around: Usually in panels and classes, but also at the Xchyler / Local Utah Authors table in the dealer’s room, hanging with my daughter–artist Rowan North, or just talking to people in the halls. Come and say hi if you are there!


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The SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 7, 2018

Apparently, I’m just as much a sucker for awesome PR stunts as anybody else. I wasn’t paying too much attention beforehand to the Falcon Heavy launch by SpaceX. But I caught the tail end of the launch itself, and… wow. Just wow.

The Apollo-era launch pad. “Don’t Panic.” David Bowie. A sports car in orbit… now speeding off in an orbit around the sun that will not only get it to Mars (well, in the same orbital range as Mars), but actually out to the asteroid belt. And it will stay circling that sun in an orbit taking it from Earth to the belt for a billion years. I guess that’s one way to create a monument.

The only thing that was missing was them playing Riggs’ “Radar Rider” during live video feed while it was in orbit around the Earth. But then, that might be a pretty obscure reference for most people.

For me, the coolest part by far was the landing of the two side boosters. This was right out of a science fiction movie. My first impression was, “The CGI is too perfect here, it doesn’t look real.” Amazing stuff. This is the stuff I used to read about in science fiction novels as a kid, or watch in the cheesy old B-grade Sci-Fi films. And now it’s just going to be how it is done. So fricking awesome. Sure, it’s been awesome before, but seeing two of them doing it at the same time kind of blew my mind.

Seriously, I watched this part live, and I felt like I was a little kid again, watching the footage of the first Space Shuttle launch. My mouth was hanging open in awe. I didn’t realize that could actually happen, at least not to me. I thought that was more of an affectation used by actors. But apparently, it’s a thing that can happen. I now know this.

And the whole launch surprised me by how much it impacted me. Yes, a lot of it is Elon Musk and Space X deliberately pulling PR stunts to get people excited about space travel (and willing to put money into it). I guess I’m a sucker for it. I felt inspired. Hopeful. A friend of mine mentioned how happy she was that her social media feed was, for a change, filled with talk about rockets and space travel.

We turned a frickin’ Tesla Roadster into a space ship that will fly to Mars – and beyond.  We’re landing rockets tail-first on pillars of flame. This really is beyond cool.


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The CRPG Book Project – COMPLETE!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 6, 2018

Technically, I guess this counts as another release. 🙂  I’m really excited to read this one… at least what I haven’t read already.

The CRPG Book project is now complete.

Over 500 pages of retro-reviews of classic computer role-playing games, and essays about them. It took four years and a whole lotta people. Felipe Pepe kept at it, through a major relocation and changes in his own life, and the result looks pretty good. There may still be tweaks to fix typos and so forth, but this is otherwise the “final” version.

“The goal of this book is not only to gather, preserve and share the history of CRPGs, but also to help people find hidden gems or experience classic titles for the first time.” Games should be played, and even the older, difficult-to-play gems of yesteryear may be a lot of fun, though it might take a little bit of effort to get it to run and to allow yourself to enjoy something with clunkier graphics and interface. Not to mention, old-school designs. But if you have never enjoyed Ultima 7: The Black Gate, or the first “real” D&D CRPG, The Pool of Radiance and its sequels, dug into the original Fallout or Fallout 2, clashed lightsabers in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, charged forward to the cry of “Go for the eyes, Boo!” in the Baldur’s Gate series, or experienced some of the fantastic moments in any number of other RPGs… this book may help you learn what you are missing, and provide a gateway to some great, classic fun!

Contributors include game journalists, academics, game designers, writers,  bloggers, and many more. My own contributions include an essay (a cleaned-up blog post from a few years back, explaining how I don’t know what I’m talking about when I talk about “old school” RPGs), and a review of one of my favorite CRPG series… Ultima Underworld. It’s a tough one to play nowadays, because it offered a real “3D” first-person-perspective adventure at the same time as Wolfenstein 3D came out (with far more limited – but faster – 3D).

I’m also very pleased that the book contains a review of my game, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon. I rated!

The best part about this book release? It is absolutely free.

Anyway, the book is out. It’s in PDF format. It’s free. Grab it if you haven’t already. If you are at all interested in computer role-playing games, you owe it to yourself to browse through and revisit some old favorites as well as discover some gems you may never have heard of. I consider myself something of an enthusiast, especially for older RPGs, yet there are a handful that were new to me in this tome. You can find it here:

The CRPG Book Project

 


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Blood Creek Witch – Cover Reveal!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 30, 2018

This is exciting news for me, personally, and I’m thrilled to finally share more details.

My upcoming novel, Blood Creek Witch, is scheduled for release on March 13th by Immortal Works Press. It’s a modern-day fantasy set (mostly) deep in the ancient Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. We’ll release more details soon, but here’s the cover:

 

I can’t wait for you to get the chance to read it!


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Cirsova 2018 Spring / Summer Mini-Subscription Pre-Order – Last Chance!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 29, 2018

Hey folks. I do not have a story in either of these issues, but Cirsova is a great magazine emphasizing “pulp style” heroic science fiction & fantasy short stories. Yeah, there are a few of these now… StoryHack, Astounding Frontiers, Broadswords & Blasters, and others… all with different takes on “pulp,” but each is collecting stories that emphasize entertainment, excitement, and adventure. I’m just thrilled to see these venues appear, and I want to see them succeed.

I’m familiar with several of these authors, and they write great stuff. Adrian Cole is an old-school SF veteran, and many of the others are fresh, up-and-coming authors with exciting new ideas. I look forward to reading these.

You only have a couple of days left to pre-order Cirsova #7 and 8. At $0.50 an issue if you go digital, it’s kind of a ridiculous offer, but they are doing that to expand their audience. Take advantage of it!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1161542777/cirsova-2018-spring-summer-subscription


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Writing: Dealing with Rejection

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 23, 2018

If you create anything, you are going to have to deal with people who don’t like what you create. At best, they are uninterested. In some cases, you’ll get some people who derive joy from trying to destroy what you created, and tear you down. Sadly, the only other option is never to share anything you’ve created with the public.  And that would be a shame.

While as indies, we may create directly for the public, which gives us more of an aggregate response. We may submit to competitions. We may submit to publishers. We may submit our work for reviews. And that comes with the possibility probability likelihood of rejection or negative feedback. And that HURTS. I read somewhere that one negative review has the same emotional weight as twenty positive reviews. That means you could receive thirty-five stellar reviews, but then read two negative reviews and decide that “everybody” hates your work, and not only start doubting your skill, but your own self-worth. Science fiction legend (and ultra-prolific writer) Isaac Asimov once said, “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil-but there is no way around them.” It comes with the turf. It’s a tough gig out there, creating stuff.

I wish I remembered the source of the best pieces of advice I found about how to develop thick skin for rejection. It was probably some science fiction pulp writer (maybe even Asimov). It went something like this:

The best way to develop thick skin towards rejection of your manuscripts is to be so prolific that by the time you receive the rejection notice, you have trouble remembering exactly what they rejected.

I thought that was kind of crazy. At least in the world of short stories, I discovered by accident it was possible a little over a year ago. I had three or four stories out on submission at the time, so when I first got the email, I wasn’t sure which story it was talking about. That really did take the sting off. (Having an acceptance around the same time period probably helped, in spite of the 1:20 rule). Incidentally, I had to double-check to find out what story had been accepted, too. I was pretty busy that month.

It works. Keep going, keep pushing, keep submitting, and keep creating. It’s the only way.

I had a story that had been rejected around five times. It had been accepted for an anthology once, but the anthology had been canceled. I had received a personal message from the editor of another anthology who told me that my story was good and had made it all the way to the final round, but ultimately it didn’t fit in. I hadn’t resubmitted it in a while. I didn’t know what to do with it. I thought it was no good. That many rejections must means it’s not really that good, right? (Note – I thought this in spite of my knowing it had made a final round, and the acceptance that had later fallen through).

My good friend, award-winning author Julie Frost, helped me overcome this self doubt through her usual style of soft, gentle encouragement. Or not. Actually, I think she may have called me an idiot. She was right. She mocked me over the five rejections, and proceeded to tell me how many rejections some of her stories had received before being published. We’re talking over a couple dozen rejections. She was flabbergasted when I told her I had received the encouraging note from one editor, and that it had actually been accepted for an anthology that had fallen through.  She may have called me an idiot a second time at that point. And a piker. And something worse.

After she was done yelling at me, I dusted off the short-story, and did what I shouldn’t do and made some revisions to it–it was an older story, and I’ve improved since then. I “pulped it up” a bit. And I submitted it again. It was accepted, bought, and published. Yeah, it’s not quite Harry Potter (rejected twelve times… how would you like to have been an editor who passed on THAT?), but it’s a personal story and hopefully closer to home.

Rejection hurts, and it feels like a failure–even when the reasons for rejection may have nothing to do with the quality of your work. I think it gets easier over time, especially with that bit of advice about being prolific. However, I don’t think it ever gets easy. To quote Asimov again, “You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you are working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success–but only if you persist.”


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Recovery: Continued

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 17, 2018

I’m somewhat amused by how I’ve gone from thinking “Hey, I’m feeling much better than I expected a day after surgery” to, “Hey, it’s been almost two weeks since the surgery! Why am I not fully recovered yet?” It’s annoying because while it was not that major of a surgery (these days…), it’s kind of dominated my lifestyle for the last two weeks. It doesn’t help that I have an paranoid imagination convinced that every time I sneeze or stretch my guts are going to burst out through ripped seams.

On the plus side, I’m at the stage where I’m supposed to be taking long walks. While the weather in Utah hasn’t been that bad so far this winter, I’m still turning it into Doctors Orders to hit the treadmill at the local gym. So hey, it’s forced me to start the year out with hitting the gym on a regular basis. I just have to keep that habit going once I’m allowed to lift weights again.

Then I came back to work and found us back in something of a crunch because of a new opportunity that’s opened up. The day job can be unrelenting sometimes. In addition, I’ve had some deadlines on the writing side I’ve been struggling to meet. Huzzah, I seem to have met them. My publisher is getting eARCs of my upcoming novel done right now to send out to advance readers, and I hope the cover reveal will be soon. I also finished a short story submission for StoryHack (deadline Saturday, so there’s still time!!!). As a reminder, issue #1 is still the most recent, and contains my story, “Retrieving Abe.”

So… yeah. My 2018 has pretty much bolted out of the gate with Stuff Happening. Not bad stuff… not always good stuff… just lots of stuff.

If nothing else, it won’t be a boring year.


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VR Quick Take: Archangel

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 8, 2018

Due to surgery, any VR gaming I did over the last week was restricted to sitting-down experiences. Actually, I didn’t do much VR at all, but I did get the chance to play Archangel by Skydance Interactive, which is available for PC and Playstation VR. Because giant piloted mechas are one of those things VR was built for, IMO. In Archangel, you pilot a 60′ tall giant walking robot of destruction.

I didn’t have the stamina to play through the whole thing, but that was due more to surgery than VR sickness. It doesn’t seem to be a long game, though there are several difficulty levels and a number of missions to play through. The game is made with the Unreal Engine, so it naturally emphasizes greater photo-realism. And, of course, flashy effects.

The game is effectively a “rail shooter” from the arcade days. You have little control over where or when you move, but you must instead focus on fighting what you find as you and your support ships progress through the level. You control rechargeable weapons that can be fired independently from each hand – rockets from one, guns from the other. You can also create limited duration force-field shields from each arm, which you can hold up to protect yourself from attacks. And best of all, in some cases, you can punch enemies and structures.

This is the kind of game I would have happily shoved quarters into back in the day (probably at $0.50 or $0.75 per play), even without the VR aspect. The VR makes it oh-so-much-cooler. Of course, this isn’t back in the day.  We live in a world where you can buy a bundle of arcade-like games for a buck. And this is a fairly full-priced indie game at $30 (I got it on sale over Christmas for I think $10 off). But… we’re also in the early days of VR, and I’m still not yet jaded.

The graphics are really good for a VR game. Not up to Fallout 4 VR or Doom VFR levels (but then Fallout 4 VR has its own graphics anomalies), but definitely decent for a small/mid-sized studio production. They’ve spent a bit of effort adding a storyline and interesting characters. The voice-over work is decent. You have the ability to upgrade the Archangel’s systems between missions, based upon your own preferences. So yeah, in many ways it’s much better than the old arcade rail-shooters even without considering virtual reality.

And that’s plenty to do. Blocking and shooting keeps you busy. You feel like you are (mostly) controlling a giant mecha. They got the sense of scale right. In spite of having no control over the Archangel’s movement, things move smoothly enough and (relatively) slowly enough, and your virtual cockpit gives you enough of a presence that sickness wasn’t really an issue. While rails-shooter isn’t my go-to gaming experience most of the time, the quality is high and I do like having another VR game I can play from my chair.

However, for a “mecha-piloting” experience, until the new VR-enabled version of Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries comes out (a year from now), the little demo game “War Robots VR: The Skirmish” comes much closer to scratching my itch. But it only lasts five minutes.


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Recovery

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 5, 2018

My apologies for being a little more quiet than usual this week. I’m recovering from hernia surgery. Recovery seems to be going pretty well, but I’m not exactly in tip-top shape.

On the plus side… I’m catching up on some Netflix watching. And sleep, kinda, sometimes, belly willing.

And even some reading. 🙂


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Goodbye 2017, and Happy New Year!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 1, 2018

Last night we said goodbye to 2017 by watching the Rifftrax of Sharknado (which was hysterical), and playing the Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords boardgame. We won about 8 minutes before midnight on the second-to-last turn before we would have lost. So… yay!

Online, people are talking about how horrible 2017 was. For me… there was a lot I’d hoped to accomplish but didn’t get to, and I was in crunch way too much of the year, but aside from that, things went pretty well. I’ve had far, far worse years.

At the day job, things are kinda taking off right now. I’m getting paid to play in Virtual Reality, which is kind of a life-long ambition. Yeah, it’s not all I’d hoped and dreamed it would be, but it’s still pretty cool. It’s challenging, interesting, and sometimes even fun. Business is going pretty well at our company. We’re as busy as the proverbial one-legged-man at a butt-kicking contest (thus the crunch), as an artifact of success, but we’re pulling things off.

On the writing front, I had six stories published in 2017 (not including the one that squeaked in via digital in 2016 but didn’t see print until several weeks later). I had a novel, “Blood Creek Witch,” accepted by Immortal Works Press, and finished the last (?) revision. It will be released in March this year (YAY!). I also wrote the next book in the series, which is about to undergo serious revision as soon as I’m done with a couple of short stories. In spite of crunch, I’ve managed to pull off the writing thing. Yay.

Game development was sadly not a great winner in 2017. When programming for the day job goes 12 or more hours, it’s hard to come home and do basically the same thing. On top of that, I’ve pretty much lost my content folks to other projects, so it’s back down to just me. This is making me reevaluate how I make games in the future. I have limited art skills, and tons of art needs in the current project. That’s a problem. I have worked on some smaller experimental projects, particularly with VR, but nothing that I’m ready to talk about or take to the next level *yet*. I intend to explore these further in 2018.

I’ve also been avoiding making some hard choices with Frayed Knights 2. At this point, there are some things that just need to be completely re-written and re-done, but I am terrified that taking that step can throw the game into an endless loop of rewrites. But it may need to be done. FK2 was a learning project for me, and I now know a whole lot of what I did wrong. Continuing in the same direction could actually take more time. But content-wise, we’re still stuck at the halfway point. It’s a rough place to be.

We got to vacation in France this year. We’ve been talking about it and saving up for it for years. CRPG developer Charles Clerc of OlderBytes.com is a friend of ours, and he opened up his home in southern France to us to explore the country beyond Paris. We had an incredible week-and-a-half out in the Toulouse area.

I definitely slacked on the guitar hobby, compared to previous years. So I didn’t make as much progress as I had. This is a carry-over from the end of 2016, and another victim of crunch mode. Mostly. However, compared to pretty much every year before 2013 since I was 17 years old, I still did pretty good. I learned to play a few more songs, and while it’s still rough, I can play Don’t Fear the Reaper, a long-time air guitar favorite. Learning to play it For Reals is a huge .

So… all told, 2017 wasn’t too bad for us. Ups and downs, but I’m calling it a win.


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A bunch of very quick takes: Star Wars Edition

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 29, 2017

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I have taken advantage of downtime to get work done, but also to recharge the ol’ batteries a bit. Nobody’s asking, but here are a bunch of take-aways from a bunch o’ stuff:

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – I liked it better than The Force Awakens, and better than the prequels. However, I originally thought The Force Awakens was better than Return of the Jedi, but after seeing it again, my opinion of it dropped. So we’ll see how this one holds up. The film takes a bunch of situations that echo those from both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but spins them off in new directions. The theme seems to be “out with the old, in with the new,” and at the end of the film it sure feels like they’ve hit the reset button on the whole franchise so they can start with a fairly clean slate with Episode 9.

I’m… strangely okay with that. There’ll always be A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back that I can go back and watch and feel the love all over again. Beyond that… Star Wars has just been another SF franchise for me for a while now, and this felt like a better-than-average entry.

Jumanji – They opened with a clip of Twisted Metal!!!!! It was going to be hard to dislike it after that. But it was funny, way over-the-top, owned its wild premise, and was just lots of fun. Definitely worth watching.

Wonder – a story of a fifth grader with major facial deformities who goes to a mainstream school for the first time, as perceived by several different characters. It was very good.

Bright – A Netflix original film starring Will Smith, it’s an urban fantasy cop movie. It was okay, but I’d hoped for better. I would have greatly preferred a PG-13 version, but they were clearly going for the “Game of Thrones” style mature audience for this one.

Vaporum – I haven’t played much of this one, but it’s a steampunk-based dungeon crawler for the PC. It’s available on GOG and Steam, and if you are into both Steampunk and Dungeon Crawlers, it seems like a pretty worthy entry!

Avorion – Again, I feel like I have only barely scratched the surface of this one, but while it feels impossible to actually build a decent-looking ship in this game, it seems like one of the best approaches to “Minecraft in Space” that I have played. Everything is built from the same building blocks, so you have the advantage of a highly destructable as well as constructable universe to play in. But even beyond that, it looks like they’ve layered on some decent procedural gameplay on top of that. This is Good.

Kart Chaser: The Boost VR – I got this one in a bundle and dreaded trying it out, because it looked like a quick way to lose my lunch. It’s not actually the case. Yeah, it’s an indie Mario Kart clone, with cute graphics but only half the charm. However, they put the eyepoint in a very predictable spot, and I was able to play for several races without getting sick. This isn’t a game play all day long, anyway. It’s fairly cool and polished for what it is, but unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer. It’s available on Steam.

X Rebirth VR Edition – This was launched at a discount for owners of the original game. To be honest, though, I didn’t play much of the original. I’ve liked EgoSoft’s games in the past, but never warmed up to X Rebirth. I’ll give them credit for sticking with the game after the initial release was kind of a mess. By all accounts from those players who stuck with the game, the company pulled out the stops to make things right again. And now there’s a VR version. I was having some trouble getting a handle on the controls. I’ll probably have to spend some time going through online tutorials and videos to really grok this one, but that’s almost to be expected with more complicated simulators (even space sims) like this one.

War Robots VR Skirmish Edition – I don’t understand this one at all. It’s like… a free VR game demo that’s an ad for a mobile game? Hello? Screw that. I want to play more of the VR game. I realize there’s more money in mobile, but wow. I recommend checking this one out if you have PC based VR. It’s free. It’s ridiculously short, but it’s a good starting point for what I’d like a VR Mecha game to feel like.

The Swamps of Venus – A collection of Leigh Brackett stories by Baen Publishing.  Turn off the part of you that says Venus really is a completely uninhabitable hell-world and imagine an inhabitable and inhabited hell-world, and enjoy these wonderful science fiction stories from the pulp era. They range from good to great. It includes one story, “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” co-written by Ray Bradbury.

Anyway, there’s a grab-bag o’ stuff


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Xchyler Publishing Books *FREE* on Smashwords

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 26, 2017

There’s a year-end book sale going on over at Smashwords, and Xchyler has several of our eBook anthologies available for free there. Check ’em out!

Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology

Mechanized Masterpieces II: An American Anthology

While Beyond the Wail is pictured, I do not think it is available at Smashwords.


Filed Under: Books, Short Fiction, steampunk - Comments: Comments are off for this article



Jay’s Tales – The Complete Listing

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 21, 2017

This has been a good year for me as a writer. In 2017, I’ve had six stories published. There was supposed to be a seventh, but … we’ll see. These things get interesting sometimes. Maybe 2018, maybe never. I had a novel accepted this year by Immortal Works that we have been busy getting ready for publication. It should be released in March. I also have one short story slated for publication in an anthology next year.

In 2017, I doubled my published story count from six to twelve. Compared to some, I’m still very much a piker in this respect, but I considered it a milestone.  I set kind of a dumb goal to get four stories published this year to continue my trend. I’d had one published in 2014, two in 2015, and three in 2016, so why not? Now, I have no control over what gets published, what gets rejected, or how quickly either of those happen. That’s why it was a dumb goal. What I did have control over was how much I wrote and submitted.

Anyway, now that *I* am having trouble keeping track of what’s out there, I’ve created a page listing my published fiction. You can find it at the top menu here on the ol’ blog, the item marked “Jay’s Tale’s.” I will keep that updated as things get released or get a release date.

While I’d published several non-fiction articles previously, my first fiction acceptance by a paying market happened almost exactly four years ago today (at least that was the date of the public announcement). It’s been quite a ride. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot of how much more I have to learn. But I’m having fun. It’s been challenging doing this with a very demanding day job over the last eighteen months, but evidently it is possible. That may be the most important thing I’ve learned. Just like making indie games, this sort of thing is never “convenient.” You have to fight and sacrifice to make the time for it. But I’ve found it pretty rewarding.

I hope you find it entertaining. Enjoy the stories!


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