Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

League of Utah Writers Spring Conference

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 11, 2016

LUW_Schedule_Spring2016Over the weekend I attended the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference (Workshop) held in Taylorsville, Utah. My friend John Olsen went into more detail (and took way more pictures – my two didn’t turn out well), and has a write-up of his experiences here.

With so many different classes packed into a little under six hours, there were several classes I wanted to attend but couldn’t. But here’s a quick run-down of what I did see!

I started out by hitting Ali Cross’s class on writing action scenes. Her focus was mainly on fight scenes, but she did use a chase scene as an example. The bulk of the seminar was on keeping it real… or at least within the realm of believability.  This covered a range of topics.

One suggestion: Don’t make your protagonist suddenly turn into a martial arts legend able to defeat trained special forces agents all of the sudden if that’s not their background. However, they can be given one good trick that they believably picked up from somewhere which allows them to fight back enough to escape. She used Melissa McCarthy’s character in Identity Thief as an example… I never saw the movie, but the character was good at punching people in the throat.

Another point was to keep things grounded, and remember the terrain and the character’s entire body. Even if it’s fighting a dragon. People need room to fight, and remember how much of their body needs to go into a move for it to be effective.

Finally, we discussed writing techniques, and how a lot of it depends on whether it’s a plot-focused action scene or a character-focused action scene. Plot-focused scenes tend to be more blow-by-blow, and character-focused tend to omit more of the details and focus on what’s going on inside the character’s head. Remember point-of-view, avoid passive voice, and try to keep the sentences quick and punchy. Another trick is to keep the verb and direct object as close to together as possible. An action scene that goes longer than a page will fatigue and bore the reader, and that’s a really, really bad thing in any scene, but especially an action scene.

Callie_LUW_Spring20165Next I attended editor Callie Stoker’s workshop on voice. She covered both character voice, and authorial voice. She started by having people describing Mr. Darcy, Harry Dresden, and Jay Gatsby’s big party… then read how they were introduced in the books. Interestingly enough (and I’d totally forgotten this), in The Great Gatsby it was almost entirely in the head of the narrator… how it all felt, rather than a physical description. She involved the audience for practice changing words in sentences to give them more of a “voice” – first character, then authorial, then transitioning between the two in the same sentence. It’s a tricky balancing act, and I thought the workshop was extremely useful. I also came to realize how much I suck at this.

Lisa Mangum, author and  editor for Shadow Mountain Publishing, ran a workshop on creating pitches for books… emphasizing the ability to sell a book in 30 seconds (or less). While that was the hook, the workshop was a bit more comprehensive than that, covering everything from composing tweet-sized pitches to writing a full synopsis for an editor. The idea was to use the smaller pitch to engage enough interest and attention to share the next bigger, more information-packed pitch. Some tidbits (especially when working with editors): Really know what genre and story type you are working with. While we may resent being put into those boxes, it’s a shorthand to communicates a lot of information in very few words. Another point she made is to think about our favorite book, and think about how we tell our friends about it. THAT is how we should talk to other people about our own books. That feeling, if not wording.

Michael Bacera’s session on creating a social media campaign was a LOT more useful and information-dense than I anticipated. John has some good stuff in his write-up on this one, but I seriously couldn’t keep up with the notetaking. His focus was on creating engaging content that invited action, rather that “trying to sell to your followers,” which doesn’t do so well and tends to piss off your audience, and creating a full-on campaign plan with measurable results.

Finally, Paul Genesse – always an entertaining speaker – talked about writing short stories. He spoke on the whys and the hows of writing short stories – with a lot of emphasis on the whys. Of course, the days are long past when an author could make a living writing short stories (not that it was ever super-lucrative). But there are still reasons to make short stories, not the least of which is that it allows authors to experiment, hone their craft, and get some ideas out there really quickly.

I felt the conference was valuable. My wife asked how it compared to LTUE a couple of months ago. LTUE definitely drew in the bigger names with more experience and more established credentials. However,  a lot of the presenters at this conference. were the same people on panels at LTUE, but who now had the stage to themselves to get into a lot more details with a smaller crowd, rather than it being a survey of advice. There were panels as well, but I didn’t attend any. I think given my current experience level (still sucking but sucking a lot less than when I started), I am definitely in the position to learn a lot from both.

And now I totally want to see a similar, local conference focused on game development!

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What Am I Playing / Reading? That’s a Complicated Question!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 8, 2016

When people ask me what video game I’m playing or book I am reading, I tend to stammer a lot. I mean, if they are pointing to the screen or the book in my hand, then sure. No problem. But if someone asks it as a more generalized question, like “What have you been reading / playing lately?”, then… it gets weird.

I worry that I have some kind of ADD thing going on with my entertainment media. But I guess an analogy might be a television show. At least, back in the days of network TV when we didn’t binge-watch. And when I used to, like, watch television regularly. It’s that thing people who aren’t gamers / game developers / writers do. I have to think waaay back.

But back then, it was expected that people were watching shows, plural. What shows are you watching? What shows do you watch?

I have well over 100 role-playing games installed on my desktop. ONE HUNDRED. And that’s just role-playing games. How many of them have I played? How many do I expect to continue playing? (Hint: If I haven’t uninstalled them, that means something). How many do I consider “actively playing?”

Maybe I have a focus problem.

Books – same deal. Mostly. I’m reading a lot of anthologies and magazines of short stories right now, so it’s a little haphazard. There’s no need to read them in any order. Short stories work really well with my schedule. But then I’ve got books. I’m usually in the middle of reading two nonfiction books, at least one paper novel, and at least one digital novel. That often comes down to “what do I have at hand when I find myself with time to read.” I often have my tablet with me when I find I’m stuck waiting somewhere, so I have time to get a couple chapters of reading done with an ebook.

At least my currently reading / currently playing list isn’t as big as my to-be-read/to-play list.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Yeah, I’m excited.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 7, 2016

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”

That’s the first two-thirds of the opening crawl to the original Star Wars, later subtitled “Episode 4: A New Hope.” When I was a kid, the implication… in the style of the old Flash Gordon serials that Lucas emulated for Star Wars… was that this was a summary of what happened in the imaginary Episode 3.

When Lucas finally got around to making the prequel trilogy, he trashed that idea.

But now… FINALLY… my inner eight-year-old might get to see something worthy of his imagination. Because they are making that story. It’s called Rogue One, and it’s the first of the one-off Star Wars films that will be coming out between the episodic films. These will take place at different times and places in the Star Wars continuity.

The trailer dropped this morning, and I’m excited. This one has a younger Mon Mothma, and a rag-tag bunch of rebel agents kicking butt against good ol’ fashioned original-trilogy enemies (Storm Troopers! AT-ATs!) plus a whole lot more. Since this is the first Death Star, I guess many Bothans won’t have to die just yet. Also, since the only two Jedis left in the universe are still in hiding, we’re probably not going to see much of the Force in this one. Which I am more than okay with.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens gave me faith in the franchise again. Yeah, flaws and all. After watching it three times, I think I prefer it over Return of the Jedi. I’ve got confidence that Disney can do a good job with the franchise, and I’m giving myself permission to be as excited as hell over this movie.


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Dragoncon Awards

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 6, 2016

DragonConLogo_no_backgroundSmallThere’s a new awards thingy happening, and you can get involved!

DragonCon is launching a new set of awards, the bulk of which are going to novels of many different speculative fiction categories. Sadly, there are no categories for shorter works of fiction (or poetry), HOWEVER… there are several categories going to GAMES!

And it’s free to join. No big membership fee.

The nomination process is going now, and will be closed at the end of July. Then there’s the voting period. The awards will be held on Labor Day Weekend at DragonCon in Atlanta.

You can participate by going here and checking out the links.

DragonCon Awards 

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Create Something New

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 5, 2016

Dave Farland, fantasy author, writes about “Dream Making.”  This hit home:

“But several times in the past few weeks, I’ve heard people describe the basic ideas for their novels, and felt that the basic concept was so weak, that I had to wonder, “Why would you write that one?” In each case, I was talking to speculative fiction writers and the idea for the novel was so simple that I had seen one like it perhaps a dozen times before. Maybe I’ve seen too many ideas, but I can’t help but think that the novelists in these cases somehow . . . went astray.”

Sword_of_shannara_hardcoverIt sounds to me that he’s hearing  a lot of pitches that are overwhelmingly “been there, done that.”

Welcome to the indie game nightmare. This is nothing new to either field. Gaming had innumerable clones of Pong and Space Invaders in the early and late 70s, respectively, while the heavily Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy hit Sword of Shannara came out in 1977. But it was hardly the first of the “me, too” inspired fantasies.

It makes sense on one level. Face it… most of us do this stuff because somewhere along the line we were inspired. And like they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We want to recreate what we love.

In an empty, hungry market, there’s room for that. That worked for Terry Brooks, who took the best-selling Shannara series in many new directions over the years.

That’s why game publishers (and developers) get so excited about new platforms. They create a new, empty, hungry market.

The_Great_Giana_Sisters_CoverartIn a saturated marketplace, it’s a whole ‘nother story. Sure, you can make your own special version of Super Mario Brothers. For you, it may be a fantastic exercise. But in a world that already has that game, and sequels, and clones, why would anybody else need to play this game?

And that’s really the cool area to focus. This shouldn’t dissuade you, it should excite you. Because that’s what we’re all about… creating new worlds, new experiences.

One piece of advice I’ve frequently heard is to write your marketing copy first. Use that as an opportunity to get to the core of what your game or story is about, and also single out the key elements that makes it cool, unique, and interesting. Once you have that fleshed out – and it’s not big, we’re talking two, three, maybe four paragraphs – and you read it and it makes you desperately wish someone else had already made it so you could play it / read it NOW – then you are ready to begin work on it.

The audience wants something familiar but new. Don’t skimp on the new. Be creative!

Filed Under: Design, Writing - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

Guitar Hero Live is Dying…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 4, 2016

Guitar-Hero-LiveMy sympathies go out to the people laid off from Freestyle Games, makers of Guitar Hero Live. This pretty much nails the coffin shut on the Guitar Hero franchise. Things don’t sound great for Rock Band 4, either. It seems like the planned resurgence of the music rhythm game genre ain’t happening.

This kinda bums me out, but by the same token, I think I have some DLC for Rock Band 3 on my XBox 360 that has never been played. And I don’t have a next-gen console yet. But every once in a while we pop out the ol’ hardware with friends and family, and you know what? It’s still a lot of fun. Every time.

But … in all honesty, besides new songs, where else was the series to go? From a gameplay perspective, the only way to go was new songs. And after a good 5-year run, they’d hit a lot of the high points. Both games offered new instruments, of which the drums was by far the fan favorite. In the end, though, you stand there with friends and hit the right combination of buttons at the right time in time with the music to keep the music playing, using gameplay powers to try and prevent someone in a tough spot from failing or trying to maximize your score. And… what else? Part of the fun was in the simplicity of it all. Making things more complex would only detract from the game. There were all kinds of meta-game elements slapped on to the core gameplay, but it was the core that made people keep coming back… for a while. But eventually, we’d done it all.

For me… but sadly, not for many others… the next step was using the game to learn to play the real instruments. Rock Band 3 went there, with a custom controller and everything. Which I still have. It wasn’t great, especially because it had to be watered down to fit in the core experience of the Rock Band / Guitar Hero model.

Since then, Rocksmith offered a marginal improvement over that experience, and Rocksmith 2014 took a much bigger step in making a focused “learn to play guitar” tool, to the point where I have a tough time imagining too many improvements I’d want to see in an update. But in order to get there, it had to drop a lot of the fundamentals of the Rock Band / Guitar Hero experience,  which were excess baggage in a training tool. At least a singer can still plug in a microphone and sing along.

But this illustrates a problem that has existed in video games since the first arcade sequels, and games like Asteroids Deluxe and Ms. Pac-Man. It’s the reason we don’t play a totally new version of Chess every couple of years. Gameplay may be refined and accessorized, and the presentation may be changed, but if you change too much, it’s no longer the same game. But if you change too little, players will get bored. If you keep things simple to attract new players, your veterans will grow bored. If you make things more challenging to appeal to the veterans, your player base will shrink to just the veterans of the previous game.

Game makers have come to realize this, which is why changing content is the key (the game is the same, but the content keeps fresh). But it’s still a problem when so many game companies are dependent upon evergreen product lines. There’s a point where just changing the players on the sports teams to match this year’s lineup, or throwing in a few new levels doesn’t do it for players anymore.

I think this is also a reason why I’m such a big fan of retrogaming. A good game is a good game, and it shouldn’t have to be part of a big franchise to be playable a decade letter. This is what scares me so much with this trend to treat games as a service.

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The Triangle of Game Development Speed

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 1, 2016

Rachel Aaron – author, geek, and gamer – once figured out a way to drastically improve her writing speed, by a factor of 5, with some tweaks to her process. I’m always reading these kinds of things with an eye towards optimizing both of my passions — writing and game development — and I noted that the three factors that she mentioned have also been factors for me when I’ve been “on a roll” with game development. I can’t point to massive sustained and measurable productivity changes in the long run like she can (for one thing, measuring game development productivity is a bit harder…), but I can see some similarities.

As an aside: For writers, I definitely recommend her book, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. It’s short but cheap and packed with good practical advice in addition to an expanded version of the article linked above.

Aaron identifies three factors that were in many ways a “silver bullet” to improving her productivity: Knowledge (by far the most significant factor), Time, and Enthusiasm. All three apply to game development, with particular emphasis on the first two.

Knowledge: What this really means is planning and preparation, and this has been HUGE for me in game development. For most people, I think our brains prefer to operate in one mode at a time, and shifting between creative, planning, and problem-solving modes takes a not-insignificant amount of time. Trying to be creative while planning and problem-solving at the same time can be extremely frustrating. Aaron found that when she took a mere five minutes before starting her writing session to really make sure she was set, and to come armed with an outline and an understanding of exactly where she needed to go and what points she needed to hit made a tremendous difference in her writing speed… more than 2x all by itself!

I have found this to be 100% applicable in game development (and non-game software development!) as well. And not only applicable, but critical. Having tasks, goals, and a general plan-of-action before jumping into coding or building things makes a huge difference in productivity for me. It’s what allows me to focus and hit the coveted “zone” in development.  When I go in less prepared, then I stall out badly between tasks. Even just the act of deciding which task I should work on next can really slow me down, knock me out of the “zone,” and impact my productivity. Worse, I may end up “puttering.” Gold-plating. Tinkering. And worst of all, browsing the web. But that’s a point for the next section.

Bottom line: Go in with a plan of a attack. What exactly this consists of may be up to your own process, but at the very least, set goals and have a list of tasks in excess of what you expect to be able to complete for the development session. Have a solid idea of what you expect to see and have done when you are complete. Plan out the order that you are going to do things. This does NOT mean you must execute exactly according to the plan… not at all! No plan survives contact with implementation. But if the next step or task doesn’t come naturally and or organically during a development session, you have that default to fall back on.

Time: This really comes down to quality of time. For Aaron, she found that it worked best as contiguous blocks away from distractions (like the Internet). She also found that the first hour was the least productive (the time it took to get into the “zone” I guess), and that productivity started dropping off after 6 hours.

Now, when doing software development, sometimes the Internet is more important as a resource than it is a source of distractions. And I found that when I’m in the middle of level design and modeling, I can actually listen to podcasts without a problem… but I absolutely cannot do so while coding! However, discipline must be fierce to avoid turning it into a distraction. Otherwise a quick 10-minute check as a reward for finishing a task can turn into a 40-minute time-waster way too easily.

The point Aaron makes is that this is something that should be measured an optimized on a personal level, something I think is absolutely applicable in game development. We all have optimal rhythms, although I think most of us respond better to larger chunks of time (at least up to about 4 hours) without interruptions. We should try to arrange our software development time appropriately. It can be really tough with family, kids, social life, etc. Some folks I know resolve this by either staying up late or waking up early to have at least a couple of uninterrupted hours dedicated to development or writing.

Enthusiasm: This is a tough one. Aaron’s approach is a bit less straightforward here, but makes sense: If you aren’t enthusiastic writing it, how do you expect the reader to be enthusiastic reading it? Her solution was “stupidly simple.” If she couldn’t find the hook or elements to be excited about, it means that she had screwed up on the outline and was writing something boring that had to be removed or changed to be made exciting. That makes sense, right?

Well, that doesn’t map so well into game development. Writing is more of a 1:1 direct approach for the reader experience, but game development has many, many layers that have to be built into the system to provide the player an experience that is going to be different for each player. While things are getting far, far better with modern game engines, there’s still a crapload of work that is less-than-sexy that has to be done to make the game work. Like preserving game state and making it save and load, and providing an interface that does this that works with the rest of the game UI. Fixing collision issues.

One solution that worked really well for me on one project was to divide my tasks into three categories: Things that I was excited to do, things that would make a big playable / visual / audible difference in the game, and things that were needed but were not particularly exciting or noticeable. I think I labeled them, “Fun”, “Cool”, and “Other”  For example, working on the combat AI would be fun for me, but while it would make an impact on the game, it wouldn’t be something immediately noticeable. A cool new particle effect might be fun, but it would be in the “cool” category because it makes an obvious improvement to the game visuals. Hunting down an intermittent crash bug would probably be in the “Other” category. While it might be a huge relief to fix it, and sometimes bug-hunts can be kind of fun on their own, it’s not something I look forward to jumping into.

Anyway, once I made up these lists, and prioritized things a bit, I’d take one task from each category and lump them all together as a group. The idea was that I couldn’t move on to another “triplet” until I’d finished all the tasks in the current one, but I could do any of the current triplet of tasks in any order. It helped my motivation in two ways… I’d look forward to being able to work on the next ‘fun’ task, and then when I was done, I had a slightly cooler game to show for it.

That worked until I ran out of the fun and cool tasks. 🙂

I’m not entirely sure of the best approach to maintaining enthusiasm for an entire project, or even if that’s possible. Even for the coolest, most amazing game ever, there’s going to be a lot of butt-in-chair time that really just comes down to loving what you are doing and having the internal motivation to plow through some of the grunt work. But I think the lack of enthusiasm may be a huge reason why many game projects “stall out” before completion.

While there is no such thing as a “silver bullet” in game development to solve all the woes and difficulties, I think that variations on Rachel Aaron’s triangle may at least help us optimize so we’re not under-performing.


Filed Under: Production, Writing - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

The Low-Rez Game Jam!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 31, 2016

Think you can make a video game that fits in a 64×64 grid? In a couple of weeks? If so, then Friday is your day:

Low Rez Game Jam, April 1st – 17th. 

Show off what you can do in only 64×64 pixels!


Honestly, I kinda dig the limits on this one. The 32 x 32 limitation on the jam in 2014 was perhaps a bit too restrictive, but this sounds entertaining. It’s still less than a quarter of the screen size of the original Game Boy, but it’s bigger than the Dreamcast VMU.


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Frayed Knights 2: The Rats Are Back!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 30, 2016

RatsAreBackYou knew this, didn’t you? The Rats of Nom would be back in Frayed Knights 2? It’s be kind of lame if they weren’t.

The funny thing is that the whole “Rats of Nom / Farmer Brown’s Cellar” quest in Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon was really a set-up for a joke that doesn’t happen until the second game. It’s very satisfying to me that that particular quest has proven so popular and stood on its own. They’ve kinda become a signature Frayed Knights thing even from their brief appearance… although I’m sure that having them earlier in the game rather than later was helpful in that respect.

RatsAreBack2But while the cellar and tunnels in FK1 were really just an outpost of the nearsighted, intelligent, EVIL rats of Nom, in FK2 you’ll be visiting a couple of their strongholds, and it’ll get… messy. The rats play a major role in FK2, and so you will be encountering the power of their fully operational battle station. Or something. 🙂

For that, we’re working on the look and feel of  their levels, which are decidedly unique in their style and architecture. That’s one of the things that’s so rewarding (and such a pain in the butt to develop…) in the FK series… trying to make sure all the dungeons look and feel different. This is more than just texturing – it’s in the way it is laid out from the get-go.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

FanX 2016: The hangover. I mean, the debriefing.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 28, 2016

Xchyler_FanX2016_ThreeI spent the weekend at the Salt Lake City Comic Con FanXperience (or FanX), and had a blast. I was exhausted, I sold books but not as many as I would like, bought way too much stuff (mainly books and T-shirts), and I only went to one major celebrity panel (Alex Kingston of E.R. and Doctor Who). But I got to chat with a bunch of great friends, attend lots of great panels, and pretty much got to live and work at a massive geek party for three days.

Xchyler Publishing has several authors here in Utah, and so we’ve teamed up to run a booth together for many events. This year, we even had a sponsor to help us out – Kelly Olsen of Keller-Williams.  That made it much easier to not lose money on the booth. 🙂 It’s also incredibly fun to hang out with some very creative and talented individuals.

John Olsen posted a great write-up of several of the panels he attended. He and I attended a lot of the same panels, so our notes would be pretty similar. He’s done an outstanding job of hitting highlights and some of the key pieces of advice from those panels. There are also some great write-ups from my friends David West and Sarah Seeley.

Some of the panels I attended had nothing to do with making games or writing, but were just lots of fun. Like how to tell better stories as a game master in RPGs. 🙂  Although I’m pretty sure I can apply some of those ideas to game development.

FanX2016WritingPanel_1024The writing panels I attended weren’t quite as deep as the ones at Life, the Universe, and Everything, but that makes sense considering the audience. The LTUE crowd tends to be more experienced, more “amateur” rather than “aspiring.” Still, there were a lot of great tips on everything from the craft of writing, to professionalism, to promotion. Some tips were repeated across multiple panels (especially when it was the same panelist), but here are a few tidbits:

“Pantsing” vs. “Plotting” – or “Discovery” vs. “Outlining.” The difference here is whether an author just kinda jumps in with an idea of the characters and the situation and just runs with it … discovery or “pantsing” (meaning “seat of the pants”) or if they outline everything out in advance, and to what level. There are big, popular authors who do both. The thing that keeps coming up (for me) as this gets discussed is that the discovery writers really end up with a first draft that is a very elaborate outline, which they then have to whip into shape and give it some structure. The outliners… well, there are several layers of outlines, and for some writers, the story often starts deviating from the outline as they go. I think this tends to run more of a spectrum, really, and some of it depends on whether or not an author is under contract with a publisher that demands an outline.

FanXMythicaCastAnother point that got brought up repeatedly was how different authors have different processes that work for them. Nobody works exactly the same. It seems like the point is to keep working on and refining your own process, until you find what works best for you. This is equally applicable to games development and writing, I think.

An amusing analogy: “Your brand-new idea for a story is your crush. Your book in development is your spouse.” The point being that it’s easy to get excited and passionate about things at first, but turning that into a complete work takes commitment and a lot of work.

Realize that you are going to have to leave stuff to your reader’s imagination. This is a good thing, if handled well. You can hint at the environment with just a few words, reveal the critical pieces, and let their imagination do the rest.

You can make a lot of mistakes as a writer (and as a game developer, IMO) and may be forgiven by the readers. But you absolutely must not be either boring or confusing.

XchylerBooksFanX2016And finally, the point that gets brought up over and over again… writing is a skill, like any other. The “million words” advice was repeated in panel after panel… the idea that your first million words of creative writing are going to be crap… just practice… no matter how good you think you’ll be. Kevin J. Anderson’s wife, Rebecca Moesta, had a particular amusing story about that and how she just knew that she was going to be the exception. She kind of was, as she got a very extensive and personalized rejection for her first story, but had no idea how most authors struggle to get to that point. 🙂 Yeah, sometimes we get lucky from time to time (Julie Frost made a joke during LTUE about how as long as we’re practicing writing, we may as well practice submitting, and practice signing contracts, and practice cashing checks during that time).  The bottom line is to sit down and get working on it, keep improving, and finish stuff. And yes, this advice applies 100% to indie game development as well.

As a side note – someone came up to the booth this weekend (I wish I could remember his name) and told me how much he loved my story, “The Van Tassel Legacy,” from Mechanized Masterpieces 2. He wanted to know what other steampunk stories I’ve published since then (sadly, none, as I’ve been working on Frayed Knights 2 and other genres). Anyway, this totally made my day. My day? My week.

Anyway, I hope some of these bits of advice may be useful to you. Good luck!

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A Brief Report from the FanX 2016 Floor

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 25, 2016

The first day of FanX has been a lot of fun. I should probably work more than I did today. I don’t want to take any books home with me. 🙂

We got to meet the main cast of Mythica. I didn’t really get to talk to Melanie Stone much, but everyone else was incredibly nice and fun and waaay tolerant of me geeking out. Jake Stormoen (left), who plays Dagen in the films, pulled out the D20 he carries around with him in a small bag just in case a D&D game breaks out. You know, be prepared and all that. Also proving his geek cred.


Anyway, lots of hanging out with authors, friends, meeting a few new people, and attending panels. I haven’t really been hitting any major celebrity panels or anything, but I did pass by Peter Davison (Doctor Who’s 5th Doctor).

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Off We Go… to FanX!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 23, 2016

Tomorrow through Saturday is Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience 2016. I’ll be there. Signing books ‘n stuff. And having a blast.

I will have paper copies of the anthologies from Xchyler Publishing for sale (Mechanized Masterpieces 2, Beyond the Wail, and Terra Mechanica).  I expect I’ll be at the booth at least half of the time.

Some of the big names that are coming this weekend include Summer Glau, Alex Kingston (yes, we get TWO Rivers this year!), Matt Smith, Gillian Anderson, George Takei (“Oh, my!”), Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Renner, Levar Burton, Alan Tudyk, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davidson (yes, we get THREE Doctors!), and Buzz Aldrin. We’ll be overflowing with great authors, from bigger names like Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Kevin J. Anderson, Dan Wells, Claudia Gray, Larry Correia, and (I think) Tracy Hickman, to a bunch of lesser-known but very worthy wordsmiths who really know their stuff who are too numerous to mention, but some of ’em are fellow Xchyler authors.

Anyway, it’ll be a good time. It always is.




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GOG.COM Insomnia Sale

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 22, 2016

If you haven’t already seen this yet…

GOG.COM has a “Sleepy Insomnia” sale with one game at a time going on sale at a time, until they have “run out”

Great stuff if you have games that you are waiting for. You have to be fast, though. They only sell a few of them at a time at steep discounts.

So far, it seems that most of their games are newer indie games that are normally priced  above $10. Good stuff if you want to round out your collection. I’ve seen Pillars of Eternity on rotation a couple of times, which is awesome if you don’t have the game yet.

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Frayed Knights: Things Coming Together

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 21, 2016

While it was from my era, I never really watched the TV show “The A-Team.” I think I saw one full episode. Some things are a little too ridiculous even for a kid to suspend disbelief. But the catchphrase from one of the characters stuck even without me watching the show… “I love it when a plan comes together.” Maybe not as memorable as Mister T’s “I pity the fool,” but it’s the phrase that comes to mind when things start coming together.

There’s still way too much to get done, but having things I’ve farmed out come back to me is a tremendous thrill. Still. Every time.

I think a lot of it is the reason I love making video games in the first place. It’s a creative endeavor. Having things which previously existed only in your own imagination take form outside yourself is amazing. Having other people contribute to this vision, and sharing this task of creating an imaginary world, is equally amazing. Even … or maybe especially… when the vision of the contributors is compatible with but not an exact match for your own. At that point, it grows into a feeling of discovery as much as creation.


So…  yeah. Stuff is trickling in. Stuff is coming together. I’d hoped to make beta in time for Salt Lake Gaming Con, but there’s just no way that’s going to happen. There’s going to be a LOT more to show with the game, but not stuff that demos well. What demos well at a convention is that very first dungeon, which I showed last year.

I’ll at least put together a trailer (one that doesn’t suck this time, I hope) that will include more of the new content.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights, Production - Comments: Read the First Comment

Navigating a Negative Review Crapstorm

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 18, 2016

This is how reviews generally work on the Internet. Which is more of a magnification of how word-of-mouth has worked since the dawn of language:


(Image from Happy Monday Comics)

Again, this is human nature. My brother once called the number on the “How is my driving?” bumper sticker to report how conscientious a particular driver had been. The person taking the call was incredulous and kept asking for the nature of the complaint. Nope, no complaint, my brother told them. Just a complement. He was a good driver. They literally had no process for handling positive feedback.

Even where feedback may be more varied, there tends to be a pile-on effect, especially with negative reviews. This can sink a flawed but promising product in no time, demoralize the creators, and delight the trolls. Nicholas Laborde of Raconteur Games explains how his team was able to turn this catastrophe around into some measure of success:

What I learned from our game having a “Mostly Negative” on Steam.

There was a bit of discussion this week about a “rogue” PR person manning the Twitter account for the beleaguered BART system who perhaps single-handedly deflected a lot of this “pile-on” effect by … get this… being transparent and honest and turning it into an actual two-way conversation for a few hours.

Wired: BART’s righteous Tweetstorm reminds us its problems are our fault

I hopefully won’t have enormous call to deal with something on quite this magnitude anytime soon, but the truth is that anytime you create something and put it out there for the public, especially anything experimental, this is a risk. Not as big a risk as being ignored completely, but it’s a risk.

More importantly, dealing with complaints and negative reviews are a fact of life, even if they don’t escalate to crapstorm-levels. I think there are some things to learn here on a smaller scale. You can never please everyone, and the anonymity of the Internet brings out the trolls. Responding defensively is rarely the answer, but good communication, a pro-active response to complaints, and an inhumanly good attitude and willingness to turn it into a learning opportunity really do help.

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2016 IGF Awards

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 17, 2016

The 18th annual Independent Games Festival is happening this week, and the awards are in. Top honors went to Her Story, which won the Excellence in Narrative award as well as the Seumus McNally Grand Prize. Fan favorite Undertale won the audience award… not that it needs the cash, from what I have seen. 🙂

More information can be found here.

Congrats to the winners and the finalists!

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