Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ender's Game 3: Xenocide

Xenocide: by Orson Scott Card

Flashback for a second:
"Ender's Game: 9.6/10.0"
"Speaker for the Dead: 8.4/10.0"

And now we get to Ender's game 3, which is a direct sequel to Speaker for the Dead. It took me two tries to read Xenocide, and it was a pain to finish. This book is awful compared to Ender's game, and mediocre compared to speaker for the dead. The characters are all annoying, whining, quarrelling types who just discuss science and plot elements. The story is dragged on for way too long, and the author tries to make it interesting by making it overly-complicated with half a dozen different elements. He just succeeds in making it longer and more boring.

Xenocide is about twice as long as it should be, trying to make something out of nothing. The story is barely interesting to begin with, yet they drag it on for 600 pages. They could have accomplished all they needed to do in the story in only 300 pages or less, yet for some reason the book is 600 pages long.
The book goes starts as a science-fiction, philosphical, moral, and political story, yet ends in the weirdest fashion were dreams and fantasies can come true.

Ender's Game was an amazing book in all aspects. Speaker for the Dead added onto that legacy, but took the story in a risky turn at the end. Xenocide has barely anything happen, and then ends in a weird manner leaving you remembering how good Ender's Game is, and how weird Xenocide is.



Monday, July 30, 2007

Creating a New Game

When designing a new game, I have several goals outlined in my mind:

1) Gameplay:
Introduce a new gameplay element, or reintroduce old elements in intuitive ways. Also, you can fix broken gameplay elements. Don't just make a new game that recycles old gameplay elements. Using a new gameplay mechanic will make the player think; it will make the player have fun.
E.g. I'm going to keep the "kick" verb to use for more puzzles, and I'm going to have multiple characters. By interacting with other characters, you can "use" them on objects. This is like another inventory item, and will make the player think about how his companions can help him. Each companion may also have special abilities that the player must understand to solve puzzles. Aside from those I will try to make creative puzzles and introduce a "trust" bar for each character you interact/talk with. That way, every dialogue choice has real meaning behind it. By the end of the game, your choices should have a lasting effect on the story.

2) Story:
a. I'm going to try and create a mystery/scifi story that will play out in a similiar vein to LOST, where you are presented in a new world with plenty of questions, and by the end of the story, most questions should be answered but they will also keep you thinking.
b. The story I create should also naturally present gameplay elements and obstacles through the screenplay. I think I managed to do that.

3) Characters:
Creating characters is not my specialty as I believe most of my characters are flat. I'm going to try and change that by making some characters different in this game, and by creating conflicts within your main set of characters. I always thought it was interesting in Lord of the Flies and Ender's Game how the character conflicts move the story forward. I wanted to try something like that in this story too.

4) World:
There are three elements to a story: the screenplay (story), the characters, and the world (backstory). One of the ways you can make games more believable and more immersive is to create a long, interesting world behind all the action. However, you have to reveal the world in an interesting way. If you throw pages and pages of backstory at the player, they'll just get bored. Have them discover the backstory in the game, by reading logs, or having the characters comment on things in subtle ways. Get the player interested in the world, and slowly reveal more of it to him at every possible place. Don't force a story on the player.

5) Technicalities:
And then you get past the brainstorming and the ideas and you actually have to make the game. This involves drawing, animating, finding sound effects, putting together a believable world, and all that. If you can draw the player in with the technical aspect, then you can hook them on the gameplay aspect. Then you must maintain the technical side until the end to keep the atmosphere.

My goal in La Croix Pan was mainly focused on the technical and gameplay aspect; the second time around I want to get into a story. I just think it's harder to tell a story in a short game, and it's easier to go into details in a medium/long game.

That's pretty much my to-do-list for my next game, which may or may not get made. I want to make sure the game is worth making before I start making it.


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Saturday, July 07, 2007


I watched about 90% of it (unfortunately missing the last 10% due to loud noises and food distractions) and I must say, it was a good movie.

Even though it's famous, I was almost expecting it to be bad. I liked North by Northwest only for the first half, and then the second half got boring. The Man Who Knew Too Much was a little too far-fetched for me, even though it has one good scene. But I was quite surprised at how interesting Psycho was, and how much story there was to it. I thought it was just about some murder in a hotel, but the story is about five layers deeper than that.

I also expected it to be a horror story, but it was more of a psychological thriller/mystery, which I very much enjoyed.

The screenplay was also interesting. There is the main character who runs away with the money, but then decides to give it back while meeting a complex and interesting character at a motel. Then suddenly the main character dies leaving me wondering who will take over the story. The new main characters are introduced trying to solve the murder, and then you are taken by suspense of them being in constant danger.

All of the characters seem unique and real, and every scene seems perfectly made.

Overall, it was the best of the Hitchcock movies I have seen so far.

9.0 / 10.00
Just watch it.

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