It’s still January (barely) so there’s still time for me to make some New Year’s Resolutions, right?
This year, I want to:
- Go to the gym at least 10 times per month
- Finish my scene-by-scene outline for the second draft of Coven Hill
- Finalize all of the backgrounds for episode one of Rise of the Hidden Sun
- Finish up the episode one animation sequences, too
- Take the kids to Europe, if our finances allow it
- Completely redo my online travel writing portfolio
- Organize the family photos dating back to 2007
- Repaint at least half the rooms in our house
So there: Some creative stuff, some around-the-house stuff, and a couple of personal or family enrichment goals.
I’ll let you know how I did when next January rolls around.
Every year around this time I like to make a list of the things—movies, TV shows, books, events, et cetera—that I’m most looking forward to in the year ahead. It’s then fun to look back a year later and see if those things were worthy of my anticipation.
In no particular order, this year’s list includes:
New TV shows: Or more specifically one new TV show from Joss “Buffy/Angel/Firefly” Whedon! Premiering February 13, Whedon’s Dollhouse stars Eliza Dushku (from Buffy), Amy Acker (from Angel), and that guy from BSG who plays Helo. Production squabbles with Fox aside, the concept is a cool one and I have the utmost faith in Joss. So this is something I’m cautiously optimistic about.
New movies: My three most anticipated movies of 2009 are Terminator: Salvation, Harry Potter 6, and the new JJ Abrams’ re-imagining of Star Trek. Normally I couldn’t care less about Trek (I’m more of Galaxy Quest kind of guy), but JJ is just a notch behind Joss Whedon on my must-see list, and that trailer looks incredible.
New Fiction: Three of my favorite genre authors have new work coming out in 2009: David Anthony Durham’s The Other Lands (a follow-up to his beautiful fantasy debut, Acacia); George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons (book five in the Song of Ice and Fire series); and Tad Williams’s Shadowrise (the final volume in the Shadowmarch trilogy). I’m also somewhat guiltily anticipating the arrival of Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead, the first new Indy novel in a decade.
New Arrivals: Have I mentioned we’re having another baby? We’re currently calling him/her “Sprout” and he/she is due in August. Our little family is growing!
Family Milestones: Ethan’s 2nd birthday rolls around in March, and my 10-year wedding anniversary comes this September. Monumental events, all.
Year of the Rattlesnake: I make no promises, but things are looking good toward getting a playable demo—and maybe even the entire first chapter—for my always-in-progress adventure game Rise of the Hidden Sun: A ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake Dawson Adventure out the door before the end of the year.
And last but not least…
The Second Annual Outdoor Movie Night: Last summer’s first annual Outdoor Movie Night featured Raiders of the Lost Ark on a 20-foot screen in our back yard, and it was awesome. This year I’m aiming to make it bigger and better! More people, more food, and more cheesy ’80s movie goodness. I’m thinking either The Princess Bride, Back to the Future, or Ghostbusters on the big screen on a warm July night.
A year ago at this time I posted a list of 10 things I was looking forward to in 2008. Before I look ahead to 2009, I thought it would be fun to see how each of those things from 2008 turned out.
1. Ethan’s first birthday. This was as amazing and magical as I’d imagined. I’m looking forward to his second birthday with even more enthusiasm!
2. The New England Patriots Invitational Tournament. Also known as the NFL Playoffs, this one didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped or expected. But ah well, 18-1 is almost as good as 19-0. Right? Nah, not really. Alas.
3. Getting healthy. Sadly, this one’s still a work in progress.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In a word: Awesome.
5. Easter Island. I did indeed make it to Easter Island last March, and it was a great experience. Lingering health issues were kind of a drag on the trip, though, and I would much rather have traveled there with Penny and Ethan than go solo like I did.
6. Spider-Man: Brand New Day. The Spidey comics went from monthly to three times a month and featured an all-new, all-not-married status quo for Peter Parker. And, by and large, it was a great year for the character. I’m still jazzed about the series as we head into year two of the new era.
7. Creating… something. Last year was to be the one where I finally made some headway on either Rise of the Hidden Sun or my young adult novel. I chose the novel and managed to get about 45,000 words into it before losing steam around Thanksgiving. So, not a success but not an out-and-out failure, either. A work in progress.
8. New TV shows. I was really looking forward to Jericho (returning from the dead) and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Jericho only lasted seven episodes but tied up most of the loose ends nicely, and Terminator started well, then got a bit spotty before coming on very strong here in season two. Here’s hoping for a season three pickup in 2009.
9. The Red Sox in Japan. Wow, I completely forgot this even happened. It was a neat little sideshow at the time but, ultimately, not all that big a deal. I’m more likely to remember the Sox losing game 7 of the ALCS than anything about their time in Japan.
10. Climbing a mountain. This finally happened in October during our vacation to Acadia National Park. It was a wimpy little mountain, but the views were spectacular and it felt grea to be back outdoors. Maybe 2009 will be the year where I finally get back into hiking the way I’d like to, though.
The latest (and I do mean that literally) installment of my formerly monthly adventure game design column, Adventure Architect, is now up at Adventure Gamers. It’s likely to be the last thing I’ll be posting about Rise of the Hidden Sun for quite a while, so head on over and read the update if you’re interested.
Five years. One thousand eight hundred and twenty-five days. Forty-three thousand eight hundred hours. Two million six hundred and twenty-eight thousand minutes. That’s how long it’s taken.
Yes, adventure fans, the moment you (and, believe me, I) have long awaited is finally here. So cowboy up, kids, because Rise of the Hidden Sun is done!
For those of you haven’t been following the game’s development, here’s the sitch. Rise of the Hidden Sun (or RoTHS, for short) is a freeware comedy adventure game set in the Wild West.
It’s the story of a cowboy named ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake Dawson and his rival, the beautiful but enigmatic bandit Mary Jane Clayton. With nothing to his name but his wits, his six-shooter, and a tattered old treasure map, Jake needs you to help him win the greatest treasure hunt of all time—because the very fate of Western Civilization is at stake, and Jake isn’t the only one on the hunt!
The now-completed (!!) game is a 186 MB download and features:
A simple Sierra-style point ‘n’ click interface
127 beautifully illustrated game screens at 800×600 resolution
A full musical score and sound effects
Thrills! Chills! Spills! Laughs?
I just stumbled over a blog post by Josh Roberts, multi-talented writer/producer/designer of the very excellent independent adventure game Rise of the Hidden Sun… It’s a very ambitious freeware project that suffers a bit from an on-again, off-again progress. After a long hiatus, development on the game resumed in 2007 and the artists in Josh’s team churned out some really impressive artwork, but now according to his blog post production seems to have ground to a halt again… Josh is obviously very determined to see the game of his dreams realized. He’s also a talented writer with a kick-ass concept for a game. Yet even he has problems in finding and maintaining the help that is necessary to create this mammoth project, at least with the kind of quality he aspires to. I’ve been there myself a few years ago… Anyway, I hope Josh will find a way to keep his project going. Rise of the Hidden Sun is a game I’m very much looking forward to.
It’s pretty flattering to know there are people out there who I’ve never met who are looking forward to my game. ‘Course, most of them will have lost interest by the time I actually do get something done. But still, flattering! And it does make me want to dig in and keep trying.
Earlier this month I pledged to finally make headway on one of my two would-be novels or my perpetually-in-development adventure game. The time has come to choose. And the choice is… The Witches of Coven Hill, a young-adult fantasy novel set in the fictional town of Coven, Massachusetts.
I came up with the basic premise for it way back in October of 2006 when I was working on another novel for NaNoWriMo. The idea has kind of gnawed at my subsconscious ever since.
So why Coven Hill? Well for one thing, it’s the most doable. The story has a definitive beginning, middle, and ending. (Though I’m still pretty fuzzy on all the in-between parts.) Still, I know who most of the major players are. I like the main characters, a lot. And it’s the shortest of the three projects. All told it’ll probably come in at 250-300 pages. That’s totally doable.
I also feel as if I have a better handle on the “voice” for this one, because it’s a bit lighter, younger, more casual than my other writing project, The Broken Prince, which is more of an adult fantasy in the tradition of George R.R. Martin and, to a lesser degree, Tad Williams.
You see, I get overwhelmed just thinking about the size of that story, and I’ve already scrapped two halfway-complete drafts because they weren’t good enough for me and I cared about “getting it right” so damn much that it was paralyzing. So that’s a project for later. When I have more time. And I’m a better writer. Eventually. Maybe.
As for Rise of the Hidden Sun, my adventure game, I really want to deliver the thing I promised myself when I started it back in 2003, which is to say I want it to be the very best freeware adventure ever made. Over the past month or so I’ve played around with scaling back the graphics and story so I could do it completely on my own, but in the end I’m just not comfortable with the comprises I’d have to make to do that. Nor with the amount of time I’d have to spend leaning over my laptop pushing pixels.
So for now I’m getting ready to plunge headlong into the world of young adult fantasy fiction. And I’m going in armed with the goal not of writing The Great American Novel, or a Good American Novel, or even a Serviceable American Novel. Nope, my goal is just to finish a draft and see what comes out.
Don’t delete anything. Write the damn novel and then edit it. Easier said than done for a chronic self editor like me, but there you go. The old way clearly hasn’t worked. Time to embrace the chaotic beauty of crappy first drafts.
Am I right, Eric?
Rather than doing the usual New Year’s resolutions thing I thought I’d start 2008 off with a list of things I’m excited about seeing or doing in the year ahead. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.
So, in no particular order:
1. Ethan’s first birthday. In just a few short months my little boy will be a year old. Holy crap. I know it’s a cliche to say I can’t believe how quickly time flies, but seriously—I can’t believe how quickly time flies!
2. The New England Patriots Invitational Tournament. Also known as the NFL Playoffs, this is where the Patriots invite three vastly inferior teams to be their personal punching bags en route to capturing yet another Lombardi Trophy and, oh yeah, a perfect season. Bring it on!
3. Getting healthy. That means working like hell on my physical therapy and doing the other things—eating well, exercizing every day, and just generally taking better care of myself—that are actually in my control. Hopefully my body will respond after being put through the ringer this past year and a half.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Obviously.
5. Easter Island. Health permitting, I’ll be traveling to Easter Island this March for my first foray into freelance travel writing since 2005′s cover story on Skellig Michael for the Boston Sunday Globe. Pretty exciting.
6. Spider-Man: Brand New Day. The Spidey comics go from monthly to three times a month starting next Wednesday. Thanks to the new status quo, this is as excited as I’ve been for a comic book in a long time.
7. Creating… something. Is this the year I finally make headway on either Rise of the Hidden Sun or one of my two major writing projects? I dunno, but I plan to pick one and run with it.
8. New TV shows. Even though the writers’ strike is still full-speed-ahead, there are two new shows I’m really looking forward to in ’08: Jericho (returning from the dead for seven all-new episodes!) and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which, admittedly, has the potential to suck, but hope springs eternal).
9. The Red Sox in Japan. Yes, I think it’s stupid that the Sox are opening their title defense in frickin’ Asia of all places, but I do still think it’ll be kinda cool to see them play in Tokyo—if only to see what Don and Jerry have to say about it.
10. Climbing a mountain. I don’t care which mountain. I just want to get out there and hike again. Which brings me back to # 3: MUST. GET. HEALTHY!
After six months of hard work and anticipation, another era in the production of my would-be adventure game opus, Rise of the Hidden Sun, has come to a disappointing end.
First, though, some background. Buckle up ’cause this may take a while.
Rise of the Hidden Sun is a 2-D point ‘n’ click adventure game in the tradition of old computer classics like King’s Quest and The Secret of Monkey Island. I was practically raised on those games in the ’80s and ’90s and I’ve wanted to make one of my own for as long as I can remember. As a kid I designed countless text adventures using the programming language BASIC, and I always thought that some day I’d move to California and go work for Sierra On-line, which at the time was the definitive adventure game publisher.
Unfortunately, Sierra stopped making adventures at basically the same time that I graduated from college—so there was to be no “Adventure Game Designer” job title in my future. That is, until I discovered Adventure Game Studio, a do-it-yourself game design program that was both free and easy to use.
So back in 2003 I decided to put my spare time into the creation of my own game, and I settled on a Wild West setting, an epic treasure hunt, and a largely comedic backdrop. I spent about eight months hammering out the plot, the dialogue, the characters, and the puzzles in what is to this day probably the best and most polished work of creative writing I’ve ever completed.
This game wasn’t going to look like a one-person job. No, no. This was going to have professional production values from the writing and music to the background art and animation. And for a while, everything went according to plan. I was able to recruit some top-notch talent from the amateur adventure game design community. I served as the project coordinator and de facto art director, making sure that everything met a certain very high standard of production and had a consistent “feel” to it from artist to artist.
My biggest problem since this all began, though, has been attrition. Simply put, people who volunteer their time on projects like this—particularly people who you only know through the Internet—just don’t stick around to finish what they’ve started. They’re usually good for about three months of work before they just drop off the face of the planet, never to be heard from again.
So, about two years ago I made the decision to start paying people to work on my game. I couldn’t pay much, of course—I had always planned on Rise of the Hidden Sun being a freeware game—and it basically came down to how quickly I could sell stuff on eBay to pay for the work-for-hire artists I needed to create the professional quality artwork I wanted. This was a bad business model, obviously, but that’s why this whole thing is called Chapter 11 Studios. I knew I’d go broke doing it this way, but I was determined to make Rise of the Hidden Sun the best damn freeware adventure game ever made.
I’ve had pretty good luck with background artists who draw and/or digitally color the game environments. My track record with animators isn’t so good, though. But I thought I’d finally solved the problem for good back in June of this year when I began working with a professionally trained animator named Jim Peebles.
Not only was Jim willing to work for very short money—again, I could afford him just by selling my old comic books on eBay—but his work was good. Damn good. He was fast, willing to listen to my suggestions, and responsive to my emails. Together we made more progress on the animation front in two months than I had in the previous two years. It was a revelation. The characters in Rise of the Hidden Sun were coming to life before my very eyes. After years of searching, I’d found my animator!
Because Jim, like each and every one of my would-be animators before him, eventually stopped producing. Progress updates became less and less frequent. The quality of the animations dropped significantly when he did get around to sending me something.
And then this past weekend came the final straw. He emailed me probably the two worst character animations I’ve ever seen. Sloppy, careless, and clearly very rushed. They looked nothing like the amazing work he’d done for me just months earlier. It left me with no choice: Jim’s time on Rise of the Hidden Sun was over.
Thus, I have no animator, and I don’t even know if I can use the good stuff Jim created because every animator has a different style and it’s hard to combine the work of different artists without the discrepency between their styles being obvious.
It’s left me to once again question my plan to make Rise of the Hidden Sun a freeware game. If I really want it to be professional quality, it seems, I’m going to have to take a professional approach—and that means a for-profit model that would make this an actual business. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, I could embrace the do-it-all-myself approach and be the game’s chief artist/animator, which would ensure that it would get done—but at a significantly reduced level of quality.
So here I am, back at the drawing board again… literally. I’m standing at a crossroads in the game’s development, and I have no idea which road to take.
What, you’ve heard that one before? Okay, it’s true. I’m not Luke Skywalker. I’m not here to rescue you. And while we’re at it, I’m probably a little short for a stormtrooper, too. Sorry.
I am here to blog, though. So what if I’m five years late to the party? So what if I’ve kicked it off with an out-of-left-field Star Wars reference that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
The important thing is that I’ve finally gotten around to doing a blog, and I’ll be using this space to write about the creative frustrations rewards of…
- Writing a great (or even pretty good—or, heck, I’d probably settle for thoroughly mediocre at this point) scifi/fantasy novel. There’s a 99.9 percent chance I’ll post bits and pieces of my writing here, too. Please be gentle.
- Designing a point ‘n’ click computer game, Rise of the Hidden Sun, which has been “in production” for years and years and years. (And years.) I’m still working on it, really!
- Raising a child. Trust me, it’s a creative process all its own. And since I’ve just recently become a dad (Hi Ethan!), I’m sure that part of my life will find its way into this blog more often than not. But no stories about baby poo, I promise.
What else…? I’ll probably end up talking about sports, and TV, and movies, and music, and books, and politics, and all sorts of other pop culture things as well. And I bet I’ll find a lot of things to complain about, too. Can’t help it. It’s who I am.
Lastly… The story behind Chapter 11 Studios. Here’s the quick version: I would go absolutely broke chasing after all my creative pursuits, and the term “Chapter 11″ refers to the bankruptcy code here in the U.S. It also sounds kinda literary, right? So: No Money + Lots of Creativity = Chapter 11 Studios. Mystery solved.
And that, friends, is my blog in a nutshell. Hope you’ll join me.