Complications Ensue: The Crafty Game, TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022

November 2022

February 2023

March 2023

April 2023

May 2023

July 2023

September 2023

November 2023

January 2024

February 2024

June 2024


Monday, August 22, 2016

So we watched THE GET DOWN on Netflix, Baz Luhrmann's show about the birth of rap during the disco era. I gather this show has provoked some controversy, being a show about black and Puerto Rican people in the South Bronx in the 70's made by a white dude from Australia. I don't really care if it's accurate. I'm not watching Baz Luhrmann because he's a documentarian. I'm watching him because ROMEO+JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE!

Oh, and because I lived New York in the 70's, and yeah, it was like that, dirty and beautiful, and full of despair and dreams.

Anyway, an hour into the show, after all sorts of michegas, a character tells the hero about a secret dance event called the Get Down, and asks, "Have you ever heard of someone named Grandmaster Flash," and chills went down my spine, because this is the epoch of disco and the kid is a rapper without knowing it, and yes, I have heard of Grandmaster Flash.

And I look on the TV, and I realize there's another 15 minutes of this. Whut? No.

No, Mr. Luhrmann. That is your out. That is how you end your pilot.

So we turned it off.

Not that we weren't enjoying it. But that was the perfect ending to the episode. So we made an executive decision.

TV writers watch differently. I have many times gone to a movie with my friend Doug, a movie writer, and afterwards we fix the plot.

Lisa sometimes accuses me of having ruined TV for her, because she now sees the seams and stitches of the shows she's watching — when the seams and stitches are showing, that is. On the other hand, when you see something really great, you appreciate it all the more. And you can turn off the show an hour in if it's earned its out.


Post a Comment

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Steven T. Wright (not the one-liner comedian) was kind enough to ask my thoughts for his article about drugs in games.

Drugs are part of our game because, well, drugs are part of our world. There's a lot of people who would be much less happy (or even functional) without anti-depressants. Drugs are part of our history. People have been tampering with their body chemistry for thousands of years. I have a pet theory that human beings didn't become farmers for the sake of food. It's well established that hunter-gatherers work less and eat better than primitive farmers. But alcohol! Ah, once people discover that grains ferment, and they can get blasted, then they settle down.

(This isn't purely a just-so story. There's some evidence that the very first settled site in Europe was a religious site, not a city. Religion and pharmacology go together like bread and wine.)

Drugs raise interesting philosophical questions. Conventionally, if you are stoned or drunk, that's not the "real you." The real you is the sober you. But if someone is depressive, we tell them that the depression is an illness, a departure from normal. A lot of people with depression feel that they're only "the real me" when they take their meds.

Is there a "real you"? Or is the you that you think you are just a function of your body chemistry, and if that chemistry changes, then who you are changes, for good or bad?

So that's a philosophical question our game highlights. I don't think we're making the game in order to make a case for or against drugs. I think we're using fictional drugs to talk about who we are.



Post a Comment

Sunday, August 07, 2016

I borrowed THE ORIGINALS series 'cause it got a 7+ on the IMDB, but I had doubts about it literally the moment I saw what the lead actors looked like. They had that look that prime time actors have. They have the stink of Beverly Hills all over them. They're pretty, the boys and the girls, in a well-groomed, not particularly distinctive way.

And, sure enough, the dialog was kinda dumb and expositional, and the lore was ridiculous, and most of all, there was no way I could possibly believe that these three characters are the "original vampires."

It is hard to play a vampire convincingly. You have to seem like someone who's been around for hundreds of years (or, in the case of someone with a claim to being an "original" anything, I'd hope, tens of thousands).

That's why we often portray vamps as noblemen -- courtly, gracious, aristocratic. Gary Oldman's Dracula in Francis Coppola's movie of the book. Catherine Deneuve's Miriam in THE HUNGER. An aristocratic air makes it seem like the owner speaks for his whole house, all of its legacy.

James Marston pulled it off as Spike in BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER without falling back on an aristocratic air. He was as sure of himself as someone could be who's killed hundreds of people one on one, who knew his own strength, who rarely has to convince anyone with his words.

Tom Cruise was a surprisingly convincing vampire, because he is so very sure of himself and has an ego the size of a truck.

I bet Grace Jones would make a fine vamp. Wesley Snipes made a superb half-vamp.

But vamps are not invulnerable, only immortal. You want someone who seems like they've been around the block. Like you've seen some horrific things, and done some, and had some done to you. Like you're aware that although you are ageless, you are mortal. The little vampire Eli in Let the Right One In, the old vampire in Cronos: they knew that, while they had super powers, they could die.

The best vampires also seem like a person. Not just "a vampire," but a human being who became a vampire.

Spike was a great vamp character because he was a punk rock star who knew he was no match for his own urges. "If I had to do it all over again -- who am I kidding, I would do it exactly the same." Drusilla was fun because she was crazy.

The characters in THE ORIGINALS were distinct enough that you could tell, barely, who was the roguish, "bad" one, and who was the uptight, "good" one and who was the girl. The series has gone at least two seasons, so I hope the characters developed since then. But if you don't start with the characters being people, it's hard to get there.

If I were casting vampires, I mean, sure, have Antonio Banderas. But have some vamps with traits that have nothing to do with being a vampire.

I mean, as you get older, you get wiser, but you don't stop being yourself. You get more and more yourself as you figure out who you are, and stop trying to be other people. A vampire is someone who's had hundreds of years to figure out what turns him or her on, and doesn't have to care about what doesn't turn him on. A vampire might be devoted to overseeing and protecting his human family. She might be an alcoholic. He might be a compulsion car thief. She might be a drama queen who likes to have multiple human lovers whom she would never feed on.

Have Steve Buscemi. Have Clare Danes, with all her crazy cryface. Have John Goodman.

One last thought about lore:  what prime time TV shows get wrong about lore is shoveling it into the pilot. That's a terrible way to treat lore. You get dialog like, "as you know, Bob, we've been vampires for three hundred years, but until recently I was immobilized by a magic silver dagger."

Obviously, people almost never remind each other of what they both know. But also, people who know deep things rarely talk about them. When they do, they just give a hint. They don't give you the download.

They refer to things elliptically. There are Southerners who refer to the "late, great unpleasantness" when they mean the Civil War.

They refer to things efficiently. You tell a Southerner, "It's Pickett's Charge," and you don't need to say more.

Lore is best used as a hook. Give a hint of something that creates a misty shape in the viewer's mind. Let their imaginations run with it.

In THE SANDMAN, Thessaly is a nerdy, humorless, utterly ruthless witch with big glasses. You get to know her as a witch for a while before someone asks, "How old are you?"

"I was born in the day of longest night," she says, "the year the bear totem was broken." And you suddenly realize that she was born before years had dates. Before days had numbers. She is incredibly old.

(And she's still pissed at Dream for the way their relationship didn't work out. And she probably didn't grow up thinking that forgiveness is a virtue, back on the tundra. And that's why she helps him destroy himself.)

I wasn't really writing this to talk about We Happy Few, just to vent about a terrible show and how it was terrible. But of course we have a great deal of lore in We Happy Few. We have a timeline that breaks off into alternate history in 1933. We have a people who did a Very Bad Thing that they've failed to confront.

And you'll put together what it was from newspaper articles, and old posters, and things crazy people say, and graffiti, and how the people entertain themselves. That's fun, and that's engaging.

If we just gave you a Star Wars-style title crawl, it wouldn't mean anything.


Post a Comment

Saturday, August 06, 2016

I got into an interesting disagreement with a Wikipedia editor on the page for We Happy Few. The page asserted that, in the game's lore, Nazi Germany invaded England, but the English did a "Very Bad Thing" to get their freedom.

This is not quite right. In our game, it's the "German Empire" that invaded. We didn't want to deal with Nazis or the Holocaust. In Germany, you can't even release a game with swastikas in it. So, in our game, Hitler was deposed shortly after attacking Russia. Rommel is Führer. Also, the Very Bad Thing happened during the German occupation, and the Germans left some time later.

Some time in the future, you should eventually see an Iron Cross flag somewhere, and maybe a portrait of Erwin Rommel.

So I fixed the entry.

The editor reverted to his original entry.

I pointed out that I'm the writer of the story.

The editor insisted I provide citations to prove that my edits were correct.

Wikipedia, it seems, does not allow primary sources. You can't read War and Peace and say it's set in Russia during the Napoleonic invasion. You have to go find an article somewhere that says it is, and then cite that.

This makes sense. You can't have people rewriting articles based on their own interpretations. Suppose I think Annie Hall is a depressing, nihilistic movie about the futility of love. What's stopping me from editing the entry on Annie Hall accordingly? Only this rule.

So you can not, for example, pull Marshall McLuhan out from behind the poster and have him contradict someone. You have to cite an article in which someone quotes Marshall McLuhan.

That puts a writer in an odd bind. I happen to know that it was not Nazi Germany that invaded England in We Happy Few, because I wrote the timeline and all the lore to go with it. But that's not proof enough. I have to tell someone else, and they have to write it somewhere, and then I can cite their article, which quotes me.

So, hopefully, someone will quote this blog post in their blog, and then I can cite myself.



Post a Comment

Friday, August 05, 2016

We are looking for: A senior animator; a senior level designer; a gameplay programmer; a senior QA person; and an AI programmer. Check us out on LinkedIn. You do not have to live in Montreal; about 20% of the company works remotely.


Post a Comment

Monday, August 01, 2016

I spent the first part of last week beating the game! As the narrative director, I don’t always get the luxury of time to sit down and go through a full playthrough. This week I did, and it took me about twelve hours! It was nice to finally get Arthur to the hatch on Apple Holm.

... which also meant writing a score of bug reports for issues that only I’m going to catch. I’m the guy whose responsibility is making sure that the world makes sense and that all the characters have in-game reasons to do the things they’re doing, and so I found a bunch of things I’d like to improve.

Of course after Tuesday morning’s launch, we’ve all been absorbing players’ reports of bugs. Some of them are bugs we know about. Some of them are not bugs at all. Some of them are new issues. For example, some people have complained that the NPCs can get a bit repetitious. Partly this is a bug in when they tell you to back off. Partly this is because we haven’t yet implemented the systems for atmosphere and showcased conversations. You should be hearing them talk lots more in our second update.

But, issue heard, I’m going to be writing and recording many more things for Arthur and the NPCs to say.

Of course, like Whitney, I’m sort of at the beginning of the pipeline – a lot of the things I do hit the game in weeks or months, rather than tomorrow. So I have to keep putting things in that pipeline.

Last week I recorded two voice actors for a series of audio flashbacks for Arthur. I've just finished editing them. You’re going to know a lot more about what exactly Arthur’s remembering.

And, I’m just starting on a similar system for another playable character, the Girl in White, or as Sam thinks of her, She Who Must Not Be Named. She’s going to have some surprising things to say for herself. You won’t hear this stuff for some time, but you will.



Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger.