Sunday, June 25, 2017

Anaphylactic Shock and Terrorist Tree Housing (Life as a Gamedev Dad)

So here's a little personal slice of life you all who are wondering what goes on while I'm making all these crazy indie games. :)

As I'm working on the latest Silver Spook Games project, I've noticed some sort of allergic reaction going on in my head and lungs over the past week or so, though. Apparently some sort of new flower, bush or tree has decided to shoot its tree-sperm into the air and now I can't think straight and keep waking up in the night feeling like I'm choking! Goddamnit pollen!

Not such great timing as I need all the mental firepower I can get to finish off this new game prototype that I'm working on called Forgotten City which I need to get done by June 30th to enter into this Adventure Game In a Month competition. I was out of commission for a lot of yesterday, and simultaneously the internet gods decided that this is a great week to turn off the spigot on the bandwidth pipe, which caused my livestream to go into anaphylactic shock, along with my human body. (Noirjyre can attest to this! Thanks for sticking around through the 0.1 FPS bits of the stream, Noir! I'd give you a Steam achievement if Neofeud was on Steam yet!)

It was kind of alright since Mrs. Silver Spook had a ladies' night out last night anyway with a bunch of other moms. They went out to a restaurant in town and then went to see Wonder Woman. So I was playing crazy games with the kids and making dinner (microwavable chicken nuggets FTW!) and having them walk on my back and such. Then we got to bedtime routine which involved lighting lavender incense and floating it about the room (a sort of psychological trick that reassures them that there aren't any 'bugs' -- spiders roaches -- even though there aren't. Then bedtime step 2 is I put on this Miyazaki music internet mixtape, then read them bedtime stories. Then step three is praying that Minobot prototype 2 (3 year old son) wouldn't totally flip out when mommy wasn't there for night-night. He also goes into a sort of anaphylactic or emotional shock when it's sleepy time and mommy's not there. He woke up about an hour in screaming, and so I had to come back into the room and lie down on the floor next to him to get him to stay down and stop crying.

Finally got him down but unfortunately I was having choking feelings all night, like right at that point where your breath starts slowing down, my brain kept waking me up and telling me that I was suffocating or drowning. I really hope this allergy shit goes away and the Loratadine starts DOING ITS ONE JOB so I can not be a 10 IQ sleep-dep zombie during this final week of gamedev before the competition.

Anyways, one other thing, some of you may have caught on the back channel is that I'm working on building a tree house -- actually, I'm technically trying to install a makeshift ladder into a 'hazard tree' that is leaning like a sword of Damocles over our house at the moment. I need to get the ladder up so I can get to a point on the tree high enough to cut it such that it doesn't endanger the house. But my daughter has been following me up the ladder, and has invoked her powers of "Children's Eminent Domain", claiming the tree installation as her "Tree House". (Never try negotiating children out of their daydreams -- it makes negotiating with terrorists seem like a cakewalk). So what's happening now is I'm planning to convert this horrible danger to life, limb, property and mental health called 150 foot Acacia tree, into an actual tree house, whilst subversely also working on chopping off the top 100 feet of it, while she's not looking. Or perhaps, I will chop the tree down to size, and convince her that it's much better to have a shorter tree house... Reverse psychology this shit and sell it as, "A Tree Tiny-House!" It works on Millenial Hipsters, I don't see why it shouldn't work on Generation Z, or A1 or whatever these whippersnappers will be called when old people need something to mean-spiritedly generalize them as.


Monday, June 12, 2017

"People Can't Handle The Future": The Truth About Science Fiction




This is a reaction to a question in a cyberpunk writing group, which devolved/evolved into something of a rant on my part.  But ultimately, I think it does offer some insight into at least how some science fiction and fiction generally is written.  Here's the original question:
"I'd like to address the timing of technology and its impact in our fictional worlds. Specifically what I'm referring to is the sequence in which certain technologies are used in fictional worlds. For example, in Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy, interactive holograms (he likely uses a different term) aren't uncommon. I specifically remember the English boy Kumiko could summon with the device she carried with her. The boy was a hologram that she could interact with, not physically but verbally.
The point of this post is that unless there has already been breakthrough technological advances in artificial intelligence in the world, this type of technology would be impossible. Therefore, authors are forced to think through what other technologies have been invented and to what extent. Another example, if you include sophisticated nanotechnology in your writings, that opens up a monumental can of worms. Nanotechnology will change everything. So an author is forced to think through what his or her world would be like if nanotechnology has been around 15 years or 50 years. How would that reshape the world? It's mind-bending to conceive it.

I could go on and on and on about this, but I'm curious how much thinking and planning all of you put into your work when deciding how technologies are presented. I mean, if you have interactive holograms, you have sophisticated AI. If you have high-grade AI, what else might be present? Or, what wouldn't be present? How will that change things?"

Gibson himself had no idea how the technology he was describing actually worked. I think I remember him once saying that he imagined that computers, 'Had some sort of Star-Trek crystals inside, not these clunky, mechanical structures.' Also, in Neuromancer, 2062, Case is peddling, "3 megabytes of hot RAM", when a.) that much RAM was already worthless within a few years. b.) Nobody pays money for hot 'RAM' as RAM isn't for data storage of valuable info, but 'random access' during operation.

Gibson basically just walked into an arcade, saw kids totally engrossed in these video game things, trying to reach through a screen, and then imagined that there was a real space behind that screen. Voila, cyberspace.

If anything his genius was in his insights into human beings, and their relationships to each other, their artifacts, and their bodies. I honestly cannot think of a better writer, sci-fi or otherwise. Neuromancer was a masterwork, a biting satire and cautionary tale of Reagan/Thatcher-era economics in a world dominated by 'markets' where 'greed is good' and technology amplifies greed and criminality, with no thought of the human 'meat'.
But the truth is, most of his "science" is a lot of techno-hocus pocus that he found in a magazine or heard in a tech conference, and thought sounded cool, and evocative, so he threw it in some technopoetry.  But what sounds cool and evocative, and insightful and beautiful is not the same as what is technically correct, scientifically accurate, and the way the world really is, or the way the future really will be.  I say this being the most massive William Gibson fan.

And the truth is, if you really, really think things through, and try to draw the most realistic, or at least most technically accurate picture of the future... It will be kind of insanely off-the-wall and people will think you're crazy, or it will be totally boring. Like, who would have predicted in 1985, even 2005, that billions of people around the world would spend huge amounts of time chasing virtual fantasy animals on the street (Pokemon Go) or watching *other people* play video games, and make stupid jokes? That the guy with more views than the biggest Hollywood star, the President or the Pope, would be some Swedish Youtuber screaming and making fart jokes while gaming? No one would buy that book in 1985, in 2005, and probably not even now. But that is cyberspace. Not a bunch of James Bond / Oceans 13 console cowboys hacking the planet in trenchcoats with razorgirls, but people watching each other play video games and act like idiots.

The truth is, people can't handle the future. People don't actually want the future, because it is too weird, too boring, and it tells them something about themself that they don't want to hear. IMHO, District 9 was the best science fiction movie in decades. But it's been mostly forgotten, because it threw in people's faces an ugly reality that an alien contact would probably not be about peace or war, but about the way that we generally treat different races/countries. As objects to be exploited for profit, then abused and discarded when convenient. And D9 didn't have Dwayne Johnson or Scarlet Johanssen or something, and people just couldn't handle that.

Anyway, tangent aside, the point is: don't worry too much about the under-the-hood of your future tech, unless it will actually be interesting to your audience.

Monday, June 5, 2017

"We had to dump the residents into the landfill, which was unfortunate."

A short clip from the Neofeud Let's Play that's particularly dystopian, and relevant to our current political climate.  "We had to bulldoze the low-city and dump the residents into the landfill, which was unfortunate." In this episode of 'Let's Play: Neofeud', we visit the bejeweled "upper crust" of the Stratoplex, where the rich debate the best way to cut benefits for poor people. Trump Tower Circa 2027!



If you haven't already, Neofeud is available for $15 on Itch.io! If you can afford it and you want a 10-hour immersive cyberpunk adventure, go ahead and grab a copy! It will be a huge help with making this next Silver Spook Games project work financially as well. :)


So I've been working on this most recent background for about a week now, and it's taken an incredible amount of time. I think the only background that's ever taken me longer was The Neofeud Sky Palace.
Worth it, though, I think!

So in addition to that, I've been working on hashing out the new story for the successor to Neofeud with some of the folks over at Chaos Nova ( http://www.chaosnova.co.uk/?page=home ) which is a group of writers that primarily write in the sci-fi genre. The plan is to put out a prototype of this next game as a test to see how well we work together and what sort of output we can manage, I'm hoping by the end of June. If the prototype pans out, it's likely that we'll work together on a full game. If not, I may end up just working solo again, and there are other potential projects on the table, although those are still pretty preliminary.

Neofeud at this point is at around 350 votes on Steam (but we can always use more- so get out on Steam and vote up now! http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=894789880 ). I'm still hoping that it will squeeze by before the end of Greenlight but we'll see.

You can also vote for Neofeud on Good Old Games (GOG) here: https://www.gog.com/wishlist/games/neofeud?pp=51af0418179317caa1e2d452f67017b44d428d8d
In addition, I've been doing a bunch of promotional video clips and livestreaming every Saturday to help out those who contributed to Neofeud (including all of my generous Patrons). Here's one of the most recent ones I made for Neofeud voice actor Brandon Hovey:



The next video I'm hoping to make is for Deborah Dunaway, another one of Neofeud's biggest supporters, Patreon patrons, and a longtime friend from the William Gibson Board.
So that's what's going on over here. Thanks again to all my patrons @ssmigiel, @bittersweetdb, @Noirjyre, and @benjaminpenney for all of your help and support!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Neofeud Short Story Collection is on Amazon!

The Neofeud Short Story Collection is now available on Amazon for Kindle and paperback!  

Help support Silver Spook Games and expand your kindle library at the same time!  



"In a dystopian future, the one-percent hover in glimmering golden sky-castles above a wasteland of destitution. A young 'low-born' seamstress' only chance to go from Cinderella rags to Kardashian riches is to be 'noticed' in a cosplayer competition, and to marry a ultra-wealthy prince or be picked up for a TV show by a megacorporation -- all while dealing with poor body-image and self-esteem issues, resulting from a society that doesn't need or want her.

A sentient machine, one of millions of 'defective prototypes' mass-produced by tech-giants, winds up in a 'machine prison' due to 'substrate profiling' -- robot is the new 'black'. He's beaten, abused, and finally teams up with the robo-convicts to jailbreak from the supermax facility.

Neofeud is a cautionary tale, a dark vision of where we may all be heading very soon, if we aren't careful."

You can also find  the Neofeud Short Story Collection on Lulu.com if you prefer. :)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Kathy Rain - 90's To The Max!


There's all this bloviation on the internets now about whether games can or should tell good stories, which I feel is utter BS. As such, I am going to be heavily emphasizing the story-aspect of games in my reviews from here on. So suck it, or 'eat me', as Kathy Rain, AKA 'Ms. 90's', would undoubtedly say.
Kathy Rain is a sparkling, totally-too-cool-for-school alt rocker gem of a point-and-click adventure game. On the surface, it's a mystery story about a misanthropic college girl-cum-detective who is brought back from college to her quaint hometown due to the passing of a family member.  The usual investigation- finding clues, following up on leads, putting rubber chickens in pulleys combining objects in your inventory is the name of the game.  As adventure games go, it is not terribly hard (or perhaps I'm just getting more used to the usual logic of p-n-c adventure designers) but also none of the puzzles are designed to be intentionally obtuse, as often occurs.



My inner 16-year-old Smashing Pumpkins-fan loner self loves Kathy Rain. The goth chicks at my high school scoffed at Titanic posters with *exactly* her smirk. Kathy is all abut ripping on the excesses and ridiculousnesses of late-20th century American culture, from her Jesus-and-DiCaprio-loving roomate to Captain Kangaroo and lazy law enforcement. If you're more than 18 years old, this game is like time-traveling, complete with the corded phones, phone books, tape recorders, Nirvana clothing styles, and, come on... 'Eileen'? :) The fact that that aspect of the game is so believable is a big credit to the developers, Clifftop Games.



Beneath the eyebrow piercing, raven-dyed, perma-snarky veneer of Kathy's, this game is basically Stranger Things, as a video game, with more 90's nostalgia than 80's (game is actually set in '95). You have all the David Lynchian "American Gothic" Suburbia, the damaged-goods girl from the broken-home, with an overlay of surrealist psyche-diving paranormal activity. Why are all these mysterious killings happening in our beautiful Edward Scissorhands-like town? What made Kathy so damn snarky and alcoholic? Where are her parents?


I really liked the way that the long history / psycho-geography of the Rain family narrative is woven in -- from an upstanding World War II hero 'Pillar of the Community' who spawned a rebellious Kerouac-ian Hells Angel whose neglect gave way to the barbed, troubled alt-chick protagonist. Kathy Rain at its core is perhaps about the subconscious cycles of trauma that echo through time. It is inward gazing, at times -- you literally play INSIDE Kathy at certain points -- but thankfully without resorting to annoying levels of omphaloskepsis. Excessive whining and crying the second tear, was, after all, another signature of the 90's (coughAlanisMorissettecough).

So, storytelling wise? Kathy Rain kicks ass.

All in all, I give Kathy Rain 4.5 tear-flavored raindrops out of 5. Great job, Clifftop Games!

Check out Kathy Rain here.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Considering Making An Indie Game? READ ME!

So I've yet to do an official "post-mortem" piece on Neofeud, mostly because I'm too busy running on 52 cylinders trying to get it on Steam, get visibility and sales up as high as they can be, and everything else that goes along with releasing your first official commercial game.  And RL.

But, I just read this article from Indiewatch, a horror story from a first-time developer who suffered setback after setback after setback for several years, and I felt total sympathy and absolutely had to comment.  If nothing else, to help others avoid some of the of the pitfalls who are thinking about plunging into the adventure, or as I term it, "The Odyssey" of making an indie commercial game.  Without further ado:

HOW TO MAKE A GAME WHEN THE WORLD IS FALLING APART AROUND YOU

For me, making a game seemed like a brilliant idea!  I’ve wanted to make one as far back as when the Atari 2600 was considered the most powerful console.  So why not give it a try?  It would be a good life experience and I also would be doing something I enjoy.  What could possibly go wrong?


My response:


"A great read, and a wild trip man. Good to hear that you came out of it. As an indie dev who blew 2 1/2 years on a game with a different set of trials and tribulations, I can only say, I empathize. You're making the best decision of your gamedev career at this point to do something small, and the second best decision of your career to work on your game solo. I'm going to badly paraphrase Doom's creator, John Romero now: "You don't just make Doom. First, make Pong. Then, make Space Invaders. Then make Mario. Then, eventually, you make Doom." Which is to say, it sounds really great to want to just make that giant MMO right off the bat, and it seems like a waste of time to work on these smaller projects that probably won't net much revenue at all, but this mindset is truly the biggest pitfall.

Gamedev is in many ways more complex than film-making, which is one of the most complex and risky endeavors you can take on. You are going to make mistakes, just like the first time you ride a bike, or the first time you buy a house. Making the mistakes early, on a small project, before things can get painful, expensive, and full of drama and potentially lawsuits, is the way to go. I always plan for everything to go 4x as bad and take 4x as long as I think, and I calculate into the schedule all of these Black Swan disasters, like my computer exploding and two of my backup drives being lost or stolen simultaneously. So I have 6 backups. I have literally had multiple backups go out simultaneously, so I have not regretted the decision.

Plan to have anyone that you bring into a project abandon that project at some point unless they are making enough money to pay all their bills *during the project*. This is why I brought zero people onto my project when I made my first official commercial game. It took me over a decade to get enough experience to do the writing, art, programming, music, and half the voice acting for my game, and I realize that is not a price that everyone is willing to pay. But then you could also spend ten thousand dollars, and years of your life trying to skip ahead, only to wind up with nothing, also. Again, Romero made 300-something games over the course of more than a decade before he made Doom.

At any rate, good luck with your next game, and I truly hope that it succeeds for you this time!"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Shardlight - A Post-Apocalyptic French Revolution (My Review)




I've just finished my playthrough of Francisco Gonzalez (Grundislav Games) Shardlight, a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure, and now I want to go hang-gliding with a top hat and a Victorian coat, curing uber-tuberculosis patients in a Fallout-like wasteland. By which I mean, I loved Shardlight. Here's a summary of the game (from imore.com)
At its very core, Shardlight's story is vintage post-apocalyptic. A catastrophic event — good old-fashioned nuclear war in this case — has drastically changed life forever and surviving in the world is downright difficult. In Shardlight there are two classes of people, the Aristocrats who are in charge of the new world order, and common folk who are just trying to survive. You play as Amy Welland, a lowly mechanic, who stumbles upon an underground rebellion seeking to take down the Aristocrats. This turns out to be problematic for Amy, as she wants to enter a lottery to win a vaccine for the deadly disease known as "green lung." By performing dangerous jobs for the Aristocrats, common folk can earn a lottery ticket to try and win a vaccination, but now Amy has been tasked with spying on the rebellion!


The game itself is very well written, and to me strikes me as something like Fallout (the 90's-golden-age RPGs) if Brian Fargo and Tim Cain had been obsessed with the French Revolution and Dickensian period, rather than Leave It To Beaver 50's idealism. The world has ended, and you've got all the Mad Max trappings -- scrappy survivors using ammoless guns to light campfires started with 30-year old turpentine, rubble and dreary single-hue color schemes everywhere, rotting corpses. But instead of a Pip Boy and Star Trek jump suits, you have wig-headed aristocrats lording it up in the still-standing skyscrapers, done up inside to resemble Versailles. The corpses are not fed on by mutants or deranged clusters of cannibals, but rather, Edgar Allen Poe's ravens. The Grim Reaper plays a big role.



 My favorite part of Shardlight, apart the completely enjoyable characters (Tiberius the Alpha Aristocrat and pretentious / psychotic pontificating asshat is near the top of the list) was the play of subtext, the witticisms in the interweaving tapestry of tropes of Post-Apocalypse (tm) and Tale of Two Cities Europe. The dirt-faced urchin children, playing jump-rope to nursery rhymes like, 'The Reaper Comes For You' like the gang in Oliver Twist, against a backdrop of a 21st-century skyline annihilated by nuclear blast. Resistance movements somewhat akin to the Brotherhood of Steel, but wearing feathered caps and wielding swords and crossbows, rather than miniguns and power armor. Nuclear wasteland-ravaged Robbespierres, plotting in basements through code phrases and messages steganographed into artwork and signs, awaiting their moment to strike a coup and let the Palace Royalty know what they think about, "Let Them Eat Cake" (Let them eat lottery-jobs in this case.)



 As a purely post-apocalyptic story, or a purely historical story, Shardlight would've still been a good game. But where it elevates into a truly original, truly great experience, is in these moments of genius. A game after my own heart, having done a culture-mashup not dissimilar to Shardlight, albeit with a slightly different sub-genre of science fiction, and instead of the French Revolution, a more 'Feudal' era of history. ;)

I give Shardlight five radioactive fragments out of five.

P.S. Be sure to check out Grundislav Games' upcoming title, Lamplight City!

P.P.S. And then check out the rest of the publisher, Wadjet Eye Games' titles!  They are all awesome!

Friday, April 7, 2017

So, if you were thinking of getting Neofeud, I recommend doing it by this Saturday, because until April 9th:



Which essentially means you get the entire soundtrack (2 1/2 hours of music) and the original screenplay, for free!


:)

In addition, if you're more of a bookworm type, Neofeud - The Original Script is now available on Lulu for four bucks. :)


Neofeud has been featured this week on Game Jolt!


So what's next for Silver Spook Games?

A Neofeud 2, or another Silver Spook Games project is on the proverbial 'table' at the moment, but this is of course contingent on the success of Neofeud 1. If I can free up enough time and make the finances work (I'm a husband and dad with two kids so I've got other 'stakeholders' to pitch to) then there is definitely the possibility of a sequel in the cards.
I am in talks with some other folks and there are a lot of potential projects on the table. It's still early days post-release of Neofeud, so we'll see how well the game does, and go from there. There are a few things in the protean phase, but it is kind of top secret right now!

Neofeud Deluxe Edition 25% Off! And Neofeud 2!

So, if you were thinking of getting Neofeud, I recommend doing it by this Saturday, because until April 9th:



In addition, I'm currently working on a 'Let's Play' Walkthrough for Neofeud (because boy are my fingers tired of typing out hints to the growing number of Neofeud players!)


Which essentially means you get the entire soundtrack (2 1/2 hours of music) and the original screenplay, for free!

:)

In addition, if you're more of a bookworm type, Neofeud - The Original Script is now available on Lulu for four bucks. :)


Neofeud has been featured this week on Game Jolt!


So what's next for Silver Spook Games?

A Neofeud 2, or another Silver Spook Games project is on the proverbial 'table' at the moment, but this is of course contingent on the success of Neofeud 1. If I can free up enough time and make the finances work (I'm a husband and dad with two kids so I've got other 'stakeholders' to pitch to) then there is definitely the possibility of a sequel in the cards.
I am in talks with some other folks and there are a lot of potential projects on the table. It's still early days post-release of Neofeud, so we'll see how well the game does, and go from there. There are a few things in the protean phase, but it is kind of top secret right now!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ghost In The Shell Review

Ok, so GITS the movie has definitely exceeded my expectations, which were colored by teh interwebz.  That's the last time I listen to your opinion, cyberspace!

It is definitely CPAF, but with some unique texture to it.  The obligatory Blade Runner cityscape-age is redolent of the Total Recall remake, to me.  Lives up to Masamune Shirow's brainchild, I feel, even if it's slightly Hollywoodized.  It takes Ghost In The Shell 1, throws it in a blender, and reassembles the sinew and bone and synapse back together such that you recognize the DNA (the thermoptic-camo water fight, the self-mutilating kill of the spider tank scene are near-verbatim) but with a wholy unique story.  

It doesn't quite take GITS to the next level, asking or answering any questions posed by the highly-philosophical, metaphysical series, nor does it pioneer into previously unmapped territory, cinematically speaking a la The Matrix, but it does have it's own unique 'self'.  Its own original 'ghost', if you will, and not just another popcorn action thingy.  (Although we scarfed multiple refills of large, heavily buttered popcorn for this flick!  It's got teh actionz, no doubt!)

There's been a lot of CG tricks and such with regards to humans with prosthetics, androids, (Ex Machina the most recent exploration thereof) but the way the Major is handled has that 'lived in' sense, that gritty reality to it, as she is fighting her brain's embodiment into this foreign, corporate-perfected husk of synthetic nerves, steel, and alabaster dermis.  You get the sense, from ScarJo's performance, that she is in fact going through a sort of bodily dysphoria, and social alienation, as she attempts to adjust to her new 6-million-dollar-body.  

I was also surprised by how well they handled Motoko Kusanagi's transformation into the Platonic (and very much caucasian) 'ideal beauty', and the scene with the mom was deeply touching.

I'm also glad that they gave Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, a chance to really unleash himself, after his little blip of a presence in the last American would-be Blockbuster scripted out of cyberpunk lore -- Johnny Mnemonic.  Being a huge fan of the guy, I feel they finally let Kitano do his stoic Yakuza badass thing, in the role of Mamaki.  He's really the most menacing entity in the entire movie, with just a nature-rendered body and an ancient revolver, and he really brings a gravitas and grounding to the massively computer-modified neon smorgasbord.

Wish we could've got more into Togusa, Batou, and all of the gang, and again, there's not a whole lot of new narrative, societal-poltical, science fictional, or other ground explored in GITS: Live Action, but hey, it is a big live-action movie, and you've got 90 minutes to make multi-millions, and you can't talk for twelve-plus hours like an HBO 'Prestige TV' series.  You have to 'ninja slam, machine gun bam, thank you Johannsen ma'am' and get the hell out of there before everyone falls asleep or the LA Brass calls in Michael Bay and nukes your green screen Tokyo set from orbit.

I give Ghost In The Shell Movie 3-out-of-4 lucky ninja stars in a Chiba pawn shop window.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Chronicles of the Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge, Chapter 4

(Continuation of the story of our family's homesteading adventure to the Big Island of Hawaii)

So there we were, myself, Mrs. Minotaur and the kids, our second vessel capsized, the maroon Saturn's starter kaput, marooning us in the Prince Kuhio shopping center. (yes, we Hawaiians are big on our royalty, thank you, Britain)

Our second car in two weeks, blown out by a decade of tradewind-tossed sea salt and sulfur dioxide, from lava-boiled seawater.  Note to all future voyagers: the Big Island kills cars and takes no prisoners.

We'd blown through over three thousand dollars now in cars, car repairs, hotel stays due to our technical homelessness, tows.  And there we were, for the second Saturday in a row, stuck in a shopping center whose doors would be closing at midnight, with no repair shops open to even tow the car to.  No spare clothes, no tent (all still at the campsite, 15 miles north-north west).  A few cans of generic-Wal Mart chili, green beans, a handful of stray Nature Valley granola bars.  Two cups-worth of potable drinking water in a gallon jug. 

No friends or family or anyone we felt we could bring the car to.   If we even attempted to stay in the car, security would come around, and then we'd have to go through the long, sordid and embarrassing process of explaining to them our current temporary house-less situation.

We had some money saved up, but at this rate, we would burn through it all and be left with nothing in short order.  We'd tried for rentals but they'd all been snatched up, or only wanted "single tenants", and the others we couldn't get to because the cars kept dying.

GR and I were on the edge of nervous breakdown.  I had to do some forced-breathing stuff to stop from hyperventilating. 

Maybe we didn't know what the hell we were doing?

Maybe everyone on Oahu was right, maybe we'd made a huge mistake?  Taken too big a risk?

Maybe this was the end?  Maybe it was time to paddle back, with our broken sail, tail between our legs, to that big soul-sucking concrete jungle?  Look in my family's eyes, stricken with shame, as they'd say, "We told you so."

"Just send out an SOS on Facebook.  Instagram.  Anywhere, anyhow.  There's got to be someone around here that can help us!" I said, having already done it once, and not wanting to overstay the welcome in the particular home-schooling group that we'd joined up with.  My stomach was literally wrenching with anxiety, bile burning the back of my throat as we tapped out on cooking our own food and just walked to the nearest fast food joint (Burger King).  A little later, the kids were throwing gravel in the Starbucks parking lot, and we had to yell at them to stop, unable to get to a park, a beach, anything.  They asked us, "When we'd have our house?  When will we have our big house?"  I think that was about the part we cried.

But within fifteen minutes of sending out the call for help on Facebook, we got one, then two, then three responses. 

"Hey!  Looks like you guys are in a bind!  We'd love to help out some fellow homeschoolers.  I'm putting the little one to sleep but let us know how long you need to stay!"

"We may have something to help you out more long term if you're having trouble with the rentals..."

GR worked it out with a super nice couple who happened to be transplants from Oahu as well.  They'd had an entire bottom floor, with kitchen, bathroom, guestroom, unused for a year or more.  They offered to pick us up. 

As if by magic, the Saturn started as the sun went down (something to do with temperature and the swelling/shrinking of copper coils.)  So we ended up driving over, and got put up for the night, with the offer of more if we needed it.  The guy was super-friendly, wearing an Ergo carrier with his 18-month old.  It was a little queen size thing in a small room, but it was the best bed I'd ever slept in. 

I'd helped out a lot of homeless kids and families in my time at the social work job, but I don't think I really had any idea about what it's really like, till then.

Another lesson: do not be afraid to reach out!  This is a hard one for introverts and lone-wolf DIY-types like myself and my wife.  Especially on a place like the Big Island, your network, your ohana, the people around you are the most important thing you've got.

So we spent the next day in Hilo at our gracious guests place as ANOTHER family offered to help out with the vehicle.  Another super nice group, the mom, dad, and a teenager came over.  Dad was a super chill hippy-dude with a black bandana, a never-ending stream of Camel cigarettes, and crazy mechanic chops.  He and his son worked on the car, basically for free, for the next day.  He hoped he could get it done in half an hour, but what might've been just the battery or alternator turned out to be the starter itself, and later there was the issue of a slow gas leak in the return line...

All in all, they worked for two days, and we stayed two nights with our guests.  The Minokids had a blast playing with the Hilo house-owners young ones- apparently they really wanted to meet more families as the homeschool group in Hilo town itself was a bit sparse.  The mom made the kids corned beef and spinach/kale on rice (never heard of it myself, might've been a Philipino thing) and the dad set up the Raspberry Pi arcade machine for them to game on.  I told the dad (who happened to have a computer programming degree like me) that if I ever hired on for Neofeud 2 or other Silver Spook Games projects, that I'd keep him on speed dial. 

That's pretty much how stuff seems to work around these parts.  They call East Hawaii "The Wild West", but really it's more like, "The Human West", in the sense that everything happens on a person-to-person and community scale.  There's no giant government or corporate entity mediating all your relationships.  There is some, mostly in the 'bigger' town, but it's limited.  People help each other out, and when they need help, they get it.  If you're a dick, then people are a dick to you.  That seems to be why a lot of folks who try to make it here end up quitting.  Cause they think they're in corporate, suburban America, where they can just lawyer up or call the cops on the neighbor's noise or dog or unpermitted structure and make people disappear.  On Oahu, you could do that.  But on the Big Island, you have to deal straight with the folks around you, for better or for worse.

So the really, really good news is, we've finally got our place, like a bonafide house with four walls, a roof, sink, hot water (paloma heater / point of use), washing machine, Time-Warner high speed internet, all that good 21st century amenity stuff.  It's crazy to think that if we hadn't sent up the smoke signals through Facebook when we had, we might've never gotten the place.  Almost like the whole nerve-wracking soul-wrenching breakdown thing was meant to be, some kind of synchronicity.  We can chalk it up to dumb luck, but around here we've got a lot of woo-woo astral plane types who are in an alternate timestream of the 60's, and they would say it was the cosmic energy of the universe righting itself.  The yin, equalizing the yang.  Tekaa, doused by Tefitti.

Spiritual psychedelics and tangential political diatribes aside, the voyage of the (now functional) Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge II continues.



Monday, March 27, 2017

Neofeud is RELEASED! + Chronicles of The Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge

First off the good news: NEOFEUD IS OUT!






Also, Neofeud got a shout out at Adventure Gamers!  Now we're an official, fully-fleged, permitted, uber-regulated adventure game!  Aw snap!

Adventure Gamers: http://www.adventuregamers.com/news/view/32466

Alsoer, Neofeud is going international, with articles in German, French, and, I believe, Romanian or Russian!  I can't even figure out what language, that's how global Neofeud is!



QuestZone (Russian I think): http://questzone.ru/

Adventure Index: http://adventures-index2.blogspot.com/


The... Gooder News. :D

To make the poor ol' blog feel a little less like the fusty interior of a 1991 Toyota Corolla, left idle in a garage for decades, I'm going to be adding a sort of journal of myself, my wife, and our three and five year old's big move to the Big Island of Hawaii. 

 Just for some background, we were living on Oahu for the past five years, and due to the skyrocketing housing costs (the cheapest half-burned-down crackhouse costing 1.2 million), we just packed up clothes, laptop, whatever we could fit in two dufflebags, and flew over. Just voyaged out into the great unknown, with nothing but the stars, intermittent 4G connection, and our intuition to guide us in wayfinding our new home.



Glossary

GR/Green Robot = my wife,

"Minokids" = the kids,

"Minobot family" = the family

"Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge" = our voyaging vessel, our Millenium Falcon.


Chronicles of the Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge


Episode 1

So the Minobot clan is now Moana-style voyaging out on the road on the Big Island of Hawaii, and so far so good! We've camped at two different spots, one with an awesome black-sand beach with nice old hippy surfers and Duke Kahanamoku-looking longboarders riding waves at dawn patrol. The town right up the street is filled with organic farmers, and tye-dye and dreadlocks in pretty much the norm. They have a gigantic park that is nicer than anything I've ever seen on Oahu, and all the parent's are super chill and friendly, not hovering over their single-child, throwing Disney toys at them, and getting all snooty, which is great. Everyone looks way, WAY happier here, and the guy I bought the car from ofered to pay my gas, by me a slurpee, AND wanted to come visit us camping. He told me his whole life story about working at crap mechanic shops and getting into not-so-good crowds on Oahu (missing teeth, I know the drug that was). But now he's got five kids and a place! he actually moved from the same ghetto area as we did to the Big Island too.

I told him about our plan to use some savings and go the zero-mortgage route (get land, get septic, build shack, build house) to home ownership and he was like,

"Ho, brah, I can't tell you how many times I stay went get ten grand in my pocket," as he fiddled with a tattoo of the island chain, interwoven with 'mana' triangle stripes. Next to it something that might've been a cryp symbol.

"So what happened?" I asked.

"I went spend'em on souped-up Hondas! So now we still renting. Shit," he said.

"Hey, at least it was fun!"

"Tru dat brah! Tru dat!" He laughed.

He could've been one of my at-risk youth students back in my accelerated-diploma class on Honolulu. The rent on his place is about 1/10 what it would be on the big city isle.

So anyway, the 5 and three year old minibots are having a blast seeing the eyeland, meeting new friends, playing in waterfalls and black sand beaches, all that. GR and I are getting our minimalist, zero-footprint lifestyle figured out. We've been living in essentially an 8x10 closet on Oahu anyway, and so having this huge lush island paradise to spend most of your time outside in feels so much bigger than the cramped 3 bedroom we were smashed in with five other loud, often difficult roommates, and a driveway you can't always use cause they have big conventions in the space.

With car and temporary living taken care of, we're moving on to scouting land and slightly longer term housing as we build our new place. I just had my first official "looking for property" meeting with a real estate agent yesterday, and he was operating out of a rust-roofed shack with about half-a-secretary. Many of the agents just wear slippers, and one is a homeschooling dad and organic farmer in an area called "Volcano". All really nice folks, with not nearly the amount of pretense that often comes with the industry. I looked at three different plots, one in a lush, wet area filled with native Ohia trees, about 2 miles from that nice town that looks like the 60's never stopped. a couple others were down near the beach, and one was a bit cooler up in the mountain, where you can see the beautiful snow-capped Mouna Kea from your window (tallest mountain in the world measured from the sea floor).

These plots were all going for between 4 and 7 thousand!

I also got some more info about the process of building from the ground up. Basically it looks like you buy the land, then you can rip/clear it (chainsaw / bulldoze the bush and trees) or just leave it for as long as you like. The next step, if you want to build *legally* you have to put septic tank on it, that's ten grand. So that's actually the most pricey thing, outside of the cost of the house, depending. Still need to get a quote with the Big Island Container guy who is going to look at our floor plan for a 40x8 container to be converted into an off-grid solar 2-bedroom tiny house. Cool thing is, they will blow torch the windows and door holes out, install the fixtures and such, and even drop the house right on your propertyy with a flatbed for a $400 moving fee.

Then, if Madame Pele, for some reason chooses to spill her fiery red hair and your subdivision is hit with a lava flow (10% chance over a century), then you just hire a $400 flatbed, and port your house over to the next space!

The real estate dude got all hushed at one moment and said he'd known a guy, living in a 10x10 box with a tarp out ON an actual lava flow. He's got three solar panels, a 12 volt battery, and since he lives on the flow, there are "cracks" in the pahoe hoe (new lava rock) where he's put a tube down inside. So his excrement is literally being immolated by 10,000 degree lava! How's that for waste management! "I can't recommend this method, of course," the agent said, smiling.

I'm on the very last stage of running through Neofeud with my tester (who's been busy till this weekend). I'm doing the programming and online work from inside a starbucks or even while sitting on a tropical beach (How's that for office space!) but I'm hoping to have the game in a commercial-ready state, so I can put a release date for Neofeud out there by this Monday. Once the game is out, if it does well, then we'll defintely be jumping on getting that land and house built up. If not, then I'm going to start teaching robotics and STEM again, and save up some more which will be easy with the super cheap rents around here. One place we're looking at renting si $300 a month plus work trade, which means you're weedwhacking bushes around avacado trees, making sure nothing gets in the taro patch, keep the cabin looking good. it's about 2-3 hours a week, which is no problem since we were planning to do some small-scale growing of food and having some goats at some point. Good practice!

Anyways, aloha from the Big Island, and we'll keep you updated!


Episode 2


So more chronicles of the Princess Kaiulani's Revenge (what we're calling our Mazda Tribute that we're roadtripping in).

We discovered lots of places, organic farms, homesteaders, etc. do "Work trades" which basicall ymeans you're cutting back bushes and weeds and tending to avacado trees, banana trees, etc, in return for either staying in a cabin or a schoolbus for free, or very low rent. One of these places we got a hookup through a Facebook group.

It seemed like a great deal as the couple (with three kids and a grandma) were going to let us stay on their three acre plot in return for just occasionally helping them clear out ferns and ohia and such from their land. Basically free rent!

We got there and they had basically a 4-month shanty/tent city with a quonset attached to some makeshift guava-wood stilts (cut from the land) with some tin roof and tarps thrown over. They had goats and chickens and ducks and bunnies all over the place (baby goat was sleeping in their bed).

The Minokids did like the animals and it was fun to at least see the petting zoo animals and play with them.

Bigger issue was the lady drank about a case worth of beer in one day and was chainsmoking the entire time. Plus they started up their generator at 5:30 inn the AM and the area we were camping out on had lots of rocks. Oh and they had a scary pitbull that went nutz and started barking angrily at the five year old and my wife in the morning when they went to go to the bathroom (porto-potty). Also, they had apparently run out of water in their catchment tank.

Not bad folks or anything, just, a little too rough, and a little too... Just not good at the homesteading thing, and not really suitable for our needs. GR was having flashbacks to her alkie uncle the way the lady was drinking and getting kinda belligerent.

So we stayed one night (hey, one free night, more to save for our home!) and then moved on. The guy was pretty cool though, turns out he was a computer programmer whom I might help out with a job if Neofeud does well. They also hooked us up with a land guy (trust-fund manager with like a hundred acres) to help us buy property, and also tipped me off to using my phone as a wi-fi hotspot. (Why I hadn't figured that out earlier is beyond me. Dum-dum!)

Big good news though is I called up the biggest (really THE) real estate company on the Big Island and got info on how to set up the buying process. We found some really nice, central land that is equidistant to the more creative / 60's-never-died town of Pahoa for when we want that vibe, but also just 5 minutes from the more established (but not Manhattan-like) Hilo town, with the university and the great Starbucks, etc. So Monday I'm gonna be going in to get the buying process rolling! Looks like a month, month and a half for the buying process with the escrow, closing, all that.

Also got in touch with an off-grid tiny-house builder who gave us a quote of about 37-42 dollars per square foot, or about $10,000 for a 256 sq-ft cabin. We might go up a bit from there so around $12-15 grand by the end if we go with that guy. "Have tools, will travel" is the motto. We've been living in basically 6x8 ft plus a tent to save as much as possible, so 10 x 20 should feel like the Palace at Versailles.

Now back to full-scale assault of Neofeud marketing on teh soshul medias!


Episode 3

So, this has been the eye of category-6 hurricane for The Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge, this week (I guess it could be worse, we could be in Syria, or in the EPA under Trump, but it's been nuts).

First off, our Mazda Tribute went out last Saturday, on the way to our camp site, and we ended up having to get it towed at 7 PM, which was bad enough. We had to get it towed to a Firestone 12 miles away (luckily the Farmers Insurance I got covered the tow), but it was just a lot of stress. So much so that I accidentally slammed my face into the edge of the driver door while going back and forth between the battery and the hood, and started bleeding out like I'd just been shot between the eyes, scaring the crap out of GR and the Minokids.

So we get towed, it's 7:30, it's like two miles to any hotels, and we're scrambling with 10% charge on the phone trying to find a hotel or a BnB or *somewhere* to sleep. All the hotels are like $190 a night, we're having trouble setting up an Air BnB so last minute, and the kids are crying about how they want to watch Moana again, but can't. We end up getting picked up in this big unmarked van by this old Philipino lady with some early-phase dementia, who was a used-car-salesman on Oahu. Who only wants to do deals in cash. She works for a place called, "Hula Shack", and is the shuttle driver to the little townhouses done up with grass-shack grass on the outsides. The chimneys were mai-tai straws (JK... I think).

So it's $120 a night at Aunty Mercede's Margaritaville "cash only" that ends up having a toilet that overflows every third flush and napkins that can be used for coffee makers, as she explained.

We need two nights, because Sunday there's no mechanics in.

Monday rolls around, and I walk two and a half miles to the Firestone to give them the run down, grab peanut butter, a baby-food jar of turmeric (I take a shot to settle my stomach every morning), diapers, wipes and a change of clothes. We spend most of the day indoors. We've been camping for the last two weeks so we cherish the wonders of modern technology such as running potable water, flush toilets, eletricity and wi-fi. Kids watch all the Moana and James and the Giant Peach that they want. Funny how cartoon adventurer's vehicles don't have solenoids and timing belts that can break down mid-voyage.

Monday evening and we're thinking, "Great, we're back on track! That was crazy..." and then I get a call from the mechanic, informing me that the Mazda's engine has frozen. Locked up. Dead as a doornail, Smalls. The mast is gone.

So that's almost three grand down the drain. And GR and I are spending most of that night shooting high-ball offers to every craigslist vehicle in the area, basically throwing cash out onto Hilo Town to get someone to bring their vehicle out ASAP so we don't have to hemorrhage any more cash on hotels.

End up reeling in a Saturn early-noughties S-Series... With right-side driver. Like, Tokyo Drift, and stuff. Actually, just an obsolete postal vehicle, apparently. So I take it for a spin, get used to driving like I'm in Britain but with American streets, and take it.

So yeah, I'm blazing through last-minute bug reports on Neofeud Wed, Thurs, Friday in park pavilions, in Wal Mart parking lots, running in and out of Starbucks. Trying to handle the media end of the spectrum, get all of the virtual Silver Spook Games store set up... much of the time with no car, and no real place to be other than a campsite, an Air BnB, or this great place called The Reeds Hotel (when kama'aina (locals) want a getaway).

And then the Saturn dies, on launch day.

Looking back on it now, I'm regretting not just soldiering through another month at our old cramped place on Oahu, at least while getting the game out the door. Would've saved a whole lot of headache and probably would've kept the ulcers and hyperventillation to a minimum.

Then again, reception for Neofeud has been really great, thus far. Everyone who has bought the game (Thank you, all you WGBers who have, you know who you are) has given good-to-ecstatic reviews, which is more than I could've hoped for. Mainly I was just hoping the game wouldn't totally crash on everyone's computer due to some Windows Update version horsecrap or a Trojan or a Kuang MK-5 virus that snuck in there from that time I clicked on the fake Neuromancer movie trailer. The fact that it's "everyone" (plural) rather than "that one guy" who bought the game, is great news as well.

So everything in stride. I'm sure this will all be one jolly hilarious odyssey to be told and retold to Minobots and Robotaur spawn and prototypes for generations to come.

But right now, it is kinda fucking terrifying at times.

Since Princess Ka'iulani I, the Mazda, capsized and went to the bottom of the sea/junkyard, I'm calling the Saturn "Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge II". It currently awaits repair, but as it was going down, we managed to send out distress beacons from the deserted island of a Burger King, to Facebook, especially groups in the vicinity. We were bailed out by a magnanimous homeschooling photographer dad who had a Street Fighter II machine arcade box build out of a Raspberry PI sitting in his living room. The family happened to have an entire unused ground floor of their four bedroom (we got the guest room essentially) and that's where we're staying tonight, to avoid becoming fodder for ever circling Hula Shack shark lady, and meth-addled homeless crazy guy at Lincoln Park (no shit) who starts shadow-boxing at everyone, because he thinks they stole his iPhone's sim card.

We've also got a second lifeline from another one of the 'homeschool hui' (group) who's apparently got a more long-term solution for us. Ultimately, we'd've probably been fine if at least ONE of our cars hadn't broken down less than a week after buying them. We were going to go check out potential rentals, but kept getting stranded!

But hey. We're wayfinders, here. We'll find a way. It's what we do.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Neofeud Coming MARCH 25!

Neofeud Release

TL:DR - NEOFEUD IS COMING OUT MARCH 25!



Greetings, Neofeudal Lords and Ladies!

First off, thank you, the AGS community, for helping make Neofeud as great as it can possibly be. You've played a vital role in taking this project from a figment of a deranged individual's imagination to a fully-fledged adventure game.

I've just announced the release date of Neofeud as March 25.

So please, spread the good word to your friends, the interwebz, etc. that the release date for Neofeud is March 25 and they can pre-order on the Patreon site and get the Neofeud soundtrack FREE!

Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/neofeud

Soundtrack: https://silverspook.bandcamp.com/

Silver Spook Games website: http://silverspookgames.com

Thanks again for all your help, and if Neofeud does well, there may be a sequel or other new Silver Spook Games project in the cards!




Monday, March 6, 2017

Neofeud Trailer!

Check out the brand new Neofeud trailer featuring voice acting of , , and Mrs. Silverspook!

The big news in Neofeud is of course the brand-spanking new trailer highlighting some of the great voice talent on board. But other than that, I've spent most of the past week cutting, editing, and mastering audio, then inserting it into the game at a rate of about a couple hundred lines a day. At this point, I've got almost all of the eight or so main characters (3000 + words of dialog) cut and into the game.

Once that is complete, there's just some final testing and tweaks, and then Neofeud is off to the presses!

Speaking of which, I am in the process of investigating potential distribution methods, including Steam, GOG, Itch.IO, Gamejolt and self-distribution. I will likely end up using some combination of these, and Neofeud will become available via more channels and hopefully on more platforms over time.

Here's the full status report:

-Voice Acting 95% - The above list is the remaining parts that need to be cast. Do hit me up if you think you'd be interested in voice acting for Neofeud!

-Debugging 90% - The remaining debugging mostly involves making sure the audio is working correctly, that characters aren't suddenly 'swapping voices' and the sonic mix is right. With 60,000 words and around 5,000 lines of dialog, just the cutting and editing process has been a monumental task, but it's nearly finished at this point.

-Music & Sound FX 85% - Working on this simultaneously with the above!

-Story: 100

-Backgrounds 100%

-Characters 100%

-Programming 100%

Thanks again to all the voice actors/actresses, testers, patrons, word-spreaders, supporters, nice-word-sayers, and everyone else whose helped make Neofeud a reality!