Killers. Stone cold killers crept from shadow to shadow on the edge of perception; dark silhouettes painted terror on the stone wall as they flitted through the lot at the end of the alley. Amber tried to focus on the forms as they dodged around the parking lot, but quickly gave up.
At the center of their abbreviated movements, a zombie clad in a bloody wedding dress hunched over her still-screaming victim. Amber had found the source of the scream. An old man, who had apparently been hiding under a car, was trying vainly to drag himself away from the creature, but he was a bloody ruin below the ribcage. It ignored his attempts to flee, tearing violently at his stomach and lower half.
Amber brought up her gun, leveling it first on the old man, and secondly on the zombie… but she couldn’t take the shot. She didn’t have to. A shadow tore itself from the edge of her vision, and the zombie was missing an arm. Another shot of darkness screamed across the parking lot, and then the zombie’s head was sailing through the air. A third figure moved with inhuman speed to silence the old man. It stood there over the corpse in front of her, a man six feet tall and clad in black, with a katana clenched in both hands.
As the figure turned its dark gaze upon her, realization dawned: Amber was in the presence of ninjas.
Wir Aryth 21, YK 998
Ach my poor ship! My baby! Blasted shiteswillin’ dragon roughed you up but good she did! Oh sure, says Aern! Hire a shiteswillin’ team! Get a shiteswillin’ amulet! Spruce the shiteswillin’ ship! ‘Twill all turn out fine as a Nymph’s backside! Never mind Oern and his gut feelings! What in Khyber does he know! Between the altimeter repairs, starboard support struts, thermal regulators, the extended cargo hold, cleaning the crew cabins for our new “guests”, and the thrice-damned dragonshard foci that are ALWAYS out of sync… Oern can just waste the day away napping.
Of course the shiteswillin’ dragon goes straight for the aft ring harness first… heard that pop while I was at work on the foci, and near lost my eyebrows when the shard flared up. By the time I got above deck (almost losing an arm to the Khyberspawned beast), every fool and his grandmother was gawking at the pale bastard. Any ship without a supported elemental ring is a thrice-damned bomb attached to a pretty ship-shaped rock. The Dragonborn (whatever his name is) jumped overboard, followed by a gnome with the sense to take a flight ring. Last I saw before I jumped back below there were a couple orcs fighting over another ring.
Managed to regulate the dragonshard (shiteswillin’ air elemental isn’t getting out from under this dwarf) long enough for Aern to pull us in for a landing. No idea where the dragon went, or why, but this dwarf hadn’t the energy to care. Woke up the next morning to find my poor baby spread out over a shiteswillin’ mile of ice, and a mob of Khyberspawned Kobolds ready to greet us. Thanks Aern.
We fought them off most of the day, and then our favorite band of hired swords showed up for the end of it to take all the credit. Aern sent them into the cave to find the thrice-damned amulet. They can have it; I just want to go home.
So thanks to our gobshite fearless leader, we’re now shivering in the shiteswillin’ frozen sphincter of Khyber’s arse, scratching our memoirs and passing the night. On the off chance that we aren’t murdered in our sleep by more shiteswillin’ Kobolds, I might actually be able to get this bird back in the air.
Sar Sypheros 21, YK 998
I was approached today by a rather peculiar character, one that may be sent by the gods. He provided me with a map, along with a 2,000 mark stipend, all on the condition that I gather a party and retrieve an amulet for him. My nephew and engineer, Oern, doesn’t trust the man, and come to it neither do I, but he promised another 30,000 marks if I could bring him the amulet. 30 thousand marks! That’s enough to get a full crew, refit the ship, and get a proper laboratory set up in my chambers with money left over.
Sar Sypheros 28, YK 998
I’ve been having trouble gathering a party, and with the storm approaching, I need to set sail immediately. I decided today to raise my offer to three thousand marks to each sword who hires on with the ship. Oern should be able to keep the ship running himself, but without knowing what lurks that far north I feel it necessary to hire on a crew for security after we land. Five should be enough…
Mol Aryth 2, YK 998
Finally found a party today:
–Kirin, a young Elf with a touch of sorcery about him… seemed a little nervous but I can’t be picky. He might be trustworthy… Difficult to say.
–Ansonious seems an interesting hire; the tiny bard struck me as a bit too chipper but I have a good feeling about him, and the way his face lit up when he heard about the payment left me in stitches long after he had left.
–Urska, a rather savage Half-Orc, got along well with Oern during her interview; I think she will fit in nicely. She didn’t talk to much… clearly knew how to handle a weapon, and was genuinely motivated by adventure as much as money.
–Jerik seemed a natural leader, a common enough trait in Dragonborn; I trust that he will be able to hold the party together well enough. Paladins can be a little ornery at times, but I cannot think of a better man to have watching my back.
–Oern will make a fifth for the retrieval mission, I trust him to stay levelheaded, and to keep the priorities of the mission in mind.
Zol Aryth 3, YK 998
We left today, though there was a bit of a hassle before we launched. Kirin never showed this morning; we searched for an hour or so but he was nowhere to be found. Strangely enough, we found a changeling waiting at the ship and ready to replace him when we returned. Dragon Above! Once more we are five, airborne. I wonder what could have gotten into Kirin, the boy seemed so eager to leave town.
–Ameera will be a worthy addition to our little band, bringing some stealth and sorcery to the table.
Speaking last week to Jeff Grubb, one of the creative minds behind the Forgotten Realms, was an incredible experience as a gamer for me. It was interesting to hear the story behind the characters I grew up with, like Volothamp Geddarm, Elminster, and Drizzt Do’Urdan. When I was in middle school I started playing a game called Baldur’s Gate, which was my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons as well as an arguable introduction to video games.
These characters make cameos in the Baldur’s Gate, and it was really cool to hear about their development from one of the people responsible for it. This also brought to mind exactly how possible it is to create an IP as successful as the Forgotten Realms; at the end of the day, it’s all just imagined stories, the right publicity, and the enthusiasm to breathe a bit of magic into it.
Jeff’s opinions on Drizzt surprised me as well. I have never particularly liked the character; a duel-sword-wielding ranger who decided to rebel against his evil heritage and make a life on the surface never really appealed to me. Nevertheless, Drizzt has taken over the Forgotten Realms setting. Jeff seemed okay with this, which initially seemed strange to me; after thinking it over though, I can see why. Every IP undergoes changes, and in this case they were changes that made the setting wildly popular. I suppose I just need to look at it with a more open mind.
McCloud’s timeline structure ideas triggered some interesting thoughts for me, since it reminded me of the ‘cave drawing’ I had to decipher in class. The author had begun with the traditional comic structure, but at one point, to represent the character falling over a cliff, dropped along the Y axis for several panels before resuming it’s rightward progression. McCloud mentioned this same structure of what I will refer to as “directional storytelling” in his speech on TED.
This got me to thinking about the future of comics in general. One of the directional diagrams McCloud shows seem as though the comic is moving toward the audience, which was tricky for me to imagine. Comics are, after all, a two-dimensional media form. It’s easy to take a 1-dimensional story and tell it on a 2-dimensional plane, but it’s harder to imagine it moving along a third axis.
The closest I can imagine to a comic “coming at you” would be either a single animated panel on some sort of screen, or a lower budget but similar idea involving a flipbook. These seem too much like technologically backward televisions though. Perhaps as virtual reality becomes more fact than fiction, we will see something like three dimensional comic-games. Only time will tell.
Time travel is okay, right?
One thing that I felt was bizarre and never fully addressed in Run, Lola Run! was the issue of time travel. Lola travels back in time twice without any explanation, simply willing herself back in time for a ‘do-over’. At first this reminded me of video games, which often use flashbacks either in cut-scenes or in the form of extra ‘lives’. Later though, I realized that this narrative form was designed to capture our interest and keep us watching through the film. Lola doesn’t merely travel through time, however; she literally gets a second life, and then a third, which she can use to try to right the wrongs in her life.
To be fair, I don’t know that we don’t get rewinds when we die. Maybe we all get a second try when we die, and forget our past lives. There is no proof that this is not the case, and there is nothing in Run, Lola, Run! so suggest that she remembered her past life, other than the perceived desperation of further attempts to save her boyfriend. If we could go back and redo our lives, would we do anything any different?
After watching the DICE video, what struck me the most from the many points addressed in the movie was how drastically the psychological tricks new games use are affecting the way we live and play. Developments like Microsoft’s achievement system, Wii fit’s weight loss tracking, or Facebook’s friend comparison scoring have led us as gamers to think of games as real-world relevant subjects and not as the escapist satellite pastimes that they were in the 90s.
When coin-operated games came out back in the day, beating the high score of a neighbor was tempting goal. That same goal is now storming through today’s youth in the form of Facebook games, which bring every friend in a friend list together as a neighbor and cast an analog feel on arcade gaming.
Microsoft’s achievements break the fourth wall by connecting the player to the game through awards outside the box that stay with the player in the aptly named “Gamerscore”. Nintendo goes a step farther with their Wii console, which tracks the player’s coordination, weight, health, and play time in order to encourage improvement through more hours of play.
This amounts to more money for far less effort on the part of the company, by relying not on pixel count or frames per second but on psychology, which is much easier to implement in a game. Where is this kind of thinking taking us? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to get there.