In Which I Riff About Xbox One and PS4

With E3 blowing up this week there has been a deluge of video games news.  The juiciest bits were undoubtedly the pricing and the new Xbox One and PS4 systems, followed very shortly by millions of nerds and fanboys like myself collectively scratching their heads over some of the policies being announced by Microsoft.

The biggest kerfluffle, and the one that still seems to be the sticking point after lots of PR backpedaling and clarifications, is the always online nature of the Xbox One. I personally don’t have a big problem with the 24 hour checks back to home base to determine you’re playing a game licensed to you because I rarely trade in games and I can count on one hand the number of times my internet has been out in the last ten years or so.

However, I realize I am not the only person in the world who buys video games. There are big chunks of the United States where broadband internet is not so prevalent as it is here in metropolitan mecca of the southwest, lovely Phoenix Arizona.

At Microsoft, Don Mattrick has said that if you need an offline console experience, you’ve got an Xbox 360 to take care of you.

As a consumer this says to me “I don’t care about your dollars if you don’t have a consistent internet connection.” Is there a more blatant way of telling a certain number of people not to send their money that direction?  Is there anything less consumer friendly?  It basically means that you can’t play new games on new hardware if you can’t fit into the square hole of the demographic they’ve designed their system for.

When Mr. Mattrick says go play a 360 if you need to be offline he is discounting his competition.  A PS4, architecturally similar to an XB One, will play many of the same 3rd party games and not require you to be online to do it.  Microsoft has essentially ceded a certain demographic to their competition with this policy, and it’s a stupid move.

I prefer to play my 360 over my PS3 when I’m gaming, but if all things are equal -excluding the fact that I can play my games with a PS4 if/when my ISP is having a bad day – I think a lot of consumers will go that way.  The internet hubbub certainly seems to point that direction.

But launch for these two systems is still a few months off, and Microsoft theoretically has time to change their tune before they drive a big wedge between themselves and a large segment of the video game playing audience.

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And Now, for Something Completely Different…

Today I’m going to go into a little bit of a story that is quite telling about parts of myself.  A little look behind the curtain at what happens in my brain.

In 1997 I was a common breed of video game nerd.  I was 17 years old, and heavily into console gaming after having bought myself a Nintendo 64 and a Playstation the previous year.  I was also building my then burgeoning collection of CD’s (long since dwindled, physical media? pfft).  The first CD’s I had bought were from The Beatles, but I was big into classic rock at the time so I was soon adding things like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Steve Miller Band to my set.  And so a unique situation arises wherein I’m listening to a lot of old music and playing (what were then) top of the line brand new video games.

I was a huge fan of Final Fantasy as a kid (not necessarily so much anymore, but that’s another topic entirely) and was eagerly awaiting number 7.  Eventually it came out and I played it for hundreds of hours, interspersed periodically with bouts of Lynyrd Skynyrd (a greatest hits double CD that was in heavy rotation on my player, don’t judge I was 17).

So now, as a 33 year old (theoretically grown) man I have strange associations in my brain.  Every time that I hear this:

my brain starts thinking of this:

I’ve found no good way of disassociating the two, nor am I sure I even want to, as it brings me a strange sense of bizarre glee that somewhere in the folds of my brain matter two unlikely neurons are inextricably linked.  In my head, southern rock means mako reactors, materia, pointy hair and nigh incomprehensible storytelling and I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

50k.

Yep, skipped right over any possible Warhammer jokes and went to 50,000 words. I don’t have much to say about it really, beyond that I felt very little as the wordcount tipped over last night.  I got a very tiny jolt of “Oh, that happened.  I guess that’s a thing that I did.” and then it was gone.

Granted, that particular number was never the intended finish line, and only serves as the loosest basis of the idea of a halfway point.  There’s still a lot of mountain to climb, after all.

So, looking onward from this point what have I got left to do?  I’ve moved all of my players onto trajectories that will lead to THE END in one way or another, and that is actually kind of exciting.  I’m still skeptical about reaching 100,000 words with this draft though.  Not that missing that target would be the end of the world, I could end up with a tighter and more concise 90,000 word novel and I suppose I’d be just fine with that.

Alas, I think my brain is starting to get ahead of me.  Reality check, I’m still only halfway through a first draft.  I’ve still thousands of words to go, and revisions and rewrites on top of that.  Back to it, I reckon.

 

7 Days, 7k

Well I’m seven days into my rush to the end and I’m seven thousand words closer to it.  It’s forced me to think a bit outside of my outline and start making some decisions I’ve been putting off.

The biggest problem with my outline is that while the first 3rd of the book is pretty detailed, it gets progressively less so the deeper I get.  The second act is largely hashed out, but things are popping up that I hadn’t considered early on and I’ve been finding myself scrambling to address them in the best way possible.

Due to this issue I’m finding myself about 60% through my outline and only sitting at about 47000 words.  Which doesn’t exactly work out if you’re planning a 100,000 word novel.  So, I’m getting creative (as creative types are wont to do) and finding things I can expand upon, plotlines I can further develop, characters I can play with a bit more, to fill out what I’ve been shooting for.

After all, plot is about characters overcoming interesting problems in interesting ways.   So when all else fails give the character more problems to deal with.

Getting Out of the Way

I finally eclipsed 40,000 words this week.  It took a little longer than I anticipated (what doesn’t?) but I did it.  Forty percent of the way to completion, by standard measure, of a manuscript.  That’s not quite halfway, but it is a significant chunk of text.  At this point in the game I find myself thinking that at a hypothetical pace of one thousand words per day I would be done in two months.   I could be finished with a first draft in sixty days if I could maintain that pace.  IF.

Today I’ve written not quite six hundred words.  It took a little over an hour.  A thousand words a day is a doable thing, but looking up at it like a mountain is daunting.  Even as I write this I see the words ‘sixty days’ and wonder what the hell I’m thinking.  For me the secret of finishing a task of herculean proportions is to attack it in small chunks, until I have devoured it en masse.

That having been said, six hundred words is not one thousand, so after a little sustenance break I suppose I’ll get back to it.  After all, in sixty days I’ll have either done it or not, but sixty days will still have passed.  It’s pretty exciting to think that the only thing keeping me from a finished draft in the next two months in myself.  Hope I can learn to get the fuck out of my own way.

Dragging my damn feet

I’ve been effectively dragging my feet for the last week or so with my writing, getting my minimum daily words down most days but little more.  I’m not sure what the funk I’m in is all about, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to fix it.  Or if I’m even supposed to fix it for that matter.

I know the advice I would get if I asked for it:  Barrel through.  Get your minimum down and keep going every day.  So that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Doesn’t make it much easier, but it gives me the perspective I need.

I’m closing in on 39,000 words right now, and should hit it in the next day or two.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm at the moment, it’s still a wondrous thing for me to watch the ticker and realize I’m only about 10,000 words from what would typically be the halfway point (100k words being the target).

10,000 words is a thing I can do.  I’ve done it three times already, nearly four now. Thinking of my goal in terms of repeating things I’ve already accomplished reminds me that it is indeed something I can make happen.  I’ve already done it, after all.  I just have to do it a few more times, and I’ll have written a book.  A BOOK.  WRITTEN A BOOK MYSELF WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS.  And it’s a thing I can do.

Well pffft.

So, I’m typing this out on a lunch break at work (on a tablet no less), you’ll just have to forgive me any typos I may make.  Its been a solid two months since my last blog update and I’m happy to say I’ve actually been quite productive in the meantime.  My novel is now clocking in at just over 37,000 words (that’s about 37% completion for those of you keeping track at home) and some of those words are even good.  I wish I knew which ones they were…
Regardless, I plan to schedule these little updates once a week now so you can keep tabs on my progress or lack thereof.  Shouldn’t be much in the way of posts with no progress anymore though, thanks to the magic spreadsheet.  If you know about it, then you know what I mean.  If you don’t then you’ll have to wait for me to be on a device with which I can easily provide you a handy link.  Til then, have a good one!