Sunday, December 30, 2012

How KOTOR laid the Groundwork for the Mass Effect Trilogy

Originally published on Gamers Nexus

Earlier this year, BioWare responded to the outcry for a more complete and comprehensive ending to Mass Effect 3. Most people appear to be satisfied with this new iteration, but there are still suggestions that the new ending remains inadequate because it's just a series of cinematics with a voiceover. Taking previous games into account, though, it's always been apparent as to what the new revision would be, and using the game story analysis skills that we've talked about before it's easy to analyze a game's story and design to determine the outcome.

See, game developers are notorious for reusing what works when they move on to their next project. Engines, models, art assets, sound, level design, and even story arcs and plots are all re-usable. Even when artfully concealed, developers will return to these tendencies and give you a glimpse of what might be ahead in your single-player campaign. Some will even reuse stuff that works in the same game, like the different platform-and-puzzle sequences in Naughty Dog's Uncharted series. Sometimes it works out well, other times it gets annoyingly repetitive (like the [Dragon Age] or TES games, and the building/dungeon level designs they reuse again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and … you get the point).

As in life, the past can often reveal the future. Sometimes more about that future than we may be comfortable with. But being aware of that tendency can at least prepare you for what you may find in a later work by the same company, especially if some of the same people are working on the new IP.

Knights of the Mass Effect

To illustrate this, let's look at Mass Effect Game Director Casey Hudson's previous foray into the realm of the sci-fi epic, when he was in charge of BioWare's major Star Wars masterpiece, Knights of the Old Republic.

Fair warning: This article will contain a little spoiler action for the KOTOR and ME series.

When the Mass Effect series first came out, people gradually grew to love the games. The first game didn't exactly storm the shelves of the local game store. Still, word of mouth propelled it until ME 2 came out. That's when the general public (and the media, of course) really started to catch on and started foaming at the mouth. Game-of-the-Year awards abounded. It was groundbreaking, ya hear? Earth-shattering! A fresh new look at the sci-fi odyssey! Right?

Maybe not.

If anyone really wanted to see the genesis of this series, they just had to look back to an older sci-fi title that let you "choose your path," as the tagline claimed. Casey Hudson first flexed his story muscles in the 2003 space RPG, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). He was joined by Mass Effect Senior Writer Drew Karpyshyn (who also wrote parts of ME 2).

After careful story analysis of KOTOR and Mass Effect, we reveal that the two really are shockingly similar.

We've talked before (also linked above) about the structure that a story-based campaign game will likely follow. As a quick refresher of some of the KOTOR storyline elements, let's look at some of the things BioWare has repeated, which should make examining other games the same way a little simpler.

KOTOR begins with your character creation - immediately following that, you wake up on a ship under attack (called the Endar Spire). This is the typical tutorial stage where the game developers tell you what to do, help you figure out how to play the game, and basically keep you from dying in the first ten seconds or so.

Tutorials will almost always be bad storytelling because NPCs are explaining things to you that your character should already know…things like where your gear is stored and how to shoot a gun. It's like a nuclear physicist showing up to work one day and a guard saying, "Sir, you look confused. Just take your ID card from your inventory and swipe it on that lighted square over on the wall." Because, of course, even though you're a nuclear physicist, really rare knowledge like how to open doors escapes you on occasion. Happens to the best.

So you're on the Endar Spire, given instruction and background from a crew member named Trask Ulgo. He holds your hand and helps you learn how to fight (you're an amnesiac Republic soldier, so you've forgotten how to do anything). This takes you through a fight or two until you come to a situation against an opponent you aren't tough enough to face yet. Ulgo fights and gives his life so you can keep going, because the game would be very short otherwise. Left alone, you hear Carth Onasi over your comm. unit. His disembodied voice then directs you to the escape pods so you can get off the ship.

Once you escape, you crash land on a planet called Taris. Taris is a planet-wide city, similar to Coruscant in the Star Wars canon. This is your first staging area to find out more about the story and begin collecting team members. The first team member is Carth, who helped you out of the wreckage of the escape pod before the Sith could find you. This is when you learn that Malak, the game's primary antagonist, is scouring the galaxy to kill Jedi, and a very important one named Bastila Shan was on board the Endar Spire.

Now she's missing somewhere on Taris.

You can also recruit other team members on Taris, such as a Twi'lek rogue named Mission Vao, her Wookie companion Zaalbar, a computer-expert droid named T3-M4, and a Mandalorian mercenary named Canderous Ordo (hmm, a warlike mercenary? Surely Urdnot…-err, I mean you're not serious). And, of course, your first major mission is to do what you must in order to free Bastila. This takes you throughout Taris and multiple branches of the storyline. It also gives you the first real chance to alter your story based on the morality choices you make.

This mechanic has become central to BioWare games and many others who hope to reach the same level of game prominence… to varying degrees of success (Kingdoms of Amalur, anyone?). It also fits a Star Wars game, if a bit restrictive in its binary light side/dark side choice breakdown. The decisions you make can have a real effect on some aspects of the game and how your story will play out in certain cutscenes. We'll talk about the ultimate ending possibilities later (hint, hint).

Anyway, while on Taris you get plenty of opportunities to ask questions of your team members and get back story, much like every Mass Effect game (and other games of this subgenre, like Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age, Icewind Dale, and so on). However, you can also spend time in cantinas, learn to play various mini-games that will recur throughout KOTOR (like dueling, playing Pazaak, and swoop racing), and buy and equip new gear. You level a lot early because of the missions you have to go through to keep the main story moving forward, regardless what moral decisions you make.

Once you have rescued Bastila and finished what you need to on Taris, you are directed to board (steal) the ship which will be your new staging area for the rest of the game. The Ebon Hawk has multiple rooms, some of them occupied by any NPCs you have recruited to bring with you. You can chat with these characters to gain background, further developing your own character based on your moral choices in these interactions. They will also offer information that can lead to new side quests if you choose carefully. There are even places to repair or upgrade weapons and navigate your ship to other worlds. But before you can explore or find any of this, you escape just in time to watch millions of innocents being killed by Malak's ship. It builds character.

Next you discover that you could be a Jedi on Dantooine and must train to become stronger and more powerful. Plus, you get lots of new abilities and equipment (like a freaking light saber!). You solve more problems while there, learn how to fight using your new abilities, and investigate and solve crimes. You can even recruit another team member, the fallen Jedi Padawan named Juhani, if you don't decide to kill her (see how decisions can affect small aspects of gameplay, even if they don't really change the ultimate ending?).

Is a lot of this starting to sound familiar?

Remember Mass Effect 2? You wake up after being dead, (curiously similar to KOTOR where your former identity – Dark Jedi Revan – has been taken from you, effectively "killing" you). In ME 2, you wake to hear Miranda's voice telling you what to do. It's the same as the opening of KOTOR, just in reverse: The disembodied voice leads you until the teammate takes over. You go through the basic tutorial with Miranda's direction, learning how to shoot and take cover and generally not die (again) until Jacob helps you the rest of the way to the escape shuttle.

Working your way around Taris is similar to life on The Citadel in the first Mass Effect game, what with its varied sub-missions and mini-games. KOTOR has a shorter build-up before you get to the first staging area, but once you wake up after the beacon on Eden Prime is destroyed in ME 1, you wind up in the same situation. You can spend time and effort going through the different levels of The Citadel buying and selling equipment, solving people's problems, and collecting teammates like the Krogan mercenary Urdnot Wrex, former C-Sec Officer Garrus Vakarian, and a Quarian computer expert. You also get a lead on an Asari scientist on another planet (that you recruit) named Liara T'soni.

Tali – the Quarian – helps you prove that Saren is really a villain (and thus the primary antagonist of the story). Once you have proved this, you become a SPECTRE, one of the Intergalactic Council's lone-wolf operatives (kinda like a Jedi Knight), and begin your quest to stop Saren's plot.

Every Mass Effect game lets you travel to other worlds aboard the Normandy, much as KOTOR has you jetting to multiple worlds in the Ebon Hawk, each world with storylines of its own. While doing so in KOTOR, you encounter a shady corporation named Czerka that seems to be mucking things up for Wookies on their native world of Kashyyyk and the Sand People on Tatooine. You discover an intergalactic criminal underground called "The Exchange." You also buy, sell, and upgrade your equipment. You accomplish all of this while making choices that lean you closer to either the light or dark side and send you hurtling to the inevitable Final Battle with Malak. Boss fight!

Seeing a pattern yet?

Czerka Corporation brings to mind another mysterious organization in the Mass Effect series that has issues with non-human species: Cerberus.

KOTOR's "The Exchange" is reminiscent of ME's Shadow Broker network.

Malak's complete destruction of Taris certainly shows where the cinematic of the Reaper attack on Earth at the start of Mass Effect 3 came from.

On Dantooine you learn that Malak is trying to conquer the galaxy with something called The Star Forge. While you're there, you have the opportunity to kill, spare, or convert Juhani to your side, just like Urdnot Wrex on Virmire in the first Mass Effect.

In order to stop KOTOR's Malak, you must find the location of the Star Forge using the maps that an ancient race left behind on different worlds (like the Protheans and their beacons).

Once you find it, you must land on the planet close by (populated by tribes of an ancient species known as Rakata) in order to access the Star Forge itself.

This sounds absolutely nothing like the search for The Conduit that Saren is after.

... Which takes you to a mysterious planet called Ilos, where you are told by a long-dormant Prothean program called Vigil that you must fight your way through the Geth that have been left behind by Saren.

... In order to use The Conduit and catch/stop Saren before he destroys everything.

And BioWare doesn't just reuse writers, directors, and scenes they like - like any good game developer or publisher attempting to save money, other assets are also reused.

Mass Effect fans might recognize the voice of KOTOR's Carth Onasi as that of Raphael Sbarge, who voiced ME's Kaiden Alenko.

Bastila Shan from KOTOR? That would be Jennifer Hale, known more affectionately to Mass Effect fans as the voice of the female Commander Shepard (FemShep).

KOTOR's Juhani makes an appearance in the Mass Effect series as the biotic criminal Jack, both voiced by Courtenay Taylor.

Heck, there's even a loading screen in KOTOR that tells you "It is believed that hyperspace travel was brought to this galaxy by an advanced race now extinct." Mass Relays, anyone?

So was it really that much of a surprise when even the new extended ending for Mass Effect 3 was shown as a series of animated stills and a few brief cinematics with commentary? That's all you saw at the end of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Dark Side, Light Side, didn't matter. You got a few cinematics showing how your chosen path affected the ending with spoken commentary. And here's the thing: That's all you needed.

Both series needed to end the way they did (once the Extended Cut was applied to ME 3, that is). It's good storytelling when it wraps up briefly like that. The big issue most people had with the Mass Effect series' endings was that their choices weren't reflected enough in the final cinematics.

But they were reflected in the gameplay.

If you killed Wrex on Virmire, or lost Jack when going through the Omega Relay, or chose the Geth over the Quarians in ME 3, didn't that choice show up in the story before the end?

Of course it did.

None of this is meant to detract from KOTOR or the Mass Effect series. Both are fantastic and have an incredibly high replay value (I still replay KOTOR, dated graphics and all). It just illustrates how the past can give you a glimpse of the future, especially when it comes to a writer/director's tendencies. And that can often give you an edge in determining what comes next for you.

At least, in games, anyway.

What games do you think have striking similarities, even across genres? Do you agree with the above? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Story Design in Gaming - An Overview

As originally published on Gamers Nexus

Video games in recent years have seen a trend toward greater depth in story development.  Gaming has become more about immersion in a different world as technology advances and for most gamers this is best accomplished with a deep and encompassing story.  While the gameplay mechanics of the Assassin's Creed franchise, or games in the Elder Scrolls universe (which we made even more immersive with our Skyrim Immersion Overhaul), or even the Mass Effect trilogy have arguably gotten better with each iteration, what keeps the buying public coming back is largely the storyline.

It's tough to maintain the momentum of block-busting titles that initiate a new series, though, and many of us feel disappointed -- likely a combination of nostalgia and fault of the designers -- in sequels to the originals.  This can be avoided by instituting something as basic as the Three-Act Structure; developers who ignore story structuring in games do so at their own financial peril.  Let's look into game design techniques and examples and the basics of story-writing for games, as well as some game story analysis techniques.

Note: I've italicized scene, motif, and other story or theme archetypes for clarity.

What is Three-Act Structure and how does it apply to gaming?

In its most simplistic form, it's a story with a definite and sectioned beginning, middle, and end, along with specific events that are expected in each segment.  Look at Three-Act Structure as some form of "Get the hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, then have him get himself down (one way or another)."  Of course, this is a simplified example, but it's the root of story-driven games that are worth the money.

Let's delve a little deeper into that simplified example of the structure.

The first act is going to be largely informative -- it'll be establishing the protagonist and antagonist of the story and presenting the central problem that will be the basis for the adventure at hand: introduce the hero and get him up a tree.  Act Two generally involves the trials and tribulations that pit the protag and antag against one another from afar.  The villain keeps hatching plans and throwing up obstacles for the hero to solve or survive (i.e. "throw rocks at the hero while he's in the tree").  Act Three is the Final Battle and brief wrap-up/epilogue (though not TOO brief…I'm looking at you, BioWare).  The hero must either solve the central problem and save the day, or ultimately fail and lose.  Either way he's out of the tree, whether by getting himself down or by falling.

So what does that mean we as gamers should be looking for in a really well-done story?  Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from the Three-Act Structure as a whole and what kinds of events or subtleties could or should be popping up in each act.

Game Introductions and Act One

Most single-player games are going to start you with very little back-story.  This is one of the most basic tenets of storytelling: begin in medias res.  Start right in the middle of the action.  As gamers, we're smart enough to figure out the back-story as we go along (or create our own, in roleplay-heavy environments).  Just put the mouse or controller in our hands and get us going, we'll pick up on what's behind it all as we move forward.  Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls series has moved more toward the action-focused introduction as its games progress; in Skyrim, the player character is dropped into an execution scene and forced to make immediate decisions with almost no back-story.  This allows the player to generate his or her own background and start developing the character immediately, but still gives Bethesda immediate control of what happens.

So Act One is still there, but the player is moving through it and getting the information as it is revealed, in much the same way a well-written novel, play, or film should do.

Certain scenes will occur in any game's first act; the better the writing, the better the experience – whether the scene is accomplished as a cinematic or through live-action gameplay, good experiences are built on great writing and scripting.  The Opening Image and the Grand Introduction of the Hero will be almost immediate (some games, like Portal don't go through efforts to showcase the hero's outward appearance -- Half-Life doesn't give our hero a voice).  In games where you choose your hero's appearance and back-story, the Introduction probably won't be quite as Grand, like the muted intro to your character in Skyrim, but you get the idea.  Often a game like Skyrim will ratchet up the excitement immediately after meeting your character to compensate, as was the case with the dragon attack on Helgen.

You'll also Meet the Antagonist very early on, as with the cutscenes of Darth Malak attacking Taris in Knights of the Old Republic, or the early scenes with Edgar Ross's government agents in Red Dead Redemption, or our immediate conflict between Stormcloaks, Imperials, and Alduin in Skyrim.  Even if you don't come face-to-face with the actual antagonist right away, you'll still meet the problem created by the antagonist almost immediately.  This may come in the form of your imprisonment and the puzzles you must conquer to be free (where GLaDOS awaits anyone who gets far enough) in Portal, or the blight that afflicts Ferelden at the opening of Dragon Age: Origins.

And of course you'll receive the Call to Adventure, which may be an actual call like Cole Phelps' first case in L.A. Noire, or just an inciting event like the rush to escape Vault 101 and find your father at the start of Fallout 3.  You may also encounter some kind of Deadline or Ticking Clock phenomenon in the early stages of the game.  These aren't necessarily enforced within the game's mechanical parameters, but they are presented nonetheless to encourage guided play.  You may meet one – or more likely, many – Mentor character(s) in Act One.  And, if the story is more linear than open world, you will probably encounter the Love Interest, the protagonist's Hidden Wound, his or her Hopes and Fears, and of course the Central Question (Can Batman save Commissioner Gordon and stop Joker's maniacal plan from within Arkham Asylum's walls?).  Some of these may have multiple iterations in a game, or they may not occur until partway through Act Two, but most of them are likely to occur at some early point in the setup of Act One.

Building Conflict and Act Two

The second act is trickier.  Campaigns these days are becoming increasingly dependent upon player choice (a result, in part, of technological leaps and demand).  It's becoming increasingly rare to find a single-player-focused game where you don't have options that will, to one degree or another, affect the outcome of the story.  Act Two is already the longest part of any story and is often written with the antagonist in mind.  Even if you never see the antagonist doing any planning during Act Two, almost every obstacle the protagonist will face comes about because the antagonist wants to win and force the hero to lose.  This has been true since before Donkey Kong first threw flaming barrels at Mario.  Because open world games put even more control in the hands of the gamer, good developers are being forced to make some side quests that appear created by (or at least related to) the antagonist, even if they're really just side quests to bide time and instill reason in a character's ventures.  Players quickly tire of endless fetch quests and dungeon crawls and "kill X amount of monster Y" quests with no real point besides the leveling grind, and if it's all going to happen before the final act anyway it might as well adhere to a solid story structure.

The kinds of scenes and events that might show up in Act Two are often more varied than Act One.  You may see some of the scenes mentioned earlier, like the Ticking Clock, or encounter other writing staples, like the Gathering of Tools and Weapons, Assembling the Team, and a Training Sequence -- all of which are templated enough to identify in nearly every RPG.  Act Two will invariably begin with an Into the New/Special World scene, but that is made less dramatic in gaming than in other media because the moment you start the game you've crossed a threshold into a special world; doing so twice does not double its 'special' factor.  Moving from the Pillar of Autumn to the surface in the first Halo is hardly as dramatic as moving from your couch into Master Chief's cryo-sleep tube in the first place.

In Act Two you can usually expect some form of game-changer where a kink comes out of left field to screw up the protag's plans, or maybe the Loss of a key Ally (whether perceived, such as Sully getting shot in the first Uncharted, or the actual death of Yusuf Tazim in Assassin's Creed: Revelations).  You may even encounter a point of Initial Failure where the protagonist must retrain or even re-examine the chosen course of action in order to overcome that failure in the event it is presented in the Final Battle in Act Three.  The trials of Link in The Ocarina of Time are an easy example of a series of trial-and-error tasks that get completed by the PC (player character), eventually training our character and player how to deal with Ganondorf.  Often one of these can lead to a low point for the protagonist, usually shown as a cinematic, called the Long Dark Night of the Soul.  It's that moment when all seems lost for your hero.  It's also a pretty good indicator that you're somewhere between the mid-point and the end of Act Two in the main storyline, and it's normally closer to being the latter of the two.

Conflict Resolution and Act Three

Act Three is much shorter in any story medium, but especially so in gaming.  As with any good story, the Final Battle will likely take place on the antagonist's turf, putting the protagonist at a significant disadvantage.  This is demonstrated when the Spartans and marines assault the Flood vessel in Halo, Link's battle in Ganondorf's (claimed) citadel, or when the Red Faction troops infiltrate the depths of Mars to stop the threat to the isolated colony.  It will usually be broken into two separate stages in the game. Stage One will be the big assault just to get to the antagonist (Getting In), as in the first Mass Effect when you work your way to the Council's chambers on the Citadel in order to fight Saren, or the fight to get through the Tattered Spire and into the Final Showdown in Fable II.  Stage Two is, of course, the ultimate boss battle itself.  How you get your hero out of the tree will depend largely on your skill in that battle.  Will you spring upon the bad guy and save the day, or plummet and die (before reloading your last save)?

This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the kind of things you should be getting for your money in that new game, but these guidelines should serve as the absolute minimum requirements for a decent storyline-driven campaign from a single-player standpoint.  Even multiplayer-driven Call of Duty 4 had nearly all of these elements in its single-player campaign (and did a great job of executing emotional response in the final sequence).

To give credit where it is due, anyone who hopes to learn more about the intricacies of story structure would do well to find more detailed breakdowns in Alexandra Sokoloff's (my mentor who taught me all about this) workbook, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, or otherwise check out her blog.  She's brilliant.  Regardless, as you become more and more savvy about story, this basic breakdown may help you determine what games to pick up, what games to pass on, and how to analyze what's coming up in the storyline.


Looking for similar game design articles or story writing ideas?  Look into the following:

Turning Death into a Useful MMO Game Mechanic.
Diablo 3's Story is Lazy, Passive, and Careless.
Game NPC Design - Why Do We Relate?
The Do's and Don'ts of Scary Games.
From Lyrics to Levels: Designing a Level from Music.
•All screenshots were taken by Midhras - you can find more by him here.
Alexandra Sokoloff's screenwriting workbook.

Have questions about why something happened in a game's storyline or trying to speculate on where a series' story may go with its next release?  Post your comments below and I'll tell you what I think.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Somebody to Love" - Wake County SPCA

Watch this video with dry eyes. I triple-dog dare you (no pun intended...swear!).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Closing Down - Update: Not so fast, my friend...

About a month ago, as a knee-jerk response to a new social networking policy from Wake County Schools, I posted this:
"For the three or four of you who have followed this, I haven't posted in a while anyway, but this blog will be going away because of the dangers inherent in the new wcpss policy about social networking. I will be taking this down in a few days, and so I say...adios."

Turns out, maybe I was being a bit impulsive (and perhaps chickenshit?). The policy was geared toward teachers "friending" students and the parents of WCPSS students, and thus creating an inappropriate relationship with them outside of the school on a private forum like facebook. As it happens, this blog is not only public, but completely unaffiliated with my other career as a teacher, and there is no way to create one of those relationships even if I wanted to (and I don' wife is the single greatest human being alive, so why would I?).

So, in short, this oft-updated blog (j/k) will continue as it has, and maybe even get a few more posts, because from everyone I've spoken to I'm legally allowed to have a blog that I don't access or update from work. Carry on....

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Fellow Advocate for Adopting Pets - Mr. Simon Wood

My wife and I will always have rescue dogs, if we have dogs at all. We both think the Tamaskan wolfdogs, given notoriety lately because of NC State adopting one as its live mascot, are absolutely beautiful. And frankly, we both want one, quite badly.

However, we've both agreed from here on out, only recues, just like the girls we have now.
Those of you (all 4 of you) who have followed this blog know I am a big advocate for adopting from shelters, so I was especially touched when I learned today of the awesome deal Simon Wood is offereing on all of his books for the next two weeks. Thus, I thought I would repost it here. To wit:
So from Simon:

This is for the animal lovers out there.

I doubt anyone is aware that my wife and I foster animals for the ASPCA and other organizations. We usually take the no hope cases, where the animals aren’t expected to survive or need specialist care. Over the last few years, we've rescued dozens of cats and dogs and found them new homes. Our family pets are all rescues -- ones that we couldn’t give up after the care we'd given them.

Our cat, Bug, was one of those rescues we couldn’t let go of after we’d taken him in. After five fun fill years, Bug died last week. He was a great cat and a lot of fun to have around the house. We’re going to miss him a lot.

In Bug’s honor, I’m going to donate all eBook royalties earned at Amazon and for the next two weeks to Best Friends, an organization I truly admire. This applies to the following titles:

The Fall Guy
Asking For Trouble
Working Stiffs
The Scrubs
Road Rash
Dragged into Darkness

Please feel free to share this appeal on Twitter, Facebook or your blog. If there's a strong showing, I’ll extend the appeal.

Thanks for listening,
Simon Wood
So grab you a book for the upcoming holidays!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Timesuckers...or, "Watch out, these people VOTE!!"

I've discovered something about myself (I really always knew, but work with me here): I have a horribly addictive personality. Couple that with the ability to focus on really meaningless shit, and you have the things I am supposed to be doing getting left by the wayside in favor of timesuckers. I'm sure, knowing that many of the 5 or 6 of you who are reading this are unpublished writers like me, you are aware that writers are notorious for letting shit distract them when the writing isn't going well. And unpublished writers are the worst. If you don't know that, I'm probably talking about you. Don't take offense, I'm talking about me, too.

By the way, if you don't know what a timesucker is, you need to get out more. If you do know what a timesucker is, or you're like me and know ALL TOO WELL what they are, then we REALLY need to get out more, eh?

So anyway, as I'm tooling around the internet (instead of doing what I should be) over the last few days, I found a new one.

Whoa, Nelly, did I find one. I thought it was going to be funny. Instead, it terrified me.

The site is called (The Customer is) Not Always Right. Wow.

Yeah, I know some of it, even most of it maybe, is made up by people with too much time on their hands. But come on. You can't read through the horror stories on that site and not remember incredibly stupid people you've come across. For instance, I can remember being asked by someone (names witheld to protect, and all that), "Okay, so that's how I play the DVD. Once it's over, how do I rewind it?"
And that's nothing compared to the stuff I've heard up and down the halls on a daily basis...
(even on workdays)....

Remember, many of the people on that site, at least the ones that involve Americans, can vote. And you wonder why our government is so monumentally huge and sluggish and inefficient.
I came to one solid conclusion as I read through that site: They should license people to breed.

I know, I know.
Hey listen, I TEACH Orwell's 1984, and all about the Orwellian State. I know the dangers. Hell, I've been paying attention as the last two presidents have grown the government exponentially. I know governmental control is a bad thing, okay? Big Government=Bad.
Thanks. I get it.

I still came to, and stand by, that conclusion. Because the thought of some of those people raising children frightens me (and I'm using the word "raising" in such a broad and expansive and nonspecific way that I may have stretched any real meaning right out of it). Go ahead, peruse the site. It would scare the shit out of Jaws, I'm convinced.

Okay, Jaws would just be like, "drop 'em in the water, I'll take care of it," but you get the idea. Think on that for a minute, whydontcha, and have a good weekend....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writers' Police Academy - AWESOME!!!

Just got back from the Christmas present my wife got me last year. I've been foaming at the mouth to go to this thing ever since I read about it on Lee Lofland's blog. And you know what?

It. Rocked.

There is no other way to describe it. Great job by Lee, Verna Dreisbach, The High Point Public Library, and everyone else who pitched in! Got to meet and hang out with lots of published writers (a great thing in and of itself), and even went through F.A.T.S. training with the amazing, talented, and all-around wonderful C.J. Lyons and Kelly Irvin (who both kicked ass in the training just as well as they do on the written page)!

I will be posting some of the stuff I learned from the workshops for you guys over the coming weeks, along with lousy photos I took with my cell phone (had the digital camera there with me, but the batteries got a really good charge since I left them in Raleigh...).

So, stay tuned for more, coming soon!