No Man’s Sky: Documentary And More

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

As we eagerly await the drop of No Man’s Sky (OK, I am, but considering my hobbies it’s not surprising), I noticed a thread on reddit discussing the desire for a documentary on the game. I wanted to address this and more.

In short, as I expect NMS to be successful, and certainly groundbreaking even if flawed, and yes, it’s one we should know more about.

But a documentary is just the start of what we should see.

Yes, We Need a Documentary: The game itself has an impressive history, and it’d be great to see it documented. A good documentary should go beyond just the history, but also to the influences and impact – from 70’s concept art to he modern hype. There’s a great story to tell here if done right (and Hello Games could probably make more money selling one).

Management Interview: I deeply treasure the development interviews I read in Game Informer, as I learned a lot from them that I use to this day. I want to see an in-depth discussion in Game Informer if not a professional management magazine on just how Hello Games pulled this off.

Artbook: There’s tempting concept art we’ve seen, so let’s load it all into one book, have interviews with the artists, and sell it. Yes, again more money for Hello Games, but also the artistic insights that could be gained would be impressive. Plus, great coffee table or gift book.

Procedural Lessons: After making NMS, Hello Games teams could probably teach classes in procedural generation. So, do it! Imagine what people could learn with such folks as instructors.

Fandom Study: I’m expecting a huge impact from the game – not Minecraft level, but still intense. I’ve seen the hype, seen fans creating artworks and even role-playing. I’d love to see the fans studied respectfully if it is indeed the hit I expect. Great for general or academia.

So that’s what I want to see come out of NMS documentarianism (there’s a word). Things that will teach us something.

What do you want to see?

– Steve

Curb My Enthusiasm: TF2, Overwatch, PokemonGo, and Work

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

I should be really enthused about games right now.

TF2, which I adore, has added ranking and competition along with smooth new interfaces. Games feel they’re taken a bit more seriously now, as opposed to SwagBag420 dancing around his sentry.

Overwatch, which is amazing, is here. It’s got competitive mode and casual mode and great gameplay.  It’s got a new character coming.

PokemonGo realizes many of my ideas of augmented reality and socialized gaming.  Also it’s Pokemon and it’s highly social.

Except . . . I’m not feeling that enthusiastic about any of them. This is probably a phase, but I realized it said something about me, games, and recreation.

All of these games, for lack of a better word, involve resource and people management. TF2 may require teamwork, but Overwatch’s whole rock-paper-scissors type mechanic means teamwork is overwhelmingly important. PokemonGo is social and can involve various rival gyms and factions – and management.

And lately, busy at work, where I’d probably want to game, I find myself less enthused about two beloved games and one interesting take on the franchise. I should be interested and I’m not.  Then, I realized why.

Because these games are about what I do in real life.

I manage people. I direct resources. I’m used to charging forwad, goal-driven, with a team behind me (or me behind them). Work’s been pretty busy lately, and that in turn means the games that I like to escape with . . . seem a bit to much like what I do for a living.

This is weirder to me as I love games that play to my strengths – especially resource management and planning things. I love games with people. But when I have enough of that at work . . . I don’t want it as much in my games.

Moreso, a lot of these games feel “workish” anyway. PokemonGo has things constantly happening in the real world. Game wiht a team of friends in TF2 or Overwatch and people will inevitably want to play competitive – and TF2’s casual mode still has its leveling. The games are a bit too close to my job right now, and then a bit too workish anyway.

It’s a strange thing to feel and I’m curious to what happens to my interests anyway. I feel a bit bad as I haven’t gamed with various friends online from anywhere from a month to a week and there’s a strange sense of guilt about it. But really fun things that happen to be like my job – and like work – in all the wrong ways is a new one on me.

I assume as work calms down my mind will change.  Heck I sort of want to force myself to play. But for now I feel like I peered around a corner into some demographic issues that could be explored more.

When are fun thngs too much like other things to be fun? What does tht mean for the audience?

– Steve

Civic Diary 7/15/2016

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

If you’ve been following my Civic Diary for any time you know one of my goals as an engaged citizen is to get connected to politics.  My attempts to connect with local groups was pretty scattershot, much of it because people kept moving the damn meetings.  Finally I found one by going to whatever I could and visiting a local political office.

So what I went to this meeting it was a kind of polyglot of local chapter meeting, club meeting, and a meet-and-greet of various officials.  I couldn’t see everything due to work, but I managed to finally network and connect and find ways to get involved.

  1. I’ll be going to a big meetup to get involved in Election 2016.  This is a specific date at a specific place for the specific purpose of different political groups coordinating.  I will go to this and state “I want to do this, now what.”
  2. I’ve got contact with a local party member to get more advice.
  3. I found a lot of local officials are pretty accessible, and got some insights on campaigns I may want to help with.

So finally.  Being civilly engaged in local politics.  The plan is to 1) Help with the election, 2) Network and connect, so that 3) I have a long-term plan.  #3 is almost certainly communication and/or recruiting.

Now that one hour I spent? Insightful.  I’m sure the things I share won’t be new to some, but they were pretty amazing to me.

There Are People Really Into It: Politics as a calling?  Yes.  People get into this like anything else.  It’s more than say a fandom (for some) but also there’s a calling/obsession/lifestyle/hobby vibe to it.

The Network Is Real: When I started doing my Civic Geek research, I began realizing just how much of civilization is due to groups and people getting stuff done that we don’t realize.  You see it at one of these political meetups as you meet local officials, see recommendations from organizations boost a candidate’s profile, and other such things.

You See The Bigger Network: Ever think politicians are distant?  Well it’s understandable in some cases.  However at least at this meetup I suddenly saw how politics itself is a giant Network of candidates, groups, donors, workers, and more.  I’m talking to people who worked with my state’s governor casually.  Now extend that further.

There Are Careerists And That’s Good: I totally support the idea of citizen government, but some people are career (or side career) in government and that’s good.  They build expertise.  They know how things work.  They have arranged their lives to take advantage of it.

There’s Ways In – But It’s Not Apparent: One of the things I realized is that, yes, there’s ways to get involved and get into office, but a lot of people don’t know how.  Where’s the instruction manual?  Here at this meeting I had an idea of how people did it – and how people not very political connected wouldn’t know when to start.  You have to work at it.

I Can See It’s Something I’ll Like: The energy of the meeting, the chance to make a difference, the engagement was something.  It felt the same way as helping at a con.  So I’m pretty sure after all this I’ll be doing political work as part of my life.

Definitely worth going.  I saw not a different world, but more saw the world different.

So for you?  Want to get involved?  Go to a local political party meeting.  It may just give you the opportunity you needed to make a difference.

See you at the phone bank – and next column!

– Steve

Steve’s Update 7/11/2016

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Man, so much going on last week – ranging from work to all the terrible incidents in the world.  Sorry for slow and weird updates.  So where am I?

Way With Worlds Books:

Way With Worlds Book 1 is pretty much done.  I just have to check the print copy one more time.  The Kindle version is looking good, but a Kindle isn’t something requiring tricky page formatting and breaks.  I’m really proud of it – which is good because there’s a few times during editing I got sick of it.

Way With Worlds Book 2 comes back from my editor really soon.  As noted before my plan to edit this one is to experiment with a slower, but more detailed editing pace to see if that’s more efficient.  Still planning to deliver in November, after Thanksgiving.

Oh and the project after those?  Already halfway outlined.  But I’ll keep teasing that . . .

Generators:

Sadly, not a lot of work on these as other things (work) ate into my free time.   Still got my notes, still got my plans, just getting to the point of having time . . . though maybe having three freaking print books in the work in one year was a tad excessive.

And yes, the theme is still food.

Sailor Moon Book:

Final print copy is coming to me.  Kindle copy is over at my co-authors.  We’re going to use this month to confirm it and wait on any more feedback, do some tours and posts in August, and drop late September.  I also should be speaking at some cons on the subject – hopefully both of us thanks to Skype!

And we’ve already got other subjects to write on after this, so stay tuned . . .

Other Writing:

As you’ve seen I’m back to writing about No Man’s Sky – which makes sense as A) I like video games, and B) it involves procedural generation.  I’m going to keep this up until the game comes out – which it looks like it will be doing on time in August!

I’m also queuing up some more items to blog about I think you’ll be interested in, so stay tuned as I always say . . .

 

 

– Steve

So What’s After Trump?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tum

I think Trump is going to loose the election in 2016.  I give it a small chance that he won’t even get the Republican nomination if the Republican convention turns to chaos; it’d give some insiders a chance to derail him.  The media may freak out as he gets closer to the nomination (or the election) and do it’s job. This far aside, what happens after Trump?

That’s something I’m having a hard time conjuring a vision for.  There’s bits and pieces there, but no picture, like a puzzle or a shredded photo.

Trump Won’t Loose Well: He doesn’t know how to loose.  Unless he is utterly defeated and humiliated (which would require some kind of massive meltdown/failure that media and Republicans follow up on), he’s not going to actually quit.  He’ll threaten, bring lawsuits, possible found his own media empire (as some speculate he plans to).  He’ll be around.

(This is probably why it’d be good for the Republicans to try and ditch him if they can, it derails him before a melt down as the nominee.)

He’s Got Angry Followers: Enough said.  I’m honestly nervous about what’ll happen in Cleveland, though I assume my worries are overblown – until the Dallas debacle.  But these are people who won’t react well to his loss, and will probably back him as he raises hell after losing – check out this guy.

The Republicans Are In A Bind: We may blame them for Trump (I do), but the party really has neither the process nor leadership to extract themselves from Trump.  They can’t extract themselves from his followers, who are the Southern Strategy come home to roost.  They party is also facing dismal demographic problems on top of many states where modern Republican philosophy has failed.  There’s no there in there.

The Republicans Have A Trust Problem: Trump represents a massive black eye to the party.  How many people have decided not just #NeverTrump but #NeverRepublican?  The Republicans are in a loose-loose situation here – image problems, a base that compounds them.

The Media Are Clueless: The Media are clueless, and honestly we’ve been failed by any news show that doesn’t have a former Daily Show correspondent on it.  I can see the media finally digging into Trump’s past – I can’t see them handling a real public meltdown of a major figure. When Trump looses, and likely goes on a tantrum/rampage they news isn’t going to be sure how to handle it.  They’re going to look stupid – well stupider.

(I sometimes toy with suggesting that Trump is the invention of a liberal media trying to destroy the Republicans.  Except by now a small part of me sees this is kind of true.)

The vague image I see in these facets is of an angry Trump lashing out after a loss, refusing to give in, threatening lawsuits and worse, and followers likely to turn violent.  I then imagine a Republican Part and a Media simply unable to know what to do, with disjointed responses and happy-face reporting over dismal truth.

I certainly can’t see Republicans recovering.  I can’t see respect for the media returning.  I’m not sure a third party will come of this, but the Trump forces will be there.

What I can see, a ray of light perhaps, is this is the time people can rise up and be the adults in the room.  I do see a bit of an opportunity, albeit a dismal one brought on by something that never should have happened.

Sadly I’m more sure of the darkness than the light right now.

– Steve

No Man’s Sky: Failure To Come Together

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Sorry this is late.  Busy few weeks, but now I’m back to my pre-release analysis of No Man’s Sky.  After all I love games and i love procedural generation.

We’re counting down to No Man’s Sky’s release in August.  We’re approaching the big release, and once again I’m seeing posts on the Internet asking if it will succeed or fail.  This is not unusual, but it’s time for another round of them apparently.

I’ve speculated on this possible failure before, but often concern’s about NMS focus on this component or that.  From the possible sameness of worlds to uninteresting space travel, there’s concerns about some elements, of the game.  These concerns are legitimate, but often they miss what No Man’s Sky Is about.  There’s a larger picture here for concern.

No Man’s Sky is a game about synergy, as is fairly obvious when you step back and look at the game.  Characters mine to get resources to craft new items to let their spacecraft travel farther.  Their adventures may require them to fight enemies with spacecraft that they hijacked by developing rare hacking chips, chips whose blueprints were found exploring a ruined building.  A strange technology, found in an alien ruin, may let someone survive on a toxic world.  No Man’s Sky is all about things coming together.

This is not surprising as video games are about synergy.  Good controls bring a character to live.  Clever mechanics entice the mind that learns them and influences the game experience.  Music and graphics work together to set the mood.  Good games depend on pieces working in harmony.

For No Man’s Sky, it’s even more dependent on the synergy – that’s really it’s selling point.  Where procedural worlds and exploration and crafting and all come together, the game offers a whole of an experience.  It’s not a game with clear boundaries, which is the point – it’s a supposed seamless exploration experience.  It just happens to be a very big one based on some very, very smart use of math.

This synergy is also where it can fail.

Because No Man’s Sky relies on the parts of the game coming together, there’s several possible modes of failure that can occur.

Poor Synergy: One way the game can fail is if the different parts don’t support each other properly.  Perhaps the ability to acquire resources makes the crafting parts too hard – or too easy.  Straightforward planetary exploration might contrast with hyperkinetic space combat, creating tone shifts that are hard for players to adapt to.  If the parts of the game don’t come together correctly, the game suffers because the synergy of the promise is gone – even if the parts are good.  This may be the biggest synergy risk of NMS because a dev and even a testing team would be unlikely to catch it due to being used to the product.

The Flaw: Another way I can see NMS fail is if one part of the game is done so poorly that drags the rest of the game down.  Planetary exploration is an area I’ve worried about, and if it is poorly done or dull, that diminishes the thrill of the rest of the game.  Truly egregious resource gathering could be another fun-killer as the rest of the game depends on that.  One poor part of the game could drag the rest down – the synergy backfires when one part fails really hard.

The Drudge: NMS also has to make sure that its individual components are good enough to support the game, because though one bad component might drag the game down, so can many mediocre ones.  The game may not fail on its many fronts, but if too many are uninspired or uninteresting, the synergy of them makes the game not good, but dreadfully mediocre.  The synergy of game component’s can be a double-edged swords when many are just uninspired.  I think people may be more forgiving of a game with one big flaw and ambition than one that just kind of plots.

Though I’m sure that Hello Games has thought of this, it’s worth considering for analyzing the game once it’s out, and for analyzing future games of its type.  Synergy is the strength of the gaming art.

It’s also a place where failure can happen, even if the parts are right or mostly right.

– Steve

Civic Diary 7/9/2016

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

What a hell of a week.  Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shot by police.  Police shot by an ex-military sniper in Dallas.  I won’t lie, it’s left me a bit numb.

But here I am writing, because this is part of my project to be better, and we could all use being better.

With the shootings first of all, there’s really two parts – the first is excessive use of police force against minorities, which is clearly an issue.  The second is both access to guns and apparently a man who should have been caught earlier.  In short, police force, gun control, and possibly mental health.  Issues I’ve covered before, hell have been covered before and we haven’t done a lot about them.

Which really brings me to the whole point of this civic exercise – what the hell do we do?

I think people feel helpless.  Want to know why there are thousands at #BlackLivesMatter protests?  People know they can do something that way.  The evil flipside is our political process, where desperate people are exploited by con-man politicians to vote against their own interests.

The loss of real civic engagement for much of the country has left us truly helpless and vulnerable.  We’re not asking what we can do for our community, state, country.  We’re not staying truly informed.  We’re small atomistic units bouncing around and bouncing off each other, but not connecting.  We may even sever connects because some bile-spewing media figure told us to hate some group of people.

I guess I see it this way.

  1. Be informed.  Really informed.  Know what’s going on, ask questions.
  2. Connect with others.  Any way you can – and connect with people different than you (though you have to start with people like you).
  3. Do stuff.  Find ways to change the world.  Nothing’s too small – I can’t claim to be a person making revolutionary changes (well, not yet, but I have a few decades left in me).

These are not an optional part of citizenship.

Be informed.  Reach Out.  Be active.

Now as for my own efforts:

  1. I’ve reached out to a local political group’s lead and am going to a meetup run by another on Monday.  Once again I’m finding people involved in political groups aren’t too hot at recruiting and expect you to reach out.
  2. More and more since Brexit I’m shifting my news-reading approach to stay better informed as noted before.  It’s changed a lot of things for me – but you can overdo it and obsessively check news all the time.  I need to learn to be selective.
  3. I’m evaluating some of my other community involvements due to changes in groups I know and work with.  Sometimes people don’t need your help or change their missions, which leads me to ask what I’m supposed to do.
  4. Identity is really key to understanding civic engagement – knowing what you can and should do is part of knowing who you are.  Which sounds corny but I’ll try to write more later.

And needless to say I need to get off my butt and write my reps on both violence reduction and gun regulation.  The latter, again.

– Steve

 

 

Steve’s Update 7/5/2016

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

So there’s a lot going here, but let’s get to the big new release . . . or small release.  A new book!

I rewrote my old Skill Portability columns into a full guide on skill portability, complete with both hobbyist/fan and professional advice.  You can get it here – and it’s only 99 cents!

This is part of a larger experiment of mine to see about revising, compiling, combining, and improving old columns into something more focused and applicable.  I’ve got so much I’ve written I need to think about other formats to reach and help people.  Also looking for reviewers if you want!

OK now on to my other projects!

Way With Worlds

Bopping along with this.  I get what should be the final print copy this week, mostly to confirm the formatting.  Then I’ll regenerate the kindle file and be ready for launch end of the month.

Book 2 is coming back from editor this week.  Since I don’t intend to publish it until November (with so much else going on) I’m going to try some different editing techniques on it – mostly trying slower editing readthroughs as opposed to multiple readthroughs.  Looking forward to it as it’s a completely different focus than the first book – more specific areas of advice with more depth.

New Generators

Sorry I haven’t started a new one yet – things have been incredibly busy, plus just a lot happening at the same time (classes, work schedule, social commitments, etc.).  I hope to get back to the new one this month as I still want to focus on food.

The ones I’m considering are coffee, pizza, and chocolate bar recipes.  I’ve got a few ideas on these on how to analyze the dada, and am looking forward to the insights I’ll get analyzing food . . . because I can apply it in various ways.

Sailor Moon Book

In print, at Bonnies, and final editing is in her hands while I take over formatting.  So next up will be some blog and podcast tours to share things with people.  So far we’re on time for delivering in September.

We’re considering other pop culture books starting in 2017.

 

– Steve

Lemongrass Green Pea Stir-Fry

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

This surprising meal is repurposed from a side dish, tweaked, and streamlined.  The result is a sweet pea-and-onion stir-fry that goes fantastic on rice.  Served with a green it’s a full meal without being heavy and is pretty easy to prepare.

The only challenge is finding the lemongrass and preparing it.  You can either chop it fine or chop it in a blender with water (used then to dry-sauté).  Lemongrass does not cook like onions to and still stays woody when they’ve long ago softened.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 trimmed stalks of lemon grass.
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped fine.
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 4 cups frozen or fresh green peas

Preparation:

  1. Mix the soy sauce, lime juice, and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  2. Add shredded lemongrass and about 2 tbsp of water to a blender and use it to chop the lemongrass.  If you can get finely shredded lemongrass skip this part.
  3. Dry-sauté the onion in the lemongrass-water mixture, adding water as needed until onion softens.
  4. Add all other ingredients, sauté until the sauce reduces and the peas are coated.

– Steve