Ah, December... the month where editorial columnists like me can bypass research and social satire, and just ride the Best-of-2012 wave right to the pub in time for happy hour. Rather than go against this grain as I have in the past (Zombies for Valentine's, Hexagons for Hallowe'en, etc), this sounds like a pretty easy wave to ride.
Actually, I went even lazier than Best-of-2012. I did Best-of-Whatever-Is-On-My-iPad-Right-Now. That way I don't even have to download anything new. Not even going to bother to look up what year these are from, or what the price is. Just be jolly knowing they've got Kevin's Stamp of Fun on them.
What the guy was basically saying was that, surprise surprise, some of us don't have what it takes to be a writer and get paid for it, no matter how much we'd like it to be true. In my opinion, it's kind of an easy stance to take, same goes for professional athletes, pilots, cake decorators, whatever.
Anyway, there's a bit of back and forth on this, but I just wrote something clever in response, and I wanted to post it here. Not because I believe anyone actually reads blogs, but because I didn't want it to dribble off the end of Linked In's discussion board and fade into obscurity in case I ever wanted to read it again.
Here's my post:
I'm going to hit this from the opposite side. I'd assume most people who take enough time between jobs to complete their first novel have that starry-eyed world-is-my-oyster view of the publishing trade. Do I believe that my novel is great, and deserves to be published? Of course I do. (I'd be really annoyed to find out that 90% of slush-pile rubbish is made up of people going "Meh, that's good enough I guess... SEND," but there's probably a good bunch in there who do).
Like any facet of the entertainment industry (music, acting, film, art, youtube videos, video games), the difference between an unpublished and published author has got a lot to do with luck. Right place right time, bumping into a guy who knows a guy, the right seatmate on a plane, or a first reader who squeezed in a quickie before coming to work that morning.
Everyone likes to remind themselves that J.K. Rowling got rejected by seven hundred agents before the seven hundred and oneth picked her up, and even after that she didn't really go sky high until her third book. I'd be interested to hear the original justifications from the agents and readers who dumped Harry Potter. Cover letter too long? Didn't hyphenate a compound adjective in Chapter 1? Submitted under the name "Joanne" which reminded the agent of an ex-girlfriend? Or just didn't think this was up to snuff?
I'm sure everyone here has read published material and said, "How the hell did this get through?" and we've all read the occasional obscure book from the back corner of the library that blows our mind. Is it fair? No. But it happens all the time.
In an ideal world, we like to think the cream will rise, and we all think of ourselves as the cream. But when you're just starting out, doesn't it always comes down to, "If I could just get my novel in front of the right person...?"
So, yes, it's easy to say we can't all be professional writers because some of us suck and some of us don't. Same can be said about any industry. But at what point does someone who has been hacking away at the keys for years say "I guess I suck at this. Time to hang up the laptop and learn a new skill like timber joinery or Microsoft Excel." Especially if they believe with absolute conviction that they've got a bestseller?
The answer is, they don't (unless they're starving, of course).
Professional writing (professional ANYTHING) is about skill, passion and luck, and you need all three to succeed. Belief in your skill keeps you passionate until the lucky moment comes along.
The question that professionals need to ask themselves is: once you've made it past the luck barrier, how easy is it to explain away the luck, and attribute your success to the first two things? (Psst... I'll bet it's really really easy. I'll let you know when I get there.)
Just popped another AppAddict article into your trick or treat bag. You'd think with Hallowe'en just around the corner that it'd be about scary things. Well, it isn't, unless you've got arithmorphophobia, the irrational fear of mathematical shapes. (Damn, I just ruined the first joke of my article for you. They get better, honest).
By the way, you may have noticed a lull in my Writer section of late, with nothing really going on between app articles. Looks like I'm not doing any writing at all.
Well I am. Lots of it. So much it'll blow your tiny mind. I'll tell you about it soon, but not yet. Keep it under your hat for now.
Following on from my Idea Consulting adventure with the trivia guys, I double-dipped my research and put it toward my next AppAddict.net offering. Read my opinions on four trivia apps that are just a wee bit different from the everyday.
September 6, 2012
Gold mine of inspiration
Just got back from a screenwriters' workshop in Belfast hosted by NI Screen and Mary Kate O'Flanagan. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but it turned out to be really interesting and informative.
Like a lot of kids, I've always harboured a dream of making films, but after the box office flop of Indiana Johannes and the Temple of Foog I hung up my director hat for a few years. It was great to get a feeling from inside the industry how exactly the industry works for outsiders wanting to break in.
And a positive spin at that. She was so positive about the need for writers, how writers are the gold miners, and how as much as the industry would like us writers to claw at the hems of their garments for a scrap of recognition, the industry cannot work without ideas.
Mary Kate teaches this sort of thing quite a bit, so if you're interested and she's in your area, go see her and tell her I sent you.
August 20, 2012
From the Ooze comes Inspiration
I've tied my recent speaking engagement at Edinburgh Interactive to my AppAddict article this month. I feel like I'm pulling a Hitchhiker's Guide on this subject (that is, throw it on every form of media out there until I run the subject into the ground), but the more times I talk about the better it sounds. It's quite possibly my most positive article yet.
Read my thoughts on the Darwinian Evolution of Gaming (tied loosely into a few game reviews, because that's what the site is for): From the Ooze comes Inspiration.
July 29, 2012
A Week's Worth of Wonders
This week on AppAddict: My countdown of the seven free-est apps that I could get without too much effort or research, strung together with a thin numerical theme. Go check out my thoughts on Drop7, Six-Guns, Five-Letter Words, 4 Elements, (:3)+[___], Two Worlds Castle Defense, and Velocispider Zero (I couldn't find a decent game with a 1 in the title, so I skipped over it. I don't think anybody noticed though).
Read it here: A Week's Worth of Wonders. Then tweet about it and stuff. I'm trying my best on the whole Twitter thing, so maybe if I see @kevinbeimers showing up more often I'll be more inclined to keep at it.
July 12, 2012
Hector is submitted to in-depth probe
So I've just taken the 8000-10000 lines of witty, rip-roaring dialogue from a Hector Ep2 & 3 raw database dump, and attempted to turn them into a readable script form for the good people at the UK Writers' Guild award. The result was two massive documents, each about 350 pages long, and two weeks lost out of my life. While at times I did find myself snickering at all the lines I'd long forgotten I'd even written, I spent more time crying at the thought of how the judges will heft the massive docs and think, "Bloody hell, I ain't reading all this."
Still, pretty chuffed at the prospect of a Writers' Guild award. Though, I need to keep in mind that all I've done is submit it. It's not even nominated yet. Meh, it'll happen.
June 30, 2012
Your kung fu is not strong
Got my June diatribe in to AppAddict just under the wire. This month I'm riffing on all the Fruit Ninja knock-offs out there, and simply asking... why do we need so damn many?
That thing I couldn't tell you about? Didn't happen. Ah well. Win some lose some.
June 6, 2012
Something cool happened today
I'm never sure whether to put stuff like this on here where I can't actually say anything about it. I probably shouldn't, because it seems like just a puff piece to whet your interest, or like a plot device on Lost. Anyway, something cool and writing-related happened today. Can't tell you about it. That's all. Take from that what you will. If it turns into something, I'll let you know.
May 21, 2012
The Power of !
AppAddict update: May article hits the stands. Here's the opening bit:
The exclamation point can be a powerful thing! It can spark a revolution! Fight for change! Rally a hockey team! Start a war! Bring U2 back out for an encore! How awesome is that?! It's really REALLY awesome!!! THAT'S how awesome it is!!!!! WOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
It can also be really annoying when used excessively, as I've just proven, or inappropriately, as I'm about to prove further. This month, I've followed the shouting... I dug through the app-sack and pulled out anything with a '!' in the title. Hey, a guy's gotta have a theme, no matter how tenuous...
Another AppAddict article in the bag. This time I went after a collection of apps with names that no one can spell. Prepare yourselves for the intriguing and mysterious potential delights of BloBox!, Urubu, Frisdinga, Moonga, Glwp, Nulis and Trigonon...
This is one of those times when I want to talk about something really rather cool that happened today regarding how, since Hector, high-profile people with low-brow humour have been getting in touch. I'll say this: It's cool when companies you used to look up to contact your company out of the blue. It's even cooler when they potentially ask about the possibility of employing your writing and designing skills. Hypothetically speaking. This may or may not have happened. I'll say no more. (Except that it has nothing to do with Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure like I alluded to in the title. I just said that because it was a cryptic phrase. Could have just as easily used "Something stinks in Suburbia...")
March 30, 2012
And now, a conversation between a cat and a triangle...
In case you've just joined us, I've spent the last few months elbow deep in development of a game that's been boiling away in my brain for years now: Schrödinger's Cat. Development's such a great process; I love being in the freeform idea stage of things before you need to start hacking back to what's (yawn) possible.
A little while back, I doodled a peaceful cuboid universe, where cubic planets rotate in a square orbit around cubic stars... who are then attacked by mysterious beings from another world: triangles. Lord above! What is that thing?! It's hideous! It's an abomination! We're all doomed!
Anyway, then I wondered what would happen if Schrödinger's Cat showed up on a tetrahedral/ pyramidal planet populated only by triangles, and promptly lost his radioactive box on entry. Made for a funny sketch (I was giggling anyway, but then again, conversations that leave one or more parties completely confused by the end seem to be my forte), but I couldn't work very much game potential out of it. I've since cut that bit, but I thought I'd pop the rejected conversation on here:
(Fade up: SC enters Triangle Frontier Town and approaches lone triangle on corner)
'Scuse me? Hey, can you help? I'm looking for a box.
(a bit put off by SC's non-triangular appearance) Uh... What's it look like?
Er, you know... a box?
(Triangle furrows his brow, cocks head.)
Grey, square, that sort of thing.
Sorry, I don't follow you.
(SC draws a box with his hands. Triangle stares blankly.)
You know... four sides?
You lost me.
Look, it's about this big, it's got four sides-
Sorry, I have no idea that word what you just said.
What's a 'four'?
You know... comes after three?
(awkward pause, bursts out laughing) Ha ha, good one mate. Hey Greg! Get a load of this guy, he's hilarious!
(Greg, another triangle, comes over)
You've never heard of 'four'?
What's a 'four'?
(still giggling) This guy's lost a... what'd you call it again?
(deadpan) ...A box.
Yeah, tell Greg how many sides it has.
(laughing again) Ya see? Hilarious!
(crowd of triangles begins to gather)
What's so funny about four? How do you count stuff?
(a bit surly) Like this: One, two, three. And you're done.
Yeah... One, two, three... four.
(hushed whispers and awkward giggling).
Look guys, I'm not making this up. There's a four after three.
I don't like this guy.
(crowd of many has gathered now, getting a bit unruly)
Okay, fine. How many of you are in this crowd right now?
...Uh, just about all of us I think.
No, I mean how many exactly?
(looks around, shrugs) Looks to me about... three.
Three? Nah, there's way more than three... (growls from crowd) ...Gotta be more like fifty or sixty--
(gasps and angry shouting, couple of three-tined pitchfork held up. Child crying. A Priestly Triangle approaches.)
What's the meaning of this?
This stranger just showed up, talking nonsense!
I'm so confused!
Yeah, says there's numbers bigger than three!
Poppycock! There's no such thing. (angry glare, then softens) Alright everyone, alright. Bit of a laugh, that's all. Ha ha! I think I need a word alone with our visitor.
Back to work, the three of you.
(whole crowd disperses...)
That's as far as I got. I don't know where it was going exactly (some of the best ideas start off that way), but I envisioned SC becoming an enemy of the people by the end of it, and probably starting a holy war.
Is it just me, or is the idea of a triangle named Greg really funny?
March 23, 2012
Ready Player One, continued
I loved Ready Player One so much, I based my March AppAddict article on it.
I just read the most ultimate awesome book of 80s geekdom, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
You know how publishers and promoters bandy around phrases like "Unputdownable!" and "A real page turner!" and "I literally could not put this book down!" but you know that's just hackneyed marketing rubbish? This is not. I actually, literally, could not put the book down. I finished it at 4am.
Listen: if you were one of the first kids on the street with a Commodore 64, if you've ever rolled a die with more than six sides, if you ever thought 25 cents a fair price to help a frog cross a busy street, or if you ever secretly wished, as you typed your three-letter signature into the number one spot, that later that evening there was a chance you'd be recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada... you must must must read this book.
Second article for AppAddict is out the door. Favourite bit:
Never did I realize there were so many ways to visualize the undead, never mind eliminate them. But, you know what they say: If you need a fix of squishy, blood-soaked slaughter of mindless marauding hordes and don't wish to dwell on the moral quandary or regret, you can't really go wrong with zombies. Or is it Nazis? I can never remember.
Favourite bit #2:
I'm not quite sure how this became a zombie game. I mean, the animals are kind of primitively cute, if undead, but even the brains and entrails are sort of lovable. It was like someone wanted to make a cute game (called Goombie World Tour or something), and got through 80% of making it, then the investor/boss dropped in for a vertical slice. Thirty seconds into the playthrough he pulled the cigar out of his mouth and declared, "You know what sells games these days? Zombies. Make it happen." And then he walked out. Bish bash bosh, Zoombie World Tour.
Brett, the guy who runs AppAddict, is a massive Hector fan. I think he gave us 6/5 or something. In the interests of beefing up my writing portfolio, as well as getting my good name associated with modern trends, as well as receiving a monthy ego boost, as well as playing games and calling it work... I've just joined the AppAddict app review team.
Here's my first article: Tales of a Freeloader. I wanted Tales of the Freetard, but I suppose it's probably a good career move to distance my own cheerful and optimistive personality from that of my drunken, lazy, vulgar, suicidal, abrasive counterpart.
September 20, 2011
Coming off the end of Edinburgh Interactive, I met a very friendly and knowledgeable fellow named Nicholas Lovell. He's not a game developer per se, but probably knows more about the industry, practice, tips, stats, and business of game development than anyone else I've ever met. He's also a great guy to clink pints with, as there's never a lull in the conversation. He's also the only man I've ever met who's provided me with a really real useful use that Twitter could actually provide (besides celebrity breakfasts and such). It almost made me want to join. But I still didn't.
Anyway, he runs a games industry blog called GamesBrief, and was so enamoured by the alleged indie success of Hector that he asked for a guest post to lay out all our marketing secrets. Heh. At the time, I sort of shrugged and said "Honestly, we have no idea. We tried stuff, and it worked." He asked me to write it up anyway. So I did.
If you want the truth, I attribute Hector's success to three little words: People like arseholes. Proof as follows: Richard Hatch, House M.D., Hector. The defence rests.
Since this site is kind of a hideously deformed lovechild of a blog, a CV and a dumping ground for all my off-the-cuff burblings (a.k.a. blog), figures I should probably use some of this space to big myself up. Here goes...
"The writing is funny, the things you have to do and the actions required to do them are often hilarious, and the cut scenes are fantastic." - TOUCHARCADE Ep1 Review / Ep2 Review / Ep3 Review
"The game is laugh-out-loud funny, with brilliant dialogue that is supported by nice voice-overs and a great look to boot." - APPOLICIOUS (GAME OF THE WEEK)
"The excellent atmospheric graphics, witty humour, excellently balanced and thought out puzzles, memorable characters and hilarious writing make it a definite must have for any iAdventurer." - TOUCHMYAPPS (5/5)
"...Some of the best one-liners and crackpot characters seen in an adventure game since the mighty Day of the Tentacle. Yes, it's that good." - EUROGAMER (9/10)
One week ago, I shared a coffee with Clive (well, we each had our own coffee, we're not that poor) recalibrating the thrusters on his one-page synopsis and cover letter. Not one week later... SLABAM*! Clive gets an email from an agent asking for the full manuscript to be sent through. I think that deserves another coffee. Or a fully-stamped loyalty card at the very least.
*SLABAM was a term first coined by Mike Lamers of Thunder Bay, Ontario to representing the sound of the Tre Bastoni hitting the table in a game of Briscola and winning the round.
July 21, 2012
Not me... Dilbert! I just heard from my hard-boiled detective chum that his novel is on its way to fortune and glory. I promised I wouldn't spill any details until it's published, so unfortunately, I can't tell you the publisher, the title, the story, the main character, or even the full name of the author. This is all you get for now, but you'll know when I know. I've recommended that he ask his tailor for a double-stitched coat tail, so there's room for me to ride 'em for a bit.
Nice one, Dill! Looking forward to laying the smackdown on Episode Two!
July 19, 2012
One bleedin' page...
Just spent the afternoon at Caffé Nero with me old mate Clive, working on his one page synopsis. Egads, it sucks being limited by page length. What an exercise in wordsmithing...
It brought me back to the days of essay writing back in high school/university, back when the teacher set the bar with the dreaded word count: 1500 words?! Holy crabcakes, is that even possible?! So you'd write a sentence, then check the word count, then write another sentence, then check the word count, then, weeks later when you've finally said all you think you're able to say on the subject... 1392 words. Balls! Then you go back and turn a bunch of your sentences into run-ons, adding clever sounding words like "essentially" and "furthermore". Finally you crest that 1500 and collapse in a heap.
Only, nowadays I find it much more of a challenge to strip something down... One page?! Holy crabcakes! You carve and cut and slice, paragraphs become sentences, sentences become adjectives, and, finally when you think you can't whittle any more, you find you've still got two or three lines bleeding over onto page two. Then it comes down to "ooh, that paragraph has only one dangling word. If we change 'On the morning of the funeral' to "On the day of the funeral'... nope, how about 'On the funeral's morning'? 'At the funeral'? 'On funeral day'? What about just the word 'Funeral' with a colon? Well, we can't leave it out...!
Then you start going: what if I expand the margins, then decrease the font size, then find some preference setting deep in the bowels of Microsoft Word that will allow me to decrease the amount of space between paragraphs? It's a losing battle.
Actually, it isn't, because we won, and I got a coffee out of the deal.
May 8, 2012
Editorial, er, 'Letter'
Just finished the detective novel, and just fired off an editorial letter to Dilbert.
Heh heh. Fired off, he says. 'Fired off' implies a couple of paragraphs of puff and a Well Done sticker. No, I went to town on him. What he really got back was a 17-pager on general comments as well as a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of subtle improvements and a short itemised list of chaff gags (the length was certainly not because of the author's writing quality - usually it's the near-perfect subtle nitpicks that take the longest to explain why they need tweaking).
Here's what I got back: "...What can I say but HOLY CRAP. I didn't expect to see seventeen mother flipping pages. I just finished reading through it... There are some REALLY great ideas or suggestions that I'm going to put some serious thought into..."
BOOYA! Score another winner for tha K-dawg. Who's next?
March 28, 2012
What's the dillio?
Well, another odd chain of events has resulted in another boon for the Beims. Got an email through from Dilbert (not his real name), a Hector fan, who let on that Hector reminded him of a little of the main character of a hard-boiled detective novel he'd just finished writing. We got to talking (actually it was more a volley of Hectorish insult lobbing), and now I'm giving it a once over. This one's much weirder. And I love the weird.
November 19, 2011
Just sent off my third and final State of the Union to the author, and coincidentally, ran across a wonderful piece of advice in the book I'm currently reading: The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes. It's a great light-n-clever read about a guy who accidentally summons a demon, doesn't take the deal offered, which causes Hell to go on strike and no bad things to ever happen again.
Plot aside, there's a great insight about the writing process which I'll retype here for your digestion:
Reverend Hardacre chewed his sandwich without enjoyment and swallowed. "It all goes back to when I was writing my seventh novel," he said. "I got stuck halfway through. I'd started out knowing what the story was about, but the further I got into it, the more the characters took on a life of their own. They developed in ways I hadn't anticipated. After a while, I couldn't see how I could make them do what the story said they ought to do."
"I believe that's not an uncommon situation," the angel said. "Don't authors sometimes find that the characters take over the story?"
"Indeed. And a wise writer follows where they lead. Characters make stories. The writer creates them then puts them down in an arena called the Blank Page and lets them go at each other, full rip. They have to go at each other because they are really just bundles of attributes - characteristics - that guarantee they're going to collide with each other. So you get conflict. And out of that conflict comes story. A good writer trusts his characters enough to let them be who they are. You let them do what they do, because what they do is who they are. The author is never on surer ground than when his characters are doing what their natures demand them to do - like I said, full rip, putting it all on the line.
"So when I got blocked, writing that novel, I just sat back and let my characters decide where they wanted to go. Away they went, and together we made a different book from the one I had set out to write. That made me realise that it's not the writer's story; it's the characters' story, and the author is writing it for them."
Take from that whatever you will.
November 14, 2011
I've been back and forth with Clive all week about whether or not a young, sexy and gifted psychology major who decides to take a job as a high-class escort to help pay off her student debts would need a three-day shower and a belt sander to remove the self-loathing from her system after her inaugural encounter with a voyeuristic octogenarian. I say yes. He says that's a cliché. It's a conversation I never thought I'd ever be having.
November 8, 2011
Just delivered my first State Of The Union to Clive, at the natural break after the first 100-120 pages. I've begun developing my own jargon for quirky writing patterns I've noticed along the way...
Brain Sharing - When two characters are in a 'debate', but have nothing contradictory to say to one another. They just carry through a conversation backing up each other's points and reaching a shared conclusion.
Divine Inspiration - When a character jumps to an unfounded conclusion based on speculation and circumstantial evidence, and proceeds with the investigation as though his conclusion is fact. Compounded further when conclusion does turn out to be correct.
Character Storage/Life Outside - When it doesn't seem as though a character has a life when the book isn't watching them. i.e. Detective chats with wife, then goes to work, the book continues, then three days later there's another scene with the wife, but it's as though she's been put into storage for three days then dusted off to do this next scene, and needs to be caught up on recent events first.
Potshotting - This is based on the book Potshot, suggested to the author to see how a scene (or a whole book) can be put together entirely without he-saids and she-saids, just line, line, line, line, line. The key to a good Potshot is whether you could jump in anywhere and know who's talking, rather than having to count lines since the last update.
Forced Intrigue - When the author alludes to a funny feeling or an inkling or something tickling at the back of a character's brain, but there's no payoff, or the payoff is lame. Examples: "Something was bugging him... but what was it? He didn't know, so he put the matter aside." or "He opened the fridge. Something was wrong. Suddenly he realised, there was no milk."
It's easy to pick on the negatives - it's what an editor is for, after all - but it's actually a pretty good story. Sometimes I get caught up in it and forget to get the red pen out. Roll on next hundred pages...
(Just got this email from Clive:
Just keep it rolling - never believed that positive criticism would make light reading.
Have read the state of the union twice. It's working away.)
October 15, 2011
In Which I Discover I'm Rather Good At Editing
I grew up going to the movies with a bunch of nitpickers. We'd walk out of, say, Jean Claude Van Damme's cinematic magnum opus Timecop (have I just lowered my credibility?) and the rest of the night we'd hash over what exactly it was that made it absolute worm-eaten garbage. And then we'd go drink a 40 and roll a drunk. Actually, we never did that last bit.
I've also had my share of bosses and managers who've looked at my work and said things like, "Well, it's good, but I was thinking it should be a bit more, I dunno, viral? And definitely more MTV." and then I have to go away and work with that. I always told myself I wouldn't be that guy to anyone else.
So now, here I am working my way through a piece of writing that, for the first time in my life besides my own work, I actually have the power to change and improve. What's more, it's forcing me to look at what's there, and not just pinpoint exactly what's wrong, but also WHY it's wrong, and how to make it better. And, as I said in the heading, I'm finding I'm rather good at it.
Here's a snippet of good advice I just cooked up:
Because your book is written in different characters' POV, it would enhance the experience if you were to add a measure of the character's thoughts or personality into the writing style. The majority of the book is J, which is your baseline writing style, but when you jump to H, the narrative can reflect that you're inside a killer's head, and when you jump to P, the narrative can reflect that you're in an old lady's head.
Best example is the driving. Early in the book H is driving, later P is driving, and later J is driving. When H drives, the author describes the road being full of narrow-minded tiny imbeciles driving too slow to go to unimportant places, not like him. When P drives, the road is described full of crazy fast-driving ne'er-do-wells speed-lovin' teenagers that need to be taught how to behave. When J drives, the traffic is smooth and it's a nice day to be out in the car. Think of how each character would interpret the situation, and let their character seep into your narrative.
The sun glares menacingly into H's cold eyes and he grimaces.
The sun blinds P, causing an unneeded distraction.
The sun shines warmly on J and he smiles.
Same sun, different people.
See? I didn't even take my coat off for that one. Being an editor's a piece of cake.
October 13, 2011
In Which I Become An Editor
So I suppose I'm an editor now. Let me tell you how it all happened.
So I get into a conversation with another writer. Let's call him Clive. I'm writing scripts, he's writing a novel. Neat. We talk about plot and premise and backstory and all that fun stuff. I let on that I'm good at dialogue. What a coincidence, he says, because he's just received word back from a reader that his dialogue in his novel was lacking something.
I send him over some of the Hector scenes to show how we handled a script that is almost entirely dialogue. He likes it. He sends me over a scene. I take a red Track Changes pen to it with suggestions. He likes my suggestions. So he sends me over the Prologue for his book. I take a red pen to that. He likes that too.
Finally, like any good crack dealer, I have him hooked. Clive can't live without my dime-bags of constructive criticism. He comes to me with raw, red eyes and a fist full of crumpled papers saying "PLEASE! I NEED MORE!" Actually, this didn't happen. But he did hire me to read the rest. I start tomorrow.
In the past year, I have looked over two manuscripts for two first time novelists:
The first was a fast-paced race-against-time globe-spanning thriller (92K words), with which I took a very in-depth, line-editing role, as well as three major "State Of The Union" documents on overall impressions. I consider natural dialogue and believable characterisation to be my strengths, and I imparted a number of techniques upon Clive (not his real name) to hone his conversations and characters into much stronger scenes. Ongoing work with Clive has included his promotional materials: query letters, synopses and the like.
Here's what Clive had to say about my editing skills: Thank you, Kevin. As an editor you provided a critical, yet positive, mirror which reflected in upon the world of isolation in which an author works.
The second manuscript was a hard-boiled detective novel (75K words), with a very quirky twist. In this near-final-draft instance I returned a very thorough editorial letter with overall thoughts as well as chapter-by-chapter suggestions for subtle improvements. The resulting 'letter' ended up seventeen pages long (certainly not because of Dilbert's writing quality - usually it's the near-perfect subtle nitpicks that take the longest to explain. Dilbert's not his real name, by the way).
When I hit Dill up for a testimonial quote, I got this back: "By the time Kevin was done red-penning my work, I could barely see the page. He tore my novel a new one with his editing skills. I can't thank him enough for it."
Update: Dilbert's detective novel is getting published! No set release date yet, but the deal's been signed! Let you know when I'm allowed to tell you more...
If you'd like me to have a crack at editing your work - novel, script, magazine feature - contact me and we'll work something out. I'll even do your prologue for free to get you hooked.
Just got this through the Hector fan box, and wanted to share with you a shining example of Hector's high moral code.
I am a 14 year old from Connecticut, USA. Today I got a hold of your game Hector (Episode 1) from the Mac Heist promotion. I just finished playing the game. In all honesty, it is one of the best games I have ever played. It was funny, challenging, and entertaining. I would really like to get episodes 2 and 3, however being my age I cannot afford the game nor will my parents purchase it for me. I was wondering if I could possibly get the game at no cost? Please get back to me, thanks!!
(PS, I am running OSX)
This was Hector's response:
Oi, D.I. Hector 'ere. Woulda got back to you sooner but I was on a three-day bender after a raid. Hang on, it's Thursday? Right, five-day bender then.
Shame you didn't get to me a couple weeks ago. You just missed the indieRoyale.com bundle, which would have scored you all three episodes plus a handful of other duffer games for about three quid. Ah well, you snoozed and losed. Snost and lost? Meh, you get my meaning.
What is it about being fourteen that means you can't afford them? Surely you'll be able to save that up with a bit of gumption and American Tom Sawyer can-do attitude? Or does your dad take all your pocket money and spend it on drink? The fact that you're running OSX leads me to believe you're more well off than you make yourself out to be.
I'd like to help, but I'm going to need more than a please if I'm going to do any more for you. For starters, proof that you're over 17 - you've already botched that one - since there's probably some law out there about giving minors stuff that's meant for us grown-ups (I should know this, being a police officer, but as you've learned from Episode 1 I'm not a very good one). If you can convince your elders to appeal to me, I'll see what I can do (no promises).
Clappers Wreake Police Service
P.S. Stay in school and don't do drugs.
See? What a stand-up member of society Hector is. You could do well to be more like him.
September 28, 2012 | Reposted from indieroyale.com
Oktoberfest Indie Bundle: Hector Trilogy + five more!
Signal the twelve gun salute and tap the keg! Purchase Indie Royale's Oktoberfest Bundle to grab a bundle filled with six great indie games, led by Telltale's and Straandlooper's twisted point and click adventure: 'Hector: Badge of Carnage' (all 3 episodes!) - let the games begin!
First up is an edgy adult-themed point and click adventure from The Walking Dead developer Telltale Games and Straandlooper: Hector: Badge of Carnage Trilogy (all three episodes for Windows and Mac on Steam, Desura and DRM-Free). Adventure Gamers says of Hector, it's "just what the doctor ordered, even if that doctor is almost certainly facing a malpractice suit for sending us into such a germ-ridden locale."
Also included is Portal ('Still Alive') and Moby-soundtracked musical puzzle game Chime from Doublesix Digital Publishing (Windows on Steam); a puzzle platformer with a rotation/time-shift mechanic from Smudged Cat Games that's about a googly-eyed vampire: Adventures of Shuggy (Windows on Steam, Desura and DRM-Free); a 1920s-set puzzle adventure game celebrated by GamesRadar for being "clever, original and genuinely pleasing to play" from Mousechief, Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble (Windows and Mac on Steam, Desura and DRM-Free); a graphical interactive fiction/bonus game also from Mousechief, The Witch's YarnThe Network (Windows on Desura and DRM-Free).
And for those who pay $8 USD or their currency equivalent during the Oktoberfest Bundle will get two great chiptune music albums from SAVESTATES: 'Calm Your Nerves' and 'Chip unDeath'.
You can find more information on Oktoberfest Bundle at our our official blog or via our Facebook and Twitter pages. And remember, you'll want to get in early while the prices are still low (unless kind purchasers lower the price) so you can get in on the festivities with the Oktoberfest Bundle!
June 28, 2012
Hector: Changing the world, one life at a time.
Got this through from a Hector fan today.
The Hector trilogy has become one of my favorite game franchises of
all time. Right up there with Ocarina of Time and Half Life. The
puzzles, the dialogue, everything. I'm working at a production agency
in Seattle, Washington right now making tv commercials and we're
currently working on a pilot episode for a show. Hector has rekindled
my interest to learn C++ and eventually make some sort of
Aw. He loves us. I can't believe Hector could inspire someone to learn C++.
June 4, 2012
Hector's Second Anniversary: Aftermath
The streetsweepers have been through, the litter's been brushed off into little piles, and the broken windows have tape all over them. Hector's Copper Jubilee went down a treat, and we scored ourselves around 30,000 new Hector fans. (Actually, they're probably just people who saw a sign that said FREE and went looting, but in Clappers Wreake that's sort of the same thing as being a loyal customer).
June 2, 2012
Hector's Second Anniversary: Get Free Hector All Day!
And now, a word from Hector:
No, that's not an effin' typo. Marking 2 years of triumphant reign, my Copper Jubilee celebratory act of uncharacteristic generosity, will be reluctantly handing over my iPhone game Hector: Badge of Carnage Ep1 on June 2nd, to the entire world, for precisely nothing in return. Sod a dog, I genuinely don't know why I agreed to bleedin' do this, but it's happening. I had been drinking at the time, and it's my fault for making a critical decision that early in the morning.
Incidentally, if you check the news networks over the next few days, you'll probably see communities all across the UK, celebrating this unique one day event. Street parties, Union Jack waving, blowing chunks in the daytime, the Queens Address, all a true testament of how one small but pivotal event, can unite a country, and humanity.
As if that wasn't enough....
What the hell, I'm on a roll. Once all you tight gits have downloaded me game after coughing up zero smackers, you'll need some down-time to actually play the arsin' thing, free from pointless distractions like earning a living. At the risk of plummeting the economy into deeper brown-stuff, Brits, don't bother going into work the next few days, have an extended weekend on me. Thanks Uncle Hector.
So while you're all off fingering iDevices, I'll be downloading a few crates of iBeer through that big hole in my iFace, reflecting on all the sales I could have bagged, if I wasn't so god-damn generous.
Hector just made its way onto Untold Entertainment's Five Funniest Moments In Adventure Games. Nice! We're number five, but what can you do when you're up against Full Throttle, Sam & Max, Leisure Suit Larry, and Monkey Island. I was happy to lose to them. If it'd been Escape the Phone Booth or something I might have cried a little.
Nice to see someone actually saves enough money in their game budget to host an honest to goodness launch party. Last night, Dean and I poked our heads in the door of the launch of Outfoxed, created and produced by Belfast's own animation/development company BillyGoat Entertainment. The game stars the celebrity voice of Jackie Fullerton, a.k.a. the Silver Fox (I'll be frank, I don't know who that is, but I think he's a sports presenter. I met him at the party, and I get the feeling he found it refreshing when I had a 10 minute casual party conversation with him before introducing myself and asking him what his name was).
Anyway, the satay skewers were fab, and the game was pretty good too. Cheers, Will!
Hector's up for a Best App Ever award in the Best App Series category. Vote now! We need all the help we can get!
October 17, 2011
Hector: The Dirt Behind The Filth
The guys at Telltale have put together a little featurette to complement the Hector experience. Personally, I'm not sure how my gorgeous, chiseled visage will aid in bolstering the credibility of the crude and filthy aura that we've been trying to surround the property with. But then again, Dean's also in it.
The final chapter of the
irreverent, vulgar, twisted,
half-arsed point & click
British crime spooftacular
HECTOR: Badge of Carnage
drops heavily into the App
Store's gleaming white bowl
For the past seven months,
Straandlooper has been in
Games, working like mad to
complete the second and
third episodes in tandem. The madness has paid off, and the trilogy is now complete.
What to expect in Episode 3 - Beyond Reasonable Doom The end is upon us! Trumping off in a super-size, stomach-turning display of the toilet humour you've come to expect from them, Hector and Lambert need to relieve themselves from the clutches of their nemesis in time to save the town of Clappers Wreake from a slurry of savage boorishness and excessively inappropriate ill-will. When events culminate in a climax so utterly ridiculous, you will be asking yourself for days afterwards if the money you spent on the game was really worth it.
I held the role of Creative Producer with Straandlooper for the HECTOR: Badge of Carnage spoof crime drama video game trilogy, a role which encompassed design, character development, story development, scheduling, budgeting, and scriptwriting (over 10,000 lines of dialogue). The first episode - We Negotiate With Terrorists - won several awards and attracted the attention of adventure giants Telltale Games, who funded production on the rest of the trilogy: Episode 2 - Senseless Acts of Justice & Episode 3 - Beyond Reasonable Doom.
Before Hector, I was originally brought on to work with Straandlooper as Art Director on Lifeboat Luke, a 52-part animation series for 4-7 year olds about water safety. As Art Director, I was responsible for the flow and scheduling of the Art Department: overseeing designs, asset creation, rigging and scene prep. For the latter 39 episodes, where the animation was being handled by our co-production company in Dublin, this meant responsibility over the entire studio.
"The writing is funny, the things you have to do and the actions required to do them are often hilarious, and the cut scenes are fantastic." - TOUCHARCADE Ep1 Review / Ep2 Review / Ep3 Review
"The game is laugh-out-loud funny, with brilliant dialogue that is supported by nice voice-overs and a great look to boot." - APPOLICIOUS (GAME OF THE WEEK)
"The excellent atmospheric graphics, witty humour, excellently balanced and thought out puzzles, memorable characters and hilarious writing make it a definite must have for any iAdventurer." - TOUCHMYAPPS (5/5)
"...Some of the best one-liners and crackpot characters seen in an adventure game since the mighty Day of the Tentacle. Yes, it's that good." - EUROGAMER (9/10)
Global Game Jam 2013: Why I love the Indie game scene
I've just completed my first Global Game Jam. For those of you who've never heard of it, it's an annual event where game developers all over the world hunker down into their favourite programming burrow and attempt to make a brand new working game in a weekend. 48 hours, start to finish.
The thing is, I never planned on doing the whole weekend. I intended to show up on the first night, noodle around, chit chat, meet people, talk about game engines, and just see what Belfast's game enthusiasts had to offer.
But I got sucked in. Why? Because I love ideas.
I love the creation of ideas. I love the tweaking and prodding of an idea until it becomes more than it was at the outset. I love arguing over the validity, feasibility, and potential of two conflicting facets of the same idea. And then, I love the challenge and satisfaction of the idea coming to fruition by a ridiculously short deadline, fuelled by a room full of talented enthusiasts who just like making something cool for the hell of it.
Every year the Game Jam organisers provide a theme, and this year's was simply: the sound of a heartbeat. Teams were free to interpret that any way they liked. As well, there was a list of Diversifiers (kind of like Achievements) which included challenges like Two Heads Are Better Than One (requires multiple devices to play), True Colours (game only uses the classic 16-colour palette), More Than Just The 10 of Us (uses more than 10 keys on the keyboard), or Atari Age (your entire game is under 4Kb).
At the Belfast game jam site (@FarsetLabs) there were 30 of us. By the end of the weekend, about 11 games were created. Here are a few to show how the heartbeat was interpreted:
A rowing game requiring four players clustered around one keyboard, coordinating their oar strokes. If they stroked too fast, the rower's pulse would go too high and he'd be out of commission for a bit.
A digital board game based on the human body. One player was a disease and the other was the cure.
A 2D shooter where cholesterol was blocking the valves to the heart. When the cholesterol collided, it would form a clot, and it's the player's job to sort it out.
A mobile game that used the phone's camera to record the player's actual heart rate, then give challenges to raise or lower it.
A physical board game entitled Heart Of A Gamer, made in about 24 hours from construction paper, glue and other things. The game took you through stages of gaming history - paper versions of Duck Hunt, Mario Kart, Pac-Man - and ended with (you guessed it) saving the princess. From the side it looked like Star Trek 3D chess, but from the top, all the levels formed a heart.
Were they polished? By all means, no. Well, some more than others, but nothing near publishable (hell, some weren't even playable, my own included)... but that wasn't the point. The point was to make something. Something cool, something wacky, something silly, just something. Everybody made something, and everybody felt great about it.
This 48-hour burst of creativity is why I love the Indie gaming scene. The experience of the Global Game Jam was like a tiny microcosm of the gaming industry fringes. It's a room full of passionate, enthusiastic, talented individuals who work collaboratively to solve problems on a shoestring budget and impossible deadlines. So often I'd overhear encouraging phrases like, "You know what you guys should do...?" or "Have you guys considered...?" crossing from team to team, as well as occasional shouts out of "Does anyone here know anything about...?" which were happily fulfilled.
This is what the indie gaming scene is all about. None of these games needed to be approved by a board of directors, or subjected to a focus group, or run by a team of monetisation experts to increase end-user retention rates. For indies, it's all about having a great idea, making it, and making it fun. If you get rich in the process, then that's just a side bonus.
The testament to this was the Farset Labs "awards" ceremony. By 5pm on the last day, about half of the teams had already uploaded their efforts and trickled off home. Andrew (aka @Bolster), gracious and hilarious host of the Belfast event, suddenly piped up with "Oh yeah! I've got £70 of Github vouchers to give away!" The prize was an afterthought. We'd all forgotten about it.
Strangely enough, I wouldn't say the event was as 'social' as I thought it would be, though in hindsight perhaps I shouldn't have expected more. A room full of coders, sitting in uncomfortable chairs, hunched over laptops and tablets, attempting to bang out a game in a weekend... there ain't much time for chit chat. Instead of names and tweets, we bonded over pizza, algorithms, and the Tron Legacy soundtrack.
I suppose this is the flip side of the definition of Indie: they're not so much a 'group' as a cluster of individuals.
Since the mobile resurgence of casual gaming has taken the video game market by storm, I've been touting the message that 'the next big thing' is never going to come from a boardroom or a best-practice business model. It's going to come from a room like this one, because the creators are the audience, and they have the ability, or at least the means, to make what they love. And chances are that if they love it, so will the rest of the gaming world. For a cluster of individuals, they're more alike than one might think.
When questioning an idea, a business asks, "Yes, but is it profitable?" whereas an indie asks, "Yes, but is it fun?" While it's true that something can be both, for indies the fun comes first, and I believe that no matter how many 'profitable' boxes your game ticks, nobody's interested if it isn't fun. So. if you're focusing on the fun first, you're doing it right.
I wanted to end this post by selling you my idea - Murmur In The Park. I dropped the original concept onto the table, and the idea was prodded into something super cool in a couple of hours by myself, Jude, a secondary school teacher who went off later to do the clot game; Guy, the fellow who ended up constructing Heart of a Gamer; and Dave, the Android gadget man who'd never coded a complete application before, but rose to the challenge beautifully.
Murmur In The Park's tagline was "A social mobile multiplayer geo-location-based ARGish sensory deathmatch." The idea was to use a smartphone with GPS and web access to create an outdoor game of serial tag - each player is looking for someone, while at the same time another player is looking for him.
The catch: you won't get any hints from the phone's screen. You track the other players by the sound of a heartbeat. Two heartbeats, actually. Your THRILL heartbeat is represented by the phone's vibration; the closer you get to your victim, the faster the phone vibrates. The second heartbeat is in your ears, and that's your FEAR heartbeat. As your attacker approaches you, the throbbing heartbeat in your ears gets faster. Better run!
When you get close to your victim, that's when you pull out your phone/weapon to find that an ATTACK button has appeared on screen. Press it, your victim is out of the game, and you're reassigned a new victim (your victim's victim). Last man standing wins.
Sounds pretty fun, huh?
In 48 hours I was able to code a 'game server' - a database with php access which allowed a game to be created by one device, joined by other devices, assigned victims to all players, accepted and returned GPS coordinates, recognised kills and reassigned victims, and deleted itself when the game was over.
Dave Stothers (@stotherd - partnership struck up when he came into Farset three hours late, and I said "do you know anything about GPS on mobiles?" to which he replied, "um, a bit maybe... bet I can figure it out?"), worked tirelessly on the front end. He was able to get the game creation and joining working on the device, the sending and receiving of GPS coordinates, the appearance of the attack button and the vibration heartbeat (didn't get as far as the audio heartbeat, but I suppose given the choice, better to detect who you're after than just four people running away from each other in the park).
So, we didn't finish (I referred to it in the competition wrap-up as "we stretched the budget a little"), but we uploaded it anyway. But the thing is, I WANT to finish. I think this game could be really, really awesome. I love how it uses pocket technology, but it's physical and doesn't involve staring at a screen. It gets people to get out of a chair and interact socially with their analog friends for a change.
Plus, there's such great potential to spread this out: imagine a week-long city-wide game where your attacker/victim is a complete stranger. Imagine being in a conference room, when you see the delivery guy walk off the elevator, look at you through the glass with an evil gleam, and kill you with his phone. How awesome and off-putting would that be?
If you like this idea, let me know (email or tweet @kevinbeimers, love to hear your thoughts). If it's a go, I'll call up Dave. Given progress to date, I can't imagine it taking more than another 48 hours to polish it off, can you?
September 5, 2012
Don't forget the fun
I've recently unveiled a new facet of my arsenal of marketable skills... I call it Idea Consultancy.
If I had to give it a more business-y title, it's more like Transmedia Product Concept Generation and Development. Actually, that sounds cool too.
Here's my thinking: nowadays, with all the socially-interconnectivised monetisable appification going on in the world, everyone's out there looking for the Secret Formula. How do I sell more games? How can I squeeze more money out of them while they're playing it? What's better: Freemium or Free to Play? Tight Core Loops or Quest-based immersion? Edutainment or Playdegogy?
Here's what people are forgetting: PEOPLE PLAY GAMES THAT ARE FUN. And that's where I come in.
Products don't make money, advertising doesn't make money, in-game currency doesn't make money, and Twitter doesn't make money. What makes money? People handing you money makes money. If you've got no people, you've got no money. Do all you like to drive them to your game, but if your game sucks, no amount of social media strategisation or in-app purchasing will save your game from its inevitable demise. Why would anyone tweet about a game that sucks (other than 'don't buy this', and it has to be a pretty extremely poor game for someone to even take the time to do that)?
I'm working with three companies at the moment, all coming from completely different angles, industries and backgrounds. My job as Idea Consultant is to take my past 15 years as a programmer/designer/web developer/concept creator/writer/editor/game developer/animator/marketer/promoter/copywriter/motivational speaker/optimist and apply that to their products, and brainstorm with them on ways to turn their Parsnip of an Idea into a Hearty Soup of Awesome. I do what I can to remind companies to focus on the product, not the peripherals, because why drive people to a product that isn't worth sticking around to play?
In the words of two of the wisest men who ever lived, Ben & Jerry (of ice cream legend): If it's not fun, why do it?
Let me know if you need someone like that, and I'll stop by your office. It'll be fun. I guarantee it.
Cat's out of the bag: Straandlooper Announces New Development Slate
The Northern Ireland indie Animation Studio and Games Developer today announced a slate of new IP to build on the success of the highly acclaimed games trilogy HECTOR: Badge of Carnage, which it launched back in Summer 2010 and completed with U.S. Publisher Telltale Games in September 2011.
Armed with a Slate Development loan from Northern Ireland Screen to match their own funding, the Straandlooper team is
working on three brand new games and two new short films.
The team behind the Hector games, Dean Burke and Kevin Beimers, is at work on two new properties - Burke's new creation Thunder in Donford and Beimers'
brainchild Schrödinger's Cat; while company founders Alastair McIlwain and Richard Morss are brewing The Sirrush Conundrum, created by Morss.
Like the Hector games,
Thunder in Donford
is jam-packed with
click style irreverence.
A boisterous, non-stop
cross-country ricochet across Britain, slapped together with the meticulous delusions of a paranoid conspiracy
theorist lorry driver, Trev Duvay - part time trucker, full time loner - on an unforgettable crazy road trip that will probably scar your fragile mind for life.
Schrödinger's Cat -
part puzzler, part
punch-up - stars
a dark, dimension-jumping feline superhero who's both dead and alive, unwittingly charged with disentangling the secrets of time, space, the atomic, the astronomical and the infinite. Up against anything from an unruly band of disagreeable leptons to the sinister creeping tendrils of dark matter, Schrödinger's Cat is sure to blow the lid off all the things you never knew about life, the universe and everything.
The Sirrush Conundrum is an
epic puzzler delving into the
hidden worlds of espionage
and the dark underside of
global business' relations
with governments. Accompany outspoken
politico and toff dissident
James Newton Wellbeloved
(aka Newt) as he runs from
a kill order and at the same
time has to unravel and foil
a labyrinthine and outrageous international plot that leads him into the far reaches of alternative archaeology and - for a lifelong skeptic- a mind blowing immersion in so-called 'psychic' techniques.
Straandlooper plans to produce and publish the games for iPad, iPhone, iPod, PC and Mac, and is currently seeking the funds to scale up for full production.
The short films will form part of the growing and well received Small Tragedies collection, a lifestyle/issue based black comedy strand, around which the company hopes to built its first venture into 'social' apps.
"It's an exciting time for Straandlooper. We've made massive strides with the publication of the Hector games and are looking forward to expanding our catalogue with great new stuff for the same general audience."
As for Hector, the world's most flawed DI currently in deep cover, on an extended binge, in rehab, or all three, quipped: "Straandlooper? Who gives a toss. Where's me kebab?"
April 3, 2012
Har dee har, just ran across this gem on the BBC:
HELL DRIVERS! (1957)
Joe 'Tom' Yateley is an ex-convict. Trying to leave his past behind, he decides to starts working for the Hawlett Trucking company, which transports gravel. It's an aggressive company, where speed is everything. Doing too less runs in a day? You're out. Red is the most experienced trucker, he can do 18 runs in a day. Soon trouble begins when Red and the other drivers form an united front against Tom, and Tom learns of the corruption of Hawlett Trucking...
I'm thinking a bit of research is in order for the Thunder in Donford project. (Note from the future: I never watched it).
March 8, 2012
Images from the future
Hey, I'm actually backdating this entry from the future. We all travel in tubes, and blogs are called thlogs because you can do them directly with your mind now.
Actually, it's only April, and blogs are still called blogs. Now that Thunder and SC have been announced to the world, I thought I'd come back here and post a couple of cool bits of SC concept art.
So far I've been developing Schrödinger's Cat as a hybrid between a platformer and a point-and-click adventure. A couple of times the game Insecticide has come up in conversation, and not flatteringly. It's reputed to be a platformer/point-n-click that didn't make the cut. I decided last night it was time to figure out why. And I did.
Insecticide is about a bug detective. It was fast-paced action, wasn't laggy, good dialogue, good story, good mystery, good cutscenes, all the hallmarks of a well-produced game. Where it fell short was simple: the point-and-click puzzles were, in a word, rubbish.
First of all, there was such a delineation between the Action portion and the PnC portion. I understand that, it's two different engines, completely different gameplay. You don't want to be in a conversation then have to run for it because a surprise horde of stick bugs just showed up. But the actual challenges they put into the PnC bit were so mundane that they were more of an obstacle than a puzzle.
Take the first one. You just came off a runabout fire fight in downtown Bugtopolis (or whatever). The chief of bug police tells you that, to go back out into the field, you first need to update the case bulletin board. To do this, you need four pieces of paper from four different desks in the precinct. One of the other cops is sitting on one of them. Instead of grabbing it out from under his arse or pushing him, you need to find his mug and get him a coffee so he gets a coffee buzz... and thus stands up.
I know this is the nature of PnC, but come on. It's necessary to (a) have an internal logic that you adhere to, and (b) create puzzles that can't be short-circuited by putting a boot through them. Point-and-click puzzles need to be more than just something in the way of finishing the game too early.
November 29, 2011
Four cappuccinos with quantum foam
I just spend four hours in a café with four very clever people. My brain hurts a little bit.
To really kick off development on Schrödinger's Cat, I put a shout out to the Queens Universite Belfast Physics Department, asking if anyone over there's got a bit of time between PhDs to chat about a way to make a quantum-physics-based adventure game. Here's who showed up:
Dr Gianluca Sarri - researcher in Quantum ElectroDynamics at QUB Centre for Plasma Physics. The most recent paper of his I can find online is entitled Observation of post-soliton expansion following laser propagation through an underdense plasma and recently did a speech at a Light Intensity conference in Hungary about employing laser-accelerated proton beams to diagnose high intensity laser-plasma interactions.
Alan McLoughlin - grad student in Molecular Astrophysics at QUB with a masters degree on VHE observations of M87
with the VERITAS array. His research falls under LASSIE theme 4 ("Modelling the gas-grain
interaction") and is concerned with the chemical evolution of protoplanetary
disks around young stars, with particular interest in the inﬂuence of grain
surface reactions. His wife, a first year grad student also in Astrophysics, came along for the banter (the dinner table conversations they much have).
Donald Evans - PhD in ferroelectric nanostructure. Currently investigating ferroelectric response to inhomogeneous electric field in BaTiO3, and properties of multiferoic single crystals. His most recent publication was entitled Phase diagram and phase transitions in ferroelectric tris-sarcosine calcium chloride and its brominated isomorphs. Employs a plethora of jargon, and sports a handlebar moustache.
So you see why my brain hurts.
November 21, 2011
Schrödinger's Cat Lives!
Way back when I lived in New York, I was invited by the Sci-Fi Channel to pitch a few ideas for shorts and series. I came up with a few zingers, but the one that really stood out in my mind was Schrödinger's Cat, a mentally average yet physically gifted cat untangling the secrets of the universe. I created a raft of interdimensional mysteries and mathematics/physics-based animal supervillains to battle. The pitch was geared to be in the (animated) style of one of those old Flash Gordon five-minute serials - "How will Schrödinger's Cat get out of this one? Tune in next week!"
Anyway, it never happened. I moved out of New York before the pitch was finished, but it sat untouched for years on various forms of storage media, until recently I had the chance to pitch a new development idea for Straandlooper. WOOF! That was the sound of me dusting off a great idea from the top shelf. DOOF! That was the sound of me dropping it on Straandlooper's desk. SHOOM! That was the sound of the green light. Well, yellow light.
Because of our collective awesomeness with Hector, Dean and I have been given carte blanche to run with a couple of our own ideas for game development. This one's mine. Also one the cards is Thunder In Donford, about a conspiracy theorist trucker. I loves a good roadtrip, me.
We've got 5 or 6 months to run with these. Let you know how it all turns out.
Since joining Straandlooper in 2007, I've been part of its core development crew on a number of properties. The Idea Stage of a project is my favourite place to be, and I'm frequently battered back into my seat with an accounting ledger for having too many. My general philosophy in development is to start epic and work backwards. Nobody gets noticed by being mediocre.
Schrödinger's Cat - This astronomically epic adventure game has been my brainchild for over a decade now, and I've relished the opportunity to go full bore into it with Straandlooper. This platformer/puzzler/punch up stars a transdimensional superhero cat who solves the mysteries of time, space, life, death, the subatomic and the infinite. It's got a universe-sized property developer, the infectious tendrils of Dark Matter, the emancipation of oppressed gravitons, an infinite stack of turtles, and a neutrino who kills his own grandfather. It's like if Doctor Who and Stephen Hawking cloned a lovechild and jacked it up on steroids.
(If you're filthy stinking rich and want to fund a clever idea, don't be shy. I'd REEEEEALLY like to make this game.)
Thunder In Donford - Up-and-coming point-and-click to leave Hector eating dust. It's a high-speed diesel-driven adventure of conspiracy and cargo haulage, starring a conspiracy theorist lorry driver named Trev Duvay. The story involves a collective of characters from roadside waitresses to gangs of Segway enthusiasts to the lofty halls of MI7 in a madcap cross country roadtrip across Great Britain, culminating in a geopolitical conspiracy so vast and convoluted we don't even understand it ourselves.
HECTOR: Badge of Carnage - Hector actually started off as a TV pitch by creator Dean Burke. Dean and I worked together to turn Hector's world into the filthiest, smelliest, immoralliest crime-ridden town in Britain (yes, I know immoralliest is not a real word). We birthed and killed off characters, brewed locations, cooked up a 13-episode series of over the top mysteries... then promptly ditched it all in favour of a fast-buck point-n-click app. The buck didn't turn out to be that fast, taking over a year to complete the trilogy, but the result was an award-winning blah dee blah... surely you've heard me bang on about Hector enough. Check out the Writer and Producer sections for more about Hector's success.
Small Tragedies - This is an ongoing collection of 17+ animated shorts pointed at foibles of modern life, centring around things like body image issues and achieving fame at any cost. Five have been produced (here are four on Youtube), two are in development/production, with a handful more waiting in the wings.
Before my time at Straandlooper, I'd amassed a collection of personal projects and pitches for games, animation shorts, and scripts for TV and screen. One day, in the far flung future, they'll all see the light of day in some form or another. If you're looking for someone to take your parsnip of an idea and turn it into a Soup of Awesome, hit me.
What started as a favour recently turned into something pretty cool.
Before Christmas, a friend of mine was having a bit of a meltdown because some invitation/event planner software she'd bought into wasn't playing nice. I casually mentioned that I do design, programming, and a bunch of other things and might be able to help out.
The event (that the software was trying its hardest not to invite people to) turned out to be the BT Young Scientist and Technologist Exhibition, more specifically the black tie gala awards night down in Dublin to celebrate the winners of the largest science competition for under 18s in Europe. Once I'd fixed the software, I designed the invitations, menus, table settings and name tags with an artistic influence inspired by Higgs-Boson decay patterns from the Large Hadron Collider.
Just goes to show you never know where your next job is coming from.
October 2, 2012
Dial M for Macrophonics
Well, it's happened. Sooner or later, everyone in the Northern Ireland animation industry ends up at, for, or with Flickerpix. And now, that list includes me.
A couple of months ago, NI stopmotion guru Joel Simon created a short film called Macropolis about a cat and a dog who escape from a toy factory. It's very cute, Charlie and Milo love it (you can see the trailer here). Now it's being adapted into a children's alphabet/phonics app. Should also be very cute.
Let you know when it's up and running.
June 8, 2012
Spotflick - in your face!
With Euro 2012 just around the corner, Spotflick has just gone retinal! If you haven't given it a shot yet, do it, then give it a 5-star rating, then tell your friends about it, then gift it to someone, then tweet about it, put it on Facebook, Bebo, Digg, Burble, Plork, Yapyap, Amazon book comments, tattoo it on your arse and tag a boxcar.*
*Tattooing and boxcar tagging not endorsed or encouraged by Spotflick Ltd.
May 22, 2012
New kid on the BLOC
Ha ha, that is such a rubbish title. Kevie from the BLOC? Equally rubbish.
Went to my first BLOC54 event yesterday, which is a bunch of local game developers, designers, programmers and enthusiasts trying to make their way in today's harsh and lonely world. There's some very cool stuff going on up here in Northern Ireland. Just to do my little part for the NI gaming community, I think I'll promote a few morsels from up our wee way...
Rumour! Straandlooper's been working with a company over in Atlanta to get the Lifeboat Luke Spotisodes ported onto Android. They may be released already, their release may be imminent, or perhaps the whole project's been sidelined. I don't know, because I don't have an Android phone. Nor should you.
If you have an Android phone and know how to buy things on Android App Bazaar and if it's out, let me know and I will put a link on here to it.
November 1, 2011
In all its disgusting glory
Just updated Hector Ep1 so it takes advantage of iPhone's swanky detached-retinal display. Like you ever wanted to see all that grime, filth, and flab in excruciatingly fine detail. Feast yer eyes, tossers!
I was going to put a link to it here, but surely you've bought it by now.
I actually started life as a programmer, but I've been fighting like mad to break free and run naked amongst the creative heather fields for years now. It's not often you run across someone who can write final draft copy and first rate scripts, animate with aplomb, program a kick-ass game engine and organise a networked filing structure with accuracy and efficiency. Well, you just did.
(Note: I'm not usually this arrogant, but I'm pretty sure an air of lofty disdain is a pre-requisite in the programming industry).
Hector Episode 1 (iPhone game) - Programmed Hector's custom point-and-click game engine from scratch in Objective-C, filled the game database with all actions, art and animation, and tested the hell out of it until launch (all this while designing, writing and directing game action as well, but you probably read about that in the other sections). The resulting iPhone app was smooth, versatile and robust, very few initial errors or bugs (now none, as far as I can determine; Hector support email gets far more praise than complaints).
Hector Episode 2 & 3 (multi-platform game) - not programming, per se, but certainly an marathon of organisation and logic that required a programming mind. Straandlooper worked with Telltale Games on these two episodes, which required getting up to speed very quickly on Telltale's game engine, Tool. Once again responsible for organisation and input of animation, art and voice files and linking them into game actions. Schedule-wise, we completed twice the game in half the time.
Spotflick (iPhone game) - Freelance programming and design job to create penalty-kick app just in time for the 2010 World Cup.
Spotisodes (32 iPhone games) - Back when Lifeboat Luke was denied access to iTunes TV (due to not having a major broadcaster behind it), we wrapped a find-the-hidden-object game around each episode and sold them as apps on the App store. Collect all 32!
Keek on a Crab (iPhone game) - My first foray into app development with Straandlooper's Lifeboat Luke brand. You're an incontinent seagull: look out below, crabs! Even three years on, still brings in a few extra quid a month.
LifeboatLuke.tv (Flash site) - What you're looking at is a scaled-down version of the creator's dream: an immersive, interactive replication of the TV show with characters, games, crafts and activities. As a Flash site, it's pretty monstrous, ambitious, and expandable, with plenty of unique nooks, crannies and mini-games to check out for diversity's sake.
Straandlooper.com (Flash site) - I designed and programmed the original and keep it updated when we've got something to say.
TheHectorFiles.com (Flash site) - This site looks remarkably like the Straandlooper site, because it used to be. It broke off from the original and evolved on its own.
Before Straandlooper, I spent some time working for a British Health & Safety organisation, adding Flash animation and interactivity to Powerpoint-based training courses. The only advice online about doing such a thing at the time was "Don't." But I had to, and now consider myself the foremost authority on Flash/PPT hybridisation. I don't talk about it much, because I'm afraid someone will hire me to do it again.
Before that, I was a freelance designer/developer/animator for all kinds of projects around the globe, a few of which you'll find in my Animator section. Before that, I was a blog pioneer back in the days when they were still called "online journals" (see Adventurer). Before that, I worked in New York City for various Internet startups during the intensity of the dot com boom. Before that, I ran a website design house and cyber café in Northern Ontario. Before that, I was a child.
When I was originally contacted by Straandlooper it was to come on board as an animator, but due to a few timing issues, by the time I was ready to make the move to Northern Ireland, they had enough animators, but threw me the Art Director bone. I was over the moon to actually be working full time for an animation company... though, strangely enough, I haven't actually animated a thing in five years. I miss it a little.
But that doesn't mean I'm not any good at it. Har har, far from it! Here's a collection of oldies but goodies. They're all Flash, so you iFolks are a bit out of luck on this section. Erm, enjoy the thumbnails, though!
Terd's Dream When I was living in New York, I created and developed a cartoon series called Elvis In Space for the SciFi Channel. It would have sat somewhere between an 80s Sitcom and Futurama, if it ever got off the ground. One of the characters, Terd, never spoke and always wheeled around in a hamster ball so he wouldn't mess with the ship's controls. This is his dream.
I directed and animated this myself. If you only watch one Flash animation today, this should be it. The guitar solo still brings a tear to my eye.
Also, here are a few games I worked on for Elvis's Space Casino, all in various states of undress: Lilo's Bust-A-Nut Blackjack, The King Is Wild Strip Poker, and Terdo!
Merry Christmas Mike! This one's still one of my favourites. Nadia had bought her husband Mike a super swanky trip to New York for Christmas, and hired me to create this animation for him to watch on Christmas morning. I had the trip details, some personal details (like the Jeff Gordon bit at the start), but the rest was up to me. Ah, how I love Full Creative Control.
LookItsMe Christmas E-card I'm not sure how LookItsMe describes itself nowadays, but back then it was a meet-n-greet profile site for glamorous and sexy people. Created a few things for these guys. The first was an animation to introduce their Unlock system. They told me what the video had to achieve, requested an infomercial vibe, sent pictures of their staff, approved and recorded my script, and I took the reins from there. They liked it so much they brought me back for a staff credits music video, an Error 404 page, and this Christmas E-card for their community.
Yazm 2000 For U.S. Senate Back in 2000 I tried to get an orange squawky bird puppet on the electoral bill for Senator of New York. The other two candidates were Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. How could we lose? Turns out, losing was rather easy.
Piiq.com Staff Credit Sequence This is the first Flash animation I ever did (aside from one with a frog waiting for a bus). Even at 12 years old, still kicks ass.
And here's some client work of various styles and complexities:
www.LifeboatLuke.tv - Lifeboat Luke (the TV series) was done in AfterEffects, but AfterEffects wasn't very website friendly so I took the reins on re-rigging and re-animating a lot of the stuff in Flash for the website and mini-games.
Use your inhaler - An inspirational and instructional video for kids with asthma.
Cool thing: I've been invited to speak at a panel of indie storytellers at PAX East, super high-profile kick-ass games conference attended by all top dogs on the American East Coast.
Not so cool thing: It's in Boston, and there's no way in hell I can afford to go. Shucky darn. Still, nice to be loved.
October 9, 2012
My single-serving friend Phil from Edinburgh Interactive has invited me to guest speak at Conpulsion 2013 sometime in April, and I must admit I'm a little nervous about this one, for two reasons:
I've been to a con before, and it blew my mind that there was this immersive culture that I knew nearly nothing about. I'm still not sure if I was attracted to or repulsed by it, and I'm frightened to find out which it is.
I believe I may have been cast as the enemy. Rumour has it I'm to be involved in a debate with Iain Lowson (co-speaker at EdInt), in which I'm to take the stance that "paper is dead, screen is king". I'm not sure I agree, and it's in front of a room full of traditional paper gamers. I'll be lynched.
August 14, 2012
Edinburgh Interactive: Video Now Available
If you'd like to actually see the 40 minute presentation jammed into a 30 minute slot that I've been yammering on about, here's a link to the Edinburgh Interactive Youtube Channel. Then leave me some positive and enthusiastic comments so they invite me back next year. Or at least a like. I like likes. Everyone likes like, and they're not hard, are they? Go on.
August 12, 2012
Edinburgh Interactive: It's what you do.
Just got back from the Edinburgh Interactive 2012 conference. This was my second year speaking at EdInt #EdInt@EdiInteractive (I think by law I need to add those after; like that guy who threatened the airport and afterwards made it law that we have to say JOKE after jokes). Last year, despite the fact that (a) I was only there for about 12 hours, (b) I had to spend half of my non-speaking time filming a Hector Behind The Filth interview, and (c) the other half of my non-speaking time in an email tussle over 11th-hour misunderstandings with the functionality of Hector's in-game hint system, I still had a great time, and was given a very small taste of what happens when the projectors go off and the laptops go away (I say laptops because the smartphones stay out all night, along with the attendees).
This year, I was able to jump in full bore and see what conference life is really all about. I was there four days, got to sample a bit of the Fringe (UK's biggest Art/Comedy festival, to my North American friends), and had nothing else to think about except shaking hands, soaking up inspiration and knowledge, not to mention drinking enough alcohol to drop a rhino. I swear, I had more to drink in the past three days than in the previous six years combined (NO JOKE).
Conference by day: Met so many amazing people from hardware to software, AAA to indie, marketers to programmers, transmedia monetising gamificators to hardcore enthusiasts to people who make interface software for the International Space Station. A lot of the talks, as you'd expect, centred around how to make more money with your games - after all, it's a conference - but a precious few (like mine) did all it could to remind delegates of why they got into games in the first place: because they're FUN.
Rather than focusing on business models and bottom lines, I took on the evolution of games from a Darwinian angle: Games as a biological life form. Starting with the primordial ooze of Pong, I took delegates through elements of evolution like diversity, complexity, mutation, extinction and hybridisation (one of the best laughs I got was my series on Moore's Law as applied to Console Buttons). Once mobile games came along, however, it was a huge resurgence of all the gaming styles that were deemed extinct by the consoles: Word, Card, Board, Puzzle, Physics, Logic, Maze, and the Point & Click... the thinking games. With mobiles, everything was back on the table, dead rose from the grave, and another battle for supremacy is raging as we speak. Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria. Good fun, lots of laughs, good crowd.
Also did one on the last day of the conference on breathing life into game characters. I was doing this one with Iain Lowson (@embraagain) and James Parker (@gameswriting), both seasoned games writers, while I played the part of wide-eyed indie world-is-your-oyster optimist. This was much more interactive, lots of shouting out, grabbing people up onto the stage, filling an empty husk with a bundle of attributes, and giving a few audience members a chance to see what it's like to work in the industry. By the end the audience had cobbled together "Julian Grey and the Candy Floss Kingdom", a family-friendly survival-horror 3rd-person-puzzler about a dentist who finds himself battling Twinkle, the unassuming twelve-year-old tooth-daemon tyrant of the Candy Floss Kingdom. And it's got zombies in. Everybody loves zombies.
Conference by night: Land sakes alive, is this how the rest of the world lives? I mean, I can stay up late with the best of them (I spent my formative years as a programmer, after all), but I don't think I got more than 8 hours sleep for the three nights I was there. On the night after my first talk, I'm positive I had lunch, but I think I bypassed dinner and went straight to a drinks reception, followed by another drinks reception, followed by a pub, then a comedy club, then a jazz club. In the jazz club, there was a new band starting their tune up at 2am (Future Heroes, they were called, and they kicked ass). I think the last of us left at 4.
My highlights of the non-conference parts of the conference included:
Jazz getting in the way of hilarious conversation at the Jazz Club
The sleeping journalist
Not seeing the pandas
Weirdest/worst conversation in the Underbelly
"It's what you do."
(In-conference highlight... Dave Sapien to Dragon's Den: "I just want a job.")
After my final talk (which was the final talk on the final day), I had a final beer with my new Twitter BFF @PhilipGHarris (who also played the part of Julian Gray in the Candy Floss Kingdom), and waxed philosophical about the apocalypse, the appeal of badly-acted cutscenes, and weird-ass games that make no sense (my current favourite being (:3)+[___]; go on, see if you can beat my score of 98857. I dare you.
And after the final beer, I got one more final final beer with Ray Maguire at the airport: former SVP/MD of Sony Computer Entertainment and the man who gave us the Playstation. We compared stories on what it's like to fly a 747. You just never know.
As you can see by the amount of time I've spend crafting this post, Edinburgh Interactive was an absolute winner. Props to the organisers - fantastic job Alexa, Rosie, Dave, David and the rest of the Committee. Cheers to everyone I met, and hope to see you all again in 2013, if not sooner.
July 27, 2012
It's still business time
Hey, check out my sexy new 300g Matte Paper Stock Custom Designed Premium Business Card with black & white reverse, which came with a free Metal Business Card Holder and a pen. Plow, how ya like me now?
I always told myself that the day I buy my first three piece suit is the day I become an adult. I have yet to reach that day, but I think the Metal Business Card Holder just trumped that. I'm not a child anymore. Mind you, it was free, and I could stick gummibears or Garbage Pail Kids stickers in it.
By the way, DON'T BE FOOLED! There's another Kevin Beimers out there on Linked In. He's an accountant in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Strangely enough, we have never spoken, nor emailed, nor ever acknowledged each other's presence online; this is the first time I have ever seen his face. I really really should make the effort to meet him someday, but if me joining Linked In didn't cause the universe to collapse, shaking hands with the other Kevin Beimers undoubtedly will.
June 24, 2012
I've survived the Q-Con weekend. I even entered the Pub Quiz. We came in 11th out of 64 teams, I think because of my knowledge of Hudson Hawk and the chemical abbreviation for Tungsten, but I was dead weight for the rest of it. I'm still processing the event as a whole.
June 22, 2012
Well, slap me with the Polystyrene Mattock of Discombobulation
I wasn't sure whether to put this under Speaker or Adventurer.
Two years ago, after an inspiring student talk I did at the BMC, a noble sir with elfin hair approached me about doing a similar talk at Q-Con, a conference for gaming enthusiasts. I said sure. Then I never saw him again.
This year, I was approached by someone else about doing the same. They wanted some local game developers to show off their craft and inspire the enthusiasts to join the dream of an Irish Games Market. I again said sure. This time I got a confirmation and a date.
I started my little Powerpoint swizzle as I would for another conference of professionals I've ever been to, and got to checking out the website for this event. That's where I found out it was not only for gaming enthusiasts, but also Anime enthusiasts. Okay, I like Anime, sorta. I saw Akira and Spirited Away and that. Then I saw that it was being put on by the QUB Dragonslayers society. Hmm. Then I saw an FAQ about Props and Weapons Rules. Oh no.
I think I need to reprint the rules regarding props and weapons here, to get an idea of the world I was about to enter...
Very large or unwieldy props are not permitted in the convention for health and safety reasons.
It seems obvious, but your costume shouldn't cause you any physical pain, injury or damage whilst you wear it.
All Masquerade contestants planning to wear weapons at Q-Con as part of their costume MUST present their weapons for inspection upon arrival at Convention Registration. Any unauthorized weapons will not be permitted into the convention.
Any potentially dangerous actions involving weapons at the Convention (including on-stage/backstage at the Cosplay Masquerade!) will result in disqualification from the Masquerade.
All handgun or firearm related replicas/props must be easily recognised as a replica from a distance - such as bright orange caps/markings on guns. If your gun does not have anything that differentiates it from a real weapon, it will not be allowed into the convention.
All firearm-type weapons must be replicas. Airguns, paintguns, waterguns and similar are not allowed into the convention.
No edged weapons with live blades, or blunt edged weapons heavy enough to cause bludgeoning damage, will be admitted to the convention. Any swords, daggers, bat'leths or other weapons must be judged safe by convention staff at Convention Registration before being admitted to the convention.
If your costume or other props features sharp edges, or any other factor that could cause injury to others, you MUST sand, file or smooth off the edges or it will be deemed dangerous and not allowed inside the convention.
All weapons must be holstered, sheathed or slung in an approved fashion.
Your costume and props should be able to fit through a normal door unhindered, and not so large as to encumber yourself or others.
All weapons or realistic props must be checked and authorized by the Q-Con Committee, and are allowed at our discretion only.
Any weapons which fail to meet the safety criteria must be immediately (and discreetly), returned to storage, (e.g.: your hotel room or vehicle), for the duration of the convention. Q-Con will not store these items for you.
Actions which could cause injury with weapons, props or costumes are not tolerated.
Venue security staff have final authority over whether any item/article/weapon can be brought into the building. Anyone found in breach of their decisions may be removed from the building at once.
Any breaches of the above rules may result in disqualification from the cosplay competitions. Severe breaches may incur any further penalties deemed necessary by the Q-Con Committee and/or venue security, up to and including ejection from the Convention and removal from the building itself.
So you see why I visibly paled. I'll let you know how it all goes down, should I survive the night.
June 8, 2012
I'm only funny on paper
Let me tell you about a situation that I seem to have gotten myself into...
Back when I was pitching my session/workshop ideas to Edinburgh, they told me someone had taken on the topic of "Sex and Romance in Games, and how to handle it" or something like that. I said, sort of off the cuff (everything I say is sort of off the cuff), I could do one about Humour in games. She liked the idea and asked for a pitch. So I sent over this:
Death of the innuendo, or something
Still attempting to flog the last ounce of pseudo-fame from the moderate success of the crawlaway crime comedy Hector: Badge of Carnage, series writer Kevin Beimers looks back, forward and around to analyse what exactly everyones laughing at these days. When does mimicry become spoof? Is it still a joke if only 5% of the audience get it? How close can you toe the line of decency, and how far beyond said line are you required to leap so that even the special interest groups stifle a snort?
Look, it's Friday afternoon, your brains probably full by now, so why not come and listen to some guy waffle on about self-reference, self-deprecation, obscurity, underplay, hyperbole, meta-humour, breaking the fourth wall, and his personal weapon of choice, the non-sequitur. You won't learn anything, honest.
They took that away, considered it, then in the next couple of email it went from being the "Humour session" to the "Comedy session" to the "Comedy bit". Once it became a Comedy Bit, they thought maybe they could shift it to the Speaker's Dinner.
So somehow I shifted from doing a study/breakdown of funny games of yesteryear, to doing stand-up comedy at a major UK games conference specifically for the top brass.
Call me a wuss, but even I have limits. I had to bow out of that one, and don't tell me you wouldn't have done the same.
May 29, 2012
Back by popular demand
Hey, Coolio: the gang at Edinburgh Interactive wants me back for another round this year. Not only that, but they're giving me a slot in the delegate sessions, a 1.5 hour workshop session, and a free massage! And did I just say 'Coolio'? It must be late.
Here's my double-barrelled shotgun of clever sounding topics:
Bridging gaming styles in the new reality
The era of internet and mobile gaming has reawakened styles of design and gameplay that were deemed finished by the console, but audiences and indie developers are evolving on these new less processor-intensive platforms that have considerable storytelling and business potential on new devices. Creative Producer Kevin Beimers charts the evolution of Belfast-based Straandlooper from digital animation to award-winning games company, and how they're experimenting with changing trends in game design.
More than just a suit of armour: Breathing life into game characters
While game-play is undoubtedly important, giving the player a vested interest in the characters within can do more for a game than many developers realise. Whether your main character is a ball, a bird or a battledroid, how important is it to make him more than just an avatar? A few experienced and award-winning experts offer up unique insights when it comes to storytelling techniques, character development, script writing and connecting with players in this interactive workshop.
Now I just have to come up with the clever sounding presentation content to match them. Heh heh. (Oh God, what have I done?)
November 1, 2011
It appears that I've just been invited to a cocktail party in outer space. I'm still trying to work out if it's spam, if I won something, if I'm on some sort of list, or if Aimee's brother signed me up for it. It actually sounds kind of cool:
An evening in space with Canadian Astronaut Julie Payette
On the occasion of the Second edition of the Quebec Annual Lecture
The Agent-General for Quebec in London Mr Pierre Boulanger
Requests the pleasure of your company to a conference by Julie Payette
"Research and Diplomacy 350km above the Earth. An Astronaut's Perspective"
Preceded by a projection of the film
"Space Station 3D"
Oh. Hang on, it's not in outer space, it's just at the IMAX in London.
Speaking Experience - Past Events and Topics
I'm not shy about getting up in front of an audience, and, contrary to most of the stuff you read on this page, I'm actually a very positive and energetic fellow once I get going.
Edinburgh Interactive 2012 - Bridging Gaming Styles in the New Reality, and a writing workshop with Iain Lowson and James Parker entitled More Than Just a Suit of Armour: Breathing Life into Game Characters.
Q-Con XIX - Northern Ireland's largest games and anime convention. Gave a talk on game development techniques and participated in several panel discussions on the importance of writing and story in games.
That's me, on Hallowe'en. I'd like to tell you that the horns on the hat were inspired from the start to top off my "Dapper Devil" look, but in reality I stuck them to the hat because they wouldn't stick to my head after the red greasepaint.
By the way, if anyone wants to borrow this costume next Hallowe'en (or just to wander around downtown some random evening in February, if you like), you're welcome to download these accessories I whipped up:
Contract for Soul: a pre-made contract for purchasing someone's soul in exchange for money, power, bodily enhancements and/or the undoing of past regrets. You'd be surprised at how few people, even the non-religious ones, are willing to part with theirs. I did manage to acquire one soul over the course of an evening, and all it took for her to part with it was the promise of a swanky new iPhone 5.
Cheque from Hell: If anyone signs the contract, pull one of these out of your other pocket and close the deal. Remember, it's the little things that show how much you care.
And now, this year's pumpkins!
September 17, 2012
Reliving my childhood
Oh look, four more Classic 80s Lego masterpieces I just made over the past few weeks. Seems a shame to just let them sit on my shelf like some kind of testament to my own ingenuity, so I'll share them with you. No need to thank me; Milo's face says all that needs to be said.
By the way, if you like these, have a little squizz down the page to see the DeLorean, the Ecto-1, and the Batmobile. I feel bad for Milo - he's starting to run out of bricks - but deep down I think he really appreciates the effort, even if he's not allowed to play with them.
August 26, 2012
Stonehenge? Balls to that! Who needs Stonehenge when you've got Sacrilege?
We were travelling through North Belfast and stumbled upon this thing in Grove Playing Fields. It's a giant touring inflatable pagan megalith bouncy castle just like the Druids envisioned centuries ago. Gotta love those Druids, they think of everything.
Apparently it was made indirectly in league with the Olympics and the Arts (amazing what passes for 'The Arts' in this day and age), and it's being shipped all over Great Britain so that kids everywhere can not only experience the wonder and majesty of a life size replica of a centuries-old enigma... but also bounce on it.
Here's Milo in mid-scorpion-kick to show how awesome it is.
(You can't see me, but I'm right next to him out of shot doing the exact same thing. Bloody shoulder hurts like the dickens now.)
August 24, 2012
Great Scott! A Lego Delorean?
If only I had a way to go back in time and use this week more productively. Oh wait! I do!
Okay, it's not really an adventure phone. I just called it that because I didn't know what section of the site to put my new phone in. I suppose "Speaker" would have worked too. You know, since phones function best when you speak into them.
For those of you that know me well, you'll know that I still carry around a generation-zero Nokia 1100. I pride myself on my anachronistic phone; it's a conversation starter, a museum piece, a nigh-indestructible piece of old-world hardware from the days when phones were phones and not dainty pocket-size entertainment systems that shatter when you drop a jug on them.
Nigh-indestructible indeed... A couple weeks ago, it fell in the sea (well, I fell in the sea, and it was in my pocket. I was trying to prove to Charlie that I could paddle a deflating dinghy across a river, but I was wrong, so there's the adventure bit). Three days later, it dried out, and turned on! But then it failed to recognise the sim, then failed to recognise the battery, then failed to recognise its own existence and finally expired with a posthumous medal of valour.
So I ordered a new phone, and it arrived in the mail today! And which model phone did the trend-setting tech-monkey app-developer get, I hear you ask? Why, another Nokia 1100, of course! Here's a breakdown of all the advantages over the old phone:
- Can't read keypad
- Ringer broken, only vibrates
- No rubber earpiece
- Back plate falls off
- Occasional need to rub Sim on shirt
- Contains traces of seawater
- Keypad readable
- Features 20 annoying ringtones
- Comfy rubber earpiece (a bit dirty)
- Back plate stays on without tape
- No rubbing required for Sim
- Seawater free!
Only disadvantage to my new phone: I lost my high score on Snake. There go my bragging rights.
Now, I hear you ask as a follow up, why would a man like myself, riding the cascading wave of monetizable appification into a bright and bountiful future, get himself a brick? Here's why... because it doesn't have games, apps, Twitter, Facebook, achievements, location-based rewards, web access, a camera, a GPS, a GB of music or a screen that displays colour. Land sakes alive, I've been using Aimee's iPhone for five days, and with all these damnable 'multitasking' tools on board to increase my 'productivity', I don't get a damn thing done.
What my new/old phone does have: a clock, a battery that lasts up to a week, and a little LED flashlight on the top, which has come in handy more times than you could ever know. That little flashlight is the only app I need.
Balls, I should have ordered that job lot of 10 x Nokia 1100s while I had the chance. Who knows how much these things will cost in 2019?
August 16, 2012
I need to start having some actual adventures soon, because the adventure section of my site is beginning to look like I never leave the house. That aside, I just finished making the Ecto-1 out of Lego and I think it's pretty damn sweet.
August 4, 2012
Best part about having kids is playing with their stuff after they go to bed.
July 17, 2012
Well, our trusty van is not so trusty. It just failed its first MOT (ha ha, first MOT... more like 40th probably). Just little things though: she needs some rear brake work and a couple of panels welded.
I'd of course do it myself but I don't have the facilities or the tools to do the job. Also, I don't know how to perform rear brake work. Or weld.
This is one of those times when I think to myself, "When the apocalypse comes, you'll be the first to be eaten."
June 30, 2012
Land of Giants
I just went on a late night date with Cath to go and see Land Of Giants in the Belfast Titanic Quarter. Now, I don't usually use naughty language on my website, but all I have to say about it is this: THAT IS WHAT YOU FUCKING DO WITH AN ARTS COUNCIL GRANT. It was all explosions and fire and cranes and drummers on stilts and choirs on harnesses and letters flying through outer space and ballerinas on motorbikes and bears on unicycles and ballerinas on bears on harnesses in outer space set to an ear-bleeding soundtrack.
So a week before the marathon, I tripped while running and went down on my right arm. Didn't seem like a big deal, healed up enough, ran the marathon without trouble, bit stiff after.
A week after the marathon: Crawfordsburn Primary School Sports Day. Being a superdad, I joined in for the 15 meter Spider Race. On the 14th meter, my shoulder gave out, and I finished with a dramatic shoulder roll accompanied by a sickening crunch. I've either broken something or pulled everything in there; I can't lift my arm.
Based on this story, would you say I'm cut out for athletics?
May 7, 2012
Just finished my second marathon. I thought these things were supposed to get easier. This one was not. It was utter rained out miserable chafing rubbish. I'm really thinking hard about a third.
April 15, 2012
I'm not sexy enough for my van
Today I was out the front of the house tormenting my children when a car pulls up with a model and her photographer inside. Turns out that they were on their way down to the country park to do some sort of hippie/70s themed photo shoot, and saw our van parked out front. Would we mind terribly if they did their photo shoot in the van instead?
Now, I've only had my VW campervan for two weeks. Does this sort of thing happen often?
March 31, 2012
Let the adventures begin!
You know that feeling you get when you think "I'm coming to the end of my work contract, so I currently have the most money that I will have for some time until I pick up the next work contract. Rather than put that money away for my kids education, or taxes, or groceries, I think I'll buy a Classic VW Campervan with it instead. Let's see if there's one on eBay. I like blue. Click. Sold." If there are others who occasionally have feelings like this, usually they stop before the Click. I didn't.
Aimee's going to be so surprised! I'm just kidding, she knows about it. At least, we talked about it. Or did I dream that? Shrug.
February 24, 2012
So back at Christmas, we had a couple of friends pop over, Rob & Ciara. The week before, Ciara and a friend at work had entered an Adventure Race, which she said was an absolute blast. It was a bit of biking, bit of running/walking, bit of kayaking (she'd never kayaked before), some wacky things in the middle, orienteering... right up my street.
So Aimee and I signed up for the next one. It was today. All of today. From sunrise to sunset, seven solid hours of adventure racing. I don't think Aimee's ready to talk about it yet. I am, though!
We got a friend of a friend with a vehicle bigger than ours (every vehicle is bigger than ours) to cart our borrowed mountain bikes over to Craigavon, about an hour's drive West. As we arrived in our little mini, we saw droves of lumbering SUVs tracked with mud and scads of marionette-like proper cyclist typed doing last minute adjustments to the bits of bikes I don't know the names for. They had custom clipboards attached to their handlebars for map reading, and all of them looked a hell of a lot more extreme than us. We barely remembered to bring helmets.
For us, it was two hours of cycling, followed by an hour of kayaking across a lake and back, followed by running around the same lake looking for map points, followed by another two hours of offroad and track cycling. I think we came in 32nd, and all we got for our trouble was a stale muffin.
I'd totally do it again.
December 7, 2011
Cardboard Charlie's 5th birthday
For Charlie's birthday this year, we rented a hall down in Donaghadee to build the CARDBOARD CITY OF THE FUTURE. We asked the participants to bring all the cardboard they could get their hands on, and Neil and I hit the B&Q for scraps.
I actually think the dads had a better time of it than the kids. The centrepiece was full-on fishing vessel complete with sail, nets, and rigging. There was also a rocket, a train, a TV, a castle, a tunnel, a lifeboat, robot and a cardboard Empire State Building (built mostly with cereal boxes) with cardboard King Kong on top.
And all of it got smashed to pulp by the end. Everybody wins.
October 31, 2011
Who's idea was the bloody Point-Two at the end?
Just completed the Dublin Marathon. That's enough running for today.
For the record, I don't just bandy the word 'Adventurer' around lightly. I've earned my stripes. Here's a play by play on some of the wacky stuff my wife and I have gotten up to in the past...
...travelling the lower 48 states by Jeep over seven months. Every day we reported on our position, lodging, food, knowledge, customs, and wrote a 500-1000 word report on the day's theme. Every damn day. By the end we'd covered about 30,000 miles and written a staggering 250,000 words. That's, like, a couple of Harry Potters worth. It's all still online, if you want to lose a month of your life reading it.
...in which we travelled the perimeter of Australia on a tandem recumbent tricycle. That one took 15 months, a rugged laptop and a portable solar panel to put together. During this adventure I was also a regular columnist for Australian Cyclist magazine. To this day, I'm glad I did it, and even more glad I never have to do it again.
...leading up to the birth of Charlie. That adventure took 9 months, as you'd expect. Sadly, we don't have a secondbaby.beimers.com website, as we were too busy with the first baby. I'm sure that's going to send Milo to therapy one day.