I’m almost done the third write-through of my latest in the Liam Quinn Mysteries, Quinn Gets Hitched. It goes live on Amazon and other ebook sites in about three weeks. I’ve enjoyed this one because it finally resolves the relationship between Nora and Liam and decides where it is going; I like the murder, too; it’s not my most mind-twisting, but it plays with the notion of how we perceive insecurity, which was a different approach.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to republish the series across multiple store outlets again after an exclusive period at one site. Thank you to those who wrote to request it on Nook and Apple. As part of the republishing effort, I’ve priced the first in the series, Quinn Checks in, as a free download.
People who know me are aware that I’m interested in debate and discussion, but that I’m not much for socializing. It seems truer than ever as I age and become more secure with the things my wife Lori and I find interesting and worthwhile. I have to say, however, that it would be harder without good internet access to BBC Radio, NPR and a series of great podcasts. I get a couple of hours of yuks weekly from the likes of Bill Burr, Doug Stanhope, Marc Maron and Adam Carolla
They’re validating my decision to become a hermit.
Also validating said decision: the sunny, hot conditions which persist in Alberta into September now, perfect for backyard patios, umbrellas and bottles of Pipsqueak Cider. Or, assuming its sold out as usual, some Magners or Savanna cider.
When I started playing PC games, good stories were few and far between. Oh sure, there was a plot and plenty of drama in Zork! and adventure games from Sierra and others tried to plunk together a narrative. But for the most part, games involved hitting things, stabbing things, shooting things, and, if you loved Sid Meier’s games, sailing from port to port.
The first game to really change the equation to me from ‘fun’ to ‘immersive’ was Wing Commander, which is one reason why, against my occasional better judgment, I’m backing Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen. It had an actual story, characters you sort of cared about, a villain that looked like a jungle cat and spouted dialogue straight out of a 70’s Corman-level production. It had production values. And it put you in the pilot’s seat to save mankind.
A lot of us love Wing Commander and other games based around a deep story; it’s why we’ve stuck with PCs over consoles, for the most part, that desire for depth over pretty explosions.
But a ‘deep’ story hasn’t always meant a ‘great one’. Or even a ‘good’ story, for that matter. Writing has always gotten short-shrift in games; from the “called it in the first half hour” ‘twist’ of Fallout 3 to the rewritten lore and plot holes of Mass Effect 3 to the confused noir of the Max Payne games, even the best outings are often draped in a narrative that wouldn’t get a second look from script readers or from book lovers. Not without an editor hatcheting it down to size, anyway.
Think about how many times you found a game bogged down by repetitive story elements, crappy dialogue, thin characters, plotholes…
It really makes you wonder how they recruit writers for these things; I have this deep and abiding fear that most computer game developers assume that because they’re good at code and have a good idea for a game, they’re going to find it easy to construct a narrative and plot people care about. But there’s a reason games like “The Walking Dead” and “The Last of Us” stand out: the stories are first class.
Most don’t come close. Now, consider the physically immersive nature of VR. How disappointing and disillusioning would it be for a player to walk into a broad fantasy world only to discover everyone is boring, repetitive, and shallow? They may as have gone to a Forever 21 or bought Taco Bell, or something. And the last thing VR needs it its nascency is a list of bad reviews.
To their credit, the Oculus Rift folk seem to be taking a lead with the establishment of the “Oculus Story Studio“, although it hasn’t produced enough yet to qualify whether it’s style, substance or both. I suppose we’ll begin to find out next year; I plan to build a new rig to handle the processing power required to make the new Oculus resolutions shine. Will it be yet another willing participant in any writer’s truest preoccupation, devout procrastination? Will I kill weeks lost in Star Citizen, Elite, and ‘immersive experiences’?, thereby pushing my book deadlines to their utmost? Almost certainly.
But once a new medium becomes normal, it’s the story that keeps them coming back.