[GAME DEV] Touched by a robot – running afoul of reddit

In retrospect, that message probably shouldn’t have surprised and angered me so much.

At the time, though, I was furious. I hadn’t received any sort of warning. I just logged in for my usualReddit skimming and saw the note. Spamming? I didn’t consider myself a “spammer.” It must be some kind of mistake, I thought. Or maybe someone hacked my account and did something awful (although I found no obvious evidence of that in my Reddit history). I responded immediately, but tried to keep it civil.

The humbling and equally reasonable answer from redditor BeastIntentions:

I’m a latecomer to Reddit and really didn’t start immersing myself in it much until I took on the second full-time job of marketing Knee Deep for Prologue Games. It took about half a year of (it turns out) unwelcome behavior before The Virtual Man smacked me down. I didn’t think of myself as a spammer. Still don’t. I wondered if some troll with a personal grudge against me might’ve flagged me as a spammer. I held onto the hope that this couldn’t possibly be about *me* or how I participated in the community. I felt indignant. My civility wore thin. I wrote back:

No response to that one. But despite my assertion that I’d let it go, I couldn’t. My reporter’s curiosity wouldn’t relent. I pressed further:

A troll didn’t report me, I soon learned. No anonymous human plotted against me. Instead, I was downed by a cyberdrone in Reddit’s anti-spam arsenal and its algorithmic examination:

See, Reddit works best for people who *love* to start threads and comment on all kinds of topics. It is absolutely not a good place to just promote your own projects. They even warn you about that in their terms of service which, of course, I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to when I created my account.

And let’s take a snapshot of my most recent activity about the time my account got suspended for a few days, just to get context. What did the spambot see? This:

Of 14 links in that damning transcript of misdeeds, 13 are about Knee Deep – and they’re not even subtle, offhand plugs. They’re outright “Look at our indie game! Buy it!” blatant propaganda!

Reddit’s best practices post recommends no more than 10 percent of your activity on their site linking directly to your own content.

I’m no mathematician, but my snapshot showed it was obscenely higher than 10 percent. My iPhone calculator tells me it was actually less than 8 percent about anything other than Knee Deep. It’s no wonder I got shut down. I’m now more surprised it took so long for the system to flag me and swat me across the snout with a stern “Bad dev!”

And it’s not as if all that effort to enthusiastically promote the game on Reddit did much good. Even when I spent $20 for a few days with a sponsored link, we only got about 38 clickthroughs.

I feel like I learned at least a little from the disciplinary action. Here’s how my Reddit content activity looked in the aftermath of the three-day suspension:

This time, of 13 posted links, only two are explicitly about Knee Deep. It definitely comes across as less “My project! My project!” and keeps me off the spambot’s radar. That doesn’t mean I’m not still running into trouble with redditors, though. One of my favorite subreddits is FloridaMan. I used to post whatever weird Sunshine State news I could find. Not anymore. Tired of actions like this:

I’d much rather be touched by a robot.

[DEV INTERVIEW] Miku RPG’s Marta Vicario

Marta Vicario and Matt Bailey are partners in DragonEggGames, developing an indie 2D pixel art game called Miku RPG. The player inhabits the role of Hatsune Miku, lost in a digital world, exploring themes of humanity. Vicario was kind enough to share some of her experiences working on the new project.

Q: What inspired the art style of Miku RPG?
A:
The style of the pixel art is inspired mostly by Secret of Mana, which is a game I find absolutely gorgeous.

Q: How did the project start?
A:
The game was started by Matt Bailey a couple of years ago, as a fun little thing to do while studying for his A-Levels. I met him at uni, and was immediately enchanted by his enthusiasm for it. I joined the project shortly after meeting him and, a couple of months later, we decided to take it to the next level, a decision which resulted into Matt rewriting pretty much all of the code he had done before, and me redoing all of his pixel art except for the main character which I believe he did a marvellous job at.

Q: What games inspire your design approach?
A:
Don’t Starve is a big inspiration for me. It reminds me how you can take a simple concept and turn it into something so alive and full of adventure and feeling. Also, very, very addictive.

Q: What’s your guilty gaming pleasure?
A:
I wouldn’t say I have a guilty gaming pleasure as such. I’m probably more addicted to Harvest Moon than I should be, but fortunately for me, I keep my nintendo in Spain (I live in England) and only get to use it when I’m on holidays, so I don’t have the constant temptation next to me all the time. Trust me, I would never get any pixel art done otherwise.



Q: What do you do when you’re not working on games?
A:
I really enjoy doing sport in my free time. When I’m in Spain, I spend a lot of time at the beach or in the sunshine in general, so I enjoy sports like slacklining, rollerblading and swimming. When I’m in England, my choices are more limited by the weather, but I enjoy running and have recently gotten into yoga. I also enjoy crocheting in my free time.

Q: What tools are you using to make Miku RPG?
A: For my pixel art, I use Gimp. I also use the good old pen and paper tool for planning out things and quick pieces of concept art. For the programming side… well, Matt is kind of building his own engine from scratch so he doesn’t really use any “tools” as such. But he uses C++ and OpenGL if that counts as a tool.

Q: What platforms are you developing the game for?
A:
The game is currently being developed on Mac, but it will also be available for Windows and Linux.

Q: When do you plan to release Miku RPG?
A:  
At the minute we are hoping for a late 2017 release. That’s a long time away so it’s not set in stone but I’m confident that we can do this. We are both trying our best.

Q: What methods are you using to market your project?
A:
At the minute we are using Twitter and Instagram for gifs and screenshots, together with the occasional blog and youtube update. We are hoping to be able to attend a gaming conference at some point, but there’s still much to do before we are ready for that.

Q: The main character, Hatsune Miku, is a creation of Crypton Future Media. Are you connected with them?
A: We are not affiliated with Crypton Future Media (the company that owns Miku), however, the usage of this character is possible through a Creative Commons license. This enables us to use the character in a non-commercial manner which is one of the reasons we are planning on releasing this game for free.

Q: Is indie game design your full-time job?
A:
Indie development is not our full-time job (yet). We are both at uni, so we have stages of being able to work on our game a lot (no exams) and hardly being able to work on our game at all (exams). We’ve also just started our year in industry, so we are working full-time as electronic engineers for a year before going back to uni. Fortunately there are no exams this year, but it’s still turning out to be harder than we thought. Weekends are always a great source of time, or at least they are when you don’t have all of your friends and family visit from Spain at the same time. I find that taking at least half an hour to myself every day and making sure I’m going to bed early really helps me stay balanced and motivated. So many game developers brag about how they stay up until so late! I personally much prefer getting an early night and getting up bright and early to get some game dev done before work. Burning myself out usually results in loss of motivation, so I feel like taking care of myself actually helps me achieve more faster.

[DEV INTERVIEW] King Under the Mountain’s Ross Turner

Ross Turner is a software development consultant working on an indie fantasy game called King under the Mountain. He took some time to answer questions about the project, which he expects to release sometime in 2018.

Q: How did Rocket Jump Technology get started? How large (or small) is your dev team?

A: Not as a game developer, but as a private limited company for myself to work as a contractor/consultant in software development – which I’m still doing while developing the game as a hobby project. As with a lot of indie developers, the dream is to doing game dev full time, on my own projects on my own terms. The dev team is technically just myself with freelancers helping out on the more creative side of development – artwork, sound and music.

Q: What role(s) do you play on the dev team?

A: I’m the game designer and programmer, or you could say I’m the project lead. My time is split between game design, engine/code design and implementation, project management of the freelancers, and the all-important marketing.

Q: On its surface, King under the Mountain seems to offer the familiar trope of humans, orcs, and dwarves. What sets it apart?

A: Good question! I think a degree of familiarity with the generic tropes helps a player ease into the world – too many fantasy writers fall into the trap of naming things something weird and wonderful – call an axe an axe, not a b’tach! Having said that, there’s a blend of interesting ideas and lore in the world of King under the Mountain, often inspired from other fantasy settings – humans are not “the average all-rounder race” but in comparison are ruthlessly capitalist and more difficult to play than what are effectively socialist dwarves. Orcs don’t breed but instead grow quickly from spores similar to the WarhammerFantasy setting, and part of the challenge in playing orcs is that they want to (and often do) end up killing each other! Also I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic concept artist on board (Anthony Avon) who’s extremely dedicated to making sure that his dwarves, orcs and humans stand out from the fantasy norm.

Q: What’s the elevator pitch for King Under the Mountain? You know: the line in the design doc to answer the question “Why should this game exist?”

A: It’s the deep simulation-based gameplay of Dwarf Fortress mixed with the approachable visuals and style of Prison Architect, spiced up with touches of The Settlers, Dungeon Keeper and a few of my own unique additions. Also, my biggest problem with this kind of game tends to be that you build this impressive creation of a city/dungeon/fortress only for it to sit languishing on your hard drive for no-one to see. In King under the Mountain, you’ll also lead teams of adventurers (made up of the best and brightest of your settlers) to explore and loot the creations of other players, playing out in turn-based tactical battles like XCOM or Fire Emblem.

Q: When is the game expected to release? And on which platforms?

A: The current plan is to launch a Kickstarter in March 2017, which if successful will follow through to a beta/early access release in March 2018. That sounds like a long time from now, but I believe it’s achievable and realistic, whereas too many kickstarted games promise a launch window relatively soon that ends up being delayed by a year or two.

Q: What tools are you using to make King Under the Mountain?

A: It’s written in Java using the LibGDX cross-platform framework, so technically it’s my own engine. LibGDX does a lot of great things, including automated packaging of sprite sheets. The artists are using Photoshop and Flash due to the vector graphic look, and I use GIMP for bits and pieces of graphic work. I’m also writing my own tools for more specific stuff, like the character asset viewer you can see in some of my recent tweets and dev blogs.

Q: How are you marketing the game?

A: Currently, Twitter and Reddit (r/gamedev) are garnering the biggest interest. At this early stage in the game, I’m mostly posting development blogs and updates to the game’s website, IndieDB, TIG Sourceand the like. Unfortunately, that means I’m really only visible to other game devs rather than my actual market of game players. I’m currently working on getting a professional logo produced and some early gameplay videos, to let me take the game to Steam Greenlight and the wider gaming community. As with most small indie devs, marketing is not only the most difficult part but also the most important!

Q: Is this your only gig or are you developing the game in your spare time while working a day job?

A: The game dev is in my spare time while working as a business software developer, in-between the normal demands of social life, family life and looking after my dog.

Finding the time around a full time job, family life and some semblance of a social life is definitely the most difficult part. My routine is to get up early enough to work on the game for an hour or so, go to work for the day and fit a little in during my lunchtime too. It’s quite the drain that I’m sure I can’t keep up indefinitely, so all my effort is to work towards the goal of raising enough funding to let me work full time on it.

My dog, Charlie, is a cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles and Poodle cross). Although he’s quite lazy we have to find the time to take him for a walk in the daily schedule too! He’s far more popular online than I am – he currently has over 1200 followers on his instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/charlie_cavapoo/

When you compare it to the 100 followers I currently have on Twitter, I should get him to do my online marketing instead! 🙂

Q: What do you want players to take away from their experience with King Under the Mountain?

A: I would love it if those players’ experiences are passed on as in-game stories borne out of the simulation of the game world. The most famous example is the story of “Boatmurdered” from Dwarf Fortress, if I can inspire something similar, I’ll have achieved what I set out to do. I’d also be very happy just for people to have spent as much time enjoying the game as I have making it!

Q: What are your passions when you’re not working on this game?

A: If not this game, gaming in general is my one true passion. I think games where you create rather than destroy are under-represented in the medium, I’m a big fan of Kerbal Space Program and Factorio, where you’re given a bit of a sandbox and you, the player, create things to play with it. That’s one of the pillars of design for King under the Mountain and if I’m lucky enough to make more games after this one, will feature heavily in those too.

Q: Pick one game that really inspires you from a design perspective and explain why.

A: Every iteration of the Civilization series comes to mind – each gameplay element feeds into the larger whole to become this great interlocking set of cogs and gears where no element ends up living in isolation from the rest. This inspires me to ensure every system I design for King under the Mountain feeds back into the others – even something as superficial as the lighting system can feed back into line of sight for characters, growth of plants and mechanics around nocturnal (or underground-dwelling) creatures. I’m also a big believer in Sid Meier’s quote of “A game is a series of interesting choices,” which drives a lot of my game design.

Q: What do you try to avoid in the design or production process?

A: For possibly all game development, and this project specifically, scope creep is the biggest killer to look out for. It’s seductive to keep adding features on top of features which may end up having little impact on the gameplay or player. I’ve given myself a set roadmap to build a minimum vertical slice of the game then build from there. It’s the kind of game which should allow for adding features over time so I hope to get the feedback of the community for what they’d like to see included the most.

I’d also mention that I believe Kickstarter to be much more difficult to “break out” on than the gold rush of a few years ago, where it seemed that all you needed was some impressive concept art and a good pitch to succeed on the platform. For that reason my main goal is to attempt to build up more of a following and have something actually playable before taking it to Kickstarter, the goal of which will be to bring in more creative types for content and allow me to dedicate myself to the project full-time (which will greatly speed up the rate of development!)

Q: Any advice for others who want to become indie developers?

A: Everyone has idea of what they think will be the greatest game ever – you have to find a reason to stay dedicated and finish something through to completion. For me, this game is my dream project and I’m having a lot of fun with it which helps me stay on track. The other side of it is you have to love what you do – if you don’t enjoy programming or art then it’s probably not for you. If you can get past that then go for it, there’s never been a better or easier time to develop games as an indie, the only thing holding you back is yourself.

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[NO MAN’S SKY] Solitude, No. 1


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I told her I’d call.

No, I know, I always tell them I’ll call. I just never do. It’s not me; it’s them. Sometimes I need other people. Mostly, I don’t. Can’t tolerate company. When I can stomach a companion, it’s always short-term. A one-night stand is usually too big a commitment.

So as I left Kika’s at daybreak after Loke Mendehlson’s second-retirement party, I gave her a kiss and said, like I always do: “I’ll call.” But this time I meant it.

She just gave me a smirk, shrugged, and replied, “What makes you think I’ll answer?”

That’s not the moment I became a deep believer in destiny and fate. Still, it’s a close second. No, that moment arrived about an hour later after I’d broken Earth orbit in my little Sol-hopper, bound for Luna to report for a month-long contract job setting up network nodes in the new Grissom colony dome.

The jumper was on autopilot as I mused about the warm smell of Kika’s skin, the bristly fuzz on the left side of her scalp where she shaved her hair for a tattoo of a black dragon, the curve of her shoulder. I listened to instant classical orchestral procgen. Pondered the intricate details of the contract text streaming through the ocular interface. The wormhole, maybe the size of a pinprick, totally escaped my attention.

That little speck on sensors opened my eyes to the truth: we all get what we want in the end, whether we know it or not. Sometimes, we even get what we deserve.

The proximity klaxon didn’t even finish its first warning whoop before the somber gray moon vanished, the HUD blurred to static, and the stars changed. Sparks exploded from the control console, scorching my fingertips and blinding me for a few moments. The little jumper spun like a bullet. As my vision cleared, I dared to nudge the yoke to bring the craft straight once more.

“Armstrong Port Authority, please respond,” I said into the transmitter. No answer. I craned my head to look through the cockpit canopy, back toward where Earth should be. No big blue marble. No Seven Seas. No Kika.

Instead, I saw a brownish-green orb of a world covered with lush jungles. Above it, beams of violet energy lanced between dueling warships of a design I didn’t recognize. They didn’t seem to be from the Stellar Consortium Vanguard or the Parallax Clawed Fist Fleet. It wouldn’t be unheard of for the Consortium and Parallax to slug it out somewhere out on the frontier, of course. Still, open hostilities ceased decades ago.

I couldn’t make sense of my coordinates on the star charts. Nothing about the local astronomy correlated with the onboard data.

No idea where I am. Stuck somewhere with warring factions. No faster-than-light drive. Enough fuel to reach a nearby planet. Basic emergency rations and water in the storage vestibule, enough to keep me alive for a couple of weeks. An exosuit to deal with hazardous conditions – at least for a little while.

I wanted solitude. Guess I got it.

It’s been a long time since I manually landed this boat. I’ll continue this journal if I make it planetside alive.

***

Landed just fine. That’s when the trouble started.

The planet, which I’m calling Requitement, is pleasant enough. Rolling hills of green, trees that seem to have autumn-hued leaves all year round, and the occasional gravity-defying, floating mineral motherlodes. No hostile fauna, but some of the plants want to poison me when I get too close.

As the first night fell over this strange alien landscape, I saw a crimson glow coming from a hillside cave. I checked it out, of course, despite the little voice inside my head screaming that it was a horrible, horrible idea. Or the whispered muttering from my mouth: “This is a horrible, horrible idea.”

I didn’t find a Hellmouth, though. Instead, I found oxide mounds and chemical pools that could prove useful. I readied the multitool from my pack, switching to the mining laser setting. Fired at one of the iron nodes.

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And that’s when the sentinel went apeshit.

I’d seen these little floating robots earlier. One had scanned me, paying no mind to social contracts or personal space. I brushed it off as an annoyance. Eventually, it whirred away. But now it was back and it really didn’t like the fact that I’d chipped off some metal from that particular boulder.

Turns out, the sentinels have guns and they’ll use them without any warning.

Also, they can call for back up.

I ran, screaming, deeper into the cave – all too aware that I wasn’t sure I’d find another way out.

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[KNEE DEEP] Stop the presses: Meet Dan Osborne

Dan Osborne plays Jack Bellet in Knee Deep.


Dan Osborne of Indianapolis, Ind., provides the voice of cranky newspaper reporter Jack Bellet in the swamp noir adventure Knee Deep. He shared with us some answers to questions about his career and his experiences working on the project.

Q: How’d you get started in voice acting?

A: I was in radio for over 20 years and decided to take coaching/acting lessons and expand my knowledge of the business.

Q: Favorite VO project, aside from Knee Deep?

A: Character voices of some old games like the hunter on Deer Hunter 5 and Outback Jack on Alaska Outback. Walmart grapes commercial, the voice of the 2015 Aruba tourism campaign, and Colts and Jets narration projects. I also narrated a documentary on the Whiskey Runners of Templeton, Iowa.

Q: Most important thing for an aspiring voice actor to remember?

A: Stay current, accept advice, get a coach. Leave your ego at the studio door.

Q: What made Knee Deep different?

A: It’s always tough doing characters when you are unaware of the reaction of the characters you are interacting with in the game, but that’s how a lot of games get done. You have to rely heavily on the director to understand the other parts and trust that he/she knows exactly how you want your character to respond to that particular moment.

Q: What appealed to you about Jack Bellet?

A: The acting was not a stretch. It called for a smart ass with sardonic wit and attitude – ME ME ME!

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[REVIEW] The joke’s on us, America

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Look past all the gee-whiz special effects and the unnecessarily convoluted plot and Suicide Squad is a colorful political allegory in which someone rebellious, with a fondness for red (pink?), white, and blue and ambitions to help those in need, is seduced by a lunatic thug with weird hair and a lot of love for himself.

It’s a warning to us all.

Are we listening? Guess we’ll find out in November.

Meanwhile, this is a fun popcorn flick if you turn your brain off and just go along for the ride. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot are the highlights, but Jay Hernandez is also really good as Diablo. And never mess with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller: she will wreck you.

Jared Leto’s Joker was mostly forgettable, which I suppose is preferable to being memorable for all the wrong reasons. I hope they go a new direction with the character in Harley’s spinoff movie.

 

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[DEV INTERVIEW] The Mind’s Eclipse’s Donald Campbell

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The Mind’s Eclipse is a stylistic visual novel told with text and stark black-and-white imagery by an indie dev team from Durham, N.C. It’s due out this fall. The team’s leader, Donald Campbell, took the time to answer some questions about their project.

Q: What’s the premise of The Mind’s Eclipse?

A: The Mind’s Eclipse details one man’s journey to find his family in the aftermath of a technological catastrophe. With a large focus on narrative, the game’s story unfolds via beautiful hand-drawn scenes, engaging dialogue, and uncovering hidden messages left behind by those that came before you.

Q: How has the story evolved? Did it start with a plot, a single line of dialogue, a vision in your mind?

A: The concept for The Mind’s Eclipse started a couple of years ago when I was writing some short stories. I had ideas for two separate science fiction shorts. When I decided to make a video game, I took the basic concepts from these and combined them into something grander. Very quickly, I realized that I would need help, so I enlisted Chris (Howell) and Langdon (Herrick) to help make this a reality. When they came onto the project, they really helped to show me the story I was trying to tell. They helped to make this monster of a sci-fi opera simpler and more relatable.

Q: What inspired the pen-and-ink visual style?

A: I love black and white photography and reading black and white graphic novels. When you take out the flash and distraction of color, you can really boil a scene down and ask “Ok, what are we really trying to say with this scene? What are we trying to communicate to the player?” The minimalist style has us make some hard decisions when it comes time to compose those scenes, but I think the overall experience is better for the player.

Q: What tools are you using to build the game? (Engine, art software, etc.)

A.

  1. Ren’Py – an open source visual novel engine.
  2. Tears.
  3. And probably some Photoshop.

But for those really curious – Ren’Py (Engine), Photoshop (Char/BG), Pixelmator (BG), Affinity Designer (UI), IMovie/SonyMovieStudio (Trailers), Ableton Live (Sound/Music), Google Docs(Story), Trello (Project Management), Pencil/Paper (concept art). I think that covers it. 😉

Q: How big is your indie team? How did the team come together?

A: There’s five of us now. I had this crazy idea to make a short story into a video game, but I wanted some help to make it as good as possible, so I just went out and asked people “Hey, you wanna make a video game?” I think it worked out pretty well. We’ve got some really talented people working on this.

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Q: I’ve seen the game compared to Infocom’s classic “A Mind Forever Voyaging.” Was that sort of game an inspiration for The Mind’s Eclipse?

A: Actually, no. I had not heard of this game until after we launched to Greenlight. Another misconception is that we were inspired by System Shock or SOMA. None of us had played those games until we were far along into development. I went back and played these two after getting some feedback from fans for the very early builds. It’s fun to see how writers approach similar science fiction topics from different angles. I hope to play “A Mind Forever Voyaging” in the future, though.

Q: What video game has left the most lasting impression on you?

A: Homeworld. Love the gameplay, the spaceship design, and the little narrative bits at the beginning of the game. I remember the first time I watched that opening cutscene. Very powerful.

Q: What did you learn during the Steam Greenlight process?

A: I think we were atypical of a lot of indie games. We were greenlit in about 1 week which is crazy when you think of some of the other great projects out there that are taking longer.

However, I believe our visual art style really helped us stand out on the main page and reinforces the idea that people love to see something unique, especially in this increasingly crowded space. In terms of the visual novel genre, I really do think that we are making something special when you take a look at the vast majority of the other visual novels being placed on Steam.

We made a really entertaining (and short) video that did a great job communicating to people the tone of the game and what gameplay to expect. This is crucial since (supposedly) the time people spend on your Greenlight page is very, very short.

We tried our hardest to get press coverage and YouTube Let’s Plays during the Greenlight week. We went as far as to get an article on Kotaku and a nice 10 minute mention on theMature Gamer Podcast (UK). These things really helped drive traffic to our page after the first couple of days when traffic slows to a halt.

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Q: How have you been marketing the game in the lead-up to launch?

A: Social Media, Social Media, and Social Media.

Like the vast majority of indie devs, we need to do this better. We have a strong Twitter presence, and I constantly tell the team to go out there and “share, share, share.”

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We also love a face to face interaction with our fans, so we travel to conferences. We were recently at the East Coast Gaming Conference in Raleigh. This was the same week as our Greenlight launch. We wore shirts with COSy’s face and handed out flyers about our game. You have to do this stuff or no one is going to know about your game.

We will be attending Gameacon in Atlantic City in October. We’ll have a booth and physical copies of The Mind’s Eclipse Demo available as take-homes.

Q: How do you think AI will change the way our world works in the next two decades?

A: I’m not altogether sure. But I do have an idea about the Eclipse. You’ll just need to play our game this fall to see it. 

Wes Platt is the lead writer/designer for Prologue Games. Their first game, an episodic narrative adventure called Knee Deep, launched its final act on Steam in March. Before that, he was a professional journalist for the St. Petersburg Times and Durham’s Herald-Sun. He designed collaborative real-time adventures at OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro, and Necromundus for players at jointhesaga.com. He also worked as a design lead on Fallen Earth, a post-apocalyptic MMORPG, from 2006-2010. He’s on Twitter at @DougPiranha. Reach via email at wes@prologuegames.com.

Act 3 Screenshot - The Murk Final

[KNEE DEEP] Official Fiction No. 2: The Long Haul

Act 3 Screenshot - The Murk FinalAs a reward for our players posting 75 Steam reviews about the game, we’re sharing a bit of Knee Deep fiction. The next official fiction piece will be released after we hit 100 reviews on Steam. Enjoy!

The agent sitting across from K.C. Gaddis sips his coffee. He sets the cup down next to a manila folder. His partner, the woman with the no-nonsense ponytail and short-clipped fingernails, presses her hands on the table in the interrogation room.

“Tell us more about your father’s dealings with the Church of Us,” she says.

Gaddis doesn’t look at her. Keeps his eyes on the gray porkpie hat resting on the table in front of him. “No,” he says.

“C’mon, Mr. Gaddis,” the male agent says. The cup’s got a motto on it: WORLD’S BEST WAFFLES. “It’s relevant to our investigation.”

“Is it?” The private investigator gives a dark chuckle. “Dad’s dead. Been dead a long time.”

The female agent stands straight, crosses her arms, and paces behind the detective’s chair. “Motive, Mr. Gaddis.”

Gaddis rolls his eyes. He sees her in the mirror on the wall behind her partner. She’s stopped now, scowling down at him. “Oh, give me a break. I didn’t kill the guy. Certainly not over Dad.”

The manila folder opens. Slender fingers pluck out a photocopied page. The male agent says, “We’ve got the incident report from 1980, when he killed himself.” He slides the paper across the table to Gaddis. “You talked to Cypress Knee’s police chief at the time.”

“Chief Groves,” Gaddis replies. He moves the porkpie so it’s on top of the paper. “So what?”

The male agent shrugs. “Your father sank a lot of cash into the Church of Us. Nearly cost your mother the house. You’d taken, what, two part-time jobs to help the family survive?”

“Three if you count the paper route for the Notice,” the detective says. “But that was decades ago. A long time before I met the vic. As far as I know, the church reps who got their claws into Dad are still out there, scamming people left and right with their crazy cult religion.”

“Still,” the female agent says, “you’ve clashed with him before. Maybe he just made a convenient target for a lot of pent-up rage.”

Gaddis shakes his head, letting out a sigh as he laces his fingers together. “You’re fishing, lady. Maybe it makes a convincing story for you two, but I don’t have much stomach for killing, even in anger. I just want to do my job and get paid.”

“So you must really be mad about your gig going south,” the guy with the waffle cup says.

“How does that go to motive?” Gaddis asks. “That was after our pal died. Donovan Miller delivered that news. Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to shoot the messenger?”

The woman rounds the corner to the other side of the table to stand next to her partner. “Crimes of passion don’t always make sense. You’re an ex-cop. You know that.”

“Wrong,” Gaddis says. “They’re usually pretty clear, unless the perp’s a nut. She left me. No one else can have her. He called me a chicken. He cut me off in traffic. Everybody’s got their reasons. And even if the killer’s a lunatic, they’ve got some kind of twisted logic at work. So let’s cut through the bullshit, all right?” He slides the chair back, stands, and picks his hat up off the table. “I’m done answering questions. I’m done listening to you accuse me of a murder I didn’t commit. It’s been a long goddamned couple of days. I doubt I’ll ever get this swamp stink out. I want a shower. I want a lawyer. I’m done here.”

The man clears his throat. He rests a palm on the folder. Looks toward his partner. She shrugs. He says, “That’s the thing, Mr. Gaddis. You’re not done here. Not by a sight.”

“Excuse me?” Gaddis frowns. He jabs a finger at the agent. “I know my rights.”

The woman offers a thin smile. Crosses her arms again. “They don’t apply here,” she says.

“That’s kidnapping,” Gaddis replies.

“More like protective custody,” the man says.

“Bullshit. I don’t need your protection.”

“We’re not protecting you,” the woman says, her smile fading.

“So you might as well get comfortable, Mr. Gaddis,” the man suggests. He raises the waffle tribute cup in a grim salute. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

krall

[REVIEW] Beam me back up, Scotty

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I confess: I went into Star Trek Beyond ready to hate, hate, hate it.

I’m one of those people that didn’t like Star Trek Into Darkness, of course. So my expectations for this third outing of the rebooted Enterprise crew were inherently low.

But, another confession: I wanted to love, love, love it – because this franchise celebrates its 50th birthday in September, just like me.

Now I want to thank director Justin Lin and the cast and crew for a rip-roaring ride of a birthday present. Star Trek Beyond features dizzying space combat sequences, a relentless and motivated villain, and opportunities for every member of the crew (new and old) to act like heroes as they play to their strengths.

The most cringe-worthy moment of the movie – using Beastie Boys music as a weapon – also worked out as one of the most gratifying.

Can’t wait to see it again.