A Sixth is Done!

With me working a night shift at the moment, finding the time to write has become somewhat easier, and probably explains why I have been able to write so much recently. With nothing to really do in terms of interacting with humans on the “days” off, I’ve been able to spend most of my time writing, whereas I had made very little progress beyond notes in the first six months of the year.

So, I’ve outlined six parts to the story I am writing. It may end up being more, or less by the time it is done, but for now it seems about right. I have just finished part one, and have even dared to send it out to four people to read, all of whom have very different perspectives and experience with this kind of story. I’m currently wondering how much I’ll need to rewrite…

Part one contains the prologue and the following ten chapters. It introduces a few characters, though while my plan was to have just the one protagonist, I’ve grown kinda fond of the old Butler to my main character Wil, and so now I’ve been working in a side story of sorts so that I can return to him throughout the novel – I couldn’t help but constantly think about the effect that Wil would have on his home of Stonewall after he had left. He had quite the responsibility there in his future and now he is gone, unable to fulfill that position.

Anyway, Wil has now left Stonewall, after taking what he took to be a legit route out, though it turned out to be an untrodden and dangerous route that could easily have seen him meet his end. The actual route out, as cryptically hinted at by his Butler, remains locked and unused. Wil is now walking streets that have remained untouched for decades, and is already finding out just how difficult travelling through them can after two days – he is currently lying collapsed and exhausted in a narrow back alley, after running from a member of local fauna. He hasn’t had a drink in two days, and he is about to discover what claustrophobia is. It is night time and he has no light source, and daren’t turn back for fear of bumping into the creature that drove him to his current location.

Lower Stonewall

Angle is a bit wrong on the left rooftop, but it was just a sketch to draw some inspiration from…

I’m not quite sure just how long or short this story will be. So far it seems to be around 80 standard novel pages, which I had intended to probably be half of that. I don’t want to make something too long, but neither do I want to make it so brief that it doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

Describe something to a kid…

This was quite a fun post on a forum I use. Luckily for me, I got there just in time to answer the question of “Describe Red Dead Redemption to a kid”, here is my response:

Son: What’s Red Dead Redemption?

Dad: Well, son, I can see you’ve been looking through Dad’s games! This particular one is 18-rated, so you can’t play it yet!

Son: I know, that’s why I want to play it! All my friends play it.

Dad: Well I’ll tell you about it, but you might find the disc is missing from the case.

Son: So what do you do in it?

Dad: You’re a cowboy, a man with a dark past. You used to run with a gang, meting out vigilante justice on anyone dumb enough to oppose you!

Son: Justice? Sounds cool! Is that with guns and stuff?

Dad: Well, you don’t run with the gang now. You’ve been tasked with hunting down the chief members and bringing them to justice in order to see your family again.

Son: A family? That sounds kind of lame, do you have to look after them?

Dad: Oh no, don’t worry, you get to shoot hundreds of bad cowboys for the first three main chapters of the game before you have to deal with them. Though, you do have to look after them a little when you find them again.

Son: Hmm, I dunno.

Dad: You get to hunt elks, bears and wolves!

Son: Cool! That sounds so cool! Oh man, can I play it, pleeeease?

Dad: You’ve got a good ten years yet before I’ll let you. Or, well, I know, keep up the continued good behaviour and I might let you watch me play it when you’re 12.

Son: Pfft. So,what’s that you’re playing now?

Dad: Oh, it’s Five Finger Fillet 2010, you wouldn’t like it.

Stranded – Review

A while back, I did plan on writing about Dark Souls and such, but I never found the time (probably because 112hrs of said time was spent playing it). However, yesterday I bought a pretty cool little Indie game named “Stranded”, designed by Peter Moorhead (for the rest of the team see www.petermoorhead.com/stranded/), and despite being a much shorter game than the aforementioned behemoth, it is nevertheless a shining example of why I play games.

Stranded_001

Mystery is key in Stranded. The player (gender indeterminate) awakens after having crash landed on an unknown planet, under unknown circumstances, with an unknown amount of time left. Just the kind of situation you wouldn’t want to find yourself in, and not too dissimilar from the time I woke up on a bench next a wood on the outskirts of Cheltenham…

You have no choice but to search your immediate surroundings and try and find a way out of this mess. Luckily, you have 152 oxygen tanks at your disposal, which drop by one a day – all the time in the world, or so you might think.

With limited places to conduct your search, and nothing to call company but a collection of weird golems that watch passively, panic soon sets in over your apparent lack of options.

 

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You can gather from the off that the alien technology around you might hide some hints as to a way out of your situation, but so obtuse are the temples and machines that it feels while the answers are likely there, your human mind keeps them placed just out of reach.

The small size of the world map works fantastically in this regard. Being a game, you are acutely aware that what you need to do is in this area, but the game cleverly drip feeds you information while never fully allowing you to take advantage of what you learn immediately. You’ll slowly walk between the handful of screens many times a day, hoping for perhaps another tidbit of information, a key, a sign, something to give you a sense of control over the situation while listening to the slow rasping of your character’s breath. Combine this with a growing sense of impending doom, and Stranded truly makes you feel afflicted in the way the title suggests. Amazingly enough, Stranded has provided me with one of the few occasions that I can claim to have felt claustrophobia and agoraphobia simultaneously.

 

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Your short tale is presented to you with some astoundingly evocative pixel art, the likes of which I would love to have made myself! Understandably, 2D pixels don’t appeal to everyone, but I wouldn’t want to see Stranded depicted in any other way. Your confines may be small, but variety is in abundance. A broken ship interior, an expansive view over the horizon, a glowing cave, and crumbling temples with strange artifacts inside. There is certainly more than enough here to keep your sense of wonder topped up, and the game effectively doubles your world by bringing in the changes that come with the night, which may drastically alter any conclusions you had reached about the land by day.

Walking hand in hand with the artwork, is a similarly immense soundtrack by s-t-u-x. Setting the mood throughout the game, it also works when it isn’t there! While trekking through screens from left to right, you’ll feel a sudden sense of loss as it comes to an end, forcing you to spend the rest of day searching in silence. The music feels unquestionably lonesome and alien. I would hope that I would be accompanied by such beats should I ever find myself in such a situation in the future. So good were the tracks on offer, that I had no hesitation in purchasing a copy of the soundtrack from the game’s homepage.

 

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Stranded features a very simple control scheme, though despite the simplicity, you are still expected to find out all of the functions for yourself: I had already made it to day two before I discovered that clicking on my astronaut provided me with a map! Use of the map in all screens only seasons the mystery further! Movement is done simply by clicking on the screen to move to the desired location. Interaction is kept to a minimum, which may frustrate gamers looking for more than a story in their digital interaction, but if that is what they need, then there are plenty of other games out there! Stranded’s simplicity works very much in its favour, and extra options would have needlessly complicated the game and diluted the emphasis on solving the puzzle at hand.

Make no mistake, Stranded is a very short game (I took my time and had seen it through in just under an hour), and the price of £5.99 may put you off after hearing that. It is also definitely not a game that will appeal to everyone. There is no hand holding here, just a terrible situation and yourself to deal with it. I do, however, think that it will easily appeal to those that enjoy a good short story, a great atmosphere, love pixel art and are fans of older, retro games. Someone who doesn’t just want to buy the latest shooter, but wants to see that games can be home to an astounding range of experiences.

I consider it £5.99 and 1hr very well spent, and I’ll most certainly play through it again.

 

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P.S. Do NOT mistake it for the dire Christian Slater film that is also named “Stranded”!