Ghost in the Profit

There were eight people in the theater when my Dad and I went to see Ghost in the Shell’s live action adaptation. For some reason nearly every showing is in 3D, which doesn’t actually hurt this slow burning production. I know – slow burning action movie, right? GITS has a ponderous, ruminating pace that allows for instances of intense cyborg combat and deep introspection. The Major, aka Makoto Kusanagi isn’t a deep feeling sort; but is troubled by a past she is at odds with.

Mira Killian (…how subtle a name is that for a weaponized prosthetic body user?) on the other hand has falsified memories and serious mistrust of nearly all authority figures. She’s inexperienced, impatient and a perplexing mix of two movies and fifty two episodes of very differently paced story. She’s an action hero with programmable motivations, and… it isn’t long before the fascination of all the cybernetics wears off, and you realize just how watered down everything is.

The 1996 animated feature had deep introspective conversations about the nature of living things, and though it was also light on word count, maybe I’m spoiled by the quality of translations. This movie had dull writing, dumbed down for the North American target audience, and it was not welcome. Oh yes, the visual effects were spectacular, and deserve some kind of award. Too bad the movie was ten years too late to grab any attention. Culturally we’re tired of Anime’s ‘everything goes’ morality.

It was a good movie; the acting was good, the music was… forgettable, but there was a massive disconnect between the world and the characters that lived in it. Instead of a hero’s rise, which is what this was supposed to be about, it felt like Makoto was settling for something other than obscurity. Were the producers and directors so afraid of offending people that they watered down the transhumanist convolution to a piddling tale of phantom body syndrome? Pretty much, even though Mira is a fairly good match for Makoto, she’s not at her level of expertise, skill and professionalism.

Too much, too late, and more static than is necessary about a movie that wouldn’t even dare take a chance to make a real point about its source material so people could be offended. Here’s looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy 2!

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Bold Curves now available @ Amazon KPD

I’ve been a busy little bee, haven’t I? Bold Curves can be purchased at Amazon in ebook and paperback form now, so do check it out. I’ve tweaked any issues I found in the Smashwords edition.

Also, I’ll be publishing another collection that features Every One Fight, Sector Bomb and some previously unpublished related short stories as Whitegraft Musings. As I’m value conscious, I realized Every One Fight wasn’t a good deal on its own. Keep an eye on this blog or my Patreon for more information.

If you’d like to see into my creative process, I’m posting pre-release artwork accessible to backers.

Ta for now~!

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Starlit Ruins – Published @ Smashwords

Sailor Rifts lives on in eBook form as Starlit Ruins, a free download at Smashwords. Maybe I’ll just answer the questions I think you’ll ask, right now?

What is it?
Palladium Rifts and I have a history. It was my first experience with intense story feedback; facial expressions are powerful indicators. So I used my fandom to lead them through a rescue mission of no less than the Bishoujo Sailor Senshi. This is that ‘infamous’ fanfiction novel I called a darkfic, back then.

Why re-release it now?
It kept nagging at me. Really. Over the course of two years I worked at it in fits and starts. I’d pour over a chapter and tear apart some dialogue here, realize I used “realize” far too often. I made all kinds of mistakes one does, inexperienced. It wasn’t done right, or justice.

Where can I get it, how much does it cost?
It’s free. You can download it from Smashwords directly, or from iTunes, the Kindle Store and more. Follow the link and grab your copy in your preferred format.


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So White and the Seven Dopes

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Writing, Music, Reviews and HonestGamers.com

Where have I been since the beginning of the month? Waiting for Paypal, mostly. Nonetheless, I’m back, and I’ve been busily writing, studying, working on music and reviewing games. Here’s a breakdown with links (which open in a new window):

Reviews

Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)
The Wii was never a doomed platform; it sparkles with possibility and is home to some of gaming’s most iconic motion controls. Well, the controls that people actually enjoyed. Masahiro Sakurai took the road less traveled, however: There are no motion controls in Epic Yarn. [Read More @ HonestGamers.com]

Chocobo Racing (PSX)
About the last thing I expected from Chocobo Racing’s stuttery menu was a thoroughly enjoyable story mode and racing well tuned enough to warrant many playthroughs. And competition with friends. And more playthroughs. Chocobo Racing could have one of the best story modes of any racer I’ve ever played. [Read More @ HonestGamers.com]

Final Fantasy IX (Steam/Windows)
There’s a monkey in 18th century finery who’s going to try and steal your heart, but not before Vivi clambers into it. Romance is the language of Final Fantasy IX, and a happy-go-lucky attitude is its vehicle. IX is Shakespearean in more than its presentation; after the consequences of war, genocide and the subjugation of races are the stage for presentations of human truths and nature. [Read More @ HonestGamers.com]

Music

Remasters at Soundcloud
I’ve been remastering a selection of classic tracked mods for an upcoming album, and posting the pre-release results on Soundcloud. 1998: Sailor Rifts HD sounds pretty good …. pretty much the way I always thought it should sound, but could never accomplish with an eight channel module. I’ve released the aforementioned and: T2K Sugar & Spice HD and Cold Effects HD. [Hastypixels @ Soundcloud]

Writing

Sliver of Light
Still in progress and week by week the manuscript nears completion. If there’s any development, you’ll see it here first. My Patreon’s a little on the quiet side, but I’m still working on what to make “exclusive”. In the mean time, I’m just doing what I do. Once again, thank you for your links, feedback and time!

Be safe, friends.

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Filed under digital publishing, gaming, marketing, promotion, review, trideja

Chrono Trigger – The Underdog

This article was originally featured at HonestGamers.com

Where I Began
I have a vague recollection of the first time I picked up a Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller that vaulted me into Chrono’s distinctive reality. Memory can be vague, and I could imagine that it was in the company of a friend, or with a “Rental” sticker on the cartridge; perhaps it was the time I relived the adventure in retelling to another Role Playing Game fan who had yet to discover the ground breaking, time travelling tale.

That is perhaps part of the inspiration for Chrono Trigger, I could easily ascribe such, logically. However, my experience with the game was probably not much different than yours. I ran around, stole lunches, drank competitively, beat up a robot; checked on the girl I’d knock over first and definitely did not wait around for her to decide what candy she wanted.

Then I was judged summarily guilty as a subversive terrorist against the Kingdom and locked up in a tower. What a morning! To suggest I wasn’t have a great time would be a mistake, even though I learned, much to my chagrin, that the game was taking notes about my choices. That there were tangible consequences to my actions was a lesson I did not forget.

I didn’t care for a second that it was genius world building, mechanics-in-story seamlessly interwoven. This is a game that defined how time travel mechanics, world building and character design needed to work. No one aspect of its design received less attention than any other, and this is apparent even in detailed analysis.

Chrono Trigger is a masterwork of pixel art, eight channel orchestral character themes, strategic turn based combat and some of the most memorable characters you’re ever likely to meet. With character designs by Akira Toriyama, music by Yasanori Mitsuda and Nobou Uematsu, this is no doubt the console’s most ambitious title. Many of RPG gamings most familiar tropes got their start here, even if it did not originate them.

A Fantasy of Power
Chrono Trigger’s defining quality is its ability to allow you to become invested in your choices. Even if you don’t care, personally, for Marle, the rudderless princess you knock over, concern for her life and your impact upon it places you squarely in the middle of events. Your personal involvement with each of the characters not only dictates how much work you put into them, it also determines the outcome of the game.

To quote Nick Fury, “Ever been in a war, Councilman? Did you feel an over-abundance of control?” Each choice you make has an ever outward scaling knock-on effect that draws you to an apocalyptic conclusion seemingly beyond your control. You can escape death, rescue the princess, thwart the tyrant and even befriend the monster, but can you prevent the destruction of all humanity? Perhaps the ultimate answer we seek is addressed by Chrono Trigger: We can decide the outcome of the future.

Grandmastery
The heads of the creative team behind Trigger are considered grandmasters of their respective art. Their music, character design, pixel art and world design have inspired countless people to try their own hand at it. I submit there is no greater achievement than that. Let us not forget that the programmers also achieved an incredible feat on the aging console.

I remember being astounded that I could talk to someone and then run around the screen with the dialogue page still on screen. At the time I called it “multitasking”, though in truth it’s probably closer to task switching. Ever the techhead, I was impressed at the performance of that little grey box. Spell effects were impressive, many of which filled the screen in a showy fashion not before thought possible.

To say that these developers and creators were at the top of their craft is a fact, and they pushed the SNES to its limits and proved it still could awe the fans … without the use of any in-cart accelerators, I might add. There is no substitute for creative talent, and Chrono Trigger stands as a testament to that fact. So why is it so easily overlooked?

Progression and Heroism
I stared in heartbroken awe as Chrono’s sixteen pixel tall figure was disintegrated by Lavos’ vicious attack. Then, as Undertale would say, I was “filled with determination”. I had rescued Marle from death, and didn’t believe for a moment that he would succumb. I knew in advance that he was locked as the first party member for a reason.

It wasn’t cynical anticipation; I knew something terrible was going to happen. I’d watched games try new things and was curious what was next. Excitement may be a strange attribution to player death, but I trusted Chrono Trigger to continue to give me choices. When given the opportunity to restore the timeline, I got right to it. I know now I didn’t have to bring him back, but here’s the thing: When I play Chrono Trigger, I can’t bring myself not to.

I feel obligated to bring order back, to restore what is ruined, to vanquish darkness and win the day. I know it stems from the deeply rooted sense of right I have within me, and here’s something else: I’ll never try to get any of the other endings. Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

Your Ending
There are thirteen distinct endings in Chrono Trigger, and each can be effortlessly pursued thanks to New Game+, which grants you all of your prior equipment. You can defeat Lavos at less than half of your party’s maximum strength. That is a clever hint; all of the game’s potential has not been exhausted, and neither has yours.

In 1995, no one was told Chrono Trigger had multiple endings. The Internet was slow and communication was sluggish and not centralized. Translation: We didn’t have Facebook, Skype, Discord or any social media forum of significance. I don’t know how long it took for word to get around about alternate endings, but our perception of the game as complete was transformed. I didn’t have access to Chrono Trigger to explore the other endings, so for me, it was, but I don’t recall wanting very much to pursue them.

Did I find the man in the spacesuit underwhelming? Mechanically, not at all. “Core Lavos” can still be a tough fight if you’re not on your toes or privy to its defenses. Akira’s designs have a tendency toward silliness, so I wasn’t exactly surprised. Defeating Lavos, though, isn’t the point of the game.

Cause Without Root
The emotional resonance we talk about as reviewers, players and critics, is a blustery way of saying “I felt that.” Determination to win was what the characters, quests, music and art gave me. I remember feeling joyous – happy-sad – when Marle was re-united with Chrono. It may be ironic that Chrono Trigger doesn’t have a lot of emotional resonance.

All of its storytelling force comes from its ability to make you want to complete the goals that you own. They aren’t your goals; they’re preset, and can be broken down into a flow chart of relatively simple cause and effect events. We know that doesn’t lessen their meaning, because we make simple choices all the time. The difference is we get to see the resolution, or conflict, that comes of those choices in a short time frame.

Stories struggle with multi-universe scenarios. Chrono Trigger’s successor, though not direct sequel, Chrono Cross, is a branch of that narrative root. Players, when presented with forty characters to chose from, would chose not to play the game. Would a direct sequel have worked better? Would it even have been possible? I doubt it; other games have tried to recapture the magic and been panned in the attempt by critics and fans alike.

Chrono Trigger speaks to the power of our choices, and the uncertainty of consequence. Perhaps if it had just one ending, it would be more favourably regarded. It does not pretend that your choices do not matter; that there is only one possible outcome. It takes a risk and entrusts you with the fate of everyone within its world.

Why do I call this an underdog? Chrono Trigger changed how RPGs played and our expectations. It is easily glossed over as one of the best RPGs of all time, possibly because of its signature art style and narrative themes. When the world had moved on to Final Fantasy Tactics, critics still recognized Chrono Trigger’s deeper influence.

Is it preservation that has caused Squaresoft, and now Square Enix, to shut down every reinterpretation of its work? Three dimensional worlds do not suffice, novels of great respect, nor even a modest upscaling or remastering of the original assets behoove. Their narrow path of marketing does seem puzzling in the face of so many remasters of their other franchises. Let’s wrap this up.

Conclusion: Infinite Inventory
Chrono Trigger is a seminal classic. It has a novel presentation that relates the power and powerlessness of choice. Its music is some of the industry’s finest, and extolled strong female characters well before it became an industry focus, thanks to Lara Croft (also released in 1995). It continues to sell in a largely unmodified form, ported to many platforms.

It’s greatest weaknesses are indeed simple: Akira’s particular art style may just rub you the wrong way; the main storyline is uncharacteristically short. Some music themes can overstay their welcome, rarely exceeding a minute in length as was typical of the SNES. Multiple endings can be a chore to pursue.

Nonetheless, this is widely regarded as a must play, and is available on mobile for Android and iOS. If you’re retro-curious, it was also ported to PlayStation One and Nintendo DS with additional features including animated cutscenes, additional endings and more. ‘Nuff said.

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1000 copies and a new manuscript.

So it’s been two years since I self published Every One Fight, Bold Curves, A Thief at the Gala and Sector Bomb. How have my books fared?

Not too badly.

Between them all, just short of 1000 copies have moved across the digital storefronts through which Smashwords distributes my works. I probably avoided looking at those numbers because it’s not a comfortable thing to do. They’re not hundreds of thousands, not even tens. I’m not disappointed.

Consider that there’s been zero dollars spent on my ad campaigns for these books, which were short lived and social media fixated, er … centric. That’s actually a lot of books, and some of you actually keep them in your library. Thank you.

Anyone who follows me here, or on Twitter, may or may not know how much work I’ve been putting into Sliver of Light. I canned the blog “Cobalted” because I needed to rework it, and because I plan to sell it. That’s right, I’m fishing for an Editor. Those sales numbers confirm my suspicion: I’m good, but unrefined.

Like a piece of coal, you know, I need to be compressed … probably a lot … to bring out the inner gem. Oh, that’s … yeah, not inner gem. Lesse … I need to be put under pressure to bring out my best work. I won’t do that to myself; other writers might but I’m not one of those. That’s okay, because I’m also not clinical enough about my own work.

Editors play an important role in the writing world, and they will as long as we write. So, my submission goes out tomorrow to the first publisher on my submissions list (which admittedly is more in my head than it is recorded anywhere). I’ve been updating my Patreon page more than this blog, so be sure to check that out and consider supporting my work if you’re interested.

The numbers say you are, and I like that they are numbers.

While I’m here, I’ll pass along the word that I’ve been game reviews for HonestGamers.com for six months now. I’ll cross post an article about ChronoTrigger as evidence … it’s a nice community and the readership is respectable. What have I covered? Well…

Front Mission Evolved (PC) – Read
Dust: An Eylsian Tale (PC) – Read
Audiosurf (PC) – Read
Audiosurf 2 (PC) – Read
Chroma Squad (PC) – Read
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES) – Read
Final Fantasy IV (PC) – Read
Rogue Legacy (PC) – Read
The Ninja Warriors (SNES) – Read
Half Life 2 (PC) – Read
Skyborn (PC) – Read
Stardew Valley (PC) – Read
Black Mesa (PC) – Read
The Swapper (PC) – Read
Half Life 2: Episode Two (PC) – Read
Guacamelee! Super Tubro Championship Edition (Wii U/PC) – Read
Half Life 2: Episode One (PC) – Read
Front Mission 4 (PC) – Read
Mighty Switch Force! Hose It Down! (PC) – Read
Transistor (PC) – Read
Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed (PC) – Read
Monster Loves You! (PC) – Read
Chocobo Racing (PSX) – Read

Sorry for the backlog! It’s all for your interest, anyway. Enjoy, and take care of yourself.

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Critical About Gaming: Where Do You Draw the Line?

I’ve never killed a man. Not once. Not even accidentally. I’ve hurt people, sometimes intentionally, physically, and emotionally. I make mistakes. I have no desire to hurt even a misogynistic misanthrope like Trump.

My Steam library approaches five hundred titles of which I will play only a portion, but some not ever. Certainly there isn’t enough time in the day to get to them all, even if I were employed gainfully to do so. No, when it comes down to I choose not to be part of certain scenarios and character behaviours.

In my youth I gave death no thought; in Doom demons were slain; in Duke Nukem, mutant cops and aliens; Quake, monsters, and notably, other players. Friends and associates. Capture the flag, shoot anyone who tries to stop you from running away with it. A fair description for a game? Continue reading

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New book listings … Bold Curves, Sector Bomb and A Thief at the Gala

Haven’t been at it for a while on the writing front, but I’m back again with a few updates, so … here we go:

Bold Curves (link) re-published with new content at the humble price of $1 (minimum).
Synopsis: Aaran has a problem with her other self, and overcoming this individual somehow results in her becoming entrusted with the lives of many who cannot otherwise protect themselves. In a post-apocalyptic world survived by a handful of cities and off-planet colonies, Aaran is beset by constant threats against her and her closest allies. She will not be put down, however … 

A Thief at the Gala (link) no change, now listed here. (Free.)
Synopsis: A mysterious crown claiming scrolls, a monster with a taste for ponies! How will Doctor Whooves and Forelock Holmes unearth the truth behind the threat? What is Vallade’s real target and why is he so fascinated with Ditzy Do? 

Every One Fight (link), updated to premium status on Smashwords. (Free.)
Synopsis: Masurani was set to run professionally when her father dies in a terrorist attack. Between puberty and grief she pursues the martial arts only to refuse a invitation to join the government backed KnightsMage. Entrapped by a devious street fighter and forced to turn professional, Petulant promises to reveal the nature of her father’s death, but can she survive this match and learn the truth?

Sector Bomb (link), no change, now listed here. (Free.)
Synopsis: Was it a bomb or magic? Sector 9 is levelled, hundreds dead, thousands injured and in dire need. While the Alliance of Courts decides how best to curtail costs, Representative Castlegar of Whitegraft charges ex-cop Aaran Coates and android associate Buddy Namiki to prevent another attack.

Join me on Twitter for more of this kinda thing.

Enjoy!

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Pre-Post Trump

Trump is the first pure entertainer candidate for President of the United States of America. Building on the lessons learned as owner and participant in World Wrestling Entertainment (National Review, Apr. 4th 2016), he zoned in on how to play the crowd and draw all of the attention to himself. In other, public and private arenas, he would test his theories and formulate his plans (NYMag, Apr. 3rd, 2016).

Meanwhile, in 2014 Trump Stadium filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Does that sound like a man concerned primarily with success? He let it fail and avoided fiscal responsibility. A good man takes the losses with the wins and relies upon experience to be the teacher.

Trump continues to defy convention because he employs his own. The pillar concepts of ‘best’, ‘winning’ and ‘losers’ form a storytelling structure that tell us ‘I’m the best, winning against the losers.’ To understand how he uses them, we need to define them according to his paradigm.

Trump’s Pillar(s)
To determine what is ‘best’ we have only to look at his actions: Avoiding confrontation, positioning himself as the champion and always saying he will do what others cannot. He’s known for headstrong choices lacking savvy and tact, hence his string of business failures that pockmark an otherwise unremarkable career. ‘Best’ is getting what Trump wants.

Politically_Awkward_Donald-Discinclined-400px‘Winning’ has subtleties that reflect the structure of Trump’s thoughts more than they do reality. You see, winning is not accomplishment oriented but praise oriented. Trump had cold parents, and remembers ratings more than any affection on their part. Ratings are double edged but readily available, and having never been scolded effectively, he will do anything for them. ‘Winning’ is attaining praise with very little worry about cultural values and morals.

‘Losers’ is a generic reference for anyone who deserves Trump disapproval for reasons temporary and circumstantial. A valued ally one moment becomes a belittled foe if doing so will improve his notion of ‘best’ or chances of ‘winning’ praise for being who he is. Trump does not present concrete facts about his opponents, but invents them just as a schoolyard bully might. Hard facts would distract from the main event: Trump.

Working Effortlessly
All of his language fixate upon these because that’s how you pitch a concept, it’s how you sell a show. You keep it simple so that it will have broad appeal. You use small words, bold language and exaggerated caricatures. You get personal with the fans and invite them in with largess. They aren’t voters any more, they’re fans, this is zeitgeist. So possessed are they that the impossible is within reach.

Why not? Abraham Lincoln ultimately unified America over slavery, though it took a war to hash things out. Trump has provided all of the stage presence of a man who’s going to war against the government, that he’ll reclaim it and champion his cause by … well, the trouble is he doesn’t have any plans. Just statements.

Wile-E-Coyote-Blueprint-The-Anvil-Drop-Trap_art

This is gonna work.

A real plan is very much a blueprint, unmistakable and believable when read. When broken down – by others, I add – Trump’s ‘plans’ are financially unfeasible, legally irresponsible and are at the minimum unprofessional.

For so much of his campaign, Trump has functioned as one who desires attention and knows how to do very little work to get it. Now that he appears to need to do real work and set aside the bluster, posturing and outright hatred, he has passed off the labour to others.

Make no mistake, Trump understands the Art of the Delegation (not delegates), but even when tasked with the most basic task of learning how the electoral process functions, he has demonstrated zero interest. Rience Priebus has got to be shaking his head. The GOP have been kicking themselves for weeks, mostly into gear, so that they can oppose him in fear of the Republican Apocalypse. Would he destroy the Republican Party? To take them so lightly after a mistake of this caliber is understandable, but also pure folly.

They have not survived worse, but they also would have had to do nothing in order to accept responsibility for Trump’s existence. The divide in the electorate will do more damage than Trump could ever comprehend, which brings me to my point: What does Trump want?

Coming To A Head
We’ve established that he wants attention, and this is the biggest Trumpfiesta of his life, with billions of dollars in free advertizing; I mean, listen to me, will ya? But after that, when the party is over, what will we see that his show has wrought?

Understand that when a man leads he signals to others and asks them to join him. Either you do, or you don’t, based on your assessment of his value to your goals. Trump’s celebrity depends upon this abusive ‘persona’ which he positions as threatening the establishment. ‘Threatening’ is the key word, here.

It’s easy to say he doesn’t care about anyone, that he’s unbalanced and unhinged, but that is far from accurate. Donald J. Trump has decided to put his wants before anyone and tell them they are the most important. POTUS is – in theory and practice – the one who sees the needs of the many and does everything they can do to see them met.

Donald Trump is the sad case for the ruination of the greatest nation on Earth. It is his wake to be dreaded, not the strangely animated features of his coloured face. So help us if his brand of violence sends someone to the hospital, or worse.

So let us respond,

#ForeverHope

#ChooseTheRight

#NotTheMight

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