Kicking ass and making games.


I’ve been itching for some creativity. Maybe it’s the warmer weather, or shipping half a dozen titles in roughly the past two months, but more and more I find myself thinking back to the projects and experiments I’d fit into my after hours. Surely there’s a way to fit this outlet into my currently overburdened schedule?

Fast forward a week or two to finding myself with the latest Unity release loaded up my machine, several resurrected lists of long-standing design concepts, some inspiring lectures from Coursera running in the background, and my head swirling with the “What now?”

I find myself honing in on one tangible event that helped to reignite this drive…

…The Leveling Guild


This actually seems like such a small and trivial thing, but every time I think about it I get all warm and fuzzy inside. Let me set the stage: One of our clients relies on an internal standardized document for defining and tracking curricular progress within their games. This happens to be called the “Leveling Guide”. Now enter the outsourced QA team who, although they do an amazing and often thankless job testing and verifying every minutia of these documents, can be prone to the occasional typo. Do you see where this is headed?

When the first bug concerning the “Leveling Guild” came in I was already in that fevered just-one-more-bug game-shipping mentality, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to assign it over to my lead engineer with some additional narrative, a la an adventuring party sitting down at the GM’s kitchen table to kick off what would become the most epic adventure for which to roll dice.

As you enter the Tilted Inn, home of the Leveling Guild, you note the entire space is encased in stone, darkened by the oversized hearth fighting to contain a roaring fire. The few patrons seated at the bar and the few ramshackle tables scattered about ignore you… Save one.

“Game! Tell me again how many constellations per question you see?” the bartender says with a gruffish and menacingly sarcastic tone as he stares you down.

What do you do?

Okay, so it’s not as epic as my memory makes it out to be. But it was fun. Really fun. It had been so long since I’d actually written any narrative at this point that just this fifteen minute escape was enough to keep me thinking on it, and thinking on it.

That was in December. Now, just imagine how elated I was (literally that smile at a joke only you know, the one you can’t put away even if you want to), three months later, when a different bug, for a different project, unknowingly championing that same Leveling Guild showed up in my queue. Too good to pass up. This epic was showing signs of growing to something approaching epicness.

After many months adventuring far afield, you once again set foot in the familiar surroundings of the Leveling Guild. On the surface not much appears to have changed, until you take note that several tables have been hastily pulled away from the back wall, the dust previously coating their surface disturbed.

Stepping close you feel you almost see a slight shimmer in the wall. Shrugging it off as a side effect of the ale you had been consuming during your long journey you lean in… perhaps a little too far. As your head sways against what should be the wall the beaten wood and rusted nails fade away and you find yourself looking down the icy slope of a mountain, lined with pennants and flags.

Startled, you turn around, greeted once again by the familiar Guild surroundings. Surely something is not as it should be.

What do you do?

As I noted above, these examples aren’t necessarily anything special, and didn’t require much thought or creativity, but they were enough to help turn that spark into a fire and to remind me how much I love writing. Even though I’ve never really made any singularly large creative writing effort, say towards a novel, or short story. Even though I never really studied it. In fact, when I sought out a creative writing course in college, which involved sharing some of my past work (song lyrics), the professor looked me in the eye and retorted “Have you ever read any poetry?”

Back when we did more story-based handheld kids games I would often get involved in either writing or editing the games’ scripts. It was something I really enjoyed, and something I believe myself to be pretty good at. I miss that, and the Leveling Guild reminded me of just how much. That is why I chose my first creative experiment as a contribution to this love of story and writing.

In the past I’ve used FinalDraft, which is a great piece of software but the interface feels archaic. Plus it’s a real drain on the wallet to keep it up to date when I might only use it once or twice a year. More recently I had been using Celtx, which has the benefit that it’s free. Unfortunately, looking at the site now, that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. I don’t mind paying for it, if it’s something I use often, but in this case maybe I should just make my own!

Once all of this had percolated long enough I decided I had found the perfect opportunity to spend some time getting caught up with HTML5, CSS3, and modern JavaScript. Web development is something I used to do quite a bit of, and similarly enjoyed (though the dev more than the design), but it’s been years since I’ve really had a chance to play with this stuff and even longer since I had built anything from scratch. There’s some pretty cool interactive stuff going on out there these days, and some great opportunities for gaming. I decided to get my toes wet with an online script and screenplay editor which, over the past week, has developed into Scripter. I’m tracking a number of bugs and features (including some more guidance) but I’m pretty pleased with what came out of a few days of tinkering, a lot of API catchup, and less than 450 lines of combined HTML, CSS, and (super expanded for readability) JavaScript.



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