Real Life Trails and Star Citizen Update

The Trials of Real Life

At the start of 2019, I had three big goals in mind. Moving to a larger more diverse job market, leaving the Business Intelligence space and completing a novella. Deciding to move away from my family and friends was a hard decision. I’d been wrestling with the idea of moving for a couple of years at least. Establishing a 5-hour drive as the furthest I was willing to go, didn’t leave many cities I had an interest in moving to. And I didn’t really want to be five hours away. I was hoping for three or less. Career-wise,  I was completely burned out in the BI space. Every paycheck felt like blood money with a drip-drip loss of my soul. My third priority was establishing a consistent writing routine to help achieve my dream of completing a novella as a step toward returning to one of my unfinished novels.  Writing fiction is what I want to do in retirement at the latest, achieving it sooner would be awesome.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working on these goals. In March I received a job offer that would move me 3.5 hours away, and take me into the banking industry. The act of moving was crushing. I cried when my middle daughter told me that she was devastated by it. Ugh, that’s the last thing you want to hear from your children, even if they’re grown and starting families of their own. We’re extremely close and it felt like a gut punch to all of us.

It’s nearing the end of September and the goals I set out for 2019 are well underway. I’m still a Product Manager leading software development teams but being in a new vertical market as breathed new life into my day. It’s no less stressful. In fact, some days it’s considerably more worse given the stakes of the solutions I’m managing. However, I enjoy learning new skills and meeting new people. Add to that, I love where I live. I miss my house but adore my apartment – the views, the big open sky, the energy, and convenience. And I rented a place large enough for two sets of my kids to come at the same time and stay here comfortably for the weekend, which they have.

On the writing front, I started a small support group that meets on Monday evenings. I wish I was further along but being 30K words into my novella is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve settled into a routine and have found writing software that works for me. It doesn’t have snazzy features – something I don’t need. I’ve always enjoyed writing in the barebones world of Google Docs.

The issue that StoryShop solved for me, was the tedium of tracking the elements of world-building. I’ve used tables in MS Word, spreadsheets and a custom database, all of which became a distraction after a while. Struggling to find what I called an item, place or minor character 10K words ago often ended in annoyance or continuity issues. Keeping track of ideas for future elements was equally annoying. Oftentimes, struggling with this issue tainted a writing session with frustration. StoryShop isn’t perfect but I really enjoy the features and it’s helped me to keep going. I’m hoping to turn up the volume in the last quarter of the year in order to complete my first draft.

I miss my family. I ache over not being able to see them multiple times a week which was our norm. I hate that I’ve missed birthdays. Unfortunately, driving that distance during the week simply isn’t feasible. However, I do feel blessed that missing my house and family aside, I’m happy where I am, enjoy my new job and have done more writing for a single story than I have in many years. I think this is the first year in many, where I’ve made serious progress on all the goals I’d prioritized at the start. I guess it’s feeling the tick tick of the clock reminding me that I’m not getting any younger. *Smile*

What’s Up Star Citizen?

All of the above means I have very little time for gaming. Additionally, I sometimes have a love-hate affair with the development pace of Star Citizen. I believe in the dream and their continued intent to deliver on what they’ve promised. However, I think there will be compromises that feel painful to some backers in order for this extremely ambitious game to BETA and out as an officially released game. Plus there’s the war of focus between Squadron 42 and the MMO game. Having the number of released ships that are still missing meaningful mechanics does start to grate.

Yet out of the dust storm, they routinely release content that makes your jaw drop which breathes more patience into most of us. I put SC on dark mode when I feel overly annoyed. This is my last hoorah. There aren’t any choices with even half of these features, let alone the ones I’m most interested in consuming. Trolls like to wanker on about sunk cost fallacy but that’s not why we wait. We wait because you can’t point us to a legit alternative. If you could, I’d be playing that in the interim.

The Q2 patch was very very late and for me, the shining star of what was being delivered had to be pushed to a dot release. The granddaddy of luxury ships, the Origin 890 Jump was released a few weeks ago. The first flyable capital ship is a space yacht. It’s 4 levels of enormity. I’m cobbling together an interior map so I can stop wandering around in circles.

The ship is a full-featured luxury experience – Captain’s Quarters, 4 guest suites, 5 crew cabins, galley and rec room for the crew, dining, bar, conference room, saunas, swimming pool, lovely vistas, a and two-level atrium for guests to relax and mingle in. I’m not sure how I feel about owning such a large ship given my playstyle but I’m hoping to host community events for a change of pace. My first use of the ship is as the backdrop for a story I want to write in the SC universe after my novella. The plot is already worked out. It’s what I’ll do in between doing edits on the novella.

My biggest pet peeves about the 890 J are that someone decided that luxury is cold stoic colors and angles. It doesn’t at all match the vibe of the concept images. The whole ship should be styled more like the saunas which is a better representation of the original concept images. Hopefully, we’ll be able to change some aspects of the interior lighting and color themes. Second, it feels like they didn’t bother to check to see if you can actually see that magnificent views when seated in the designated areas around the windows because you can’t. It’s the same thing with the Origin 600 i. You have to stand to see outside which is very very silly. They need to adjust the thick waist high trims and ledges so they don’t block the views. Last is that they didn’t bother adding a large enough landing pad for it at Port Olisar. You can only spawn the 890 at Lorville and Area 18, which is very inconvenient. It also means it can only be fueled at those two locations.  I’ve seen lots of 890s crashing to the surface as they run out of fuel trying to make it down the gravity well to refuel. Then after wasting the long trips to refuel you get to dump 25% of it getting back out of atmo. Grrr. Please fix soon!!

Patch 3.7 is Coming

The Q3 content patch for Star Citizen will finally add something to do on the planets other than FPS and take screenshots. Caves and harvestable items are coming to a planet near us, along with handheld mining tools. I’m the odd type of solo exploration styled gamer who enjoys farming/harvesting in MMOs. I find it a relaxing activity to do at the end of a gaming session to unwind. I often use it as a passive activity to do when I simply want to be in the game world without doing a whole lot of thinking or interacting with others. The items will be rare gems that can be mined, harvestable produce, dropped salvage, etc.

I’m looking forward to having an activity I can do under my own steam and timeline, using any of my ships I want. I remain disappointed that I have 7 flyable ships and only 1 of them has the planned game mechanics – Sabre for combat. Sure we can go do missions to carry crates but that got old a long time ago. Now, if I can reliably relog aboard my ship, a feature that’s supposedly coming in 3.7 – whew, we’re starting to feel like a space MMO.

Related Content


Aly's World EMag - May 2019

As mentioned on Casual Citizen Episode 32, at the end of my content writing cycle, I will produce Casual Citizen or Nightbus, as well as combine all the content into an eBook. In addition to working more on my own fiction, I’m also teaching myself interior book design and self-publishing. This gives me the opportunity to use one of my guilty pleasures toward a future goal. I hope you enjoy.

You can easily find directions on YouTube if you want to actually import the associated format into your Kindle, iPad or Nook. Otherwise, go for the Print or EPUB format.

AVAILABLE FORMATS

As mentioned in the show, I’ll be compiling the content produced during a cycle into an eBook/eMagazine for those who might enjoy reading the articles as chapters with the ability to use bookmarks and whatnot.

eBook Formats

I hope you enjoy.


1 Profession, 2 Ships and Go!

The number of people trying to tell others what they should be enjoying about a game never ceases to amaze me. I find it quite flabbergasting that they’re willing to assume their brand of fun, something so subjective, can be articulated as the one truth.  Worse is that progression in a sandbox game is this, this, and that specifically – no more and no less. Can we get serious here about trying to quantify a single definition of what progression and fun means? Please stop. I’m floored by the proponents of such narrow perspectives and beliefs that don’t allow variation beyond their playstyle. Those for whom having more ships, grinding money, beating others in combat, having the best gear, etc., is perceived as the only possible point of it all. While players who deviate from this so-called “right way to play an MMO” are doing it wrong or are Roleplayers. What the…

There’s so little tolerance in the world, in general. It confounds me that people bring the same problems into a game. An environment designed as entertainment and escape. Instead, they form new battlefields over how to engage in a form of entertainment. I suppose my ‘live and let live’ nature simply can’t comprehend their closed and demanding point of view.

In considering the incessant debates of … Is Star Citizen is P2W cause X, Y, and Z, ‘cuz surely they’re the only things that can matter! The insistence that people who have multiple ships are ruining progression for themselves! Why play if you already own the ships you want? Clearly, there’s only one way to define enjoyment in a sandbox game. If you can’t hear it in my tone, feel free to insert me rolling my eyes and shoving a finger down my throat.

One the back of all this nonsense, I concocted an exercise that illustrates how differently someone such as myself, goes about playing MMOs. To coin an alternate definition of the word, I’m an immersionist. I don’t RP and I have limited enjoyment chasing generic ticks on a list handed out by the game. Having more isn’t the aim, goal or victory. It’s about having a subjective path to a valued journey.

For short periods of time, I live in that world. That is all and that is it. This style doesn’t work for completionists. It certainly doesn’t speak to the killers. Full blown explorer types probably wouldn’t be satisfied. Gregarious social butterflies might find it too demanding. It’s likely a weird combo of a semi-social adventurer. Thinking through all the noise made me wonder what would I do if the pledging had been artificially limited? Would I be as excited? Yes, I would.

One Year. One Profession. Two Ships. Go!

The rule of this musing assumes all professions are released. If for one year, you can only do one profession and only possess two ships, what would your choices be? And no matter how much money you earn, for that year, you can’t buy any additional ships. It’s literally, one year, one profession, two ships and go!

Of the professions I’m most excited about, I think medical will provide me with the most content and group composition diversity.

  • There will be standard fare missions for evenings when I want passive gameplay.
  • Players and NPCs will provide opportunities for small scale ad hoc interactions.
  • Participating in orchestrated and scheduled events will provide large scale content options.

Solo, small group, large group – all available in one profession with two ships.

There are three ships dedicated to the medical profession. The Cutlass Red, RSI Apollo, and Endeavor Hope. There are other ships that have a medbay, but for this exercise, I’m choosing to pick dedicated vessels. Given that the Apollo is a Connie sized ship and only has two crew stations, it will be viable as a solo operation. I imagine myself free-roaming densely populated areas. In particular, locations where FPS missions or PVP skirmishes occur. In those instances, players likely want to return to the action as soon as possible. Unless there’s a medical outpost nearby, a field medic in the area will be considerably faster than seeking attention planetside.

We’ve also been told that there will be missions generated to service NPCs. Accepting missions in the Apollo is precisely my plan for doing causal solo gameplay. This is my preferred M.O. during the workweek. Accept a mission, do the mission, and on to the next, while enjoying the atmosphere of being in that virtual world. For me, this is pleasant, relaxing, low key and avoids trying to coordinate with other players when I’m short on time and patience.

More People. More Risk

The Apollo will also be perfect for small group sessions – structured or ad hoc opportunities with my family, friends or gaming buddies. We can take on relatively safe content via missions in high-security areas or venture off on freelance journeys to where other players become our content pipeline. Outfitted to defend ourselves and with an escort in tow, we can venture into locations where players are participating in FPS or ship combat. Unless there are medical outposts nearby, our services will be more convenient.

With the expanded planetside content, I think FPS will be a staple for some players. Player run outposts, contesting harvestable resources, and bounty work, both the lawman and the target, will provide ample opportunities for an eager field medic.

I can see myself participating in structured combat encounters such as the scenarios Rexilla is popular for orchestrating. Instead of the combatants being sent elsewhere, the Apollo can be located in a no-kill zone where players from both sides can be healed and sent back into the breach.

Big Ship. Carefully Considered Choices.

Lastly, is the hulking Misc Endeavor Hope. A ship I’m only likely to use in high-security areas unless part of a coordinated event. When I’m captaining a ship of this size, I’m after experiencing the top tier interactions for that profession. I’m looking for the contemplative immersion of being aboard a ship of that size, likely crewed with up to a dozen people just to maintain that one ship. I’m not interested in combat or orchestrating external activity such as escorts. I simply want to have fun being a doctor.

In most cases, I’ll float around an armistice zone, acting as a spawn point for players who’ve died and tend to any residual damage.  Players who are arriving at the starbase to conduct business or summon ships can also stop in to have old wounds healed. Much like we repair our ships before heading off to the next adventure, the Hope can do the same for the player character. Here again, if the current travel on planets holds true, my hospital will be considerably more convenient than going planetside just to see a doctor.

If the organization I’m part of is having a large scale skirmish, I would also participate by having the ship close enough to give us the advantage of returning our people back to the fight faster. Of course, this would be the highest risk scenario and I’d expect to have escorts and protectors. If we go boom, we go boom.

Other professions can provide similar diversity in content – game generated versus finding freelance work. A spread of group size – solo, small and large. Opportunities where I can choose to take calculated risks. However, of them, I think medical will be in higher demand.

So with one profession and two ships, I can experience all the facets of gameplay I expect in any MMO, especially ones that lean toward being a sandbox. I don’t care what other players are doing, how many ships they have or how much money they can make in comparison. I focus inwardly on defining strategies that let me be successful in doing whatever content I enjoy most.

It’s Not About the Benjamins

The reason I have so many ships is the result of setting up these options for the professions I’m most interested in experiencing. Whether it’s medical, transportation, data running or exploration, I’ve simply pre-established the scenarios that suit my personal objectives for playing Star Citizen.

Any modern MMO worth its salt should cater to a wide range of player types – social, completionists, adventurers and killers. When, where and how they take risks should never be forced. The content should be compelling enough across all spectrums and the risk versus reward artfully designed, that it entices players to cross their normal boundaries on occasion.

For me, content options are king in MMOs and combat-only scenarios will never be an inducement. This is why I harp on professions. Without them, there’s no content I’m interested in consuming much of. I’m fine with combat being a means to an end, which is all it is for me in games that have levels. But if that’s all you’ve got, you don’t have a game with staying power for my playstyle.

For more details on what we know about the planned medical profession, you can check out a full discussion here.


Roadmap Disappointment

Backing Star Citizen has always been about two things for me. First is traveling and exploring the universe described by the robust lore.  Second is the diversity of player professions which take MMO immersion to a completely different level. In particular, bonafide exploration mechanics, managing large scale food production, commercial transportation, operating a floating hospital, info running, luxury touring and building outposts. These two things combined are the crux and motivation for why I’ve pledged and to the degree that I backed the game.

I’ve played far too many MMOs to be enamored by ground-based missions. I don’t enjoy FPS and I’m bored to tears by the small variety of interactions games with the traditional fetch, find, fight, follow mechanics. I’ve seen it all before. And while I might do them occasionally as part of downtime, it’s not something that excites me outside of my chosen professions.

Before the culling of professions from the first iteration of the 2017 Roadmap, my chief concern was how many star systems we’d have at release. Huge honking planets are appealing to some but I backed a SPACE SIM. Ya know, doing shit aboard my ships. I have very very little interest in running around flat-footed on a planet. Other than base building, farming and sightseeing in the major cities, planetside content simply holds no appeal. But hey, they pulled off the tech to expand the scope of planets, a fact that pleases some backers. It doesn’t however, add a lot of value to those of us who backed to be in space and satisfied with the original scope for planets.

1, 5, 10, 20 or 100 star systems at release, means very little if the vast majority of the player professions are missing in action. This has become my chief concern. The diversity and uniqueness of them lead me to believe they can’t be churned out with the assistance of tools beyond generating missions AFTER the mechanics are in place. We have 15 very specific professions, not including combat and racing, of which the first iteration of two have seen the light of day – cargo hauling and mining. The update for 3.5 saw salvage removed and put into the Q4 2019 release. That gives us another year where only one new player profession was delivered. I think it’s fair to be concerned at this pace, especially if this is the type of content you backed to play. Simply doing the math, this pace doesn’t project a  good outlook for backers waiting to experience these professions for the first time aboard their ships much less, moving from alpha to beta to release. Yes, yes, MMOs are never finished but they do have release dates.

I enjoy watching players making their own content via FPS but I don’t play FPS games and have zero interest in doing that in Star Citizen. The pace and the fact that CR’s discussion about minimum viable product pillars didn’t mention the professions at all, for me at least, is cause for some concern. I wouldn’t say it’s a red flag. We know where they’ve shifted the resources to and why. However, it doesn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy about progress.


Roleplay Versus Immersed

I do not consider myself a roleplayer. I’ve never belonged to a roleplaying group in an MMO. I don’t speak in a particular vernacular or voice. I don’t chat to match the game or my character. My playstyle is what I consider immersion based which is why the avatar matters to me.

When I’m playing the game, I’m not doing anything else but that. I don’t listen to other music. I don’t have the television on in the background. I’m not having side conversations in real life. I’m present, and in the moment with my character. I’m living out her life within the context of that game’s universe. When I’m questing, farming or crafting, I’m carrying out the tasks necessary for that character to survive in that world, and making the decisions I would if it were me. Survive. Thrive.

The more an MMO creates a well-rounded gameplay loop and existence, the more immersed I become. I will always choose to engage in crafting and the economy to earn a living, as most of us are required to do in real life. Doing so contributes greatly to my feeling of being a citizen of that world.

I’ve never had as much fun as a character, as I did in EQ2, with its vast crafting and player housing systems. Or Archeage with land ownership, player housing, farms, and livestock. I adored how those two games, in particular, allowed me to take production mechanics and turn them into full-blown professions. In EQ2 especially, where I went on to form a long list of customers for my interior decorating services which included making custom furniture pieces.

I play MMOs to be part of fantastical worlds and have improbable adventures. I don’t have to be on the hero’s journey. In fact, I’m more enamored by how the everyday person survives than the fabled knight. As such, I consider my gaming style as immersed vs. roleplay. It’s a chief reason why anything that forces me out of the moment is odious and a mechanic I’m going to complain about. That doesn’t mean that I revel in tedium. I’m more than willing to suspend disbelief to improve the overall gameplay experience.

Star Citizen has a fine line to navigate between its simulation asperations and producing fun and engaging experiences. I’m not going to accept “this is realistic” as an excuse when an activity doesn’t add value to my game time in a meaningful way. When a feature or expected task becomes a bothersome cockblock it immediately breaks your immersion. For example, my pet peeve, elevators. I don’t care if they’re not realistic – not logical based on the physical layout of the location. What I care about is standing there wondering why a fake elevator that can only be one floor away is so long. The fact that it’s not “real” is meaningless to me. I’m not scrutinizing a blueprint of the location while I’m playing. It’s that I encounter a fair share of elevators in a gaming session and the annoyance adds up over time and takes me out of the moment.

We have many potentially astounding features coming our way. I’d just like CIG to have a care for when real becomes a distraction or bothersome.


New Faces

Free Fly Success

I didn’t partake in this year’s Anniversary Sale. With the fleet I’ve amassed over the years, it’s going to take a specialized ship to pique my interest enough to swap in something new. Note, swap-in. I’ve hit my ceiling on ship purchases. I know, I’ve said that before but this time I mean it! What I have engaged in as a result of the sale and freefly, is the amazing influx of new players and streamers. It’s easy to spot new and returning players by the questions they ask. I enjoying helping out where I can – sharing information or giving a tour of a ship. It’s great seeing game chat alive with new names.

I’ve watched more SC streams since 3.3.5 than I have in a very long time. I enjoy bopping between my long-time favorites, brand new low view streamers, and the mega Twitch names checking in. I haven’t laughed so hard or screamed at the screen as if watching a spine-tingling movie, as I have the past couple of weeks. Lirik and crew simply had me in stitches. GiantWaffle was definitely entertaining. And the night they played together — my stomach hurt from laughing. At one point I was doubled over on the bed, crying at the hilarity. Seeing streams with 25K viewers that aren’t CIG events — very exciting.

Zyloh made appearances. He was a mole on one stream. Rode with them to Kareah and then turned on his team. Another night he was trying to give Lirik a look at the 600i. Unfortunately, Lirik’s ADD fidget all over the place like he’s tiptoeing on hot coals manner, had him glitching into anything and everything an unlucky player could. At one point, I guess Zyloh was over it and not going back for his dead ass, so he used a dev command to drag him from where he’d resurrected at Lorville over to Port Olisar where the 600i had landed. Comedy gold!

New Faces

If combat is your thing – PVP and FPS, Rexzilla is a good watch. Like all MMOs I’ve played, while I don’t consider myself a PVP player, I will engage if attacked and enjoy watching others do their thing. Whew, they had some hot fights happen at Kareah and over at Jumptown. Very cool stuff to check out if you want to see what kind of impromptu combat can happen even in these early days.

Visiting new streamers is equally entertaining. Seeing their enthusiasm is infectious. Watching their jaws drop approaching Lorville. Their heads explode the first time the EVA. Always grateful to be given help or offered to try a ship they don’t own. Sure, we go in hard on trolls but this is definitely one of the most helpful gaming communities I’ve been a part of. I enjoyed the time I spent with BruceCooper and Harry0. For the first time in a long time, I actually joined a streamer live. We were talking about vehicle types and Bruce hadn’t seen a Dragonfly, so I joined live to spawn one for him. Coasting on a hoverbike on a high fidelity alien planet – that right there can only happen in Star Citizen.

The RP is Real

If you’re interested in watching roleplay in the Star Citizen universe, strong contenders have entered the atmosphere. They’re all new to actually playing but are learning quickly with the help of the community. I’m happily surprised by the enthusiasm and number of RP streamers that have landed. Among my favorites so far are Timmac, PMSProxy, and Koil.

If you’re a long time backer, you know this game isn’t the easiest thing to pick up on your own. Hop in a few new channels to share your knowledge and love for the game. To all the new players and streamers, welcome aboard. Welcome to the community. See ya in the verse.


Squadron 42 All-Star Cast

When you think of the biggest names in Sci-Fi, Mark Hamill would be high on any list. So for him to be only one of the major cast members of Squadron 42 says a lot about how amazing the cast of this game is.

Hamill’s relationship with Chris Roberts spans back to the days of Wing Commander. When he was approached to play ‘Lt. Cdr. Steve ‘Old Man’ Colton’  in Robert’s new single player game, he claims he didn’t even have to read the script to know it would be good. He was there from the moment the game was announced.

This must have helped to some extent. Whilst Hamill alone in any game would be a coup, the casting for Squadron 42 just gets better and better!

  • Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, Dark Knight, The Fifth Element, Bram Stroker’s Dracula) plays Admiral Ernst Bishop.  
  • Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall, American Gods) has been cast as Captain MacLaren
  • Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Sherlock Holmes) voices Captain Thomas Wade
  • John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) plays Randall Graves.
  • Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and probably the biggest name in motion capture technology has been cast as Thul’Óqquray, an alien character who speaks in a fictional language created for Star Citizen.
  • Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) plays Captain Noah White

We haven’t yet been told how big each role will be, but one can assume that casting such huge household names to take part in a game of this size would mean that their parts are substantial.

There are numerous other well-known names cast. At the time of writing,  the IMDB ‘main cast’ list sits at twenty-five people, with ‘Other Cast’  sitting at sixty-one people and rumored to be over one hundred!

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Gaming and Nostalgia

You can’t put a price on recapturing your childhood. The opportunity to relive fond memories or achieve the ones that slipped by is priceless. Our favorite television shows, movies, books, and games from childhood are powerful motivators. We’re more easily tempted to spend disposable income on a second chance with these than trusting the new and unknown. It’s even more compelling when it’s tied to a fond memory. Nostalgia is a powerful drug.

In recent years, we’ve seen re-mastered games and revived IPs top the charts. Even against big, new and shiny, supported by generous marketing budgets, these older and often less sophisticated gaming titles are winning the day. Games like the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Wipeout: Omega Collection and perennially remastered Final Fantasy games are making developers and publishers alike, take a more serious look at reviving successful titles of old. If there are profits, they will build it. In the face of Crash Bandicoot surpassing expectations by a wide margin, Eric Hirshberg, Activision CEO said, “You can be confident there will be more activity like this in the future…”

For the adults of today, the gaming console and PC revolution came at a time when they were young, and in most cases, lacked the funds to invest in the hobby as much as they would have liked. Unless your parents were technology geeks, which mine certainly were not, you were lucky to get a gaming console or personal computer in the first place. And the games for them came at a slow pace – birthdays, holidays and saving up your allowance.

To have a game, you had to buy the game. There were no rental shops. I sound like my grandparents, “I walked to school backward in the snow with no shoes!” The library of games at your disposal was a collection of what you and your besties shared with each other. What you owned, was yours for life if you couldn’t trade it a friend. There was no Game Stop taking in games you’d finished as credit toward purchasing a new one. For most of us, this meant that we didn’t get to play all that we would have if the opportunity to buy more were within our control.

For older adults who’ve squarely settled into the “I’m a gamer” moniker, they will spend big when they have the disposable income to support it. They’re the parents where there are multiple consoles and personal computers outfitted for gaming in our homes. They have enough games to start a rental service of their own. That’s if they’d even consider parting with them and in many cases, they won’t. Their games are stacked on shelves, labeled in boxes, soaking up hard drives and cluttering online digital libraries.

Entertainment is a big business where companies are looking to maximize profits. Funds are allocated to projects that are most likely to succeed in reaching the desired return on investment targets. The trend of capitalizing on nostalgia isn’t new, and it’s a two-way street. Adults with disposable income will throw it at things they’ve enjoyed in the past. Investors are more willing to spend on products that have a proven track record. The aforementioned doesn’t only happen in gaming. We see similar trends in other areas of entertainment such as movies. Like game development, these projects cost millions of dollars from inception to release. Taking a chance on a new unproven IP is a financial risk. If this weren’t the case, we wouldn’t see as many rehashes as we do. Honestly, how many remakes of King Kong does the world need? Planet of the Apes, The 10 Commandments, re-booting Batman again, our favorite comic book heroes starring in the small and the big screen are all predicated on this same trend, as are the proliferation of serialized books and movies. If we liked it once, we’ll take a chance on savoring it again. The money you may not have been allowed to spend back then, you’ll throw at your favorite something now.

Even with new chapters of life added, Legenda of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is appealing to older gamers and their nostalgic love of the franchise. The release of the most recent Zelda title was so successful, that it outsold its primary target console, the Switch, by selling 2.76 million copies as of March 31, 2017. More of the game sold than the console? Yes, enthusiasts are buying multiple copies in households with a single console or buying a copy for the Nintendo Switch and the Wii U. For Nintendo, Breath of the Wild in the U.S. is their fastest-selling release title of all time and fastest-selling game in the history of the Zelda series. That’s the power of nostalgia, something no marketing budget can touch.

The ability for remastered and revived games to beat the competition isn’t confined to new games and IPs. Newer titles with a successful first release and good reviews can falter in a market where reliving our childhood is claiming our spending dollars. Dishonored 2, Watch Dogs 2 and Titanfall 2 all struggled in 2016,  not hitting any of the major “Top Games of 2016” lists in an environment where Final Fantasy, Zelda, etc. were claiming market share.

On the flip side, wanting to capitalize on past glory isn’t always a path strewn with sunshine and rainbows. As I’ve said, making games cost hundreds of millions of dollars per title in development. If the studio isn’t making money in the interim, potentially big contenders will be lost by the waste side, nostalgic or not. Two games in development with legions of nostalgic fans who were eagerly awaiting a new release were Fable and EverQuest, the latter being the one of the longest-running Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) in history. Both of these had their revivals abandoned in 2016. Much to the chagrin of many, I’m sure.

As an adult with discretionary funds at my disposal, I have plenty of the things I wanted as a child but couldn’t have for whatever reason. And I have none of the things I didn’t like but had plenty of because my parents said so. Oh, the joys and privilege of being an adult. It’s a good time to be a gamer. It’s a fabulous time to have money to spend on this particular hobby.

Are there games from your youth that you’re still hoping to see revived? Which are your favorites among the ones that have been given a new lease on life?


Aly's Fiction Writing Template

Writing and I go back a long way. I used to write scripts for the neighborhood kids to act out when I was around eleven. I participated in the writing publications all throughout my school years and went to college for Mass Communications. But a funny thing happened to me along the way to my career called personal computers. I had a knack for them when they first landed on people’s desks at work. I found out that my love and penchant for the English language extended itself to programming languages. Before I knew it, I was in IT then Business Intelligence then Research and Development, and now Product Management in R&D. I never gave up on writing. I’ve done technical writing where I’m a thrice published author, instructional design because I enjoy teaching people and I’ve kept a blog of one sort or another for the past 20+ years.

KNOWING WHO YOU ARE AS A WRITER IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR GROWTH.

My creative writing’s been a bit spotty. I have multiple novels in the works that linger for a year at a time before I take them up again. Mastering such a long form on your own can be daunting, even though I’ve taken several writing courses since my college days to help move things along. It often felt like my weaknesses were insurmountable in the amount of time I was willing to dedicate to the craft of writing fiction. My plots can be complicated and I can run out of the emotional steam half way through. I lose the motivation to start a story after outlining it which is what you’re taught to do.

Late 2016, I happened upon a video series by Brandon Sanderson that gave me insight into the type of writer I am. I learned that my style and issues aren’t unique to me or absurd. I’m a gardener/pantser style writer. Meaning, I write by the seat of my pants. Like a gardener, my story develops as I go, growing over time. Detailed outlining diminishes the joy of writing for me. It destroys the story and motivation which causes me to drop an idea dead in its tracks. So while I may not be alone or crazy in my style, it does necessitate I find what works for me, which might be contrary to what’s taught in school. 

DEFINED TEMPLATE AND PROCESS THAT WORK FOR ME.

Writing fan-fiction for Star Citizen has helped me tremendously. It provided me with a pre-existing universe to write about and through those efforts, I’ve been able to identify writing tools and processes that work for me. AND for the first time ever, I’ve been able to consistently write shorter fiction, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but couldn’t quite constrain my ideas to the necessary length. I’m by no means a master writer but I do feel that I’m on my way to improvements and I’d like to share what I’ve developed for myself with others who may be facing the same struggles.

Luckily for me, I’m never short on inspiration for ideas. I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never needed writing prompts. I have more story ideas than I can shake a stick at. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t use things to distinguish a specific point of inspiration for a story.

I’m a visual person which is how I ended up in Business Intelligence when it was discovered that I had a knack for visual data analysis. I can “see” correlations. I can look at data and recognize the visual outputs that would express it best. This is the same skill I use for formulating a story from inspiration. To me, they’re part and parcel of the same ability to puzzle things out.

I VISUALIZE A PERSON, PLACE OR THING…
IMAGINE A PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE…

Every story that I’ve written has started has either a person or place that popped into my head that felt interesting. A digital image I saw that made me wonder what that would be like if it was real. In the case of Star Citizen, I add to my musings the locations described in the ARK Starmap. What is it like to be there for the average person? What types of challenges would they face?

Distilling these to a fine point my primary sources of inspiration are:

  • Things I daydream about
  • Digital images from the internet
  • Digital images from Pinterest which I keep on a personalized board for future reference
  • Locations that interest me in Star Citizen lore

Corralling that idea into a bonafide story is the hardest and most important part. I believe in the saying that ideas are cheap. Anyone can dream up an idea. The proof of the pudding is assembling it into a cohesive tale.

TEMPLATE FACILITATES A PLOT-DRIVEN STORY

It’s easy to get lost in the woods of your idea, words, characters, events and required story structure. As a Meyers-Briggs INFJ, I can get too focused on the puzzle pieces and I lose sight of writing the story. Since we’re rule followers, I used to inadvertently launch down the detailed outline path as most courses, professors and books suggest, forgetting that for me, it would result in a dead-end.

However, there are certain elements required for writing a cohesive story. And if you want to end up where you want to go, you need to know where you’re headed in the first place. To accomplish this without developing an outline, I created a template to capture the minimum elements contained in any story, of any length. These attributes are represented in a template with (4) sections.

IT WORKS FOR ANY LENGTH STORY

Section One helps you solidify the idea. What is the story you’re trying to tell? This is the most important part of the template. You shouldn’t start writing a single word of your story until you can articulate this much!! Completing Section One will save you countless hours of having to edit your plot and the sequence of events because you hadn’t really formulated the story before you started writing it.

The exception noted in the template is the Theme. You may not truly know what it is until you’ve completed a majority of the story. Once you’ve identified the theme you may want to go back and edit your story to make it more apparent IF you feel you REALLY have something distinct you’re trying to impart about the human condition.

REDUCE EDITING TIME – CLARIFY YOUR LOGLINE AND MDQ FIRST

Always start with the logline. This is a one-sentence summary of the whole plot. That’s right, you should be able to reduce your whole idea to a maximum of two sentences. Movies do it all the time. It’s the elevator pitch. It’s the tagline you see on the billboards. Search loglines for your favorite movies to see examples.

Here’s the logline for Gladiator starring Russel Crowe: When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an emperor’s corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. This logline superbly sums up the whole movie. It also leads you directly to the Major Dramatic Question (MDQ), the next most important thing to clarify before you begin.

The MDQ in Gladiator is will he get his revenge? This is the question you must answer by the end of your story. Ideally, it’s at the very end, depicted in a direct showdown with the antagonist/blocker. Your story plot should have the protagonist taking steps toward achieving the MDQ during the course of the story in his/her favor but failing to do so, until the final encounter/showdown/attempt. This is the essence of establishing your plot and conflict. Joe wants X but Y is preventing him from accomplishing it. What lengths will Joe go to in order to achieve X?  How much opposition can Y exert? Who wins in the end – X or Y?

ESTABLISHING THE SETTING IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE STORY’S PLOT

Establishing the story’s setting for sci-fi and fantasy is called world building. This is where you specify the time period, dictums and societal norms of the environment your characters are in. We can’t recognize what’s extraordinary if we don’t know what’s common. You need to take the time to clarify these rules for yourself first to ensure consistency in your fiction. And yes, it’s important to do this upfront and play by the rules you set. Readers don’t like Deus Ex resolutions, where you have to solve your plot by the sudden appearance of an all-powerful item, person, etc. that falls from the sky and was never heard of in your story until that moment.

READERS DON’T LIKE DEUS EX RESOLUTIONS

If you knew up front that you were going to use a miraculous device/person as part of the resolution, hints of its existence should have appeared very early or at least midway through the story. Ideally, using an element of foreshadowing. This is satisfying for readers who connect the dots. Sometimes in movies, you’ll see them flashback to the foreshadowing moment to ensure the audience realizes it’s not a Deus Ex event.  All of these are things you consider in the Setting section of the template and you add to it as ideas develop while you’re writing.

For me at least, Section Two of my template, plotting the story, is the easy part. However, that might be because I spend the most time defining the story in Section One. By the time I’ve completed Section One, I’ve already visualized all the major plot points. In Section Two, I’m simply jotting them down in chronological order.

Some writers find it easier to plot backward. If they know where they have to end up, it’s easier for them to plot logically what must have preceded it. I’ve done a bit of both in longer form fiction. I may immediately know the beginning and end but have to noodle on what comes in between. Here you want to do what works for you but I caution starting to write your story before completing Section Two. Especially if you’re not a fan of large scale plot editing after the fact.

The only other advice about my template for Section Two is that the Life Today and Inciting Incident are particularly important. If we don’t know what’s normal for the character’s life, we won’t recognize when something happened that tipped their world off center. We won’t recognize the event that established the MDQ which is their quest. It’s imperative that the reader recognizes it so they can cheer them on and become invested in the actions that follow.

The rest of the template is cake and self-explanatory. After the character’s world has been rattled what will they attempt to set it straight? What obstacles will you put in their path to establish conflict? Typically the Dire Straits moment should be the most dramatic and meaningful. This is the last stand attempt at achieving the MDQ, where all hope is lost if they fail.

WRITING STAR CITIZEN FAN-FIC HAS AN EXTRA SECTION

When writing fan-fiction it’s important to readers that you remain authentic to that world and its canon. Unless of course, if you’re intentionally shifting its lore like people do when they change the endings or the outcomes of relationships. In the case of Star Citizen, I use the actual ships, Galactic Guides, Lore Dispatches and the ARK Starmap to ground my stories. Everything else is fair game but I want the elements of the physical universe I depict to be accurate.

An invaluable resource for me in doing this is my own website that contains information from the official ARK Starmap, Galactic Guides, and Dispatches presented in a format that’s searchable and easier to scan all the known star system information on a single screen.

I use my:

  • Starmap Matrix to scan systems to see what catches my interest in relation to the story I’m telling.
  • Detailed Composition page to see all the known objects in the system (s) I decide to use.
  • Route Planner to see ALL possible routes between systems when travel is involved. Unlike the official ARK Starmap, I show every single option which often plays into adding points of conflict such as devising reasons why they have to take the longer or more dangerous route.

All of the above helps to create authenticity in the story for readers who are informed Star Citizen fans. And although I consider my content for ‘casuals’ I know that I have SC lore fans among my followers.

BEGIN PRACTICING THE ART OF STORYTELLING

If you want to take a stab at writing fiction but don’t have a formal training, I think my template is distilled to the essential elements necessary for a story. Although writing short form versus long form such as novels is a very different beast, you can still hone your craft and establish your style and voice by practicing with short fiction. You also have the added benefit of being able to finish more stories in the same period of time as a learning experience.

If you’re interested in writing sci-fi or fantasy, I think doing fan-fic has the benefit of only having to dabble in world-building while focusing on the craft of writing first. When you feel you have sufficient writing practice under your belt, you can stretch your wings toward developing your own worlds. You can access my template as a Google Doc. It’s my prefered format because it allows me to access my story ideas from any device at any time. It’s a convenient method of ensuring little things that pop into your head make it into the story template for safe keeping. I also maintain a Pinterest board of writing tips.


Star Citizen - My EVE 2.0

Earn 5,000 in-game currency when you create your Star Citizen account here and supply this referral code: STAR-QSVR-JFTR

It’s been several years since I’ve had an MMO to call home. I’ve played all the AAA MMOs that have come to the NA market. Unfortunately, out of the seemingly endless sea of them, the only ones that felt like home for any period of time since my WOW days were Guild Wars 2, EVE Online, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online and ArcheAge. With EVE being the only sci-fi title among them.

I’m not a traditional RPer but I love lore…

There’s a particular blend of gameplay needed for me to find long-term satisfaction in a game. A compelling mission system that provides progression to max level or whatever is considered end game. A sense of exploration, where I can wander freely while traveling, harvesting or completing quests. A robust crafting and/or trade system on which to hang my character’s hat in her adulthood. Regular injections of new content, abilities, professions and economic opportunities. And although I’m not a classic RPer, I enjoy good lore – deep backstory and context that gives meaning to what we’re all supposedly doing in that universe. My Holy Grail MMO needs to have all of the above or at least, a majority.

I wanted the original pitch of EVE’s Incarna expansion – avatars walking in space stations and player run shops…

EVE online had many of these qualities but the lore played out mostly as off-line content to me because of the shallow mission system. You could explore except in their version of deep space, there’s not much to see. Most of all, you aren’t a person, you’re a ship. There’s nothing meaningful to do with your character as an avatar. I always hoped more character features would come. I wanted the original vision they said would be Incarna – walking in space stations and player run shops. Alas, it wasn’t to be. And so, for me, EVE could never be home for more than a few months at a time even though I’ve played it across many years. It served more as my personal sensory deprivation chamber. A place to play when I really wanted to be alone in a universe of others.

My interest in Star Citizen began as a desire to have EVE 2.0. EVE Online + the missing pieces for my MMO preferences. However, in the years since I first pledged it has evolved to more than my initial small hopeful wish. It’s grown to be the game I’m expecting will be my next MMO home, whose years played will only be rivaled by the years I spent in World of Warcraft.

I’m in it for deep space, but now, I have a better understanding of the scale and scope of what’s to come…

I’m in it for the deep space gameplay. Predominantly the career ships and the economy topped off with exploration. Until today, I viewed the planetside content as a “nice to have”. Nothing I’m particularly interested in other than for exploration and harvesting resources related to my career ships. I’m not at all interested in doing missions planetside. There are only a handful of quest types in MMOs reskinned for a different environment. After playing MMOs for 30+ years, good lord, I’ve done them all. So if it’s not directly related to a player career or for exploration, I DON’T CARE.

The most recent Star Citizen Around the Verse featured CIG’s procedural planet tech. Of course, it’s impressive. As are the tools they continue to develop to assist in the massive undertaking of populating 100+ star systems with high visual fidelity and content. I watched all of it saying, “sure, that’s cool”, “whew, that will certainly help move things along” and reactions of that nature. Not to take anything away from the achievements but as I’ve said, that’s not why I came to the party. I came to explore deep space – be aboard my ship doing captain type things IN SPACE.

Even so, my jaw dropped during the final demonstration of the technology, as the SCOPE of the universe they’re building hit home. Yes, I knew it was on a grand scale. Yet reading the sizes of the ships and planets as text on a web page hadn’t adequately prepared me for the in-game reality.

As an explorer and a player who loves wandering off the beaten trial, it was mindboggling to see. Compounded by the realization that we were seeing wasn’t even a planet-sized object. Holy f–k! Delays be damned. The alpha patch with that content will be here within the next couple of months. I was already dubbing Alpha 3.0 as the patch that starts the type of content I care about enjoying, an explorer playstyle. Now that I see it with clearer eyes, the magnitude of what’s coming is breathtaking. It’s going to be buggy and laggy at points ‘cuz alpha but it will be nothing short of amazing.