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.


The Exterminator Part 2 Teaser

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

My weekend started on Thursday. I’m taking time off for some family activities. During any downtime, I’ll be working on the conclusion to The Exterminator, which debuted in Nightbus Episode 5. Yesterday evening I did something rather unnerving – for me at least, that will be shared on Monday. I’ll give you a hint. Tyler from Cloud Imperium Games was involved.

After The Exterminator, I’ll be revisiting Cami from Chop Shop, whose story was told in NightBus Episode 3. The narration of the story will be a collaboration that I’m very excited about orchestrating. I’ll be writing the story specifically to support three different character points of view. I’ll discuss more as I get closer to finishing the content.  For now, here’s a teaser for the conclusion of The Exterminator.


More Content Incoming

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

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reorganizing the content on AlysianahsWorld.com to meet near-term plans. I will be writing more about Star Citizen, what I’m doing within that community, writing more fiction and getting back to my blogging roots. I felt it was necessary to reorganize how my articles are grouped and categorized to support these changes.

For the hardcore followers of Star Citizen’s development, there’s no lack of available topics. For me, it was about finding the time to research and produce the type of shows that bear my personal signature, which takes a lot of time just for that, much less blog or author other articles. Now that things have settled down in my world, I have more time for my longest running hobby – gaming and writing about my gaming. I hope you’ll stay tuned for more.


Behind the Curtain of Alysianah's World

Alysianah’s World of Star Citizen is rolling along. We hit a couple of technical challenges developing my vision for integrating Galactic Guide and Live Game data into the back-end design. We’re having to reconsider one of the primary data templates. However, we’re still on track to meet my original estimate of mid November. Unfortunately, some of the issues are visible on the actual dossier pages, requiring an “Excuse our dust. We’re Under Construction” update on the website.

IT’S A JOURNEY

This journey started for me in October of 2015, when I undertook the effort of manually compiling information from the ARK Starmap into a Google Sheet to share with the community. As time went on, I realized I had a strong interest in the intel contained in the SC physical universe. Moreover, I wanted to combine it with hints about player career opportunities sprinkled into the RSI Galactic Guides and Dispatches.

Alysianah’s Original Starmap Matrix in a Google Sheet
original-starmap-matrix

The idea to create a website that automatically pulled the ARK Starmap data from RSI started in May 2016. By then I was producing Casual Citizen and writing articles for Redacted.TV. I quickly realized that I often used lore content on RSI and ARK Starmap as source material. Having the information in an easier to consume format would save so much time.

My biggest roadblock is that I’m not a web-based developer. I was a Software Engineer before moving into the Business Intelligence space where I now serve as a Product Manager. I can do web page design and development but not the web databases. After thinking it over for several weeks, I decided I wanted it bad enough to contract out the backend development.

LONG TERM COMMITMENT

I created the website, designed and developed all the webpages and embedded HTML hooks for where I wanted data to appear and provided visuals of data layouts. Having done database work for client side applications, I also provided a suggested database schema. Five months later, and we’re about 50% into my core vision. The site will be at 70% once the integration of the lore data is completed. Hitting 80% will be achieved after Passenger Transport/Tourism and Blue Planet Dossier pages are added. 90% when we add Jump Point sizes and a Lore specific Dossier page.  100% when I incorporate the standard set of analysis charts I use when discussing the composition of the known Star Citizen universe in to the final dossier page. After that, I’ll stop for a while, assess traffic, user feedback and go from there.

This is a large undertaking being done by one person for the design, data collection, webpage development, tracking and prioritizing defect fixes – me. And one person doing all of the back-end work – a freelance web developer. This sometimes means that things get put down due to our day jobs and personal obligations but I’m 100% committed to seeing my vision completed.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Alysianahsworld.com went live in June 2016 but I didn’t start collecting metrics until August 29th – basically, September. I’m not pushing or worried about getting the word out there until I’m at that 90% content milestone.  However, it is interesting to see what’s going with the site now. Let’s take a look.

Since I started capturing site traffic data using Google Analytics, Alysianahsworld.com has had:

  • 5,766 Sessions
  • 3,387 User
  • 32,772 Pageviews
  • 59% New Sessions
  • 4.25% Bounce Rate

Other than being happy the website is getting consistent track, I don’t have a yardstick or goal in mind with the site being so new. I have noted that the New Sessions spikes right after I publish anything that mentions the website which makes sense. And the Bounce Rate is really small which is excellent.  Bounce Rate measures what % of site traffic leaves from the same page they entered on. Depending on how your site is designed this can signal a problematic home page.  In my case, the home page is meant to be consumed in and of itself. Therefore a higher bounce might not mean there’s an issue.  More on that in a bit.

Not surprisingly, the home page which is my Starmap Matrix, has the most unique page views followed by:

  • System Composition – detailed look at a single star system which you can get to by clicking one on the home page
  • Ship Reviews – home page for all my ship related articles
  • Star System Dossier page – menu page that lists all the special star system related pages

And all of these pages have low bounce rates as well.

Top 10 Pages
top-10-pages

The pageviews by country had a few surprises. I expected the UK to be the largest audience after the US. Mostly because this is a text heavy site in English. However, the data shows it’s Germany by a considerable margin. It’s also surprising that Australia is higher than France.

Visitors by Countrycounties

 

Top channels was what I expected.  Most of the site traffic is via a direct link to the page. Either from my articles, show notes on YouTube or bookmarks/favorites.  Within Referral the largest contributor are various Reddit threads. Almost all of Social is from Twitter.

Top Channels

channels

Age and Gender are what I expected for a website about a space sim. Roughly 97% of the content is consumed by males under the age of 35. However, when I looked at how much content is consumed by age range, those counts show a direct correlation to age and the number of pages viewed.  The older the visitor, the more pages consumed, with the exception of those 65 and older, who consume the least amount of content.

 

Sessions by Gender and Age gender-and-age

 

Eventually, conversions and bounce rates will be important to ensure ROI for the time, effort and expenses to build and maintain Alysianahsworld.com. For now, they’re merely interesting insights. For example, I created a custom goal to track user sessions that are 5 minutes and longer. My intent is for Alysianahsworld.com to provide easy to consume information to help with logistics planning for player careers. As a result, I would expect to see longer sessions due to people using the site for research.  Similarly, I want to understand if the pages themselves – design or content is counter productive. A data point to consider for a page’s effectiveness is bounce rates / drop-offs.

At this juncture, more than half the visitors that start on the home page \ Starmap Matrix leave from that same page. That’s not necessarily problematic because that page alone can be used for high level research and is fairly static during this stage of the alpha. That shouldn’t necessarily be the case once the ARK Starmap is being updated based on player interactions within the game.

Customized Conversion Goal
conversions

Starmap Matrix Page Flow
bounce

From a website traffic point of view, things are good.  When I have free time, I battle a choice between relaxing, doing the research for another Casual Citizen episode, recording or producing it, researching a new article for Redacted.tv, mining more lore data or working directly on the website.  Some evenings I’m burned out and can’t accomplish much of anything.  Overall, I’m happy with the sometimes slow but steady progress on all fronts.  As long as I’m seeing consistent traffic even when I’m not focused on raising awareness, things are going as planned. *Smile*


Star Citizen Key Chain Charms

A quick post to share some pictures of hand-stamped key chain or pendant charms I made recently. It’s been on my mind to make a few for family and friends but timing being what it is, I haven’t had much time to play with the idea. While waiting out a quick storm passing through, the small telltale signs of Hurricane Matthew, I quickly made these. Nothing fancy. I’ll dress them up with colored stones to add more personality. They’re made of scratch resistant steel, making them a good choice for hanging on a key chain.

When I was in between MMOs for a long period of time, I enjoyed expressing myself creatively by designing handmade jewelry and accessories. I’m looking forward to having the space and time to do a bit more but just for family and friends. Selling became a burden that removed the joy from the process, as I tried to meticulously recreate my designs, some of which are very intricate.

Anywho – thought I’d quickly share these. I’ll update the pictures with the finished product.  You can see some my designs I’d done back when I was actively working on the craft and selling items on Etsy.


Baby Steps

Last night I was thinking about a few enhancements that would improve the usability of the Starmap related pages. After  reviewing the actual pages this morning, I’ve decided to make these changes before introducing the Galactic Guide data planned for Release 2.0.  It’s better to do them now, versus adding more content across which these modifications would have to be replicated.

Because I depend on the Starmap data myself for writing shows and articles, you can count on continuous enhancements.  Well, as time allows and funds allow. 🙂 Primary elements I’m looking to improve during this next pass are  filtering capabilities and visual clarity.

Hope you’re experimenting and discovering useful information.

Aly