Posts Tagged ‘mass effect’

Inspirations

Posted: September 10, 2014 in Stuff, Writing
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So I’ve talked about things that inspire my writing rather frequently. It’s the sort of thing that blogs are for. Usually it’s when I mention my Shelf of Honor. That’s the small little shelf that lives near my bed with my all time favorite books on it. Scott Lynch, Roger Zelazny, Thorne Smith, Cherie Priest and so on and so on. Today, I’m not here to talk about the Shelf of Honor.

I’m here to talk about all the other stuff that inspires my writing.

See, we’re all not just writers, we’re storytellers. There are a lot of ways to tell a story, but there are certain things that are true across all mediums. I think this attitude comes from all those years I spent in film school. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses. Film is better at motion than print. Video games have a leg up on immersion. Television (when it’s given enough episodes) has the benefit of time to go in different directions. Print excels at getting inside a character’s head. I think someone writing for any medium can learn from the best of the others

So what else out there influences my own writing? Keep reading, I’m getting there.

Mass-Effect-31Mass Effect

This one is almost a no-brainer among anyone who plays video games. BioWare, the company behind the Mass Effect series, has become known for the stories in their games. Having one continuous story span across three games still comes off as innovative to me even though the games have been around a while. The story is so very extensive it’s like the amped up version of a Choose You’re Own Adventure. Specifically, I prefer the second game out of the trilogy because A) it has the most story and B) it’s still a video game and has better gameplay than the first one. The opening montage in ME2 floors me even though I know exactly what’s about to happen. The best stories are the ones that get that reaction out of you even after the first time you’ve experienced it. The fact that it happens to a character I had just played dozens of hours with in a previous game really builds a connection to the player just to use that connection to manipulate the hell out of you.

The kicker to Mass Effect is there is very good tie in media. I’ve got one of the novels and a couple of the comics. It keeps the story going even away from the Xbox.

ExosquadExo-Squad

Exo-Squad was a cartoon from the 90s and I very distinctly remember watching it every day when I got home from middle school. This was the first cartoon that I had ever seen that had a serious story and didn’t just assume cartoons was “kiddie” stuff. Keep in mind, this was, not only before anime went mainstream, but before anime had even grown to niche status. (The first anime I saw is a completely different story courtesy of WPIX from NYC and the earliest days of Sci-Fi Channel) In the years since, I’ve heard Exo-Squad described as an American Anime. It was one continuous storyline spanning years across a large cast of characters. There were consequences felt from one episode to the next and there was no status quo to return to at the end of the show. It dealt with serious issues of fate, racism and slavery on a backdrop of a solar system spanning war. And military robot suits. Don’t forget the military robot suits. Spoiler alert… this is also the first time I ever saw a cartoon that killed off a character. (Also, boo! it was my favorite one) When I was 12, this gobsmacked me. I loved this show so much, after learning Dungeons and Dragons (2nd ed! THACO represent!), I worked with one of my friends to make a tabletop RPG on Exo-Squad because I wanted to be a part of that story.

I’ve watched episodes of it since and it still holds up.

roninRonin

Hey, I went to film school, of course I’m going to add some movies in on this. Ronin is hands down one of my favorite films of all time. I wrote my thesis on this. I’ve seen it dozens upon dozens of times. One of the hallmarks of director John Frankenheimer, is kinetic motion and sound used in his storytelling. The director was a pioneer in the mechanics of filming a car chase back in the 60s. For a film called Grand Prix, he was the first person to strap a camera on the front bumper of a race car. Frankenheimer spent decades honing the skill of telling a story with cars in motion. Ronin has the best car chase of all time in it. Seriously. Take seven minutes of your life and watch it right now. I’ll wait. That scene tells a story without using a single word. You can close your eyes and listen to each car and know what each is doing. One of my goals with my writing is to pull off that same kinetic motion in print. I don’t know if I can ever pull it off. Car chases are something more suited to film than print, but I’m sure going to try. I am specifically putting a car chase into the novel in progress. Writing with such energy and movement is not easy to do. It’s not done very often. Myke Cole has pulled it off. Tobias Buckell too.

defianceDefiance

I wrote a whole blog post on how Defiance is the future of storytelling. Season two has upped their game since they’ve worked out some of the new show wrinkles. Anything I say here will be reiterating what I said back when I first wrote about it. Media crossovers aren’t that’s new. Dungeons and Dragons has been doing it for decades. Star Wars too. Those were all made of movies, games and print, but in the end, each item was a seperate piece of storytelling. It may have a common setting or referenced others in the world, but each piece still stood on its own. Defiance has leveled up the way storytellers have integrated television and video games. I can fire up my PlayStation and shoot hellbugs with Nolan and Irisa and run with Rynn after she escaped from prison. Then I can see them all live their lives on the SyFy channel. This is something that I think Defiance will pave the way for, especially as they refine their version of the craft. I hope they hit the point where they can dip into other mediums as well such as print and comics the way Mass Effect did.

Star-Wars-the-Clone-WarsClone Wars

Clone Wars is my current Netflix obsession. I never watched the show during it’s first run because of all that sprawl and continuous storyline, I didn’t want to just jump right in. Netflix is actually the best way to watch a show like this. Which is good because Netflix’s selection of actual movies tends to suck. This may be nerd sacrilage, but Clone Wars justifies the existence of the Star Wars prequels. The storytelling is just that good. It is everything the prequels wish they could be. Except for Jar Jar. He still shows up. Those parts do suck. This series has a lot of heft to it. It’s able to go places that the prequels never had the time to (yet tried to anyways). This show takes a page from Hitchcock. He said (paraphrasing the hell out of this, but most film school nerds know it) if you show a scene of two characters talking and a bomb explodes, you have only one moment of emotion from the audience. If you show the bomb with a big countdown on it first, then let the two characters talk, you have an entire scene of emotions.

That’s what Clone Wars has been doing for me when I watch it. We know Palpatine isn’t just some benign politicion. We know what happens to Anakin. You can pick up on some pretty dark hints with Anakin because we know he becomes Vader. Those aren’t just nerdy little in-jokes. That’s deft storytelling. They took our expectations and are playing a long con with them.

Mass Effect: Revelation

Posted: June 5, 2012 in Reading
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So for this book, I’ve gone into territories that I don’t often go into and also gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. The two are only partially related. Today’s book is Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn. I can hear you now “What’s wrong with that? I remember you going on and on about Mass Effect 3 a while back?” Well it’s a tie in book. Star Wars and Star Trek books take up shelves upon shelves in bookstores because they’re a proven commodity among nerds, but tie in books have a bad reputation for not always being the best there is.

As part of the Sixty-Four last year, I read two. Well… I tried to read two. Sooner Dead, a D&D Gamma World tie in set in Oklahoma (get the joke?), I liked. It was solid. I tried to read Homefront: The Voice of Freedom. That’s a tie in with the Homefront video game which was written by the same guy who wrote Red Dawn (Wolveriiiiines!). The story was the main selling point of that game even though the game is gathering dust. That book got technical and lame real fast and I sent it off to the used bookstore just as fast. But Mass Effect is known for it’s top shelf writing, so I figured I’d take a chance.

Before I go to far, let’s get to the back of the book so I can start dropping specifics.

On the edge of colonized space, ship commander and Alliance war hero David Anderson investigates the remains of a top secret military research station: smoking ruins littered with bodies and unanswered questions. Who attacked this post, and for what purpose? And where is Kahlee Sanders, the young scientist who mysteriously vanished from the base hours before her colleagues were slaughtered?

Sanders in the prime suspect, but finding her creates more problems for Anderson than it solves. Partnered with a rogue alien agent he can’t trust and pursued by an assassin he can’t escape, Anderson battles impossible odds on uncharted worlds to uncover a sinister conspiracy – one he won’t live to tell about. Or so the enemy thinks.

Chances are, if you’re reading this book, you’ve played Mass Effect. Ok, that’s cool. You can make some logical assumptions based off the cover of the book, not listed in the text. Saren, the villain of the first Mass Effect game, is smack on the cover. Can you guess who the “rogue alien agent” is? Also, Anderson is a primary character in all three of the games. As Revelation is a prequel to the games, he clearly lives through the ordeal. Although, the book is from 2007, the same year as the first game so when this was fresh you’d only know he was in the first.

Speaking of Revelation‘s prequel status, this book revolves around some of the really cool back story that is only hinted at in the games. Anderson starts out as Shepard’s boss in the first game and there’s a lot of talk of history between him and Saren. Then way later in ME3, Sanders makes an appearance. The game nerd in me thought it was pretty awesome to tie all that stuff in together.

But this is a book, so I’m getting out my book nerd hat now. This book is very… streamlined at times. Pieces of it move in a real quick staccato fashion where I think other books would dive a little deeper. Style has got to place a part of that, but I think the target gamer audience might have another part. But it’s not a distracting thing while I was reading it. It was the kind of thing that you realize on retrospect so I’d take it with half a grain of salt rather than the full grain.

Occasionally, Revelation degenerates into Gamer Weapon Mode. This was one of the big reasons I ditched Homefront last year. There’s a certain type of gamer who really enjoys all the nuances of guns and ammo. Now, Mass Effect is less of a shooter game than Homefront, but it still has a high armament pedigree. Revelation will throw down  with “He unholstered his pistol manufactured by yadda yadda I don’t care and knew the other guy was imposter because his weapon was made by whatever I don’t even remember manufacturers from the game.” That stuff is utterly distracting because it destroys the flow of the prose. I understand that there’s a section of this book’s audience that would loudly complain and whine if that kind of gun porn wasn’t included in the book, but that doesn’t mean I care one bit about it when I’m reading. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often in Revelation. Enough to satiate those who want it, but not enough to turn off those who don’t.

The story itself is worth of the Mass Effect name. There’s action and emotion and it’s a solid fun read. Strip this book of all its Mass Effect setting, I think it would still be a good solid popcorn read. I would compare it to a movie like National Treasure or a Clive Cussler book. It’s quick, it’s competent, it’s fun. I would recommendRevelation to someone who didn’t even have an interest in the games because it stands up on its own.

Next up… The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson