rydain: (Yes Man)
This year is primarily marked with work (which I'd prefer to leave summarized as A Lot But Satisfying and Relatively Non-Apeshit Compared to Past Deployments), fitness (highlights - getting a 4-pack for the first time in my life, biking around town a lot, getting back into powerlifting and finally squatting my own weight again without hurting myself), and stuff I made. It's been a pretty good one so far. So here's the stuff.

I broke my 2-year art hiatus with an '80s Miami gangster interpretation of Dynasty Warriors. Cao Cao - the boss. Xiahou Dun - the right hand man. Xiahou Yuan - the straight shooter. Cao Ren - the conflicted idealist. Or, what happens when I mainline New Wave for the 3 months it took to draw this. It was totally worth the effort, as I leveled up a buttload in the process. I'm happiest with my improved nuance in anatomy and clothing, and my new way of drawing hair.

Our Brotherhood )

Here's my con report from the 6th year of Intervention, a relaxed and down to earth convention for independent content creators, which also happens to be the brainchild of one of my best friends ever. This year I learned more about voice acting - and even got to act alongside Terry Molloy, a.k.a. Dr. Who's Davros. We also had breakfast together. Yeah, pretty awesomesauce.

My coworker Brian loves terribad movies. He insisted I watch R.O.T.O.R., a cheesetastic Robocop ripoff. It was so surprisingly hilarious, I had to write a review.
rydain: (Yes Man)
In my haste to prove my continued existence to friends who primarily communicate via DW and LJ, I forgot to feature one of my more ambitious projects of this past year - narrative video.

Specifically, retrospectives of my two favorite Dynasty Warriors characters - their history and lore, portrayals throughout the series, and my thoughts on how the best aspects thereof should be built on in the future. Each video is ~13 minutes long, which I considered a reasonable compromise between detail and length.

Cao Ren

Lu Meng

These. Took. Forever. The editing process takes some time to learn and maintains unavoidable bottlenecks, and of course there's the scripting challenge of distilling my points into an efficient combination of game footage and narration. I did the stills in Photoshop and the editing in Screenflow, an excellent middle ground between the very limited iMovie - which frustrated me by making a terrible mess of said stills - and the expensive and complex likes of Final Cut Pro. Screenflow also does low overhead full-screen capture with separate A/V (as in a mic or webcam), which will come in handy for any games I play on an emulator. I must get back to that Goonies II Let's Play.

I have a third video planned for Xiahou Yuan, but I've been dragging my feet on buying Dynasty Warriors 6: Special for high-resolution captures of his cut scenes. Ah, the sacrifices I make for shiny happy video quality.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like walking there, although it's officially too hot to do so in dress pants. This is why we have bathrooms and changes of clothing. My duties largely focus on cobbling together data from various sources into a useful form for department staff. This involves some interesting problems of database optimization and wrangling SQL Server to handle logic that I'm used to dealing with in separate code.

I also worked up the nerve to scratch a longstanding hobby itch. A while back, I got into watching commentated video gameplay. It was fun hearing people's reactions, fun seeing how differently they approached open-ended games that I'd already gone through myself, fun reexperiencing said games vicariously in the background as I poked at art or writing. It also seemed fun to do, but I had performance anxiety and no concept of personal style.

Commentary can't be all things to everyone, so you pick a niche and stick with it - minimalism, constant reactive blather, conversation with the game as backdrop, scripted and smoothly presented MST3K-style. I decided on separate game and microphone capture, with a combination of planned points to prattle about and spontaneous reactions to curate afterward. There's some desirable roughness and an overall casual feel, but I can leave out the more pointless brain farts and redo anything that totally fell flat on its face.

Speaking of niches, there isn't much casual YouTube gameplay of Dynasty Warriors 5, and I couldn't find any featuring my favorite characters. So my crash test subjects were as follows:

DW5:XL Destiny Mode - Featuring Roll and her big brother Mega Man Cao Ren. Includes tips and advice on how to be awesome at Destiny Mode in general.

Cao Ren's story - In which I make stupid references to metal underpants, dramatically recount the siege of Fancheng, and break into a rendition of Stout Hearted Men. This was a trip down nostalgia lane and a collection of the character defining material that made the Rockman an instant favorite with his unique emphasis on humbly waging war with the least harm possible. (Still uploading this. The playlist should be complete tomorrow.)

I surprised myself. Pleasantly. The good stuff to meh ratio was great for a first try, with a nice variety of informative chat and emergent lulz. I kept the vast majority of my rough material as is. I tend to go between Jaunty Teacher and Daria depending on how expository or snide I'm feeling, but it works. I think. I also sorted out my editing process, which is generally enjoyable and efficient. It's nice to relax, not expect perfection, and be happy with your voice instead of flinching at every perceived mistake. I did have some false starts to do over, but such is part of the learning process.

There's plenty of other amusement in DW5 - like Xiahou Yuan's story, which has some funny cut scenes and could also use the comprehensive treatment - but I may not get to that for a while. These comfortably familiar projects were a warm-up to The Big One.


It drops tomorrow. I have it pre-ordered. I'm planning to record and publish my first reactions to each kingdom's story, with all the enormous stages and nifty new characters and interactions that hopefully develop relations I'm dying to see fleshed out. This will also have the upside of preventing me from rushing through the game, as I can only handle so much improv in a day. And uploading, what with our whopping 1 megabit/second bandwidth and the need to share with [livejournal.com profile] fndragon and his Minecraft enthusiasm. I'll post the playlists here as they're complete, but you can always camp out on my channel for updates.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
I got the job. Not just a job. The job. The high end programming position I applied to at Penn State, whose listing sought a driven and creative problem solver. The one with an interview I prepared for by mainlining '80s tunes in the Kern Building lobby beforehand, and in which I shed my suit jacket and flexed for a room full of staffers in response to an inquiry about my hobbies. It's a position within a department seeking to grow and develop its information technology division. It's my closest approximation to tenure. Said department has lots of other women, who I had a blast interviewing with. You bet your ass I'm stoked.

I can still walk to work. My office space seems quiet and private. I get a deep tuition discount and a boatload of vacation - that trip to China is A-OK with the management and won't put me in time off debt for the next century or so. I do have to dress business casual - a culture shock to someone raised in the jeans and snarky T-shirt world of web development and research engineering - but I have plenty of comfortable options, and I can use a wardrobe refresh anyhow. It's a good reason to kick me back into the Cleaning Out Clothes for Goodwill Project I started a couple of weeks ago.

I've been a lazy vacation bum. I had a full week where my best defense against doldrums was room escape and tile swap puzzle games. I also had breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] penm_rx3, who has a creative writing minor and a planned cross-country move. Which gave me a nice novel-related goal of finishing my first act to send them for some hardcore critique. I do appreciate the honest feedback from my friends who share my tastes and understand what I'm going for, but I need that detailed impression of themes and threads and pacing and prose. I understand that such requires money for the hours of work and experience involved. So if I can help my friends build their bank account and shore up Act 1 as a solid prototype for the rest of my structure, style, and tone - ayyyyyyup. It's moving in steady steps, with previously yet undetermined character chemistry falling neatly into place. I had reached my limits for how much I could plan ahead, so focusing on early content is just what I need right now.

Dynasty Warriors costume DLC is at its best when it involves absurd and/or modern themes. The Wei jobs exemplify this. Zhang He is a literal assclown, and Cai Wenji and Jia Xu are also in the circus because they are a popular fandom ship because matchy matchy let's pair up the new characters together I understand why people like it but I don't feel it at all. There's a lot of assorted military business, Xiahou Yuan is a crime scene investigator (who would totally be eating on the job to prove he isn't disgusted by anything) and Cao Ren is one of those technical rescue team guys. I have a perfect reference photo for him going after someone's cat stuck on a roof, but I've been more about words words words and there goes that damn artistic performance anxiety again. Although for once I've drawn something I don't facepalm at the flaws in two months later. Go figure. I'll get over it. And I do have plenty of in person reference for felines.
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
The involuntary sabbatical continues. My first job prospect went to someone else, but I had a fantastic interview for a different one. There's more out there, and I continue to seek. Something will eventually come up Milhouse. At least I'm happily entrenched in Hobby Land in the meantime.

I'm loving the start of Mad Men. Period-relevant conflicts! Retro-flavored production! Entertaining, believable dialog! Characters amusing me even when their knuckles are dragging a groove in the ash-strewn floor! Hopefully it holds up - unlike The Sopranos, which lost me in the morass of Season 4 by shoving major conflicts in the background in favor of wallowing in pettiness and secondhand embarrassment. Wire fans, imagine Season 2 revolving around Ziggy, Valchek, and that fucking window, and maybe bothering to mention a major drug investigation once or twice.

I finished a new illustration, a month-long culmination of last year's improvement and then some. I broke some serious mental blocks with regard to fabric and hair, those dreaded flowing surfaces that I struggled to understand. I tend to do well with solid geometric constructions like heads and armor pieces. In an illustrated style, fabric and hair have to be felt out based on some understanding of their flow. I started to get it last year, but I wanted to learn the nicely variegated locks I envied in other people's art. With this, I found a style of my own to refine.

Ah-Meng of Wu - Lu Meng and Lu Su's surly study hour )

Dynasty Warriors 8 came out last month, so I was camping the live streams from Japan. It looks a good step above the disappointment of 7, with better battlefields, a fully decloned cast, and something for every character entertainment value with some prayer of approaching my reigning personal Jesus of DW5. While waiting for the English localization, I've been making up my own stupid captions. As well as terrible submissions for Facebook Warriors - the ideal home for all my languishing jokes.

Lu Meng's slacker pyromania backfires, pun naturally intended )

Xiahou Yuan demonstrates the hazards of borrowed leather )

With my art bender out of the way, I'm gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I like to line up a bunch of detailed scene concepts and get into prose mode to have at them, and Camp is nice for this because it allows user-specifiable goals. Word count is not an ideal metric for me, but I can deal by assigning reasonable targets to each scene and picking my total accordingly. At the very least, I hope to do 10,000 words. If I really go on a tear, I might finish Acts 1 and 2 - the first third of the novel. The rest of my outline is trickling in and not nearly as built out. But it has gone from a giant question mark to anticipation of developing conflicts, and the new material should give rise to more inspirational specifics.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
What I've been up to lately:

Noveling, which has been more about slow steady steps than a race worth describing in its entirety. Lots of outline shuffling, pacing grumbles, recontextualizing scenes so they fit within a timeline instead of floating in space. I need to jump off my cliff after the vague shapes within Act 3's fog, and I've just about shored up the foundation required to do so. I keep meaning to write up a master post explaining the project, my source list, and my progress metrics.

Enjoying a slow marathon of Deadwood. I expected realistic Wild West. I was pleasantly surprised to get realistic Wild West with heavy historical basis. I don't know much about the TRUFAX behind it, but I appreciate the research and focus on the unique conflicts of near-lawless gold rush frontier towns. And Calamity Jane is awesomesauce.

Finally excited about a new KOEI game. Dynasty Warriors 8 is nearing release, and a hell of a pleasant surprise after the disappointment of 7. Costume designs are back to that heavy Chinese aesthetic influence I love so much, and the stories seem to offer the something for everyone appeal that DW7 threw out the window to focus on its few anointed characters. I'm preemptively in love with the new Wu characters, Han Dang and Lu Su - historically nifty, known to interact with my other favorites in the same force, and drawn as unique, mature, down to earth men rather than cookie cutter avatars.

Han Dang )

Lu Su )

Rehabbing an owie in my sacroiliac joint, which led me to realize that my longstanding intermittent hip and back grumpiness was the result of undiagnosed glute weakness. Turns out that squats and deadlifts don't necessarily hit the posterior chain like you'd expect. Your hip and low back muscles can end up taking the brunt of the load, which leads to unpredictable strains and other fun bullshit. To get my butt back in order, I've switched over to one-legged exercises like Bulgarian squats and single leg squats and deadlifts. I also picked up a Rumble Roller to eradicate muscle knots that a regular foam roller can't quite hit - and oh does it ever work. OW OW OW. At least my upper body has been behaving itself.

Listening to weird electronic music, from atmospheric to catchy. The awesome soundtrack to Sleeping Dogs made me itchy to assemble something similar for my own triad-related novel. I haven't made any real progress on that, but I did discover some new tunes thanks to label websites and related videos - including the current music selection, whose full album is excellent background for programming.

Trying not to do the year-long bathroom dance because


(The setting of my novel, for those unaware)

In November. With a group of family and friends. As part of a tour featuring cultural highlights in Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, and Hangzhou, plus a cruise down the Yangtze. The tour showcases important locales like Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum and the massacre memorial, and gives us a free day to explore the city. I hope to spend that free day with a local guide, going off the beaten path for a strong sense of Nanjing's character. There is that matter of a 13+ hour flight each way, but I have a known superpower for sleeping on airplanes.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
My focus on drawing has slid me down into the asscrack of the Dunning-Kruger curve. I can see knock-kneed hints of professionalism, see how far they fall behind the superb form and gesture and composition and volume in the works I admire. Art is hard, for reals. You read the classic references, like the amazing Andrew Loomis. You study pro illustrators and browse critique threads on Concept Art until you feel unqualified to pick up a box of Crayolas. You gnash and sweat over your own work, wrest life into your flat lines through countless do-overs, feel the lightbulb flick on, still know there's Something Missing but can't tell exactly what. Then you get a fresh look at your finished piece and wonder why you never noticed its shortcomings to begin with.

And at some point, you remember how to give yourself a hand for progress well earned.

Cao Ren, booty shorts )

Yes, it's cheesy fan service. It's also an exercise in constructing anatomy. The original pose came from a badly lit snapshot. I reposed and rendered it with help from Loomis textbooks and muscle photography. My goal was to capture weight and volume while learning about the underlying structure and developing my own style for representing landmarks of the human body. For a first attempt at such an exercise, I'm proud.

Just a Dance - Cai Wenji x Cao Ren, colored )

I finally figured out this coloring business well enough for a start. I tried a couple of years back, but the piece fell flat and weird because the underlying structure just wasn't there. Simple as this style is, it was a pleasant and fun surprise. And I can build on it in the future.

The Scars of War - Cao Ren portrait, 2 years better )

Say hello to the best damn lines I've done. Ever. The original took me weeks of on and off poking while I was still shaking off a load of rust from my post-high-school art inactivity. The redraw took 10 days - including the challenges of learning proper facial construction, further loosening up my style, and starting to comprehend hair in locks. Still, I have to give the original fair credit. It shows the symmetry and parallel line measurement I brought over from my cosplay drafting experience, and the tassel has reasonable volume. And I would have never improved if I had been afraid to try.
rydain: (Yes Man)
Back in the day, I tried out various Grand Theft Auto games for the ridiculous gangster antics. I never got very far. I had to get through too many story missions to unlock any suitable playground, and the difficulty ramped up too fast to be any fun for someone with minimal skills at fast twitch aiming with a controller.

During our traditional August Week of Nothing, the spousal unit convinced me to try out Saints Row the Third. It totally was the glorious asshole game I'd always wanted.

Saints Row the Third is an action movie playground that keeps on handing out the toys. You get confronted with some giant overpowered pain in the ass, and then score it as a mission reward a short while later. You accrue more and more cash to go after that next weapon upgrade or power-up dangling just out of your reach - and at max level, you can eliminate those pesky concerns about your health and ammo supply. Experience is constantly handed out for driving on the wrong side of the road, near misses, wheelies, and other typical sandbox antics. There are minigames involving mass destruction and essentially reenacting Ow, My Balls. Checkpoints are generous, and death only costs a pittance of cash. Apart from a couple of early rough spots where the need to KILL FAST KILL MORE is hammered home, the learning curve is encouraging and friendly. The game is well on the easy side, but I like that.

Plot? Who cares? It's enough to facilitate more and more great set pieces to race and annihilate your way through - including some welcome surprises, like a particular computer simulation - and it involves characters with entertaining quirks and interactions. And it starts with you airlifting a bank safe, hanging off said safe to shoot more bad guys, skydiving out of an airplane, then jumping back into the same airplane because there's yet more asskicking to be had. You can redo your character's appearance - gender, voice, and all - at any plastic surgery center, which plays a fittingly absurd role as well. Games with serious intent tend to fail it for me in myriad ways. It's refreshing to play one that only cares about bringing the ludicrosity.

I also finished another awesome awful fan project - Cao Ren and Xiahou Yuan's Alphabet of Manliness. Because the world totally needed a set of testosterone-soaked Dynasty Warriors alphabet cards, and of course I had to step up to the task.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
This year has been a strange one for personal sense of accomplishment. I'm trudging up my own mountain, head down, one foot after another. The sense of motion is there, but the scale just doesn't seem to register until I turn and look back on the valley below.


Four years ago, I was scouring Dynasty Warriors fan sites and desperately wishing that I could draw. I was decent in high school, but severely out of practice at capturing any sort of likeness. The learning curve of my favorite characters seemed damned near vertical. I bought a Wacom tablet and a face anatomy book, and I struggled for months to make sense of poses and loosen up my stiff lines. After some more slow and painful progress, I put the hobby aside in favor of writing. Then came this year, a lightbulb of Getting It, and an avalanche of improvement. I don't like looking at my old work any more, and I've shoved my first cringeworthy finished piece into the deviantArt storage locker forever and ever, amen. But that's one small price to pay for being able to draw my choice of fan service in a timely and ever better manner. Case in point -

A Victory For Strategy - Cao Ren & Lu Meng playing strip weiqi - loincloth ahoy! )

I even colored it, which is a total WUT for me. Check the deviantArt submission for more on the technique used. I also plan to make a tutorial out of the hair at some near future point. Which is epic for me, as I used to fear hair and phone it in like whoa. If I can help one other person understand how to build it up and feel its form, I'll be happy.


Last summer, I got way into inFamous over Fourth of July weekend. I was simultaneously engrossed by its grungy, kinetic atmosphere and frustrated to high hell over its clownish back story and binary sense of morality. The sci-fi plot device had that wondrous air of handwaved plausibility until we found out that the Big Bad was really me who had traveled time for the future of mankind. The moral decisions boiled down to saving a schoolbus of puppies vs. trollface.jpg. At least the gameplay was hella fun, and it all kicked off this nebulous itch to write Something Really Big and Energetic and Way the Fuck More Nuanced. That collided with my other longstanding itch to make some form of full-blown adaptation of Cao Cao and pals being badass. Arise, my novel, was born.

That blasted thing is a monster. It went from speculative alternate future to modern day real world. It mutated and writhed out of my grasp as I researched and poked at it. I rushed my planning to be able to bang out enough draft to finish NaNoWriMo 2011. And then kicked myself, repeatedly, as I acquired the references I had lacked the time to discover.

My fast tracked research had given me a cursory sense of life in Nanjing, Chinese garment factory operations, business conventions, and the mentalities of counterfeiters. A stronger sense of the above cannot be rushed, and it slowly filtered in as I continued to read a wide variety of reference books and articles, from the specifically relevant to more general societal discourse. Some of my concepts turned out to be inapplicable. Even the better ones had seemed to be floating without context in that dreaded plastic sitcom realm, the Uncanny Valley of veracity. Somewhat quoth the raven - nevermore, yo. My notes are more nuanced, my foundation far more solid. Some subplots continue to frustrate me, and I need to remind myself to look well beyond that. At this time last year, I had shiny starry eyes for the setting and little else to go on. Is this progress? Oh hell yes I win.

I still find myself holding back from writing a single line of prose. NaNo may have put up a good fight last year, but I came out standing - and I'm itching for another round.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
I spent the past three weeks on a new illustration, building up lines and torturing myself with the sort of fussy detail that has a way of bringing out every form irregularity and perspective fail. I finally enjoyed drawing hair, and I'm beginning to learn the ways of fabric. Both are cut from the same cloth, so to speak - flowing surfaces with volume that my brain just didn't seem to get for the longest time.

Also on deviantArt as usual. Pose was adapted from a photo reference.

Just a Dance - Cai Wenji x Cao Ren )

I want to color this. I tried for a long evening and set it aside, frustrated by my inability to choose flats in the sweet spot between dull bleh and oversaturated clown barf. At least Pennywise seemed to have been snacking on a cohesive set of Crayolas, so I figured it was a reasonable first try. Then I got to wondering why I was trying to choose flats to begin with, as I never seemed to get along with that process on any other prior failed attempt to color my work. The uniform fields of color look weird and trip me up. Instead, why not paint as I had drawn - built up and relaxed into, just as I'd done with traditional media in high school?

Inspired by this faux watercolor tutorial, I gave it another go. Damn, what an improvement. Slowly deepening washes just look right to me, and those stupidly saturated colors mellow into desirable brightness when layered in patient steps. I need some study practice before returning to the piece, but I should be able to finish it true to my nebulous vision.

While my conscious effort was focused on art, the rest of my brain was chewing away on my novel. The missing gist of plot came in one fell swoop, and I now have a solid high-level concept for the full story. I'm working on the next level of detailed planning for each subplot and conflict. Some specifics have changed or gone back up in the air, but I have a better handle on the more important aspects - thematic or plot purposes served, fundamental character motivations that drove the original ideas. The anti-counterfeiting investigation went from a giant question mark to quite the light bulb, not requiring any real stupidity on the part of a cautious supply line. Accidents happen, patterns can be seen with enough comprehensive surveillance, and fake bags aren't going to be guarded with the same extreme care as fake cigarettes. One bum link, no matter how temporary, can expose the chain just enough to be latched onto. What happens from there is a series of snapshots, further questions to answer, and a resolution satisfying enough that the rest will surely fall into line.
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
So I wanted to focus hardcore on novel outlining, and then my Department of Visuals whacked me over the head with an idea. And then it demanded said idea to be used as fodder for style study. Three weeks of grumbling and headscratching alternated with the blissful downhill slide of form and volume falling into place, and here we are. That's the sound of me leveling up as I perform the Done at Last Deskflop.

KOEI went joyously apeshit with fun anachronistic costumes for Dynasty Warriors 7. First came the school uniforms - more recently, fairy and folk tales. I imagined that Huntsman Lu Meng and Robin Hood Xiahou Yuan would have a friendly rivalry over the merits of bullets vs. arrows, and there you have it.

Shoot That Poison Arrow - Lu Meng & Xiahou Yuan, fairy tale costumes )

Also on deviantArt as usual, and named after a New Wave song that I unironically love, awkward dancing and gold lame suits and floating geometry and all.

This took on a storybook illustration feel that I like very much. I pushed the value range and line weight further than my prior inclinations, which was also fun when I figured out how to beef up outlines to enhance the form instead of smashing it flat.
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
I spent the second half of last year writing or researching or chasing my tail in novel-related frustration. I missed art, but had neither focus nor inspiration, so I included illustration study in my rotation of casual reading. I pored over pro illustrators' sketches to learn about capturing volume, form, and gesture in that crucial rough phase. I read Andrew Loomis' work for more examples in that vein. I found a fantastic gallery of muscle photography free to use for hobbyist work.

I referenced one of those pictures for a quick piece of fan art in response to a prompt. And shocked myself with that heady feeling of Wow, I Can Draw.

I did decent art in high school, but I was never much of a visual thinker. I also focused on still life and dreamscapes rather than the bodies and faces that I had to learn from scratch when the drawing itch hit me some four years ago. My sporadic art practice has been dragging myself out of rustiness while wrapping my head around the fundamentals that I'd never truly internalized, even when I could produce a reasonable representation of my hand or a leafy plant or a display of glass fruit. Human anatomy is a harmony of distinct lines and shadow shapes, of quirks and irregularities that must be maintained to preserve a sense of naturalness. Now that I've turned a corner with Getting It, I'm beginning to feel the blissful flow that I get from my best writing.

The following picture took about 12 days from initial sketch to completion. A year ago, I would have required double the time for half the nuance. Now to continue outdoing myself in the future.

Calm Before the Storm - Lu Meng, shirtless )

deviantArt submission with photo reference credit
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
I did this Manga Studio drawing with the reasonably successful aim of loosening up my style and improving the realism of my facial features. My hair remains stylized, but I like it that way. Pen doodling is the shit when you have an undo button.

Cao Ren in Pen )

I'm back to planning Arise, my modern day legend of Cao Cao. The NaNoWriMo draft got me some great scenes and broad strokes of subplots. Its general concepts are sound, but the motivations and conflicts need to be sharpened and finalized before the next draft. This involves a plot brainstorming file and a list of questions and sticking points. Some fundamentals of the story appear in my head as fuzzy and dreamlike - believable at viewing distance, but as yet hollow. I need to bring them into focus with full confidence in what lies beneath the surface. Rough drafting can flesh that out to some satisfactory initial extent, but NaNoWriMo taught me the limits of writing on the fly. Prose and conversation can and should be banged out - scene ideas can be explored and set aside if needed. Threads can be sparked with a rough idea, as in when I sent my main man to mahjong and wound up with a segue into his real estate endeavors. Yet their full realization requires more thought than I'm in the mood to bullshit without structure in mind.

On the subject of fiction, you may recall that I overhauled Tempered Will for hopeful inclusion in a wuxia fiction anthology. Said anthology fell through, but I got this lovely comment in response.

Thanks for your submission. It's a good story, from someone who obviously knows the subject. Have you submitted it to any magazines? I think it would do well.

I just might take him up on that suggestion.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
So I eventually got DW7 because it was in the bargain bin and I liked what I heard about the upcoming Xtreme Legends. The vanilla game had all the misgivings I gathered from watching live streams and not much in the way of hidden "it" factor to compensate. I never made it through all the stories, and conquest mode was a sheer borefest. I appreciate the largely successful effort to tell each kingdom's story coherently, and I'm not sorry I tried it out. Even so, DW7 was such a mishmash of promising ideas and phoned-in horseflop.

The spousal unit randomly found XL the other day, and holy shit does it feel good to be enjoying Dynasty Warriors once again.

In the classic era, special weapons and character-boosting items were unlocked by doing specific challenges within battle. DW7 failed by chucking this out in favor of samey samey gold grinding. XL brings the awesome back to the collect-a-thon. Unlockable weapons! Unlockable character-specific power-ups! Even more unlockable weapons on the all-new Self-administered Groin Punch difficulty level! It also fixes a poorly implemented weapon proficiency system which gave squeaky loli dolls a broader range of skills than some of the best historical fighters.

KOEI also paid some attention to fan feedback about weapons. In the upcoming DLC, Cao Ren gets his shield back. On steroids.

August 2015

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