Choice of the Pirate – The power of CHOICE

Choice of the Pirate – The power of CHOICE

It’s great a feeling to have your say on how a story develops. That while you’re reading, it evolves, and your own character is created according to your choices. This makes it a lot more personal. So I was eager to try out a multiple choice interactive novel from Choice of Games and see if it lived up to its recommendation.

When I first opened the Choice of the Pirate app [I was surprised:  stark, without the usual razzle-dazzle one associates when we hear the words “interactive e-book.” But I quickly realized it didn’t need any of that: the quirkiness was in the way it approached you directly.

The stats column, on the left side of the screen, informing you of your character’s development, is written in pirate. (Please, tell me you know what I’m talking about! There’s even a day for it. “Arrr, me matey! I’m yer captain!”)

Being a fan of all things pirate—it all began with Pirates of The Caribbean I have to confess—when I got hold of Choice of the Pirate by our very own Alana Joli Abbott, I was intrigued.

At first I didn’t know exactly how it would play out.  How would the graphics on the column get filled?  I read the “landlubber’s guide to the terms” but I was still curious! And it was with a childlike pleasure I started to see MY character emerge from the story. Yes, my character. Because I’m sure that if you read it, even if you decided to copy my general characteristics (such as name, moniker, flagship, flag and even signature clothing), your character would be different in some percentage. The delight of being an honorable but 91% pirate woman! To have this sassy young lass navigate the flow of allies and enemies, trying to figure out how to improve her skills at the art of Cambiar—a special kind of magic—all connected to my own choices.

 

 

 

 

The Status column!

 

 

I got stuck looking at some paragraphs, rereading the options given. Would I ruin my reputation? Would this be too definite for the character, or would there be another chance to follow a similar thread?

Oh, how I wished I could read ahead! Or go back and change something.

There’s an increased level of responsibility when reading a book like this. You read knowing that what you answer might only control the order of info given, or how quickly you reach a certain goal, but it also might mean an abrupt change of wind.

I admit sometimes I needed an extra choice, something that wasn’t there. But here’s the thing: the narrative has already been written; you’re just navigating your way through the different choices the author has created. Think of it like a sneak peek of how the multiverse theory would kind of work out. Parallel universes where what doesn’t happen here will fracture outward, creating a different timeline and therefore a new universe where your unchosen option will play out.

Or…maybe not.

Sometimes you can feel the hand of the writer steering you, limiting your choices. These moments break a little bit of the “oh, I have freedom!” feeling that you embark on. But without these confinements, there had to be an infinite number of hypotheses that would in turn lead to uncountable plot points. So, to sum up: not feasible, deal with it, and enjoy the sweet playful compromise, bargained between you and the author.

I had a blast! If sometimes I felt restricted, others I felt like I had too much on my shoulders: the name of my character? I wanted it to be something meaningful. Her flag? It definitely had to be special!

My attempt to make my pirate and flag tangible… hey…I’m not an illustrator!

And that’s how I found myself delving into lists of marine flora and feminine names. “Too strange. Too predictable. Oh… I don’t even know how to say that,” were some of the things that crossed my mind. I easily lost twenty minutes searching for a name fit for my character.

But the flag and the clothing? That came out instantly! I had already begun to discover Noziroth, she was becoming more and more visible.

I loved the idea of incarnating this person, so I made the choices against what I usually do—which is set up to make completely bold choices that I’d never dare in real life. Here, I actually put on the salty battered leather boots and decided to be me (well, as “me” as possible, of course!).

I felt the yearn to kill a certain character. But when the time came to press the “Next” button and make it my final choice, I would change for the merciful option I knew I would actually go for as “me.” Nonetheless, I was pleased to end up with a bold, fierce character that had a lot of me in it. I had the opportunity of seeing how I would behave in a sea filled with scavenger rats and dubious captains. I got to be a PIRATE!

And yes, I wished I could try another choice; see where the other road would have led me. That’s the magic of it: if you want, you’re free to reread the book and play it out as a complete opposite character! But you know what? I think I’ll wait for awhile: I’m just too caught up with the web I created.

See how possessively I talk about the narrative? It seems as though I wrote the story myself. That’s the beauty of these books. Alana creates a rich, involving universe with strong characters that you—as a reader and as a character yourself—get to play against. She allows you to feel at ease to explore this world she created at your own pace.

And it is magical. I felt as surprised as I felt responsible for some outcomes. There were cliffhangers, some intriguing characters, and it made you want to read faster: why? Why can’t I read just a little bit ahead? The answer is simple: it would ruin the whole experience.

When talking about this book, I always talked about the things I had chosen and what that had gotten me. I didn’t feel like I was just reading. I was creating alongside the author. Isn’t that powerful? I have to say that as a writer it must be really scary to share this power with the user (reader/creator). As Alana said in her article “Sharing your world: game writing,” you have to be open about how the story will play out. Not much different than a Game Master on a quest. Your players will define their own characters and blaze through a path of their own, although inside the possibilities of the universe you’ve built.

It’s a much more immersive way to experience a narrative. I felt embarrassed, excited, disappointed: as the choice is yours to make, so is the rejection or the pain that results from it.

When reading a common book, you get to imagine the whole thing in your head, and we all know that no two readers will get the same exact experience of a particular story. However, here you’re bound by the information and descriptions given. The characters are all fleshed out, or at least not as raw as in this choice book.

Don’t be fooled: Choice of the Pirate is no ordinary “Choose your own Adventure” book. Alana borrows the core idea from ol’ creative Edward Packard, but allows you to actually create your character—nearly—from scratch. And that, for me, was key for all the rest. I was captured. I assumed the role of the protagonist: buying the ghost ship against common sense, maintaining cordial relationships with as many people as I could, trying to find out the truth about the Pirate King’s identity. Yahima Noziroth was my avatar in the island of San Alfonso and the Lucayan sea.

Can’t wait to start reading one of Alana’s other apps, Choice of Kung Fu. Being a Pirate: check! Now, let’s be a martial artist, shall we?

 

Have you already read any of these titles? No?!? Then click here and try it.

And please, please share your characters in the comments. I would love to see how your pirate turns out!

S.G.

Hearthstone: RPG or TCG?

Hearthstone: RPG or TCG?

 

You should already know I’m a noob in the game universe. Following my post “RPG: Hearthstone, my  newest addiction,” some of our readers pointed out to me that Hearthstone isn’t exactly an RPG, but first and foremost a TCG.

I made my case, they made theirs, and in the end we still had doubts.

While Hearthstone is based on as hardcore a roleplaying game as World of Warcraft undoubtedly is—or is it? We’ll get back to this—Hearthstone itself is more of a card game. You do get into character, but you don’t create the whole persona—I mean, you can’t even edit or change their speech bubbles during games. You’re stuck with the personality that each class has been given.

You can’t actively trade cards with other players either. You can disenchant yours, get dust and then craft new ones, but it’s not like your friend can entice you with three awesome cards just so he can have your Ragnaros.

However, when you’re playing against your friends, be it a friendly banter or the ultimate challenge, you’re not “you.” There’s this Mage, Warrior, Hunter, or Rogue who molds your actions—and therefore how your personality comes through. Of course you will have a determined gaming strategy that sets you apart. Maybe you like to attack the Hero directly from the very beginning instead of wiping all its minions off the table. Nevertheless, one can argue that you are indeed playing a role. You don’t have as much creative freedom as you get in other RPGs, but you are in character nonetheless.

“How about the cards?” I can hear some of you shouting. “How can you not see that you’re playing freaking cards?!?”

Well, yes, cards are the gateway to your actions, they’re how you express yourself—outside of the speech bubbles. You can change the backs of the cards, and you can choose whether or not to use the golden ones, giving your personal touch to the game. Hey, you can even buy new characters that will, in turn, grant you access to new card backs.  And don’t forget that you can interact with the different settings where you’re playing.

Then again, what makes an RPG or a TCG? Wait. You didn’t think there were just these two terms did you? Because there are more to count, starting this small list—and this is just concerning the CG part as a constant:

BCG: Battle Card GameCCG: Customizable Card Game
ECG: Expandable Card Game
LCG: Living Card Game
OCG: Official Card Game
OCG: Original Card Game
TCG: The Card Game
XCG: Expandable Card Game

This IS confusing.

Even worse, did you know some people claim that WoW goes by the name of TCG? Hey! Don’t crucify me! I have yet to play it to reach any conclusion.

If you look for definitions of each of the aforementioned terms, they vary from source to source. Opinions differ and the rules get hazy when you scan through different forums.

So… Here I am. New at this and without certainties about nomenclatures. But you know what? Even though most of you would probably smack me in the face for saying this, I do have to admit that I don’t really care what it is called. The important word on that fancy and—sometimes confusing—pot of acronyms is the G word. I simply want to enjoy myself playing GAMES, no matter if they’re slightly more TC based or RP oriented.

May I just add how interesting this whole acronym thing is? It makes you feel like you’re an old soul gamer. No? Is it just me? Well, at least it impresses non-gamers… Anyway…

What do you think? RPG or TCG? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments and see if you can convince me!

S.G.

Web Summit – Techies Assemble in Lisbon

Web Summit – Techies Assemble in Lisbon

The city was bursting with people wearing badges. You could spot your kindred souls just by seeing the blue lanyards. Finding yourself in Lisbon, here in Portugal, you’d think we’d be speaking our own language, but no: from November 7-10, the first contact you’d have with ANYONE—be it the lady from the teeny tiny fruit shop to the conference speaker at the MEO Arena—would be in English.

Lisbon transformed itself to welcome the more than 50,000 geeks that made their way to Web Summit. Taking into account it was the first event of its kind and size to take place in our country, I think we behaved quite well. Yes, 3,000 attendees were left outside the main stage on opening day and that was a big shock for everyone—believe me, I had paid my ticket, was psyched to be at the opening ceremony… and stood freezing on the steps amidst the crowd watching through a screen.

But let’s not get caught up in the logistic details and cut to chase: all the tech revolution.

There were thousands of startups from every sector you can imagine: Entertainment, Health, Sports, Fashion, Socializing, Learning… What held this diverse group together was the fact that they were using new(-ish) technology. Whether touting apps made from scratch or adaptations of existing software and hardware, people showed how innovation can be achieved in the smallest of ideas.

But there weren’t only startups there. You could see and experience new ventures of household names like Microsoft, Google, or Tesla.

You always know that going to a conference (or convention) is going to test your agility. How’s your sprinting time? With the stands of companies changing on a daily basis, plus the huge number of presentations, I found myself running franticly to catch all I wanted. Needless to say, sacrifices were made.

But I managed to hear some captivating speakers on a variety of topics that truly interest me. There was time for new marketing ideas and tools at the PandaConf, tons about the importance of continuing to make relevant content for your increasingly demanding audience at ContentMakers, and more VR and AR enlightening at the TalkRobot stage, while FutureSocieties and Modum offered different views on how we can learn and teach people to be bolder and embrace tech innovation by applying new methods to old business and creative models.

All that was asked in return was that you remembered their words and took their advice into account when your time came. People want entrepreneurship to move forward embracing the technological advances we continue to conquer.

At Night Summit, when you had worn yourself out all day, it felt nice talking to the other attendees about work, yes, but more about the countries they came from and what they thought about current events—remember that a certain election happened right in the middle of the conference, so that was a topic that immediately permeated every conversation from then on.

I could go into detail at how excited I was to finally meet Paddy Cosgrave in person or how cool it was too listen to Joseph Gordon-Levitt talk about film and creativity. I was disappointed to miss an interview with Sophia, the AI robot created by Ben Goertzel—that looks disturbingly like a character out of Ex-Machina…

My head bubbled with ideas upon listening to Baobab Studios CEO Maureen Fan and film producer Michael Shamberg, and I got many ideas strolling down the Entertainment aisle of startups. I felt the urge to do something. To act. To be part of this moving innovative cluster of people who’ll bring you the Future, no matter what field you work in. Because in the end it will all spread through our lives, from the way we dress to how we talk to friends or how we drive a car.

S.G.

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

For a long time, RPG was a foreign word to me. I knew it from my so called geek friends, from the newest CGI games, and from hearing references of classics like Dungeons & Dragons. But I didn’t really know what it meant.

This summer, I was introduced to Hearthstone. It had something to do with the universe of World of Warcraft. Ok: a familiar name. I had never played it myself, but had seen people addicted to it and talking about how awesome it was.

hearthstone_scre

And…I’m dead…

My first reaction: cool graphics, but… so many cards with… numbers… and what do they all mean? There’s the little diamond shape thingy and then the other two on the bottom… And the ones with a skull have “Deathrattle”? My inner monologues ended pretty much with “Wait. Why did that monster die? No! Wh-why am I dead?!?”

Yup. Not the easiest game ever, I give you that. Especially if you have no experience with card games or RPGs in general. But I was hooked. I continued to try. I had help building my first decks and got used to playing with the same character: Mage (c’mon, you’ve got to love a good Flamestrike!).

hearthstone_flamestrike02-pc-games

Flamestrike: Deal 4 damage to all enemy minions

But besides the everyday ranked games, daily challenges and solo adventures, there’s something that, sometimes, is incredible: the Tavern Brawls!

These consist of a weekly challenge that changes its rules every time and is only available for three days. You get games that go from cooperating with the other player in order to destroy a common enemy to using only one type of card to destroy your enemy—or even to using chess pieces.

Something that captured my attention was the cooperation game. In a question of seconds—and without the use of chat—strategies were made and put into action. Just by playing a certain card and maybe highlighting your partner’s hero power, you gave each other signals and you were in fact working towards a common goal from across the world. It seems something ridiculous, right? What’s so important about destroying an imaginary monster in a fantasy game?

co-op_tavernbrawl

Co-op! Co-op!

Well, picture this: it’s not a random monster, it’s a problem that two people who have never met are joining forces to solve. Within seconds, tactics are created and acted upon.

This shows how we are more than capable of solving problems and collaborating. We just have to be on the same side—and that’s the tricky part of any conflict.

See how this quickly went from mere game to world cooperation? Ok, ok, I’m not preaching RPGs as a solution to World Peace—everyone knows that the answer to that is tickling; we are just afraid because it’s so obvious, as comedian T.J. Miller pointed out.

Anyway, back to Hearthstone!

I am now proud to say that I have conquered my good share of victories, currently trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone by playing with other characters. I know the difference between a Battlecry and a Deathrattle and more or less how to prioritize my mana spending and energy losses.

card

Deathrattles and Battlecries: let’s mix it up!

I love that it is a game that needs more than sheer luck, that you have to actually think when playing if you want to create certain combos and get cool cards.

But there was another thing that helped me get addicted: the possibility of playing with friends from around the world! It’s fine to chat on a regular basis to keep tabs on how everyone’s doing, but it’s much cooler when you’re able to share these funny moments in an RPG. Challenging your friends for battles, arguing about what characters have the best powers and cards, giving tips and advice on how to improve your decks or what web pages to visit for extra news—it’s all part of a shareable experience. It’s something that takes the game to a new level and makes it less impersonal.

It’s almost like having that cosy boardgame night where you just goof around and have fun, using the game as an excuse.

The funny characters, the subtle humor on the card descriptions, and the whole sound and graphic landscape make Hearthstone an enjoyable experience for anyone wanting to give the digital RPG world a try. It’s free, so why not take a chance?

cardshs

Are you an avid player of online RPGs? Which ones would you recommend?

Let us know! I’ll be playing the ones you suggest and writing my impressions here. Yes, I’m a complete newbie but that’s why it’s going to be fun for you to hear the struggles and nonsenses of a rookie in worlds you’ve traveled so many times.

S.G.

Novels vs. Graphic novels: Can they even be compared?

Novels vs. Graphic novels: Can they even be compared?

Ok. So it’s no news to anyone that the comic book world was something of a novelty for me when I arrived at Outland Entertainment. Yes, I was a comic book fan all along and I didn’t know, but being conscious and actively looking for out of the ordinary titles and cult classics to read was a long way coming.

Right now, I’ve finally started reading one that was on the top of my list: Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

Here’s the thing: I’m already a Gaiman fan. His collection of short stories Fragile Things grabbed my attention with its lyrically beautiful stories and completely wacky tales. It clearly shows the range of tone and narrative style this author has to offer.

I was enthralled by the radio version of Neverwhere. Yes, it had to do with the talented performances and the whole production value of the piece. However, the metaphorical London I was introduced to, the one where the streets I know and love get a whole new and mysterious meaning was mesmerizing.

But I digress.

With Gaiman, we have an author that writes novels, graphic novels and non-fiction essays. Let’s stick to the fiction so we can try and establish some comparisons.

You can point out how the tone is similar. How Gaiman intertwines complex and bizarre characters and intricately woven narratives the same way, be it in novel or graphic novels.

You get the same satirical incisive critic over the human pettiness. The whole impact is there.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to deny that the format dominates, I won’t go as far as to say the outcome of the story, but definitely the way it progresses and the freedom you have to imagine those worlds.

Let’s get Sandman’s example back on the table. You can’t avoid the way each character is seared into your brain with each stroke of the artwork that has breathed life into them. The illustrations, the way the panels are laid out on each single page… it all boils down to a specific experience—not too different from, say, watching a movie. You have a visual presence that guides you and influences the way you perceive the story. For better or worse, it has the power to limit your imagination.

When reading a novel, you are forced to construct that unique world on your mind. You devour the descriptions, the actions, the little details about each character or setting and build your own vision of what the narrative is. For even the more detailed and thoroughly descriptive author cannot control the mind of every single reader. The result:
intrinsically unique versions of each narrative.

Graphic novels give you visual inspiration, while novels give you more freedom to reinvent that world written in front of you.

Does that make one better than the other? You decide. For me, they are different experiences. Pure and simple, they’re alternative ways to consume a story.

Maybe there are stories that benefit more or are more adequate to one specific format than others. Even though I think that the potential in both formats is pretty much interchangeable.

Going back to my personal experience of reading Neil Gaiman’s tales, I like to be able to fabricate the look of the characters, the overall settings—maybe even add my personal details into the mix. However, it’s an enriching experience to devour the illustrations with all their colours and characteristic design traits of each artist. Yes, it’s the artist’s vision, not mine. But isn’t it remarkable how you can be deeply moved by the sheer beauty of a simple panel? Having said that, this can also happen with a plain sentence in the midst of a sea of letters.

So as you can see, I have yet to be converted to only one type of format. Better yet, I don’t want to! I do not want to be confined to one way of consuming stories. Give me freedom to create my own visions, yes, but also share your beautifully crafted ones.

We’re talking about sharing, about experiences, about taking the most out of a story. Milk a novel till it’s dry. Create all you can in your head. But don’t forget the pleaser it is to be guided panel after panel by streaks of colour, insightful lettering and overall awe worth layouts.

There. Novels vs. Graphic novels: you can compare them, you can have a favorite format, but you shouldn’t confine yourself to only one.

S.G.

P.S.: Check out the previous posts of this series: I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know, How OE changed my perception of Comic BooksDiversity of Graphic Novel Genres: From Biographies to Philosophical Essays and Couture & High Fashion in Comics.

SDCC: another year has come and gone!

SDCC: another year has come and gone!

Another SDCC has come and gone. And no, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to go. Being an ocean away complicates your geek life a little bit. Even though Europe is having a boom of conventions at the moment. But I diverge! Back to San Diego and all the juicy news bits it brought to us.

From brand new comic books to expected TV series’ spoilers passing through highly anticipated movie trailers, there is always something for everyone.

My usual routine of following all the panels, scanning articles and its spoilers carefully, scrutinizing every bit of speculation at the end of each day was not strictly followed this year.
My fandom attention span wasn’t at its best! Too many stuff that I have still to finish watching before sinking my teeth on all the next season details. So this meant, I was more focused on the movies than on TV series this year, for example, and have tried to run away from the panels!
Sure, you can’t miss “Arrow”‘s cast bursting into song Broadway style – Hamilton’s “I’ll be Back”, if I’m not wrong. Or “Sherlock” show runners teasing the poor hungry fans. Nor Eddie Redmayne giving out wands to the crowd.
However I kept my distance from panels and devoured the trailers. I have to confess that I’ve been aloof as for some crucial release dates. Not to worry, though! This trailer overload just seared all the dates onto my brain calendar! Some I was pleasantly surprised to know I was just going to wait till the end of the year while others…well, can’t they launch it already??

The great cosplay, companionship, free goodies and overall geekness overload are key to anyone attending this convention. But there’s also a big camaraderie towards the ones watching from afar!
The cool people who share videos and pics not only from the big panels but also from the general environment. The rich detailed filled Twitter feeds that make you feel like you’re there in the halls. The articles, the friendly debates over the newest info and, you can’t even escape, some annoying bickering. It’s clearly a different (let’s call it…lighter) way to enjoy the con, but it’s still interesting to see how many connections are still forged through all this sharing.

Apart from all this, let’s be honest SDCC is all about meeting your favorite stars (even if it has to be from across a 64,842 square feet hall with thousands of fans inbetween) and building anticipation and hype around some – already – huge projects.

Whatever we may say, SDCC will always have a mystical aura!

SG