It shouldn't be news to anyone that being ill is unpleasant. While
thankfully only afflicted by an irritating cold/flu/headache thing, I've
been reminded yet again how useless being under the weather makes you
feel, something I always forget until the cloud is actually over my
head. In my case, the silver lining of that mixed metaphorical cloud is
that having a cold often gives me very vivid dreams, whereas normally I
remember dreams only occasionally and abstractly. This morning's one
started excellently, with me as some kind of parkour film star, before
going downhill when my friend's Mum attempted to deliberately run me
over in what I believe was a Renault Clio.
I wont delve into the psychological
implications of those scenarios, but I did have a couple of more literal
dreams earlier in the night, which were worryingly accurate depictions
of games I've played. The first was Defense Grid, which I've been
playing for around a month and hope to write about soon, and the second
was Eve Online.
Will I Ever Shut Up About Eve?
Probably not. Forgive the addendum to the addendum that was my previous blog post,
but the more I live my fairly normal Western life, the more I become
convinced Eve was one of the most profoundly interesting things I've
been a part of, even if I didn't realise it at the time. I may be
misquoting here, and I don't remember the general point being made, but I
recall reading something recently along the lines of "MMOs are not
games, they're something else with game-like experiences included". This
rang true, because the individual things I did in Eve were game-like
interactions, but the whole experience as I remember it was like no
other game, single- or multi-player, that I've played before or since.
I remarked last time how much Eve must have stuck with me after I wrote a
sentence that might as well be in another language to a non-player. My
dream beat that by an order of magnitude.
I was parked in an Apoc in a Caldari station somewhere in Empire near
Jita, playing my main character. The graphics were recognisably
pre-overhaul and I had the skill training window open. I remember
starting training Amarr BS to level V, which had 7 days, 14 hours
remaining on it, but then decided to switch to a learning skill, which
had 1 day, 12 hours remaining. I then undocked with the intention of
The things I was doing didn't make perfect sense (my char has BS V and
max learning skills, no one would rat hi sec in an Apoc), but the level
of accurate detail was remarkable and nothing happened in the dream that
wasn't within the possibilities of the game as I played it. Weird. And
Why was Eve on my mind? I believe it was because I've recently heard
about Perpetuum from a couple of websites, which has been described as
Eve with robots.
It would be weird and depressing to try and get back into Eve, because
getting to the point where the game is at its best involves learning
reams of tactics and information, spending large amounts of time
grinding for cash and gradually building up friends and some kinds of
PvP reputation. While the game and its mechanics are still new and fresh
this doesn't present too much of a problem: you're too busy gaping in
awe at the new and the unfamiliar to realise that you're months of play
away from the end game conflicts. But having gotten to that place once
and then taken a break, the thought of making that journey again doesn't
much appeal. Plus I have no where near as much free time as I did while
at Uni (and even then that didn't seem like enough), so I feel like I
wouldn't do it justice.
But another game, a bit like Eve? One with the same core values, but
fresh mechanics and a different world and community? Well until now I
haven't really heard of any such thing. And perhaps that's a good thing:
as I said I don't know if I have the time to make the most of another
Eve, and worse than that I worry that I would make the time at
the expense of other activities. I tell myself now that I could play
casually, only get involved when I have the spare time, but there's an
angel - or is it a demon - on my shoulder telling tales of 4am POS ops
and lectures missed to run L4 missions.
I just don't know. Perhaps I'll give the free trial a go in the next
couple of weeks. One thing I want to make sure of is that if I do play
the game at all I'll write it up in good time, rather than ranting
incoherently about it several years down the line.
Writing Can Be Hard
Of course it can - only an idiot would tell you otherwise - but it was
quite interesting to be hit in the face with that fact for the first
time. Everything I'd written for this blog up until Diaries of Dredmor
was stuff that was buzzing around in my head, bursting to be put into
coherent form on a virtual page (or at least that's how it felt). That's
not to say writing it was simple, or that I think I've produced world
changing essays with an effortless flutter of hand on keyboard, but it
has all kind of flowed from brain to page quite easily and I was quite
pleased with the results.
Diaries of Dredmor was originally something I was going to pitch as
freelance. When I say this, I don't want to seem arrogant, as this was
merely case of potentially being in the right place at the right time:
my house-mate works in the industry and suggested I pitch something.
That caveat noted, I thought I had a decent if unoriginal idea that
could produce an entirely readable piece. And I did - I do - and I'm
pretty happy with what I wrote. However, while the intro felt like it
flowed, actually writing the diary pieces was and is quite difficult.
The main problem was knowing what to leave out: a lot of stuff
happens in a game, enough to write whole books about. Horrible,
terrible, thousand page books that no one would ever want to read. I
hadn't fully appreciated beforehand what an important skill it was to cut out the fat and narrow the piece down to the core of what
makes a game diary interesting and compelling. That's a skill that you
can't learn, or even realise you need to learn, from reading lots of
other game diaries: by reading a lot of the sort of thing you want to
write, you can gain some appreciation of, say, good sentence construction,
how to use humour, how to argue a point or any number of relevant
techniques that are normally included in the type of piece in question.
What you don't get is what the writer left out and why.
My other blog posts have been translations of thoughts that had been
rattling round in my head, and as such were pre-honed into the most
relevant points necessary to make the argument. All that was needed was
to hang the flesh of prose onto the skeleton of said thoughts.
Attempting something more creative meant I had to choose from a whole
jumble of bones to fit together a working skeleton that didn't collapse
under its own weight, as well as picking the right sort of flesh to make
the resultant beast in any way appealing.
So it was tricky, and even once I knew roughly what bits to include, it
was hard to make the piece flow as a narrative rather than writing what
sounded like a list of rooms and events: "I started here, I did this,
and this, and then I did this, and then I went here, and then this
happened, and then I died." I guess this is a common problem with
writing any kind of narrative, but it's exacerbated when writing
about single-player sandbox or semi-sandbox games: while emergent
narratives do occur and indeed have great power, they are still at a
fairly high level a series of discrete interactions with a rigid logical
system; once you start to write an account of this in detail, the
narrative in your head can fall away and it can start to sound like the
list of events it started out as.
Perhaps I'm just saying our minds and the imaginations within them are
much better at fooling themselves that something is a meaningful story
than they are at convincingly expressing this outwardly. Now that's
not hugely surprising, but it's nice to work back from a high level
effect to a basic principal that you feel should be true.
Wow, Sidetracked Am I
Despite all that, I did enjoyed writing Diaries of Dredmor part 1 and I
think the piece is decent. More than that, I feel like I've learned a
bit more about the challenge of writing well. Nothing that surprised me
or that I didn't know at least in part before, but still something that
set my neurones firing in a way that felt scarily worthwhile.
I decided not to pitch it though, as it felt too much like a practice
piece for me to feel good about asking for money for it. I appreciate
this makes no sense: the worst that happens is I get a rejection and
confirm what I thought already, but on the other hand that might have
killed the series dead, whereas doing it for my blog I know I'll carry
it on for at least a little while and hopefully continue to learn.
Also, I think a little bit of me was scared of the opposite result. Thus
far, writing has been fun and satisfying (when I've found the time and
energy), and I worry that were money and obligation to become involved
with the process that might be lost somehow.
Who knows? Maybe I'll find out some day, but not yet.