Belated Happy New Year!

2015!

Feels a bit strange. 2014 kind of went by really fast, and yet a LOT of things happened.

A lot of them were bad, too – and I don’t mean the things that directly happened to me, personally. There were just a lot of bad events this year, generally.

Here’s hoping for a better year! Below, some rambling about what I want to do in the near future…

For myself, I haven’t really made serious “new year’s resolutions” in some time – but this year, I’ve actually been recently feeling like there are things I want to begin doing, or doing more of, or stop neglecting, etc. So I might as well!

A sort of silly, seemingly inconsequential one that occurred to me is that I want to play more video games. Yeah, sounds weird – why is this hard, you ask? Worthy of a resolution? Well, as I said, I don’t really do “new year’s resolutions” much anyway so maybe that’s too strong a word for this, but I’ve had this weird lethargy about playing games for a long while now. The idea of starting, getting into, figuring out, and ultimately spending time getting through, a new game (especially something with any kind of decent length or complexity to it)… that whole idea sounded fun in abstract, but whenever I’d sit down to play one, it just sounded like too much trouble.

Really that applies to a number of things, including writing projects, Valocea stuff, and even just writing posts for this blog. Yes, I’d made some progress (a fair bit, really) with Valocea already, but I haven’t worked on it in some time. That’s what this is really about – it’s not “play more video games”, it’s “do more THINGS.” Too often I just end up wiling time away by sitting around looking at random junk online or wasting time. Of course, that’s fine to do sometimes – you have to unwind at times. I just don’t want to be taking up quite as much of my free time with that. Even playing games, despite the fact that such an activity can’t really be called “productive”, would still feel more worthwhile. And fun.

Speaking of fun games: recently, starting in late December, I finally began to seriously play through Mass Effect. Yes, as in the first game, from 2007. Only seven years behind! I’ve had it for ages (got it through Steam a few years ago), but just never got around to it until now (though I did play through that beginning part on Eden Prime several times, always with the intention of continuing on with the rest of the game. It just didn’t happen till now). As of last weekend, I’ve finished ME1, which I had a blast playing through. Sure, it has some serious flaws (inventory system, I am leveling a stern glance in your direction), but the story and characters were very engaging, and the gameplay, while also flawed in some ways, was still pretty fun. I’m a decent bit into ME2 now, and am enjoying that as well (despite that it also has its own laundry list of problems, most of them completely different than 1’s issues). One thing that was interesting for me with ME was the fact that it’s only the second game I’ve attempted to play with any seriousness on a mouse and keyboard, instead of a controller, the first being FFXIV: ARR, which I played on and off between October 2013 and August 2014. So that took some adjustment. But after a while, I got the hang of it, and certainly by the time I moved on to ME2, any issues with WASD movement (the hardest thing for me to adjust to when it comes to playing with a kb+mouse; FFXIV let me cheat and NOT adjust to this with its mouse movement) were minimal if not entirely absent. Despite the fact that I’m playing more games on PC these days than I used to, there are still certain games I’d want to play on a console (or on PC if the game has controller support), depending on the genre – I would never want to use mouse+kb to play, say, Mega Man Zero. But for some games, notably FPS or TPS-type games (i.e. Mass Effect), I’ve gotten used to, and even have begun to prefer, mouse+kb. It worked quite well for me with FFXIV’s control style, as well. Anyway, more about Mass Effect in a full-blown “thoughts and review”-type post at some point soon.

The other interesting side effect of finally playing through this series, with it’s detailed sci-fi universe and aesthetics, is that it’s gotten me thinking about my own big sci-fi universe project again. It’s been dormant for a while now, as my projects go, because I had just hit a wall and been unable to come up with any new ideas for it. But ME has served as a sort of inspirational kick, and now I’m starting to mull over some interesting possibilities. Of course, with how much I’ve enjoyed playing ME, the other side of this is that I haven’t been getting much done, creatively, on that setting or anything else, because I’m too busy playing ME. But that won’t be the case forever.

Getting back to the subject of my quasi-resolution: being fair to myself, November was actually a pretty productive, non-wasteful month, thanks to my participation in Nanowrimo. Writing fifty-thousand new words is nothing to sneeze at. And I’m not upset with myself for not immediately following up and continuing with that; I needed a break after the chaos of that month. But now it’s 2015, and going forward, I’d REALLY like to make some more progress. January itself is pretty busy (partly because a vacation I’ve been trying to plan – a trip to Vancouver, BC, with a friend – IS happening, later this month, so yay), so I’m not going to commit myself to too much for the moment. But, February is a different matter – I should have a bit more time then, so I’m pledging it now. I’m going to make some real progress on stories. And that’s any stories, or really, any creative projects.

This obviously includes any and all ideas for novels, but it’s more than that. Recently, I’ve begun to think that perhaps making a game in RPG Maker (poke around that site if you have no idea what RPGM is, but if you have any idea what a JRPG is, then the short version is the the program does exactly what you’d expect from the name) isn’t the lost cause I thought it was. Now, this isn’t to say that I’ve become 100% certain of my ability to actually create an entire, complete game. It’s a massive undertaking, fraught with complexity and difficulty. But I do have some good ideas, and while I severely lack in graphics resources and am only mediocre at best when it comes to gameplay design, I’m hoping I can make up for it and make something that’s at least fairly interesting with a strong story and characters, and by really focusing on making those areas in which I can excel as strong as possible. I don’t have the ability to create super complex battle systems or anything, but by using the existing tools present within RPG Maker VX Ace – the version I use – you can still do some interesting things, and more importantly, you can (and should) strive to create balanced, interesting battles that actually require some thought on the player’s part. Even if one is only using the default battle system or something that’s, at best, lightly modded, making the battles interesting and engaging can go a long way toward making your game better. That and perhaps something like a choice system that allows the player to have some influence over how the story plays out can add some spice to the game. The setting/story I’ve selected is part of Altessa, this big fantasy world that I’ve been slowly developing for years, and will make for a generally straightforward, old-school JRPG (excepting the possibility of something like a choice system as mentioned above) without a lot of complex systems or fancy graphics, the main strong point of which would likely be the story, since I’m certainly better at that aspect than any other. No RPGM project is easy to bring to fruition, but some of the other ideas I’ve had over the years that have been abandoned or indefinitely postponed were just too complex and ambitious for someone using this program on their own with no completed games under their belt. So I don’t know how it will go, but I think I’d like to at least try. I’ve been using RPG Maker on and off for years (originally with XP, and before that the old “RPG Maker” game disc for the PlayStation – I’m surprised I was able to even get as far as I did with creating a game on that version, with how horrendously limited it was and how awful the UI was – and no keyboard for text entry!), but have never been able to see a game all the way through to completion. And until recently, I’d mostly given up on the idea. I think I’d like to give it another shot. I think it will be VERY slow going, which is appropriate for RPG Maker (it’s not something you can do quickly, unless you’re making an extremely short and simple game), so it might take some time before I see real results or begin to feel like the game is really coming together. We’ll see how that goes.

And of course, there is Valocea creation and mapping. That’s also something that I wish to continue working on (and I do have some story ideas that take place IN Valocea, both modern-day/slice-of-life and sci-fi/fantasy stuff, so having more of Valocea’s geography and cities defined would be helpful). But, the ideas I have for stories, mainly for novels (since I can’t produce a TV show or movie, and RPG Maker – while fun and potentially worthwhile – is limited in the kinds of games I can create, the kinds of stories I can portray. It works for some ideas, but not for everything) are important to me, and I’ve always found it difficult to make progress with creating actual narrative. With getting actual writing time. This is in stark contrast to how comparatively easy it is for me to come up with ideas for story concepts, for worlds and characters and crazy sci-fi plot twists that could turn an existing story on its head and make the reader completely rethink everything they’ve learned so far. Those big ideas come to me without me even having to DO anything. They just happen. That’s great and all, but I don’t want to just be an idea generator (as much fun as that honestly can be). I want to be a writer. The hardest part for me has been follow-through and turning those ideas into cohesive storylines that move from one point to the next, and to the next, and so on, until you have that whole “beginning, middle, end” thing established, which is kind of important for stories.

One idea I had was to set a word-count goal for myself for February. Not 50k like Nano, but something a bit easier to manage, like say, 20k. The problem with that is that I’m counting RPG Maker and Valocea mapping (or hell, any serious mapping projects – I’ve wanted to get back to mapping the above-mentioned fantasy world Altessa at some point, too, and there are other story/setting ideas for which I’d like to make maps one of these days as well) as “creative projects”. So let’s say I only write a few thousand words of actual novel narrative. But I make like a dozen RPGM or CC3 maps. I’m certainly not going to say I “didn’t reach my creative progress goal” in that circumstance. So, my goal needs to be something like… “20k words, and/or the equivalent of 20k words worth of project progress.” How exactly do I measure progress with CC3 or RPGM? I’m not sure I can, not in a way that can be pinned to a number like word count. So I’ll feel it out; if I’m really working on those things and making progress, then great, but I’m not going to kid myself or take the easy way out. If I sit down one night intending to work in RPGM, and time’s going by and I’m just not able to make progress that night beyond naming a couple of items and adding two trees and a rock to a field map, then that night does not count as a good “progress night.” Whatever my word count for actual novel narrative progress ends up being, I think I’ll be able to look back on the month and accurately declare that I did or didn’t make the kind of progress I wanted to.

I think that covers just about everything that I am working on or plan to work on in the near future. Yes, I did leave MLP: FiM, including my fanfic ideas, out of that rundown completely – there is a reason for this. Frankly, I’ve found as of late that my interest in really being a part of that fandom is waning, or at least changing. Certainly, I’ve always had some reservations about the fandom as a whole (i.e. with the idea of calling myself “a brony”), and those reservations have only become more serious with time as I’ve become better informed. Despite the perfectly valid – even progressive – idea at the core of that term, it’s become way too bogged down with a lot of really awful stuff. Some of it is somewhat slanderous in nature, sure – people assuming things about bronies, associating them with specific ideas or bad behaviors, unfairly. But a good deal of it is earned, as well, and a lot of the really problematic stuff goes ignored or just gets minimized so that everyone can get back to talking about the show and pretending there is nothing wrong. I’ve always been a bit wary of that, even though for a time I did engage a bit more with the fandom, attending BABSCon last year being the height of said engagement. That was fun, sure, but things I’ve learned and heard about since then… eh. Not sure if I have any interest in going back.

Now, I am still a fan of the show. I still enjoy the show and will absolutely be tuned in (so to speak, since I don’t have cable!) when season 5 rolls around. But, beyond that and maybe buying a few collectibles that really appeal to me, I’m not sure how much I’m really going to be engaged with the fandom. Am I abandoning my ponyfic ideas? Possibly. I had been planning to go ahead with them despite my feelings on brony fandom, so if I were to shelve them, it’d be less about my reservations with brony fandom and more because I’ve been thinking about my original works lately. Nano went well and I’ve been pondering my big sci-fi universe as I mentioned above, and – despite how much I liked some of the ideas I’d had for ponyfics – it’s hard for me to spend much time or energy on fanfics (pony or otherwise) when original work is at the forefront of my mind. So we’ll see. I’m not declaring that I will NEVER EVER write ponyfics again, but for the time being at least, it seems unlikely that I’m going to be putting much work into them. There’s also my pony ep reviews – I really ran out of steam on those a while back. Partly that was because there was just too much else going on, but now I find I’m not sure if I’ll go back and finish out the rest of the season. Some of my favorites eps of the entire series were part of late season 4, so it seems like a shame not to in some ways, but I don’t know… for the reasons mentioned above plus the fact that I simply might not feel like expending the time and energy on them, I may not get around to it. But we’ll see.

Last thing is, of course, this blog. I’m not an especially frequent poster, but hopefully I will have more things to post about if I keep playing games, working on projects, and generally doing stuff rather than just sitting around being lazy.

That’s all for now. For the no doubt very few people who are actually reading this, I hope 2015 is treating you well so far! Onward!

-Saito S

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