DayZ Of Our Lives (part 2) – Of Hats and Men

Previously in the Tales of DayZ:

The Seven Deadly Sins by Luke Robinson

Upon my rebirth, I decide to fully embrace my role as Lust and get rid of my clothes. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I cannot get fully naked as there is a force preventing me from removing my striped shirt and blue-starred panties. It does not matter. I look awesome in my underwear. From now on, the only accessories I will agree to wear are a backpack, for practical purpose, and a pretty hat. I favor colorful orange hats or farmer-like hats, that go quite well with my faithful hoe.

The fanciest of panties

It does not take me long to find Pride again, and we attempt to regroup with the other Sins, but they are nowhere to be seen. Both of us end up carelessly roaming the countryside for a long time, looting houses on a shopping spree. Everything is quiet apart from the sound of our voices. From time to time a zombie lunges at us, hissing and spitting, but I get a better grip on my hoe and slash the bastards to their ultimate death.

I think at some point boredom destroyed Pride’s ability to focus, because he suddenly takes his pants off and decides to stand idly in the middle of the road. Confused, I watch him brag about his current predicament, as he represents a perfect target for any armed wanderer. I briefly wonder if he ate a rotten fruit again – he told me he has a tendency to live dangerously. He does not look ill though, just bored. Pride is already unpredictable at best. I expect upcoming shenanigans.

He does not disappoint me. Pride joyously asks me to point my gun at him. He wants “to play a scene”.

I was not expecting that.

Well, I am Lust after all, I shall not reject such a demand from someone kneeling in front of me in their shorts. I point my gun at him, as requested, and he puts his hands up. I am oddly flattered by his trust – I could shoot him right here, right now, since I found bullets earlier. He should not trust me. We do not know each other that much, but Pride is chaos itself, oblivious of the logic ruling the thoughts of mortal men.

We spot a blurry figure a hundred meters away from us. Time to hunt.

 Next in the Tales of DayZ: Part Three – Morituri Te Salutant (coming soon)

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Fight Club: Madness Inception

Warning: spoiler ahead, if you haven’t watched the film! (Watch it, then come back to read my post)

A few months ago, I watched Fight Club for the third time. This movie never ceases to amaze me with its precise camera, incredible cast and clever direction. Fight Club is a straight ride into anarchy and madness that I enjoy a little bit more every time I watch it.

Until I saw the last five minutes. In my opinion, the last scene between Marla and Jack is either an incredible way of destroying the spectator’s assumptions, or a lazy Hollywood-style twist.

Let me explain, under a cut.

Continue reading

Ludum Dare 29 – Post Mortem

I contributed to a game for the last Ludum Dare. I can’t quite manage to say “I made a game” yet. I wasn’t alone; my friend Amos Wenger is responsible for the whole idea of the game as well as the code and choosing the music. He also had to carry me through the whole process of actually making a game, since I was completely clueless and a bit intimidated by the gigantic task that was ahead of us.

The Stanley Enigma is my very first video game. To be honest, I created a short Twine game for Merritt Kopas’ #nakedtwine game jam, but To The Other Side Of The World was more a short story illustrated with pretty pictures I took during my travels than a real game. Apart from clicking on hypertext links, the player had very few choices to make, and only one choice really mattered – the player had to choose between two cities to visit. Since the rule was to write a Twine game without altering the CSS or JavaScript properties, it took me less than a day to finish it.

Creating The Stanley Enigma was a whole different story. Neither Amos nor I had really decided to create anything for Ludum Dare, until the theme was revealed – Beneath The Surface. Somehow we found ourselves discussing ideas. Or, to be more accurate, he proposed ideas, and I argued. Probably – definitely – too much. That’s who I am: I argue, I criticize, I ponder, but there is no time for arguing during a game jam. You’ve got to pick up an idea and roll with it.

Looking back, I think those “lost hours” spent arguing about ideas and discarding them were the time I needed to get rid (in part) of an almost crippling anxiety and to start thinking like someone who’s going to make a game in less than 72 hours. I needed that time to be able to write anything at all.

I wrote 90% of the story – we were supposed to write the story together, but Amos spent most of his time doing all the hard and unforgiving work like creating the spherical map, coding the movement system (which is a major hassle on a spherical map), modelling the house and campfire, drawing the paths (who would have thought flat textures are distorted when applied to a spherical map)… as well as designing a complete “story engine” that allowed me to implement the story by myself and to test the game. He did an awesome work that went mostly unnoticed because the game worked almost flawlessly – the curse of programmers, I guess.

Writing the story

The Stanley Enigma is a text game. The player can choose to move on a variety of paths, but the narrative relies fully on the text displayed on screen. The story is heavily based on Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, a well-known social game where the players are villagers who must uncover the werewolve(s) hidden in their midst. In The Stanley Enigma, the main character dreams about the death of her close friend, and she seeks who the murderer – the werewolf – might be. There is more to our story, but I won’t spoil the discovery.

Almost all non playable characters are directly inspired by the playable archetypes available in Werewolves, but these characters were too stereotypical for my taste: there was a female psychic, a witch, a little girl, a male mayor, a male hunter and a male thief… Boring, right? So I proposed to genderswap them all. I’m quite proud of that idea, to be honest.

In the end, I’m not sure the players can figure out where our inspiration comes from. Our story uses the same premises, but otherwise the themes we tackle in our game are deeply personal.

After outlining the story and the characters, I set to create a map of the village with Twine (this tool allowed me to quickly draw the different paths connecting all the houses). Then I gave names and motives to the characters, writing it all down in a spreadsheet that became my main visual help for the rest of the jam. I wrote the introduction to the game around that time, to help me grasp the “feeling” of the story. Eventually Amos had time to largely improve that introduction two hours before the deadline. That part is the closest we came to actually write together.

I think I truly started writing the main story on Sunday night. Deeply aware of the time flying by me while I was struggling, I put myself in front of the computer and wrote for hours. I relied on my crude spreadsheet to remind me of who did what, and I just wrote down anything that went through my mind. This is the reason why there are so many potatoes in the game (don’t ask me). It was a nightmare. After a few hours, I was painfully convinced that my writing was no good, that my story made no sense whatsoever, that I wouldn’t be able to convey what the game was about. I was freaking out and probably being a massive pain in the arse. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I wasn’t alone in this. I couldn’t give up.

I wasn’t that much anxious about the deadline, but I was utterly struggling with myself, all the time. I don’t think I ate or drank much during those last two days. On Monday (the deadline was close), I collapsed on the couch for hours before waking up in the middle of the afternoon with instructions on how to implement the story in Eclipse. It took me two hours to properly figure it out, sometimes being utterly puzzled by whatever the IDE was trying to say to me, but I managed to implement the whole story by myself.

That part was fun, except that I wasn’t done with the writing yet. Some houses didn’t have any story yet, and none of the randomised events were written. The deadline was close. This was the moment when I decided to drop two characters and to seriously cut down the content in some places. The inn, for instance, was the last place I wrote, and you can see why, even though Amos polished that part a bit.

Somewhat I managed to write it all, hating my writing all the way, then Amos and I switched places. He corrected my mistakes and improved the introduction while I picked a few sounds to add to the game. I was unable to do more. Around the deadline, I was so depressed by what I had done that I just sat there. Some people get super excited when the deadline comes, I just felt numb. Maybe because I wrote more in three days that I have written in months. Maybe because that story deals with personal matters.

So.

It took me a couple of days to be able to face the comments on the Ludum Dare page. A week later, I can say I am proud of this game. Working with Amos was really fun. I know my writing is flawed and heavy at times. I’m working on it. Writing in English is new to me as well. Overall, being forced to write pages and pages of text, no matter what, even when I wanted to do anything but write, was an interesting experience. It showed me what I was capable of. I admit I was surprised that some players managed to understand the hidden meaning of the story. I guess I wasn’t that bad.

I’ll definitely do this again, if I can. If I have to highlight one thing that I’ll remember from that experience, it’s how important it is for me to create with someone else. I would never have been able to write all of this if I had been alone. There is strength and comfort in sharing the burden and struggle of creation with someone.

Creation is a weird process to me. I used to write a lot when I was teenager, then I stopped for nearly ten years before getting into it again a few months ago. I feel like writing is a struggle, a pain and a relief at the same time. Hatchet, by Archive, paints a clear image of what creation feels like to me, most of the time.

 

You should read Amos’ own post-mortem on his blog. He talks about the fun stuff like the story engine and the pain of designing a 3D game.

DayZ of Our Lives (special guest) – Chauncey’s Tale

I am still writing the next part of Lust’s adventures in DayZ. In the meantime, please enjoy the writing of my fellow Sin, Pride. He chose an interesting point of view.

If you have not read the first part of our shenanigans in the game, here it is.

———

All is black, until suddenly it is not. I am pulled out of the darkness, aware and somewhat taken aback by my sudden consciousness. Surely I was inanimate just moments ago, but something appears to have changed. I was pulled from some form of container, a backpack or trouser pocket perhaps. I linger for a few seconds, amused that I have a vague idea of what a “backpack” or a “trouser” is, but that thought is quickly brushed aside as another enters my metaphorical head.

“Why am I being dragged through the dirt?”

I am clutched in someone’s hand, they are very low to the floor, either they are very small or they are lying down. I decide that they are crawling, a being would have to be tiny indeed to be walking at full height and be carrying me this low. I have no concept of time, though I am vaguely aware, somehow, that time is something that exists, but I am jarringly pulled up from the ground, and have a vision in my mind’s eye of a ragged looking humanoid, with blood dripping from its eyes and mouth. I become uncomfortably familiar with this humanoid, as I am forcefully jammed into its skull through the base, where it connects with the spine. I get stuck, and feel like I would vomit if I had a stomach, and contents to actually bring up, but eventually I see the light again, and can breathe the fresh air of the great outdoors.

Chauncey against its first zombie

Chauncey against its first zombie

I have an idea of who is in possession of me now, although there are no concrete features visible to me. I get a strong sense that this individual is both humanoid and male, and that he is not what he appears on the outside. He appears to be wearing a second face, white with red paint, and this face does not move when the man speaks, but I remember that when a being makes sound, traditionally their face contorts to create those sounds. He holds me confidently, this man is very sure of my purpose, and with his ability to allow me to fulfil that purpose. I ponder on this for a moment, taking the only thing I’ve done so far. Been plunged into a skull, is that my purpose? Skull stabbing? I entertain that thought for a second, wondering if I am an instrument so precise as all that, before coming to the conclusion that I can’t be, my purpose is more broad than that.

I am taken by surprise at this stage, when I am plunged into something thin and metallic, an image of a can of beans presents itself to me. I hope that I was cleaned before being used to open food, though it doesn’t seem that my wielder overly cares. This gives me new purpose, I am not just a tool for killing, but also a tool for life, in a somewhat indirect way. I don’t understand this sensation, but I feel a thought leaking through the gloves of my wielder, could this be emotion? Real, sentient thought? Surely not, for I am just an object. A name enters my thought space.

Chauncey.

I am not sure what is stranger, that I have a name, or that this masked man has named a knife. I am also not sure at what point I realised that I am a knife, but there it is, perhaps I have always known, in my brief 10 minutes or so of existentialism. I wonder if my new found ability for thought will be taken from me as quickly as it was granted, I hope not. I am plunged back into blackness as I re-enter the container that I was spawned from.

Sometime later, I am starting to grasp this idea, time, I am pulled back out from oblivion, and I find myself in a familiar situation. It is not so much dirt this time around, there is concrete nearby, and tall grass. There are monolithic structures of stone and wood around me, although they are not all that grand when compared to my rather magnificent owner. I am shuffled through the grass just like the first time, before I am once again jolted up into the sky, before I am plunged into the skull of another not-quite-dead humanoid. The experience is quite unpleasant, as it was previously, although I fear it is something that I will experience fairly often, my purpose appears to relate directly the murdering of undead humanoids and cans of food. I occupy myself with thoughts such as this in the brief time that I am within the skull of the unfortunate flesh-eater, I did not get stuck this time and everything moved much more smoothly.

I am plunged back into Oblivion.

———

I have more space this time, I cannot see anything around me, I wonder how I can see anyway, I have no eyes, but when in my owner’s hand I am aware of my surroundings. Here, I am only aware that I am touching other objects, but I am unable to get a sense of what I am touching. I am jolted suddenly, I think my owner has fallen, or perhaps dived. My container scrapes along the bottom of something, a fence, perhaps. The rustling of the objects around me leads me to believe that I am seated between a can of something and possibly a bag. There is definitely a zip, I picture a red zip-up bag with a white cross on it. I am unaware of the significance of this symbol.

We are moving at speed now, this much I am sure of. A ray of light is visible now, as I am once again used to open a can of food. This time it is peaches, before I am placed carefully back into the bag. Am I handled with care because I am a sharp object and potentially damaging to the objects around me, or because my owner worries for my well-being?

I cannot be sure. My container is once again slung over the shoulders of my master, there is light sinking in through the still-open bag as he starts to run down the road with 3 other humans. I start to feel myself moving, oh no, I am coming loose. This can’t be happening, I have no knowledge of the world without my master. I cannot be slipping!

I clatter to the ground, my master has not noticed. He continues to run down the road with his other humans, while I am lying in the middle of the road. He’s going to be so upset when he looks in his bag and finds me missing, I have to do something!

It’s a shame I can’t move.

Next in the Tales of DayZ: Part Two – Of Hats And Men

DayZ Of Our Lives (part 1) – Nobody Will Hear You Scream

Yesterday, I bought DayZ, the famous zombie multiplayer stand-alone sandbox game. DayZ is very much a work-in-progress: buggy as hell, mostly devoid of zombies, yet full of useless animations like wiggling. Still, roaming the brown  virtual countryside of DayZ with a group of utterly crazy people makes for one of my most amazing gaming experience. Open-world video games are more than the sum of their players. Each playthrough weaves its own narrative; I decided to put that experience into words. Hope you enjoy it, because more should come.

————–

When I open my eyes, I feel the sea washing my feet. I briefly wonder why in hell would I stand in the water while wearing my pants and shoes, before scuttling quickly to the shore. I am alone on a quiet beach. Trees line the horizon, topping a gentle hill. I hear birds singing. I check my pockets: nothing but a flashlight. It could be of use when night falls. In the meantime, I need to find food; my stomach is grumbling.

I have no idea why I am here, or where I come from. It does not matter. Time is passing me by and I do not want to die alone on that beach.

I run away from the sea, hoping to find some remnants of civilization. Quickly enough, I stumble upon a road, but I do not know where it leads. I mentally flip the coin and choose to go on the right. After running for a few hundreds meters, I spot what can only be called a sorry excuse for a village: three abandoned houses at a crossroads. I carefully approach them, but no one is in sight. There are roadsigns nearby, written in a foreign language I do not understand. I search the houses for a while, but there is nothing useful left. That place feels eerily empty and silent, like nobody ever lived here.

It spooks me a little.

Deep down, the part of me who still gives a fuck knows – somehow – that there are friends in this dreadful world. I would not mind the company – truth be told, I feel a lot like a baby bird having lost their nest forever. I pick another random road and start running again. Soon, I hear voices calling me. I am quickly surrounded by several dangerous-looking men. They wear clown masks and sharp guns. On their back, I spot other weapons: there an axe, here a hoe, tucked under the backpack.

All I have is the clothes on my back and a flashlight.

The omniscient part of me – that some people would call intuition – is delighted because she found her friends. They do not take their frightening masks away, but one of them gives me his backpack stuffed with precious cans of food, as well as a gun. I do not have any bullet though – I am told bullets are a luxury but holding a gun can be enough to scare people away.

My new friends take me to a nearby water pump to appease my thirst. They advise me not to drink too much, because I could get sick and die horribly. I hold the gun close to my chest and wonder how long I will manage to survive this place.

These people who shelter me are not afraid. They laugh and joke as they run. They call themselves according to the Seven Deadly Sins: there is Pride, Greed, Wrath and Sloth. They give me a new name: I am to become Lust.

It suits me.

The Seven Deadly Sins by Luke Robinson

I quickly understand that their main goal is to find other people. My friends are like the multiple faces of the devil incarnate; they do not follow the rules of men. They can choose to grant you a can of beans or a rag to bandage your wounds, or they can decide it is funnier to shoot you on sight.

As it is, we encounter a lone wanderer while we were out exploring and looting in some town. Unarmed, the stranger does not try to flee. One of us – I think it is Sloth – engage him in light conversation. Relaxed by that friendly behavior, the stranger timidly asks for a can opener. Without the appropriate tool, it is impossible to open cans of food, and obviously fresh food is more than a rare treat in these lands. Rotten food is more common and should be avoided no matter what, unless you want to die in atrocious suffering. Or so I have been told.

Here I stand, looking fierce with my empty gun and a clown mask I found earlier. This poor guy is clearly starving and does not represent a threat. Except to a can of beans, I guess.

Pride shoots him in the head without a word of warning.

We loot him, and move on.

————–

I feel awkward, most of the time. I learn quickly which tools can be used to open a can or where guns can be found, but I struggle with the basics of combat. I cannot hold my gun properly for the life of me, and almost get killed by the first undead I encounter because I cannot seem to ram its creepy undead head with my fancy hoe. Pride downs the smelly bastard in one quick motion, but I am hurt already. Thankfully, I have a couple of rags in my backpack that help stop the bleeding.

We run again, spotting tiny fuzzy human figures in the distance from time to time. We reach another town that looks empty of people. Bored, the Sins start messing around with each other, running around wildly and shooting for no reason. The chaos does not fail to attract another group of people who try to flank us. We run after them, and it is Greed, I think, who acts as the executioner this time.

However, the merriment that comes with looting the corpses is suddenly interrupted when Pride is shot dead on the spot. We scatter and attempt to find the perpetrators, in vain. In our search, we meet another lone man. Lucky for him, Pride is not here to shoot him on a whim. We give him a couple of useful items before running away from that cursed town.

We run accross fields and forests for quite some time. This world feels so desolated and bleak, thanks to the broken houses, the rotten food and the aggressive undeads, yet here in the wild, one can almost forget the irony of life and enjoy some good ol’ hiking. When we emerge from the tree line, we look upon a large patch of open land leading to an abandoned airfield. My remaining partners crouch behind a fence; they seem hesitant to move on. No wonder – this place is a playground for a trained sniper. I clutch the gun – it is a symbolic gesture, since I never found bullets.

We argue back and forth as to who shall be the first one to lead the charge, before throwing caution to the wind and starting to run down the hill together. We spot a zombie ahead, but it is not an immediate threat. There does not seem to be anoth-

– Everything goes black.

Shite.

————–

I wake up again. My memories are fuzzy. The waves are gently rocking against the sand. I face some sort of cliff, and glimpse a small town nearby, on my right.

There is a flashlight in my pocket.

Next in the Tales of DayZ: