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A Reflection on Month 2

Shattered Rift

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February started off as a strong month. The first episode of The Mansion was released, SparkComic was officially launched, and Sparkbomb was poised to hit the ground running. I knew that Episode 2 of The Mansion might take a couple of weeks: Sam still had to finish the third page of Episode 1 before she could start drawing Episode 2. I knew that I needed to try my hand again at the first Sparkverse story and see if the second draft stuck. And, having gotten some releases out, I knew that it was time to take care of a couple of the things I had neglected during Month 1.

After some final thoughts, the Rules were up by the 6th. While I was working on the Werewolf Introduction and Rules, SparkWiki's Werewolf section filled the forefront of my thoughts. Several Mafia/Werewolf wikis exist on the Internet, and while a fair amount of roles and powers and terminology are standardized, several vary from place to place, and layouts are a mess everywhere. Celairiel had criticized the wiki layout when I first explained this project to her, but I had never disliked the wiki format until I started looking at how others were doing the job. It's not that the design is poor, it's the fact that navigation is frequently terrible. If you don't know the name of what you're looking for, you can't find it. Navigational pages are few and far between.

Roles and powers were the biggest problem. Mechanics could usually be found without too much trouble. But the name of a role or power varies from wiki to wiki, from site to site, and the same problem was going to exist on Sparkbomb. I opted to solve the problem by boiling Werewolf down from the MC or game design perspective. Powers are a mechanic. Roles are... fluff. You need to mention roles, of course. They add flavor and excitement to games. They create identity. But mechanically, the game is all about powers. Roles are just a way of thematically collecting one or more powers into each player. And so I started by breaking the game down into powers.

It was a lot of fun to realize that Werewolf is largely comprised of about two dozen powers. For all the variety and wonder of a Werewolf game, it's the dozens of variations on a handful of powers that makes the game so great. I hadn't worked on roles or powers in years (I can't even remember how long it's been since I last hosted a Werewolf game), but I found myself jotting down the occasional idea as I went along. I don't know if any of them are new or unique—almost everything has surely been tried at some point—but it felt good to be working on Werewolf again.

I only wrote a handful of articles from the 11th through the 18th. Finding the right balance, what to put where, was and is a bit daunting. Many articles, like the stub of the Kill power article, are quite incomplete from what I expect them to become. And I haven't even touched navigation, the problem that will need to be solved before all is said and done (and has the potential to make SparkWiki stand out from the rest of the pack). But the work is begun.

The 11th was a particularly good day. I had gotten extensive feedback on Episode 1 of The Mansion, and while Episode 2 was waiting for Sam to have the time to draw, I sat down to write Episode 3. And the writing flowed. In the past two months, I haven't before or after found the creative clarity I had that afternoon and evening. I give my gratitude to those that offered their feedback and were willing to answer my extensive list of questions about Episode 1. I had originally meant for Episode 3 to go in a slightly different direction, but the feedback convinced me of what the episode needed to be. I don't know if it's any good, but I know that what I wrote was what needed to be written. (I'll try to release Episode 3 by the end of this week.)

The rest of the month was something a bit more complicated. I've been debating for a few weeks how much I should or shouldn't say about certain personal and family matters. For now, I hope an apology will suffice. While I had attended to financial concerns before relaunching Sparkbomb, certain matters that weren't anticipated have been eating at my time. These matters are the reason why I glazed over a certain no progress week at the end of January. And they've continued to be problematic throughout February.

Meanwhile, I haven't been in as close of contact with Sam as I'd like to be. Her day job has been draining her completely, and I assume that's the reason I haven't heard much from her (and why Shiftone and The Mansion haven't had any followup comics). Episode 2 of The Mansion was delayed so long for that very reason: I'd been hoping to keep releases concurrent with her schedule, but I released Episode 2 when it became clear that, at least for now, that's not possible.

For those who are curious about my adventures outside of Sparkbomb, I finished Bioshock Infinite, and I've gotten into blues dancing. Bioshock Infinite didn't impress me nearly as much as it seems to have impressed everyone else. I glazed over a certain dream about New York at the beginning of the game, and I started to assume that Infinite would be about watching the downfall of a “great city” (and while that happens, that's not what the story is about). It also felt very much like a pure FPS and lacked the stealth and exploration of the previous two games. Rapture was dark, confined, and had mild horror overtones. Columbia's openness was... nice in its own way, but the gameplay never took me. Nor were there any big daddies or big sisters to contend with (and only a few handyman encounters). It wasn't until a certain mission involving guns that the story finally captured me, and around the same time I started putting a few of the pieces together (though by no means all of them). Finishing the game, I was impressed by the plot, but I don't feel like I'll properly appreciate it until I replay the game, and I simply have no plans on replaying it anytime soon.

Blues dancing, on the other hand, is something I'm quite excited about. Ballroom and swing are very structured. There's definite footwork, and both are very... stiff, in a way. I suspect this is more in the way that they're taught (or that I've learned them), and I've only begun to “just dance” swing, by which I mean that I finally know how to simply enjoy myself and lead whatever I end up leading rather than thinking too hard about it. (Normally I'm a perfectionist with dance steps. There's a difference between dancing to be perfect and dancing for the enjoyment of dancing.) Blues, on the other hand, has no steps in the traditional sense. It's much more focused on musicality and lead/follow connection and technique. Steps and moves exist, but they're largely improvisation. One of the disappointing things about dance, at least for me, is that I have a hard time leading someone who has no dance experience (as a result of the perfectionist in me while dancing). There are “correct” steps in my mind even when I know not to expect perfection from whoever I'm dancing with. For blues, it's different. There are no “correct” steps. I can simply lead. In learning blues, I'm rounding out my technique, concentrating more on musicality and on the connection between me and my follow. I tend to be a very soft lead. I fall within the acceptable range, but soft is still soft. This softness is a welcome change of pace for many follows who are tired of the frequent overly strong leads on any given dance floor, but it means that there's something in my dancing that's left to be desired (at least for me). Moreover, it also gives me a familiarity with dancing that will hopefully allow me to “just dance” with women who have no dance experience.

I finally got around to seeing the Ender's Game movie. My blu-ray player decided to die, so I was stuck using my PS3. (I dislike using game consoles for anything besides gaming, as I'd prefer to spend the console's full life expectancy on gaming.) Considering that my main complaint was “Why the ****** is Bernard in this movie?” a complaint that I uttered every time I saw Bernard from the Dragon Army intro onward, I'd consider the movie to be a success in my book. Pacing was iffy, there was too much Petra, there wasn't enough of the rest of Ender's Jeesh, there were the two scenes that followed the fight with Bonzo, and there was the awkward final two scenes of the movie that leave a question of how a Speaker for the Dead movie might follow and still include Valentine, but each of those things are minor. Ender's Game is still one of the best book-to-movie adaptations out there.

Going into March, I don't yet know how things will go. As I said, certain matters have been and may continue to eat up more of my time than I had ever anticipated. I apologize for that, and I apologize for not offering a better explanation. My goals and focus largely remain the same: SparkWiki's Werewolf section, releasing more of The Mansion, and releasing a Sparkverse story. Here's hoping the Month 3 report is full of excitement.




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