Gamedev diary: Murder in the Alps / Danse Macabre

Murder in the Alps (iOS, Nordcurrent UAB)

Beautifully rendered game with nice flow and an interesting mystery. The text-to-HOP ratio was too texty for my liking; I would hope to favour the object hunting.

Did not like the energy refill mechanic, though it would have been bearable if not for the fact that every action (including finding objects) required energy while buying energy refills was expensive. Hopefully lucrative for the studio, but not fun for me as a player. I’d prefer a single retail purchase option alongside the refill option.

I got maybe half an hour or less out of this game before the refill pricing structure grossed me out. I don’t think I’d want to take this approach for my game.

Danse Macabre: Lover’s Pledge (iOS, BigFish)

More an adventure puzzle game (like Monkey Island) than what I’d look for in a HOPA. The hidden object mini games weren’t that fun. The app started malfunctioning early in the game.

Hard to tell whether it would have been interesting to continue, as the combination of guesswork, tedium and errors turned me off continuing.

I did like that this game offered what effectively was a free demo with the option to unlock the full game. This seems like an accessible sales approach.

Gamedev diary: I don’t like the story I’m writing

For Project H, that is.

It’s so corny that I can’t even bring myself to finish writing the last act. I mean, HOPA games aren’t exactly meant to be realistic. They can’t all be like Adam Wolfe and that’s not what I’m aiming for.

But gosh… is this just the standard suffering that comes with writing a first draft, or is the story really crap? I can’t tell.

Perhaps I need to just finish the damned thing so I can get a second opinion.

The challenges in front of me are kind of psyching me out. I think I need to start super small. Maybe a three-scene—or just a one-scene—game to use as a proof of concept. That doesn’t seem too silly an idea.

A big, deep breath

I’ve finally come to the end of a long run that wasn’t the best for me. For months and months, I took on too many projects and constantly lived an overloaded lifestyle. My justification? I didn’t have one.

In hindsight, it was probably a combination of a work ethic that favours intensity and the lack of a well-calibrated filter for input. I understand this is not uncommon for people in Team Neurodiversity, which I have also recently learned is indeed my team.

Of course, being the kind of person who believes we make the choices that seem like the best idea at the time, I embrace the notion that “that unhealthy lifestyle” was actually very good for me at some point. Sometimes we need to struggle before we experience gratitude. Sometimes we need the rain before we get flowers.

Well, to continue the metaphor, I still need to tend to my garden before anything will bloom, but I have finally dug my way out of the mire 🌻 Here are the seedlings I’m currently tending:

WIP — “Sunset”

Act 2 of “Sunset” is done. I had a lovely break over the weekend, involving computer games and Thai food 😄 in preparation to get cracking on Act 3. This book has been a work in progress since 2018, and I’ll be over the moon when I finally get to share it with you.

Coming soon — About Henry: A Novella

About Henry: A Novella is now up on Amazon, pre-ordering is open, cover has been revealed, etc. 🙌 It feels great to have both stories, About Henry and About Her, in a single device-friendly ebook format.

This blog — a refresh

So here I am now at my new blog home, blog.jlperidot.com. I should have done this ages ago, as the new setup means easier maintenance and less faffing about every time WordPress releases a new update.

I hope you’re still with me and, if you are, that you’ll excuse any broken links still pointing to my old domain. They’ll get fixed in due course.

A bowl of Thai beef curry noodle soup and sweet Assam tea
Thai beef curry noodle lunch from the other day 😋

Gamedev diary: Research is expensive

I thought development would be the most expensive part of game design, but if I’m doing it all myself, and really only in my leisure time at the moment, it’s not really a big deal. The big budget-eater in front of me at the moment is research. Research is expensive. In both time and in money.

Technology

I’ve gone back and forth on the technology choice, and thankfully that’s not had a huge price tag on it. There’s just a lot to look into. Right now for Project H, the leading candidates are:

Game mechanics

I’ve spent a fair (but not unreasonable) amount on HOPA games across Steam and Big Fish Games, plus tried a couple of freebies on itch.io. There are some things that I don’t like personally, but could see how they’d work in some of the scenes. Puzzle mini-games, for example, are not my favourite feature. I pick a HOPA to play a HOPA, not to do mini-game puzzles I would look for in a different genre of gaming. BUT, some well-done minis that aren’t so complicated as to break the flow may help with immersion and driving the narrative through interactivity.

I do like the different types of HOPA challenges, though. Here’s what I’m currently considering using:

  • Vanilla list — I mean, that’s the basics, really
  • Silhouette list
  • Find X number of Y items
  • Events that trigger upon finding certain items/numbers of items/completion of list

Story and character development

My biggest research frustration right now is the development of the story. I love the urban fantasy setting and mythology, but I’m in two minds about the story and character development. I’d actually love for this to be light on both. Keep it shallow with just enough narrative to drive the player through the game activities. This is meant to be a kind of flow game for people who just want to zone out and find items in cluttered scenes.

But I’m somewhere in the middle at the moment. There’s too much story for it to just flow. But not enough depth to satisfy the story-hungry reader. I’m well stuck on the penultimate act of the script, and it’ll probably stay that way for now while I explore more technology and game mechanics. And, you know, work on my novel WIP. But that’s fine. Step by step, we’ll get there.

Construction in progress

No, I haven’t been taken over by hackers (at least, I hope not). Just working on a bunch of updates for this blog 👷🏻‍♀️

It’s been a nightmare trying to maintain the previous incarnation, so I’m now running on a new setup. Please excuse the mess! 🙏

It’s a long weekend in Perth, starting from today. Here’s hoping something doesn’t go horribly wrong, forcing me to spend the next three days in CMS hell 😅

Impromptu status update: Other than tinkering away with this site, I’ve been working on my novel WIP, the upcoming About Henry release, and procrastinating on planning my next story.

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Categorized as Diary

Shout, shout, let it all out

There’s at least one child who lives near us who likes to shout every morning. He/she/they descends the steps of their home and runs around the neighbouring vicinity sing-shouting at the top of their voice. He/she/they may also be the same child/children who screams every afternoon with such regularity and reliability that it’s evident we’re dealing with garden-variety bathtime/naptime disagreement and not something more sinister.

Ah, I remember being that age (those ages?). Shouting almost always brought some kind of relief—from pain, from frustration, from boredom, from the terrors of peace and quiet. At my ever-ripening age now, relief comes from laughter and ugly crying and making time to think and re-connect with myself, but I still marvel at the wondrous mechanics these little humans have. For example, their tiny throats can vibrate air particles with such vigour that concerned passersby stop to ask if they should to call the police.

At various shout o’clocks throughout the day, I wonder what the future holds for these young ones. Rock star. Opera singer. Football coach. Market auctioneer. Quiz night emcee. Suburban mum from the 80s. Flock of galahs in a tree at sunset. The possibilities are endless in this age of technology and the noise-cancelling headphones for which I am grateful.

Shout on, child. You are made of star stuff ⭐️

Being busy happens when life makes plans for you

I reject the idea that being busy is a badge of honour. If anything, being too busy may be a sign that we’re not being kind enough to ourselves, giving ourselves time to rest, which is hardly something to brag about even if it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

We may not mean to be busy, yet life happens and we end up that way. Maybe in our pursuit of meaning and happiness, we took on one too many enjoyable things and overdid it a little—or a lot. Or maybe we got caught up in the hidden tasks, the unpaid labour, the little extras that project managers need Gantt charts for.

That’s certainly how my last few years materialised, anyway. My rearview looks like a long, dark tunnel, stretching so far back that I can barely see the pinprick of light at the entrance. But the road ahead looks brighter. April has been a raging nonce of a month. A heap of big, demanding long-term projects converged at once, which was intense but came with the silver lining of getting them all out the door.

Actually, no, they’re not quite out the door. At the moment, they’re still in the foyer putting their shoes on, but it’s progress and I feel better for it. I’ve caught up on a huge backlog of filing and admin as well, and am now getting closer to catching up properly on email, unsubscribing from ancient spam, et cetera. It’s been a productive time, even with all the recent pandemic business that’s been going on in Western Australia. Looks like when things go awry, I deal with it by buckling down, focusing local, and taking comfort in things I can control. It’s left me with room to rediscover things I love that I’d let fall by the wayside.

This week, I’m working on “Sunset”; I’m working on a novella release of About Henry; I’m working on maintaining work-life balance as we head towards the light.

And it feels good.

What I’m not reading — Mar 2021

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I’ve been good this year. Somehow, I’m managing to read and get my work done, which has not happened so harmoniously in many years. However, while I’m chewing through a hard sci-fi and a sweet romance, my TBR is still giving me puppy-dog eyes. Apparently, one can’t just read today. One must read faster. Oh well~ 😪

Here are the little culprits currently gathering dust in the corner of my mind palace…

Occupational Hazard: An Anthology of Sexy Workplace Stories by Rebecca Chase

A lady in sexy corporate-wear on the cover of Occupational Hazard by Rebecca Chase

As much as I love a good long-read with complex storylines, I’m very keen on what I call “snack reads”—short stories you can enjoy with satisfaction within little pockets of time. That’s what drew me to Rebecca Chase’s 2020 release, Occupational Hazard, an anthology of six sexy workplace stories. Real-life smutty office moments may not be my thing, but steamy workplace stories certainly are.

Open to Love by Lyndell Williams

A woman in a hijab smiles while a bearded man smoulders on the cover of Open to Love by Lyndell Williams

Having just finished watching Vida, I’m in so in the mood for romantic drama and sexual tension, and expect Lyndell Williams’s Open to Love to deliver in droves. I mean, just check out that cover and read this blurb: “Faheem uses all his charms to make sure Hafsah becomes his, but flirting can be a dangerous thing when committing to no sex outside of marriage. The two play with some serious fire that might burn them both.” 🔥🔥🔥

Neon Hearts by Stefanie Simpson

A woman illuminated in pink and blue on the cover of Neon Hearts by Stefanie Simpson

This amazing book is coming out in a few days and I can’t waaaaaaait! Unfortunately, I shall have to wait, but that’ll just give me more time to get excited. Stef Simpson is an amazing writer with a tight writing style that carries so much feeling. She was kind enough to chat with me earlier this month about NEON HEARTS and her other work. You can check it out her interview here.

The Train Guy by Michelle Prak

Cover of The Train Guy by Michelle Prak: A woman pretends to look at her phone while really watching a man reading his book on a train

I’m not sure what to expect from this book, but I love that Michelle Prak’s The Train Guy involves longing from afar and time spent on a train (yeah, I like trains). Oh, and it’s an Australian romance, which means it’ll probably have that special Aussie cheekiness about it too.

A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

A woman's face shown through the silhouette of a bird amidst leaves and flowers on the cover of A Lover's Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo 100% won me over with its cover and serious, almost solemn, blurb. It struck me as an introspective love story and in my post-dentist high, I picked up the paperback immediately. Don’t shop for books while on drugs, kids. Or, maybe do…? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

The Queen’s Alliance (Kingdoms of the Ocean #1) by Jessica Gleave

A red-headed mermaid on the cover of The Queen's Alliance by Jessica Gleave

I should be good and press on with Jessica Gleave’s Sky Realms series, especially after finding such a gem of a fantasy romance in Helios and Zelena. But when I found out this author has a merfolk series too, my curiosity was piqued. Neveah will just have to wait. The Queen’s Alliance is the next Gleave book on my list.

Moon — the last edits are in!

Earlier this week, I turned in the final edit of O, swear not by the moon (let’s call it “Moon” for short bc I’m soooooo tired of typing out the full title).

It feels BLOODY GREAT to be on the other side of that WIP. Don’t get me wrong, I had a whale of a time writing it 🐳 but I’ve never created a a piece of fiction that lengthy to a deadline so tight before… Which, in all fairness, wasn’t that tight (and at 12.5k words, my piece is hardly lengthy), but with Christmas and start-of-the-year particulars hitting me at the same time, I consider completing this project a personal achievement.

“Moon” is also the first story that pushed me hard on both the science fiction and romance fronts. In all my published work to date, I’ve taken the sci-fi elements fairly casually. Yes, even though It Starts With A Kiss has that “engineers in space” thing, the science is still incidental to the characters’ respective journeys.

With “Moon”, I wanted to explore how technology empowers human connection, similar to how it enables our relationships today. We often blame the Internet and social media for weakening our in-person relationships, but I’d like to know… how robust were these relationships to begin with if they could be threatened by a tool that offers us more opportunity to connect?

We now have the ability to bypass chance. We’re no longer “stuck with” the pool of people who happened to be around us when we were born. We have the means to intentionally seek out and nurture relationships with others who might understand and know how to appreciate us. That, I feel, deserves acknowledgement.

There are other things “Moon” gave me an outlet to explore, but because they’re a bit spoilery, I won’t discuss them right now. I’d prefer for you to explore them with me through the story.

It comes out 26th April in Fedowar Press’s Star Crossed anthology of romantic science fiction.

Does failure start with a big F?

In case you missed it, Facebook banned the sharing of news in Australia last week. The new ruling was rolled out very clumsily, with the public suddenly unable to access swathes of essential information services. Look, I won’t re-hash the story. That linked article gives a pretty clear rundown of what happened.

I feel like I should be righteously indignant about this, but I’m not. I’m concerned and I’m curious. We, the users of giant “free” social media platforms, are subject to decisions made by opaque corporations and governments scrambling to keep up with changing technology. In this unexplored social, technological and legislative territory, these decisions amount to large-scale experiments with us as the lab rats.

And the two questions we may not ask ourselves enough remain:

  1. Are we okay with this?
  2. And, what’s the alternative if we aren’t?

What would communication look like if you were to give up social media? What would you miss out on if the rest of your social network stayed on there? Could your small business, hobby, desire for connection flourish without it?

As usual, I have more questions than answers. I know no one’s forcing us to stay on these big platforms, but I also realise that everyone’s situation is different. Some people depend on social media because other avenues are inaccessible to them. So to get all high and mighty about the choices people make is very often an exercise in projection.

There are flaws on both sides of the fence. Neither Facebook nor Australia’s news media have a clean track record, and the optimist in me wants to believe this is part of the shake-up needed for everyone to figure out a smart way forward. And still, I worry about those of us who would become “collateral damage” in the process. I worry that we’re the frog in the water and whoever’s turning up the temperature won’t know when to stop.

Is that paranoid and overly dramatic? I hope so. I hope that’s all it turns out to be.