My First Draft is Complete…

I have finished the first draft of my novella and I am ready to move onto the next step. That is proving a little more difficult than anticipated…

On the morning of August 31st, I wrote the last word in my manuscript. Final word count came to 27,800 words. It has been a great feeling. Since then, I have been researching how to go about my next step in getting it published. That step is recruiting beta readers and distributing the manuscript to them. It’s not a straight forward process and leaving me at a bit of a stalemate.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as asking several random people to read it and give me the feedback. Through my research, it is suggested not to use people that are close to you as they might not provide the best feedback. That is understandable, though I do have a couple people in mind that I do trust to have a critical eye and to give honest feedback (my brother, for example… especially when it comes to grammar).

That said, I intend to find about 5 to 10 beta readers (plus a few select ones… like my brother). For those that I do not know, there comes another issue. Security! While I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, I have been burned before and have seen others burned as well. Giving a complete stranger (or even an internet acquaintance) my manuscript comes with risks.

I saw on a reddit thread where an author asked about NDA’s for their beta readers. They were immediately attacked for being egotistical and made fun of with comments that their work was not “good enough” to be stolen. Only one comment was helpful to the author’s inquiry before the thread was locked to commenting. I personally believe that anybody, no matter their product, has the right to have their work protected. I have certainly considered this method myself. I am not saying that my work is the next best thing, but I still want to protect it before putting it out there.

Along similar lines, another consideration is the process of distributing the manuscript to potential beta readers. Should I print out manuscripts and mail it out (the word document… at double spaced 12-pt Times New Roman… is at 91 pages) to potential readers physically? Or would some sort of online distribution method be better? If the latter, how can I ensure that only the people that I want to have access can see it?

Well, that is where I am at currently. If anybody has any recommendations or solutions that I can pursuit, I would be greatly appreciative. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I will be able to move on with this step. My goal is to have all feedback from beta readers by the end of October. Then I can do my revisions make my manuscript ready to send to an editor. I would like to be at that step by the end of the year. Ultimately, my goal is to publish the book in the spring.

Feel free to comment with any suggestions that you may have. I look forward to it. This is quite a learning process… and a journey.

The Wheel of Time Trailer

The 1st trailer Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time has been released and I am over the moon! Having watched it numerous times, here is my take on what was shown…

I was supposed to write a blog entry a couple days ago. That entry was to be about the fact that I finished writing the first draft of my novella. The last couple of days, however, my brain has been in a bit of a “reboot.” Now that it is getting back to a “ready status,” I must hold off on that entry as something big has dropped that I need to talk about. Yes, Amazon Prime has dropped (what they call) the teaser trailer for their The Wheel of Time adaptation.

For anybody who has been following my blog, I have been anxiously awaiting this first glimpse of the show. Having started my journey in this series back in 2007, it has been a long wait. For many who have been following from the beginning, it has been about 30 years since the first book was published. After watching many other fantasy adaptations come to life (for good or for ill), this trailer is the stamp of reality that it is happening. As an expecting father, I can relate it to the third trimester sonogram when the feeling actually hits that this is happening, and it is happening soon!

Diving into the trailer…. It opens with the characters of Egwene (Madeleine Madden and Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) standing on a cliff before Egwene is shoved off into the water below. From there, we hear Rosamund Pike (who plays the Aes Sedai, Moiraine) begins reciting the first line from the opening paragraph of the book as the trailer goes on showing shots of various characters, scenes, effects, and other surprises. From glimpses of the trio of Rand (Josha Stradowski – First name pronounced ‘yo-sha’), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and Mat (Barney Harris) to the epic Lan (Daniel Henney) kicking shadowspawn butt, every cut, every scene had me glued. I’m not going to recap the whole trailer, that would take a while. I was certainly pulled into the trailer as it carried on, trying to take in every scene and every word.

I watched it many times already. I have reveled with other fans on social media including Facebook groups and #TwitterOfTime. Needless to say (but I will anyway), I am excited! My reactions were of awe and wonderment as my eyes searched out every detail. By and large, I think it is safe to say that (initial reactions at least) the majority of the fanbase is as over the moon as I am. There have been a few that have been nitpicking some details like some of the CGI effects and the rich color palette used (I, for one, love the color palette). But overall, I am satisfied, and November 19th can’t get here soon enough.

Shortly after the trailer posted, Showrunner Rafe Judkins and Rosamund Pike took to social media to answer questions. It was wonderful to see Rosamund join in the Q&A festivities. When asked what part in the trailer are they most excited for us to see in full, Rafe answered “Winternight” and Rosamund answered Shadar Logoth. In another question, Rosamund answered what drew her to the role of Moiraine. Her answer was that it was how the women “harness the elements of the universe to unleash incredible power. For more of the Q&A you can check out this thread on twitter here: Rafe/Rosamund Q&A

While the pair answered many questions regarding the show, there were a few questions that I know that did not answer. Of course, they weren’t going to answer any questions that gave anything away. The question that I submitted appears to have been glossed over (even though I know I wasn’t the only one to ask it). That question is regarding the unique “profanity” used in the books. For those that don’t know, these are expletives that are commonly used throughout the series by characters much like our own swear words. Things like “blood and ashes,” “flaming,” fish guts,” and “mother’s milk in a cup!” They add a certain character to the series, and I worry that the show will be lacking these terms.

What else has me worried is regarding the plot. It was clear from the trailer that many scenes have been changed from the source material. It has long been expected that there would be changes from the books. There are certainly scenes in the trailer (like the opening scene with Egwene and Nynaeve) that were added to the show. Perhaps the most concerning aspect is how this will affect the story going forward? Many elements from later seasons could be greatly affected by the events changed for the first season. Because of that, epic moments from the books could very well be cut, and that is a great concern. However, I am refraining from judging too much until I see season one for myself. Until then, I will trust in Rafe Judkins, book consultant Sarah Nakamura, their team and crew, and the blessings of Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s widow) and the rest of team Jordan who were consulted.

Regardless, the trailer has certainly whetted my appetite for the series. It is, perhaps, the second biggest thing I am looking forward to this year (after the birth of my daughter Sophia a month before its premier). The more I see it, the more I love the colors of the different Aes Sedai (pr. eyes said-eye – the female magic users of the world) ajahs (pr. ah-jah) the different sects of said Aes Sedai).

The long wait is almost over. It is a sure bet that in a couple of months, my eyes will be feasting upon every beam of light emitted as this series plays out on my TV screen. With trollocs and half-men aplenty, battles and magical weaves galore (sorry, I couldn’t resist it) … I am ready to take on another turning of the wheel.

For further reviews, reactions, and info, check out the links below. Just beware… there may be spoilers!

LINKS

(1631) The Wheel Of Time – Official Teaser Trailer | Prime Video – YouTube

The Wheel Of Time on Twitter: “Rosamund Pike and @RafeJudkins answer your questions about #TheWheelOfTime!” / Twitter

Daniel Greene – Wheel Of Time Trailer Breakdown! – YouTube

The Dusty Wheel – Wheel of Time Trailer LIVE COVERAGE! #TrailerGaidon – YouTube

WOT UP – Wheel of Time Trailer Breakdown! – YouTube

Back on the Writing Train

I am finally back on track with my book. Updates on my progress and status.

Well, finally, after a long period sitting on a half-written manuscript, I am finally back on track with writing my book. I started writing it over two years ago. Originally, it was a short story that I submitted for a class assignment. Then I decided to expand it and turn it into a novella. Early last year, when I started my job, I put it on the back burner and have struggled getting back the creativity to return. I have finally reached that place and am chugging along.

When I wrote the short story that became my current project, I had little time to write it. We were given the assignment and I drew the lot of only having two weeks to complete it. The assignment was to write a Utopian (or Dystopian) Horror and thus, I knocked out “The Monsters Within” in the allotted time (extended by a snow delay by a couple days). I plan on expanding further on this in a Forward to the novella. In the end, I was surprised by what I was able to come up with and was even complemented during the peer-review on my world-building and story given such a short timeframe.

Months later, when I published my story “The Hedge Maze”, another story that I wrote for a class assignment (a different class, though), I knew that I needed something more if I wanted to get my writing career going. I was satisfied with The Hedge Maze, but being a short story, it is hard to market it by itself. I needed something that I could publish in print. I didn’t have enough short stories for an anthology, and I was intrigued by my short story “The Hedge Maze” and wanted to expand it. So, I set out doing just that.

For a while, I was on a role. I used an old program I had, called “Dramatica Pro,” to help fill in the story. I wrote an outline that went beyond what I had already written to try and further world build and make room for greater character arcs. I then began writing the novel. Then life got in the way. I started a job which left me little time for me to work on my writing. I had to shelve it for the time being. I picked up again, briefly, after the holidays of 2019 while I was transitioning to a different job. But that job, too, made things difficult.

That job was working as a Patient Transport at a local hospital. Little did I realize what was coming shortly after I started. Working at a hospital during the pandemic was stressful. My creativity took a hit. It didn’t help that my fiancée caught the thing. That was a scary time. At that time, we still knew nothing about the virus and what it would mean. Fortunately, she recovered, and we trudged through the pandemic. But I was off track.

Part of the reason for starting this blog was to help me with getting my “writing edge” back. I hazard to say that it has been working. It has ignited my creativity as I think of topics to write. And other projects have come along which has added to the fire. That said, last week I began the work of rewriting my novella. I took what I already wrote and started rewriting it, reworking bits here and there as I go along. I am nearly caught up to the point I left off at when I originally wrote it. Incidentally, much of the second half is already written as well, being a big chunk of the original short story. So, while I am still working on my first draft, I already have revisions in progress.

That said, my goal is to have it completed and ready for Beta Reading by the time my second daughter is born. She is due in the middle of October. I will begin at that time (if not earlier) to recruit beta readers. If all goes well, I should be ready to find an editor by the winter. During that later winter, I will set up my publishing house and work on the cover art (I have somebody in mind, already). That should mean I’m ready to hit the presses by spring. It seems a long way away, but I am optimistic that I can hold to the schedule. And having a new baby should help the later months go by in a breeze.

So, what does that mean for this blog? Well, I suspect that I may be a bit silent for the next couple of months, at least. I may pop in from time to time (like when the trailer for the Wheel of Time TV show… or other shows I am looking forward to… drops). But, barring any derailments, I intend to focus most of my writing on my novella. After I finish the main draft, I may begin work on my next writing project, hopefully a full-fledged fantasy novel. I have several in mind, but we will have to see how things go to see which direction I go.

Other projects on my list have been moved to the back burner for the time being. Unfortunately, my regular work schedule has not been compatible with the Amazing Tales with my daughter. I would like to get more into that again, but only time will tell when that will be feasible. The game that I was working on for my daughter in RPG Maker is also on hold. While I made a lot of progress, it has been an overwhelming experience. I am weighing out my options with it. Should I try to enlist help? If I do, I certainly want to make it a marketable product. I like the story I outlined for it and would like to see it through. Any interests in helping (artists, musicians, programmers, designers… amateur or professional alike) feel free to reach out. I would like to resume it soon. It may be my next project after my book is complete. Who knows, maybe a collaboration on the game could lead to another game collaboration of grander proportions.

phoenix clipart Unique Phoenix Free Download Clip Art Free Clip Art

Whatever the case, I am excited for the possibilities. It is time for this phoenix to rise from the ashes.

Exciting Look at The Wheel of Time TV series from Amazon Prime

As the premier of The Wheel of Time TV show comes closer, newly released images stir up some feelings of excitement.

It has been a little bit since my last blog post… about a month and a half. I’ve been busy. Hopefully the fruits of my labor will come to bear soon. In the meantime, something I am looking forward to, The Wheel of Time TV show, has had some major reveals recently. At the virtual SDCC last month, Amazon released a poster and the premier month (November) for the show. And just today, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly magazine, we were bombarded with several images from the show featuring the cast in full costume. And it is glorious.

Quick Analysis of Pics

The article is a good read and clearly intended for those unfamiliar with the series. Perhaps the most striking thing is the first image shown… the main cast all in a line and in full costume. At the center we see the character Moiraine (played by Oscar-nominated actress Rosemund Pike) flanked by her Warder al’Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney). Fanning out from them, you have the remaining cast members including (from left to right) Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) and Mat (Barney Harris) on the left and Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Rand (Josha Stradowski).

“Wheel of Time” S01_106_D04 – 6/28 – EXT MEADOW/WAYGATE MOIRAINE arrives at the Waygate, met by LOIAL. And all the other. Who is the Dragon?

My impressions of the cast are that they all look fantastic. I know some have complained about the costumes and how they don’t look medieval enough. However, I am fine with the clothing. The series is not set in our own history and, if anything, it is more closely related to the renaissance period as far as tech and fashion level. In any case, I love the looks of all of the characters and look forward to seeing more of them soon.

“Wheel of Time” S01_Ep103_D14 – 3/22 – EXT. CARALAIN PLAINS EGWENE and PERRIN see wagon tracks heading east, friend or foe?

Another image is that of the fearsome Logaine (Álvaro Morte) looking fierce while held in a cage with a couple of Aes Sedai (the magic users of the WoT world) looking over him. His expression is perfect as someone who is smug despite being held captive, while the two women immediately behind him, Aes Sedai Allana Mosvani (Priyanka Bose) and Kerene Nagashi (Clare Perkins) look on with a bit of concern. That picture certainly makes me look forward to seeing that scene play out on my TV Set.

Two other images included one of Rand and Egwene sitting together and one of Lan carrying Moiraine into a dark, forboding building. For those images, you can check out the article. The first image is sweet in its appearance and hints at chemistry between the two cast members. It will be interesting to see how that chemistry shows up on the screen. From what I have seen of the cast members, they have all been getting along great, so I expect the chemistry to shine between them all (for the most part). The last image is for those of us who read the books as it points to a particular scene from them. I won’t go into it here, but it should be one of the highlights of the early episodes.I am certainly looking forward to seeing more. The series is set to premier in November (as mentioned earlier), so it is getting closer. It has been a long time coming and I know us WoT fans are anxiously awaiting that moment. One thing that can be said about the production team is that they have been friendly with the fan community. Over the past couple of years, many of the info releases (such as casting news and small glimpses) were released on a Wednesday. The moniker #WoTWednesday was born in that and has become a tradition of sorts.

With that in mind, this article was made public (though the official publication of the article is in Friday’s issue of the magazine) on a Wednesday. The last few months have seen the last Wednesday of the month to be the day when elements of the show were released. From small 3 – 5 second clips to tidbits here and there, the production team at Amazon has wet the appetite of the fandom. As November gets closer, I expect that to ramp up rapidly. Being as next Wednesday is the last one of August, I expect something big. It is my prediction that the trailer will drop on that date. At the very least, we should get a short (30 second) teaser trailer. The showrunner, Rafe Judkins, did say that we will get a trailer before the end of summer. Whatever the case, the premier of this show is the second biggest thing I am looking forward to this fall (the first being the arrival of my second daughter).

Links to Know

If you are familiar with the series, or are curious to learn more, there are many wonderful sites and YouTubers around the web. A word of caution, however, spoilers abound for this epic show throughout these locations. However, most sites and YouTubers are pretty good about warning ahead of time. There are a lot, so I will just touch on a few of them here. A whole blogpost could be dedicated to the resources throughout the web regarding The Wheel of Time series (both the books and the TV Series).

First of all there is Dragonmount.  It is a popular news site regarding the series that also features in depth discussions of various aspects of the books (and show). If you are on Twitter, there is a fan community known as #TwitterOfTime. It is a very welcoming community to those familiar with the series and newbies alike. Another popular website is Theoryland. This site is really for people who have read the series and to discuss speculation regarding the books and open-ended mysteries. The owner of the site, Matt Hatch, runs a call-in YouTube channel called The Dusty Wheel. He and his guest hosts have a lot of fun talking about various aspects of the books and shows.

That brings us to the other YouTubers. One of the first that I encountered was Daniel Greene. His channel is general Fantasy News, however, he is a big WoT fanboy and is prominent in the community. He is also a published author. Then we have others that are focused on The Wheel of Time itself. First, there is Nae’blis. He covers the news and has a lot of in-depth videos about various aspects of the series from backgrounds of characters, cultures, and locations to battle analysis. A good resource if you want to know more of the background before diving in fully. And there is WOT UP!, a news channel focused solely on The Wheel of Time.

There are many more great YouTubers, sites, and podcasts that delve into the series and I wish I could list them all. Many of the sites that I have listed have aggregated lists which include many of those sites. If you are one of those YouTubers, Podcasters or Websites, feel free to post a link in the comments here (and/or in my Social Media posts for this blog). One thing I would be remis NOT to include is the fabulous narrators of the Wheel of Time audiobooks, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. They really bring the story to life in audio form.

Voices of Time

To wrap up, I will leave you with a treat. About two years ago, the Wheel of Time online community was bombarded by a slew of posts where people would read the iconic first paragraph of the first chapter of The Wheel of Time. This paragraph repeated in every book (with only a slight alteration for where the “wind rose”). The trend came to be known under the hashtag #VoicesOfTime. So I leave you with my (nearly 6 year old) daughter reading doing just that.

Links

Rosamund Pike is Moiraine in first look at Amazon’s The Wheel of Time | EW.com

News – Dragonmount.com

#TwitterOfTime – Twitter Search / Twitter

Home – Theoryland of the Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)

(1540) The Dusty Wheel – YouTube

(1540) Daniel Greene – YouTube

Breach of Peace: Greene, Daniel B: 9780578840772: Amazon.com: Books

(1540) Nae’Blis – YouTube

(1540) WoT Up! – YouTube

Michael Kramer-Kate Reading Audiobook Narrators (katereadingaudiobooks.com)

(1) #voicesoftime – Twitter Search / Twitter

(1540) Voices of Time featuring Savannah – YouTube

Weekly Wheel News (@weeklywheelnews) / Twitter

An Ode to Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy has had great impact over the years. It’s stories have made a difference in my life, for certain, and could be labeled as the source of my inspiration in writing and the fantasy genre in general.

I have long loved the fantasy genre of fiction. Whether books, movies, or video games, I find myself pulled into worlds of mystery and magic. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, The Wheel of Time is one of my all-time favorite series in the genre (and of all time, for that matter). As a kid, I watched and enjoyed movies such as Legend, Star Wars, Labyrinth, and Willow. I can quote many lines from The Princess Bride (I consider it fantasy, even though there is little “magic”). But I never really grasped the genre until I played a little game called (ironically) Final Fantasy.

Admittedly, it has been a while since I picked up a Final Fantasy title. Aside from dabbling in some of the offshoots (Final Fantasy Tactics) or using the characters included in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I have not really played any of the games much. I have a couple of the classics on Steam, yet I haven’t really dived into them yet. Actually, I haven’t really picked up a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy IX on the original Playstation. I guess a big part of it is that the series seems to have slipped away from what I loved back in the glory days.

It’s not that I hate the Playstation Final Fantasies. When FF VII was released, I marveled at the FMVs that carried the story along. I enjoyed FF VIII despite its challenge. I actually liked FF IX the most of the Playstation FFs even though I never finished it (largely due to life and circumstance). But there was something missing in those entries that I could not just get. Perhaps that is why those iterations don’t really resonate with me like the earlier entries in the series.

One of the biggest moments that everyone sites from Final Fantasy VII [SPOILER WARNING from here on out] was when Aeris was killed by Sephiroth. I admit that I was shocked at that moment too, but I think I was more mad than anything. I spent so much time leveling up and powering up the character for her to be gone not even half way through the game. The emotional resonance just was not there as strong for me.

Those who site Aerith’s Death as the most impactful obviously did not live through the sacrifice of Palom And Porom who turned themselves to stone to save the party. Sure, they were restored at the end, but it still stung when it happened. Then there was the moment when Celes, stranded all alone after the world broke, threw herself from a cliff in desperation because all hope was seemingly gone. And while she did so, a version of the song she sang at the opera played sorrowfully in the background, adding to the raw emotion of the scene. It was a masterpiece.

No, nothing beats the glory days of the SNES Final Fantasies. I stand by that statement! Final Fantasy IV and VI (2 and 3 as I remember them) were the real games that got me into the genre of fantasy and, also, inspired me to become a writer. From the moment that the airships are flying across the screen, the story of Final Fantasy IV pulled me in and never let go. Sure, it had some moments of cheesiness, but often that cheesiness added to the narrative in a delightful way (I’m looking at you, “Spoony Bard”). It was an epic battle of Good vs Evil with characters coming and going that elevate it to the Lord of the Rings of video games. It was amazing what could be accomplished with 16-bit sprites.

If Final Fantasy IV was the video game equivalent of LotR, then Final Fantasy VI could easily be equated to Game of Thrones. I mentioned before the scene where one of the main characters attempts suicide. But that is just one of many impactful scenes. The number of impactful, sorrowful, or just plain emotional scenes could fill a book. It was story telling at its finest.

Despite the more steampunk setting, FF VI had the pivotal impact that drove home my desires for my future. I just didn’t know how to get there at the time. Since that game, the phoenix has resonated with me. I feel it is because of the scene where Locke (who I always assumed as myself when playing) attempted to raise his lost love through the power of the phoenix. Now, I have a tattoo of a phoenix on my back. Perhaps it is because no matter what hardships I go through, I keep rising back up to face new challenges.

Whatever the case, Final Fantasy has clearly had a great impact on me and my life. I will always remember the trips I took along the way. Whether it was flying to the moon or taking an airship into the earth and dealing with Dwarves or defying a tyrant by “riding” a castle into the sand or spending a night at the opera, the fondness of those memories will carry on forever.

With that said, I have been working on a project over the last few weeks that would bring my own game to life. Utilizing the program RPG Maker MZ (a tool designed for making games similar to Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest). It is a game dedicated and for my daughter, Savannah. As of this moment, I am about halfway through the outline for the story, and I have found many scenes and elements that are reminiscent of those old Final Fantasy stories. The theme of crystals has popped up in my story and I have quite a few little homages to the series. I find it fitting.

In the days and weeks to come, I would like to share some of the development of this game, and eventually, when I complete it, share it to the world. While the story is more lighthearted and a bit tongue-in-cheek (it IS for a soon-to-be 6-year-old), some deeper elements are seeping in. That is OK. I would be happy if it grows with her. Ultimately, I hope that, years from now, it causes the same feelings for her that I feel for those classic Final Fantasy titles.

Conclusion I’m far from the first person to point out the irony of the use of the word “final” in the title. Not just because the games are still being made, but because of how long even the earlier ones have endured. For me, it was not final, but a beginning.

Update: I’m Still around

A quick update on my status, what I’m currently working on, and my future projects.

I wanted to check in and give an update on my status. I know it has been a while since my last post. The past month has been pretty crazy. After dealing with my diabetes diagnosis, of which I am managing quite well, several other elements have kept me away.

The first, dealing with my diabetes, is that my vision has been out of whack for a bit. While I have been near-sighted for most of my life, the past month has seen a flip-flop of my vision as I have been working to get my blood-sugar under control. It seems to be settling back to normal (mostly), but it made it difficult to focus (no pun intended) on my writing.

At the end of May, I had family come to town for my niece’s graduation. It was a great time and I really enjoyed seeing my mother, sister, and her children and to have my entire family together for the first time in a few years. Especially when we all got together for Maria’s pizza. For those of you familiar with the Baltimore area, that is the Maria’s on Taylor Avenue. We grew up with that pizza and it has become a tradition within our family.

Anyway, some of my freetime has been taken up with getting back into certain games. That started while I was recovering from my hospital visit and my daughter wanted somebody to build her a house in Minecraft. So I did and now I have been sucked back into that game. The recent update adding copper didn’t help. Between that and Miitopia, I have had some needed bonding time with my daughter.

That brings me to my current project. My main computer had problems and I had to reinstall Windows. During the process, I was reinstalling my programs and tools. One of those tools, RPG Maker MV – a program that allows users to make games similar to classic Japanese Role Playing Games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, has also sucked me in. I’ve dabbled with it before but have never completed making a game.

With my daughter’s recent interest and enjoyment of games like Minecraft and Miitopia, and to celebrate her rapid advancement in reading, I started working on a game for her that I hope to have done by her 6th birthday in September. I’m still in the planning phase, writing the story outline and gathering together my resources.

It is an exciting endeavor as it is helping to activate my creative juices and start them flowing. It can be overwhelming to think that her birthday is only a few months away and I am working alone on this project. Even if I only get a single “Act” completed in time, that would be satisfying.

I will try to post updates. And hopefully, I will be able to transition into getting back into my book and finishing that. It may be the encouragement I need to do so. To help, I may ask for assistance in testing, but I am still a way off for that.

A Week of Firsts (Leading to a Change in Lifestyle)

This week saw several “first experiences” for me. It definitely threw me for a loop.

For about a week or so before this past Sunday, I had been having odd experiences. My site had become blurry more than usual to the point that I would think that I wasn’t even wearing my glasses. On top of that, I became twice as thirsty as usual. But I went about my business, hoping that things would improve. Since I work overnight, and began using an eye mask while I slept during the day. I read that if it is too tight, it can lead to blurry vision. So I stopped using it.

On Sunday, I got home from work and went about my day as normal. I spoke to my mother that morning, wishing her a happy mother’s day, and had plans to go with my fiancée to Texas Roadhouse that evening to celebrate her. So I went to sleep around 10 am. I woke up around noon and went to refill my drink. I was super thirsty. My fiancée asked my father to check my blood sugar.

He pulled out his meter and tested my blood. It read 600+. “That can’t be right” he said. He pulled out another meter and tested again… sure enough 600+ was the result. Needless to say, shortly after, I was on my way to the hospital. When I got there, I had the fastest experience going from walking in the door to being in a bed in the ER than I ever had before. Thus came my first “first.” They admitted me to stay overnight.

Up to this point in my life, I had never been admitted for an overnight stay. In fact, the only time that I had stayed in a hospital overnight was when my daughter was born. (That is another story altogether.)

During the stay (which turned out to be two nights), my blood sugar was brought down significantly. My vision was still blurry, however, so the doctor ordered first a CT scan and, when that came up clear, an MRI. Both of those were firsts for me. Having worked as a Patient Transport, I had taken many people to the CT scan and watched the machine do its work. So I was prepared for that, though I found it interesting actually being on the table this time.

I was a bit nervous for the MRI. I had heard plenty of stories about how it can effect people with claustrophobia. And I have that to a degree. But when I got down there (my nurse gave me some medicine to help relax me before going down), I found it wasn’t all that bad.

Of course, now being officially diabetic, I had a few other firsts as well.. checking my own sugar and giving myself an injection. I still flinch at the finger pricks and the needles are hit and miss as to whether I feel them. But I am managing.

All in all, I am getting through this sudden change. I have long had a sweet tooth and I am a picky eater, so that is an adjustment. I’ve even been going through a bit of depression. Still, I have a good support system around me. My father has been managing diabetes for 20+ years. My fiancée is doing her best to help me with my diet. My daughter has been giving me lots of love. My extended support is very helpful and I have been feeling lots of love from my friends and family.

Thank you to all of those who have lent me their support. Hopefully, as I get this managed, I will once again have the focus to get my writing going full steam ahead. In the meantime, I will focus on getting my health in order. Afterall, I have my daughter and another one on the way to think about.

My Look at Humankind (the game)

I played the Humankind Victor OpenDev – here are my thoughts.

After my blog feature covering my thoughts on a potential Civilization VII, I got in on the Victor OpenDev for Humankind, the new game from Sega/Amplitude Studios. Before playing it, I didn’t know much about the game. I knew that it is a 4x game along the lines of the Civilization franchise. A game that molds itself after Civilization and positioned as a “competitor” is something that hasn’t really been seen since Call to Power II.

I know there are games like Europa Universalis, the Total War franchise, and Age of Empires, but none of those are truly on the scope of Civilization. Age of Empires is a real time strategy game, so the mechanics and how you play are completely different. The Total War franchise is a mixture of turn-based and real time that only focuses on certain periods of history, not the span. Europa Universalis also generally focuses on specific periods.

Humankind, on the other hand, is a turn-based strategy game that spans the lifetime of human history. It takes a lot from Civilization and adds enough to make it its own. I am intrigued by some of the features of Humankind. Even like that some of the things that I mentioned in my Civilization VII feature are implemented in some fashion (though not completely how I would have imagined it). And yet there are some things that I was not too happy about. But it is an in-development game, so I’m not too concerned about the latter. Hopefully, the notes that I (and other players) submitted after playing will go towards well tweaking those weak-spots and making a better game.

WHAT I LIKED

The first thing that I liked was that, just as I suggested for Civilization, they have a “prehistory” period. It was a fun little “prologue” before getting into the heart of the game… empire development. Once you reach the Ancient Era, you get to select from 10 cultures of that period. That would be your foundation and give you your emphasis for that era (builder, militarist, merchant, etc.) You get more fame by completing certain milestones in the culture’s orientation.

When you advance eras, you get to pick from a new set of cultures (or stick with the one you have). As you go, you can settle outposts and settlements within regions of the map, recruit armies and generally develop your empire. You have religion, science, and culture that you can use to give your empire certain bonuses. Those features seem well implemented to me. Combat and diplomacy are areas that I felt were hit and miss. First, what I liked.

Diplomacy is pretty much straight forward and simple. You can sign treaties (trade, border, info sharing, etc.), make trades, respond to crisis with other cultures (demand or forgo reparations), and manage your relationships (declare war). I didn’t really delve into the trade mechanic. I found myself most often in the Treaties or Crisis tabs. The major hiccup I found was when dealing with war, particularly, ending a war. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Combat is certainly intriguing when engaging. You stack your armies (in limited stacks) as you move them around the map. When you engage in combat, you go into a sort of mini game (without transition as in Total War). Hexes will highlight showing your area and the enemies. You can then deploy your troops, then engage in combat, attacking player going first. There are three rounds per turn. If you do not complete the battle in three rounds, you continue next turn. This was certainly an interesting mechanic. Mostly, I enjoyed it. But there were still frustrations that came up, especially as the eras progressed.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

My first big frustration was, in battle, when I would go to the deployment, sometimes I didn’t have enough space to deploy my troops. When that happens, your extra troops are in reserve. I struggled trying to figure out how to swap out the troops in reserve. This led to me being overwhelmed because I couldn’t get a ranged unit out to pepper the enemy with arrows. Another problem came with balance. Some units seemed way overpowered. The enemy was using Samnahya (essentially elephant archers) and they were taking out my units in nearly one hit. I was using my most powerful units at the time and couldn’t hold a candle.

As mentioned before, I had a hard time with ending wars. The mechanics there could be a bit confusing. Reducing the enemy’s War Support was supposed to lead to them surrendering. If they did not surrender, the only option I saw was to surrender to them. It could be quite confusing.

My other big complaint was the technology pacing. I was blasting through the eras via the Era Stars and far outpacing my technological development. I hope that this was just for the OpenDev and that when the game releases, the pacing will be much better.

Finally, there is one thing about the game that kind of irks me. That aspect is one of the core features of the game, the mix-matching of cultures. Every era, you can select a new culture. You can start out as the Egyptians, progress to the Goths in the Classical Era, take the Aztec moniker in the Medieval Era, then progress to the Ming in the Early Modern. I understand that this mechanic is implemented to provide a vast combination of cultures to forge your empire. I do not fault the developers for that. But the historian in me is screaming. Still, it is not a breaker for me and I can just find me a ladder and get over it for the sake of this game.

MY EXPERIENCES

So, a brief overview of my experience with Humankind. The first time I fired it up, I made my way quickly through the Neolithic ear (the prehistory that I mentioned earlier) and eventually adopted the Mycenaean culture. I made my way through and examined the different aspects of gameplay. Eventually, I found myself being threatened by my southern neighbor, the Olmecs (who eventually became the Celts while I was still in my Ancient form), and I was being hard pressed. It was at this time that I realized some mistakes that I made early on in my empire development. I didn’t split my army during the Neolithic and only had the one region while I was being quickly closed in by other cultures.

So, after a couple of days, I started over. This time, I grew my units, and split them in different directions, claiming territories as soon as I could. I selected the Hittites when I reached the Ancient Era and established a strong base of operations. I got into a couple of conflicts with Harappans and the Babylonians, but I was a much better force this time around. It didn’t take long for me to reach the Classical Era this time, at which time I selected the Romans.

I continued to develop my empire and expanded my holdings. I even converted an independent culture. When I reached the Medieval Era, I opted to stick with the Romans. I don’t really understand the “transcend” bonus, but you essentially keep the Emblematics from your previous era.  It was at this point when I started running into trouble with the elephants and the “timer” for the scenario was running out. But that was ok… I had fulfilled my curiosity of the game.

In the end, I was fairly happy with the game. There are a lot of intriguing elements that I look forward to exploring when the game is officially released. I don’t think it will replace Civilization as one of my favorite games, but it may make my “top” list. I look forward to delving deeper into Humankind.

How I Got Caught in The Wheel of Time

A look at Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, its impact on me and the upcoming TV series adaptation on Amazon Prime.

Over a decade ago, my mind got run over by a “wheel.” Not just any wheel, I am referring to The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I was not expecting it. At the time, there were 11 books published in the series and one prequel novel. The final novel was in the works. Only, the untimely death of the author threw everything into question. Fortunately, Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow and editor, ensured his legacy would see its end by bringing in Brandon Sanderson to finish the series (and in turn, dividing the last book into 3 for a total of 14 main series books).

The series would have a major impact on me, setting me on my own path of wanting to be a writer to doing it. It has inspired me. The worldbuilding within the series guides me in my own efforts. Following is how I got into the series to begin with, and my thoughts on the upcoming TV adaptation. There might be some minor spoilers, so tread with caution. Still, there shouldn’t be any of too much significance.

MY HISTORY

In 2003, I rejoined the Navy and was eventually stationed on the USS Enterprise (CVN 65). While stationed on the ship, I spent many days/weeks/months at sea. It was during this time that I took up reading a lot. Before that time, I had only read a handful of fictional books of my own choosing (other than the ones forced on my by schools). I got my entertainment from movies and video games. Despite that, I had built up a collection of books and I took some with me. That is when I got into reading R. A. Salvatore.

His books drew me in. I read all the released Drizzt books, The Cleric Quintet, the first three books of the Demon Wars saga, and many of his other series. I guess, in part, it was his name that drew me… Salvatore. But I stayed for the memorable characters and wild adventures. Now, I had heard of The Wheel of Time at this point, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was enjoying my time in the Forgotten Realms.

It was during the summer of 2007, after I left my service in the Navy, that I decided to see what that series was about. I sat down and started reading The Eye of the World. About halfway through the book, I set it down. It was while Rand and Mat were on the road to Caemlyn. I was getting wary of the journey and it seemed like nothing was going right. (I would later find out that if I had just stuck it out a few more pages, that feeling would have begun to change.) So, I put the book down and went back to Drizzt and company.

The following year, I started a job in Washington, D.C. At the time, I lived in Baltimore, Maryland (north of the city, in fact) and, at first, I rode the train for my commute. While dealing with a nearly 2-hour commute twice a day, I needed an escape. That is when I found audiobooks. I decided that maybe I’ll give The Wheel of Time another try and downloaded the audio of The Eye of the World. From the moment I heard Michael Kramer’s voice, I knew I was caught.

Over the next few months, I ran through every book available. Then as soon as the last three books were available, I got them and listened as well.  When I was at work imaging workstations, I was listening. When I started driving to work because I had to be there earlier than the trains ran, I connected my iPod to my car and listened while driving (that certainly helped to save my sanity during those years). Michael Kramer and Kate Reading filled my head. Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, Min, Loial, and all the rest became my friends. I was hooked!

There are a lot of factors that drew me into the series. From characters to the worldbuilding, there is a lot to admire about The Wheel of Time. Those factors all gripped me, along with the many themes found throughout the books. The greatest of those themes, for me, is the theme of balance.

Balance is very important to me. I consider it one of my core philosophies, the primary tenet of my spirituality. Many times, I had professed about how the world is made up of opposites and one element cannot exist without its opposite. If there is no heat, there can be no cold, no evil, there can be no good, et cetera. To read a book series that echoes my very tenets back to me was unreal.

THE UPCOMING TV ADAPTATION

After finally getting into the series, I soon began digging for whatever information I could find about the series. I located fan sites such as Dragonmount and Encyclopedia WOT that delved into the series, with the latter giving recaps of each chapter of each book and breakdowns on characters, settings, etc. I also came across Leigh Butler at tor.com with her reread blogs.

During that time, a little TV show began airing that peaked some folks interest in the mainstream. Something called “Game of Thrones.”  If you haven’t heard of it, it was a TV show based on a series of fantasy novels that had some moderate success in bringing in viewers. The thought of this got me excited for the possibility of a Wheel of Time production.

I began looking up information for a potential movie or TV series adaptation for The Wheel of Time. Other than a bunch of speculation, there were not many hints of any production. Mostly just legal issues that were hindering progress. I did come across a short fan-made film entitled Flight from Shadow. Then came the dreaded Winter’s Dragon premiere that rocked the fandom and fueled more legal issues. Finally came an announcement, 5 years ago, from Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet, that all matters had been resolved and they were moving forward on plans to create a series.

The next few years saw a slew of details eke out of the nether and engulfing the fandom (while the rest of the world lay unknown about what was going on). We learned that Sony Pictures had picked up the series and that Amazon was working on the production. We learned the showrunner was Rafe Judkins, who soon enlisted the help of Sarah Nakamura, a Wheel of Time guru, to act as “book liaison.” This was all great news. We started learning about writers and directors and cinematographers, many who were top-notched and respected, being involved. Then came the casting news.

I have to admit, I was not familiar with Rosemund Pike when she was first announced to be portraying Moiraine in the TV show. But I soon learned who she was and began to grow excited. Then they announced Daniel Henney as Lan who I was mildly familiar from episodes of Criminal Minds that I happened to catch. Then came the ultimate blow… the flurry of announcements of the Emond’s Field Five. The central characters around which the series follows. And I knew nothing about them. My mind went blank as I stared at the screen through those announcements. These are the people that I came to know and love?

So, I thought, and I thought. I looked up info about the actors. I watched videos from WOT analysts like Nae’blis, Rebecca (from Reading the Pattern), and Daniel Greene. Slowly (then quickly), I began to like these actors. I liked the fact that they were relative unknowns to begin with. A show like this is a great way to introduce great new talent to the masses. While sitting with my daughter, flipping channels, I came across the pilot episode of Power Rangers Ninja Steel which has the actress portraying Nynaeve, Zoe Robins. Interesting… Then I took my daughter to the Dora the Explorer movie which included Madeleine Madden in the cast. I was beginning to feel out the actors who were cast as the EF5 and I liked what I saw.

So, it was settled! I was full on the “hype train” and looking forward to a see the show in action. #TwitterofTime became a thing (an amazing group of people including named character accounts and regular fans alike who have fun with all things Wheel of Time, including polls provided by @RogueAelfinn *WoTPolls*). In a way, #TwitterOfTime has become a bit of a family within the fandom where we discuss the books, the shows, and even personal events that affect us. It is fandom at its best!

Amazon released a table read which cranked up the engine. New cast members were announced ranging from major characters to minor. Production started in Prague back in September of 2019. Of course, nobody saw the log on the rail that would bring the train to a screeching halt.

By this time, I had been riding the hype of the potential series for a while now. I was looking forward to it as a way to introduce my friends and family to the series. My fiancée and I watched Game of Thrones together and I have been looking forward to getting her into The Wheel of Time. She doesn’t like audiobooks so it is hard to get her into it that way. And it looked like everything was running along swimmingly. That is, until that dirty, no good virus-that-shall-not-be-named showed up and wreaked havoc across the globe.

The delays left a drought of information. On the one hand, the delays did not stop production altogether as Rafe Judkins ensured that post-production for the episodes already shot were well underway. They were able to resume filming the remaining episodes and it appears that the marketing is gearing up to extend beyond the fanbase. That is a good thing. Over the past few months, Amazon Prime has been releasing short clip teasers revealing items and now characters from the show. The most recent is Daniel Henney as Lan (looking badass).

Still, some worries have crept in. Increasing talks of changes to the story have filled the internet. While changes are expected, the sting that was Game of Thrones season 8 are all too recent. The fears that changes done here in season one will drastically impact later storylines from the books. Worries about what scenes from the book will survive the adaptation (I may do my own “Must Have” list soon). At least we know that the show is in the hands of fans in Rafe Judkins and Sarah Nakamura. For my own humanity and entertainment, I picture Sarah chasing Rafe around the set, copy of the book in hand with notes and markers hanging out, in a Benny Hill like fashion over proposed changes.

*******

In the end, I leave my trust to the cast and crew of the show. Knowing that Harriet and Brandon are involved in the show gives me hope that it will fulfill the desire to watch the show play out on a screen and to introduce our friends and family to the series. Whether the show will succeed or fail, well, we’ll have to see how the wind takes us. Until then, “let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.”

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise (Civilization VII Ideas Compiled)

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

The following is a compilation of Parts 2 – 6 of my blog feature on the Civilization franchise, particularly, my take one what I would like out of the next iteration of the franchise, Civilization VII. I am compiling them here for those who would like to read through in one shot. Though it is quite long. That is why I also included links to each individual blog entry below, including the introduction and Part 1, which is more of an overview of my own history and experience with the franchise. So, check it out and let me know what you think.

Separate Parts

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 2

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6

CIVILIZATIONS

Dynamic Civilizations

            The first major change is to have dynamic civilizations. What that means is that the traits that are usually associated with civilizations are no longer so. Instead, they are general traits that can be selected. As the player progresses and reaches certain milestones, new traits can be selected that are context sensitive to the situation. For example, if the player begins in a desert region, one of the possible traits could be “Desert Folk” which would give them bonuses to that environment. However, civilizations not in the desert would be unable to select the trait. Also, once a civilization has selected a specific trait, that trait would no longer be available for other civilizations. This is how the player defines their civilization’s identity.

            Clearly, this is inspired by how religions have worked in both Civilization V and VI. It develops a more natural flow of development as the civilization progresses through the ages. But what would this mean for selecting Civilizations? Wouldn’t this mean that whether you choose Rome, Egypt or Japan would be irrelevant? Well, these civilizations could have one basic trait that goes along with their civilization. Unique Units, buildings, improvements, etc. could also be associated with the civilizations allowing for some variety between civilizations, along with likelihood of civilizations spawning in certain areas. Also, the traits are permanent, even if the civilization is downgraded in level. Though new traits can be selected should the civilization reach a level upgrade threshold again.

Civilization Levels

            That leads to the next big change. Gone are City-States and Barbarians. Yes, you heard that right. However, they are not truly gone, just integrated into a “level” system of civilization growth. Each civilization begins at a basic level that could even predate the traditional start of past games. As they develop, they can be “upgraded” to greater levels that expand their capabilities and interactions. Depending on map size, limits can be inposed as to how many civilizations can be of a certain level. That said, the levels are:

  • Tribal – A nomadic civilization that essentially take the place of barbarians. There is minimal diplomacy available with tribal civilizations and often war with them carries no penalties. The player can play a Civ in this state (or even be reduced to this) as per the “Prehistory Mode” to be discussed later. After a certain threshold, the civilization can found a settlement which lays the foundation of the next level.
  • City-State – This is the foundation of Civilizations. It is the earliest stage with increased diplomatic ability. They can send out colonists to form settlements that are independent yet subservient to the founding City-State. Two or more Colonies or allied City-states leads to a Pact.
  • Pact – Formed through early alliances of City-States, some increased diplomacy with Civilizations that are part of the pact. When a particular civilization becomes dominant in the pact, they gain full control and become a State.
  • State – This is the level where a civilization can truly begin to establish themselves on the world stage. Formed when a civilization becomes dominant of a Pact and is chosen as leader (or through conquest) the State level allows for greater diplomatic options.
  • Empire – An Empire is a more powerful form of the State. It encompasses a large area but starts accruing penalties that could cripple the empire if left unchecked. However, there will be tools that can be used to counter these penalties and maintain stability.
  • Superpower – The ultimate level of civilization. Superpowers are at the top of nearly all lists. A Superpower typically won’t be achieved until late game. They may receive special benefits; however, lesser civilizations may admire or fear the superpower, causing problems with diplomacy and politics.

These 6 levels are milestones of achievements. However, they are not necessarily secure once you reach them. What goes up can certainly come down and civilizations are no exception. And since the starting map is removed of city-states (in the V and VI incarnations) and barbarians, there is room for more civilizations overall. This gives way to a feature that had somewhat been implemented in IV, related Civs.

Related Civilizations

As stated, this was seen before to a certain degree in the franchise. However, I look deeper at the various civilizations big and small throughout history that could be included. Civ VI includes Athens and Sparta both as versions of Greece. In this version, Athens, Sparta, Troy, and many others can be “civilizations” at the start of the game. Tribes that roam the world looking for a place to prosper. When they settle, similar “tribes” may settle nearby. These form the basis of later civilizations like Greece.

      This could also lead to variety of gameplay. In one game, you could come across the Civilization of Rome. In another playthrough, you could meet the civilization of “Etruscia.” Both are the same basic civilizations but depending on which related civ came to dominate the area. Later civilizations could be shattered and form smaller states, city-states, or tribes. This will lead to another topic which I had alluded to earlier.

Prehistory Mode

This mode is a sort of “prologue” to the main game. It could be an optional mode that leads into a full game where the player starts out a Tribe (as opposed to a City-State). You wander around the map establishing “camps” that serve as your base for a few turns as you gather supplies from surrounding areas. Wild Animals could make their return in this mode and be part of the quest find a suitable location. Oh, and fog of war clouds over any area out of sight range. In other words, you cannot see where you have been, only where you are. Ultimately, you must settle your first settlement, and this is where the main game begins.

LEADERS EVOLVED

No More Single Static Leaders

Yes, that you read that headline correctly. But what does that mean? It means that the leaders used to represent a civilization no longer exist. No more selecting the civilization by the omnipotent leader that carries them through all the ages. Diplomatic screens now have a shadowed leader in the background with a representative diplomat of the civilization in the foreground (who performs all of the animations of the deal and is dressed according to culture and era). All dealings are handled this way.

I know that the leaders have become the “main characters” of the franchise.  So, I expect a lot of backlash at this point. But I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the leaders chosen to represent the civilizations in the game. With dynamically crafted civilizations, I just don’t think that one leader to rule them all per civilization will really fit and would rather be counterproductive to the ebb and flow of development. However, a new type of Leader could arise to fill in the purpose and retain that “character” of the game.

Great Leaders

Instead of having one overarching leader throughout the game, the civilization will be open to multiple leaders that last over a certain amount of time, the Great Leader. These leaders, like Heroes of Civilization VI, only last for a certain amount of time. During that time, they can lead armies for significant combat bonuses and/or station in cities for special bonuses or abilities. When these Leaders are active, a representation of that leader fills in the shadowed figure of the diplo screen. There would be a pool of leaders available for each civilization group (several civilizations closely related).

Great People

                On the subject of “Greats,” it might go without saying that since there are Great Leaders, that Great People exist in the game. Admittedly, I am on the fence about great works. I like the system, but I am not sure that it is necessary. In any case, I feel the general way that Great People are implemented is fine, however will probably have to be tweaked for the new systems put in place.

GRAPHICAL UPDATES

Smaller Hexes

While most of the graphical changes, such as art style, UI, and the like would mostly be something that is subjected to the actual development and has little to do with actual gameplay, one thing that I would adjust is the hexes. At least, I would change the size of them… make them about half the size that they are now. First, smaller hexes would make for more defined landforms and better-looking maps. But beyond that, it would open greater gameplay possibilities.

The smaller hexes would allow for varied terrain types, more resource locations and more rooms for districts and wonders. Some features, districts, wonders and buildings could be greater than one hex in size. New elements such as Mountain Passes could be introduced. City development would be more strategic as well. And because the hexes are smaller, units would have a greater base movement speed than previous games.

OTHER

Roads

                I liked having roads created by trade caravans in Civilization VI, but I did not like the manual aspect so much. One problem with the caravans is that they would always look for the fastest root, including waterways. This did would not build the land roads between cities. Instead, you would have to build a Military Engineer to manually construct the road, one piece at a time. To make matters worse, the ME’s had limited charges for road construction.

                This time around, I think the player should be able to select the route, either through a couple presented options or by “drawing” it out when sending the caravan.  Or have a construct road option where the player chooses the path of the road and pays an up-front cost.

UNIT MANAGEMENT

One Per Hex

When the feature of One Unit Per Hex was introduced in Civilization V, I was a bit skeptical. While elements of it (such as archers with range) seemed logical, the idea of the feature took a certain “realism” view away from the game. I understand that the game was never intended as a “simulation” of history, still there were certain suspensions of disbelief that were hard to overcome. Archers shooting across the English Channel just didn’t seem right. Then, there was also the fact that there would be nowhere to place units. The whole idea was to eliminate the “stack of doom” that plagued previous iterations.

Soon after Civilization V released, it quickly came apparent that the “stack of doom” was replaced with the “carpet of doom.” By the end game, civs would have units on virtually every tile. Civilization VI helped with this a little by introducing “armies” where like units could be combined. This alleviated some of the issues, but the whole system of units could still become cumbersome. Another “fix” appeared to be increasing the “cost” of units. However, I felt that took away from my experience. Part of the game, for me, was being able to build a massive army to conquer my enemies and stand ready to react to any threat.

Still, the past two games have made OUPT a staple. We can work with that. Smaller hexes (as listed previously) could help with the whole “carpet” aspect. Though, I would have to admit that the question would be how, then, to implement that graphically. That would be a difficult challenge for me to overcome just in this writing. I’m no artists and I feel it would require their expertise to solve. The only thing I could suggest is make it zoomable far enough to be able to zoom in and see the unit groups we’ve become familiar with, but a single unit representation may be required at medium zoon and further. In any case, let’s look at how we can further “condense” units so that they are not so cumbersome to deal with on the map.

Armies

As I said, Civilization VI did introduce the use of armies to help stack some like units. My problem with them is that (1) you could only combine like units and (2) they came too late in the game in my opinion. In this “new” system that I am proposing, I feel that their availability should be tied to Civilization Level (discussed previously).

First, you have Brigates which would be the combining of two similar units (2 archers, 2 swordsmen, etc.). This could be done as early as at City-State level. These would be stronger versions of the individual units (much like in Civilization VI). Once your civilization reaches the Pact level, you can create Battalions which would consist of three units of three different types. (1 melee, 1 archer, and 1 anti-cavalry or 1 archer, 1 anti-cavalry, and 1 cavalry). Battalions would gain the features of each individual unit and attack of each at the strength level (with a small bonus) of each unit per attack. For example, a Battalion with an Archer would be able to attack at a range, then follow up immediately with a melee or charge attack (depending on the other units making up that Battalion).

Finally, when the Civilization becomes a State, it could form an army which would be either made up of three different Brigades or two different Battalions. Also, up to two siege units and a Great General or Great Leader can attach to the Army giving it further bonuses and abilities. A special ability that Armies would have would be to “Lay Siege” which can be done at any location within a city’s area of control. This could “spread out” the army around the city and allow multiple abilities per turn such as attacking the city or “cutting supplies”. More than one army can lay siege to a city, even from different civilizations, provided that there is space to do so.

Similarly, naval and air forces could be combined as well. For Navy, there would be Fleet (combining 2 like units), Armada (combining 3 different naval units like “melee”, ranged, and auxiliary), and Combined Fleet (joining three different Fleets or two Armadas.) Combined Fleets can have a Carrier attached as well as a Great Admiral to enhance bonuses. For Air, Squadrons would combine two units of the same type and Air Fleets would combine 3 different Squadrons including Fighters, Bombers, and Air Auxiliary (which includes Air Recon units such as AWACS).

One final note on Armies, Fleets, and Squadrons, they can be “disbanded.” However, doing so just breaks them apart so that you have access to individual units again if you so desire.

CITIES

City Levels

Just as civilizations get a revamp as to how they develop, so do individual cities as well. Now, they will have levels of their own that dictate their areas of control (AoC), what can be built in them, and how they are defended would all depend on the level of their development. The most basic of these levels would be the Settlement.

  • Settlement – this is the most basic form of city. They would be founded by a Settler or an Ancient Colonist. They are mostly confined to the City Center and have a single ring of AoC. This ring cannot have any other districts besides resource improvements as it is for the growth of the center city. Settlements can only be garrisoned by a single unit.
  • Town – Upon reaching Town status, the AoC expands an extra ring. This is where Districts and Wonders can be placed. Advanced Settlers can settle a Town directly. Towns founded in this way will have a couple early buildings already constructed. With a Garrison District (replacing Encampment), they can have a Brigade or Battalion in place and have a minimal guard when no army is present.
  • City – Cities cannot be settled directly; they can only be developed from Towns. This growth is automatic when certain conditions are met (population and buildings). The third and fourth ring can be expanded by Culture. Whole Armies can be garrisoned in the City allowing for Counter Siege abilities.
  • Metropolis – The highest achievable level for a city. The fifth and sixth ring become eligible for AoC of the City (assuming that they are not already part of another city). It could even be possible to have multiple armies garrison a Metropolis.

A few notes, Districts may have to be reworked a bit to accommodate these levels and the smaller hexes. I’ve hinted at replacing some. A city (no matter the level) may need a certain district to build certain units, etc. While I enjoy the concept of Districts in Civilization VI, I do feel that the system needs an overhaul. I think smaller hexes are a step and the City Level system laid out go towards that process. I also see other areas that could use improvement… namely Forts.

Forts

New Forts

                I felt that Forts kind of got the short stick in Civilization VI. Personally, I feel that they should have had the abilities that Encampments had. Thus, my suggestions for Forts carry along those lines. And they have their own “levels” as well.

  • Outposts – Outposts are 1 tile forts that allow single units to garrison and gives minor benefits to the units garrisoned there. They can be constructed in neutral or own territory, however, if there is no garrison, they are considered abandoned and can easily be taken over by other civilizations.
  • Forts – True Forts can later be constructed or upgraded from an Outpost. These Forts will claim a central hex and the surrounding ring. However, they are not expandable on their own. They grant better defense than Outposts and can defend just like cities even if not occupied by a unit. They can still be taken over by other Civilizations if defeated and Battalions or Brigades can garrison them. Forts can potentially be upgraded to Cities if certain conditions are met and allow.
  • Castles – These are special (single hex) fortifications that are as strong as forts and grant additional bonuses like income to nearby cities. They must be built in a civilization’s own territory.
  • Up to this point, I have covered how the idea of how civilizations are represented should evolve (in my opinion). I have also covered Leaders and their new roles, and how armies and cities are handled. Today, I begin to look at the various systems that I would carry over from previous Civilization titles. Some have been absent for a while. Others have been mainstays or recent additions that would be tweaked to work with some of the new systems discusses previously. Without further ado, let us begin…

BRINGING BACK

Statistics

One of the elements that I always love in any game is tracking statistics. There is something satisfying in seeing how I fare with a game’s mechanics. This is something that Civilization has missed in recent iterations. At least, any inclusions were very minimal or seemingly added as an afterthought (or the modding community). It is obvious that the game does track many feats and statistics as these are often used for “achievements,” leader agendas, and, to a lesser extent in Civilization VI, “Historical Moments.” From unit statistics (like number of kills, number of units built, etc.) to great feats (such as circumnavigating the world and other “firsts”), having a set place to see all of these statistics would satisfy all of us statistic lovers. And I am sure that a game like Civilization has many.

Another aspect of the statistic game is the statistics of other civilizations in the game. Perhaps this could best be incorporated via the espionage system with only certain info being available due to certain conditions. Having only met a civilization will provide only the name and not much more. Establishing diplomatic relations, however, opens a lot of information including their government type and general army composition (not exact). Spies and technology (internet, etc.) can increase the information available as well.

Finally, I would like to know how my civilization is faring with land/sea/air makeup of its army. Civilization VI tracks this as some agendas even stress navy size and air strength. I would like to know how my civ stacks up in these individual areas and how they compare to other civilizations as the game goes on.

Random Events/Encounters

Random Events are clearly a controversial subject when talking to Civilization fans. The feature was implemented in Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. These events would randomly pop up throughout the game and could spell out a significant gain or loss to the player. Some would even present options that could lead to certain affects for the player.  While many enjoyed this feature, many others loathed it. Still, it was an option that could be toggled when playing the game.

Since then, random events have all but been removed. Echoes of them may exist in the City-state missions of Civilization V and disasters in Civilization VI.  For me, they represent a needed element to help balance against the runaway civ that just dominates the game. Random Events are the great equalizer that gives everybody a chance. And they are the little anecdotes in history that change the course, like the Tornado that chased the British out of Washington, D.C. during the war of 1812.

Think of it like this, in the Mario Kart franchise, you have a race between multiple characters. Without powerups, it is most likely that whoever is leading by the end of the first lap will win the race. With powerups, however, it can still be anybody’s game up to the final stretch. The same thing with Random Events in Civilization. Sure, it sucks to be on the negative end of one but overcoming the negative events can is the supreme challenge. It makes victory all the sweeter. It may even make it worth pushing on through the rest of the game. Whereas having a strong lead by the Medieval Age just makes the game stale. For me, the return of Random Events would be a welcome addition to next Civilization.

Districts and Wonders

Districts and Wonders (both manmade and natural) would of course be in this iteration as well. With smaller hexes, some Wonders may take up more space than one. So, there would be more of a tactical element in planning cities. Besides that, as with many of the carry-over systems, they would have to be tweaked to adjust to any new implementations such as the Civilization Level and Armies (for example).

Religion

I like how religion has been adapted in the last two iterations of Civilization with the “customize” feel. It made for a more organic feel to the game and was the basis for my concept of Dynamic Civilizations relayed earlier in this feature.  I am not sure how I feel about Religious Combat, however. On one hand, it was an interesting feature, but on the other hand, it almost seemed like a tack-on element. Still, with some work, Religious Combat could make its return. Perhaps even include Anarchists and Cults that could throw the religious aspect a curve ball as the game progresses.

Trade

Trade is one of the elements that I think has been done well, for the most part. I like having traders traveling the globe to other cities. I also like the fact that they create roads, though I mentioned earlier that I would like to see more control over road creation. In any case, if anything that I would like to see improved about trade is making them more of a risk. One idea is to make Privateers have hidden nationalities (as they have had in previous versions). They can attack without provocation to war, however, espionage could the source. Also, maybe a mid-game addition could be Pirates and Marauders. These are sea and land independent groups that spring up and behave much like post-barbarian update Barbarians in Civilization VI. They can be bribed to attack trade routes, etc from other civilizations. That is something to think on, at least…

Diplomacy

This is an area that I feel needs a major overhaul. It should be more fluid throughout gameplay history. This could be tied to Great Leaders who have certain playstyles attached to them. When an AI civilization adopts a certain Great Leader, they may have a focus on a particular aspect of the game such as wonder creation or conquest. Other Leaders may change this down the road. A change in leader could affect how other civilizations view the source civilization. And the Great Leader focus should include bonuses or the like to encourage the human player to play in that manner.

Also, civilization reactions should be based more on relationships. If CIV A is friendly with CIV B and you attack CIV B, then CIV A will not be happy with you. However, if CIV A and CIV B are at odds, then your attack of CIV B will not hurt your relationship with CIV A (and might even improve it). This can create a tangled web, but that is the true glory of Civilization… the politics. (I hope that wasn’t too confusing.)

Espionage

I’ve already mentioned Espionage a couple of times. For me, one area that I would like to see improved is the time when it becomes available. After all, since people started getting together, they have wondered what their neighbor was up to. I think that it is a system that should grow over time. Essentially, at the start, a few espionage abilities would be available. These would expand over time (with some possibly becoming obsolete). There would be passive espionage such as learning details about other civilizations, and active espionage such as missions to Steal Technologies or Eliminate Leader.

NEEDS WORK

            The following sections are mostly quick snippets on some of the other systems familiar throughout the series.

Tech/Civic Divide

To be honest, I am torn on the division of Technologies and Civic. I feel that having separate trees makes sense, however, I often found myself outpacing tech with culture by a long shot in Civ VI. This made for an uneven game, in my opinion. This is another aspect that would have to be tweaked and balanced during development. Perhaps one way is to attach Civics to the Civilization Level. Tech would still be per era and civics unlock after certain conditions are met (technologies discovered, era reached, particular units built, etc.).

Something that I would possibly remove would be inspirations and eurekas. While they were an interesting experiment, I felt that they tended to muddle advancement Maybe, instead, adopting certain civics would allow a boost to progress on certain technologies. For example, adopting civics related to the sea would boost sea faring technologies. Likewise, adopting education related civics would boost science focused technologies.

World Congress

The World Congress is a feature of Civilization VI that I was not very fond of. I like the idea of a World Congress, however the implementation in Civilization VI was not that great, in my opinion. I preferred the World Congress that was in Civilization V. I liked being able to offer my own propositions and voting on them. Perhaps carrying over diplomatic favor from VI to use for votes with the two highest can propose topics to vote on. And no more of this either/or propositions. Either the proposition is agreed upon or it is not.

Victories

In any iteration of Civilization, it was always a thrill to send off a rocket into deep space and achieve ultimate victory. Or to lead your armies across the globe and bring every other civilization to your heel. Whatever the flavor of victory, the endgame can be a thrill when achieved. Multiple victory conditions helped to open up the paths for whatever the players preference and flavor was. However, it played into the race for victory that would lead to a runaway contender by mid game. The only caveat was that you sometimes had to look out for the sneak victory under a different condition.

I am not opposed to bringing multiple victory conditions back. That is part of the flavor of the series. And you could always continue playing in a post-victory sandbox world. However, for me, the key is the ability to change course during the gameplay. Ultimately, the major point in this blog feature is for a game that is not focused on a race to victory, but a journey of wonder stretching the span of civilization.

Disasters

            Disasters were an interesting inclusion in Civilization VI and did add an element that could change things up through the course of a game. I would like to see them return in the next iteration. They would be perfectly mixed with the random event feature mentioned previously. Perhaps some disasters like storms would be less graphical and prolonged like they are in Civilization VI, simply a message detailing the event and the aftermath and a one turn graphical representation. But others, like volcanoes, would be more “in-your-face” as they are in VI.

Multiplayer

            Finally, I come to multiplayer. Honestly, much of this was written with the single player campaign in mind. I rarely play multiplayer as those turn out to be even more poignant victory races than the single player. However, I feel that the bulk (if not all) of the features described over the last few days will transfer well into the multiplayer arena.

CONCLUSION

            This is just an overview of the changes that I see would make for a new and intriguing direction for Civilization VII. Whether Firaxis already has it well in development or maybe just getting to scratching some notes on post-its and placing them on a wall, I have no idea. Perhaps they are working on a spin-off before moving on like they did with Civilization IV (Colonization) and Civilization V (Beyond Earth). If that is the case, hopefully it is Fantasy Civilization.

That said, this is just my take on what would make the game more interesting and drive me to play more through the end. Many other alterations could be implemented or would have to be tweaked; however, those would be more mechanical (such as unit strength, etc.) and is far beyond the point of this writing and would take it from a concept to a design document.

            I hope that you have enjoyed my vision of what would be an enjoyable game of Civilization. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or hate the ideas.  Just remember, let’s remain civilized, lest I be forced to Denounce you. In any case, have fun taking One More Turn.