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As promised, a little later than intended, here’s some information about my new venture.

Nonadecimal Creative

Nonadecimal Creative exists to produce artistic narrative experiences in the mediums of videogames, webcomics, and non-traditional storytelling.  Through it, I seek to blend the strengths of film, procedural narrative, graphic novels, and interactive fiction to produce engaging new stories with other creative minds.  Our first collaboration has manifested as Afterdeath, a videogame about Death, the grim reaper, and what happens when a pilfering robot steals Death’s scythe.  The game is a 2D platformer that gives the player complete control of jump angles, allowing 180 degrees of choice with every press of the jump button.  5 unlockable characters expand the element of choice with non-traditional platformer mechanics like a character who only moves by bouncing off surfaces or a character who can charge the force of jumps with static electricity by sliding on walls.

The game’s narrative is told through the art and music of the levels, leaving it to the players to follow the story of a force of nature relentlessly pursuing a programmed automaton.  The game is on track to feature 20 tracks of original music, 6 unique worlds with different themes and gameplay tactics, 140 levels to explore Death’s journey, an additional 50 levels made specifically to challenge the unique movement mechanics of unlockable characters and tell their stories, and many hidden collectible items.  It will be released through Xbox Live Indie Games, Ouya, and PC distribution methods later in 2013.  Check out the website or follow @Nonadecimal for more updates as we near release date.

Afterdeath is just a small step toward bigger plans and a return to the layered combination of puzzles and storytelling that I enjoyed producing for the Matrix Online.  Successive projects will build on the former to produce larger and more fulfilling works over the next several years so keep your eyes open!

If anyone still checks here hoping that some day there will be new puzzles to be solved and stories to reason out, I am about 6 months into a new project that I hope to release soon. More details to follow here when the new site is up.

After MxO ended I was without a creative outlet for some time. It drove me crazy.

For a long time I had been interested in the concept of a multiverse and the stories that would thrive there. I’ve certainly consumed enough books, movies, and televisual entertainment that toy with different conceptions of a multiverse. But I’ve never really felt satisfied that they’ve delved deep enough into the possibilities that such an environment provides. This is something I decided I would like to pursue myself. I had already shown myself that I loved creating complex stories of the sort so complicated that none but their creator could entirely fathom what was going on. A multiverse scenario seemed expansive enough to allow for that on a much larger scale.

And so I began to conceive of the infinitum of Ad Infinitum and work out how such a thing might exist and what might go on in/on/around it. I imagine a patchwork of infinite worlds, connected to each other through regions of shared space that exist simultaneously in both places, brought into being by a catastrophically destructive event of unknown origin. This Cataclysm that had the power to break whatever laws of physics these universes had in common would instantly destroy an unknowable number of worlds as incompatible physics were brought into contact, lethal atmospheres were combined, black holes were born, planets tore themselves apart, and so on. Considering only cases where planetary surfaces were in mutual contact, what would remain, if anything, would be a network of barely habitable worlds connected spatially at key points. The non-science of fiction (or an intelligence behind the Cataclysm) surely smooths out any rough spots so far.

In this lattice of connected worlds that I refer to as the infinitum, there would surely be worlds with life, hopefully intelligent.  Of these intelligent species, their technological level (i.e. adaptability to life post-C) would vary wildly. I envision they would range from galactic and planetary civilizations down to national and tribal organizations. Planetary civilizations would likely have the high level of technology and renewable resources to sustain the current population that would be required to achieve an equilibrium state post-C, especially since distribution infrastructure would already be in place. National and Galactic civs are also probable self-stabilizers although National civs would suffer from factional divides, resource hoarding, and lack of infrastructure and Galactic civs may suffer from dependence on other worlds in their Galactic empire that are no longer accessible and therefore lack of local infrastructure. Did I mention that bizarre radiation inhibits space travel in the infinitum? It does. Space opera is not for me.

However, the self-stabilizing civilizations of the infinitum also become target destinations for refugees fleeing destabilized worlds, thereby pulling them farther from equilibrium. Without preventative measures population will continue to increase beyond resource and infrastructure capacity. Therefore only civs that maintain strict border control would be able to remain stable without external influence.

This is mitigated by the presence of “Superior” species whose technology is far advanced beyond the average level of the infinitum’s species. These Superiors would either claim possession of a group of worlds, fortify/conceal their position in the infinitum against other species, or if possible leave the infinitum. These Superiors would have the technology to terraform worlds to make them habitable once more, modify the biology of species to allow them to survive, and generate useful resources from raw materials.  Aid-providing Superior civs would likely still find themselves struggling with insufficient resources to support the growing number of supplicants seeking their aid. Expansion-oriented Superiors would be forced to continue expansion until they have spread themselves too thin and are forced to delegate responsibility to their subjects. As other species become more familiar with the operation of Superior technology, the drastically outnumbered Superior species would be crowded out of their former positions of power and would in many cases seek seclusion, leave the infinitum, or succumb and go extinct for all their good intentions.  They would leave behind a legacy of salvaged technology and isolated bands of exiles and survivors.

This is the universe that I see in my dreams and the landscape where my stories come to life.  It is a dirty and rough and desperate universe in some places.  It is a lavish and carefree paradise in others.  It allows for an infinite number of biological configurations with an infinite number of cultures and technologies and beliefs and all the possible interactions between them.

I hope to bring more of this place to life through my writing.

I wanted to update this blog more frequently and finally finish archiving my storylines from MxO. Instead, I did the opposite.

I’ve been incredibly productive elsewhere though. At the time of my last post I was an unemployed physics grad painting people’s houses to pay rent. Since then I’ve gotten a great job (still involving automation, but different) and moved into a larger apartment with a balcony for contemplation. I spent several months developing a darkly humorous Xbox Live Indie Game. Most importantly I’ve been constructing the universe of Ad Infinitum and on a massive scale. I now have 4 notebooks full, about 500 pages of scrawl covering alien biologies and cultures, the technologies at hand, tales of gods and demons, and the continuing escapades of the devious synthetic sentience known only as 991. This story is developing into a complicated intertwining monstrosity in its complexity. For comparison, the stories I created for MxO were mostly developed in my head with no notes or storyboards. It would take a few months of thinking on a subject for it to coalesce into a fully-fledged story. My new project has outpaced the former.

Ad Infinitum is now the work of several years of my brain’s background workings and with an expected completion date of at least a decade in the future, it should turn out to be quite the story. I am still working on finding the right balance of mediums to convey the vision I have locked away in my head but I am confident the ultimate product will be something new and unique, largely inspired by my initial successes with storytelling in MxO. It will be a story for people like me who enjoy a story that is also a puzzle.  The audience will have to read between the lines, draw connections between stories and timelines, sniff out the inconsistencies of unreliable narrators.  It is a grand vision and I hope that the physical product measures up with time.

At the moment I am trying to translate the bulk of my notes into an actual physical product. I have been selectively reading a lot of science fiction lately. There is a list of 70 novels that I have handpicked to study for some specific element that the author achieved to perfection. I’ve slowly been crossing titles off my list as the piles of books fill my room. Unfortunately, actually reading them is a harder task than acquiring them. I’m currently halfway through Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon The Deep and loving it for the complex layering of realizations that he uses to keep the reader reevaluating their conceptions of what is happening in the story and what will happen next.

If your friends are anything like my friends, then you’ve heard “If I was in the zombie apocalypse, I would…” a few times. Now you can put them to the test.

This week I’ve been ensnared by a brilliant cooperative zombie apocalypse browser game. Die2Nite has created the framework for a group of 40 players to govern/police themselves and work cooperatively to survive in a zombie infested wasteland. Players must deal with limited food, water, and building materials by making foraging trips outside the safety of town to collect vital supplies.

The World Beyond...

Items and supplies can be shared in the town bank but there’s always the risk that less cooperative players will abuse this privilege. Luckily, the game has a system in place for players to file complaints against their fellow citizens, with enough complaints resulting in that player being banished from town and losing their citizen privileges. This works wonders for dealing with the inevitable griefers by keeping them from reopening the town gate or taking items from the bank. However, ever a system of checks and balances, if enough banished players work together they can overthrow the town’s citizens, thereby reversing the roles of citizen and banished. According to one story I’ve heard, 6 banished overthrew a town and cut off access to the water supply, forcing the townspeople to build construction projects in exchange for their water rations. Any game where the crafty and evil can institute forced slavery is a clever game in my book.

No zombies getting through tonight.

At the end of each game day, the town is besieged by the zombie horde, killing anyone left outside the town gates. The town’s defenses must equal the number of attacking zombies or else zombies break through, killing or infecting citizens who must be dumped outside the walls or risk spreading the infection. A crucial duty of every citizen is manning the town’s watchtower, thus increasing the estimation of the next day’s zombie attack. As the number of attacking zombies drastically increases, players must work together to find the resources they need to build defensive structures like a moat or buzzsaw defense platform.

A town lives or dies by its shared resources.

Some anecdotes from my 5 Day (and counting) survival in “The Cemetary of Rage” (town names are randomly generated). On the first day a griefer opened the town gates 10 minutes before the impending zombie attack, fleeing town, taking all our food and drug supplies with him (which we needed to regain points to close the gate again), and posting a friendly message of “DIEEE!!!!” on the town forum. Luckily, another player had some food stashed in their house and was able to close the gates, posting a reply of “Just you, asshole”, leaving the now-banished griefer trapped outside the walls for the zombies to devour. At the end of Day 2, we found ourselves unprepared for the 70-90 zombies estimated to attack that night with a defense of only 36, but rallied together to build “Screaming Saws” and add some defensive items to the bank. Since then our town of 40 has dwindled to a town of 22 as people have died of infection, dehydration, a suicide by cyanide pill, and plain old death by zombie. But now we’re about to survive the Day 5 attack of 200 zombies.

But best of all, when you die in Die2Nite you get to start over again in a new town with new people and apply what you’ve learned about cooperation and survival. Try it out at Die2Nite.com

I also just wanted to show off recent progress on my worldbuilding software I’ve been working on to aid me in constructing the universe of my new story project. Topography is working although I need to add some gradient effects within regions to create more natural changes in elevation. From here I move on to atmosphere and ecosystems after a great deal of going back to debug some trivial stuff I haven’t fixed yet. Then I have to fill in the big blank spaces on my GUI with the higher level map-making functionality: connecting worlds, evolving ecosystems and cities, making these worlds real.

So I reached a point in my story building where there were lots of ideas for people and places and events floating around without any framework. I see a character driving down a highway but no idea where he was going or how long it would take to get there. I decided that I needed to put some time into the geography and topology of my infinitum. A few taped together paper models later, I decided I needed to start working on a map of the connections between universes.  A few cobbled together maps later and I needed to make a map-building GUI.  And hardly had I begun work on the GUI when I decided it would be easier to make a program that would build whole planets from scratch.

A week later I’ve got planets orbiting stars with randomly generated radii, tilts, rotations, densities, and orbital distances. From there, a few equations fill in the orbital period, mass, temperature, and gravity. Now I’m working on modeling the surface. I abandoned latitude and longitude for a golden section spiral of uniform points on the surface of the sphere.  As soon as I can figure out an adequate way of representing the changes in surface elevation over distances, I’ll have topography and mountains. Then it’s on to atmospheric composition and oceans. Lastly a rough approximation of ecosystems and weather and I can get to the fun part: habitation zones.

And when it’s all done, I’ll have my map making tool. I’ll be able to create randomly generated and mathematically evolved worlds with realistic relationships between their physical constants, populated with the constructs of my imagination.

And once I know where my characters are and where they’re going, I’ll feel more comfortable writing their stories again.

Axe Cop, Episode 1

This week I’m promoting the webcomic “Axe Cop“.  It is unique in that it is written by a 5-year-old (although he’s 6 now).  It is unique in that it is illustrated by said 6-year-old’s 29-year-old brother.  “Axe Cop” brings life to a story that is reminiscent of the childlike imagination we all had at age 5, back when we pondered how amazing it would be if we combined all the archetypes for badassery into one entity.  In this manner, “Axe Cop” features moon ninja vampire werewolves from the moon and a unicorn-horned cop-turned-dinosaur-turned-avocado-turned-ghost (at least, as far as I’ve read).  The story is spectacularly incohesive yet ties together so well.  And the illustrations are top notch, including what I perceive as a few winks to the audience from an adult interpreting for a child, such as when the aliens roll their eyes at their leader’s dastardly plan to throw things at Earth.

So if you’re in the market for some guffaws, check out Axe Cop. It’ll also be getting its own Dark Horse Comics printing and 3-issue miniseries in the spring of 2011, which according to the 5-year-old author, should look something like this:

Axe Cop Comicbook

And if you’re still not convinced:

I’ve developed the habit of carrying a pocket-sized spiral-ring notebook with me everywhere. I can’t believe I’ve never done it before as it’s been extremely rewarding for me. I don’t have to worry about forgetting ideas anymore, as I can write them down as soon as I have them. It also gives me a chronology of how my ideas are developing and evolving, which has been fun to look back on.  I am currently writing in my 3rd notebook, meaning that I already have 300 pages of notebooks filled up. Unfortunately, I discovered that it’s impossible to find anything I’ve written down, even after flipping through page after page. So now I’m in the process of digitizing the notebooks, transcribing their contents into Word for organization and categorization. Unfortunately, I severely underestimated the task. Half the first notebook took me 2 hours to input and filled up 10 pages in word. So it looks like I have 40 digital pages of notes already, which is about twice as much as the actual story narrative I’ve written. Lots of work ahead of me there.

What’s more, I found this site I Write Like which analyzes writing samples and tells you which famous author they resemble. I’m not too certain of the process behind it, although due to curiosity I emailed them asking for an explanation. At any rate, His Story so far was correlated to the style of William Gibson.  Her Story came back as Stephen King. And Gabriel’s story computed to David Foster Wallace, with whom I’m not at all familiar.  I was surprised and pleased by these results.  My goal has been to cultivate different writing styles that will reflect the nature of the characters they embody, similar to how I was able to craft different personas for the stories and roleplay I did within The Matrix Online.  The fact that the three stories were related to three different authors inspires some confidence that I’m achieving that goal.  And that the first two were compared to Gibson and King, authors who I respect and whose writing I’ve enjoyed immensely, well that’s icing on the cake.  I’ll be interested in running my writing through I Write Like in the future to make sure the three stories retain separate styles.

Just for fun, read this short short story “They’re made out of Meat” by Terry Bisson. I found it to be an excellent interpretation of just how damned superior those space-faring aliens think they are.

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