Thursday, 31 January 2013

Them Indie Gems

Journey and Limbo

For every one hundred questionable games out there, it’s possible to come across a fantastic gem. Downloadable indie gems. To be specific; Journey and Limbo.

The strangest thing with these games is that they somehow manage to achieve what a huge budget struggles to create in three years - or make that six with an added sequel. These people, the ones who create these games, get to work out of the box and the reason why is because they strive for different targets. Yeah they hope to make money from it but money probably isn’t their main aim, coming up with something new and innovative, having people think differently about the game they're playing - that seems to be their aim. And that’s an amazing accomplishment, especially since they have such small teams and budgets compared to other companies that are churning out games to satisfy their already huge ATM's - Oh! I mean, fan base.

Some ideas float, some sink, yet I appreciate the effort people make to do something different.

For me, Journey came at the right time. It proved you don’t always need to be on the end of some headset barking orders at your team mates to capture some flag. Forget orders, you don’t even need to talk. Co-op is great but the novelty can wear off quickly when the need to do so is based around the same thing – “shoot as much shit as you can so you and your buddy can survive the onslaught of soldiers/aliens/zombies/etc.”

Not only did they give co-op a new angle, they captured some serious atmosphere while they were at it, not to mention an awesome soundtrack as well. I mean, just look at it:

And another thing about this game is the minimal story. All you know is that you need to get from A to B; B being a mountain in the distance. You don’t know why, you don’t know where exactly the journey will take you, and you definitely don’t know who or what you’ll meet along the way. It’s only two to three hours long yet it has some great replay value and in general, is pretty enjoyable to play alone or with an anonymous buddy. It’s just perfect. 

Limbo, developed by Playdead, also sticks out (and is now free with Playstation Plus if your interested). This game looks as simple as hell; told through ambiguous silhouettes you have to figure out how to survive in a warped world of shadowy monsters and people looking to do you no good. The trial and error game play is actually quite reminiscent of Abe’s Odyssey, another one of my favorite classics. 
Limbo, like Journey, has little to no story though can still lock you in with its oddities.

 When Jenova Chen (the co-founder of Thatgamecompany which developed Journey) was asked about taking on more commercial games, he gave the perfect answer:

“Why would I start a company just to make the same kind of game which I can get a much better life in another company? You know, the reason we started this company is because nobody is making this kind of game, and to expand that emotional spectrum of video games -- having more people be able to enjoy video games. The only way to do it is to just do it yourself. 
We tried to just convince big publishers like EA or other people to make games like Cloud (another game they created in the past)... It's just almost impossible...”

And it's true, I’m telling you, some commercial game companies are the graveyards for innovation.

I’m just sayin’.

What's you fave Indie Game?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

One Project Too Long

Fears and Focus

If there’s one regret I have when it comes to writing, it’s that in the past eight years or so I never put down my blue bic pen to work on a different project. 
Some people have multiple projects or suffer from “shiny new idea syndrome”. Google it!
I used to have this when I was younger, but in my late teens I stumbled on this one idea that just seemed to grow and grow and well...kept growing. Before I knew it, I had this tale that I wanted to tell and because it kept growing, the story kept changing and in the space of eight years I ended up with ten drafts! 
None of this seemed like a problem. Working on something so seriously and for so long meant I had my eyes wide open; I was ready to put myself out there and learn. For once, I wasn’t just writing for the joy of it, I wanted to get my story down and make it as perfect as could be.

To put it simply, I finally began to hone my craft. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Nasty

Our Tenants

Growing up in my Dad’s house was a wonderful thing, for a child anyway. It’s large, old, creaky and full of secrets. Whenever my bro and I were bored we would explore it. The only downsides, at times, were the tenants. We had some good ones. We had some BAD ones.

All in all, the house had four rooms; one was meant to be the living room but my Dad rented it out all the same. Our longest tenant was called Victor who lived with us for something over 16 years. He did everything like clockwork; he would wake at 5a.m, leave at 6a.m, arrive home at 6p.m, make dinner at 7p.m, eat at 8p.m, have a shower then be in bed by 9p.m. On the weekends he’d leave for Kent then return Sunday night. 

Yet despite how long he lived with us, we never knew his age, his birthday or what he actually did in Kent. For years we thought he went to see his wife, but when he died of the Big C, the woman who claimed to be his spouse wasn’t the same lady who used to visit the house way back when. The one thing that was odd about Victor was that he kind of...sung whenever he spoke. That and the fact that he was probably destined to live in our house until he died - his full name was actually Victor Tenant. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Creative Writing Courses

Should I do a BA in Creative Writing?

I've been asked this question a few times and well...

Once upon a time, I went to university. I went to City and Islington to study a ten day course in creative writing and I loved it. When I finished, I signed up to Brunel University with the aim to complete a BA in Creative Writing. 

I dropped out after two weeks...

Wait, wait, wait, there’s a story here. Don’t go. 

Basically, my reason for dropping out was because I learnt far more in those short ten days than I did in those two weeks. Maybe that degree - as with all - was going to be a slow burner, but in those two weeks we were put into groups to critique one another’s work. (I never knew at the time you could get these online for free!) Now, I know a degree is three years and that there was probably much more to come but I didn’t enjoy those fourteen days. A moment with a fellow student made me realise the following semesters weren’t to my interests; more Shakespeare - something I had been studying for three years previously. Poetry, which I detest studying, and some drawn out classes about the history of language. The only class I was interested in was the creative writing one and the teacher wouldn’t teach it. He would give us a writing task then ask us to come back into class so it could be critiqued by our set crew of pupils. 
There were other cons that helped me make the decision to jump ship. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work I go

Pearson’s (close down to my knowledge) 
Sports World (now Sports Direct) 
Emirates Stadium 
Clinton Cards 
School Dinner Lady 
Teaching Asst 
Leaflet Deliverer

These are the jobs I can recall.

As you can see, I’ve been through many. Before the recession it was like picking up cola bottles in a 1p sweet shop. (For these sort of jobs anyway.) 
Now, times ah changing! 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Sat Nav: "Reverse at..."

Writer's Block

I honestly believe writer's block is unique to everyone. I’ve heard some people say they just don’t know what to write or that their story just died and they didn’t know where to go from there.
For me, I say: “I’ve written myself into a corner”.
As time has gone by I’ve gradually learned how to recognise when this is about to happen. Once I sense this I put down the pen and stop before I trap myself. Then I go off to think. It’s for that reason that I never actually meet the Block, and by doing this I’m sure I outwit the damn thing.

The way I see it, is, as long as I’m thinking about a way out I’m not yet trapped in that corner. And with that thinking space, I reverse. I go back on myself and scrap pages, scenes and sometimes even characters. It’s never an easy decision to make but I usually base it on one thing - it was boring.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

My First Big Mistake

The Cliffhanger

Seeing as I started my intro post talking about mistakes, I’ll let you in on the first of many that I’ve made so far - ending on a cliff hanger. Yeah... try not to do that.
The story I’ve been working on these six years has a bad ending. I would have called it a cliff hanger but let me tell you, readers will call it a “shit” ending, “a ploy to buy your next book” ending, an “unsatisfying” ending, an “abrupt” ending, or simply, “I’m not buying the second book because the first ended so badly” ending. 


Hello, my name is Shay.


 Have you come here for writing tips? 
Advice on how to polish your prose? 
Ways to improve your grammar? 
Better your dialogue?

Well then, let me tell you, you’ve come to the wrong place!
I’m an amateur writer (like yourself maybe) and I know as much about writing as the next unpublished author. But of course, what I can do is take you along on my journey, let you into my world, expose my writing process and hey, you never know, you might find something useful. As they say, if you’re quick you’ll learn from your mistakes, if you’re smart you’ll learn from someone else's!

I’ve been writing for years, but I’ve also been walking for years; doesn’t mean I’m in any shape to start telling you how to win the walking race at the Olympics. But hey, we can still train together, right?

The Line Up

Blue Bic Mondays: I'll be posting everything I've learnt about writing, and all the mistakes I make along the way. That's Shay: Taking One for the Team.

Red Bic Wednesday's: That'll be the day I post about games; old, new, indie - I'm ah write 'bout it!

Green Bic Friday's: Posts about me. Watch this space. I'm really interesting, you'll see...

 Hope to see you around!

Shay (

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