Author Archives: Simon Jones

Showing your alpha build to people

Tonight I went along to my second Norfolk Indie Games Developers meet-up. As before, it was a gathering of passionate, interesting indie devs of varying skillsets (coders, artists, writers etc) chatting about all things gaming for three+ hours.

Unlike the first time I went, this evening I had something to share. I took along the hideously unfinished and untested build of Going Up, my Twine-based interactive conversation and decided to let a room full of far more experienced games devs Have At It.

Yes, they eventually ran into a scripting error. No, an experimental text game doesn’t make for the most exciting demoing experience.

However, the writing got some laughs, the dialogue options seemed to resonate and come across as mostly believable and the overall structure interested people. The latter surprised me the most, as I wasn’t sure the project would be especially compelling given there’s very little ‘game’ in there.

It helped that a couple of other chaps there were working on procedural characters and dialogue, which led to an engaging discussion of the pros and cons of various NPC systems.

Being the first time I’ve shown my game ideas to anybody, at least in a group setting to people I don’t know especially well, everybody was remarkably polite. It was quite exhilarating to see the game played through by others, with everyone in the room offering opinions on where to steer the conversation. Definite excited inner monologue of I made this!

I’ll have to try to finish the damn thing before the next NIGD meet.

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Win prizes at the big Wattpad Block Party event!

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The Wattpad Block Party (2nd Winter Edition) is upon us. All through February the event will be rolling, with prize giveaways and a ton of featured authors posting brand new work. Here’s how the organiser, Kelly Ann Blount, describe it:

The Wattpad Block Party – Winter Edition II is an epic online event featuring some of your all time favorite Wattpad Super Stars, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors, and up and coming Wattpad writers!

In case there’s any confusion, I’m one of the latter. Each day a new collection of articles will be posted to the Block Party book, with the authors interacting throughout. The articles will be an eclectic mix of writing tips, behind-the-scenes, bonus chapters and the like. If you’re into reading new stuff, and especially if you’re into Wattpad culture, it’s a big deal.

Now, here’s why this is exciting from an author perspective: the Wattpad Block Party – Winter Edition II book went live in November 2015 (with some preview information, as the actual event and content doesn’t begin appearing until February 1st) and here are it’s current stats:

47,448 reads. 2,500 votes. Over 2,300 comments.

That’s for an event that hasn’t actually begun yet. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and expectation already built up and ready to be unleashed through February. I’m hoping it’ll prove a nice boost to A Day of Faces, just like the Story Fair last September.

If you’re intrigued and want to check it out, simply head over to Wattpad and give the book a read. If you have a Wattpad account, add the book to your reading list and you’ll be notified when a new article appears.

As for me, my article will appear on the 27th. All the giveaways are shaping up nicely and I’ll be giving away A Day of Faces ebooks in one of them.

I’m teaching VFX on FutureLearn!

Two exciting things are happening in February, the first of which is a free, four week course called Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers. I’ve written about FutureLearn in the past and have done a handful of their courses, so a VFX course is of course great news.

What’s even more thrilling, for me at least, is that I’m one of the educators on the course. To go from an eager FutureLearn student to co-designing a course has been a real privilege. The course goes live on February 8th and runs for four weeks. You can sign up any time between now and the end of the final week.

As is the way with FutureLearn courses, you can study it at your own pace which makes it easy to fit in and around whatever time your life affords.

It’s the brainchild of Saint Walker, lecturer and head of the VFX course at NUA, and it’s been put together as a collaboration between NUA, FXHOME and MPC. That’s pretty nice company. Each week introduces an aspect of visual effects, examining it from historical, industry and home-grown perspectives.

That means you’ll get the theory, backed up with high end examples from MPC, followed by practical, introductory lessons that you can do yourself in the free version of HitFilm 3 Express (a unique and excellent editor-compositor hybrid). The course is very much aimed at complete beginners – if you have an understanding and passion for filmmaking but haven’t yet ventured into visual effects, it’s perfect.

There’ll be lots more information over on the HitFilm.com blog soon and in the meantime you can sign up and get ready by heading here: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/vfx-for-filmmakers

Medicine on the Discovery: Dr Reginald Koettlitz

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Reginald Koettlitz

Reginald Koettlitz was born in 1860 and died in 1916, making this month the centenary of his death. In his life he travelled on the Discovery to the Antarctic with Captain Scott, journeyed up the Amazon and explored half of Africa. He was a medical pioneer, identifying many techniques for surviving in the harshest of conditions. He took the first ever colour photographs on Antarctica. Ernest Shackleton was the best man at Koettlitz’s wedding.

And yet you’ve probably never heard of him, because he was essentially pushed out of the British exploration establishment upon his return from the Antarctic in the early 20th century and the narrative around Captain Scott soon shifted to one of doomed heroism following the Terra Nova disaster.

As a descendant it was a real pleasure to work with my father on the only biography of the man, titled Scott’s Forgotten Surgeon, which was published in 2011 and can be found over on Amazon.

If you like your history with a good amount of adventure, it’s worth a read. And don’t miss these amazing photographs from the family archive.

Writing notes: ADoF chapter 35 ‘Reflex’

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Pacing in Arc 3 is proving to be a fiddly thing. In the first two arcs pacing was definitely flexible, but on the whole I stuck to the initial chapter breakdowns. With Arc 3 I’m constantly restructuring the story, adding and removing chapters and adjusting the overall pace.

I have no idea whether this is a good thing or not. Hopefully it means that I’m becoming more confident as a writer and am able to better arrange the story and character beats to make for a satisfying read. It’s meant that Kay and Marv’s journey east took a couple of chapters more than I’d expected.

And with ‘Reflex’ I’ve got another chapter that didn’t quite turn out as planned. It was meant to be more talky than actiony, but when I got down to the writing it made no sense for Kay to sit down and have a chat with Simons. She was outta there the moment she saw him. And thus ‘Reflex’ ended up being a rather more fun caper of Kay and Marv trying to escape and proving to be entirely inept.

It does a few things. First up, it reinforces Kay and Marv’s relationship, and gives us a chance to see them in action without being shepherded about by Furey or Cal. Secondly, we get to see Furey doing her thing in a slightly more overt way. Third, it simultaneously reminds us that Kay is a force to be reckoned with while at the same time emphasising that she is not an action hero, and never will be. She has skills, but in the end she’s still a high school kid.

Next chapter might be the final Interlude of the arc. Stay tuned.

Soundtrack: Ant-Man. Because I wanted a heisty, fight-or-flight kinda feel.

Writing notes: ADoF chapter 34 ‘Hive’

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Now we’re talking. All the build-up of the journey east leads to this chapter. Hopefully it was worth the wait.

I should probably talk about that opening scene. That wasn’t planned. The first line I wrote for this chapter was Kay moaning about the freighter journey, and how uneventful it had been. That then made me think it could be fun to have her wistfully imagine what might have been. I liked the idea, but decided to switch it around so that the chapter opened with the dream, presented with a straight face before the reveal. Continue reading

Writing notes: ADoF chapter 33 ‘Canal’

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Here we get some pretty blatant clues about where the story has been set on Earth, and the route of the freighter. In researching this I stumbled across a fascinating blog by Maya Jasanoff, who spent a month on a cargo ship from China to the UK. It’s a great read and was a big help in visualising the freighter journey in the story.

In ‘Canal’ we get more of an idea of Furey, who has remained something of an enigma. We get a bit of her motivation here, and a hint of her capabilities. The idea with her so far has been to start winding up her character like a coiled spring, with little hints here and there, until all is revealed down the line a little.

Anyway, with the journey east now complete, the next chapter takes on a very different pace. It also takes us to Hong Kong, where I lived until I was about four years old. I went back in 1999 for a visit and it’s an astounding place, in terms of its geography and architecture. I went at the height of summer and I’ve never known such humidity and heat. It’s a location which should make for a very different setting as the Arc 3 finale approaches. The story has never been anywhere like this before.

Soundtrack: The Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack. Hugely inappropriate, but I’d just watched the film and was still super-hyped. Oh, what a score. What a lovely score!