A Busy Summer

Despite my hopes & plans to post regularly with a DIY PR and Tropes post every week, I’ve gotten behind. I blame working on making games, and also working on making games! Yes, that’s right, for the summer I am working not only with Phoenix Online, but also with Jane Jensen’s new studio Pinkerton Road as an Assistant Designer! Which is SUPER EXCITING. While it means I’ll not have anything even close to a relaxing, beachy summer, that’s quite alright by me: I’m working on my dreams, loving it, and getting some fantastic experience. Plus, as my dad pointed out, I burn easily anyways.

I’ll endeavor to try and keep up some semi-regular posting, however, on DIY PR, Tropes, and my writing in general. I hope whoever’s reading enjoys!



Phoenix Online Party!

Hello friends who read this blog! In a fun act of shameless self promotion (and it’s my blog, so damn right I’ve got no shame about it!), here’s the news:

Phoenix Online is having a party, and you’re all invited!

To celebrate the upcoming release–and to reveal some HUGE news–we’re having a live pre-release chat party next weekend! As The Silver Lining builds to its dramatic climax and the Phoenix Online team turns our attention to the future, we wanted to put together something extra special for the fans who have supported us during this long, exciting journey.

So mark your calendars for October 29th at 2:00 PM Eastern. You’ll see the Episode 4 trailer, hear new details about the episode (including the exact date of the early November release date–it’s so close we can taste it!), and be one of the very first people to hear about the commercial game we’ll be announcing on Halloween! That’s right, we’ll be spilling the beans to you–the fans–at the party, before we send out the press release!

Even better: Jane Jensen herself will be there!

We’ll also have special guests Fable Foundry to talk about The Art of Sierra and some other great new projects, and Romano Molenaar, comic artist with prominent work on X-Men, Tomb Raider, and The Darkness–find out at the party how he’s involved with us!

We hope you’ll set aside some time for this once-in-a-lifetime event and join us at the Pre-Release Party, October 29th, 11:00 AM PDT / 2:00 PM EDT/ 8:00 PM GMT/ 9:00 CET on Ustream! We hope we see you there!

Your time zone isn’t listed? Find out what time the party is where you are here!


Have you ever done something you didn’t believe you could do?

Not things you “never thought you’d do” – that’s different. That’s a thing you hadn’t thought about, hadn’t put time into considering the possibility or lack thereof. Not believing you can do something is just that, a thing you’ve encountered, considered, and come up saying, “No, I can’t do that,” with certainty.

Usually we back down from those things. Maybe they’re too outrageous, or go against a moral code, or are too taxing or painful, be it emotionally, physically, or mentally. Since we believe ourselves incapable of doing them, we don’t. Why tackle the impossible? We know what the result will be failure.

Last night I realized I’ve been trying to do something I haven’t believed myself capable of doing. This despite slowly working towards this goal for six and a half years now. I’ve tried other things for longer without losing hope: The Silver Lining was in production for eight years (for me) before it was finally released, and we received not one but two C&Ds from big companies telling us no. And yet I never gave up on that happening, not really. I had moments of doubting, of being tired of it, of wanting to just quit and walk away, but only once, for one night, did I ever believe it wouldn’t happen. Quite literally the next morning, our fans were there for us, believing in us when we’d had that moment of doubt, and my belief came back. Now here we are, with a future before us.

But this goal, the one I didn’t realize I didn’t believe in, was a very different sort of goal. Since January of 2005, I’ve been training at the Theodorou Academy of Jiu Jitsu. I’m not athletic, I’m not violent, I lack aggression almost to a fault, I’m 5’3″, I’m not strong, I’ve never been attacked or even in a fight – in other words, I am not the person you would expect to see training in jiu jitsu. Our style focuses specifically on practical self-defense, strikes, and set responses that you could realistically pull off if attacked on the street, regardless of size or strength. Appropriately, the training starts off simple, things that are easy to do and to understand. Over time, it gets more complex, and also more serious. The things you’re learning can do some truly awful damage to your opponent, even kill them, but we also learn to measure our responses to what’s appropriate to the situation. For when someone’s just a little too drunk, we learn what’s called a bouncer technique. If someone’s trying to rape you or threatens you with a knife, then this is your life and they are trying to end it: you do whatever is necessary to get out of that situation alive.

It’s scary. Whether it’s because of the kind of injury I’m learning to inflict is terrifying to me, or that the practice itself inevitably involves some pain (you can’t practice a joint lock without the other person feeling it), a lot of what we do scares me. Learning to take a fall correctly, for example: you have to actively throw yourself at the ground which is completely opposed to every instinct you have about falling. Try it: Stand up, jerk your legs out from under you so you fall face-first, and with the ground rushing up at you, tell yourself you’ll be fine because at the last second you’re going to catch yourself on your forearms. I learned that one six years ago and I still don’t like it.

But now my next belt will be my first degree black belt, and more is expected of me. Our Sensei is great, very motivational, and a believer that anyone who puts their mind to it can become a black belt. The training for your black belt test is hard. Really hard. It’s extra time, he pushes you to do more, is bluntly honest with what you need to work on, and makes you work with some of the toughest guys in class. The start of my group’s training was this summer, in July, which was an awful month for many reasons. Everything was frustrating, stressful, and more than I could handle, and in the end, I opted to not aim for a November test date. I know this was the best decision for me. The new aim was then an April test date, but I should still be keeping up my training.

I haven’t been. I was burned out, I wasn’t having fun, I was frustrated, I was too busy, I’d been losing interest in going to train at all. The last two weeks, I haven’t gone at all, in fact. But it wasn’t really until I said these things aloud to Brandon, expressed how I felt about it, my doubts that I might do it at all, that I realized the truth: I didn’t believe I could do it. Even though I knew, intellectually, that it was possible, I didn’t believe that. That’s a crushing thing, to know that you don’t believe in yourself. Yet somehow in the act of admitting it, it changed: I knew I wanted to do it, I knew I could do it…and then, I think, I knew I would do it. I don’t know when, there are reasons beyond my belief in myself that could delay it, but it will happen. It will be extremely challenging, and frustrating, and painful, but it is possible. I am possible.

This morning a co-worker told me whenever she needs inspiration, she looks at a picture of a corgi sailing over a show jump. The bar is only about a foot off the ground for them, which doesn’t seem like much, until you consider that their legs are about 3 to 6 inches tall. And yet, with dogged and adorable determination on their faces, they leap over something more than twice the height of their little legs. “If he can do that, then I can do anything,” she said.

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.

Goals in 2011 & Aspiration: Game Designer

I found a post I’d made on my previous online journal about goals for the year 2011. I’ve done okay with these, but not 100%. Some are a little beyond my direct control, but most of them aren’t. But, there are also 4 big fat months of 2011 left yet, so I can make good on as much as possible!

One of these was to finish writing Ghostlight. This I have not yet done, but if I push myself, it’s possible. Now we’re talking first draft business here, not a remotely finished product, but the first draft feels like the hardest part. And though I’m considering changes that range from cutting or adding minor characters to snipping out notions I no longer want in there to wondering about rewriting the whole damn thing in 3rd person instead of 1st person, when I can at least have a final draft completed, start to finish, that’ll be huge for me. In short, this one is still on the docket, and I’m going to work at making it happen!

One of my other goals was to get some chunk of a proposed game script done, of which just about nothing has gotten done, but the game designer landscape is a constantly changing one for me. That game is no longer first or even second or third in the docket behind other potential projects. And that’s a good enough place to talk about another aspiration of mine, game design.

When I was a kid, I discovered Sierra games. Adventure games where you took on the role of a person–a space-age janitor, a spunky princess, a prince-turned-slave, etc–and walked around a world, looking at things, collecting a ton of inventory items, solving puzzles with logic and not with force of arms. I LOVED these games. It was like a storybook come to life, and I loved me some storybooks. Pretty much from then on, a pipe dream of mine was to create adventure games.

Fast forward to 2002, and I’ve just graduated college with an English major, basically meaning I’ve got no job and very few prospects. It was a shitty time for graduating, moreso with a liberal arts degree. I find a website for a fanmade, unofficial, King’s Quest 9, a sequel to the Sierra series that built itself upon myths, fairy tales, and folklore, that I had adored most of my life. They were looking for a staff writer among other things. So hell yes I signed myself up for that! I submitted an application, a trial piece of writing, and over the next few years I was the co-writer on a script that was insanely large and impossible to turn into a game, not that we knew that, because none of us knew anything about creating computer games back then. But between temp jobs and other obstacles in my life at the time, it was a dream come true.

After two cease-and-desists that fans fought vehemently to get reversed for us, last summer, we at Phoenix Online Studios at long last released The Silver Lining, Episode 1 (of 5)*. The dream was reality. We had made a computer game (well, part of one), and we were making it happen. We were game designers, dammit! We’ve released three full Episodes now, and are working on the final two, while also working on turning this non-commercial company into a commercial one. I’m a designer and the PR Director, and I love it. It’s unquestionably a passion for me.

It’s hard to say how much getting this game released meant to me. I can use words, and I will, but the swell of pride, accomplishment, being part of something bigger than myself…it’s beyond just words. If you’ve felt it, you know it. Something we worked on for eight years, something that was almost taken away from us by “the Man” not once but twice, something that enough other people believed in to make the effort to fight for it, for us…it’s something that will always make me smile. I hope this group goes much further and does much more, but knowing we’ve done this much already is kind of astounding to me. I–we–have gotten this far, and that absolutely counts for something.


*Details and shameless promotion! The Silver Lining is a family-friendly adventure game based on the best-selling King’s Quest games made by Sierra in the 80’s and 90’s. It is also FREE! Yes, free! You can play the whole dang thing at no charge. It is only playable for the PC right now, although we plan to have a Mac version eventually, and we have released so far 3 out of 5 planned episodes.