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May 2012

Stephen King's 11/22/63


Somehow over memorial day weekend I ended up stuck in Charlotte airport for about 6 hours. Let's just say it wasn't planned and I'm never flying USAir again if I can help it.  But there were two things that made the stay less miserable than it could have been. 

1. They have a Brookwood Farms BBQ restaurant in Terminal B.  (Ok, perhaps not the best by local standards, but coming from California, it was excellent.)

2. I had Stephen King's latest novel "11/22/63" on my Kindle.  

I'm not a huge fan of Horror, so I really am not an expert in Stephen King.  In fact, the only other King books I've read are "The Stand" and "On Writing".  (And I highly recommend both.)

"11/22/63" is a fantastic book.  I won't explain the whole story, but to those unfamiliar with the date, this is a time travel book in which the main character is able to go back in time to the late 1950's to try and prevent John F. Kennedy's assassination.  It's got romance, nostalgia, plot twists, suspense and a bit of blood and gore.  

It's also a helluva compelling story that draws you in one page at a time. I found myself constantly wondering "what would I do?" if I were the main character.  If that's not a testament to powerful writing, I don't know what is.  King brings the whole theme of the march of time and man's destiny into a compelling and occasionally shocking story.

Yes, at 800+ pages it's too long and could use some trimming.  But, I finished this book in 3 days flat and I was literally glued to it.  As with "The Stand" it's an epic novel that keeps you thinking.  

I don't know that time travel always works in fiction (or Interactive Fiction) but it sure works in this case. 

Kickstarter Jumpstarts Retro Adventure Games


With the recent successes of Double Fine and Wasteland 2 on getting multi-million dollar funding on Kickstarter, new graphical adventure games have been popping up on Kickstarter like mushrooms at a Phish concert in Vancouver.  Personally, I think this is hugely interesting.  Not just because oldschool games are being funded, but because Kickstarter has the potential to disrupt the traditional game publisher who serves as a middleman between creative studios and the buying public.  While publisher fulfill a useful role in many cases, they also work as a gatekeeper that makes it hard for more speculative works to see light of day.  With Kickstarter there's the opportunity to promote create projects that are more specialized and might not have mass market appeal.  

Even Forbes commented on this recent trend:

Drawing on the already-participatory relationship between developers and gamers, crowd-funded video games allow fans to become investors in projects they care about from the ground up.

Customers are always “investors” in a sense since their cash determines whether a game will be profitable or not; but with the rise of crowd-funding, that investment begins long before the game is even developed.

I think this also says something about piracy, at least tangentially. Since piracy concerns have led to a new DRM regime and plenty of fan backlash, it’s a good sign that gamers are willing to pony up prior to a game’s actual release. It reveals a level of trust and enthusiasm that may not be present in much of the gaming industry.

Of course, there's plenty of risk associated with Kickstarter.  Maybe these games won't live up to the lofty expectations that have been set.  And maybe the buying audience will tire of funding games 9 months or more in advance of seeing the end product.  It's not exactly a model that delivers instant gratification.  Still I think it's a great way to build a community around a game.  And many of the projects being funded are giving people the opportunity to get a peek behind the scenes with design materials, documentary footage etc.  

Here are a few interesting projects currently seeking funding.  (And yes, I've pledged to several of these.  If someone wants to port Frotz to the Kindle, I'll pitch in on that also.)

Unfortunately, Rob Swigart's game has been canceled.  But there is a Tex Murphy game in the works that is quite close to fully funded.  Tex Murphy was the star of several breakthrough FMV adventure games including "Under a Killing Moon" and "The Pandora Directive" among others.