By Gregory C. Vilfranc
The princess was exhausted. She had no idea the journey to the Portuguese trader outpost would be so long and treacherous, but if the stories of Njali’s disappearance from court rang true, no distance would cheat her from finding him and exacting vengeance on his abductors. She missed ‘Old One’ and laughed to herself knowing that Njali probably gave his captors more of a battle than they gave him. Still, she could not fathom how one as skilled as he would allow himself to be captured. Two whole moons had passed and with his undying loyalty to king Kiluanji, she highly doubted the elder would without warning flee from the place he called home since she was born. It was then that she pieced together the only likely scenario, the catalyst of which had to be Mbandi.
There was never a person, a man for that matter, that she detested more than Mbandi the coward, which is actually how she made a note to address him. Though Njali was also responsible for her training in diplomacy, all forms of discretion seeped out of her at the mere sight of him. Being the first born son of their father the king, by default he was heir to the throne of Ndongo. Despite his birthright he was a major disappointment in every way imaginable. Mbandi possessed a unique combination of arrogance, complacency and plain idiocy–all nouns she used to humiliate him weeks ago before the entire council, sealing her banishment from court. She delighted in his anguish and shame that day and remarked that a fortnight away from the village was well worth its weight in precious metal; a minimal price to pay for exposing the would be prince for the disgrace that he was. He found great joy in torturing the weak and the small, those who could not hope to defend themselves. When she came of age and was old enough to best him in combat, Njali and two nurse maids were required to pry her hands from her half brother’s throat. When asked why she did not release him when asked, she recalled telling them that she wanted him to feel what her pet chicken experienced when he choked the life out of it. She seemed to have a penchant for abashing him in public forums when he preferred to do his dastardly deeds out of sight.
As she recalled the bane of her existence she was forced to calm herself as her anger shot out of her like a wave causing a ripple effect throughout the dense jungle. Those that swung from trees and others that slithered on the ground were suddenly alerted by her presence. While she enjoyed the thrill of speaking publicly in court, the jungle was the one audience of a thousand eyes that she did not want clinging to her every word. Remembering her training, she calmed herself by kneeling and controlling her breathing until it was as shallow as one who sleeps deeply. Re-directing her thoughts toward the task at hand, she opened her eyes and sensed that she had immersed herself deep into the conglomerate of the jungle’s night life. She was once again considered a fellow predator to the eaters and a threat to those that hid from them.
As she lay there by the fire fingering the head of one of her arrows, she marveled at the thought that pestered her from the moment she knew Mbandi would never be king. With two younger sisters and no male heirs in site, what was the true heart of all of the training? With her being more athletic and intelligent than her brother, it made sense that her father would take her along to war and other political matters. She had always assumed that she was more of a novelty that added years to the king’s life and amused and impressed an entire village. Still, the images of herself seated on the throne filled her with a pride that went past her darkened skin and moved her outside of herself when she realized the powerful impact such a sight would have on her sisters, the young girls in the village and the entire world. In a brief moment of empathy, she understood Mbandi’s vitriol. Though she never disappointed her father, she cried in her heart at the thought of letting him down. She could only imagine what Mdandi’s daily plight was like with their father barely looking his firstborn son in the eye, let alone share an approving word with him. Was Kiluangi’s motive of grooming his daughter to succeed him solely based on his son’s failure as an heir or did he truly believe a woman was worthy of assuming the title of supreme leader of Ndongo?
The next unnatural sounds that interrupted her thoughts seemed to prickle every hair on her body as she rose slowly to a crouching position. It was the sound of men setting up camp with their lack of subtlety giving them away as Portuguese slave traders. ‘Move like the panther,’ Njali had said. ‘His enemies never know they have an enemy until it is too late.’ She steadily peered over the log she had used as a headboard down to the base of the hill where the four traders were settling down for the night. They had no captives but were still armed well enough to ambush and capture a group of ten or more or her people; her kind. Her anger began to rise up again, but was more of a simmer compared to the rage she felt just moments ago. Njali had preached against the marriage of anger and combat, but she had discovered on her own how to channel this energy to her advantage. As she drew back her bow and aimed for the head of the one who would be the leader of the slavers, any thoughts of her glorious queen-hood and her father’s intentions would have to wait. Seconds before her first arrow had an intimate conversation with it’s target, she had already pounced on the second with her spear, disarmed the third of his blade, re-directing it at his jugular while leaving the last to quiver in fear. She had him pegged as the weakest link from the moment she laid eyes on them. He would be the one to tell her where Njali was being held. He would also be the first to know death by the hands of a true warrior; a warrior who would be queen.
I’m going, going. Back, back, to Apple, APPLE!
Yes, it’s true. I’m returning to the company I loved and walked away from some 4 years ago. Many may question why I left. Others scratch their heads trying to figure out why I went back. Let’s delve into it, shall we?
I initially left my two year tenure at Apple initially because my wife and I first discovered we were with child. I must admit to you; I panicked. I panicked because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to take care of my wife and a new, surprise baby on my current salary. Having experienced struggle as a child and watching my parents again and again sacrifice things they rightfully deserved so that we can be happy and comfortable, I became paranoid as to whether or not I could sustain lifting up my new clan financially. I won’t disclose how much I was being paid at the time, but had we not been pregnant, I most likely would’ve remained with the company. I was making progress and headway, meeting with managers constantly as I wrestled with the decision of becoming a Genius (repair tech) or a Creative (certified trainer). With all the internal turmoil I experienced, questioning whether I was even ready to be a father, suddenly things weren’t moving swiftly enough for me. Waiting for email responses from the support team became excruciating. In my mind at the time, I wanted to company to move with the same sense of urgency that I suddenly began to move in. Naturally, I made the choice to leave Apple with hopes of landing something more gainful for my family’s sake. Yes, I know. Stupid move.
Fast-forward to four years and dozens of Mac, iPhone and iPad repairs for friends, family and strangers, I found myself missing the place. The one thing my father taught me was to never, ever be placed in a position where you have to sit and wonder, “what if.” During those four years, the thought–though distant–would remain in the back of my mind like a pebble at the bottom of 12 mattresses. I started half-heartedly re-applying about a year and a half ago as I was doing other seemingly cool things, like my two year tenure as an audio book editor for Audible Inc (another experience for another blog post). It wasn’t until our second baby came into our lives (planned this time) that I started to make my applications and inquiries more assertive. I kept in touch with several former managers to assess my chances of a comeback and they all encouraged me to keep applying. Eventually, the persistence paid off as I went through 3 interviews to make my way back.
Ultimately, it all made perfect sense and interestingly enough I discovered just how much I grew and evolved as I answered key questions in the interview process; things that made me look at myself in a brand new light. Apple to this day still remains one of the best places to work. It makes even more sense as Apple Retail jobs seem to attract the creative professionals that I need to continue to grow my personal brand and business ideas, something I simply could not do with what I’ve been doing the past four years.
So it’s official. Interestingly enough I’m back at the same store I was at four years ago and as I mentioned to one of the People Support group members I met with, it felt like a homecoming of sorts. I likened my first tenure at Apple to an undergrad experience in college, while being back felt like entering in as a graduate student; someone who’s been there and done that, but with a new set of eyes and lenses. Many would also think that maybe I went back to Apple because they were the only ones who responded and I was desperate. In some ways I wish that were true, but I genuinely wanted to be back and there were other potential suitors like Chase, the MTA and others. I prayed for options and that’s exactly what I received. I know for a fact that I made the right decision, perks, benefits and discounts aside. I know the Apple brand because I’ve lived it fervently for four years away from the company. I even remarked at the fact that I was more immersed in the Apple brand and culture when I wasn’t working for them. A comeback now just made sense. I’m excited and thrilled at the possibilities before me and I’m using everything that I’ve left behind as references to help keep me on track. With a growing family to take care of, somehow my new title Family Room Specialist makes even more sense.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve transitioned from composing music and designing sound to focusing solely on my Game Design studies at Full Sail U and building up my writing chops with a focus on Narrative Design. What may have seemed like writer’s block was actually a shift in life events. I’ve recently been blessed with a new job at Apple as well as some serious planning with my wife about leaving NYC for good. It was once difficult to consider living anywhere else but the Big Apple, the place where I was born and raised, but when children came into the picture, the term ‘get outta Dodge’ really resonates with me in ways I didn’t imagine were possible. Overall, I’m pleased to let you know I’m back, and I will be releasing more content via writing samples and the like for your viewing pleasure.
As for the seemingly ambiguous title, I’m a part of a few Meetup groups here in NYC and I plan on really making some great connections tonight and at other events in the future. Sadly, I’ve been a part of four awesome groups since 2011 but due to the demanding life of being a first-time dad at the time, I found it difficult to pull myself away from my then infant son. Now that he’s older and I’m not so new anymore (we also have a 4 month old baby girl), I feel more confident in leaving my family behind for a few hours twice a month to rub shoulders with game design, development and art enthusiasts here in my backyard. I’ve designed a game of my own which I hope to have ready for a Spring Playtest Night hopefully, but we’ll see how that develops.
Ultimately I’m excited about being let out of the house for a few hours to rub shoulders with other game design and development enthusiasts here in the city. It’ll be great to finally make use of these really dope looking business cards I got from Moo.com (seriously, check them out) and make some real connections and headway towards my new career path.
Greetings and salutations!
It’s been quite a while since I simply wrote what was on my mind or what was currently going on with me, so this is me sharing. The most pressing matter at this moment in my life seems to be the fact that I’ll be ending my Full Sail University withdrawal earlier than expected and should be resuming pursuits towards my Game Design Bachelor’s in a matter of weeks or days! I’ve done my best to read my textbooks and stay up to date on what goes on in the game design/development world, but after a while, I started craving the interaction of instructors and students. The last time I was this excited about school was my tenure at SAE where I proudly received my Audio Technology Certificate in 2007. This all comes at the perfect time since many of you know by now I’ve channeled my focus to solely Narrative and Game Design collectively. Writing and sharing my stories, ideas and concepts have already been met with positive yet constructive feedback from many and I look forward to more growth.
Speaking of writing, I’ll be releasing some new samples this week that you may enjoy. I’ve opted to re-write a few popular video game cut-scenes that I plan to add to my portfolio. I figure it would be easier to sell my writing abilities to folks when they have visual cues that already exist to match the stories I re-tell in my way. Hopefully, I can get to writing more consistently so I can continue to shake off the rust, which is coming off nicely.
Daddy duty calls, so I must run, but again be on the look out for new content! See you soon and thanks again for visiting!
Essential tips for Game Designers
Originally posted on GameDesignDiary:
I’d like designers to understand the role of a timeline within a development team, especially in projects with a campaign mode. Designers should work with writers, directors and art directors to gather the required information when creating a timeline.
Basic elements covered in this post include:
- Game time line function
- Time line examples
- Communicating a timeline
View original 1,251 more words
Wish upon a star!
To aspire; to dream; to wish upon a distant star. Call it what you want, but we’ve all done it at some point in our lives. Unfortunately many of us are still doing so in our professional lives and in my own experience it’s proven to be a hindrance to my growth, creativity and my ability to set, stick to and meet certain career goals. While I’m not knocking day dreaming and the freedom to think and imagine yourself doing what you want to do (visualization techniques), there is a time and place for everything and eventually, you have to wake up from your siesta and convert dreams into goals. The conversion process isn’t always easy and is sometimes messy, but it’s doable.
Give yourself some credit!
A good friend of mine once told me that if you aspire for something, you’ll probably not amount to anything in regards to that particular pursuit. His philosophy was simple. If you’re taking the steps towards being what you see yourself as when you close your eyes, start referring to yourself as that. In other words, you’re NOT an aspiring Actor, Dancer, Physician or Designer. Assuming that you’re enrolled in some type of school or are taking courses (or even teaching yourself) says lots about the decision you made and the direction you’re going in. If you’re an actor going on auditions, don’t label yourself as an aspiring one JUST because you haven’t landed THE gig yet. Now this fictional actor we’re talking about can have short-term goals like “land a starring role on CSI:Miami” or “a permanent role in The Walking Dead” but that’s completely different from selling yourself short of your title simply because you haven’t ARRIVED yet. You’ll never hear a doctor refer to themselves as an ‘aspiring physician’ or a rookie cop say he’s an aspiring detective. Choosing a creative career is no reason to sell yourself short. I know actors who make deliveries just as sharp as any seasoned neurosurgeon so give yourself some credit.
Remain steadfast; Stay awake.
Ok, so you’ve woken from your stupor and you’ve removed the word ‘aspiring’ from your title. Now what? This is the tricky part. This period or purgatory or limbo has driven many to throw up their hands and give up on the dream simply because they didn’t meet their goals or missed a few milestones. This ‘meantime’ period is crucial as it’s a crucible more than anything; a place where your character is truly built. Rome truly wasn’t built in a day and neither should your dream. Now don’t you think for a second that it’s ok to lower the bar a bit here and there when things become difficult. It’s not. If you’re planning your goals in the dream world than maybe you should take it down a notch or two, but remember, we’re fully awake now and we should set our goals in that realm. Keep your sights set on that CEO title, but know that it’s going to take some hard work, serious networking and dedication to make it out of the ‘mailroom’ of where you currently are. You’re eventually going to graduate from that arduous program and that grueling internship is going to come to an end. Even more possible still is the fact that you may go months to years without being able to find something after graduation or that place you’re interning for may not feel that you’re a good fit. During these seemingly dark times is when you hone your skills and your abilities and maintain your level of desire. During points of inactivity it’s also always easy to figuratively drift off to sleep and dream up something else that pales in comparison to what you really want. Don’t just focus when the phone rings off the hook with offers. Channel your concentration even during the years of famine.
Take a detour; Reinvent yourself.
Re-routing is something that you have to accept will come but you must not take them as problems leading you off course, but rather embrace them as opportunities to explore the road(s) less traveled. At one point in my life I was convinced that I was going to become a recording artist, but on my way towards that goal, I sat down in a producer’s chair and learned the sonic art of music production, mixing and mastering. I haven’t left that ‘chair’ since. More importantly, I’ve taken several back road opportunities that I didn’t expect I would. During a span of 12 years I’ve professionally been labeled as a music producer, a vocal coach, a film score composer, a sound designer and re-recording mixer. After a dozen years I got on a completely different ‘vehicle’ and now I’m on my way towards a brilliant career as a Game and Narrative Designer. I am fascinated daily by the many paths I’ve taken and all of the choices I’ve made but inherently we all know when we’ve reached the ceiling or crossroads in our careers; the moment we all know when it’s time to get off the train and take a plane. If you started off wanted to be a film editor because you thought that’s what you wanted, but ended up being a set designer because you realize that’s what you truly needed, then you’ve successfully re-invented yourself and altered your path.
Ultimately, success should be the ‘ultimate’ goal, but even success comes in different forms, packages and time durations. Some of us will strike it rich (by rich in this case I’m referring to the wealth of discovering one’s true purpose) right out of college, while others like myself may take the Late Bloomer Expressway. Either way, it’s important to stop aspiring and start accepting. Accept that you are a Narrator, a Producer, a Dancer, a Poet or whatever you absolutely NEED to do with your life. In needing to be what you were called to be, you’re on a constant quest to quench a very real and very deep thirst to fulfill your potential and purpose, but you won’t be able to do so if you’re telling folks that you’re an aspiring this, that or the third. In many ways what you’re really saying is “I’m a dreaming artist who’s subconsciously telling myself every day that I’m not exactly sure if this is who I am and I’m looking for someone to tell me who that is.” Potential employers aren’t interested in nurturing hobby artists or awaken them from the dream state of aspiration. It’s your responsibility to know who you are and project that into the environment around you and the rest of the world. It is better to be than to aspire, especially if success (however it’s been tabulated for you) is the end result.
“Or how about that time Gram’s dentures ended up in our pasta?” Cain laughed, jabbing his brother playfully in the ribs. “That was friggin’ hilarious!”
“Yeah, priceless,” Abel mumbled, barely flinching as his brother unleashed a flurry of playful punches to his mid-section. Puzzled, Cain curtailed his onslaught to study his brother’s listless expression.
“Geez, what’s your problem, hermano?” Turning to face his twin, Abel opted not to mask his contempt, allowing Cain to feel the full extent of his anger.
“What’s my problem, he asks,” Abel said contemptuously, shifting his fiery gaze towards the kitchen sink. With a laugh that was one part maniacal, one part hysterical, he promptly reached into the sink, procuring a large butcher’s knife. “He wants to know what my problem is!”
“What the… Abe! Calm down, bro! Please!”
Enraged, Abel lashed out at Cain and in mere seconds had him pinned against the refrigerator with the blade’s edge pressed up against the vulnerable throat of his twin brother. Tears of rage burned Abel’s tear ducts as he fought to keep them back. Inevitably the levees broke and so did Abel as he allowed the knife to fall as he collapsed right along with it, crumpling to the ground retching in sorrow.
Momentarily dazed, Cain gasped for breath while holding his throat, still in disbelief as to what had transpired. Doing his best to collect himself, he sat down beside his brother placing his arm around the crumpled heap Abel had now become. They sat there in silence the two of them. Cain thought it best not to provoke Abel’s ire knowing him well enough to know that he’d speak when he was ready.
“You shouldn’t have called me bro,” Abel said weakly. “You shouldn’t–,” His voice trailed off to nearly a whisper. “That’s one thing I’ve never been, Cain. How could they—how could you betray me like this?” Abel asked, pulling away from Cain’s embrace.
“I’m gonna call Dr. Polycarpe,” Cain said rising quickly, reaching for the landline. “You need help.”
“Now come to think of it, you’re way too Neanderthal to have been a part of something like this,” Abel said, his words dripping with indignation. “So be a dear and ask the good doctor why there are no medical records of my birth at Jacoby Medical.”
“Yeah, hi Dr. P… Yes, it’s me Cain. No, I’m fine. It’s Abel. I think he’s having some kind of a meltdown”
Snatching the phone from Cain, Abel said sarcastically, “I’ve got this one, Cain. Let the clone speak for himself. Maybe he can prescribe something for this!”
Cain watched in horror as Abel stabbed himself in the hand three times without flinching, clearly feeling no pain whatsoever.
“Hey Doc! I can’t wait to share all the research I dug up on what’s happening to me; what you did to me. Wikipedia says I have a rare disorder called Congenital Analgesia; something about insensitivity to pain. So which one of you do I call dad?”
The last time Spencisco was thrown from his six-legged steed, they were both younger and more immature. Having gone without incident since that time, he knew that something had gone terribly wrong with his loyal, sure-footed companion. He often fell asleep leaving the Wolf’s Wharf since Dreyfus knew the way home, but the violent shift in gravity–as well as the sharp pain in his head–had him in a state of shock and high alert. Despite the stiffness in his sword hand, he stealthily unsheathed his broadsword as he peered through the darkness in an attempt to locate Dreyfus as well as their would be attacker. Judging from the sound of the beast’s labored breathing, Spencisco gauged that the injured creature was at least 4 paces away. Summoning the stallion would possibly cause him more injury and more importantly, alert their assailant to their current position. Having recently been expelled from Braxia Academy, his combat skills were raw and untested at best; A thought that quickly rushed to his consciousness as the snapping of a fallen branch caused him to whirl about. It was then that the sinister pair of eyes he felt all along peered out from the dark, seeping all life and courage from the young man’s body.
Despite how awesome the games industry is and how many times you watched that company video on why you should work at studio Such and Such, it’s still an industry and despite it’s youth, it’s highly competitive. Compared to the more seasoned Film industry and even more ancient Music Industry, the Games realm hasn’t yet lost all of its innocence (though I have a few colleagues who would argue otherwise with the emergence of in-app purchases).
I’ve benefited from some solid advice from a proven agent/headhunter by the name of Adrian Smith of Jobs In Games who interestingly enough refers to himself as Ade (aid, get it?). I’ve known Ade now for a little over 3 years and it’s been an awesome and informative experience. Being on the outside looking in, I could only assume I knew what companies were looking for and would blindly send resumes (often to multiple unrelated positions) and was clueless as to why I never got as much as a call back. Once I connected and re-connected with Ade, who I affectionately call my agent, I had an inside track on how the industry worked and was forced to look at myself in a much more realistic set of lenses (I’m embarrassed to share my plans before I met the guy).
Ade and I are constantly hacking away at our ‘Action Plan’ and like me, he’ll help you find what your “transferable skills” and qualities are, especially if you lack the “years of experience” that many of these daunting job descriptions say one must have to join the ranks. Trust me, I’ve never had a clearer picture and path towards my goal of becoming a Narrative Designer until I met someone who genuinely wants to help people achieve their dream goals and make them a fantastic reality! If you’re truly serious about your career in games then you really should check him out on the site link above and let him know I sent you. No gimmick, no tricks, no fine print. Deep down you know that all you need is a little boost. Jobsingames.net is that boost; A turbo boost!
I was having a lengthy conversation with my agent/headhunter and we briefly discussed one of my game designs and the characters I created. He liked the narrative and thought the overall idea was decent but as I wrapped up the description of the depth of their world and how they all interacted he pulled up an existing story with images and said to me, “I hope and pray that your characters don’t look like this.” They didn’t, but the concept art, the time period and other nuances I had in mind weren’t too far away. I was put off a bit at first when I thought about how much work I had put into the fine details, but shrugged it off and realized that I just had more work to do. Still, in a heartbeat several months of work was nearly thrown away. He assured me of one thing; “People will copy, or attempt to copy you.” After our Skype call, I realized that it isn’t so much how much time one spends searching the world and their mental constructs for something that no one’s done before as it is all about extensive and lengthy research.
Once we’ve established that there are no shortcuts in building meaningful characters, I’ve found that we should create the nuances that make the character(s) relatable before we go to great lengths to make them completely unique. The best of today’s modern games (across all game genres) are rich in characters with character and vast in world depth but when we look at hit games like Plants Vs Zombies, the entire game world takes place on your front lawn and we never actually see our main character (though we can also argue that the plants are our main characters). Having said that, physical game world size matters little as does the feeling of immersion in said game space. By creating a greater sense of urgency when night falls in the game, Pop Cap developers succeeded in creating depth by simply having the sun set–which has an immediate impact on the user’s meaningful choice and game mechanic options.
Clearly, it’s becoming a bit complex and messy discussing depth of character, but maybe that’s the concept. Maybe it’s important to not focus on depth for depths sake or to fill up our characters with so many traits that they’re borderline Schizophrenic (unless that’s what we’re going for). Whether the world is fictional or based on our very real world, a character should be created and nurtured based on their truth, whatever we the creators deem that to be. Just as having a firm foundation laid down is important to the stability and/or “truth” of a structure, this is also true for creating memorable characters that stay true to who they are, what they believe and the world that they live in. If you take a glance up at the picture above, we all know at least one of the depicted characters and know that no matter what happens, they will always be that character and like a film thespian, their performances will always be believable and convincing.
This concludes my thought process on this matter today…