Monday, December 19, 2016


I've been behind in posts between busy weekends and, let's be honest, getting distracted by Final Fantasy XV. Nobody saw that coming, right guys? Right?

As is my usual, I'm dashing around doing the side quests, reaching level 40-something by chapter 4 and finally moving on only when all the reasonable, reachable sidequests have been finished. (Do the frog-lady and photographer-guy quests. Best money and XP.)

Picture from FFXV Wiki.
It's a Final Fantasy, so needless to say the graphics are pretty. This one has a real road-trip vibe going on... which, as it basically starts out as a road-trip bachelor party for a prince with his bodyguards, makes sense. You've got a lot of open-world to explore, and if you want to put Ignis to work cooking, you can run around collecting ingredients in a completely extraneous recipe-gathering sidequest that confers stat bonuses when you have him cook.

Also, I've noticed that someone who worked on this project is a huge Star Wars fan. Really. You'll know it when you see it.

The main weakness of the game is travel-time (loading takes a while, and you can't always fast travel where you want to go, so you'll have to drive there... which can take several minutes of low-interaction scenery-passing). It's a bit frustrating. But at least the scenery is pretty and there's lots to explore, so it could be worse. And sometimes there's a character-interaction moment that interrupts the monotony so you can do something. Consider keeping a book or a phone at hand for those long travel sessions, though.

I have noticed that chapters 4-8 go by very quickly. I can't really say how big an issue this is, as I've avoided spoilers and have no idea how long the game goes, but you can spend forever up to chapter five, and then bam, you've advanced the plot quite a bit very fast. It still feels like there's a lot left to the game, though, so I'm not too worried about a few quick chapters.

Being as it's a bachelor party, there is some attempt at romance build up between the hero and his would-be bride, but as of chapter 8 she's not really been an interactive character in the game, so it's pretty cursory. Again, holding judgement until I see how that turns out. Though am I the only one who sees a slight visual similarity to Yuna? She does at least seem interesting.

As far as other women go in the game, don't get me started on Cindy the half-dressed mechanic who wiggles when she talks. And the half-hearted Iris crush is about as road-worthy as a broken-down car in need of a repair kit (stock up on those, btw; you get a nice return on investment when you save a stranded motorist). Basically the only interesting female sidequest character so far is Sania the botanist. There are a few tertiary NPCs who run shops and diners and walk around cities, but they don't really do much. The only female villain so far has the standard female armor problems, which is to say it visually would not function to protect her in battle. So on the whole, I'm... not impressed about that aspect of the game.

High note: I think my favorite part of the game thus far has been Prompto. Prompto may be my new mascot, guys. Him and chocobos. Yes, there is a bunch of chocobo riding in this game, and it never gets old to run around on a bird, especially when your bird riding skills level up enough that it occasionally buffs you in battle. Go chocobo! Prompto is silly, sweet, and seems to have some hidden depths to him as a character. He's the comic relief of the group, and if he keeps dying in battle (seriously, stay out of melee range, Prompto! You have a freaking gun!), he's amusing enough that I still like him.

I do really like the warping aspect of battle, which gives some cool visuals and adds an interesting dimension to the combat. Since Prompto catches in-battle photos, this makes for some fun 'pictures' to go through later. It's not a complex fighting system, but the variety of weapons is enjoyable, and making magic is cool and also makes getting mobbed by a lot of Imperial soldiers much less irritating (Blizzara to their faces=quick XP and less time spent in battle). Of course there's a lot of combat, but I think the amount is about normal for a Final Fantasy, and you can avoid it if you really want to in most situations.

On the whole I'm finding it a very cute game and enjoying the side-questing a lot. As far as main plots go, I'm ranking it about par with XII so far. We'll see how that develops over time. In any case, I've been enjoying it, enough to distract me from blogging.

Anyone else playing? What are your thoughts on the game?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Productive weekend

Went on a writing retreat this weekend with a friend, and it was a lot of fun. We made good progress and did a lot of writing, plus worked in some Christmas shopping and delicious food.

Our hotel room was, um, a bit more homey than I might have expected, and did not make the best first impression the night we rolled in. The table needed a couple of strategically placed crushed cups to be sturdy enough to hold the teapot, and we may have found the lack of curtains so delightful that we covered the LED light outside the window with a pillow case. That and a washcloth over the bright display screen on the phone made it adequately dark to sleep.

Working on the sequel,
la ti da ti da...
It's a good thing it was a nice cool LED lightbulb and not a normal heat-making one, is what I'm saying.

Still the beds were warm, the room was clean, and the lobby was cute. It was a good deal and a great location, so the price was right. In the evening, we sat by the lobby fire and wrote nice and cozy. We had a fridge and microwave in the room, and were therefore perfectly able to make tea in the microwave-friendly teapot, too. The staff was friendly, too.

Though it wasn't perfect, there was nothing that was an absolute deal-breaker in a room for me. We could fix the little problems we found, at least enough for our purposes. So while the room hadn't made a perfect first impression, it was basically just what we needed, and if I've been in better light-proofed rooms with sturdier bedside tables, I still found it perfectly satisfactory for a writing weekend, and was sad to leave by the last day.

It turns out that perfection isn't what most people look for in most things in life. We just want something that serves our goals (in this case, productive writing and a good time with friends). 

What makes a hotel room adequate for you for a writers' weekend? And what will you absolutely not put up with?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Memorials at the National Mall

I visited DC recently, and got a chance to see the memorials on the mall. I found the quotes on the Roosevelt Memorial particularly meaningful. Some wisdom from the past that we should continue to keep in mind:

"In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of
social justice... the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.

"We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their
background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred,
is a wedge designed to attack our civilization."
I also checked out the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I'd not had the chance to see it before, and it is very impressive.

You can find out more about the
symbolism of the memorial here.
 And of course, while I was there, also saw the World War II memorial, the Washington monument, and the Lincoln memorial.

I notice that our memorials of the past all have some things in common: embrace equality and love of mankind regardless of borders or origin, seek freedom for all, cast aside prejudice and hatred, and remember the high cost of war and social oppression.

So. There is the hard-earned wisdom of the past. If you ever get the chance, take a walk around the National Mall. And make sure to read the writings on the walls. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 11/11-12/1/16.

Publishing News

The European Union rules that for the purposes of library use, print and digital books should be treated the same, in terms of copyright. This has raised issue with publishers, who point out that digital copies do not degrade at the same rate as physical books, as well as the strikedown of a ruling that prevented libraries from lending more than one copy of an e-book at a time.

Barnes and Noble opens a "concept' bookstore that has a full restaurant, unveils and experiments with new technology to help readers, and looks really pretty. It also releases a new Nook Tablet.

Penguin Random House offers to pay half the price of membership for any of its authors joining the free speech organization PEN America.

International Digital Publishing Foundation members vote approval on the merger with the World Wide Web Consortium. Among the issues for discussion on the vote, should the deal go through, this will put the ePub format under W3C's control, as well as the rest of IDFP's assets. The terms of the deal are still not decided.

Industry Blogs

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns authors of three presses currently being reported for nonpayment of authors and staff--presses worth avoiding. All three are still soliciting new submissions.

Agent Jessica Faust answers the question of why an agent might know you have an offer, and then not respond or finish reading the full. She also updates her Publishing Dictionary, for all the terms  you need to know in the industry (or at least a lot of them). And she explains what agents mean when they respond to a query with "I didn't know where it was going" (did you establish your genre tone right away?)

Suffering a sales slump this year? At least, until mid-November? Kristine Kathryn Rusch shares some research she found that gives you good news: trendwise, sales usually slump before the election and then pick up enormously after. Plan to make it through the slump and then things may hopefully return to normal.

A new service, BookStackk, helps readers connect and discuss books.

What other major industry news have you encountered in past three weeks?