I don’t usually have a lot of time for gaming, but when I saw a link to an early access version of Hack ‘n’ Slash by Double Fine Productions on Steam, I impulse-bought it.

At a glance, it looks a lot like a SNES-era Legend of Zelda game. Green-tuniced, sword-wielding adventurer wandering around and fighting wizards and etc. The similarities are big enough that it has to be an intentional tribute — boomerangs and bombs, a little flying companion who gives you advice, and lost woods. That’s fine, I don’t mind a tribute to Zelda.

But what really makes the game interesting is the twist added to it. Instead of a good old-fashioned sharp-edged sword, you have a hacking sword that looks rather like a USB thumb drive that you can use to alter the internal variables of creatures and objects in the world. You can change an enemy to be friendly or to move in a different pattern when idle. You can unlock a door, or change how far a rock will move when you push it.

Programming and adventure game combined–count me interested!

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Did You Hear James L. Sutter on The Functional Nerds Podcast?

James L. Sutter, author of The Redemption Engine, joins John Anealio and Patrick Hester this week on The Functional Nerds Podcast.

Listen below, or at The Functional Nerds, or subscribe to The Functional Nerds Podcast through iTunes.

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[GUEST POST] Jaym Gates Reports on the East Coast Game Conference


Jaym Gates is an editor, author and publicist, as well as the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has work appearing in the Chicks Dig Gaming anthology (out in November) and the Origins Writers Track anthology. More information can be found at jaymgates.com, or follow her on Twitter as @JaymGates.

Conference Report: East Coast Game Conference

East Coast Game Conference is a yearly video game industry convention held in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April. The conference, in its fifth year, schedules seven simultaneous tracks on subjects from Mobile Games to Education and provides video game professionals, academics and upcoming developers with an engaging program and opportunities for networking and collaboration. The conference is presented by the Triangle Game Initiative, a non-profit trade association of video game companies in North Carolina and the International Game Developers Association, a non-profit trade association of video game developers.

At the core of the two-day conference are seven simultaneous tracks of talks and panels covering a wide range of game development topics appealing to programmers, artists, designers, producers, students, academics and business executives.

I first heard about the conference from writer Richard Dansky, who invited me to attend the brand-new Writing track he was organizing. I seldom attend panels, but Rich teased me with some of the things he was going to have scheduled, and I couldn’t resist.
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Jeffrey Thomas‘ short story collections include Punktown, Voices from Punktown, Nocturnal Emissions, and Unholy Dimensions, and such novels as Deadstock, Blue War, Monstrocity, and Letters from Hades. He has been a finalist for the Bram Stoker and John W. Campbell Awards, and several of his tales have been reprinted in the anthologies The Year’s Best Horror Stories and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Visit his blog at: http://punktalk.punktowner.com.

Punktown: The Role-Playing Game

From the start, I saw my setting of Punktown as a creative playground for other people besides myself.

I first came up with the notion for this world while my father was driving me somewhere or other, back in 1980. I noticed a woman in another car, whose face was partly in shadow, making it appear as if her long hair were growing out of black eye sockets. This image became the inspiration for the tentacle-eyed “Tikkihotto” race that appears in numerous Punktown stories. But for whatever reason, this image sparked more than just one alien…no, my muse’s gears didn’t stop turning there. By the time we arrived home, I had developed the idea of writing about a future world into which I could introduce all manner of strange beings, and bizarrely distorted reflections of our own here-and-now. SF as satire, social commentary, but with an unapologetic nod to the tropes of pulp fiction.

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Walter Jon Williams has been nominated repeatedly for every major SF award, including Hugo and Nebula Award nominations for his novel City on Fire. His most recent book is The Fourth Wall, out from Orbit this month. Williams lives near Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife.

Are We Gaming Yet?

I’ve been a full-time, professional writer of fiction for over thirty years now, so it may surprise my regular readers to know that my writing career might well have gone in an entirely different direction. When I was breaking into the fiction market, I was also breaking into the computer game market, both as a writer and as a designer.

I’d always kept one foot in games. As a teenager I was a game zealot. I was probably the first person in my home state to run a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, out of the original three-volume boxed rule set.

A decade or so later, I was selling both games and novels to the same person, Jim Baen. Baen was, at that time, editor of a brand-new imprint, Tor Books; and he was also branching out with his own software company- named after himself, of course.

Baen was a visionary: he saw the potential for computer games, and he also saw the potential for profit. Unfortunately, though he knew a lot about publishing, he didn’t know anything about software or about running a game company; and he also made the mistake of distributing his games through the sales force at Simon & Schuster, the publisher, who knew nothing about selling games and weren’t very interested in learning. Instead of getting his games into every bookstore in North America, which was probably what he intended, he was unable to get on the shelves anywhere. Baen Software faded away, caught between the breadth of its own vision and its naïveté about the way the business worked. I’ve written elsewhere about my unfortunate involvement with the company.

But imagine what would have happened if Baen Software had been a success — it did, after all, produce some pretty good games before it disappeared. By now I could be a gaming god, with a much larger audience than I currently possess, and probably a much nicer car.
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James Lafond Sutter is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. He is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic, which Barnes & Noble ranked #3 on its list of Best Fantasy Releases of 2011. He’s also written numerous short stories for such publications as Escape Pod, PodCastle, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, Black Gate, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death. His anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published short stories of science fiction and fantasy luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, he’s published a wealth of gaming material for both Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. When not writing or editing, James has performed extensively with various bands and other musical projects ranging from punk and progressive metalcore to folk and musical theater. James lives in Seattle with several roommates and a fully functional death ray. For more, check out www.jameslsutter.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameslsutter.


Charles Tan: First off, how did you first get acquainted with speculative fiction? With tabletop gaming?

James L. Sutter: I’ve loved speculative fiction for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest book-related memories is buying Richard A. Knaak’s The Crystal Dragon (because it had not just a dragon but a holographic dragon on the cover!), but I suspect I was reading it even before that. I know that by the time I was in third grade I’d read all of Michael Crichton’s science fiction. So it really has been a lifelong affair for me, and one which gets more robust every year.

Gaming and I have had a more tumultuous relationship. I first discovered roleplaying games in fifth grade, when my teacher Mr. Tivnan taught several of us how to play first edition D&D on our lunch breaks. After that campaign finished, none of us really had any idea how to acquire RPG books, so instead we began creating our own roleplaying games based on everything from the wild west to Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels. Eventually some of us got hold of the real deal–things like D&D and Battletech and Warhammer–and those games defined our summers up through the end of high school. After that, I lost touch with gaming for a few years as I focused on writing and playing in bands. It wasn’t until I started working at Paizo in late 2004/early 2005 that I really rediscovered my love of gaming again, and I’ve been playing regularly ever since.

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SF Tidbits for 10/10/09

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