Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guest Post: Andy Gavin

Please welcome Andy Gavin to Fantasy Book Chick

Andy was previously a guest when I got to interview him. 

 Now he's back with this amazing guest post! 

There are also links for a giveaway and a $0.99 promo! 

How awesome is that? 

So make sure you read all the way to the end!


About the Author

Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes. Find out more here.


Games, Novels, and Story


Storytelling, the old fashioned way
Modern man has a wide variety of "pure" storytelling mediums, like film, long form television, and novels. While these have some very significant differences they all share the same basic focus on plot and character. Typically at least, good stories introduce a character with problems, get you to like them, then chronicle the struggle as they are compelled to change and adapt to overcome these problems. In the end, they either do so, or are defeated to teach us a lesson (a variant we call tragedy).
These elements: character, plot, and transformational arc, are completely central to the normal story (I deliberately ignore weird experimental storytelling). Really, they are the core of what makes a good film or novel.

Roman mosaic showing comedy (right) and tragedy (left)
But with a game, this whole business is secondary. The primary focus of a game is fun. And fun through gameplay. Does Tetris have any character or plot? Did even Doom? No. But they were fun games. Really fun.
Games such as Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter or Uncharted strive to bridge these gaps by offering both. This is very difficult because they don't really serve each other.
The gameplay in Uncharted 2, for example, has three primary modes: survival gunplay, platforming, and puzzle solving. The player must assess the layout of the level, learn it, and navigate it without getting killed. This involves anticipating the enemies and taking them out first. You use the weapons at your disposal, the mechanics, and the terrain provided to do so. With platforming you need to come to understand what the character can do physical, find your way, and successfully traverse the route.

Some games do focus on story
When these are done well, when the design is varied, the levels pretty, the enemies cool, and the challenges measured, challenging and above all, doable - it's fun. Uncharted 2 is such a game.
It also has a pretty darn good story which is woven in with the design of the levels and the challenges. This adds to the whole thing. Watching the next segment of story becomes part of your reward for finishing a segment. There is a tremendous level of art that goes into getting both of these to work at the same time, but certainly each is constrained at times by the needs of the other.
Content in games is expensive and difficult to make. Therefore it needs to repeat. You really do need to shoot the same enemy hundreds of times. Otherwise the enemy isn't providing enough mileage to justify the labor involved to create him. The player is also in control and therefore the consequences of his play affect success or failure.



My first novel
But in storytelling, success and failure are the carefully monitored heartbeat of any good story. You bring the protagonist up, dash him down, grind him into the ground, lift him up, slam him sideways. I knew this intuitively when writing my first novel, The Darkening Dream. I've read so many books and watched so many films and shows that it seemed "obvious." But at the same time, it turned out to be far from easy. Writing a good story has less constraints than making a good game, but it's still extremely difficult. You need to be constantly balancing the issues of character, motivation, the logic of the plot, and the need to seesaw the dramatic tension. In the end stylistic concerns sometimes overwhelm dramatic ones (to the reader's detriment).
In a game, it's even more complicated, and there is barely a chance of hitting all the right dramatic notes. The player has a lot to say about this natural up and down pacing, so the story-based game tries to separate how well you are really doing from the actual plot. Usually death or failure in the game causes the player to merely repeat some segment of the game (and hence the story), when they finish the level and get the next segment of storytelling, they'll get it regardless of whether they died once or 100 times. The better player merely proceeds faster.
This is different, but even more problematic in a less linear game such as World of Warcraft. There, the mechanics of the game heavily distort the conceits of storytelling. The story is even broadly linked to the chronological evolution of the game in real time. For example, in December of 2009 Blizzard released the Icecrown Citadel patch of Wrath of the Lich King, making it possible for players to finally reach and confront the ultimate boss of the expansion (the titular Lich King). But the fact is, in order to properly maintain the reward mechanics of endgame raiding, each character was and often did, progress through this segment of the story once, or even twice a week.

The Lich King
Now, two years later, the Lich King has been defeated, the world of Azeroth has been broken, yet it's still possible to go back to Icecrown and take on Arthas again. And again. Ditto for any of the several hundred even older bosses. Players accept that they have random access to a long and convoluted story. In fact, the need to generate so much gameplay in WOW has created a body of lore that gives the Silmarillion a run for its money. But the way in which it's experienced mutes the emotional intensity.
What really provides the excitement in WOW (and many other games), isn't the question of whether the dragon queen Onyxia lives or dies, but the - shall we dare say - drama of whether she does tonight, for us, the group fighting her. And more importantly, will she drop the Nemesis skullcap (arbitrary cool piece of loot) one has been trying to get for six months.

Sarah Englemann: Our Protagonist

Sarah thinks of herself as a normal seventeen year-old. Well that's not exactly true, she's pretty sure she's exceptional, but only when it comes to school and books. The rest of it: fitting in, boys, that doesn't come as easy.
And she certainly doesn't believe corpses can leave their graves and try to kill you!
But the undead can be convincing. Not to mention that she keeps having these horrible visions.
The bookish thing, that she gets from her father. And he isn't exactly Joe cool either — even if he is named Joseph. But things are clearer for him. He doesn't have to fit in, he's got his Rabbi cronies from the old world to hang with. But this is 1913, and Sarah's a modern woman. No way she's going to put up with corsets, no vote, and popping out a big brood.
Again, none of this takes into account what happens when something really old takes an interest in her. A sorcerer who was ancient when Sarah's people crossed out of Egypt has turned his evil eye her way. And Papa Joseph has his secrets too. Turns out the family wasn't the only thing he brought to Massachusetts from Europe. But he's sure all that is ancient history.
However the dead have all the time in the world. The vampire Nasir has been sent to sniff around. And he loves a good hunt.
To further complicate things, this is finally the year when Sarah meets that boy.

A Vampire Novel with Actual Bite! As the modern world establishes itself and pushes the supernatural into the shadows, the supernatural fights back. The Darkening Dream is a chilling new dark fantasy novel by Andy Gavin, creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. The book has received rave reviews and is on sale for only 99 cents on Amazon Kindle from June 25th-29th! Download your copy here. In addition, Andy is doing a big giveaway, including a $100 gift certificate to Amazon, signed copies of his books, video games, posters, and more! The Darkening Dream Rafflecopter Giveaway Tweet, like, follow, share, blog and grab a copy of his book to enter.

Long-time readers of dark historical fantasy (Tim Powers, Guy Gavriel Kay, Katherine Kurtz) will appreciate the weaving together of mythology, occult, and religion, while younger readers and fans of HBO dramas (True Blood, Carnivàle) or urban fantasy (Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher) will be drawn to the twisted imagination, graphic action, and romantic tension. About The Darkening Dream Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs. 1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand. With the help of Alex, an attractive Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal? No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast is Sarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be her very soul. The Reviews Are In "A vampire novel with actual bite." ~The Kirkus Reviews "A gorgeously creepy, strangely humorous, and sincerely terrifying tale." ~Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "Mr. Gavin has brought something refreshingly new to a genre now suffused with poorly-concealed bodice-rippers which have more in common with Fabio than Bram Stoker: depth. His big baddies are scary, not romantic interests, and the added religious lore is complex and engaging. Don't expect another Twilight -- the story can get downright creepy, so be prepared for a return to the old horror sensibilities of supernatural fiction." ~Amazon Review "With Mr. Gavin's video-game pedigree, I was expecting something aimed squarely at the 18-25 year old fanboy contingent; what I got in The Darkening Dream was something wholly unexpected: A period novel with a female protagonist, a crash-course on Judaism in the colonial years, and multi-layered series of plot arcs featuring a crazy cast of natural and supernatural characters populating turn of the century America." ~Amazon Review "…A perfect blend of mystery, magic and myth. A grown-up Grimm's fairy tale... emphasis on grim." ~Amazon Review

Read the first two sample chapters here.

Get your 99 cent copy of The Darkening Dream today on Amazon only.

A Big Giveaway for The Darkening Dream
This week, through June 29th, Author Andy Gavin is running a big giveaway to celebrate his 99 cent promo sale.

The Darkening Dream Rafflecopter Giveaway
Tweet, like, follow, share, blog and grab a copy of his book to enter.

Thanks Andy for stopping by, it was a pleasure to have you as a guest again!

 


 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for having me again on your blog. I appreciate you taking the time!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are welcome, thanks so much for being a guest on my blog!

    ReplyDelete