The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #205: “Empty Hands” Behind the Scenes Part 1

Episode #205: “Empty Hands” Behind the Scenes Part 1

https://archive.org/download/podcast205_201907/Podcast%20205.mp3

This week, we’re discussing “Empty Hands” behind the scenes, specifically the idea of creating an audio-visual experience for the reader to mimic what you might find in a movie.  One of these days, I’ll have to just do a plain vanilla book with no illustrations or music (it sure would be easier to market and print), but, for the foreseeable future, most of the projects I have on the back burner (sequels to The Thirteenth Hour, hand- casted resin figures from the books, comic book that will probably become a visual novel, a Thirteenth Hour game, etc) straddle multiple genres or disciplines.
But I suppose a book with a soundtrack is about as close as to how I originally envisioned these stories (interactive books more akin to the experience of video games in the form of a physical book). At least, it’s the best I can do for now. I’ve written about the dilemma of envisioning something that doesn’t exist yet in researching flexible material that could hold data to trying to create a pixel art adventure game / interactive story form of The Thirteenth Hour.
So, yes, for now, a short fantasy novel with mostly pixel art illustrations and an associated synth soundtrack that you can read on your phone might be as close as one can get … but I bet, one day, there might be something akin to what I’m thinking of.  I’d buy it!
If you like thinking about the creative process, I’d highly recommend checking out the interview with game designers Lori and Corey Cole on the Classic Gamers Guild podcast (e.g. listen here on Podcoin – https://podcoin.app.link/4YzrseqhhY).  The show’s awesome to check out anyway, though this one goes into game making and story telling in a level of detail that fascinating for anyone who does something creative.

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In the meantime, this page formerly had what I affectionately dubbed a “starving artist” section on little side hustles you could do (mostly on the internet, often with a phone) to make a few bucks here and there, often in gift cards.  Well, now you can listen to this show (as well as other podcasts) and get paid to do so!  Check out https://www.podcoin.com/ to listen to the show and start earning points that you can redeem for gift cards (Amazon, Target, Starbucks, etc) or donations to a number of charities.  Use the code “Thirteen” when you sign up to get 300 extra points.  The Thirteen Hour Podcast is now on BONUS this week, so you can earn more than normal (1.5x).

 

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!

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What Would A Thirteenth Hour Game Look Like?

All the reminiscing about past video game making (mis)adventures recently in the podcast with my brother and the accompanying post got me thinking – would it be possible to actually make a game to accompany The Thirteenth Hour?  Given that I originally thought of parts of the book more as moving pictures sequences rather than text suggests there are some parts that could translate well into a game, but I think it might be overly ambitious to try to create the side-scrolling Final Fantasy style RPG I originally envisioned.  It’s no wonder I couldn’t finish that thing.  I can’t even finish a Final Fantasy game someone else has made! 🙂

But since I already have a 2D sprite of Logan flying on his hoverboard, Lightning, it might be possible to create a little one-level game where he’s flying through a 3d landscape, like in the trailer I made:

The Thirteenth Hour Trailer.gif

The player would control him in an over-the-shoulder view, trying to fly above or below obstacles, like sea serpents jumping out of the water or rock formations jutting out of the rocky coast:

There would also need to be a sort of artificial “ceiling,” to keep the player from just flying over everything.  Flying too low would result in a fiery crash (if over the beach) or a watery crash (if over water).  Sea serpents popping up randomly would also preclude simply skimming over the water.  There could even be an evasive maneuver, like a barrel roll, to fit though tight places or avoid the sea serpents.

In order for there to some sense of urgency, each run could be timed.  Logan’s first experience with flying on Lightning in the book occurs when he sets off to find Aurora, so the driving force of the game could be that Logan needs to get to Aurora as quickly as possible, which would be consistent with the actual story.  So a quicker time would be yield a better score.

Other ways to keep gameplay interesting: trying to snag powerups (infinity signs!) that would give Lightning some special ability.  Lightning doesn’t really have equipped weapons in the book, but maybe the powerups could cut seconds off your time or render you invincible to obstacles for a period of time.  Or, they could help you regenerate health, which would be depleted if you bump into something.

I guess, in many ways, this sounds like those endless runner style-games that are so popular for mobile phones.  However, I think the ability to fly keeps it from being entirely rail-driven … at least, the player would hopefully perceive more freedom because of flight (that’s my theory, anyway).  The one thing about those games is that the environments are often randomly generated, giving you limitless replayability.  Programs like Unity give you the ability to make apps for phones, and getting an app on the Google Play store is not very expensive.  It might be a fun little promo item that’s good for quick play on the go.  Plus, since I already have music written for the book, I could just use the soundtrack I have already created.

However, the big obstacle I can see so far is that even if I retaught myself how to use programs like Multimedia Fusion, I don’t think they can do 3d landscapes easily.  I’m sure there might be a way to jury-rig something to create the semblance of 3d, kind of like how we had to jury rig Klik ‘N Play to make side scrolling levels, but I’d need to do more research into it, and I doubt an environment could be randomly generated.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean this is all for naught.  Just another idea on the backburner until technology catches up to the power of imagination 🙂

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I could do that,” check out the games idea page – feel free to leave suggestions or ideas there as well!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #30: Homebrew Video Games with My Bro

Episode #30: My Brother Joins the Show and Talks About Homebrew Video Game Creation

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/13th%20hr%2030%20Jeremy.mp3

Today, I have my first live guest!  My brother, Jeremy, who writes about video games on his blog, Pixel Grotto, joins me for a conversation about the video games we made (and tried to make) when we were kids.  It all started when Jeremy got interested in a graphical video game making software program called Klik ‘N Play (this was in the late 1990s), and started making homebrew games.  The nice thing was that because it was graphical, the learning curve to making games was considerably lower.

TRUQ1

Eventually, I became interested, too, and decided to make fan games of my own, starting with one called Tomb Raider: The Unicorn Quest, where a young Lara Croft goes on a search for a unicorn with her mentor, who is ambushed and killed not long after they locate the mythical animal, leaving Lara stranded on a quest to save the unicorn and avenge the death of her mentor.  It sounds better than it really was!  But I’ve recently relocated the game files – those and more about the game can be found in the separate post here).

I wrote in a previous post about plans to make a sequel that I think I was going to call Tomb Raider: Shadow of the Wolf, with better animations … but that ended up in development hell, as they say.  You can read more of here).

Links to download the other games we talked about (games about chimp fighting, breakdancing, etc) are here.

Links to the gamemaking software we talked about:

Klik ‘N PLay

The Games Factory

Multimedia fusion

Clickteam Fusion – the modern, free version of the above programs

Unity

You can follow Jeremy on Twitter as well to get real-time updates and his unique insights into games and how we play them.

Here are a few links to his articles on his Tumblr site:

http://pixelgrotto.tumblr.com/post/131556691816/mobile-for-sommerlund-and-the-kai-when-i-was-a – on the Lone Wolf game books and how they were visual novelized

http://pixelgrotto.tumblr.com/post/129636036426/now-playing-knightfall-warning-lots-and-lots-of – on the Batman: Arhkam Knight

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #30 Bonus Track: Homebrew Games – Tomb Raider, Chimp Fighting, 80s Bboying, and The Thirteenth Hour

As mentioned in the 30th episode of The Thirteenth Hour podcast, my bro and I tried to make video games when we were kids.  Tried is the operative word, since many didn’t get finished.  My brother completed more than I did, but unfortunately, they’ve been lost to the ether of the internet, at least for now.  So instead, this is a page of games I worked on.  I doubt I’ll get around to finishing them since I’ve basically forgotten how to use the programs we used, Klik ‘N Play (KNP) and The Games Factory (GF), so this is a of museum of sorts.

I don’t know if you can find these programs easily today, but you can download a more advanced, free version called Clickteam Fusion (CF), which I think should open any of the game files below.  There are links to compressed folders below where you can run the .exe file to play the game (if it was completed); you can use CF, GF, or KNP to open the .gam file to see the levels and the sprites.  WARNING – these games don’t run very well on today’s computers!  Just a warning that the gameplay, which was never stellar, is even buggier than it was back in the day …

If you wish to use any of these sprites or elements of these games in your own indie games, please feel free to do so; I only ask you please link back to this page!

Tomb Raider: The Unicorn Quest

You can download this game here.

My first completed (fan) game, finished in 1999 or 2000, where a young Lara Croft goes on a search for a unicorn with her mentor.  Not long after they find one, their guides turn rogue after deciding they want the unicorn for themselves.  Lara’s mentor is killed, leaving Lara stranded in the woods.  She decides to save the kidnapped unicorn and avenge the death of her mentor.  I hand drew the animations for Lara, as well as a first person point of view perspective of her shooting dual pistols.

Sounds better that it really was.  The gameplay, 20 years later, is basically ASS 🙂

Nonetheless, here are some screen shots:

TRUQ1

The title screen

TRUQ2

The intro

TRUQ3

Lara’s job interview – how she finds a mentor

TRUQ4

Lara’s mentor gets in trouble

TRUQ5

The first level

TRUQ6

Lara flips while facing the first boss

TRUQ7

One of the mindless bonus levels where Lara gets shot out of a cannon (?!) and goes flipping around a room getting power-ups.

TRUQ8

Lara’s in trouble!  3 motorcycle riders with machine guns are racing to find her, in true 80s movie style.

TRUQ9

Lara steals one of their bikes …

TRUQ10

… you get to this very frustrating level to play – you control Lara as she rides along the desert landscape trying to inexplicably avoid boulders falling from the sky.  I programmed it so the boulders with target your movements, but due to the shite control, it is irritating to play. 

TRUQ11

Like a retro Lucasarts game, you don’t really die in this game … if you run out of hearts, the level basically restarts.  In the interim, you see this screen.

TRUQ12

First person shooting in a boss level – the animations of the guns (slides going back, shell casings ejecting, etc) were hand drawn, then compiled in the games program.  

Tomb Raider: Shadow of the Wolf

Never finished, but you can download the working .gam file here, which you can use to make a game of your own.  For animated gifs, see the post immediately below.

I wrote about this game here, so won’t repeat myself, but the story (I think) revolved around Lara trying to recover a mythical sword rumored to be part of the Regalia of Japan before a group of ninjas intent on finding it first do.  ‘Nuff said!  I do, however, have a little backstory script written for the plot which I may add to and make an actual fanfic short story one day, which may give me something to do with the pictures I drew.

Chimpoeria

You can download it here.

This was the second game I finished – a chimp fighting game.  As a play on the Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeria, it’s called Chimpoeira.  The game doesn’t run very well on today’s machines – the movements and controls are too erratic to be very enjoyable, but on the 200 MHz machine I had in college, I had a lot of fun playing this game after I made it.

chimp

The graffiti style title screen

chimp2

The training screen

chimp3

Fighting the grey chimp – you ever-present arch enemy

 

The Drummer’s Beat

Never finished, but you can download the working .gam file here, which you can use to make a game of your own.

While I was working on the above games, I was also working on a bboy game where you play a kid in the early 80s running around the Bronx learning how to breakdance.  You have to convince a group of local bboys to teach you in exchange for helping them find a place to practice (a constant real-life hassle for most bboys and bgirls).  The title comes from the Herman Kelly and the Life song “Dance to the Drummer’s Beat,” a good old school breaking beat.

This ended up being a pretty ambitious project, since in addition to making all the animations for the dancers and a breaking battle engine, I wanted to make a city for your character to run around in to give it some RPG elements.  Interestingly, the latter part was what I got hung up on and eventually stalled the project.  The battle engine was more of less done, though it wasn’t great in terms of gameplay, and most of the animations – arguably the more tedious and time consuming part – were done, so if someone wishes to make a 2D breaking game, please feel free to use the above file.  I’ll be first in line to play it!

(If you’re interested in playing an actual, finished bboy game, I’d recommend Bboy for the PSP or PS2, especially since actual OG bboys were used as character models. Unfortunately, that game hadn’t come out at the time I was working on this.  It does most of what I was trying to anyway.  Though I haven’t played it, I heard the PSX game Bust a Groove is another, earlier game where you can apparently bboy).

I didn’t have a chance to go through the myriad animations and turn them all into animated gifs, but here are two:

6step animated gifone of the footwork animations

mills animated gifthis windmill-nutcracker-backspin combo took forever to animate!

Here are some screenshots:

drum1

drum2

Intro screens

drum3

Your main character is the kid on the left, watching the bboys practicing outside your apartment.  Little do they know you’ve been trying to do what they do in your room.

drum4

Eventually, you get up the guts to ask them to teach you something.  They sort of agree, once you show them what you’ve been trying to do.  Ah, hip hop, the great social equalizer.  However, they’d like your help in finding a better place to practice …

drum5

… so you start running around the city, where you can enter stores and talk to people.

drum6

Unfortunately, if you get hit by a car, you end up in that big cypher in the sky.

drum8

You could eventually earn some cash, which you could spend on things like apples for more energy or better clothes to make it easier to do spinning moves.  OR … you could apparently blow it all on a prostitute, haha!  I totally don’t remember adding any of this but laughed out loud when I found the “Death by Prostitute” level I had apparently included.

drum9

If you blew your $$$ on a hooker, though, things didn’t end so well for you in this depiction of pre-AIDS antiretroviral medication (a midi file of “Sexual Healing” would be playing on this screen).

drum7

However, if you managed to avoid these temptations and kept practicing, you’d eventually be rewarded with more moves and better gear.

 

The Thirteenth Hour Game

Although I’ll have to do a separate post on this later, I originally thought The Thirteenth Hour might be best as a game rather than as a book (before I knew about ebooks), so I set out on the ambitious task of making it into a video game.  Not surprising I didn’t finish, but given the length of the book, I’m impressed as how much time I managed to sink into this clearly unrealistic goal.

output_B3j4UO  I modified a Mega Man 2 character sprite to make the main characters – here’s Logan and Aurora on Lightning.

logan lightning animatedThis one is different.  I think I drew this one from scratch and have since used it in the original trailer and other videos.

Here are some screen shots:

13hr1

The intro, with lyrics from Alphaville’s “Forever Young” (playing in the background, of course)

13hr2

The classroom scene – seen out of Alfred’s eyes as he gets drowsy …

13hr3

… and falls asleep.  In the background, you can hear 13 chimes going off to mark the ringing of the 13th hour.

13hr4

Once asleep and dreaming, Alfred encounters two shadowy figures who tell him the tale of The Thirteenth Hour

dragon

At some point, our heroes will encounter this guy …

outpit(1).gif

This grainy animated gif shows the little intro to the cast of characters …

I’ll have to go back and take a closer look at this pre-game, so for now, to be continued!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #29: Censorship, Children vs. Adults, and Raffle Winner

Episode #29: What age group is The Thirteenth Hour for?

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/13th%20hr%2029.mp3

-I get asked this question occasionally and am still refining my answer, which is generally, “adult, though teens over 16 may enjoy it as well.”  The only ones who generally seem interested in the answer are parents or grandparents not interested in the book for themselves but as a present for the children in their lives.  I feel it’s better to let them know what to expect first rather than have them surprised when little Johnny lets them know that someone in the book said, “oh, shit!”

That said, there are no f-bombs (sort of the king of English curse words), but, in the fine tradition of the 80s movies from which it drew inspiration, there are a few four letter words sprinkled in the text for emphasis.  No one has sex, either on or off the page.  No one loses a head or has organs ripped out.  But there are some fight scenes, as well as some introspective narrative passages on more adult-oriented things like growing older, waxing nostalgic for the seeming simplicity and innocence of childhood, the inevitable regrets along the way, the aftermath of traumatic experiences, the complicated and halting way romantic relationships start, and the struggle to become one’s own person … stuff that may not necessarily be the most interesting to an eight year old.  I sometimes say that if it were a movie, it’d probably get a PG-13 rating, which coincidentally, is what the movie The Martian is rated, and that does have a few f-bombs 🙂

Anyway, sometimes I think we protect children in very weird ways (e.g. banning books and other kinds of media).  But that is a different topic altogether and dangerously close to real world activism, which this corner of the internets strives to steer away from.

Onto other things …

-Although I’ve had guests on the show before (e.g. authors Lo-arna Green and Coreena McBurnie), I’ve not had live guests yet.  That is, until next week, when my brother, who writes about video games, will be joining me live!  We’ll be discussing the video games we tried to make when we were kids (as I discussed previously in this post which has a collection of Tomb Raider sprites I made for a game I never finished).

Starving Artist section: make some passive $$ by watching videos on your phone (you don’t have to watch ’em!) on Swagbucks!  See this guide on Reddit for the apps you’ll need to get in order to maximize your points:

https://www.reddit.com/r/SwagBucks/comments/229bf6/detailed_guide_about_swagbuckscom_for_the_newbies/ 

-Lastly, today I announce the winner of last week’s raffle hosted by Kelly St. Clare, chosen at random by the gods in the Rafflecopter machine:

Jeremy J., you’re the big winner! (You’ll be receiving an email from me with more info).  Congratulations!

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #19: Video Game Influences

Episode #19: Video Games that Influenced The Thirteenth Hour

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/13th%20hr%2019.mp3

This episode refers to video games (Ultima V, Ironsword) discussed in this post:

https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/influences-behind-the-thirteenth-hour-part-3-video-games/

Check out this cover art for Ultima V!

Unfortunately, the inside of the game looked like this:

But there’s a remake/mod for Dungeon’s Seigehttp://www.u5lazarus.com/

Gauntlet, also featured on this episode, at least the 1985 PC version, has an entry on wikipedia.

Gameplay and picture above courtesy of old-games.com.  I’ve included links on old-games.com for the games below:

Incidentally, my brother wrote about Quest for Glory in his blog, as well as many of the games of that era, here.  (His experience playing games was much different from mine – more positive).  He also followed that post up with discussion of fan-made remakes of QFG, Quest for Infamy and Heroine’s Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok.

We have recently been playing the game Magicka, which has a similar sense of humor to some of the above games, as well as The Thirteenth Hour.

As always, thanks for listening!

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thunderclap 13th hr picture_edited-1

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Tomb Raider Lara Croft Pixel Art Animation From a Bygone Day

There was a time when my brother and I decided we were going to make video games.  My brother had discovered this graphical game making program called Klik ‘n Play on the internet and a small community of people using it to make a wide range of computer games.  The advantage of it was that it allowed someone without a lot of programming experience to make games fairly quickly.  The developers were in France, I believe, and the program was somewhat hard to find.  But our father managed to find a copy somewhere on the still nascent internet, and my brother went to town.  I was a little late getting on the bandwagon but eventually threw my hat in the ring, too, with my ultimate goal a rendition of The Thirteenth Hour in video game form.  Although that never entirely happened, looking back on what we did ten, no, wait … (does mental calculations) … sixteen years ago is something I hadn’t thought about until I recently found a bunch of old notebooks showing sketches and game play notes.

One of the first games I completed was a Tomb Raider fan project called “Tomb Raider – The Unicorn Quest.”  All the animations were hand drawn, then scanned in.  I have no idea where it is now – possibly still floating around on the internet, but to be honest, that’s probably for the best.  It was my first attempt at making a game, and … I’ll leave it at that!

Some time later (a year or two?), I decided I would use an updated version of the Klik ‘n Play software, called The Games Factory, to make what I envisioned would be a proper 2D Tomb Raider sidescroller, kind of like the ones that came out for the Game Boy Advance a little later.

I progressed pretty far but eventually got stuck with the game play mechanics.  It was hard to make Lara control well consistently.  For a game that required at least some vaguely precise  targeting for shooting and platform jumping, it ended up being more an exercise in frustration than anything.  It probably had a lot to do with my design or maybe the software, which was quirky, not to mention buggy, at times.  In any event, other life events got in the way, and as much as I hated to admit it, I kind of “lost the spark,” to use a phrase my brother coined to describe what happened when people started projects (like games) that never got completed.

However, after rediscovering the notebooks, I located the files that had been sitting, gathering digital dust for all these years and wondered if I should do something with the animations.  Looking at them now, I reckon I must have spent hours on them, and even if the game never came together, I must say that the animations came out not half bad.

Maybe one day, I’ll use them in a little movie along with the cutscene illustrations that I drew and still have (here are a few).

tr2_1 tr2_2 tr2_8 tr2_15

Or, who knows, an updated version of The Games Factory, called Multimedia Fusion, is available on the web, and it’s quite powerful.  I used it to create the animations for The Thirteenth Hour trailer and music video, as well as to touch up the Lara Croft ones which I’ve embedded below.  But I think to use it for game design, I’d need a refresher, since, alas, I’ve basically forgotten most of the programming that I knew.

In any event, if you’re a game developer and are interested in using these animations in a fan game of your own, please feel free to do so (all those below are animated .gifs made on this site using stills from the original game file.  They were saved with an alpha channel so they superimpose easily over things – in other words, the background is transparent).  They’ve sat unused for so long that I feel at least someone should use them.  I only ask that you reference this webpage in your credits and let me know when you’ve done so I can play your game!

Here they are:

Lara breathe animated basic breathing animation

Lara cape breathe animatedsame as above but in a hooded cape – I’d envisioned a level where Lara was running through city rooftops dodging ninjas (yes, very 80s) in the rain, hence the hooded cape getup.

lara runrunning animation

lara run caperunning in the cape

lara shoot standshooting twin pistols – you can’t see the ejected bullet casings since they were a separate animation, though if you kept your finger on the shooting button, a shower of shells would erupt from the guns 🙂

lara run shootrunning while shooting

lara shoot kkick  doing a one arm handstand to shoot down – in real life, she’d be firing into the ground, but I figured for a 2D platformer, the bullets could bend reality a little.

lara auto9 shooting a machine pistol – modeled after Robocop’s auto9

lara smg shoot shooting a submachine gun

lara jump   jumping/falling/climbing

lara side kicksliding sidekick – I wanted Lara to have at least one move to defend herself if she ended up without weapons (since, in the early games, there was usually at least one level where she ended up without weapons).

lara flying side kick  flying sidekick

lara backflip   backflip – saved my favorite for last

In the future, I’ll post more animations like this of other unfinished games, including ones from The Thirteenth Hour.

Thanks to all the developers from Core and Crystal Dynamics for the Tomb Raider games over the years and making Lara Croft do backflips (my favorite part and the main reason I started playing these games in the first place – the flipping has been notably absent lately; please consider bringing the flipping back if you’re reading =)

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