Category Archives: Blog

An open letter to Kathleen Kennedy and Robert Iger

Dear Ms Kennedy, dear Mr. Iger,

Your latest movie Star Wars Episode VIII sparked a passionate, yet somehow civil, discussion among my friends.

It is remarkable that the debate about episode VII on a private messageboard with a handful of users only lasted for about 2 pages, whereas the thread is now at page 8 after a revival when episode VIII was released.

Some people liked the movie and some people did not. However, the overwhelming consensus was that there seemingly is nobody at Lucasfilm / Disney with a setting bible to check the story for internal consistency. With a franchise as big as Star Wars that realization came as a bit of a shock.

It pains me that episode VIII, which had great actors, a wealth of canon to draw upon, awesome moments, and spectacular action, to name a few highlights, ultimately fell short of what it could have been. I am convinced that with a better script and proper adherence to the canon, this could have been in the top three Star Wars movies.

It is certainly a good financial decision to pull rabbits out of hats at every turn, since that endeared the film with professional movie critics. The old fanbase is loyally watching anyway, so disregarding them certainly did not hurt at the box office. Nevertheless I worry for the franchise and therefore I implore you to create a new position at your company with the task to check stories and characters for consistency.

If there is anything you need or wish to discuss, please do not hesitate to call on me.

All the best,

Dr. Kai Herbertz

Albedo Explanation

Well met, my friends!

After some feedback on Boardgamegeek, I produced a quick two page explanation of my new card game Albedo:

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

 

#56 Albedo

Well met, my friends!

My latest card game Albedo is finally listed on Board Game Geek (BGG)! Today I’ve uploaded the English version of the rulebook, but since the files need to be approved on BGG, it is not listed there yet.

I am busy working on the German version of the rulebook and hope to see you all at booth 7J101 at the SPIEL17 games fair in Essen.

By the way, so far I’ve managed to get an invitation to one review event: On Sunday the 29th of October 2017 I am going to show Albedo from 11:10 to 11:20 on the BGG livestream at https://www.twitch.tv/boardgamegeektv.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#55 Heroes Wanted! (Updated 5th of September 2016)

UPDATE: Thanks to all the people, who came through to help out, I received enough pictures to finish the layout on Sunday the 4th of September 2016. Today (Monday, 5th of September 2016) I sent the PDF file to the printer, so no more pictures are needed.

 

Well met, my friends!

I have recently invented two board games, one of which even survived the rigoros playtests. At the moment I’m preparing the game for production to be shown at SPIEL 2016.

I am in the middle of designing the layout of the cards, but I thought it would be awesome to have people I know fill the ranks of the playable hero characters.

Who wants to be a hero (in my game)? Step right up! All I need is a digital passport photo and the inevitable legal stuff (see the contract files below). For that reason, even though I am posting this on my blog, I will only accept photos from people that I personally know.

Here is a German version of the contract and an English version of the contract. In addition to the image file, I would need two dated and signed printouts of the contract where you have filled in the yellow section with your details.

Thanks in advance,

pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#54 Gamescom 2016

Well met, my friends!

This was my fourth year in a row at Gamescom (see my impressions from 2015, 2014, and 2013 by clicking on the link on the respective year).

Since I’ve documented my experience via twitter this time, I shall imbed those tweets and add additional commentary.

I walked past the crowded entrance and used the eastern gate to get in shortly past 9. Unfortunately I walked around too much, instead of getting in line immediately.

Hence, I did spend two hours in line at the Playstation VR section. The demo itself was pretty cool – you drove a tank with the left stick and aimed with the right, all the while being able to look in every direction. The displays inside of your cockpit almost had a 3D look to them. I was very impressed and will most likely buy a VR headset for my PS4.

I could not believe the size of the farming simulator booth, so I commented “holycow,” which was even more apt, since they had people in cow costumes walking around…

CD Project Red only showed the Gwent multiplayer, which was very similar to the mini game from Witcher 3. I won with the Northern Realms against Beasts and then later on I lost with the Northern Realms against another Northern Realms player. Unfortunately there were no news, apart from “we’re still working on it,” regarding their cyberpunk game.

Hidden away in hall 10.1 is the Indie Arena Booth, which is always my highlight of the Gamescom. This year it was even bigger and the additional space made it feel less cramped than last year. I intended that to be a compliment, but worded it so poorly that the organizer probably took it as an insult – oops. Nevertheless, it was really really good and a lot of the indie games look very professional and polished. Here is a small selection.

Another reveal at the Indie Arena Booth was that the Holocafé opens its doors on the 10th of September in Düsseldorf. I cannot wait for that :)

I did attend the Role Play Convention earlier this year and was surprised to find a booth of their own at Gamescom. They provided phone chargers and some sitting space there.

Afterwards I checked out the Heroes of the Storm tournament. Since I do not play that game, I cannot appreciate the intricacies of what is going on. That said, it was easy to understand things – blue vs red and whoever gets a level lead and kills more enemy heroes seemed to win.

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The game I watched was casted by James “Kaelaris” Carrol and Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck, who I met at MLG Anaheim 2014 when I wrote articles for Misscliks. Sadly she had to run off to the commentary desk immediately after casting, so there was little time to catch up.

After this mini break, I went on to look for the Destiny expansion and Civilisation 6. On my way I came across Titanfall 2 and checked that out, since there was no line. At first it was the standard multiplayer fare, but with the extra ingredient of a mech. At the end something very cool happened that I have never seen before in another game: my team won and after the winning screen it said “epilogue mission, hunt down the enemy team before they can evacuate.” I did get two of them, but the others flew away in a shuttle. That was a pretty nice twist, especially since the map itself was about capturing and holding control points and not about fragging.

Destiny on the other hand was just like the Destiny demo 2 years ago, but with a new map. This time people were a lot better and I could not do anything. I did not like the demo at all, but will probably buy the expansion regardless, since that multiplayer demo does not mean anything.

On my way to Civilisation 6 I came across the Startrek Bridge Crew demo, but they had already closed their lines.

Civilisation 6 also closed their lines, after I got in, but instead of letting the last people inside play a bit longer they still kicked me out after a bit less than half an hour. I thought that was weird, since there was no need to make room for other people, but then again it was sufficient to give me an impression. I have not played a civilisation game for more than a few minutes since civilisation 1 and so I cannot say whether it has changed a lot from civilisation 5. However, it does look great and I will certainly jump back into the franchise with this latest game.

All in all a decent Gamescom – I got to try out everything I wanted, but there were no big surprises. Next year I will also just attend the industry day, as the regular days are too crowded and there is no point in going multiple days.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#53 Podcast Recommendations

Well met, my friends!

Since I have a long commute of one and a half hours these days, I decided to improve the drive by listening to podcasts. This was also a good opportunity to ask people about their favourite podcasts and I received a lot of suggestions when I polled people in September 2015.

Unfortunately I had to eliminate many of the recommendations, not due to subject matter, but due to the audio quality. The car engine is so loud and I can only use the built in speakers of my phone, so any podcasts I listen to need to be loud and clear enough for me to hear them over the noisy engine.

Here is my current selection of podcasts in order of preference, if you’re curious:

1. The Co-optional Podcast

This is my favourite podcast at the moment. It is a 2.5 – 3 hour long conversation about video games, despite numerous tangents, between John “Totalbiscuit” Bain, Jesse Cox, Dodger, and a guest. In addition to weighing in on the latest developments in the gaming scene, they talk about the latest releases and their take on them.

2. The JV Club with Janet Varney

I stumbled across this gem after I was looking for Felicia Day’s podcasts and instead found the JV Club where Felicia was on as a guest. During the show, the host Janet Varney, who is an actress, typically interviews a guest. The common thread between the guests, who have been from all walks of life, was that they always had a fascinating story to tell and were female.

3. Podcast – Spieleveteranen

One of two German podcasts in the mix, this is a monthly meeting of “veteran” game journalists, whose magazines I used to read in the 1990s. I did meet some of them at Gamescom Cologne in 2013 and 2014.

4. The Sword and Laser (Audio)

Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt talk about new releases in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. The banter between the two is what makes the show, but it is also informative in addition to being entertaining. Since I backed their Kickstarter campaign regarding a second season, they recorded a guest podcast with me. Unfortunately it was not included in their regular rotation, so only frequenters of their website saw it.

5. Writing Excuses

The tag line is “15 minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart,” but I suspect that the opposite might be closer to the truth. Anyway, this is Brandon Sanderson’s, Mary Robinette Kowal’s, Howard Tayler’s, and Dan Wells’s podcast about the craft of writing. It is extremely useful, entertaining, and englightening, but due to the short duration it sometimes feels a bit rushed when a topic would benefit from being expounded on a bit more.

6. Sharp Tongue

During one of my vacations I saw Jessimae Peluso on MTV’s girl code. This is her podcast and similar to the JV Club, Jessimae typically has a guest. The result is a mixture of crass jokes and fascinating life stories that adds something unique to my podcast consumption, but it certainly is not something for everyone.

7. TV Crimes

A funny dissection of beloved and reviled old TV shows, hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mike Neumann.

8. Unattended Consequences

These are the ramblings of author Patrick Rothfuss and game designer Max Temkin. It is somewhat difficult to pin down the topic, but it is very enjoyable. During the initial episodes I was about to ditch it, because Max Temkin’s microphone settings were off and I only heard the Rothfuss half of the podcast.

In one of the earlier episodes, they mention that they don’t do “infinity projects” anymore, which are projects that go on forever without a planned goal or end date. Thus, the first batch was restricted to ten episodes and recently they renewed this for another ten episodes.

9. Star Wars: New Canon Book Club

Jesse Cox and two of his friends discuss all things Starwars. The “Book Club” is slightly misleading as they are also talking about comics and the movies. Since they talk about the plot points in depth, the whole show is a perpetual spoiler, so proceed with caution.

10. GamersGlobal-Podcast

This is the other German podcast. One of the aforementioned game journalists also runs the gamers globabl website. In this weekly podcast he and his colleagues Benjamin Braun and Christoph Vent summarize what they have been playing, mention what’s on the horizon, and answer user questions.

11. Rocket Talk Podcast – Tor.com

Author interviews and news from the publishing side are right up my alley, but it is perhaps too specialized to be of general interest.

12. I Should Be Writing

I first heard of Mur Lafferty when she was a guest on Rocket Talk and decided to check out her podcast about writing. Like the Rocket Talk Podcast this is also somewhat specialized. In addition it is harder for just one person to always be on point and deliver an entertaining and educational experience every time.

This is my current list, but I still have several podcast suggestions that I have yet to check out, so perhaps I can write another recommendation blog entry at some point.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#52 Open Call for the Arcane Arts Anthology

Well met, my friends!

On Monday my Kickstarter campaign to create and publish a science fiction and fantasy short story collection was successfully funded thanks to the generosity of family, friends, and other awesome people.

In addition to the contributions by the featured indie authors, I am looking for story submissions. Here are the details of the open call:

Stories can be submitted in either American English or German until the 31st of January 2016. At least three of the eleven stories will be contributions of this open call.

The length of the stories should be around 5000 words, but anything in the range of 4000-7500 words is acceptable.

We are looking for whimsical, family friendly stories that could be shelved in the fantasy and science fiction section of a book store. The theme of the anthology is “Arcane Arts,” which should be reflected by the submitted stories.

If your story is accepted we will buy non-exclusive world anthology rights in English, German, and translations, as well as audio and ebook anthology rights in English, German, and translations.

Since the Kickstarter campaign did not reach any stretch goals, the advance payment is €50. The advance payment has already been earned out by the Kickstarter campaign. Royalties will be based on 25% of the ebook cover price and 10% of the trade paperback cover price. Royalties will be paid out every June and December. The total royalties will be divided by the number of stories to yield the royalties per story that are paid out to the authors.

Please send your story to arcane.arts.stories@gmail.com with the subject line “[ARCANE] STORY TITLE – YOUR NAME” in Microsoft Word (.DOC), Rich Text Format (.RTF), or ascii text (.TXT) format.

Ideally your document should use the following settings: 1.5 times linespacing, 2 cm (0.7874 inch) margins all around, page width 15.24 cm (6 inches), page height 22.86 cm (9 inches), line indention 1.25 cm (~ 0.5 inch), font size 12 point, justified text, headings should be bold, centered, 18 point.

Here is a Microsoft Word File with the above mentioned format that you can use as a template: Arcane Arts Template.

Please include the following information in the body of your e-mail: the title of your story, your name, your pen name that will be used in the anthology, phone number, and short biography.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

EDIT#1: It was pointed out to me that other anthologies do not require exclusivity, so I removed that clause. It was only there in the first place, because I did not want to acquire infinite exclusivity.

#51 My Five Literary Projects

Well met, my friends!

I’m currently working on five literary projects:

1. Alien Artifacts Anthology

Joshua Palmatier ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce two anthologies. One is fantasy with the theme were creatures and the other is a science fiction anthology about alien artifacts. Both story collections are a mixture between submissions by invited authors and open calls.

Normally I prefer to write fantasy, but the excellent topic of the science fiction anthology convinced me to submit a story there instead. I’m particularly proud that the fourteen bullet points of my story equated to more than 5000 words. It’s a good size for a short story and I’m pleased that I overcame my minimalistic writing tendencies. I should hear back in early 2016 whether they are interested in my story.

2. Arcane Arts Anthology

Inspired by the above mentioned anthologies, I decided to start my own Kickstarter campaign. The money raised will be used to create and publish a science fiction and fantasy short story anthology. There will be a mixture of stories by invited indie authors and stories submitted during an open call.

Here is the link to the campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kaiherbertz/arcane-arts-sfandf-themed-anthology

If you want to help out, please spread the word, pledge any amount on the campaign page, and / or submit a story to the open call.

3. NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) commences. The goal is to write a novel or rather a novella, but novel sounds better, of fifty thousand words or more during the month of November. The NaNoWriMo organizers recently changed the rules in the sense that fifty thousand words toward a novel count, whereas before you had to start a new project for NaNoWriMo. I welcome the change, because I always continue to flesh out my work in progress and therefore would not have been able to win before.

I participated in 2012 and added six thousand words to my novel Age of Torridan. In 2013 I did the same and managed another four thousand words. Last year I attended the NaNoWriMo real life writing sessions without adding any new words. One of the reasons why the previous years yielded an order of magnitude less than the goal stemmed from the fact that I only wrote during the weekends. This year I have penciled in twenty full days of writing and will also write a bit on the days when I’m busy. Since the conditions are almost ideal, I aim to win NaNoWriMo this year.

4. Blog Hop

A while ago one of my online writing groups hosted a blog hop of short stories. Each participant would write a short story, host it on their blog, and link to all the other stories. For example, I enjoyed reading Paula Maria de Carvalho’s story “Body Double.”

In November they want to host another blog hop and it would be great to participate with a short story set in my Age of Torridan world. I’m still in the planning stage, but a Leena origin story is the most likely candidate.

5. Seven Stories

One of the ongoing projects, which will be put on the backburner during NaNoWriMo, is my seven first chapters collection. The plan is to write the first chapter of seven different story ideas and to make them available (for free of course) on my blog and in the different writing forums that I frequent.

Hopefully people will read those story beginnings and provide feedback. Even though I would love to turn all of the different beginnings into novels eventually, I should start with the one that readers are most interested in. That’s why the feedback from the audience will be so important.

At the moment two chapters are finished and I’ve started to work on the third.

Let me know what you think and what you’re currently working on.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#50 Gamescom 2015

Well met, my friends!

On Wednesday the 5th of August 2015, I attended the media day of Gamescom. Even though there are less people than on the other days, it is still very crowded. Both Anna Prosser-Robinson and Genevieve Livinpink Forgét were at Gamescom. I met up with Anna, who was live streaming from the twitch.tv booth, and gave her an Advance Review Copy of my novel “Age of Torridan.”

Unfortunately Livinpink was too busy, so it did not feel right to encroach on her time during her breaks.

Since this was Gamescom, I did get to try out a few games:

Battleborn

The game reminded me of Blizzard’s Overwatch due to the comic style and wacky heroes with different roles. A refreshing change that will hopefully hold true for the final release was that this was a 5 player co-op vs the computer kind of game. I played some sniper robot butler, which suited my play style. In the demo, the team shared 15 lives. You could play until your team ran out of lives or until you met the first boss. After defeating a semi boss, the actual boss showed up, but after a cutscene the demo was over. I guess that’s what they meant by playing “until the first boss.” Despite or because of that teasing I really enjoyed the demo.

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Skyarena

In the Indiegame area – which is a sort of a hidden gem at Gamescom, located in hall 10.1 – I tried out Skyarena. The game was a kind of confrontational Mariokart with jets. Unfortunately they did not implement the mechanic that the random upgrades are better, the worse you are doing in the game, as it is the case in Mariokart.

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Furthermore, the graphics shown here are probably not indicative of the final product. Still, this indie game ranks at or very near the top of the games I tried out at Gamescom.

Overwatch

Blizzard’s team shooter looked good and was fun to play, but it will depend on the match maker how well the game does. At Gamescom one played with randoms, so the other team happened to be much stronger. I liked that the game warned us when the whole team picked the same character – so grim reaper dude, who just looked cool. Later on I switched to a healer, but we still lost. The in my opinion broken part was that the other team had to defend, but still boxed us into our respawn zone. Two of our guys died and then it was 5 vs 3. When the remaining three died, the other two respawned, so then it was 5 vs 2.

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Hearthstone

Blizzard’s card game presented their tournament expansion. It was paladin vs mage and my paladin completely pummeled the mage. At some point I realized that I would have to leave and would not see any more cards, if I won too quickly, so I kept the other guy at 1 health and kept destroying his creatures. Unfortunately he picked up one of my spells that allowed him to attack one of my minions and die. Up to that point, the new cards were mostly creatures that compared a random creature from both decks and would get a boost, if your own random creature card had a higher casting cost.

Bad presentations

I did attend a particularly terrible presentation, so I will not name and shame the publisher here. It was just a surprise to see something like this, when the awesome Witcher 3 presentation last year already showed everyone how it’s done. Maybe the booth was paid for and they had to show something. Anyway, after a long waiting time, they announced that it is forbidden to take pictures. I thought publicity was in the interest of companies. The presentation itself was just a compilation of very gory headshots with almost no game play…

On a similar note, I wanted to play test a game and they told me I had to wait for 9 other people, because the demo is a 5vs5. This might work on a regular Gamescom day, but not during the media day. I decided to walk away. When I came back later on, 8 people were waiting, but just as I had traversed the maze to get in line, some guys must have jumped the queue and so I saw them disappear into the gaming area. Oh well.

Fable Legend

The demo was a 1 vs 4, with four people playing fantasy heroes and one guy playing an evil overlord, who can direct his minions in a top down perspective. The people at the booth claimed that it was easier with a game pad, but I actually did better with mouse and keyboard (surprise, surprise). The game looked nice, so I signed up for the beta test.

Homefront the Revolution

The last game I saw looked like a shooter, but the presentation was really well done. I stood in line in a fenced walkway. There were guards with (toy) guns walking around. When it was time for the presentation, one of the actors shouted “Ok, ten people, one, two, three, …” and pushed people forward with every count. Inside, an announcement that was repeated in chinese urged people to remain silent. Some inspirational video was shown that was interspersed with atrocities the occupying force commits in the game. Then the guards leave the room. Gun shots and a Wilhelm Scream can be heard. Afterwards the resistance fighters entered the room and showed a video about the mission. I dozed off halfway through, but if I had paid attention this video would have shown what to do in the demo. Consequently I did poorly when it was time to play the game and did not complete it in the time allotted.

Gametrends

Perhaps I’m getting too jaded, but there wasn’t something special or new this time around. The overarching theme seemed to be wacky team based first person combat action games with colorful graphics, like Battleborn, Overwatch, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, Orcs must die unchained or Paladins.

Final verdict

Despite my sometimes harsh words, I’ll definitely be back at Gamescom next year.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#49 Age of Torridan is on Amazon!

Well met, my friends!

After working in the changes suggested by Red Adept Editing and creating the e-book layout, my novel “Age of Torridan” is finally available on Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Here is the link to Amazon Germany.

Here is the link to Amazon USA.

Here is the link to Amazon Great Britain.

If the links don’t work, this is the short link provided by Amazon (which probably leads to Amazon USA).

I ran a kickstarter campaign to help with the cost of the cover image and this is the awesome image the artist Zelda Devon produced:

Age of Torridan revised low rez

If you are interested in a sample, here is a PDF version of the first three chapters: Age of Torridan Sample.

Since the first week sales are very important for the fate of a book, please help spreading this blog post, for example on facebook, twitter or by telling people about it in real life :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

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