Fan Art Tuesday: Nicky

Now for a different medium than we usually feature. Look at this magnificent sculpted miniature of Durzo Blint:

If you’d like to see more by this remarkable artist, check out this DeviantArt page.

What I’m Playing — Torment: Tides of Numenera

The Definition of Nostalgia.

I loved 1997’s Planescape: Torment. It remains one of very few games I’ve played through more than once. It was, finally, a video game where it seemed your choices mattered. If you squint hard, you could even see strains of the ideas of Torment show up in the Night Angel trilogy. Big fan. Nuff said.

So I came in to Torment: Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment with high hopes. The IP is different, sure, so it’s not exactly supposed to be the same thing, but it’s totally supposed to be the same thing.

Trouble is, gaming has changed since 1997. I’ve changed. When my character gets stuck while simply trying to walk around a corner and the movement feels cludgy, in 1997 I just tried again (and again, often); now my tolerance is much lower. “I’m getting stuck on corners? Really?” If you want to evoke an old gaming style, that’s great—but remind us of the good stuff, and quietly fix the b.s. we tolerated because we didn’t know any better, and programmers didn’t either.

The game starts fantastically, making you make tense choices that seem like they’ll have a permanent and an immediate impact—pun intended, if you’ve played. But then they neutered that by giving you the ol’ standard Hall o’ Creation: “Didn’t like any of the choices you made ten minutes ago? They didn’t actually matter, you can undo all that and choose your character type here.”

Oh, very daring. No actually, how incredibly safe. I mean, if a player was just being an idiot and choosing things they really didn’t mean, what’s the worst punishment they would receive if you stuck them with the character they’d chosen to play? Well, they’d have to start a new game, and lose ten minutes of their life—and play the character the way they actually wanted to play the character. That’s not actually bad. You would have shown–in a very few minutes–that the choices matter.

But because they neuter your choice and stick you in front of the long descriptions of how each character type works and what its flavors are—which are totally NOT Fighter, Thief, and Mage. (But totally are.)

So then I’m stuck in the same old familiar What Kind of Fun Do I Want To Have loop that’s sadly so standard in RPGs. I love playing stealthy characters, but it’s really hard to make a game where stealth is a viable and fun path: ergo “Nope, there’s two guys facing each other at that fire. You can totally backstab one of them, but the other one will kill you or chase you forever.” It is precious few games that manage a balance of making you weak (but a badass when you’re in your element so that YOU are what’s scary in the shadows), that expose you to real danger if you mess up, but also allow you to get back into the shadows if things go wrong but you think fast. Think Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (since we’re going very old school here) or the multiplayer in Splinter Cell: Double Agent.

Here you can choose to be a charming character—which means you’re hoping the designers and writers worked together nicely to give you many situations where the dialogue is more interesting for the charmer and often tilts the direction of an encounter. But of course, you’re always trusting the game designers in some way, right? I mean, usually the Fighter is the most boring of the character types because he or she has the fewest options, but you hope that the designers at least make you feel like a boring badass who destroys people in interesting ways and has visually cool effects that no other character gets.

Well, this is Torment. The writing has to be good, right? And they make a big deal out of how you don’t even have to fight if you don’t want to, so charming is clearly a good option.

But being stuck in this (totally unnecessary) creation screen reading all the character categories and their sub-categories (which feels necessary because they tell you that these are definitely NOT Fighter, Thief, and Mage) definitely makes me think about the creators of the game, rather than being immersed in the game—which I’d been so immersed in as I fell from the sky.

Another fantastic trick they pull that I loved: they make you make a big choice right away between two characters accompanying you. You don’t have enough information to decide between them, but you have to decide anyway. It’s actually the same trick as before (make a huge choice with limited understanding of the fallout—pun intended again, sorry—and let you wallow in the agony of wondering what you’ve missed out on). This time they don’t walk it back, though.

Which is weird, if you think about it. They’ve JUST taught you that you can walk back significant character decisions. So I’m expecting that by the time I get to the first little town, if I decide Doofus 1 isn’t my bro, I’ll find Doofus 2, who’ll say, “Are you tired of that guy?” And I’ll say, “Yeah.”

But they don’t.

In isolation, I really really like the trick. It makes your choice feel like it matters. Sorry, you don’t get to see everything in this game, they’re saying. But what you see will be different than what others see. It’s that big.

In conjunction with the previous big decision that you can walk back, it’s bad design because it’s confusing. Is this a game that gives you choices that you get one shot on (which makes them feel momentous), or is it a game that gives you second chances if you clicked the wrong place (which makes it feel more forgiving)? The first two huge choices offer the opposite answers. That makes this 40 Year Old Gamer distrust the game designers.

I love the art. It’s just fantastic.

I love the quirky characters.

I love the weirdness.

I’m guessing “Overwhelm the Player with the Bigness” was a guiding principle here, because very shortly after you begin, you’re dumped into a city. This does indeed make the world feel big and weird, and I would like it more if the entire stat and inventory systems didn’t already feel weird and complicated. Like, this “Oddity” is a book with an intriguing title. Seems like it could come in handy later… but it’s an oddity. Does that mean I can always sell those, and it won’t screw up the plot, or not?

There’s a reason most games have you enter a small town first before you get to the big city.

Pretty quickly, I come upon a major irritation: I can’t find a place to sleep. No, seriously, my character can survive a fall from 40,000 feet, but he can’t sleep in a fucking field or a ditch. I’d already exhausted my main stat pool (you spend it to try harder tasks, and refresh it by sleeping), so I wander the town, failing easy stat checks and reloading to try them again—“Come on 50% chance!” all in order to find a place to sleep. I find a place, and it’s too expensive. What? The three characters I’ve just had join me are totally impoverished, too? Screw those guys. Where have they been sleeping?

I’m a godling who can’t find a place to sleep. For two hours.

I’m not sure why loading between areas is so slow. There’s nothing 3D here. Most of the background is painted, and static. Shouldn’t this be snappy, even on a console?

Once I finish a quest to earn a place to sleep—yes, seriously, but I still have to pay for it! This is a HUGE city… with one hotel. Choices galore, here, folks!

Then I find out I’ll be punished if I sleep too often. Plot lines advance every time you sleep, and the first ones they show you are bad–a serial killer murders another victim each time you sleep. (So it’s not just that the world advances, it’s that they’re trying to teach you not to sleep and refresh those stat pools.) Now, I can dick around awake as long as I want, and I have to, because I’m revisiting areas to see if I screwed up a dialogue option. I can even die and come back, but as soon as I sleep, that plot line advances. Now, obviously, this is meant to put some stress on the player to hurry up and find that murderer. But it’s obviously meant to punish you for using your stat pools too much. That feels capricious. You have these great abilities, but they don’t want you to use them.

Designers, not every choice should be agony. It’s okay for the charming character to put some effort into charming.

But for me, it IS agony, because the last time I used my stat pools, I got stuck for two hours of real time in an artificial and weird way.

The effort system that works so well in the Numenera table-top gaming system that this is based on doesn’t survive the transition well. Like, I used enough effort that I had an 80% chance to beat that fighter guy, and I failed. You really think I’m not going to reload my save? Did we not grow up playing games at the same time? Fine, THIS time, I’ll use more effort, and definitely beat him—but now I can’t sleep or you’ll punish me? Do I need to go back to the 80% try and reload the save over and over again until I succeed?

Oh, reloading my save takes three minutes? Fun.

No. That’s not my definition of ‘fun’.

I end up feeling the hand of the game designer everywhere, but it doesn’t feel highly polished. Maybe this is a fault in the expectation—Planescape: Torment was a AAA title. This is not. That’s fine. Yes, it’s only $40 (rather than the normal $60 here in the US). But… they’re the ones who billed it as a successor to a AAA game. I expect a AAA level of polish. Or at least AA. I expect snappy loading when the CPU is dealing with isometric screens. I expect that they did play testing.

Yes, it is its own kind of a game—sometimes more a visual novel than a game, with huge long blocks of text. (Much longer than I remember in the original, which also had long blocks.) But if you’re going to have those blocks of text, and you’re going to release your game for consoles, make sure your font works well for consoles. Playing from my couch, (but on a big HD screen) everything would be fine… until I got to some wall o’ text and go ‘What? Did I suddenly get old?’ I think there’s a big font choice somewhere, but I’ve literally never had illegible fonts until this game. Playtesting. Do it.

There’s combat immediately, then no combat for hours. (Even if I hadn’t gotten stuck looking for a place to sleep.) This is not subverting expectations, it’s frustrating them: I’ve been slowly rewarded with a huge collection of weapons choices for all my characters, but there’s been no combat. If I need to pick between weapons, you have to give me a chance to use them.

I wanted to love this game so much. I came in to the experience with a great deal of good will, and a willingness to forgive flaws. (Some of the saltiness above only comes after I look back and examine the bad choices they made along the way.)

Eventually, picking up Torment: Tides of Numenera started feeling like a chore. I thought, “I need to give this another couple hours to turn things around. I need to love this.” But I didn’t love it. I realized I was playing it for nostalgia, not enjoyment. Torment didn’t live up to its name: it wasn’t torment to play, but it also was not a worthy successor to Planescape: Torment.

We think of nostalgia as a longing for an old time or good memories. Literally is comes from Greek roots for ‘returning home’ and ‘pain’. I came in to this game looking for the former, and I found the latter. Bad memories and disappointment now live alongside my old good memories and fondness. The magic is gone. Did. Not. Finish.

New German Cover!

Check out this cover for the next Lightbringer book in Germany:

 

If you read German, you can pre-order here. (Though the release date on Amazon.de is just a placeholder!)

What I’m Playing: Ant Smasher (iOS)

People buy crap for their kids. I mean that both ways. Ant Smasher is a stupid game pointed squarely at children. No, scratch that. It is an app with game-like features aimed directly at impatient parents’ wallets.

Ants cross the screen at varying speeds and you tap them to squash them. Bees are scattered in, and your game ends if you squash those. That’s fine. That even sounds like a game.

But the programmers apparently heard that lots of gamers call EA the least ethical company in gaming and decided that was a challenge.

In a game for children, they made the menus deliberately confusing, and the only reason I could guess is that it must be in order to coerce parents to pay for kid modes. To start the app there are six buttons. Okay, fine, you gotta have a menu. You can teach your kid to press the Big Red “Play Button”. They do. An ad plays. (If they touch the ad, it opens a download of some other game.) Ugh. Okay, fine. You gotta generate revenue somehow. Daddy can tap through the ad for you.

But do you now play? No. Now, you’re confronted with more buttons. “Baby”? Locked. “Kids”? Locked.  “Fun”? I thought this was all supposed to be fun? Okay, that’s locked too. Uh… maybe I went to the wrong screen. I should back out to the menu again… Press menu? An ad plays. Again. No, your child needs to press the blue button in order to play.

Oh, they died because they missed two whole ants? (C’mon, dad, you didn’t buy Baby mode?) Okay, well, they can just play again. Kids don’t really mind dying in video games. Now they need to press yet a differently colored button (out of six choices). This time they’re looking for the light green button.

Those other game modes I’m complaining about? I should drop a buck or two to support game development, right? Yeah. Each one is $10. Ten dollars.

But there was “SPECIAL PROMOTION! $1 TO DISABLE ADS!” I finally knuckled under (it was a bad parenting day), and I decided to do this. Button pops up: “Approve $4.99?” Huh?

Oh, dammit, I already decided to do this to gain five minutes of sanity so I can finish a conversation with my wife, fine!

And… the ads still play. Or… maybe I get 10 second ads instead of 30 second ads. Or maybe that’s only because they’ve shown me so many ads today, they’ve run out. I can’t tell. I can tell that the ads are NOT disabled.

But hey, for just another $10, I MIGHT be able to get some peace. Or not. This app is like a box of poop chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get:  Deer poop, parakeet poop, lemur poop… It’s a mystery!

Go juggle landmines, guys. I hope your piles of money bring you persistent venereal diseases and the leisure to never defile the App Store again.

Just a Few Copies Left: Perfect Shadow (signed)

UPDATE: The Signed Page has sold out of all their regular signed copies, but the store has a few copies with minor damage available — for a discount!

Barnes & Noble has sold out of all their signed copies of Perfect Shadow, but over at The Signed Page, there are a few copies left! Go HERE to pick up yours.

BIG CYBER MONDAY SALE!

15% off your entire order — TODAY (November 27) only.

What’s that you say? You haven’t yet purchased a Night Angel T-Shirt for your loved one for the holidays?


You still long for a hardcover copy of The Black Prism… signed?… with new dust jacket?

 

In case you missed it above — I’m here to help you out. Need a present for those tricky friends who “have everything?”

Not yet they don’t.

Order on Cyber Monday, get 15% off your entire order.

CLICK HERE to get  the discount automatically when you check out — or use NIGHTANGEL as your discount code when you click through to the web store.

And CLICK HERE to see some of the other great Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week!) deals from some big-name fantasy authors!

 

#BattleWornBooks: Winners!

Behold: some of the (many awesome) submissions we received for our #BattleWornBooks contest!

We’ve tried to include as many as possible for you all to enjoy. (Note that if you submitted more than one photo, we chose one to put up on the site here; and we may have edited your caption for length as well.)

Thanks to all who participated!

Oh… you want to know who the winners are?

The GRAND PRIZE Winner… who will receive the Subterranean Press edition (the very, very limited edition!) of Perfect Shadow… is Shadow Neconish!

Shadow edges all others by (1) having carried this book through legitimately super hard places (2) claiming to have the name “Shadow” and (3) by showing an appreciation for the fine art of leaving his readers begging for more. “Wait, what? What happened? And you came back? When? Why?”

Hi! My name is Shadow Neconish. I’ve had this book since I was 19. I went homeless a few years later. My favorite book is one of the few things I held on to. It’s been through hell and back with me. – Shadow N.


Here are the Top 5 Winners
— who will each receive a Brand-New Author-Signed Set of The Night Angel Trilogy:

I have read the Night Angel Trilogy 19 times, with this particular book being at least a dozen of those. A well-loved book that’s been brought on many trips and adventures. – Daniel C.

19 times is… a lot of times. Plus, this picture is just so darn Christmas-y!

Me and my girlfriend used to sit down together and read books, it’s our little ritual. One day during such time I just pulled out a ring and bent on one knee, asking her to keep me company for the rest of my life. Thank God, she said “yes”! Can you guess which book she was reading back then? (Tip, it’s in the photo) #InLove #ToBeMarriedSoon #BeyondTheShadows #HappyEnding #BattleWornBooks – Krzysztof K.

Aw, I’m just a sucker for a love story. Right, you guys? (But, how did you not kill each other if one of you is a faster reader and had to wait at every page?)

My #battlewornbook is “The way of the Shadows”. It was the one I was reading when my family home burned down in 2010 and since it was the one closest to my bed, where the fire started, so it was pretty much unreadable. I did not get to read the series since then. – Ruben K.

To me that book looks suspicious. It’s paper… it’s paper, and yet standing there like it had nothing to do with what happened here. (But seriously, sorry. Fires suck.)

So this is my kind of entry: we won a battle with this book against fever and crabbiness and crying. Little girl on my back was sick so I put her on my back, started to read up from the book and walking in circles in the room. She got calm and fell asleep…

This one almost won Grand Prize. This is what I call Playing the Man, not the Game. I’ve been a parent, so I know how that feels. Also, well done!

Submitted by Lisabeth C.

It’s just… so darn pretty.

And here are (many) of the rest for your viewing pleasure!

Fell in love with these on the first page and have read them three times since. They’ve got through high school and work and have gotten three other people to read them as well. – Glenn D.
My books are in fairly good shape as I value them dearly, but they have traveled the country with me. I met someone on a bus in San Jose who loved your work and befriended a couple in Tucson who named their son after Kylar. – Ricky W.
My entire trilogy is battle worn, because Peter v Brett’s books keep picking fights with them. It gets messy and I have to keep splitting them up. No torn pages yet, but it’s only a matter of time! – Bronwyn P.
Got this from New York Comic Con about four or five years ago, and on its way home, it got bent right at the neck below the cowl! I’m sad it got ruined, but it also seems more fitting.​ – Russell S.
These books have been between home, college, and even once out of the country. My brother and I have each reread the Night Angel Trilogy as least once a year. – Dylan B.
Actually my book is not that batlle worn, because i always try to keep care about my loved books. My most worn book (the german version of the way of shadows) is at the moment by a friend I lent it to. Thats also the reason why its a bit worn out, because I forced all my friends to read it. – Melanie B.
A total cover buy of course. This is my favourite one because it’s the start of one of my favourite series ever. I take great care not to get my books all scruffy, but if you just could get a sniff of this book you’d realise it has ‘persona’ as I love to read it in front of a small bonfire…and the smell is notorious. – Joccelyn L.
“You’ve never read Brent Weeks!? Here, you can borrow my copies!” -Me, to all 13 of my cousins at the same time while we’re staying in a cabin without cell service or internet. – Salazar S.
Long story short: I found it left by some patient in the waiting room, took it home, forgot about it, read it, loved it, read again, then read other two books, loved them all. Now I display the whole series in the same waiting room for others to read, only in a local language. – M. K.
This book originally belonged to my brother who passed it on to me as I left for college. Although I’ve yet to finish Beyond the Shadows, this book has kept me extremely entertained and I’m eager to finish it soon. – Zachary R.
I fetched this out of the box in the garage, and I was expecting some really bad wear. But, it seems all three books are in pretty good condition considering it has come all the way from the UK to Perth, Australia(6 years ago), survived two house relocations, being in storage for over a year, not to mention the amount of shelf rearranging and dusting. I think they maybe more battle hardened than battle worn! – Aaron
#BattleWornBooks, we’ll I scored this box set second hand so who knows how many hands it passed through before coming to rest in mine. These books have endured several rereads and survived multiple earthquakes and aftershocks just since they came into my possession and yet still they’ve retained their shape, impressive I’d say!
I lend my favorite book once to my biology teacher. It came back as one of many #BattleWornBooks
#BattleWornBooks This is one of the first books I bought myself. And it has been through alot of misuse during it’s years. It was held hostage by an ex-girlfriend, for over a year. Left on a ship during rain. And it caught fire once when I reread it and brought it to close to my a forge where i worked. Still one of my most treasured books.
Submitted by Jobee C.
Submitted by Elyse R.
Submitted by Monika R. J.

 

Web Store Re-Opening!

 

 

Merry (early) Christmas!

For a limited time only:

If you’d like to get that special someone a copy of The Black Prism (with Brent’s signature) or one of these SWEET Night Angel T-shirts, you’re once again in luck!






Today (November 7) until December 1, you can order Night Angel T-Shirts and signed first edition copies of The Black Prism (which include the new dust jacket) from our web store!

You can order any listed size t-shirt until November 20th, after which you’ll only be able to order t-shirts that are in-stock (until December 1).

This will allow us to put in a fresh order with our t-shirt vendor and (hopefully) get you the shirts in time for Christmas. (Well, at least in the U.S. Shipping times are longer outside the States!)

If you’re inside OR outside the U.S., you can order! If you don’t see your country listed, please contact Brent’s assistant at elisa_at_brentweeks_dot_com.

NOTE 1: Shipping is once-a-week due to our limited web store staff.

NOTE 2: The Black Prism is signed, not personalized, by Brent.