The paper book comes from CreateSpace, a really cool self-publishing service for authors. Basically, we sent them a print-ready PDF and they did the rest. The book weighs in at 323 pages, and looks and feels like a good-quality trade paperback. We’ve priced it at $16.99 (the difference from the ebook versions reflects the printing cost).
You can purchase the book here.
To anyone who’s previously paid for another version of the ebook and would like to have the .epub version for convenience, let us know and we’ll email it to you. Like the PDF, it’s non-DRMed.
Once the dust has settled, I’ll post (and Aaron, Dave and Danica may guest-post) about the results of our grand ebook/self-publishing experiment, and what we’ve learned. Short answer: It was more work than we anticipated — but now that we know how, the next book should be a lot easier. I think.
Many thanks to everyone who’s read the book and reviewed, posted or tweeted about it. The response has been fantastic, and makes it all worth it.
In yesterday’s guest post, Ubisoft director David Footman addressed the question: “What do game companies look for in hiring a writer?”
Today, here’s a writer’s take on the subject. Many thanks to Richard Dansky, David, and the Ubisoft Toronto team for taking the time to share their ideas.
By day, Richard Dansky is the Central Tom Clancy Writer for Ubisoft Red Storm, which means that in some way, shape or form, he gets his hands on the storylines and content of most Tom Clancy-themed computer games. By night, he writes the spooky stuff.
The most important thing to look for in a game writer is a game writer. Everything else is secondary. If the writer doesn’t understand that they’re writing for a game — not a movie, or a television show, or a comic book, or a novel or a tabletop RPG or a choose-your-own-adventure book or the underside of a Nantucket Nectar bottle cap — then nothing else matters. Game writing really is something different from any other style in terms of what it demands of the writer – it’s the only place where the writer isn’t telling their story, or the protagonist’s story, but rather the player’s story. Yes, the player takes on the role of the protagonist, whether that’s an avatar they create themselves or an established, iconic character like Sam Fisher, but the fact remains that everything that goes into a game is just possibility until the moment the player interacts with it, and thus creates their own story of what happened.
David from San Francisco asks:
I’ve always leaned toward writing and storytelling, so I was wondering what companies look for in hiring for those positions. I have an idea of what’s in an artist’s portfolio, but what does a writer’s portfolio look like?
Since I’ve never actually hired a video game writer (other than myself), I passed this question on to David Footman, Scripted Events Director for Ubisoft Toronto. David generously took a break from making the next Splinter Cell to offer his advice in today’s guest post.
Disclaimer: While I agree with almost all David says, I don’t share his belief that familiarity with the teachings of Robert McKee (or Syd Field, or Bob Truby…) is an indicator of a writer’s skill or craftsmanship. I say this although I’ve taken their courses, bought their books, and (almost) always came away feeling I’d gotten my money’s worth.
I’ll add my two cents on screenwriting gurus later — but first, here’s David, with a game director’s perspective on what he looks for in a game writer:
I think there are two “schools” when it comes to scripted event direction in video games. People who move into this role from animation or art direction backgrounds make up the first school. The second school have a background in TV and film. I come from TV and film, and this informs my choices and processes in games. Creating the story for a AAA game needs two types of writers — an experienced game writer, and an experienced screenplay writer.
Writing for games is different from any other genre. The interactive nature of the story demands that the writer fully understand the term “Gamer Experience.” In the last five years, I’ve heard this term come up in game story discussions more and more. It’s a powerful concept, and once understood, it not only changes the way a writer approaches narrative, but the gamer experience can change depending on the genre of game you’re working on.
If you’re looking for a gift for a book-loving, technically-oriented person in your life, here are a few recommendations. (Alas, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for ME, I’ve already read them.)
Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made by Andy Hertzfeld.
This collection of first-person anecdotes from the team of engineers who created the Mac in the early 1980s is beautiful, revelatory, and totally coffee-table-worthy. It conveys the atmosphere of early Apple, and evokes the fascinating bundle of contradictions that was Steve Jobs, in a way that makes it the perfect complement to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, which the person you’re shopping for probably already owns.
(Isaacson’s book is also a terrific read — as accurate and balanced as one could reasonably wish for — but as it’s already destined to become the #1 best-selling biography of all time, plugging it seems redundant. Basically, it’s the iPhone of hardcover biographies.)
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the early Apple story, another great primary source is iWoz by Steve Wozniak (sharing credit with ghostwriter Gina Smith). Woz is the antithesis of the other Steve in so many ways. This memoir — which covers his childhood tinkering, creation of the Apple II, and subsequent departure from the company he co-founded — conveys his unique and wonderful personality. If you happen to be the parent of a smart kid born into the 21st century, his evocation of his 1960s boyhood and relationship with his engineer dad will give you a lot to think about.
Other books I’ve enjoyed lately, in no particular order:
Jesus of Nazareth by Paul Verhoeven.
It’s true: the director of Robocop and Starship Troopers has written one of the most entertaining, historically grounded, and plausible evocations of Jesus’s life I’ve read. Verhoeven, the only non-theologian member of the Jesus Seminar, spent years doing research for a film about Jesus before deciding to write it as a nonfiction book instead. Of special interest to movie buffs is his assessment of the historical accuracy of previous cinematic treatments, including Scorsese’s and Gibson’s.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
This book blew my mind, in the best way. I’ve been curious about how my brain works pretty much ever since my brain started working, so to discover a book this revelatory is a big deal.
Warning: This is not a quick and easy, Malcolm Gladwell-style bedside read to unwind with at the end of a long day. Though it’s very readable, it demands to be read when you’re fully awake and brimming with mental energy. Not only that, it actually explains why you shouldn’t read it when you’re tired.
Feynman by Ottaviani and Myrick.
A hardcover graphic novel might seem an odd medium for the reminiscences of famed raconteur and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman, but it’s totally delightful, funny, romantic, and manages to squeeze in a fair amount of math and physics. Read it even if you’ve already enjoyed his memoir, the hilarious Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.
I’ll post as soon as we know the release date. There’s a lot of work still to do — the full trilogy will weigh in at over 450 pages, in full color. To all those who read Book One (published last year in paperback) and are waiting for the rest of the story, many thanks for your patience!
Meanwhile, here’s a sneak preview of a couple of inked (not yet colored) pages from the third book:
I’ve posted these in an album on the Solomon’s Thieves facebook page, plus a colored sample page from Book Two.
Since I got my iPhone 4S, I’ve been intrigued, fascinated and alarmed by Siri’s fast-growing capabilities. I thought it would make sense to introduce her to my psychotherapist, Eliza.
ELIZA was one of the first (and longest) BASIC programs I typed into my then brand-new 16K Apple II in 1979. Originally created at MIT by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966, this pioneering natural-language-processing simulation of a Rogerian psychotherapist impressed my family and friends every bit as much as Siri does now. I was curious to see how they would get along.
Here is a transcript of their first encounter. Despite their 45-year age difference and two-million-fold disparity in RAM, I thought they understood each other remarkably well. Continue Reading