New Year’s Revelation

January 3rd, 2014essays

Obvious revelation that reared its head into my brain a bit ago so I thought I’d share.

Doing nothing leads to doing more nothing. Most folks know that. But the inverse is also true. When you do something, especially if you feel a reward from it, you want to keep doing it. Inertia is the mindkiller. Want to create? Create. Start small if you want but keep doing it.

Want to write? 50 words a day. Anybody can do that. 50 words every day. That’s literally a couple minutes. You have them. Write during lunch. Write while in the bathroom. Write before you go to bed. If you can’t do 50, do 20. Write one sentence. Over time, you put down enough words, you’ll have something. A song, a poem, a story, a novel, a memoir. Something.

Want to draw? One shape a day. A circle, a square, a line. Again: minutes a day. If that. Over time, you’ll have a diagram, an illustration, a comic strip, a drawing of a loved one. Something.

Want to play an instrument? One note or chord a day. Over time, you’ll learn guitar, bass, violin, piano. Something.

Want to learn a language? A word or phrase a day. Over time, you’ll be able to converse with people in their native tongue.

Don’t worry about making any of this good. Or for other people. Do this for you. Don’t sweat whether a phrase is clumsy or a face is lopsided or you press too close to the fret or you might be pronouncing a vowel flatly.

The time is going to pass anyway. I hope you have a bunch of time. Spend it with loved ones, spend it on hobbies, spend it on entertainment. But take a few minutes a day to explore something or create something. You might find you love it and want to dedicate ten minutes a day to doing it. Maybe an hour. Maybe you set aside a couple evenings a week. Maybe not. Maybe you stick to doing 2-3 minutes a day. It doesn’t matter.

Do this for you. Do something new. Learn something new. You may have a lot more to contribute to this world than you realize.

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Game Writing: 11 Things I’ve Learned

December 20th, 2013video games

Veteran writer (and scion of Tom Clancy) Richard Dansky asked an interesting question:

So what knowledge do you think is absolutely essential to working in games writing? Concepts? Elements of craft? Specific terminologies? Legal and professional issues?

I responded with eleven tenets that have served me well. Most of these were learned the hard way so I thought I’d (hopefully) save other writers and would-be writers the hassle and headache. Feedback and anecdotes from other writers is most certainly appreciated.

11 Things I’ve Learned About Writing for Video Games

1. A writer’s role in a project varies not only from studio to studio and from project to project but from stage of production to stage of production.

2. Many aspects of writing are the easiest thing to change when developing a game. More than anyone, you must be flexible.

3. Chances are, no one will care more about the story than you. You will be called upon to champion ideas and fight for story elements but you cannot be precious about small things and must be able to compromise.

4. You must be able to find your voice in any project, work-for-hire or not. If you cannot put yourself into another’s project, you need to work on that first and foremost.

5. When I freelanced, I was often called in near the end of a project to give context and structure to pre-existing characters, locations, and situations. If you intend to freelance, be really good at assembling LEGO bricks.

6. Understand that seemingly small decisions–such as locations, animations, costume changes, and characters–can have a huge impact on budgets and workflows within other departments. You must be able to own the budgets, both time and money.

7. Games are a team project. Learn the lingo used by other departments and disciplines. Learn what they need to get their job done. Learn what their priorities are. They are your best friends. And if you get in good with them, they will do what they can for you when you absolutely, positively need a new location, animation, costume change, or character.

8. You are a step in the process. Be mindful that audio, cinematics, animation, level design, scripting, and others will work from what you create. Be realistic about your deadlines and, once set: HIT. YOUR. DEADLINES.

9. You are a step in the process. Others must be mindful of your deadlines and, when they are not, you must be comfortable addressing that issue and telling them how their delays affect you.

10. Changes happen. All the time. Notes come down from directors, producers, marketing, publishers, and changes must be made. Sometimes the deadline will shift to allow for those changes; often, it won’t.

11. Games are great but it’s your life that’s important. Don’t be so in love with writing for games that your quality of life suffers.

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Out Now: HOW THE SAINTS SAVE CHRISTMAS

December 10th, 2013video games

The holidays are here and they’ve brought new DLC for Saints Row IV. Cozy up to the fire and enjoy this delightful—and delightfully twisted—trip to save St. Nick and restore the holidays to the world. Here’s the sell text:

How the Saints Save Christmas (1953) – Santa is trapped inside the Simulation but the Scrooge-like Boss of the Third Street Saints can’t muster enough Christmas spirit to save him. Can the Saints help the Boss discover the true meaning of the season in time? A holiday classic for the whole family.

Most owners of the Season Pass should already have this (Europe releases tomorrow). If you’re buying a la carte, you can pick it up on Steam, 360, and PSN now.

Happy holidays, everybody!

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Out Now: HEY ASH, WHATCHA PLAYIN’?

December 4th, 2013video games

I don’t want to get into the habit of calling out all the Saints Row IV DLC but I have to talk about this one.

Anthony, Ash, and Papa Burch, from the insanely popular webseries Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ are now available as homies for Saints Row IV.

No, seriously.

I am absolutely giddy over this. I was a huge fan of the series before this came together and was ecstatic to work on this. It’s out now for all platforms: PS3, 360, and Steam.

Be sure to check out the trailer below, featuring a rare glimpse at the briefly-mustachioed Tony Bedard.

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Short Fiction: CAPTIVE AUDIENCE

October 31st, 2013fiction

You may remember a couple months back, a teacher friend of mine asked if I would write a survival story aimed at Middle Grade readers. Of course, I said “YES” and the short fiction piece “Rest” was the result. Well, she came to me again with a request for a story about a historic place as described by a time-traveling archaeologist with no context for what it was that person was truly seeing. Again, I enthusiastically agreed. What I came up with a (hopefully) humorous look at Champaign local landmark, The Art Theater, titled “Captive Audience.”

Captive Audience

by Jason L Blair

Hello, my good fellows of Temporus et Anachronus Historical Respect Society. I am writing you today with some troubling news.

Per the assignment given to me by President Emeritus Tiberius J. Tubbs, I have arrived at the designated location, a bastion of civilization nestled in an expansive grain field called “Champaign Illinois” in the district our forebears once labeled Midamerica. While the travel backwards in time concluded without error, our expectation of what we were to find here is actually very far from fact. Where we expected a gentle and kind tribe, instead, is home to a collection of cruel and seemingly easily-amused savages.

If I am to believe what I have seen here, one of the greatest attractions in this ancient place is a small building that bears the name “The Art Theater.” A fitting name, perhaps, because this dreadful place is home to a most barbaric “art” form. The people of this time have mastered the ability to trap their peers inside some sort of two-dimensional plane called a “screen.” Once relocated, the captives are forced, by some unseen mechanism, to reenact cultural tales over and over again as entertainment for a cold and uncaring assembly.

I have seen many such tales, from a collective of sightseers forced to evade the razor-tipped claws of prehistoric lizards to the story of a young girl swept away to a world of crazed winged primates and a green-skinned witch to a most tragic showing of a man who, upon exposure to the light of Earth’s moon, is turned into a horrific beast covered in hair and sporting a large and deadly-looking set of pointed teeth.

To further add to the audience’s savagery, they often feed upon heated and salted kernels from the surrounding grain fields–destroying their environment as well as their humanity!

As further testament to the high regard to which this barbaric practice is held, the Art Theater itself is adorned with images taken from these vile displays. The names of the participants are listed on these “posters.” I heard multiple people in attendance say they enjoy the work of some of these prisoners–I wonder just how many terrible dramas these poor souls are forced to act out!

It is my recommendation that we never return to this place. We have, as a society, evolved well beyond such archaic and brutal practices. How I long to return to the year 3807 where I can once again enjoy more enlightened entertainment such as a robogator wrestling and flaming goat dancing.

Your humble archaeologically-minded fellow,

Bodomir Jevins III

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Out Now: ENTER THE DOMINATRIX

October 22nd, 2013news, video games

The first story/mission DLC pack for Saints Row IV is out today! (In most territories anyway. Tomorrow for the UK!) Introducing Enter the Dominatrix.

I was one of the writers on this pack and it was a blast. In addition to more crazy Saints Row antics, some old characters come back as well which gave me the opportunity to work with some voice actors I was eager to see in action.

I don’t want to say too much because there is some true madness on display here. But I will paste up the official blurb:

Enter the Dominatrix reveals the wild hijinx of the original vision of the canceled SR3 expansion. Steelport has been taken over by the Dominatrix and only the Saints can stop her from trapping everyone in a virtual prison! Includes behind-the-scenes commentary and the return of some fan-favorite characters.

So there you go. It’s out now for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 for $6.99.

Oh, and in case it’s not evident, it’s rated M for Mature.

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Interview at Geek’s Dream Girl

September 26th, 2013interviews, rpg

I recently sat down with the wonderful Lillian Cohen-Moore over at Geek’s Dream Girl to discuss the origin of Little Fears and how the publishing scene has changed since I released the original game back in 2001.

For those interested in getting their hands on a copy of the original Little Fears, I sell the anniversary edition (titled Happy Birthday, Little Fears) directly or you can look for it in the secondary market (though it sometimes runs a pretty penny) or game specialty stores like Noble Knight. To learn a bit more about the editions, check out About Little Fears.

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Short Fiction: REST

August 30th, 2013fiction

A teacher friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to help out with an assignment she’s giving her class. She needed some short fiction (4-5 paragraphs), aimed at 11-13 year olds, with a survivalist theme (her students had just read Gary Paulsen’s classic novel Hatchet). Any excuse to exercise my Middle Grade writing muscles is a good one so I eagerly agreed. Here’s what I came up with:

Rest

by Jason L Blair

The cold bit into Nathan’s hands as he climbed the hill. His bare fingers were nearly frozen. His whole body ached and protested every movement. Stop, it pleaded. Give up. Rest. The boy’s brain fought back, something deep and primal within him, No. I must go on. Each time he closed his palm on another piece of ice, he wanted to scream. A sudden burst of wind whipped around him, showering his face with fine grains of bitter snow. It felt like his face had been splashed with fire. His lips were brittle and breaking. The saltiness of his own blood coated his tongue. Above him, the sun—bright and mocking—beat down on him. All light and no heat.

As the boy crested the ridge, he saw the remains of the plane smoldering in the distance. Thick plumes of gray smoke billowed from the wreck. It was the beacon he had followed, the signal that guided him. When the craft went down, Nate and his family were in the last row. That part broke off first. He closed his eyes and could feel his seat spinning. His hands clutching the armrest. His mom, leaning close to him, whispering, “I love you, Nate. I love you.” Tears welled and almost immediately froze to his cheeks.

He heaved himself over the edge of the hill. A small crowd gathered by the remains of the cabin. The captain, whose name the boy had heard as Burley, warmed himself by a makeshift fire. The bearded man’s leg rested on an overturned service tray. Someone had knotted a bright blue blanket over his thigh. A flight attendant was packing snow into containers while a dozen other people milled about. Aside from the captain, who had given the boy a small pin—a pair of golden wings—Nate didn’t recognize any of them. He wondered if they knew each other. Or had they all been strangers filling seats. The boy fought back any thoughts about the people he did know.

The attendant stood and seemed to stare right at him. The boy tried to raise a hand, to call out, but his voice only managed a faint “help.” Even that was too much. The effort unsettled something in his throat and he started to cough. Faint, at first, but it got worse and worse. Each hacking gasp shook his body. Shivers rippled through his spine. His feet kicked out from under him and he started to slide. He scrambled for the top of the cliff but his fingers refused. His hands, locked into fists, beat uselessly against the shifting snow. He saw the crest slide farther and farther away. His legs slithered against the surface of the hill but to no avail. He wanted to cry, to scream, but he was tired. Too tired. Stop, his body said. Rest. His body landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill. Nate could feel his heartbeat slowing, his breathing was low and hypnotic. He was suddenly warm, comfortable. Rest. Rest.

His eyes fluttered open. No. No rest. Nate forced his body to move, to bend, to lift, to plant its feet and stretch, to extend, to grasp, to climb, to scream. “Help!” He yelled it every time his hand clutched an icy mound of dirt. “Help!” He hoped the words weren’t just in his head. “Help!” The hill didn’t seem so tall. He fixed his eyes on the twisting pillar of smoke. Overhead, the sun laughed—all light and no heat—but the boy didn’t listen. He continued to climb. He heaved his body over the top and started to slide the right way, quickly, like he was being pulled. He looked up and saw the smiling face of the flight attendant. A man’s face too. He had a beard too but not like Burley’s. A pair of broken glasses sat sideways on his stubby nose. “Another one!” a third person, a girl about his age, yelled. “We’ve got another one!” Nate looked up at the sun and laughed back.

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Out Today: SAINTS ROW IV

August 20th, 2013video games

Happy birthday, Saints Row IV! Congratulations to everyone at Volition. The hard work, long hours, numerous headaches, and putting up with the writing department really paid off!

Click here to buy!

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Out Tuesday: SAINTS ROW IV

August 15th, 2013video games

Saints Row IV comes out on PC, PS3 and 360 Tuesday, August 20th (Friday, August 23rd in Europe) and I cannot wait for you all to play it. It’s been a labor of love at Volition. We’ve poured our hearts and souls into this game to give you the best open-world playground we could. I know that all sounds like I’m shilling but I am speaking not only as a writer on the game but a huge fan as well.

From reviews:

“Saints Row IV is a fantastic game, keeping up the series’ tradition of giving players a wide open world and the tools to go absolutely bonkers within it. It’s hilarious, it’s action-packed, and most of all, its fun to play.” — The Escapist – 5/5

“I highly recommend it – Volition’s latest is a non-stop cavalcade of self-aware meta-humor and surprising, bombastic gameplay decisions from stem to stern, and to enter the experience with even the slightest knowledge of what’s coming would be doing yourself a major disservice.” — Joystiq – 5/5

“I honestly haven’t enjoyed a game quite so thoroughly as Saints Row IV, nor laughed as hard at one. On that note, Saints Row IV has my vote of emphatic approval for doing what it does so well: making us laugh until we cry.” — Neoseeker – 10/10

“I declare Saints Row IV perhaps one of the best open world sandbox games you could ever hope to play, and practically a culmination of everything the genre’s worked toward this generation.” — Destructoid – 9.5/10

“Saints Row IV made me feel superhuman — and that’s what this kind of game is all about.” — Polygon 9/10

“Volition did something it seems few developers are brave enough to do at this point: They were willing to reinvent the Saints Row series instead of just reiterating on it. The result is a game that I had an absolute blast with from beginning to end, but also one that—due to the escalation it exhibits—left me dumbfounded on what they’ll offer as a follow-up.” — EGMNow – 9/10

And that’s just a sampling.

A huge thank you to everyone out there supporting Volition and Saints Row, and an enormous congratulations to everyone at Volition, my adopted home, for putting out such an amazing game. I am incredibly proud of what we put together.

(For those on the fence about pre-ordering, trust me when I saw the free Commander-in-Chief upgrade is totally worth it. You haven’t flown until you’ve taken control of the American Eagle Jet.)

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