Seattle 2054, Part 1: Pitch and High-Level GDD

Since I was laid off from CCP, I’ve been understandably focused on my job search. One barrier I’ve run into is work samples: while I have some writing examples for potential employers, I don’t have full game design scripts to share.1 I kicked around the idea of creating a scenario using a middleware game engine as a work sample, and more and more it grew on me. I settled on a Shadowrun Returns scenario for a number of reasons (which I’ll get into below).

My scenario may or may not contain basilisks or Indiana Jones references.

My scenario may or may not contain basilisks or Indiana Jones references.

A couple of people have asked if I would be willing to share my experience in making such a scenario.  I decided to try and document the steps of making a scenario from start to finish, approaching it as I would approach making a professional game. It would give me a chance to illustrate how such games come together, and I would have some design documents I could use to illustrate my own skills.

A few caveats to this series to start:

  • It will be irregular, and may never finish. If paying work comes up, I have to focus on that.
  • This isn’t going to be a guide on how to use the SR editor. There’s already a fantastic wiki for that, which I’m in the process of reading through to educate myself on the tools. Using industry terminology, this is a series of scripts and game design documents (GDDs), not technical design documents (TDDs).
  • By the very nature of this project, it will contain spoilers to my scenario and potentially those of other published scenarios. If you’re still playing through Shadowrun Returns, be wary as you read these.

Pitch and High-Level GDD

The first thing I need to work on is the audience for this game. While I’m not pitching this to a publisher or studio, the pitch/high-level design format is a good way to show where the boundaries of my project lie, and what decisions I need to make in creating it. I have a pretty firm idea of what I want to make in my head, but writing it down helps — not only to showcase the process, but also to give me a guideline down the road when I have to make scope decisions.

GDDs should be living documents that are constantly iterated on. As such, I’ll be keeping my GDD on Google Docs, and it’s available for anyone to read. However, for historical purposes, my first pass at the pitch and high-level design is at the end of this post (after the cut).

Next Steps

Next, I would normally start designing how the gameplay would work and focusing the core experience. Since that work is already done for me by my decision to use Shadowrun Returns, I can jump to constructing the narrative. The initial brainstorming and design of my story will be the focus of my next post. Continue reading

  1. And to head this question off at the pass: no, I’m not allowed to upload my World of Darkness writing samples for public consumption.

My Time With CCP Is Over

After six and a half years, on the day of my 13th wedding anniversary, I am no longer employed by CCP. I was laid off, not fired, along with a number of my friends and colleagues with the cancellation of the World of Darkness MMO.

As such, I am now looking for employment.1 If anyone has leads on full-time Narrative Design or Game Design jobs inside or outside Atlanta, please let me know. I am also interested in hearing about freelance writing work for video games, transmedia, RPGs, and fiction. My LinkedIn resume is pretty up-to-date, but I’ll be revising it over the next few days — if I’ve worked with you before, a recommendation there would be amazing.

I am also in the process of reorganizing my life. Many of my plans for this year, including travel plans, were based around a full-time role within CCP. I have to reassess what makes sense for me now, and some of that relies on me knowing my next short-term and mid-term steps. I also have lots of complicated emotions around the World of Darkness property that I have to sort out. I will be reaching out to friends, clients, and business partners impacted by these changes soon.

The amount of solidarity I’ve seen and received from former coworkers has been nothing short of amazing. I have been overwhelmed with Facebook messages, emails, and texts of support, offers of help, and waves of White Wolf paws. It reminds me of what is amazing about this industry and this community.

As a note, I will not be speaking about CCP’s decisions at all. Please respect that. Anyone who dismisses the hard work this team did on this project or who engages in speculation on how we did it all wrong will be taking a vacation from my social circles. Talk shit in your own space.

Despite it all, it was a hell of a ride, and I met a lot of amazing people that I hope I have the chance to work with again on future projects.

  1. Despite LinkedIn telling everyone I now have a “job” at Onyx Path Publishing — I’m still only doing a little freelance work for them right now.

5 Worst Ways To Ask A Professional For Help

I like helping people out. I really do. I often eek out time between projects here and there to check a friend’s game mechanics or read over someone’s manuscript. For my friends, I’m willing to do a lot.

The downside is that I don’t have a lot of time left over to help relative strangers. I try to post advice and suggestions to this blog and on my social media, with the idea that I can help a lot of people more generally. However, I still get requests for free business advice, uncontracted design suggestions, informal manuscript comments, and unpaid consultations. And for a while, I tried being a nice guy and help out, but this year I committed to cut down and say “no” more often, because it was becoming a huge drain on my time, energy, and ability to stay civil.

I firmly believe that everyone involved isn’t trying to be irritating. They’re just confused, excited, and a little unsure of themselves. I get that. But I’ve talked with friends of mine who are also creative professionals, and they struggle with this as well. Many of them have stopped fielding such requests altogether (and I’ve come damned close a few times). And usually it’s because there are some really big problems in how folks ask for favors. Here are five ways to quickly frustrate the person you’re asking for help.

Continue reading


My 5 Favorite Sherlocks (That You Haven’t Heard Of)

Yesterday, I posted my top five favorite portrayals of Sherlock Holmes that you’ve probably heard of. Today I show my five favorite Sherlock Holmes portrayals you’ve probably didn’t know about.

Igor Petrenko

Star of the recent Russian series of “Sherlock Holmes,” Petrenko portrays a farsighted, neurotic Holmes. It’s not canonical, but it is compelling. sddefault

Clive Merrison

A radio actor who portrayed Holmes on BBC Radio 4 for over twenty years. He is the only actor to have portrayed Holmes for every single canonical story. merrison

Barrie Ingham

Barrie Ingham was the voice for Basil of Baker Street, known better to many people as The Great Mouse Detective. Basil_nice.sized

Tom Baker

When I was young, I managed to catch a version of The Hound of the Baskervilles featuring Tom Baker as Holmes. I haven’t been able to find a copy since, but that once-glimpsed portrayal has stayed with me for decades. 08

Peter Cushing

Another “famous actor you didn’t realize played Sherlock Holmes” was Peter Cushing, who played the detective on BBC television in the 60s. 4039-8873

BONUS HOLMES: Jason Gray-Stanford

He was the voice actor for Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. FUCK YOU DON’T JUDGE ME. Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century_holmes


My 5 Favorite Sherlocks (That You’ve Heard Of)

Let me start off by saying this: this list is so terrible I went out of my way to start fights on the Internet about it. Seriously, I went online and ranted about it specifically because I wanted to get into fights about how bad it was. Naturally, most people agreed with me, and I got a number of people asking for my own top five list.

However, the problem is that everyone has their own Sherlock Holmes, in much the same way that everyone has their own Doctor Who. It’s really hard to pick my personal top five, and it’s certainly hard to rank them. So I’ve decided to cheat in two ways: I’ll give you two top five lists, and I won’t rank them. Today’s list are the top five Sherlock Holmes portrayals you’ve probably heard of.

Basil Rathbone

Probably the most iconic Holmes, and certainly the one that many people who have never heard of Holmes think of (even if they don’t know his name).


Jeremy Brett

The most faithful Holmes, and one of my personal favorites. He lived the part in so many ways that he really was Sherlock Holmes.


Robert Downey, Jr.

I know a lot of people don’t like his portrayal, he led the way to the modern resurgence of Holmes love, and his portrayal is more faithful than people give him credit for.


Jonny Lee Miller

Surprisingly no one who reads my blog, I’m quite taken with Miller’s portrayal of a modern Holmes. He’s not beloved by everyone (like RDJ), but Elementary is certainly shaping our perception of Holmes.


Benedict Cumberbatch

You can’t leave this man off the list. He simply is Sherlock Holmes to many people, in much the same way that Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone were.


Tomorrow: five of my favorite Sherlock Holmes portrayals you probably haven’t heard of.


Peer Review: “Close to Holmes” by Alistair Duncan

As usual, full disclosure: Alister Duncan is one of my peers at MX Publishing, and I got a copy of this (via iBooks) for free for review.

Usually when I do cardio for my workout, I watch videos on my iPad Mini. Last week, I forgot to side-load my episodes of Elementary, and the wi-fi in the gym was terrible, so I decided to try and read. Looking through my queue, I noticed I never got to reading Close to Holmes. Curious, I opened it up. I ended up reading through my workout, on the ride home, and well into the night.

Unlike some previous books I’ve reviewed, this isn’t a pastiche. Rather, it’s a nonfiction book. A tour guide, really — it goes around London circa 2008 and relates various streets, buildings and areas of the city to their relevance to the canon. Its comprehensive, entertaining, and full of great drawings, images, and modern photos of the areas in question. It goes deep into some corners of the canon, and even ties in some outside Sherlockian scholarship to key points (such as the probable location of certain buildings that Conan Doyle obfuscated in his writing).

If you’d like to learn more about London, it’s a great book. If you’d like to put images to the names in the canon, it’s a great book. If you’d like to dig into location-specific Sherlockian theories, it’s a great book. Luckily, I happened to be someone who was interested in all three.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA,  Barnes and Noble,  Amazon UK,  Waterstones UK,  Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Amazon Kindle,  Kobo,  Nook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.


Elementary 216/217: “The One Percent Solution” and “Ears To You”

Episode 216: The One Percent Solution

Lestrade: These two episodes are fortuitously grouped together, as they both showcase G. Lestrade.  I talked a fair amount about Lestrade back at the beginning of the season, but there’s more to go into here. (I’ll cluster my comments together for ease.)

His tenacity (such as his stubbornness in tracking down John Bowden and Shawn Menck) is canonical. He’s called a “bulldog” in Hound of the Baskervilles, and “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” showcases both this quality and his foolishness (also showcased in this episode):

“When he arrives he will be met by the obtuse but resolute Lestrade, and I have no doubt that we shall have all our details filled in.”

Interestingly, it is also “The Cardboard Box” in which we first learned that Lestrade’s first name starts with “G.”

But Lestrade does have a strong sense of justice, as we see in both episodes. No matter his failings from Holmes’ perspective, he is always “the best of a bad lot,” and there is a reason why Holmes continues to work with the detective.

Seven-per-cent solution: The title “One Percent Solution” is a play on a famous quote from The Sign of the Four:

“It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”

“Seven Percent Solution” is also the title of one of the most influential pastiches of modern times, written by Nicholas Meyer in 1974 and made into a movie in 1976.

Episode 217: Ears to You

Severed ears: Speaking of “The Cardboard Box,” the setup for this episode is very similar to that story — two human ears are mailed to someone, packed in salt. In the original story, the ears were not matched, however.

Alphonse Bertillon: The French biometrics researcher was not only extremely influential to Victorian criminology, but he was referenced twice in the original canon. The first time was in The Hound of the Baskervilles, in which Holmes is considered the “second highest expert in Europe” after Bertillon. In “The Naval Treaty,” Holmes “…expressed his enthusiastic admiration of the French savant”.

Off-Topic: 221b Con!

As a digression, I want to remind readers that I’ll be at 221b Con next weekend! I’m on five panels, and I’ll have copies of Watson is Not an Idiot for sale at the MX Publishing table. That’s a lot of hotlinks, but it’s just because I’m very excited. Last year was a wonderful show, and I’m looking forward to going again! If you go, say hello and mention that you’re a reader of the blog.

Writer. Gamer. Sherlockian. Usually Not Dead.

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