Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why the Ever, Jane Kickstarter Rocks My World

Today I did something that has elicited mixed reactions from my friends and family. Some have called it crazy and ill-advised, while others have whole-heartedly endorsed it (provided I use my money and not theirs). And it's not eating fudge-covered Ritz crackers (though I did that too. They're okay, but nothing to write home about.)

What did I do? I donated a lot of money to the Ever, Jane Kickstarter. Like, a lot. Enough to be a baronet when the full version of the game goes live in 2016. 

What is Ever, Jane? It's an MMORPG based on the world and works of Jane Austen. For the uninitiated, that's a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, where you act as a character to collaborate with and work against other players. The most famous of these is World of Warcraft, but that's an insufficient comparison for Ever, Jane for reasons I will go into in a minute.

Why did I donate all this money to a video game? Well, partly because, if I'm going to participate in Regency England society, I am damn well going to be important enough that people will seek my approval. But mostly because I think that Ever, Jane is a revolutionary and worthwhile project that could very well change the face of video gaming as we know it and open the hobby up to a whole new group of people.

Quite simply, there is no other computer game like Ever, Jane. Now, I love computerized role-playing games. My occasional Sims habit nothwithstanding, Neverwinter Nights 2 is my favorite game ever, and I enjoyed both Dragon Age and Mass Effect. I even played World of Warcraft for awhile as an undead rogue (Victory for Sylvanas!) , and it consumed my life for months, as it is wont to do. So I love RPGs in their current incarnation. But I must confess my favorite parts are not the main aims of the game -- killing monsters and defeating the villains. I think I was the only Rogue in all of WoW who refused to PvP! No, what I wanted was to talk to people -- persuade my enemies out of fighting and to chat with my witty companions. And I wanted the loot. Dear god-of-your-choice, did I want the loot.

So imagine my joy when I found out about Ever, Jane -- an entire RPG about pretty clothes, witty dialogue, and arranging the most advantageous marriages for yourself and your family! I think this has the opportunity to interest a whole new class of potential gamers. I am sure there are people out there who are interested in taking on a role and acting it out with other people, but may not want to spend all their time deciding which combat maneuver to use to maximize their damage per second. And now they can. And who knows what other ideas this one gaming innovation will lead to. The sky is the limit!

The social scientist in me is also waiting in rapt fascination to see how typical gaming practices adapt to Ever, Jane. In World of Warcraft, some players engage in what is called theorycrafting, mathematically analyzing a character's various abilities and determining which yield the best output. The result of this practice is that players are expected to know which practices are best and play according to these guidelines. I'm curious what will happen with Ever, Jane's stats. Have we finally found a game where there is no "right" way to play? Or after a few months, will everyone be maximizing Status and minimizing Happiness to keep a competitive edge on other players?

And if my girl-gamer and behavioral scientist selves weren't satisfied enough, the part of me that majored in English is also getting a win. Ever, Jane is about the works of Jane Austen, one of my favorite authors of all time. I read all of her works before I graduated high school, and fifteen years later, I still have not forgiven my twelfth grade English teacher for thinking Mr. Bennet only had three daughters and for watching the movie of Sense and Sensibility instead of reading the book. (There was no Beth in the book, Mr. Bath!) I am perpetually disappointed that Ms. Austen only wrote six books, and while I look forward to every new movie adaptation, I have found most attempts at sequels or mimics rather lackluster. But Ever, Jane is an opportunity to interact with the world of Jane Austen in a new and exciting way.

And, so, for all these reasons, I purchased my baronetcy. So I'm sure your next question to me is, "Well, what are you going to do with it?" Or, more specifically, "Elizabeth, you are an author, with a wealth of characters inside your head. Which do you feel is most worthy to be a Regency lord?" For I always base my RPG toons on the characters in my books, and sometimes the games end up influencing my characters. The main character of my current work in progress has become more lawful good because I played her as a paladin -- she fights evil in full plate armor and stiletto heels! And I once decided a character had blue hair because her night elf equivalent did. So I asked myself, which character did I want to adapt to the game, knowing that he or she would be adapted in turn.

The answer, really, was obvious. It had to be Bedlam.

For those who have not read Oracle of Philadelphia, Bedlam is the demon of chaos, who, as a general rule, tries to be good but often comes up short for one reason or another. His humor and irreverence -- not to mention the fact that he is a hot angel boy -- render him by far the favorite character in the book among readers.  Regency Bedlam makes an appearance in chapter 13 of Oracle, which made me desirous of doing more with the idea. How would a character with Bedlam's wit, charm, and love of dancing -- but also his unreliability and complete disregard for society's rules -- get along in Jane Austen's world? I'd have to make him human, of course, and probably make a few other tweaks, but I'm excited to fit him into the stats of the game -- high in Wit, moderate in Happiness, low in Duty. When I told a friend of mine I was thinking about making Bedlam a baronet in the Ever, Jane game, and that young ladies across digital England would have the opportunity to vie for his hand, her response was "DO IT!!!" And so I shall.

For those who missed the link above, you can check out the Ever, Jane kickstarter here. They still need lots of support, so if you have a secret dream of being part of Regency society, or if you just want to support the idea of an MMORPG about something other than combat, consider donating or sharing this post. Because, as Edmund says in the movie of Mansfield Park, which, I must confess -- and I have the proper amount of shame about this -- I actually like better than the book, this is a video game "in a style entirely new."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Books I've Been Reading

So I know I promised some book reviews and have been extremely lax about it. You'll be glad to know this is largely because I've been working so hard on Raising Chaos edits, while also self-editing a new project that some days I like even better than the Earthbound Angels series.

I've also been checking out the science fiction/fantasy convention circuit as a method of promoting and selling books and meeting fans and new readers. I went to PhilCon last weekend, where I had lots of fun, and I've got a few more events planned. Keep up with my Appearances page to see where I'm going to be.

Now, let's talk about what I've been reading!

First up is The Program by Suzanne Young, which I read for a book club I recently joined. The Program is about a world where one in three teens die by suicide, and all the teens avoid the treatment program because it takes away all their memories. I had some trepidation about The Program when I started -- I'm always interested in reading about medial representations of mental illness, but often I find them inaccurate, and I'm not a fan of dystopic stuff in general -- but I really enjoyed the book. I stayed up way too late to marathon read the book in two days! I particularly enjoyed the first part, where we see main character Sloane trying to deal with the trauma of having all her friends either die by suicide or get dragged off to have their memories wiped. And even though I found myself on Team Wrong Boy, I'm still looking forward to reading the next one, because I'm hoping to find out more about what caused the suicide epidemic and what the true purpose behind The Program is.

Before that, my book club read The Diviners by Libba Bray, a novel about teens with special powers fighting a ghostly serial killer in the 1920s. I had tried to read the book once before and gotten annoyed with the main character, but I'm so glad I gave it another try. Evie is kind of selfish and lies a lot more than she needs to, but she grew on me by the end of the book. The other characters were fascinating, as well, and I liked seeing the traditional YA urban fantasy tropes in the well-researched setting of the 20s. Parts of the novel were seriously creepy, which, even though I don't like to be scared, I have to credit the writer for. The romances, though sparse, but very sweet. (I've read the last scene so many times I stopped counting.) I'm looking forward to the next book, to see how all the mythology fits together and what happens to the characters. The women in my reading group said the audiobook is really good, so I think I'm going to listen to it to refresh my memory before Lair of Dreams comes out.

I read In a Fix by Linda Grimes as part of my quest to get back to reading adult urban fantasy. I loved it so much, I had to immediately read Quick Fix as well, and then be horribly disappointed that I probably won't get another book until sometime next year. The books are about Ciel Hannigan, a woman with the ability to put on different auras and essentially change into other people. She's started up a business to pose as people for difficult moments in her life, and cases in both books turn from simple tasks to super spy mysteries. The plots are quirky and great, full of humorous twists and turns. The romance is the very best kind of romance -- two hot boys, one of whom is clearly superior to the other -- though I confess it does make me wonder what is up with the recent quasi-incest trope -- one boy is raised as her cousin but is really her mother's sorority sister's step-son, and the other is her brother's best friend who sees her as a little sister. I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out.

Last on my list for today is Omens by Kelley Armstrong. I feel a little ridiculous even commenting on it, because, come on, it's Kelley Armstrong. But, then, I did have some trepidation about reading it, because I felt like the Otherworld series got kind of boring toward the end. But Omens definitely did not disappoint. It's about Olivia, an upper class woman whose life is turned upside down when she learns that she is adopted, and her parents are a pair of famous serial killers who want her to prove their innocence. The mythology is a mix of science fiction and fantasy, much of which is only hinted at in this first book, though I am looking forward to seeing it unfold. As ever, Kelley Armstrong picks a main boy who is, on many levels, rather unattractive, and Olivia makes decisions whose morally dubious nature surprises her. I always make jokes with my friend about how I prefer pretty elfboys to the more burly manly types, but in this case, I think I'm on Team Literally an Elfboy, even though he's hardly in the book at all.