Archive for November, 2011

Design and Desire: An Interview with By Implication

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 30 - 2011
There are few things I enjoy more than speaking with passionate Filipino creators, and helping them garner the attention they deserve. The game designers of By Implication should need no introduction from me–as I mentioned in my post on Scram, they’re the Filipino game design team that won Microsoft’s prestigious 2010 Imagine Cup Game Design Competition last year. Since they just released their first commercial game, I thought this would be a good time to sit them them down (virtually) and get to know them better. Game designers are usually more anonymous than creators in other media, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as eccentric interesting as other artists, as you’ll see from this interview.
If you like what you see, do give Scram a try and support awesome game design that just happens to be from the Philippines.
Q: We know a lot about “By Implication” as a team, but what about as individuals? Tell us a little bit about yourselves, your lives outside of By Implication, and what your role in the team is–and by that, I don’t mean “position” such as artist or programmer. 

Kenneth: My name’s Kenneth Yu. I’m supposed to be By Implication’s writer and story director-guy, but because I studied Economics and Business in La Salle, I’ve seen been press-ganged into also being the team’s producer / project manager. This means, basically, that besides writing up copy and coming up with game concepts + stories, I have to do all the crap no one else wants to do. Like creating sound effects and ambiance, recording payments and purchases, bugging people to get stuff done, writing up hare-brained marketing schemes, buying everyone coffee and chicken sandwiches, keeping everyone on speaking terms, and beating down supervillains. The 2-3 hours per day I spend outside work go to reading, toy collecting and playing Batman: Arkham City (and, on occasion, eating and sleeping). All of these inevitably lead to new game and story ideas, and thus to more work in By Implication. Man.

Jim: My name is James Choa though I go by the nickname of Jim (or trigger-happy, if you play certain online games that are not considered as mmorpgs). Outside of being one of the programmers in the group, I also function as the resident Linux guy, programmer, non-teaching-guy-who-can-represent-programmers-in-most-meetings, hardcore gamer and programmer. My apologies, I think I left out the important detail of me being a programmer in the group.

Wil: This is the Wilhansen Li, self-proclaimed PROGRAMM_CAT, of the group. He smites anyone that dares defy the laws of Computational Complexity, using an Infinity (+1) Hammer forged from the very darkness of the universe. He has warped through the Universe-ity of Ateneo, obtaining the coveted combined degree of Computer Science and Math, only to end up back in the Universe-ity to bestow epiphany to those who are willing to accept the Enlightenment. He shall ensure and verify that all laws of any universes created by Implication neither explodes nor collapses to a singularity. The PROG_CAT balances; the PROG_CAT; the PROG_CAT listens.

Thomas: I’m Thomas Dy. I mostly do the other programming that neither Wil nor Jim particularly want (i.e. non-Apple and non-game programming). Like our almighty PROG_CAT, I’ve also taken up the challenge of bestowing Enlightenment upon those who are willing (to pay the Ateneo).

Philip: I’m Philip Cheang, one of the two designer-artists in the group. I graduated in Fine Arts, but have always been partly developer at heart, and continue to write some code here and there (though on a much smaller scale than our beloved developers above). In this regard, I sometimes mediate between the technical and non-technical sides of the team. I enjoy (and dread) nudging lines and shapes ten pixels to the left, then maybe five to the right, but wait-I-have-a-totally-different-idea-now- -I’ll-just-delete-everything, several times over the course of the day. Recently, I’ve also started teaching (like Wil and Thomas), but in Ateneo’s FA department.

Together with Levi, I work directly on graphic assets, art direction, and interface design. Together with Kenneth, I represent the team in events, press, and business meetings. Together with Wil/Jim/Thomas, I discuss technical and architectural decisions. By myself, I generally dick around and waste time, which is why it’s important that I’m together with someone. 

Wait, that sounded wrong. Can we omit that? Is this live? Hello— —

Levi: Levi refers to himself in the third person during interviews. He performs exactly half of design/art duties, leaving Philip to do the other half. Every now and then he brings the team to work, and the rest of the time he hitches; fuel economy is very important to the crew. When food needs to be ordered over the phone, he is often the one to do it, and he will do it in a foreign accent. He is also an unlicensed chemical engineer, and thankfully does not practice. Surprisingly, his training in this field has been helpful in a variety of unexpected ways in developing games—such as in threatening his teammates to work.

Kenneth: Now you see what I have to deal with every day.

Q: What was it like, winning Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Game Design Competition? How did your concept for “Wildfire” come about, and did it change much from conception to execution? 

A: Competing on a global scale, representing the Philippines, and winning first place against many other teams was simply a fantastic experience. In many ways, it was a culmination of our efforts since high school. As young, ambitious kids, we loved (and hated) all these different games, and so we tried (and failed) to create games we could call our own. Winning in the Imagine Cup gave us the validation that creating games was something we could seriously pursue. It’s been an interesting ride so far, and we look forward to the road ahead.

Wildfire’s inception sat at an interesting intersection: we had just come from two competitions, we had been playing with these cool algorithms for autonomous agent behaviour and crowd simulation, and we had just experienced this terrible typhoon called Ondoy. With the drive to win and accomplish something, the technology to build something upon, and an inspiring story to share with the world, we set out to create Wildfire.

The Imagine Cup’s theme was the Millennium Development Goals (poverty and hunger, environmental sustainability, global partnership, and so on) — really big problems. What we saw after Ondoy was that big problems like these can be solved by the collective effort of many individuals. In the Filipino spirit of bayanihan, people from all walks of life volunteered their time and effort in helping their fellow man. The thing is, it’s normally difficult to directly address real-world problems with a game. Other utility-style apps are easier to link to a theme, because you can do directly useful things like aggregate information, offer networks and connections to interested parties, and open lines of communication.

With a game, you generally have to just teach people about the reality of a problem, by inserting that problem as your game’s main theme. Now, many games with a “theme” are, sadly enough, detached from it. The theme is nothing but a layer slapped like a sticker on top of an existing mechanic. “The game will be like a Tower Defense, except it’ll happen in someone’s organs, and will teach people that diseases are baaaaad.” (This was actually one of our earlier ideas, which we ran with for about a month or two.) We had the opportunity to create something that was genuinely inspired.

Wildfire was designed as a “volunteer movement” simulator, from the very start. The idea was to portray the movement of a single good intention, as it “spread like Wildfire” across a population. From the very beginning, we had grid-style cities, crowds of people moving about, and “bad-guy” agents getting in the way. The idea was always for the main character to “inspire” crowds of citizens, and lead them around the city to complete a variety of tasks.

Our initial version of Wildfire was a 2-D affair with only dots for characters. (You can still see traces of this early version in some of our promotional / trailer videos for the game.) When we go through the elimination rounds for the Imagine Cup, we had the opportunity to expand Wildfire, turning it into the full 3-D version that people can download and play today. Along the way, we attempted to implement additional mechanics, like bullet-hell style opponent dodging, and strategy game-style territory control, but many of these features were dropped, for the sake of clarity.

Note: Posting this a bit earlier in the week as there will be a major announcement on Thursday. We’ll also be holding off the PSF6 reviews for December but will resume in January.

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

And so… Paging Adam David, look oh, more of your demand for experimentation in Phil Spec Fic!

I know that this is not your favorite, Counsel, because it’s non-linear hahahaha! See, I think most would react to this story, after reading it, with “And so?” Yeah, what’s the point, right?

Objection! I didn’t find the format difficult, but I think that’s because it was fairly obvious once I started the piece that I wasn’t supposed to find any narrative linking the segments, each of which was self-contained, and linear. I think my difficulty comes more from the experimental stories where I know (even if I’m wrong) there’s supposed to be an overarching narrative somewhere, and I just can’t seem to find it.

—-Haha, okay, okay!

I appreciate this kind of story being included in PSF anthologies because: 1) It challenges the reading-linear-habit which kind of breeds lazy-reading. 2) Because it does, then the brainwaves are exercised when it comes to perspectives and understanding of meaning, of what the story is really about.

As someone who has never been a fan of difficult to read fiction (as opposed to non-fiction), I feel the obligation to state that lazy reading is a perfectly viable state of being a reader-for-pleasure.

—-Hahaha, riiiiight. Like Lazy Boy and TV, hmmm?

Intrinsically, this story is what you call playing on motif. So the question is: what is the motif? What is common among all the names? What connects them? Because the usual reader might think that they are not connected, as if the names are just slides in projection or just weird episodes (and the weirdness making it all under “speculative”).

By “usual reader” that’d be me I think. I already said that I didn’t see the need to draw a narrative connection between each segment, but as far as a common theme, my anchor was the title itself: each segment used the idea of alternative names to show alternative realities (in my reading, all the protagonists are the same woman, in different worlds), and within each segment, the etymology of the name was interpreted through a short narrative.

Read the rest of this entry »

3rd San Pablo City Comics Festival

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 28 - 2011

 

For those in the San Pablo area, the 3rd San Pablo City Comics Festival will be held this Saturday, December 3, 2011, from 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM at the Ultimart Mall,
San Pablo City, Laguna. You can see the programme of activities here, and the Facebook page here. Gerry Alanguilan also has an informative post about the upcoming convention over at his blog.

Ateneo Press Christmas Book Sale 2011

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 25 - 2011

I’m a bit late on this, but I’d like to remind everyone that the annual Christmas sale of Ateneo de Manila University Press is ongoing:

Date:      November 15 to December 14, 2011

Time:      8 A.M. to 12 noon, 1 to 6 P.M., Monday to Thursday
8 A.M. to 12 noon, 1 to 5 P.M., Friday

Venue:     Ateneo Press Bookshop, G/F Bellarmine Hall, Ateneo Campus, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

All titles will be sold at less 10 to 50 percent.

Reservations for copies and requests for price lists may be made at 02-426-5984 (landline) or unipress@admu.edu.ph. A listing of books is also available at
www.ateneopress.org.

Coffee, tea and Christmas cookies come free with browsing. Happy book shopping!

 

This is a good time to mention that Ateneo Press publishes some amazing books, including “Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities” (here’s a review), an excellent overview of the diversity of our oral traditions by Professor Herminia Meñez Coben–who graciously allowed me to interview her for Alternative Alamat–as well as “Kathang-Isip“, a book of speculative fiction in Filipino, which I think may only be available at the Ateneo Press store (I haven’t seen it anywhere else). The deals during this sale are usually much better than those given during the Manila International Book Fair, so if you’ve had your eye on an Ateneo Press title, now’s the time to get it.

PSF6 Review: The Grim Malkin by Vincent Michael Simbulan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 24 - 2011

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

The story opens with a cliché— literally— illuminated by multiple flashes of light, in quick succession. And in succession, the story makes use of cliché articulation like reduced to rubble, yawning chasm, one fluid motion, clenched teeth, struggled to catch his breath, dangling in midair and so on. Now in my head there’s a bell that clangs for each cliché phrase that I read so that can be a distracting turn-off from the reading. Seriously, imagine “TENG!TENG!TOINK!” going off like a fire alarm in your head.

I’ve got an odd sort of relationship with medieval fantasy stories (read as both sword and sorcery and epic fantasy). It’s sort of comfort food, and in a strange way, it’s one of the genres where I tend to be more forgiving of an overabundance of common genre tropes. In fact, sometimes I find myself resisting deviations from the “traditional”–I never got into “A Game of Thrones”, for instance, and while I’ve heard good things about the “The First Law” books, the fact that they’re viewed as somehow genre-subversive makes me wary.

— I understand about these types of comfort food stories and sometimes it’s like a no-brainer-break in my own speculative reading. Like romance novels hahaha. And you haven’t read “Game of Thrones?” Dude, you’ve got time to make a change, just relax, take it easy hee-hee-hee…

[Pao: I read the first three books. I just sort of lost interest with each succeeding one…]

So, while I do agree that some ubiquitous turns of phrase were used, I’m not sure about whether or not that was a conscious choice to surround a traditionalist genre reader with the familiar, a shorthand way of making the reader feel that he/she knows the setting and the characters, although little is actually revealed. The problem with this strategy, if it was in fact adopted, is that you’re targeting a very narrow segment of readers, I think. After all, those who like the comfortable and traditional aren’t likely to shell out money on a non-themed short story anthology with a lot of first time authors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Call For Submissions: Horror: Fantastic Filipino Fiction For Young Adults

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 23 - 2011

Dean Alfar and Kenneth Yu, the publishers (respectively) of the Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology and Philippine Genre Stories Online, are teaming up for a new anthology series featuring speculative fiction for young adults. The first anthology will feature horror stories, and you can find the submission guidelines below, or here.

Editors Dean Francis Alfar (publisher of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies) and Kenneth Yu (publisher of Philippine Genre Stories) announce an open call for short fiction submissions for HORROR: Fantastic Filipino Fiction for Young Adults.

The Fantastic Filipino Fiction for Young Adults is a new annual anthology series, with the first volume focusing on horror, and launching in mid-2012.

Submissions must be:

1. in the horror genre or contain strong horror elements

2. written with the Young Adult reader in mind (from 10 – 18 years old) and feature a young adult character (or characters)

3. cognizant of the themes and concerns of Young Adult fiction (coming of age, identity, belonging, a sense of wonder, a love for adventure, angst, concerns over school, challenges of youth, family issues, relationships to authority figures, sexuality, experimentation, peer pressure, bullying, among many others) – without being didactic and/or boring.

4. written in English

5. authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry

Submissions are preferred to be:

1. original and unpublished

2. no shorter than 1,000 words and no longer than 7,500

In the case of previously-published work—if accepted, the author will be expected to secure permission to reprint, if necessary, from the original publishing entity, and to provide relevant publication information.

Submission details:

1. No multiple or simultaneous submissions—i.e., submit only one story, and do not submit that story to any other market until you have received a letter of regret from us.

2. All submissions should be in Rich Text Format (saved under the file extension ‘.rtf’), and emailed to dean(at)kestrelddm(dot)com with the subject line ‘FFFH: title (word count)’, where ‘title’ is the title of your submission and ‘(word count)’ is the number of words the submission comes up to, rounded up to the nearest hundred (use the “tools” function of your word processor to find out.

3. Do not use fancy formatting.

4. Include a brief bio and publishing history (if applicable).

5. The deadline for submissions is midnight, Manila time, March 15, 2012. Letters of acceptance or regret will be sent out no later than one month after the deadline.

6. First-time authors are more than welcome to submit; good stories trump literary credentials any time.

Compensation will be Php500 for selected stories. We are still deciding whether to go digital or print (or even both). In the event that we publish a print version, each author will be provided with a contributor’s copy of the book. If the anthology is published in digital form, each author will be given a formatted e-copy of the anthology.

Thanks,

Dean Francis Alfar & Kenneth Yu

Editors

HORROR: Fantastic Filipino Fiction for Young Adults

New Speculative Fiction from Filipinos (Free Press, PGS)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 23 - 2011

I’ve been remiss in posting links to new short spec fic by Filipino authors–hospitalization tends to play havoc with one’s schedule–so here’s a roundup:


Call for Submissions: Dracoraptor Anthology

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 22 - 2011

Australia-based Filipino Jason Banico has announced a call for submissions,  seeking short fiction from Filipino authors for his “Dracoraptor” anthology.

Dracoraptor is a fictional dragon dinosaur and is featured in its own site at http://www.dracoraptor.com.

Submissions must be:

1. speculative fiction of any of the following genre: science fiction, cryptofiction, historical fiction, horror, and alternative history.

2. depicting the Dracoraptor realistically based on characteristics detailed on the Dracoraptor site. For instance, the creature must spit acid and only in self-defense, and does not breathe fire.

3. written in English

The following settings are encouraged:

1. prehistoric (ex. Clan of the Cave Bear)
2. ancient (Homeric epics)
3. Asian (Chinese / Japanese)
4. age of discovery
5. Victorian-era
6. colonial Philippines
7. modern (ex. King Kong)
8. near future

All submissions should be in Rich Text Format (without fancy formatting) and emailed to jason at banico dot com dot au, with the subject line “Dracoraptor submission”.

The deadline for submission is March 30, 2012.

There is no direct compensation for submission. Selected stories will be posted in the Dracoraptor.com site and released in an e-book anthology. Revenue share is offered to authors whose stories appear in the e-book.

Jason is also looking for people who may be interested in co-editing the anthology with him – send any interested queries to the address mentioned above.

RK Recommends: Horn by Peter M. Ball

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 22 - 2011

My review of “Horn” by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press) is up on Fantasy Faction. I enjoyed the novella, even if I had a few issues with it, and it’s well worth the read if you’re interested in something darker than your usual urban fantasy fare, with a distinct heroine and a dash of subversion. Here’s an excerpt:

Unicorns. They’re a staple of the fantasy genre, and while there are many works that treat the unicorn with respect, they are also regularly dismissed in popular culture as being representative of the flighty, whimsical, and escapist character that, in the eyes of opponents of the genre, make it possible to take fantasy seriously. Or, as the tongue-in-cheek jacket copy of “Zombies vs. Unicorns” puts it: “Unicorns are sparkly and pastel and fart rainbows.” (An awareness of why it can be hard to write good unicorn stories is part of what makes that anthology so much fun.) Unicorns, the argument would go, belong with fairy godmothers and magic spindles and princes-turned-into-frogs, the objects of fairy tales which we put aside along with the rest of our childish things, once we grow up, once we become adults and the world loses its luster, the wonder in our souls replaced by a gnawing cynicism…

But what if we take the concept of the unicorn, and re-imagine it within the confines of the “adult” world, a seedy world of crime and debauchery, where innocence is a technicality and the only happy endings belong to the man with the gun? What it we take a unicorn, and place it into a piece of noir fiction?

You can read the full review here.

SCRAM: iPhone/iPad Game From Filipino Developers, by implication

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 21 - 2011

If you’re a Philippine gamer, you’ve probably already heard about by implication--or, at least, you should have. They’re the Filipino game design team that won Microsoft’s prestigious 2010 Imagine Cup Game Design Competition last year, with their game “Wildfire“. The team has just released their first commercial game, SCRAM, which is for the iPhone (with iPad compatibility added for free with the first update). Scram is a first-person running game where players must run through nightmarish dreamscapes,  pursued by an unseen threat. It features “immersive 3-D graphics, fast-paced twitch gameplay, original theme music, leaderboards, Game Center achievements, retina display support, and Twitter integration for iOS 5 users”. The game launched at a discounted price of $0.99.

Scram has a temporary webpage here, and a trailer you can see below:

 

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.

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