PGS Online: End of Year One

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 11 - 2011

Over at PGS Online, editor and publisher Kenneth Yu reflects on the year that was, PGS’ first year as an online publication, and has some announcements moving forward. Check it out here.

Let me also take this opportunity to point you to the newest PGS Online story, “Selected Transmissions from Synthesized Human Emulation Mk.8.014b, Otherwise Known as Katey” by Nikki Alfar, the co-editor of the latest batch of stories.

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.

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

All of the pieces for the third set of stories at PGS Online, co-edited by Kenneth Yu and Dean Alfar, have been uploaded to the site. If you haven’t read them yet, here they are (click on the image to go to the story):

PGS Online: “Fragrant Blood” by Elyss Punsalan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 18 - 2011

The third set of stories for PGS Online, this batch co-edited by Dean Alfar, has begun to roll out, kicking off with “Fragrant Blood” by Elyss Punsalan of Pakinggan Pilipinas. Expect stories from Alexander Osias, Vincent Simbulan, and Dean himself in the coming weeks.

“Malvar” by Paolo Chikiamco on PGS Online

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 18 - 2011

It’s been a year or so since I last had a new story available online, so I’m pleased to announce that my story “Malvar” has been published at PGS Online. It’s an alternative history story that deals with the consequences of a curse fueled by the Bataan Death March, and delves into the muddy border between vengeance and heroism. It was a tough story to write – I don’t think any story of mine has gone through so many revisions – but I hope the end product manages to entertain, or at least divert. This is the third in a set of four being co-edited by publisher Kenneth Yu and Yvette Tan, and I’d like to thank them for their feedback and support. Let me know what you think about the story, either here or at PGS. Thanks for reading!

“The Confessional” and “Sweet” at PGS Online

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 10 - 2011

All parts of “The Confessional” by Cyan Abad-Jugo and “Sweet” by Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon have been uploaded to Philippine Genre Stories Online. These are the first two stories in a set of four being co-edited by publisher Kenneth Yu and Yvette Tan. Kenneth has an interesting post up where he discusses that one of the benefits of going online is the ability to publish longer stories, but that he still decided to split both stories into two parts each.

The last story of the set will be from Yvette herself and the next one will be from me. As is becoming common for me, it’ll be an alternative history story with a good helping of the fantastic. I’ll post here when it goes live.

Videos: PGS Crime Issue and PSF 6 Issue Launch

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 31 - 2011

Here are videos from the joint PGS Crime Issue and PSF6 launch. First up is the PGS Crime launch in its entirety, split into two parts.

Don’t let Kyu’s modesty fool you, PGS is a very important part of the local genre scene, and I’m personally thrilled to see it online and reaching a wider audience.

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PSF6 Launch Photos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 29 - 2011

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The launch for the sixth volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction took place last Saturday, with the inimitable Dean Alfar once again serving as master of ceremonies and all-around entertainer–the PSF launches usually turn into roasts for the editors and contributors (and being absent is no defense) and a grand time was had by all. I’ll have videos from the launch and the earlier launch of the crime issue of Philippine Genre Stories later this week, but first here are some photographs from the event.

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In spite of the rains, (and some *ahem* premature storm warnings), the UView Theater of Fully Booked was jam packed–this photo is from early in the proceedings, and by midway people were lining the walls, in spite of the addition of the monobloc cavalry. The downside to that is the volume sold out minutes after the launch was over–if you want another print run, make sure you make your voices heard!

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Launch: Philippine Genre Stories Online

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 18 - 2011

Kenneth Yu’s “Digest of Philippine Genre Stories” was one of the reasons why I even realized it was possible to write and publish speculative fiction in the Philippines, and it gave new writers such as myself a chance to be recognized as authors. It’s hard to overstate the importance of having a regular publication that was open to submissions year round and accessible to young writers.

That’s why it gives me great pleasure to announce that PGS has been reborn online. You can read about the journey to the digital domain and the changes to the magazine here, or jump in and read the new story, “What You See” by Ian Casocot (art by The One Left Behind), the first of three selected by sub-editor Charles Tan. Expect a bit of chaos as PGS finds its place, as Kyu says in his introduction:

PGS online (as with the print digest before it) is a work-in-progress. I hope to improve it bit-by-bit over time, and I’d also like to see how this site fares over the next 12 months or so. The goals are the same: To get more people—especially younger folk, most especially Pinoys, but anyone would do—to discover the pleasures of and develop the habit of reading through fiction, fiction written by fellow Filipinos, in particular.

Congratulations to Kyu, Charles, and Ian, and best of luck on the new endeavor!

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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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