Operation Backlog Completion 2017

Jul 182012
 

At last, I’m almost done editing the novella I called “Morning Star,” and it was a painful process. I wrote it about five years ago, in response to a prompt I found on the Internet. I was convinced the resulting story was one of the best things I had ever written. I tried to get it published, and when that failed, I set it aside with the intent of editing it again sometime in the future.

Now, five years later, I went back to it warily, knowing there were many things about it that had to be worked on. I can say one thing in its favor–thanks to “Morning Star,” there is no doubt left in my mind that my writing skills have improved.

You can fall into a trap of thinking of editing as a calm procedure during which you re-live your story, fix some typos, and maybe catch an embarrassing plot hole that hadn’t occurred to you before. This was not that sort of editing. Oh, there were traces of it, and it’s not like the entire story needed to be scrapped. On the other hand, every paragraph needed something done to it. Some just had awkward phrasing. Some were written in such a juvenile fashion that I cringed. Some had to be rewritten entirely, because the existing section was just a bad plot element.

The good news is that that story is now one step closer to being publishable. Editing it wasn’t fun, but it was necessary.

Update: Since then, I’ve looked at Morning Star and realized that I can only save it if I scrap it and start all over. For stories that fared much better, check out my fiction publications.

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Jul 032012
 

Cover for Resident Evil RevelationsToday I was looking at my 3DS, and I saw the demo for Resident Evil: Revelations. As you know, Revelations was marketed as a return to the series roots, and if you’ve read my thoughts on the state of survival horror in the Resident Evil series, you know that Revelations was decidedly not survival horror. However, when I first played the demo, I was delighted with it! I was convinced that if the majority of the game played like that, I would be content. (Ironically, I felt the part of the game that the demo came from was actually stronger in the main game; the two didn’t play exactly the same.) So I decided to replay the demo and see what it had that the game itself lacked.

Starting the demo, I find myself controlling Jill. She is alone, having woken up in a strange room aboard the Queen Zenobia. Contacting her partner, they make a plan to meet up. From there I can investigate the room. There are several things to look at, with Jill silently commenting on the various objects I inspect. The room itself is beautiful, letting you study other things that can’t be interacted with–many of which spawned theories and speculation that in the end meant absolutely nothing.

The door leading to the hall is locked, controlled by panel to the side that is screwed shut. Fortunately, there is another door, leading to a new room to explore. Inspecting that area leads you to a tub that must be drained, with a screwdriver concealed inside. That triggers the first monster attack, as leaving the area puts you in contact with an Ooze that must be killed so that you can escape the room. If you play the way I do (badly) this uses a lot of bullets, of which you only have ten, but there are five more lying nearby.

So far, other than the forced battle, nothing has happened that points against it being survival horror. Now you have to solve a puzzle to open the door, an interesting little thing that makes use of the touchscreen. It’s not bad for a first puzzle–they didn’t tell me that virtually every puzzle in the game would be a variation on the exact same thing. Instead, this suggested unique ways to employ the touchscreen in RE puzzles.

Out in the hall, you find a room with a shotgun–a bit early to find a better weapon, but you only have two bullets for it–and your first green herb. Depending on how that Ooze battle went earlier, you may have to use it and be down to no green herbs again already. The same room also contains the chest that will be used to upgrade weapons, but you can’t use it in the demo. But better yet, the hallway contains two more doors! One is locked–an excellent sign for later exploration, and the other leads to the next area.

The next two rooms contain an easily avoidable enemy, a little ammo, an herb, and several things that look out of place–like they might be puzzle items later on. I believe one or two might have actually been files in the main game. None were puzzle items.

Next we find a hallway with one locked door–clearly different from the last one, as it requires a keycard–some ammo, and a jump scare. The Ooze can be avoided, if you want to go to the next room instead of fighting. This leads to a beautiful room with a few doors (four, to be precise: the one you came from, one locked door, and two up the stairs), a couple items, and the general feeling of a hub area akin to the main hall of Spencer’s mansion. One door leads to a room where you get the scanner, one of the game’s best features.

The ability to scan for items and handprints–and by items, I mean ammo and herbs; it’s not like the game has any puzzle items for you to find–increases the desire to explore, and scanning enemies will get you percentages towards a new herb. Unfortunately, backtracking with the scanner gets you nothing, unless you want to scan the Ooze you dodged.

Another enemy appears in the room once you have the scanner, although it’s still fairly easy to dodge. Using your scanner instead of hurrying ahead nets you some more items; you may be full on handgun ammo by now. The ammo limit could be taken one of two ways–either you’ll always have enough, so you don’t have to worry about stockpiling it, or it will purposely reduce your ability to fight. In my playthrough on Normal, it leaned towards the former. Here you also find a grenade.

In the next room, you find a regular Ooze that can be easily avoided, an exploding Ooze that always gets me, and another grenade (hidden, so you have to use the scanner). That is a strength that carries over to the game–using the scanner can help you find more items, but it makes you slow down and therefore puts you in more danger from enemies.

In the next hallway, there is a hidden item and a dangerous Ooze. By this point, I had accumulated enough shotgun ammo that I could take care of it, but not without taking damage myself. I then went to the elevator. The elevator reunites me with Parker, but my AI partner takes off without me to reach the bridge. In the next room, there are lockers to investigate and find some ammo in, but not much else. Finally making it to the bridge, we find a locked door and the plot point that ends the demo.

So in the end…what was it? The combat was fairly consistent with how Revelations actually was; I think it was mainly what even the start of Revelations did as well that got me–hinting at survival horror elements. The locked doors–suggesting greater exploration than what you ever got. The screwdriver and door puzzle–suggesting puzzles like in the games of old. Overall, the demo never lied about anything. It just presented things in such a way that if you were hoping the game would be classic survival horror, you could convince yourself that the elements were there.

The game took it even further, teasing the various keys that would be needed and having an item you couldn’t get without a medallion. The depressing thing is that it was all window dressing. Revelations never made the jump to survival horror, but it used superficial shout-outs to the classic games to pretend that’s what it was.

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