The Medical Necessity lore nobody asked for

Remember Medical Necessity? It was the game development project where I had my first ill-fated experience as a project manager. In the end, we got cancelled due to lack of progress during the first quarter of production, and the only surviving product is the purchasable sprite sheet on itch.io.

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The design document and production wiki note that the default names for the player’s allied soldiers are Homer, Berenson, Collins, and Cunningham. And while digging through a lifetime of old boxes preparing for my move to Portland, I found the original action figures those names came from. Their plastic has gone gummy and they’re now too fragile to do anything but collect dust, but at least I can photograph and chronicle the 4 most important toys I owned growing up.

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“Corps Man adventures” were one of my favorite pastimes growing up with my younger brother Jake. We had huge boxes of GI Joes, LEGOs, Star Wars figurines, and other assorted toys, and we went on countless adventures where we’d each control one or more characters in sprawling odysseys that often took us around the house, backyard, and even our friends’ houses if they were participating. Arctic expeditions, police/detective procedurals, time-traveling espionage, natural disasters, jailbreaks and manhunts… we role-played a huge amount of scenarios throughout the years, very rarely reusing characters or locales in favor of constantly inventing new backstories and storylines.

The squads on this page are among the very few action figures who always represented the same recurring characters. Jake and I each controlled our own 4-man team of special forces soldiers, and over the years they went on dozens of different missions for the “Power Team”, an international peacekeeping force. We made them ID Cards and everything.

The Rangers

My squad was the Rangers, and tbh they’re way more boring than the crazy stuff Jake came up with for his backstories. Just jump straight to the Mini-Force if you wanna see what a precocious 7-year-old can come up with.

Cunningham

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Cunningham (the American) was the leader of my squad, with pretty typical leaderly qualities like being good at any team role and keeping a clear head under pressure. His main gimmick was believing that tools are unnecessary with sufficient skills, which was why he had no backpack and no attachments on his rifle.

Homer

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Homer (the Australian) was the team’s muscle and combat specialist. He was always needlessly positive and optimistic, and had a tendency to get injured and need the other characters to drag him around until they found medical attention or a lull in combat to patch him up. He also wore the team’s parachute, which in our young minds made him literally immune to falling damage at any time.

Berenson

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Berenson (the Brit) was the team’s engineer and tech specialist. He wore a radio backpack so he could communicate with HQ, and was usually the one hotwiring vehicles or “hacking” something while everyone else defended him. He was the team complainer and usually sarcastically whining about having to do anything.

Collins

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Collins (the Norwegian) was the team’s pilot and sniper. He’d always be the one driving/flying whatever the squads were using to get around, and during combat he’d often hang in the back and snipe with his scoped rifle. He was a scaredy-cat and always nervous about what the teams were getting themselves into.

The Mini-Force

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Jake’s squad was the Mini-Force, and they wore tan uniforms to distinguish themselves from the Rangers’ green. Each teammate also outranked the next (unlike the Rangers, where everyone but Cunningham had the same rank) and could issue orders to anyone below them in this list.

Jake

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Jake himself was the commander of his squad. He had a custom uniform we made by stitching a bunch of different army men pieces together ala Frankenstein, and it represented his chameleon abilities–because he didn’t wear the uniform of any specific army, he could bluff his way into enemy bases by claiming he worked for them. His sidearm was a laser pistol he canonically built himself.

Cooper

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Cooper (the Canadian) was “the competent one”; he was the teammate who knew how to do everything, and Jake’s second-in-command. This often left him in-charge whenever Jake was infiltrating an enemy base. I don’t remember a single time he actually put those goggles on.

When it came time for me to move away to college, our parents got Jake a dog so he’d still have someone to play with, and he named it Cooper since it was his new second-in-command.

Loft

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Loft (the Antarctican) had a Barbarian-style rage that he could enter whenever he ate a Snickers bar. He didn’t talk much and he didn’t use guns, choosing instead to wade into battle dual-wielding a knife and a metal club. We used him as a “Shit, we need someone to do xyz but no human could realistically pull that off” plot device a lot.

Fireburst and Bentley

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Originally, the fourth member of the Mini-Force was Fireburst (the English, cause we thought England and Britain were separate countries). He was “the stupid one” and usually just fired his gun at enemies or screwed something up to make the mission harder. Then one day we lost him in the backyard and he got replaced with Bentley (the Russian), who had a black printing error on his chin we both interpreted as a minuscule soul patch. Bentley was a rock climber who could scale any wall, but he never got much of a personality; his main gimmick was not being incompetent like Fireburst.

(Years later we found Fireburst, who we decided was now a badass survivalist that retired after being rescued and reintroduced to society.)

The Power Team HQ

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Some other action figures entered the canon as we bought more figurines from the same set. They only rarely appeared as “guest stars” for a mission, or in storylines that involved the home base being attacked by invaders.

Xaviers

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Maximilian Xaviers was the commander of the HQ, and often the one assigning us missions. He preferred to stay off the front lines, so he’d wield a high-powered sniper rifle whenever he found himself involved in combat. Sometimes he’d get kidnapped and we needed to go rescue him.

Damont

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At some point, we realized HQ’s radio operator should get a name since we’re constantly talking to him, and thus Omeed Damont was born. He was a redeemed criminal and sworn noncombatant who refused to fight or kill anyone, so he never did anything beyond being the radio guy.

Møter 

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Achmed Møter was far-and-away the least seen character. His only job was being “a soldier stationed at HQ” and filling any minor plot role when we didn’t have another character to do it. I think he even died once or twice. We pronounced his last name as “Moy-turr” but that’s probably not how that letter actually sounds.

Mahgninnuc

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Mahgninnuc was Cunningham’s evil twin, and he had a red eye and blond goatee we added with sharpie. Sometimes he commanded the evil forces, sometimes he was an underling working for the current villains, but he was always Cunningham’s arch-nemesis and the only recurring antagonist. He wielded a transparent red sword that could superheat to cut through anything, and often used it to escape after the heroes destroyed his evil plan of the week. I don’t think they ever ended up catching him.


This is actually the second time I rediscovered this small bag of action figures. They also reappeared while Jake and I were cleaning the basement shortly before I was gonna move away for college in 2009, and we enacted a short ceremony where Xaviers gave all eight of them medals and they retired with full military honors. Shame I can’t really remember any of the missions they actually went on, but these dudes are an important part of why I grew up loving storytelling to the degree I do.

New Novella!

Ever wondered where Emilena learned to swordfight? Want to see her clash with pirates, survive tropical storms, seduce a pirate queen, and negotiate with poorly-managed cruise liners on the high seas? Read Surviving the Serris Sea!

I didn’t actually set out for it to be 18,000 words long, I just had a lot of different oceanic complications I wanted to fit in there because it’s a pretty big departure from my usual plots. I wanted to push Emilena out of her comfort zone and leave the gritty urban environments where she and Flora have most of their adventures. Hope you like it!

New game released!

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Ever wondered whether Harry Potter could successfully bring the One Ring to Mordor? Now you can find out!

Here’s something that kinda came out of nowhere. I’m prepping for my move to Portland and last night I went through two dozen ancient boxes of crap from the undergraduate (and earlier) years. I found a couple surprising things here and there, including one of my white whales; the final project I created for a summer abroad course in 2011. I took the heroes from all 7 books we covered (Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Golden Compass, Harry Potter, Howl’s Moving Castle) and created a matrix where you can choose any hero and transplant them into any other universe to see how they’d fare.

I thought this thing was long gone for ages, but lo and behold it was sitting happily on an old flash drive. I added in-browser compatibility, updated the interpreter to fix a scrolling bug on Google Chrome, and now it’ll be online for all eternity, never to be lost again. Hooray! There are 42 different scenarios to explore, so I hope you have fun! 😀

Looking Back

As mentioned in my other blog post this week, I just chewed through a lifetime of old storage boxes in one evening. I didn’t really have a choice; Goodwill was coming in the morning, and lord knows I didn’t want the donatables sitting around for another 2 weeks before the next time they’d swing by.

But I’m honestly glad they spurred my hand and made me sift through it all, because I found a bunch of diamonds in the rough. Old things I’d long lost and never thought I’d see again. The biggest and best white whale was Oxford: Portal to Fantasy, but there were also several old videos from long before I’d even created a YouTube account. These days they’re useful only to remind myself that I’m actually improving at my craft. Without further ado, in order of age:

1. Chelvis Nemo Productions

The first videos I ever edited were a loose tetralogy of vignettes starring my brother, with a different neighborhood friend as the villain in each short (I’m the evil wizard in ‘Return of the Kingdom’). I did all the work in iMovie, and honestly these turned out pretty entertaining even all these years later. It helps they don’t overstay their welcome, clocking out at 1:24 minutes each.

2. A Cheesy Love Story

At some point in high school, I attended a UCLA film camp and this short flick was the resulting abomination my group produced. Once again I played the villain and handled all the editing, though it’s clear I was still getting the hang of cutting different takes together. I also composed that godawful song at 2:36 using GarageBand.

3. Interrobang: The Art of War

In college I first started getting the idea of creating my own YouTube channel, and recorded the pilot for a planned series of videos where I talk about classic works of literature. This series was going to be called “Interrobang” and star myself playing a character named Mark, but it never progressed beyond this single episode. The editing is still choppy, and it’s painfully audible whenever I switch between sound files.

4. What was that, Sandvich?

This was the first thing I ever uploaded to YouTube (which almost immediately earned my first dislike!) It was a really obvious joke any TF2 fan would have thought of after this MLP scene aired 3 days prior. I was hired by Legend of Equestria shortly after this, and put my videography dreams on hold to develop games, which would remain my primary passion even after starting The SPUF of Legend in February 2016.

5. The SPUF of Legend – Episode 0

While the first public upload to the SPUF of Legend was our guide to TF2 weapon pickups, this unlisted test video is actually a few hours older. I’m clearly heavily influenced by STAR_‘s style and have transferred into gaming commentary away from appearing on camera in person.

6. The Only 5 Melee Weapons Worth Using in Payday 2

I know we’ve progressed beyond the purview of “Nick’s early videos” but this Payday vid was probably the most important one I ever uploaded to the channel. I’d been releasing game commentaries for years by this point, and had developed a bit of a following. But I was getting tired of the 5-10 minute format and designed this video to cover its topic and wrap itself up as fast as conceivably possible. I didn’t anticipate how popular the “lightning list” format would be, and all my future videos heavily modeled themselves after this one. It’s also where I started regularly adding subtitles after non-native English speakers complained they had trouble parsing my rapidfire format.

7. VGFAQ

I didn’t return to the on-camera format until VGFAQ started paying me money to create videos for their channel. For the first time, I had to handle lighting and making my face look decent while reciting my lines (you can tell I sneak a ton of cuts in there, usually during card transitions so the viewer’s hopefully not looking at me). The convention videos didn’t get enough views to justify the time, money and work we put into making them, but I’m glad I got to stretch my legs as a roving videographer for GDC and E3.

And that’s pretty much it for big milestones! I’ll be going through some sort of transition soon, since I’ll be stuck up in Portland without my tank of a desktop and will have to make videos without relying on 1080p AAA game footage to distract the viewer from the simplistic editing. Honestly, I’m kinda looking forward to the challenge; as my early vids show, I never got into videography for the journalism. I’ve always wanted to tell stories using a visual medium, so we’ll just have to see if I can weather yet another paradigm shift.

Job receipt #7

So I didn’t apply for a job today, but for a semi-good reason; my brother has offered to look over my resume and cover letter to see whether he has any advice for improving them. He’s head of HR for a startup that he joined right out of college, and he’s worked his way up there from an intern phonebanker, so he knows a thing or two about getting people to read your stuff without rejecting it out of hand. I don’t want to apply for anything until he gets back to me with feedback.

So I did some editing on Tabula Rasa, added a few scenes that I only realized after the fact improved flow in a few places. I also wrote a standalone vignette, Bare-athon, the first story in Electra City Chronicles that stars Emilena. It may or may not be based on a thought experiment where I pondered ways the city-crossing feat she pulls off in the story would be possible.

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omg so adorable

I also gotta play some video games today, because I once again have run out of Borderlands 3 videos in my queue. Thankfully I have no trips for the next month, so I can finally make these videos and actually create a backlog that I don’t immediately have to cash in. I need to finish the whole storyline by October 16th because I don’t currently have a plan for getting my massive desktop up there. I’m considering leaving it at home and using it as a motivation to find a real job and afford a long-term apartment. And I also want to do the 12 Quickplay games needed to earn Lego Bastion in Overwatch, just because he’s insanely cute and I loved Lego growing up.

Tabula Rasa is out!

I have had a whirlwind of a September. I got this idea to novelize the long-dead Blanking the Slate roleplay, and while I’d mentally dismissed the notion a few times already over the years, this time it rooted in my head when I realized I could slightly adapt the focus and turn it into the story of Emilena’s drug-running gang first meeting each other and eventually forming their core team.

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Introducing Tabula Rasa! At 66609 words in its first draft, it’s the longest individual work in the Electra City canon. I was originally going to write it for NaNoWriMo 2019, in the same spirit that I wrote the book it’s a sequel to for NaNoWriMo 2015. Unfortunately I couldn’t wait, and ultimately chewed through the whole thing from July 28 to today.

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I guess it ended up being my NaSeptWriMo D:

It needs a lot of revisions, as any work does when speed-written over the course of a month, but I’m really glad it exists in its current form. Blanking the Slate was a good RP and it sucked that it died without wrapping up the final storyline. We were so close to the end too! Also, I never expected to explore the Hemlock Gang’s forming; it was always something I figured just happened without pomp and circumstance between eras. But now that it exists, and incorporates the twists and plots I mapped out in Blanking the Slate, I think it fills a really nice bridge between the era of Electra City and The Hemlock Gang.

Since my editing phases can be a long and never-ending process, I decided to throw Tabula Rasa live in its current form, though I’ll probably be heavily tweaking the document over the next few months. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Job receipt #6

downtown applied.pngShortest blog post ever! Go read A Rose for Rose instead, it published today and was good stuff. In SB for my brother’s birthday right now, tomorrow we ride the Landshark, an amphibious vehicle that drives gaily off the pier halfway through the tour. I’m kinda excited to be able to say I’ve ridden an amphibious vehicle after this, even though it’s a pretty minor tick on the bucket list.