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! 😀
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Shortest 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.
I don’t normally discuss other people’s characters in my blog posts (except this one), but nick22 has a certain OC who I’ve never given the spotlight until now. While cataloging the timelines for Emilena and Flora, I realized that Rose is probably the third most frequently-appearing character across the Into the Black franchise. Part of that is her author’s dedication to the roleplays, but I’ve also found myself frequently using her in my own writing because she fits into a lot of different plots.
Despite appearing in the first RP, Rose wouldn’t get a character sheet until the sequel Racing the Storm.
The first thing I liked about nick’s characterization for Rose is that she begins the story incredibly flawed, as a drug addict currently working as a stripper who hates her job. That’s a far cry from every other author’s starting character; Soren, Emilena, Axel, and Marita are all living relatively-happy lives in a field of study that motivates them. I also like how her main-character status subverts the common trope of making sex workers disposable side characters. This particular trope (along with Bury Your Gays, which Rose also qualifies for) has always bugged the hell out of me because it seems to stem from outdated conservative notions that Hollywood needs to get the fuck over.
Over the course of the plot, Rose’s working establishment is destroyed and (like everyone else) she can’t get a new job because she’s too busy surviving the government/terrorist-fueled conspiracy that dominates the first RP. But her dancing/performance background repeatedly comes into play as she turns into the team’s chameleon, capable of using charisma and guile to infiltrate places the others can’t strong-arm their way into (even spending a large part of Blanking the Slate undercover as an employee of the primary antagonists). Maybe it’s just because bards are my favorite D&D class, but this element of her character was always fun and part of the reason I used her in multiple stories of my own.
When bushwacked and I added Lily’s clone into Blanking the Slate, I had the terrible idea to name her Rose. I thought it would be symbolic, both because they’re named after flowers and because she struggles with being a copycat so it’d be meta that even her name already belongs to a real character. But to nobody’s surprise, it got confusing the millisecond she entered the field and she was referred to as “Lily’s clone” exclusively after a single scene.
Now, I couldn’t port Rose over directly to my own stories, because I don’t like borrowing other author’s characters wholecloth, but when I novelized Into the Black (now renamed Electra City), I wanted to keep Rose’s role in the plot. She became Rachel, whereas Marita and Axel were merged into Mason. Mason had a brother-sister bond with Rachel rather than the romantic relationship Marita and Rose originally had, just because Nairda/Emilena and Mason/Lily were already a thing and I wanted more variety in character relations. Of course, Rachel is killed by the pulse bomb at the end of the novel, mostly because everybody else had already died/survived and I needed to kill at least one main character to drive home how catastrophic the Purifier pulse bomb was on Electra.
However, when it came time to novelize Blanking the Slate, I realized I wanted the character to come back, so I lazily noted that she faked her death and Rachel got to return for the sequel novel Tabula Rasa. While she didn’t have as much to do in that book, she became a main character for the tie-in story cycle Echo Chambers, where Rachel and Leah (who was modeled after Marita) travel with Flora to Sartonic. This makes Rachel the only character to appear in all three novels, and gives her a unique arc because she abandons the protagonists at the end of every book, until the last chapter of Echo Chambers where she redeems herself by returning and sacrificing her freedom to save Flora.
Rose transcends the Into the Black canon and crosses into the Insane Cafe as well, because I wanted some sort of character cameo when Aimee and Shakila visit Lanthae in The Approaching Light. Again, Rose’s vulnerable starting state made her an attractive choice for the cameo, as it put her in a situation where she could ask the heroes for help, and then reciprocate to aid them in escaping the city.
Last but not least, she even cameos in the Electra City video game! Press 7 while in the arena and she’ll spawn as a third neutral fighter controlled with the number pad. (She can’t deal damage and dies in one hit, but Rose was never a combat character anyway.) This mostly happened because I felt bad Nick was the only author who didn’t get a playable fighter.
Anyway, I’m not sure why I wrote this, except to delve a little bit into probably the most influential character on my Into the Black writing who wasn’t originally made by me. Today is actually also the sixth anniversary of the first post she appears in. Happy birthday, Rose!
Won’t be able to do one tomorrow either, the family surprised me by a big family trip up to see my brother for his birthday. I don’t mind, but it’s a daylong drive.
I seriously don’t get who’s watching these. The whole game’s already on YouTube somewhere and I’m not even talking or anything. It’s just…footage.
I busted my butt getting enough Borderlands 3 walkthroughs to fill my Portland trip (which went super well! Should be moving up in the next month or so) and now I had to do another one-day marathon to fill the 5-day Birthday trip I’m about to undergo. Not too fussed though, because it’s super easy to crank out 15-minute snippets of Borderlands content. It really is a blast of a game, I wish I could play it as intended and not blitzing through without any friends.
Also got my first rejection, Action Squad Portland wasn’t interested. I respect ’em for letting me know, but blimey I dunno how I could have been more qualified. Ah well. Expect another blog post today, just to get an ease-of-life bookkeeping document out of my head.
(Update: Backdated it to August 14th, I’m probably gonna be linking to it in the future and I don’t want it flanked on both sides by job receipts.)
As great as it’s been to actually succeed at applying to daily jobs for the first time in my life (seriously, you do not want to know how many times I’ve failed at getting more than two in a row before falling back on bad habits and getting bailed out by a surprise freelance gig), I’m gonna need to take a short break as I’ll be up in Portland for the rest of the weekend looking at apartments. I’m also bringing a massive duffel bag of low-priority stuff and leaving it there to facilitate my eventual moving process. I genuinely have no idea how I’m gonna get my massive Area 51 desktop anywhere; me and Dad couldn’t even lift it. I might call Alienware, show them its history of bluescreens, and demand they swap it out for a new one at my Portland address.
Anyway, today was frickin’ busy so I’ve finally got other things to mention. Borderlands 3 came out last night and I’m getting paid by VGFAQ to make no-commentary walkthroughs so I busted the first 5 out last night so I didn’t need to think about it for the rest of my trip. I’ll be honest, I was not jazzed at the timing and went into my first playthrough extremely grumpy, so it’s a point in Gearbox’s favor that I quickly found myself loving the game anyway. It’s just more of the same Borderlands content but with every single one of my complaints addressed. (You want female raiders? Done! A button at vending machines that quickbuys ammo for every gun? Of course! Mobility mechanics? We stole everything from Apex Legends!) Thank god VGFAQ’s reimbursing me for the hundred bucks for the Season Pass.
The last thing I needed to complete before I could fly tomorrow was cleaning out the aforementioned duffel bag as it contained a massive laundry list of papers from every era of my life that I kept stuffing in there rather than sort my past out. It was honestly therapeutic seeing all the old stories, notes, screenplays, sketches, and outlines I’d created for various creative endeavors at different points. Most excitingly, I found a lot of my old tabletop RPG characters from college. I used to work as a professional GM for Strategicon, and I’d completely forgotten about the nameless amnesiac woman I’d played in somebody’s game of Psi*Run. The coolest thing about Psi*Run was how you wrote questions for your character without knowing the answers, and the game would organically tease out answers devised by everyone around the table. And any Into the Black readers should be getting some serious deja vu from this character sheet because she was ported directly into that universe as Lily North.
My second-favorite player character from that era was Presley August, voted by my college friends as the single most annoying character I have ever played. It was (and still is) the only time I’ve ever played Call of Cthulhu, and due to the system’s infamous mortality rate I decided to play an obnoxiously arrogant underage dilettante who thought he was better than everyone else. The team ended up ditching him in the hull of an abandoned ghost ship after he failed a Will Save to not start lighting cultist incense. Said incense caused him to lose all his sanity and hallucinate he was in R’lyeh seeing all the Elder gods at once, and then a Kraken showed up and swallowed the ship whole. The GM added that last bit just because everybody wanted to see him die. Poor Presley.
And lastly there’s Bogard, the first (and longest-lasting) character I’ve ever played. I wrote him a backstory and everything, set to the tune of Gilligan’s Island. My friends and I were all brand new to tabletop gaming, and we played that initial campaign almost every weekend for over two years. At one point we switched who was GM, and players frequently dropped out/joined or switched characters, and ultimately Bogard was the only character who survived the entire adventure (which was less of a campaign and more a series of unconnected vignettes sending them all over the medieval world). After getting some financial advice from GitP, I had him buy his own castle and rule over his own township. Most of my characters after him (including the two above) weren’t so lucky…
Action Squad Portland actually sounds pretty cool; I’d be down to organize grassroots esports events. Shame their games of note are Fortnite, Clash Royale and League of Legends.
In other news, wrote another Flora micro-story, this one exploring a noodle incident from the RPs. I don’t have time for the 20k stories I normally write, but it’s been therapeutic to bust out little 1.5k vignettes now and again. Also wrote a blog post for the Daily SPUF, but it won’t go live until the 16th. Never forget the Sticky Jumper ;_;7