Interview #53!

The fifty-third author interview on TBPL Off the Shelf went live today.  This time I interviewed Kim Casey about her newest book, Thunder Bay District’s True Murder Investigations 1885-2016.  You can find the interview here!


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Interview #52

The fifty-second author interview on TBPL Off the Shelf went live today.  This time I interviewed Lin Anderson about writing a long standing series, where Patrick de Courvoisier is, and Bloody Scotland.  You can find the interview here!

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Designing Hostile Takeover’s Pearl

The final character in Hostile Takeover is Martin Ryker’s assistant, Pearl.


Pearl designed by Shaun Ellithorpe

Pearl was an interesting character to develop.  She started off as a joke in the very early stages of our planning on Friday night.  Originally named June (she was renamed at the request of one of the volunteers running the venue here in Thunder Bay), she was going to be a character who gave you random hilarious side quests. We talked about a filing mini-game, where you had to file things for her because being a ninja isn’t your day job.  Or while you’re hacking into Claudius Capital’s servers, you would need to find someone in the company who would be a good match for Pearl’s daughter or granddaughter.  Of course none of these ideas made it into the game (we only got the very first level into the game, and that doesn’t even have all the basic functionality we wanted in it).

While the mini-game idea was out, I wanted to keep Pearl in the game in some form.  We also ran into the problem of communicating the level objectives to the player (while the other three levels didn’t make it in, most of them all had slightly different objectives for you to accomplish before you could open the elevator and progress upwards).  Having her helping Ryker break into Claudius Capital gave an easy way to both have some story and to communicate objectives to the player.

I had a fun time writing her dialogue (only a little bit of which made it into the game).  I knew she was going to be a bit older from the get-go, so I spent a bunch of time on Saturday reading over Golden Girls quotes to get an idea for her voice.  She has a bit of a playful air to her dialogue, which is at odds with Ryker’s more stoic and short dialogue.  I also went through and removed words like “okay” and “intel” in favour of things like “great,” or “details.”  The result is that she sounds like a genuine regular person rather than a professional intelligence officer, which is exactly what I was going for.

A slight snag happened while trying to figure out why your assistant would help you break into another company to frame them.  I hit on the idea that she was an ex-Claudius Capital employee.  I thought that she was fired by the CEO and replaced by a younger woman, hence her own desire for revenge against the company.

When we were later thinking about the setup of the game (and how Ryker really isn’t the “good guy,” we thought it was a bit ludicrous that he had an assistant.  We talked about changing Pearl into his aunt, but by that point it was too late because the story screens were already added into the game calling her his assistant.  And with being down to the wire on our 48 hours, we had no time to change it. And so she remains his assistant.


Filed under Characters, Game Development, Game Jam, Hostile Takeover, Writing

Designing Hostile Takeover’s Michael Claudius the 3rd

Michael Claudius the 3rd was an interesting character to develop.  I knew while designing Martin Ryker that Claudius was the villain Ryker wanted to take down.  The problem was that Ryker himself isn’t exactly the “good guy” of this story.  I knew he was pretentious (he makes sure everyone knows he’s from old money with the whole “the 3rd”), but that was about it.  Then on Saturday, Shaun showed me this picture he’d created:

Michael Claudius the 3rd

Michael Claudius the 3rd designed by Shaun Ellithorpe

Yeah, that definitely doesn’t look like a good guy.

I wanted Claudius to have the first name “Michael” because it is supposed to mean “Who is like God?”  I took that literally in the sense that he is very full of himself.  His last name changed a few times, starting out as Costas, or Costel, changing to Constantine, and finally settling with Claudius.  The three previous names all mean “constant” or “steadfast;” I was initially thinking of using “constant” in the slogan for his company.  But somewhere along the way his name changed to Claudius (I believe that was at Shaun’s suggestion, but I can’t remember now).

Claudius Capital was an interesting thing to name as well (and I can’t take final credit for it – that was Shaun’s suggestion as well).  I had to look up investment companies to see how they are named first.  A lot of companies have a form of “invest,” “trading,” or “brokers” in their names.  So I was going to name his company “<his name> Investments.”  But then Shaun suggested Claudius Capital, which has a nice ring to it.

claudius capital banner

Claudius Capital banner designed by Shaun Ellithorpe

I didn’t worry too much about Claudius until Sunday, when we decided to make a trailer for the game, and later the Twitter page (we came up with the Claudius Capital slogan while making his Twitter page – I’m still not sure who in their right mind would actually invest with his company with that slogan!)  As I mentioned the other day, we used his Twitter account to justify some design decisions/lack of functionality for the demo.  I didn’t pay too much attention to voice, other than letting him make ridiculous and over the top pronouncements using hashtags.  He also has no dialogue, so I didn’t have to worry at all about his voice in the game.

All in all, Claudius was a fantastic collaboration.  He wouldn’t be who he is today without the help of my team (esp Shaun)!

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Designing Hostile Takeover’s Martin Ryker

During the NGDC, we knew we were making a guy who was a “trader by day, ninja by night.”  But it was up to me to flesh this guy out.  So the first thing I did was come up with his name.

Martin Ryker

Martin Ryker designed by Shaun Ellithorpe

To come up with his name, I went looking for names that meant things like “swift,” thinking he’s supposed to be a ninja.  I settled on Ryker, which means “fast” or “strider,” and Martin, which is derived from Martis, which is rooted in Mars, the god of war.  I thought it was a fitting name because Martin is waging his own war against Claudius Capital.

Once I had his name, I had to start thinking about Martin’s backstory.  For this, I mainly started asking myself questions like “what’s his job?” “How did he end up working at his company?” “What company does he work at?” “Why is he framing the other company for insider trading?”

Working through these questions, I named the two companies (which is also how Michael Claudius from Claudius Capital came into being).  I also had to figure out why Martin was a trader rather than a ninja (the whole team agreed that being a ninja would be the first choice here).  It was a little before we were packing up at the library on Friday night that I solidified his backstory: the other company had bankrupt him, and he was looking for revenge.

Since the NGDC was only 48 hours (and everyone lost a few hours due to technical difficulties), I was extremely grateful that I managed to have Martin’s backstory figured out all within the first night.

So on Saturday I worked on his dialogue a bit.  While I had his backstory, I had a bit of a hard time nailing a voice for him.  In the end I tried to go for more of the more “strong silent type” of character within the game. I kept his dialogue short and snappy (you can see a few lines at the beginning of the demo, when his assistant Pearl is telling him what to do – he has very short replies).

I later had to write dialogue for the trailer.  Since Martin is the one talking through the entire thing, I had a harder time keeping with the whole “strong silent type.”  Overall I thought his dialogue was alright.  If/when Hostile Takeover is made into a longer game, I’ll take another stab at nailing his voice down.

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I Survived the 2018 NGDC!

Well, I survived the 2018 Northern Game Design Challenge (NGDC)!

As I mentioned, my team decided we were building a platformer.  We were hoping we’d get something like “cyborg ninja” (which was one of the six possible themes we were able to work with), but the NGDC community voted on “the stock market” for us.  So we made a platformer based on the stock market.

One of my team members made the quip that our main character was a “trader by day, ninja by night.”  And so Hostile Takeover was born!

hostile takeover start screen

In Hostile Takeover, you play the ninja Martin Ryker who lost all his money and has been working as a stock trader.  He gets the chance to get even with Claudius Capital, the company that bankrupt him, when he hears they are being audited tomorrow for suspected insider trading.  Martin Ryker decides to sneak into Claudius Capital to plant evidence of insider trading, insuring the company will go down!

I was responsible for creating the character backstories for the game.  I also wrote the dialogue/cinematic stuff at the beginning of the game, designed the levels (I designed four in total), and found a lot of the sound effects used in the game.  Oh, and I created the Twitter account @ClaudiusCapital for the game’s villain, Michael Claudius the 3rd.  Claudius’ tweets were used to justify some of the things in what became our game’s demo (we managed to get only the first level working, and a lot of the mechanics/graphics are missing).

Here’s the video we created for the end of the NGDC.  Shaun, one of my team, put it together including the trailer.  I’m the one who played through the game for the demo part at the end of the video.

If you want to play through the game, head to  Everything we made so far is there, including links to the video and Claudius’ Twitter account.  The rest of the team wants to finish the game, so I’ll post more updates as progress continues.  🙂

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NGDC Starts in Less Than 24 Hours!

This is it – the last day before my first game jam starts!

I’m both excited and nervous.  The game jam hasn’t worked the way I thought it would, hence the nervousness.  I thought we’d be able to go to the venue, meet everyone and make teams.  But this one needed you in teams before the start of the jam.  So I ended up joining a team that was one person short.  I’m excited to meet them all for the first time tomorrow and make a game!

Today we have to decide on genre. It sounds like the rest of the team is preparing to make a platformer, which works for me. I love platformers and have always wanted to make one, so this will be great.

Wish me luck! 🙂

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