Announcing The Closer: Game of the Year Edition

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If you’ve been following my World War K series, I should probably start with an apology. Ever since the Kansas City Royals made it to the World Series, it’s been hard to stay motivated. But that’s not the only reason I haven’t made a post every week, or why the posts have been shorter.  The truth is, I’ve been working on something else.

That something else is The Closer: Game of the Year Edition

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What The Fuck Is This?

The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is a computer game, made (almost) exclusively by me. Because I like to do dumb things with my free time. Because I spend most of my not-free time doing boring, not-dumb things like being a lawyer.

This Looks Like It Is Made In RPG Maker!

That is because it is.

But RPG Maker Games Are Terrible!

To The Moon is pretty great, right?  Well, this isn’t To The Moon. To The Moon is touching story about death and regret. This is the tale of a young relief pitcher who gives up the winning run in game 6 of the World Series and goes on an epic quest to regain his confidence before a decisive game 7.  Along the way, he encounters bar trivia contests, Japanese PC games, pop-Marxist philosophy, and existential terror. In no particular order.

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Is This A Joke?

No, this is not a joke. Well, yes, it is a joke. But I am making this game. So it’s not a joke.

Seriously?

Listen, I know that Barkley: Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden worked through a lot of the same ground I’m traversing here.  Barkley is fantastic and I won’t pretend I wasn’t inspired by it. But I’m a baseball fan, and I wanted to make a game about baseball. And when it’s done I will be giving this away for free, so stop complaining.

This Will Be Free?

There are a good number of likenesses and trademarks and art assets from MLB used in this game that, heh, I haven’t exactly negotiated.  While I am fairly comfortable in asserting that this is all parody, within the fair use exemptions that can go along with that, I’m not dumb enough to try and profit off of this. When this is done, it will be released for free with permission to upload it or whatever else you might want to do with it elsewhere.

How Can I Play It?

Unfortunately, as of now, the most updated version of RPG Maker only lets you play games on Windows PCs.  Supposedly Android middleware is coming, but I will believe it (and do a port) when I see it.

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So What Kind Of Game Is This?

While I’m using RPG Maker–mostly because I’m far more interested in writing than programming–The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is more of an adventure game. Or maybe you’d call it a visual novel.  There are battles, there are Game Overs, but for the most part it’s not about those things. It’s about the story. And the choices you make. And jokes.  Featuring:

  • Multiple party members, almost all of which have their own unique “fighting” style, including pitching, debate, and Sabermagics
  • Something resembling branching story lines
  • Music by Jenny Gibbons (Check out The Closer’s Entrance – as well as her other work – on Bandcamp)
  • Lots and lots of words, so if you’ve enjoyed World War K or any of my other writing, you should check this out.

But It’s Hard To Make A Funny Video Game!

Oh god, I know. It’s almost impossible to control precise timing in video games, which strips out a ton of the nuance in comedy.  Truly funny video games are few and far between, but that’s not going to stop me from trying because this is more for my own amusement than anything else.

These Screenshots Look Rough!

Yeah, a good amount of the pixel art is stuff is modified from the RPG Maker package or hastily made myself.  The battle screens are pasted together by, again, me.  The maps could clearly I am not particularly skilled at art. It could get better before release.  Honestly, it might not get better before release.  I am aware that I am not the best artist.

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So What Is The Story?

Game Six of the World Series.  Ninth inning.  St. Louis at New York, with New York up 3-2. One strike away from winning the World Series, the closer for New York gives up a monstrous home run (and the lead) to reigning NL MVP Carlos Rodriguez.  After the game, he realizes that his dominating slider has turned into an easily-hittable meatball.  With less than 24 hours until Game 7, he needs to learn a new pitch before the next inevitable Game 7 showdown against Rodriguez.

But How Does He Know He Will Have To Face Rodriguez In Game 7?

Buddy, it’s call dramatic license.

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So, When Is This Releasing?

I’m glad you’re asking this question because it means that you’re interested. The Closer: Game of the Year Edition will be released in 2015. Yeah, that’s not a well-defined time. That’s because I don’t know how long this is going to take.  A good portion of it is already done, and (mostly) bug-free.  Halfway?  Probably a bit more than that. Depends on how deep this rabbit hole is going to go.

You Don’t Know When It Will Be Done? Why Are You Announcing This?

Hey, watch it with the hostility.

Basically, I want to talk about this game. I want another thing to post about, and a reason to post more about video games in general. The Closer isn’t a very traditional video game, unless you consider  jokes-instead-of-gore Corpse Party a traditional video game. Developing something myself, as unconventional as it might be, gives me an excuse to make posts about video games.

You’re Not Doing A Very Good Job Of Selling This Game.

Oh, I know.  This is an RPG Maker game made by someone who is a writer, not a game designer or an artist. I’m well aware of all the caveats that have to go with a project like this.

But this is a game where Slovenian philosopher Slajov Zizek can get into a debate about feminism with an elevator operator to infiltrate Twitter headquarters.

So, c’mon, you’re curious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB The Show: World War K – Three Blights in August

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: Can’t Get Fooled Again

Winning is hard, but apparently losing is even harder.  Pat Burrell and the Royals had set out to accomplish something far more difficult than sealing the deal on a solid division: blowing it in dramatic fashion.  In the past, the Kansas City Royals had made losing games look simple, but in 2014 they were a team of destiny.  Not only did they have the general momentum of the 2014-prime timeline on their side, but the improvements made by Pat Burrell and Strike-O-Matic gave them an extra push that was hard to undo.  Trading the closer and wrecking the up-the-middle defense by giving starting jobs to Brad Miller, Miguel Sano, and Jesus Montero should have been enough…  But was it?

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The problem with relying on a poor defense to sink the Royals should have been clear: the team’s three best pitchers were strikeout specialists. Strike-O-Matic, Carlos Martinez, and Kyle Zimmer all had K/9 rates over 8.00, which limited the amount of damage the terrible up-the-middle combination could do to them.  Even Jesus Montero was capable of catching a fastball, and Sano/Miller simply didn’t get enough chances to let fieldable balls get away.  On the offensive side, they were even barely a step down from the players they were replacing.  Miller played about as well as Escobar had, and while Sal Perez was a much better hitter than Jesus Montero, his 2014 numbers simply hadn’t borne that out.  And as for Miguel Sano, who should have been completely overmatched in MLB?  Well…

Sano

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MLB The Show – World War K: You Can’t Get Fooled Again

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: Trust The Plot Twist

At the end of July 2014, emergency repairs initiated by Strike-O-Matic’s internal systems revealed the terrible truth of his mission from the future.  He had not been sent back in time to help the Kansas City Royals get to the World Series.  In fact, he had been sent back to prevent Kansas City from taking the pennant.  This compelled Pat Burrell into taking desperate measures, making dramatic changes to the roster.  They wanted the team to collapse in 2014, but without ruining the team’s public image or hopes for future seasons.

With this in mind, Burrell attempted to recruit the services of blogger Dave Cameron, but accidentally ended up retaining the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron. It was a mistake anyone could make, but particularly likely when the person put in charge of the deal was Eric Hosmer.

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With David Cameron’s help, Pat Burrell retooled the team, trading a number of significant pieces from the ML roster.  But more importantly, the team would be handicapped by some rather lineup decisions suggested by PM David Cameron after reading the work of blogger Dave Cameron.  The team now looked something like this:

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MLB The Show – World War K: Trust The Plot Twist

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: All Stars and aWARs

As July came to a close, everything was going according to plan for the alt-2014 Royals.  Following the all-star break, the team went on a dramatic winning streak, pulling well ahead of the AL Central.  The core of the offense–Hosmer, Burrell, Holliday, and Gordon–were finally firing on all cylinders.  Meanwhile, Strike-O-Matic, Carlos Martinez, Kyle Zimmer, and Bartolo Colon routinely provided quality starts and saved the shaky bullpen from overexposure.  It was starting to look like the Royals wouldn’t have any problem cruising to the playoffs.

standings

It seemed as though Strike-O-Matic and Pat Burrell didn’t have much to worry about as the trade deadline approached.  But then one morning, shortly before a press conference to honor him for yet another MLB Rookie of the Week award, Strike-O-Matic injured himself by trying to iron his shirt while he was wearing it.  Of course, he was a machine, so this wasn’t really a problem.  He just needed to repair the damage to his artificial skin and reboot.  But in the process of restarting his internal computer, Strike-O-Matic regained all of the memories he had lost during the time travel process.

After all, Strike-O-Matic had been sent back from the post-apocalyptic future of 2099 to work with Mike Trout and the Angels to save baseball.  He had only recruited Pat Burrell and joined the Royals after a memory malfunction. No one assumed this was a problem, since it shouldn’t have mattered which team Strike-O-Matic helped to win, as long as it both changed history and stopped the robot masters.  But when Strike-O-Matic’s internal computer rebooted, he remembered a terrible truth.

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On Oscar Taveras

This is not why we watch baseball.

Baseball is supposed to be an escape from the terrible things in life. Yes, baseball aggravates us.  It hurts us. It puts us on the edge our seats and then it swiftly pushes us back, crushing us with disappointment and regret. But in the end, it is just a game. We let ourselves care so much about baseball because it’s something safe to care about. As much as losing the NLCS hurt, it didn’t really mean anything. Life went on, just as it had before, with all those negative emotions vented off into something as ultimately meaningless as a game where grown men hit leather balls with wooden sticks.

We don’t watch baseball for moments like this.

Oscar Taveras was 22 years old and one of the most promising young players in baseball. The fact that he had a sweet swing doesn’t make his death any more tragic, but it does make it more familiar. That swing is the reason I’ve known about Oscar Taveras for more than four years, even though he just made his Major League debut in 2014.  I’ve anticipated seeing him develop into a productive ML player since 2010, when he hit .303/.342/.485 as an 18 year old in the rookie leagues.  He became something of a household name among prospect watchers the next season, putting up a 1.028 OPS at single-A.  His development since had been a bit rocky, but he always maintained that amazing swing.

God damn it, I shouldn’t be writing this right now. I shouldn’t be talking about Oscar Taveras’s career in the past tense.  He was just getting started. He had barely even begun to recognize his own potential. Not just in baseball, but in life. As much as I want to eulogize him, to describe everything he was to the St. Louis fans and everything he could have been, it just isn’t right. This isn’t what baseball is about.

FUCK.

The reason we watch baseball is because baseball has rules. There are nine innings. Twenty-seven outs. Three strikes. Four balls. The foul lines define the field of play, blazing out a tiny patch of grass in which outcomes are dictated by well-understood principles. When your team loses, it makes sense. There is always a reason. The pitcher struggled. The lineup was silent. The manager made some head-scratching decisions. But it all comes down to rules we understand and a series of systems, built one atop another, that creates meaning and purpose where there is none.

Then something like this happens. Life doesn’t have rules. There are no innings, outs, strikes, balls, nothing. Life is chaos, unbounded by the lines we draw upon it.

And it’s fucking bullshit.

No one should die at 22. No parents should have to bury their child. If life was baseball, this would be a foul. An error. A balk. A play under review that should be reversed because this should not happen.

I turned 22 in 2006, just a week after the Cardinals won the World Series. It is recent enough that I can still remember it, but long enough ago that I know I was a different person. I wasn’t married yet, though we had set the date.

If I died at the exact age Taveras did–day and date–I would have died on the day of my wedding.

But this isn’t about me and it shouldn’t be about me. I’m still here. Someone else isn’t.

Last night, I picked up my laptop to get to work on the next installment in World War K.  I spent the last week deciding how I would handle the fact the Royals won the AL pennant, and were in competition for the World Series trophy. But I decided to open twitter and look at the news.

Fuck the news. Fuck the world. This isn’t how it should be. Baseball is supposed to have rules. That’s why we watch baseball. We want to understand loss. We want to compartmentalize into a realm where the rules are fair and just. But that’s not real loss. Losing a baseball game is nothing.

I didn’t know Oscar Taveras. And I’m not going to say that I felt like I knew him. I only knew his swing, his stat line, his scouting reports. That’s not who a person is. Whatever I feel is just a confused, uncertain speck compared to what his teammates, friends, and family must be going through.

Fuck it all.  This isn’t why we watch baseball. I’m sorry, Oscar. We shouldn’t have to remember you so soon.

 

 

 

 

 

MLB The Show – World War K: All Stars and aWARs

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: Halfway There

A Post on the Future of World War K (and my possible psychic powers)

There was once a time, before MLB.tv and interleague play, when the All-Star Game really meant something.  Most fans didn’t have a chance to see players in the other league unless their team made the World Series.  Seeing the most popular players in the other league, even for a single exhibition game, was a fun novelty in the middle of a much-needed break in the regular season.  But as teams in both league became more accessible to fans across the country, interest in the All Star Game waned and MLB went to great lengths to revitalize it.

First, MLB implemented “This Time It Counts”, awarding home field advantage to the winning league in the WS.  When that failed to bring in the ratings MLB desired, in 2024, the stakes were raised with “No, Really, This Time It Definitely Counts” in which the teams in the winning league were awarded an extra roster spot for the remainder of the season.  People thought that was rightfully stupid, so MLB petitioned the U.S. Congress to pass the “It Counts More Than Ever Act of 2037”, in which Federal highway funds were awarded to cities in the league winning the All-Star Game.  When even that wasn’t enough to get people interested in 2045, the United Nations issued its controversial UN Declaration of Making It Count, which denied human rights protections from fans of teams in the losing league.

Back in alt-2014, most of this was in the future.  The All Star Game was a glamorous spectacle about honoring fan favorites and stupidly determining home field advantage.  And the two starting pitchers for the American League and National League were no surprise.

Allstar showdown

Indeed, the ASG would be a rematch between the deranged mind of Mike Mussina inside of a robot body and the time traveling pitching machine chosen by Mike Trout to save baseball. But they weren’t the only machines chosen to represent their respective leagues in the exhibition game.  In fact, all three position player Robot Masters were in the lineup, with Dixie Dirtbag holding down shortstop in the NL, Preacher Cobra at C and Flash Money at RF in the AL.

Allstar Lineup

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I Probably Owe Y’all A World War K Update

Since there wasn’t a new World War K post this week, I figured I should post some kind of explanation. Don’t worry, the series isn’t stopping. The next post, which will feature the All Star game and a look at the trading block, should go up next Monday or so. I basically lost a week of free time to a law conference followed by a game jam, which is the first time in recorded human history those two events have been paired up to explain anything, but I do intend to continue and finish, though I may accelerate the time table and there may be more than a week between later posts. There are two reasons for this.

First: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Kansas City Royals are still playing baseball. The ALCS begins later today, and they’ll face off against Baltimore for the chance to appear in their first World Series since The Series That Shall Not Be Named here in St. Louis. This has kind of put a damper on the story of rebuilding an underdog Kansas City team

When I first introduced the Royals back on July 14, they were 48-47, six and a half games out of first place and looking so listless that even Buzzfeed couldn’t make a list about them. Then, in August and September they went 34-21 and barely captured the Wild Card before beating the cream of the NL West and advancing to where they are today. Let’s just say this makes framing the narrative of my posts rather difficult, since I’m probably going to have to play a lot of games or save-load several times to get a run better than the real one will end up being.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. In early 2004, I wrote a screenplay that had a ton of titles over the months I worked on it. The one I remember is Fenway’s Ghost, so you can probably guess were this was going. The plot concerned a con artist who posed as a ghost whisperer/psychic who scams his way into the Red Sox front office by claiming he can speak to the spirit of Babe Ruth and lift the Curse of the Bambino. Once he has the job, though, the real ghost of Babe Ruth appears to him and threatens to expose the con unless they work together.

It was a dumb, broad comedy that had to dance around being too much like Major League, but I still thought it was pretty good. Before I could even edit it enough to try and do something with it, the Red Sox actually won the World Series and suddenly it was worthless.

I didn’t want to give up the script, so I rewrote. It couldn’t be about the Red Sox anymore, but there still needed to be a World Series drought, a ghost, and a city big enough that I could write some broad stereotypes and everyone would understand them. You can probably see where I’m going with this, too. I changed the Red Sox to the White Sox, Boston to Chicago, Babe Ruth to Joe Jackson. This required some work, as Jackson’s motivations would be different from Ruth’s and there was no Yankees-level rivalry to give me a natural villain. But I did it. The new script, Shoeless, was done in early 2005.

You all know what happened next. The Chicago White Sox won the World Series, broke their curse, and once again made my script less needed than another American Pie Presents film. At this point, I was working on other projects for school and didn’t have time to rewrite, so I temporarily gave up on the project. But I also did what any fan would do after twice seeming to predict the winner of the World Series less than halfway through the season. I hit “Find – Replace” on a few key terms. Turned Chicago into St. Louis, White Sox into Cardinals, Joe Jackson into Rogers Hornsby, 1919 into 1982. The script didn’t make any sense at all, because Rogers Hornsby wasn’t banned from baseball for throwing games and 25 years isn’t a drought. But the Cardinals still won the World Series in 2006. You’re welcome.

In 2007, I needed a feature-length comedy script to pitch to a few agents and studios, so I returned to the seemingly-magical .scw file and I did something I knew that I could regret for the rest of my life. I decided to make the story about the Chicago Cubs. Not only did I need the script to make sense because it was probably my best writing sample, I had to see just how powerful I was. Could I will the Cubs—the fucking Cubs—to a World Series victory. I’m not sure what I would have done if the Cubs actually took home the trophy in 2007. I might have been too terrified to ever write again.

Fortunately, I never had to answer that question. The Cubs did not win the World Series, though they did make the playoffs. Those three games were filled with plenty of existential terror on my part, let me tell you.

So here we are again, with yet another baseball comedy story threatening to be taken apart by actual baseball. But I’m not going to stop the story of Strike-O-Matic and Pat Burrell, Alcides “aWAR” Escobar and Alex the Girrafe-kin. But if the Royals win the World Series, I’m not sure I can ever in good conscience write fake baseball stories about real teams again.

The other reason that there may be a bit more delay between posts is that I’m returned to an old project I abandoned about a year ago that has a lot in common with World War K. Not ready to make a big, full-on post about it just yet but if you’ve liked these posts then, well, you’ll probably like this as well. So stay tuned for that, and expect the next installment of World War K shortly after the weekend.

MLB The Show – World War K: Halfway There (June Recap)

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: More Like Chief Blah-Hoo

In the far-flung future, June 30 will be remembered as one of the turning points of the Base Wars.  On June 29, 2081, US President Emma Jeter ordered an overnight attack on a server farm in silicon valley.  This battle was known as the Net Offensive, Brought to You by State Farm.  (Corporate sponsorships of major military actions had become the norm in the 2040s, starting with the Mountain Dew-mascus Assault in 2042, and by 2081 no one was even moderately shocked by the idea.)

The Net Offensive Brought to You by State Farm began with the firebombing of Paolo Alto, which was made exceedingly difficult by the fact that the pilots could not use computers for targeting or navigation.  Dozens of jets took to the air over central California, dropping tons of explosives on everything that looked remotely like a server farm.  By the June 30, they actually started to hit meaningful targets.  President Jeter spent the morning deep in her secure bunker, watching a live feed of the attacks.  Every time the headquarters of an early 2000s  tech startup went up in flames, she would pound her chest and mutter “yeah jeets”.  Despite the fact that the Net Offensive Brought to You by State Farm was ultimately successful, this fact would be brought up multiple times during her impeachment hearings the next year.

But in the innocent days before the Base Wars, June 30 was not known for a violent battle.  At best it was known as Chan Ho Park’s birthday.  Or the midway point of the baseball season.

Why didn't I come out of retirement for this season?

Why didn’t I come out of retirement for this season like Ray King and Kei Igawa?

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MLB The Show – World War K: More Like Chief Blah-Hoo

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: Money Also Walks

After a disappointing 1-3 series against the New York Yankees, the Kansas City Royals were slated for a quick two game set against the Cleveland Indians.  After flagging over the last week themselves, the Indians had a two game lead in the AL Central, so the Royals could pull even with them and take first place for the first time since near the beginning of the season.  They were so close to first that they could almost taste it.

catfood

It was awful forward-thinking to believe that a two game series in the middle of June was critical to the pennant race, but Pat Burrell didn’t want to give up any ground to the Indians.  Something had to change.  Something had to motivate the Royals to move forward and rebound from their loss to the mediocre Yankees squad.

Burrell considered making another trade, but he realized that he could only rely upon transactional drama to carry the day so many times.  He was willing to go back to the trading market, but he’d wait until the July deadline.  After all, there are only so many parts of this story that can be about making trades, and certainly another one is to come.  Today, change would have to come from within.

There was one clear way that the team could be improved without a trade: something had to be done about the manager.  If only for a couple, critical games…

Yuniholdonelipsishey

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MLB The Show – World War K: Money Also Walks

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Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War

Previous Episode: Sign of the Moose

PrimeTime Moose and the St. Louis Cardinals were defeated, and the Kansas City Royals wouldn’t have to face them again, except perhaps in the World Series.  Taking 3 out of 4 games from the Cardinals was a huge boost to the Royals, as the Redbirds had established themselves as the best team in the NL of the first half, despite the often puzzling decisions of the manager.  But this was just the beginning of a stressful month of June.  The MLB Amateur Draft was scheduled immediately after the series against the Cardinals, and then the New York Yankees rolled into Kansas City for a four game set.  The Yankees hadn’t been a particularly formidable team to date, but they were boosted by the addition of a robot master of their own.

run winning

Unlike Mike Mussina, who had allowed his consciousness to be used as a template for robot players because he wanted to be able to better control farm equipment, Rickey Henderson’s reasons for submitting to the experiment were a lot simpler: he still didn’t want to leave the game.  Despite being quite old when robots began playing MLB, Henderson was not ready to hang up his cleats.  The 80-something outfielder still believed he had a few more good seasons in him, even if his body disagreed in literally every way possible.

Rickey had not left baseball on his own terms.  While he played his final game in 2003, he continued to insist that he was in good enough shape to suit up for any number of teams, and could be an immediate contributor.  Despite a pedestrian final season and legs that were held together with withering sinew, he toughed it out in the independent leagues and maintained his desire to return to MLB until 2007.  The advent of robot players gave Rickey a chance to run again.

Whereas Mussina’s imprinting failed, Rickey’s was wildly successful.  The original Rickey Henderson remained in his body, while numerous copies of his consciousness were sold and uploaded into leadoff robots around MLB.  Each one was tweaked slightly, given upgrades and abilities to make it stand out.  The most successful was converted into a switch hitter for the Neo New York Yankees.  This particular iteration on Rickey Henderson, Flash Money, was chosen by K.I.R.K.G.I.B.S.O.N. to go back to 2014 to assist in the destruction of baseball.

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