Tag Archives: worldbuilding

New Basic Braining a Work in Progress: Theme?

As you can see, the ol’ portfolio is getting a revamp. At least, it’s getting as much of a revamp as it can, still tied to a free WordPress domain and theme. Wait… theme? Oh, how horribly confusing! No, this post is not about the template I’m using for the blog.

Previously, Basic Braining had been no more than a portfolio, a place to post all the stuff I write that appears elsewhere, but in one, convenient location. Well, I’m doing away with that, and making this into a proper blog. But what about? Ah, that’s the question. And that’s the kind of theme I’m talking about.

My first instinct is to make this a blog about game worlds, given my interest in worldbuilding. This prospect poses  a few difficulties. For one, my PC is a tired, old girl. She’s not running the Crysis 2’s or the Witcher 2’s or the Deus Ex 3’s. I do most of my gaming on console and I lack the proper means to capture the kinds of images that would be relevant to a blog about worldbuilding. Doesn’t rule out this idea, but it’s enough to give me pause. After all, wouldn’t a blog about worldbuilding be so much more interesting if it had images of the game worlds it’s exploring? Then again, this difficulty hasn’t stopped me before.

I thought about exploring game worlds in another way, continuing the game-crossing reports of Higgins Odious-Bonaparte, my thesaurus-dependent, in-game journalist alter-ego. But then I would need to change the name. Can I even do that? Hmm… I should probably know that. Not a good sign.

In college I once did a project to make a ‘zine. I came up with a concept for what would be a ‘zine presented as a series of journals by an archaeologist exploring game worlds. The first one was about the Mushroom Kingdom, featuring detailed notes and sketches of the various flora and fauna (I suppose that doesn’t make him much of an archaeologist, but whatever).

I could go all game diaries all the time. But I’d probably need to come up with a more interesting concept than simply regaling you with my in-game adventures. Even I know that’s only interesting to a certain point, paling in comparison to something as brilliant as Robin Burkenshaw’s Alice and Kev.

I just don’t know. Therefore, I’m going to give all of the above a shot (plus whatever else comes to me) and see what sticks. So bear with me as I try to figure out what, exactly, I want this… thing… to be. And if you have an opinion, please share! I’m not truly capable of thinking for myself. 🙂

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Not Just Another World: Apocalyptia

I want to start this entry in Not Just Another World by giving some credit where credit is due.  If, in my desperate dig for ideas, I hadn’t remembered Doug Otto’s recent Bitmob post on the post-apocalyptic wasteland in games, I probably wouldn’t have overcome my writer’s block for this post.

The term “wasteland” gets used all-too often in reference to games that take place in a post-apocalyptic setting.  I’m not saying that it gets used incorrectly; certainly, scorched earth and radioactive atmosphere constitute a wasteland.  But not every post-apocalyptic world is a wasteland and, likewise, not every wasteland is what it seems.

For such worlds I’ve created a new (as far as I’m aware, at least) term: Apocalyptia is a world that is at an end, whether that’s the end of the world or merely the end of a cycle.  Upon concocting this term, two games jumped into my mind: The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Continue reading

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Not Just Another World: The Final Frontier

via nasa.gov

The final frontier: strange new worlds, exotic alien life forms, bizarre cultures and civilizations, the wonders of creation. For good or ill, I never feel like I’m experience these wonders when I play hard sci-fi games, such as Mass Effect. Usually, I only feel the thrill of exploring alien worlds when they’re found right here on Earth, such as Biohock’s Rapture or Red Dead Redemption’s American west. Continue reading

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Not Just Another World: Home

When I think of “home” (at least, as far as fictional worlds are concerned) two game worlds immediately spring to mind: Mario’s ubiquitous Mushroom World and STALKER’s Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The Mushroom World is not a good example of worldbuilding. Details pertaining to its history, mythology, inhabitants and cultures change wildly and with no explanation. The land of talking mushrooms, pipe-based public transit, evil turtles, imperiled princesses and mustachioed plumbers is probably one of the most inconsistent, amorphous game worlds in history. Why, then, does a world that’s never consistent always feel so familiar?

Starting with the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES, the Mushroom Kingdom got off to a fairly good start. The instruction manual for that first game delves into details of the Mushroom World that would never be seen or heard of again, remembered only by those of us old and nerdy enough. Continue reading

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Not Just Another World: Intro

Worldbuilding has always been a favorite subject (and hobby) of mine; I even took a class on the subject in college. The result of that endeavor was an exercise in confused mediocrity; a Pokemon-esque MMORPG set in a world based on my very shaky and ignorant understanding of mutation, evolution and symbiosis. A fairly solid concept, if I do say so, that I needlessly burdened with pirates, mages and jack-booted totalitarian armies. Hey, it was only my second attempt at the craft (no need to delve into the knot of convoluted fantasy tropes that was my first).

For the past couple weeks, Chris Dahlen’s been writing a series of posts on the subject at his Save the Robot blog. Dahlen has investigated worlds from various media and real life, mostly analyzing their details and dissecting their successes and failures. If you haven’t read them, you really should — they’re awesome. He also got me thinking about some of my favorite game worlds and, naturally, wanting to write about them.

In the interest of not simply copying a much better writer than myself, I’m going to take a slightly different approach: I’m going to come up with a theme and investigate seemingly contrasting worlds that fit that theme (or maybe some that fail to). Then, I’m going to try to analyze how these disparate examples come together. I’m going to do something dangerous: try to express my own subjective experience and then back it up with objective analysis…or maybe it’ll be subjective analysis, I don’t know, we’ll see — it’s an adventure! Basically, where Dahlen dissected whole bodies, I’m dissecting individual organs. I want you, the reader, to provide your own disparate examples fitting (or failing to fit) the same theme.

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