What is Young Adult fantasy?

So, I’ve got more than one person telling me that the Black Mark series could fit into the Young Adult classification. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I never intended to make YA material out of this series. On the other hand, it can’t be worse than Twilight and its many clones.

Which brings me to the question: What puts a book in the Young Adult fantasy genre?

So, I go to the Interwebs and seek the collective knowledge of the English speaking world. Almost every definition of Young Adult fiction ran very fast and loose. Then there’s the offshoot category of New Adult, which is aimed at the 18-25 (or 18-30, depending on who you ask) age range.

Here I am, staring at these categorical lists and thinking, “Aren’t most books supposed to fulfill these requirements?” Other than deal with issues that are mostly unique to teenyboppers or proclaim to aim to a teenaged audience, that is. On top of that, these lists seem limited to Young Adult Literature, which is a slightly different beast than Young Adult Fantasy.

Again, I’m brought back to a question. What is the difference between Young Adult Fantasy and the rest of the Fantasy genre? Is it only the age of the protagonist, limited to under the age of 18? Is that all to it?

If that’s the only factor, then Black Mark is not a contender for the YA label. The protagonist is 17 for all of a few chapters in the beginning of the first book and he’s in his early twenties before the series ends.

Is the age of the protagonist really the only difference between YA and the rest of the genre? Or is there something more?

Laguna’s Cut


From the Final Fantasy wikia on Laguna Loire:

“Various examples of unused backgrounds hint that Laguna may have possessed a lime-green convertible truck during his time in Winhill. Laguna’s black-and-white intro picture depicts him driving said car and the artisan in Shumi Village, one of the places Laguna spent time in, has a miniature model of it. The car can be found in the garage in Ellone’s parents’ house where Laguna resides during his stay at Winhill if the location is hacked into the game. The car, however, is never used as Laguna’s car in the final game.”

Wait… What?

I knew about the truck showing up as a toy model in the Shumi Village and that it was something that was connected to Laguna during FFVIII’s development. It also explained why the shops sold fuel, even though you rarely used a car in the game. I did not know about the garage, or the full-sized model, or the rendered background version of it. How late in the development was this piece cut?

I always figured that Laguna’s story had suffered some major cuts by the final release. In a way, I can see why. A story about some dude and his war buddies traveling across the world to save a little girl from an evil sorceress and ending a war (perhaps even saving the world) in the process really is a game that could and should stand alone. To see that it was pared down after so much work was already put into it makes me wonder if someone on the higher level looked at the development and said, “Wait, why are we doing two games at once? Which one are we making? The teenage romance or save the princess?” Looks like Laguna had a habit of stealing spotlights even before the game’s release.

Squaresoft (later Square-Enix) seems to have a chronic problem when it comes to preproduction. It’s like they get a group of guys together, throw around really cool ideas, and then start making the game, hoping that enough of the ideas will gel together into a coherent whole by the time they get to the release date. Every Final Fantasy from FFVII onward has been plagued by this and it seems to get worse as the years go on.

As to the green truck, it does look like a cheap little rig that’s been owner-modified for some adventuring. Rather fitting for Laguna. It’s too bad that we never got to see the entirety of his story.

Legend of Korra Season 1 review continued

Previously, I posted a mini review of the first season of Legend of Korra. Did I think it was a bad show? No! Did I see a great deal of potential? Absolutely! Did I like it with the same zealousness as other fans? No.

Writing for television is a challenging task and sometimes writers have to let things slide to make deadlines. An imperfect script is better than no script at all. However, here’s an imaginary situation where the script lands on my desk and someone points to it and says, “Do better, smartass.” Could I do better? Let’s find out.

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Legend of Korra Review: Season 1 Mini-Review

Let me start by saying that I’m a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a well written series with strong characters, exciting action, and good pacing. In this, it set a high bar for the first season of Avatar: The Legend of Korra to clear. Yes, I know – It is its own show. However, it is directly built off of the foundation of lore established by Last Airbender. I can’t really sever Legend of Korra from Last Airbender and I’m not going to try.

While the first season of Legend of Korra was good compared to its competition, it didn’t quite measure up to Last Airbender by my reckoning. That’s not to say it’s a bad show or that anyone who likes more than Last Airbender is wrong. For me, there were weaknesses in the writing and character development that were hard to ignore. There are many other reviews to point out the strengths and flaws of the show and give an in-depth analysis. I’m not going to retread much ground except to point out what glared to me.

Korra, as a brawn over brain character, never really appealed to me. I can see the attempt to recreate the technique that created Toph (my #2 favorite ATLA character), by simply converting a male character archetype to a female appearance and leaving the personality intact. However, the punch first and ask questions later type in any gender doesn’t endear itself to me without some other magic ingredient to add a little complexity. What that is, I’m not exactly sure. In addition, I couldn’t quite accept that Korra was truly Katara’s student. When I saw that she was trained by Katara, I expected plenty of crazy awesome waterbending from Korra. Instead, she was more a firebender with an earthbender’s mentality. Only her costume gave any hint to her elemental origin.

The love story for the sake of a love story could have been left out. Korra could have just been friendzoned and stood on her own. Mako sliding in on Bolin’s interest was a douche move to pull on his brother, especially after scoring a wealthy beauty like Asami. He just came across as an irredeemable jerk and the sort of person I wouldn’t give the time of day to. Asami was awesome and felt like the strongest character in team Korra, despite having daddy-issues as a personality trait. She overcame her obstacles without needing a deus ex Aang to solve her problems. Yeah, I don’t like the ending to the first season. It could have been handled differently. Either let Katara or a descendant of Ty Lee’s techniques figure it out or don’t take the bending block route, if having Season 2 being about Korra regaining her powers was not what the writers wanted.

Speaking of techniques, wasn’t lightning bending a master level skill? Why were the Equalists pissed off about the benders if the benders powered the city? If there were firebenders producing electricity for the city to use, were there waterbenders making sure that the water and sewer systems functioned? Were there earthbenders creating stable foundations for buildings? Why would the Equalists throw a fit about people having special abilities, if those special people were being used as living utilities, exhausting their chi for the benefit of the city? Where was the tyranny? Writers, show, don’t tell!

I could go on, but the little lore-breaking bits and lazy writing soured a show that could have been greater than it was. Was it because there were only twelve episodes? No. That’s on the writers to make sure that they fit their story in the time allotted. I’m also a fan of Madoka Magica, a brilliantly paced show that fit into the twelve episode span. I know that a great storyline can fit into that small frame.

Was it because there were only two writers for the first season of Legend of Korra, instead of the team that created Last Airbender? Quite possibly. I suspect that DiMartino and Konietzko might also suffer a bit from the same creative malady as Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. Great worldbuilders and idea generators, but not so good on characters and plot. They make the guiding framework for other writers to shine within and that’s where they’re strongest.

I hope that Season 2 makes up for the weaknesses of Season 1 and Korra comes back strong in writing. There’s so much potential there and it’s so hard to watch something not quite make it. Maybe my Star Trek reference above will hold in another way and the successor show will surpass it’s predecessor despite a confused start.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn


I’ve been playing around with the character creator and benchmark for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

This utility is one of those things I wish more MMOs made available. It certainly piqued my interest in the game. I’m a sucker for detailed character creators to begin with and the benchmark test takes the character created and puts it in a series of scenes, so you can see it in action.

If only this wasn’t a subscription-only game, I would give it a chance. Sure, the word is out that it’s just okay in gameplay, but it would be nice to play something that felt like a Final Fantasy again. The environment of the game is strongly reminiscent of the Ivalice setting. I’m already gravitating to the chance to play the Dragoon and Summoner classes. However, it doesn’t strike me as a game that’s worth $30 for the base PC version, plus $13 per month minimum to play, unless I played it hard for a month or two, then dropped it.

I’ll keep watch for news of the game going buy-to-play with micro-transactions and a likely VIP subscription model. If it takes that route, I’ll pick it up and give it a try. Who knows, maybe by then, the devs will have turned the game into something fun and engaging, worthy of an AAA title.

First Look: The Sims 4 Official Gameplay Trailer


First Look: The Sims 4 Official Gameplay Trailer

So far, this looks intriguing. I didn’t get into the Sims 3, because of the more narrow focus of gameplay versus the god-mode of Sims 2. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the gameplay is like for Sims 4.

The character creator with the push and pull action is a nice change from the sliders, allowing for the builds that many mod-users looked for. Some people complain about the cartoonish appearance for Sims 4, but I think that it works in its favor by avoiding a dive into the uncanny valley. Besides, the Sims has always had an active modding community. Someone or three will come up with realistic skin and hair textures to download.

The emotional aspect looks interesting too, but I wasn’t much of a soap opera player in the previous iterations. It’s also nice to see the crazy, over the top elements pop up, like the voodoo doll. Hopefully, the emotional aspect is a harbinger of an improved overall AI for the Sims. Having to micromanage the survival functions of the pixelated lemmings was not my favorite aspect of the game. Sometimes I would just throw my hands up in the air, declare Darwinism, and let the morons die.

Onto the aspect of the game that I liked the most: Construction. Faster and easier house building with the option to move entire rooms around? Yes, please! Diagonal furniture without a cheat code? Finally! That the decor affects moods will be an interesting thing to play with.

My biggest reservations about the game come from the publisher being EA. So far, the site states that Sims 4 won’t require a persistent online connection and that it’s designed to be played offline. It looks like EA learned its lesson from the spectacular fail that was the SimCity launch earlier this year, but there’s no full guarantee of that. It will require an EA Origin account to install the game. So, there’s still the risk of having to deal with login server overloads just on that point. While the game is designed for offline play and no persistent online connection, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of the game requiring an online “check” to begin playing each session and flirting with the disastrous server overload message.

With the game slated to come out in 2014, my first instinct is to wait a month or two after release to consider purchasing it. That will let me see how EA will try to control their game, plus allow for patches for the inevitable release bugs.

An Awkward Situation


I had a rather insistent dream about drawing the two characters in the center over Saturday night, so apparently it was something that I needed to do. Spent a good chunk of Sunday pounding this out.

The characters, from left to right, are Orathane, Rory, Johara, and Novah from a defunct novel project called Interregnum. Novah is still in active use and I’m building a new home for her. The rest… Their status is a bit more vague. The co-writer of the project liberated it for her own profits some time ago and I didn’t find out until at least thirty chapters later. An awkward situation. Novah, developed solely by me, was not taken and I am grateful for that. While I primarily developed Rory and Johara and was quite involved in the development of Orathane, they were not spared. I ended up in the bizarre position of choosing between a long-standing friendship and bits of fiction. I ended up losing both anyways. As to why their status is a little vague, I don’t know how the characters were written afterwards. For all I know, their names were pasted onto completely different characters, effectively sending the characters in the image above into limbo.

So, here’s some hard-learned advice to aspiring writers or even veteran writers: Do not enter into a collaboration project without some sort of legal understanding. Yes, it’s often a fun and enriching experience, but it won’t be worth the heartbreak and resentment when the darker elements of human nature inevitably raise their hydra heads.

Art created in Manga Studio 5.