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Why game prices shouldn't be increased in the next generation

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Today, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter suggests Next Gen videogames will be priced at $70. For the sake of the core industry I so dearly love I hope that isn't the case. The world economy has yet to recover from 4.5 years ago, much less the US economy, on which much of the Games industry's future is dependant.

Adding 10 bucks to the price of video games will completely destroy all but the most top-tier franchises, potentially kill off non-indie innovation and experimentation and push more and more people away from traditional games (those which will cost 70$) and towards free to play model games, mobile and flash-esque games.

If anything, the industry needs to make a huge correction, price-wise. Make games an affordable hobby so that people don't feel fiscally pressured to avoid gaming or at least avoid paying for what they're playing (legitimately or otherwise). Instead of microtransactions or DLC being used to squeeze money out of already paying customers, a slightly reduced profit margin per sold game could very well result in a significant growth in non-used game sales, which will increase the profit margin on the title as a whole, as well as provide a larger mind-share when sequels are to be made.

Another option would be to create a more flexible pricing model, in which people bring out games in $5-20 for the basic indie titles, $25-40 for A or AA games, and $45-60 for AAA games. There are games that simply won't make their money back on initial release due to an uncertain buyer's market and the confounding "$60 for everything" standard in today's industry.

What's happening nowadays is the industry cannibalizing itself. This results in lesser products being put out on shelves, and more people being put out on the street.

The games industry can't live on with this pricing model, which doesn't allow for varying qualities of game to coexist in the market. A more flexible industry that will allow a more flexible pricing model will be crucial if the pay-to-play portion of our industry wants to grow instead of shrink in the next generation of consoles.

Prey 2 happenings

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In case you haven't been paying attention, there's what appears to be a Prey 2 countdown of sorts at http://www.aliennoire.com/ right now.

It's looking to finish (from the page's source code) sometime around March 1st, 15:00, but the time of day is questionable, as I haven't been able to see timezones. Perhaps that just means it's GMT.

This might just be the cruellest joke of the year, or it might be something really exciting.

The possible diabolical nature of Diablo 3's real currency Auction House and DRM

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Disclaimer: I begin writing this post at 19:30 BST, 20/05/2012. The information, suggestions and suppositions written heretofore are a result of my personal experience playing Diablo 3 over the past few days, as well as my own experience as a program designer and programmer, and cannot be proven by myself at this time. This is theory and conjecture, be it convincing or otherwise. DO NOT TAKE MY WORDS AS FACT, BUT AS THEORY ALONE.

Right, now that we're done with that, let get to the nitty-gritty. I'm writing this article/post to put forth a theory, according to which Diablo 3's always-online DRM and real currency Auction House have a more "sinister" purpose than we've been led to believe.

First off, I put forth the following supposition as to the working of the DRM. Diablo 3 works much like an MMO with many lacking features. Every action is synchronized to the server, be it physical travel, ability activation, item activation, merchant and artisan interactions, etc. Whenever an action is made in-game, the game client interacts with the servers, obtaining whatever information it requires. Germane to the issue I bring up, is that the game contacts the server whenever loot needs to be distributed.

Having recently experienced a lot of lag on a high-latency connection with the game, and having observed that the lag was most visible and game-breaking when loot was to be distributed (killing mobs, opening chests, destroying destructible items, etc.), I theorize that whenever loot is to be distributed, the game client requests a loot drop from the server (that is, which items to drop, if any). Assuming this is true, it would mean that Activision-Blizzard is poised to control which loot is distributed, how much, and even to whom.

And, since every player-action is apparently reported to the servers, it seems likely that if they would wish to, Activision-Blizzard can track player's usage of items, as in sale, salvage, equipping, stashing, transfer to alternate characters, transfer to other players, sale on either Auction House, and even dropping on the ground.

With the item usage tracking information Activision-Blizzard could accrue and aggregate, it's very likely that they could then analyze which players are more likely to sell unneeded items and on which Auction House, and, given that they made the game's systems, it would be very easy then to give a player with a Witch Doctor and with no alternate characters an extremely rare and high-valued item, with the expectation that he'd sell the item for a large sum, of which Activision-Blizzard is entitled, as per the TOS, to 15%.

Having manufacture an economical system that can be so efficiently manipulated to provide Activision-Blizzard with additional funds beyond the money paid by gamers to merely play the game, they would be either foolhardy or exceptionally honest not to engage in any of the aforementioned manipulation.

After all, WoW subscriber numbers are slowly but steadily declining if I recall correctly, Diablo 3 and Starcraft II have no subscriber models that we know of, and Blizzard's project Titan is nothing more than a name on a two-year-old release schedule. A market completely controlled by Activision-Blizzard, where demand is closely monitored and supply can be manufactured on the spot, is a cash cow that I don't believe can so easily be left unmilked.

But in order to completely and utterly control this clearly valuable market, strict DRM has to be enforced. Whether or not Activision-Blizzard analyzes all player actions and in accordance with that distributes loot, they have to be able to regulate the rarity of items on their market. If due to a duping glitch or hacking large amount of previously rare items could be brought onto the Auction House, it won't be long before the value of these objects declines, and thus Activision-Blizzard's profit margin off of the real currency Auction House suffers.


If my theory is correct (and I am no more sure of that than I am sure of the shape of the back of my head), then whether or not Activision-Blizzard is actively spying on what Diablo 3 players do with their items, it's clear that Activision-Blizzard has the capability, if perhaps not the willful intent, to fully and frequently manipulate the market of Diablo 3 items, in which every transaction is profitable - to them.

Mass Effect 3: The Ending, and why most of the gaming media is wrong

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(Note: I have made my best effort to make this post reasoned and thought-out. I am not whining, and do not intend to seem deprecating towards Gamespot, Giantbomb, or any of the other dozens of websites whose staffs seem to be diametrically opposed to me. I am simply giving an alternative view of the issue that doesn't amount to "So what?", "Please, games aren't art, they're just games." or "But they should do it because I want them to do it!")

See that title? Bold statement, to be sure. But one I stand behind wholeheartedly. I, of course, am among the many people who enjoyed ME3, and were let down by the ending. I will endeavor to avoid spoilers - biased though my opinion may be, I'd like it to be relevant even to people who have yet to complete the game.

First off, have you noticed that some of the people who criticize the "Take back ME" movement have yet to finish the game? I'm not being facetious when I say that roughly 30% of the articles I've read on the subject (though, granted, I haven't read all that many) begin or end with a phrase similar to the following:

"I don't know what the ending of Mass Effect 3 entails..." -David Houghton, Gamesradar.

It's crazy how many people have spoken their mind on a subject that they haven't got the relevant context for. I've been listening to podcasts, reading articles, catching bits on Twitter, and the amount of "I haven't finished it yet, but I don't think Bioware should change the ending" is absolutely staggering.

Please, people, when you're taking sides in an argument, at least have the decency to research the points made by either side.

Of course, many of those against Bioware modifying the ending aren't ignorant of it, but I'll return to that subject further along this post.


ME3's ending is fairly convoluted, and, while not an exemplar of poor writing, per se, it is extremely conspicuous, especially when taken alongside the rest of ME3.

Most of Mass Effect 3 is so spectacularly written, with Eposes like the Quarian/Geth mission arc as well as little vignettes like the human and salarian talking outside Purgatory, or the two Asari conversing inside Huerta Memorial Hospital. They are always well-written, and, for the most part, incredibly divergent.

It would seem, then, that the ending should be the most divergent point of the game. Instead, the entire sequence is the most unforgivingly linear portion of it. And yet, it also contains some of the best dialogue in the game, until the very, very end, when the Star-Child starts his pontificating.

Let's set aside the fact that the crux of the Star-Child's argument as to the purpose of the Reapers reeks of circular logic, and is completely negated by the aftermath of a specific mission (1), provided you use a Charm or Threaten option as it nears its end. Let's set aside the fact that Shepard accepts the three options given without a fight, because after all he'd been through up to that point, it's doubtful that he has any fight left in him at all. Let's even set aside the fact that at no point can you "Investigate" to find out more about the solutions. And definitely, let's set aside the fact that there may or may not be a happy ending.

The most problematic issue with the ending is, unfortunately, something that must be spoilt to be explained.

{Spoilers begin here - spoilers end on END SPOILERS tag}

The most problematic issue with the ending is the destruction of the Mass Relays. Even if we accept the apologistic theory that this sort of explosion is somehow different and would not cause untold destruction in every solar system with a Mass Relay, the ramifications of the destruction of the relays are, in no uncertain term, genocidal.

It's a bit of a delve into the ME lore, but we know, from the games themselves, that Quarians and Turians have a digestive system that is quite different than that of Humans, Krogans, Asari and Salarians. They cannot process our foodstuffs, with reactions ranging from the simple passage of the food without providing any nutritional value to severe, lethal anaphylactic shock.

So, all of the Quarians that you took with you (which is ALL of them) will not survive. Even if the repopulate, they cannot survive the journey to the complete other end of the galaxy from Earth. The same can be said of the Turians.

Speaking of which, since the Mass Effect Relays have been destroyed, only FTL travel is remaining as an option of travel between solar systems. And FTL travel, as we know from the games, requires fuel. Which is limited in supply, and difficult to obtain.

Not to mention the fact that in the entire galaxy, it seems that there are only 10 or 12 Fuel Depots left intact, and those are entire start systems apart.

So the Turians and Quarians are effed. How about the rest? Well, Earth is in complete ruins. It is also the last refuge of all of the races, seeing as it is the only planet in our solar system that has an atmosphere. Now, let's be conservative and say that only half of Earth's population was decimated by the Reapers - according to Admiral Hackett, that's roughly around 7 Billion people. Add at least a dozen million (probably more) members of other species and the ruined planet will probably have no way of sustaining them all for the scores of years it will take to recreate the Mass Relays.

Even if we assume the Krogan's survival instincts don't kick in, making them eat Humans, Salarians and Asari simply to survive, that's still a humongous sacrifice that's required of everyone in the final battle, and everyone on earth.

A gigantic sacrifice that is in no way, shape or form recognized by the game. The ending's writing martyrizes Shepard, but doesn't tell the story of the billions of other people's suffering as a result of this last desperate act.

{END SPOILERS}

If Bioware decide to change the ending, all they really need to do is explain the situation with the M.E.Rs (Acronymed to avoid spoilers) or change that fact entirely. It isn't crucial to the ending, and, in my opinion, has only a negative effect, because of the way it was handled, or, to be cheeky, wasn't handled.


Now, to the second part of my title, why most of the gaming media is wrong.

Most of the gaming media - at least insofar as I have seen it - are against Bioware changing the ending of their game. At the very least, they are trepidacious regarding it.

They say it makes a very bad precedent, they say as a piece of art, it shouldn't be changed.

They say many things, and their points are often well argued, but, I believe, too mired in tradition.

For the last few years, gaming has been changing into what might be dubbed "Gaming 2.0". Games like Little Big Planet and Minecraft are slowly but surely changing what it means to play a game. User Created Content isn't a widespread phenomenon, but it is a slowly growing trend.

Gaming has the unique undeniable quality of interactivity. In fact, the less interactivity a game has, the more people are reluctant to call it a game. Games like LBP and MC are changing what that interactivity means, and their popularity is entirely hinged on engendering this interactivity. Minecraft wouldn't be half of what it is today, if it weren't for people with crazy imaginations making MC projects like the Enterprise, The Planet Earth, etc.

And, with the advent of social media, this interactivity has been expanding to outside of the game itself. When a developer opens a Twitter account for a game, they aren't making an RSS feed that's easier for their customer to consume (despite what some people may think) - they are providing a way for their fans and customers to interact with them in a way that is somehow far more direct and personal than an e-mail address.

When developers use these feeds to update their Followers, Fans, etc, they are letting them into the process in a way that has yet to be defined. But, surely, it isn't merely as observers; The developers must be expecting some form of reaction, some form of response.

Some form of interactivity.

And that door, once opened, cannot so simply be shut.

Bioware is in a distinctly powerful and dangerous position. They are, most likely, one of the only three companies right now that can significantly change their product post-release, and not suffer as a result. Not only because of their strength as a developer and publisher of high quality games, and not only because there are so many little ways to change the experience of ME3's ending without compromising the important parts of their creative vision.

They can do it because Bioware has some of the best writing staff in the whole of the games industry. They have some of the best creative direction staff, and what might be the most loyal fan-base, although the point could be argued in favor of Valve or Blizzard. In spite of our fervor, I believe all of us who want a changed or additional ending trust Bioware to make it the best it can be, in accordance to their creative vision. And if that means not changing it at all, then we will, albeit despondently, trust them to at the very least explain their decision in a mature and considerate fashion.

Many of the people who said in the heat of the moment that they aren't going to continue buying Bioware's games from now on won't be able to last if and when Dragon Age III comes out, and is universally lauded by reviewers.Whatever Bioware chooses to do with the ending, they probably won't suffer for it. But they have a unique opportunity to say that their fans matter. That their fans are important. And that they will always at least lend their ear to them.


Because Video Games are art as we've never seen it before. It is interactive in every sense of the word, and with the advent of social media, in every stage of development post-announcement. It is no longer a product, made in a vacuum and left as-is. It hasn't been this way ever since games not released on the PC could be patched and fixed.

No one raised a ruckus when a patch came out that changed how Uncharted 3's aiming worked. This wasn't a bug, wasn't an oversight; this was part of Naughty Dog's creative vision when they made the game. And when their fans complained, they decided to add aiming modes that were more to their fans' liking.

Uncharted 3's aiming is at least as important an element in the experience as Mass Effect 3's ending. So, why wasn't there a gaming media uproar against the change, especially since, if I recall correctly, Uncharted 3's original aiming was more accurate than Uncharted 2's.

Is Uncharted 3 somehow a lesser artpiece than Mass Effect 3? Is gameplay somehow less significant than story? Is the work of a programmer not art, and the work of a writer is?

As a person who has dabbled in writing, and who makes his living as a programmer, and desperately wants to be a game developer, I cannot accept that.


As a programmer, when a customer is unsatisfied with a feature in my product, I am obligated to listen to him, register his request, and present it for approval to my team leader. We assess whether we can make an architecturally sound solution to this request, and decide when and if to implement it. Perhaps I am in a unique situation, because I, at times, interact directly with our customers. Perhaps the games industry hasn't worked this way until now.

But with the advent of social media, developers are interacting directly with their customers. They are being given both positive and negative feedback, and can do with that what they wish, in accordance with their own creative vision.

They can listen, analyze, ponder, and then choose whether or not to implement the change.

This isn't subservience. This isn't compromise. This isn't a debasement of the art. This is the epitome of Games as a Service. This is the next step of Games as Art. Whatever comes of this, whether Bioware changes the ending or not, will be a good thing.

I trust Bioware to make the right decision for Bioware, for the Mass Effect trilogy, and for their fan base.

This is a brave new world we're entering into, whether Shepard lives or dies.

Syndicate co-op demo impressions forthcoming

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Right, so I played a bit of the Syndicate co-op demo tonight.

I sat down, wrote my initial impressions, and then the blog system summarily tossed my post out with the bathwater.

I'm tired, and I've got a long day ahead of me tomorrow, so I'll just write a more well-thought out post once I've had another few goes at the game.

For now though, I'd very much recommend it to anyone who likes squad mechanics in their shooter, especially if you don't like very much the separation into classes which most squad games seem to have nowadays.

For starters, anyone can heal and revive ("Reboot" in the parlance) anyone, provided they're close enough (reviving must be done up close, but healing can be done from further away). Healing (as well as any other "Breach" or hacking ability can be used while shooting, running, vaulting, sliding etc.

All in all, a very enjoyable experience so far, but I want to give it a few more goes in the next few days before I commit my full impressions "To press".

Game Concept, no. 1, GreenVille

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Hello, people.

I just thought up this little idea. This is a game I don't really want to make, simply because it doesn't entice me technically. As such, I'm presenting it the the Gamespot community at large. If you use it to create your game, all I want is a little credit. If you manage to make a profit on it, I want a bigger credit - though no financial remuneration is neccessary.

It might have already been done - probably a flash game on Kongregate or ArmorGames, but as I haven't visited the sites in months, I've no idea one way or the other.

Anyway, the basic concept is rather simple:


You begin as Environmental Affairs assistant to the mayor of a small township, and your responsibility - acception the unlikely hypothetical concept of you being given a certain budget, and can use that to its fullness.

In that initial township, you are in charge of the "non-critical" environmental stuff. That is, you are not in charge of basic services such as garbage collection, water, public gardens (that's a whole 'nother TV show), but instead, you are in charge of implementing garbage recycling, water reuse and the manufacure of energy using "green" methods - solar rooftop panels, wind turbines, and the like, as well as supplementary "green business" stuff, like electrical car charging stations or natural gas refueling checkpoints at local gas stations.

You will need to cleverly manage your initially limited budget, which will increase as your "green"-ing brings "green business" into the township, as your recycling brings money into the township's coffers, as your water reuse saves the "parks and gardens" department crucial watering money, which they can then use to improve the look of the local parks, and maybe even open a skate park or something similar.

All of your small improvements to the township's "green" policies help lead the town into a better financial future, gaining your department a bigger budget, with which it can do more of the things previously mentioned.

Eventually, the township will be considered "green", after passing a certain amount of "green" goals, and you will move on to bigger and better things, eventually becoming Environmental Affairs consultant to the President of the United States.

The game will be won when you manage, by hook or by crook, to "green"-ify 66% of the world's developed and developing nations, and will be lost if you are unable to do so within 40 game years.


Man, so much for "simple".

Well, anyways, take it, run with it, and hopefully, have fun doing it.

Also, a potential alternative is to stop the game at township level, and make it a facebook game, and thus "GreenVille".

@Polybren, you've often spoke about gaming, saying that it should one day develop into games that have substance beyond story or gameplay. I hope this is something along the lines you've thought of, and would love feedback on the concept.

The Witcher 2: Battling for the Ballista

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The Witcher 2 is the Tiger Mom of Action RPGs. It expects you to sit up straight, shut up, and pay attention. It drops you straight into battle without much warning or preparation, and it expects you to learn quickly, or fail magnificently. Not everyone has the time, the patience, or, perchance, the moxy to get through the intro unaided. Also, some background on the franchise does help understand some basic elements, and so someone to whom this is the introduction to the Witcher world might get lost before the first clang of swords.

However, since the rest of the experience past the grueling prologue is so fantastical and satisfying, I've roused up a few hints and tips to better your journey through the game's prologue.

I will give you a short set of guidelines for the first true battle sequence in the game – the firing of the ballista in the castle courtyard.

First, control foibles:

A) For Keyboard + Mouse: Remember that E guards, space dodges (rolls) and that left click is swift attack, and right click is strong attack. Ctrl slows down play for you to to choose the Sign you wish to use, which is then used by pressing Q. Most importantly, however, is this:

The enemy you will attack is the one marked by the pseudo-reticle. You're essentially aiming your next attack with your mouse. Make sure the enemy you wish to attack is indeed the marked one.

B) For Gamepad (I'll utilize the Xbox 360 gamepad jargon): Remember that Right Trigger guards, A dodges (rolls) and that X is swift attack, and Y is strong attack. Left Trigger slows down play for you to to choose the Sign you wish to use, which is then used by pressing B. Most importantly, however, are these:

Clicking the left thumb stick emphasizes interactable items. It also causes Geralt to stand in place while the animation runs, leaving you vulnerable – take care this doesn't happen to you.

Also, blocking on Gamepad has a few caveats; You cannot block while moving, and the game will not register the block command if Geralt is moving at all; You will have to wait until the movement animation ceases before initiating a block. Also, a block has to be re-initiated after nearly any action.

Now, for some general tips, that will assist you in this and other parts of the game:

1) Limited "Special Actions" – always remember and keep track of your Vigor (the counter below your health). The amount of vigor you have available determines how many Signs you can still cast, as well as how many blocks you have remaining. If your Vigor bar has been reduced to zero, focus on careful dodging until it refills.

2) Keep your guard up – so long as you can do so, maintain your guard. Take notice that so early in the game you only have two vigor points, and thus can only block two semi-consecutive strikes before becoming utterly vulnerable. At this point, again, concentrate on dodging until you can block again.

3) Prioritize targets – shielded and heavily armored targets are harder to take down cleanly than their more exposed compatriots. Save these for last, as the lesser armored are both easier to dispense of, and more likely to attack you continuously. Also, concentrate on those with lessened health, in order to remove them from contention, leaving you a tad bit safer.

4) Strike cautiously – make sure to strike while your opponent is reeling from a blocked strike. Do not begin a long series of strikes – your opponent will recover, block, and proceed to demolish you.

5) Prepare yourself – before descending into the courtyard, make sure to take a "Swallow" potion. This will enhance your health regeneration, enabling you to survive longer.

6) Know your arsenal – in the beginning of the game, you should be equipped with a Steel Sword, a Sliver Sword, and a few Samum bombs, which stun enemies in their area of effect. Remember to use the steel sword against your human foes, as silver, a much softer metal, will do little against non-magical foes.

7) Note the Signs – you start the game with all five Signs (spells),

a. Aard, used to push back foes and sometimes stun them, enabling you to finish them off in a special move.

b. Yrden, used to "trap" a spot on the ground where, if an enemy crosses, it will stun them, as well as deal damage. If no enemy gets caught on it, the Yrden simply rests at that spot, wasting your Vigor.

c. Igni, used to set foes alight. Not much to say here, beyond a simple warning to watch your range – at the start of the game, your Igni won't go far, and if you missed, that's one Vigor blip down the tubes.

d. Quen, used to raise a shield around you, which forces back physical blows. Explosions will still rock you about, so if you come up against someone casting fire about or other spells of the sort, Quen might not be the way to go. In any case, active Quen signs slow down Vigor production greatly, so use them sparingly and intelligently.

e. Axii, used to "convince" a foe to fight for your side. Note that it takes a good few seconds to completely subvert their original mentality, and any attack that successfully connects with you will cancel this Sign. It is dreadfully useful, however, especially if you cast it on a foe that is heavily armored.


Remember, however, that not all enemies react the same way to the same Sign, though, commonly, enemies of a like size and physical type will react at least similarly.

8) When all else fails, Run. No bones about it, no shame, no self-loathing. Run. Dodge past your enemies (though not through them, as they will damage you in passing), run to the other side of the battlefield, deflect a few blows, give a few strikes, and run away again. There is no shame in this – you will survive longer than the people trying to kill you, and that's all that matters.

9)Finally, maintain constant watch of your surroundings. There's nothing worse than having an escape route all planned, and not noticing the full garrison that had placed themselves there just as you roll away from a strike – and straight into their blades.

Okay, hopefully that's enough to help you in learning the basics of The Witcher 2, as I don't want to spoil the exquisite experience of learning the world, thre monsters, and developing your own Witcher methodology.

Good Luck!

~Ran Harpaz

P.S. As the point here is to create a clear, concise primer for battle, any corrections, clarifications, updates, apologies, and whatever else is in that list that @Polybren goes over each week are welcomed.

Reverse Torque, Prologue - "Metamorphosis"

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Like I said a few days ago, here is the prologue of the story I'm currently in the process of writing, in hopes of constructing a plot worthy of a good video game.

I'd greatly appreciate feedback, and read all the way to the end to see what feedback I'll need especially.


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
= Reverse Torque =
= By: Ran Harpaz =
= Prologue: Metamorphosis =
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I wake in a white room. Everything is white; the floor, the ceiling, the walls – everything. White, but tinted red. I see a very light red, but I know it's white. Or, at least, supposed to be white.

I try to push myself up on my hands, but I can't feel them. Can't feel my feet either. I can't even move my head. I want to call out to someone, but I can't feel my mouth, either. Now that I think about it, I can't feel much of anything.

Except I know I'm lying on something metallic and cold. In a white room.

Why am I here? Where is here? How did I get here? The last thing I remember…

Oh, God, I don't remember anything. Sh*t. F*ck. Nothing, just this blankness, like these walls.

Okay, okay, start with something simple, what's your name?



No, damn it, concentrate!

…l… …D…

And nothing again. F*ck! Damn you, Daniel, what is your name?

Wait… Daniel? Dan…iel…

God, it's so familiar… But it doesn't sound right…

Daniel… Dan… Danny.

Danny.

My name is Danny. I'm Danny.



Ow!

Oh, it hurts! My head!

Except that I can't feel my head – OW! – so how the hell – SH*T! – can it hurt?

The room is getting hazy… I can't tell where one tile ends and another begins…

The white (red!) haze twists and shudders, only to fade into black.


I'm sitting on a chair somewhere in a black landscape. I can't see if it ends. It seems infinite.

The chair feels sturdy, the wood slightly creaks as I shift my position.

As I shift my position? I can move?

I can move! And I can feel my hands, and my feet, and my mouth, and I'd swear I can even feel my nose.

"Hello?" I speak, hardly even recognizing the voice. "Is anyone there?"

No one answers. All this blackness, and I'm the only one here.

"Not quite, Child." A soft voice sounds. I turn to face it, and, immediately have to shut my eyes tight.

"So… Bright…" I mutter, somehow unable to turn away.

"Forgive me this, Child," The voice says. It sounds like a male voice and a female voice superimposed upon each other, "You aren't ready to see. Not yet. Not as you are."

"Wha…?" I mutter, cursing myself for not being able to produce a coherent sentence.

"Don't speak, little one," The multisexual voice whispers, its whisper still loud enough to echo painfully within my head. "I can only speak to you for a short time. You already can barely withstand being here."

I feel a gust of wind upon my face, and somehow, it feels like a hand. The hand, somehow at once soft and rugged rests upon my forehead, and I feel a shock run through me.

And then nothing. Like before, in that white room. No hands, no feet. No nose, either.

"Open your eyes, Child," The voice bids me, and I can't help but obey. I find myself looking down upon me. I'm redder than I remember myself ever being before.

"Good," The taller me says, in that same androgynous voice, "You recognize this face.

"Your face." Myself crouches down, his (My? Our?) stance unnaturally flat-footed, "Concentrate on that feeling, on that sensation." His (My? Our?) finger reaches down to prod me. It tickles and burns and itches and flashes.

A moving image forms in my mind. A shapeless, formless puddle shivers, shakes and shudders. The blob expands upwards and outwards, a vaguely humanoid shape forming out of it.

Ten Fingers,

Ten toes,

Two eyes,

One nose.

My eyes open, unbidden. I can feel my body again, although, somehow, I feel different. Myself still stands before me. He (I? We?) looks slightly less tall than before.

"I must leave you now, Child. But I beg you, do not forget who you chose to be, and why."

A klaxon echoes in the distance, and Myself explodes into Light. As his Light bleeds out into the darkness, burning it White, He (I? We?) speaks once more, his voice fading away more with every syllable.

"Remember this, Child. Remember what you did now, and learn from it. And remember, the choice is always yours."


I'm back in the White room. And, again, I can't feel my body. But, somehow, the room is less cold than before. A sound fades into harsh focus; An alarm.

There's a flashing light somewhere in this room. I try to look up and a headache rips through me once more, as I find myself somehow looking both forward and up, at the same time. Like a police-car's siren lights, a red-blue light flashes, spinning recklessly on its axis, as I look up at it and at the white wall in front of me, at once, and with different sets of eyes, it feels.

I try to close the upper "eyes", and with a feeling, like blood rushing to my head, my headache fades out in thrums. With my regular "eyes", I look around.

And around.

And around.

A mirror… On the other side of it, the same white-red room; an operating table standing in the middle of it. The same distance from the walls as I am. And on it, a puddle.

A dark, blood-red blob of non-liquid, eyelessly looking right at me. Staring me in the face. If I actually had eyes, I'd cry. What's happened to me?

"Remember…" A voice, neither male nor female, echoes in my mind. A voice of blinding light and change, of questions and answers and riddles and life and death and GAAARRGHH, MY HEAD!!!


A moving image forms in my mind. A shapeless, formless puddle shivers, shakes and shudders. The blob expands upwards and outwards, a vaguely humanoid shape forming out of it.

Ten Fingers,

Ten toes,

Two eyes,

One nose.


A mirror… On the other side of it, the same white-red room; an operating table standing in the middle of it. The same distance from the walls as I am.

And on it… Me.

Except for…

Huh.

"That's new."


Right, so that was the prologue of my story, Reverse Torque. That's pretty much all there is to it right now, since with school and work, I don't have much free time to write.

This is a first draft, but there's nothing in the above text, besides spelling or grammar errors, that I didn't intend to include in the finished text. The bits where it might seems Danny is uncertain as to how to refer to "Himself" are that way intentionally.

I'd greatly appreciate any feedback, but what I'm looking for specifically is how did Danny look before this happened to him, and how does he look at the end of the prologue?

Ground rules:

1) Danny was human before. In appearance, Danny must remain human afterwards.

2) I've chosen a gender-neutral nickname because Danny could have been either male or female before. Also, no matter how Danny looked before, hair color, size, skin tone, or gender, post-prologue Danny can be whatever you want Danny to be.

3) No suggesting of powers yet. That's the point of the introductory arc of the story, and I'll only consider additions and/or alterations after it is done.

4) No limits on suggestions, as long as there's at least one where ther's a bit of it that's serious.


Next time on "Reverse Torque",


"Chapter One: Celerity"


The Me in the mirror stares back at me. I'm looking at myself, and the shock in my eyes is the same shock I feel. I remember myself, and I remember the Me I saw (Dreamt? Found?) just a few scant minutes ago – or so it felt.

And neither of us ever looked quite like that.


A crash of broken glass, and the sound stops suddenly. There's a dull throb in my right arm. Which, as I look aside at it, doesn't look at all like my arm anymore.

My arm was never that long. It didn't reach halfway across the room, splayed on the floor like a fleshy feather boa. My arm wasn't a black-blood-red, and it ended in a hand, with fingers, and not this… this… Whatever this is.


God, that's a lot of blood.

I think I'm going to throw up.

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