Dev blog #44 – Good news and excitement!

So the good news, following up on last week’s blog, is that Grand Vision have given me permission to release the Simplified Chinese translation of Nine Lives by myself! So I am speaking with some translators here in NZ for the last few bits of translation needed, and later this year I’ll be able to get that out in the world, and completely under my wing. Yay!

Other than that, I am naturally getting very hyped for next week and going down to Wellington to attend the NZ Games Festival! I’ve got my workshops booked, I’ve seen what the talks are going to be at the conference, it’s all very exciting. Also I get to catch up with numerous friends and family members down there, and also just have a break from the daily grind – not thinking so much of my job which has actualy been somewhat of a refuge, but more of the daily chores at home and the sometimes insane pressure I put on myself in terms of Sky Bear work I do in my free time! And it’s time spent with James, our toddler, and my Mum, which is excellent quality time. And besides, we love road trips. Can’t wait!

At the moment, it looks like James is going to miss his 100k word count goal for Dragons of Tirenia Draft One before we go to Wellington, but given some of the unforeseen situations we’ve been in this week (such as a growth spurt causing our toddler to stay up til 10pm the other night – no adulting time at all!!!) we’ve been super busy actually. But I am trying to contribute some words myself in the form of myths and theories. We’ll see how far we get before Sunday morning, but wish us luck!

I did actually manage to edit the ‘Ravenloft Again’ podcast episode to a mostly listenable thing so while not feeling all that proud of it, I am at least relieved, I guess is the best way of putting it. It’s done, it has a warning/apology before the episode about the recording quality and the spoilerific content, so yeah, I think we might be good!

Anyway, there’s been lots of little things happening here and there, preparation for future games and stuff… lots of little plates spinning! But as always, I’ll tell you more when I feel more certain of things getting finished. This nearly a year of blogging sure has been a learning process for me, especially in terms of deadlines and overpromising!

New Zealand Games Festival postponed to 2021 - Gameplanet New Zealand
See you there, Wellington!

Dev Blog #43 – Is there anything I could have done?

A couple of days ago I had a bit of disappointing news. The company I partnered with for the Chinese release of Wonderland Nights and Nine Lives is discontinuing their release of translated indie games, and it looks like they are discontinuing their support of the already released games too. So this means that if there is anything wrong with the translation of Wonderland Nights, I will not be told by them, and the work on Nine Lives, which was in my view 95% done, is over. Was there anything I could have done to have changed this situation? So far as I can see, I doubt it. It seems like a decision that comes from on high. I am investigating my options now for finishing the work myself with the help of an independent translator, as only the title, marketing blurbs and achievements need translating, and a test run by a Chinese reader is necessary. Thankfully the company representative I am speaking with says it I get to keep the Nine Lives translations in their current state. And the full rights to the translation of Wonderland Nights comes back to me at the end of our contract period, so at least I will eventually regain control of that.

So that news has put a bit of a damper on an otherwise really nice week. Being back at my old job has been great. It’s refreshing to be back testing other peoples’ work and not my own for a bit, though Nine Lives still has a great deal of testing to do before the voice acting re-release. I haven’t touched the latest build in over a week as I focus on prepping for our trip, but soon I’ll be popping back to it with fresh, or at least less-stressed, eyes.

James is plugging away at Dragons of Tirenia, trying to reach his elusive 100k word goal before we go to Wellington for the NZ Games Fest. Will he make it? I believe in him! But it’s disheartening when his editing takes his word count backwards every now and again. Still, I reckon he’ll make it, since we don’t leave until April 18.

Other things we have done lately include the Pokemon episode of the podcast, which was very fun to record and edit and is now up on Spreaker and YouTube. I have finally had a chance the last couple of nights to sit down and edit the Ravenloft podcast we recorded over a month ago. Have I talked about this before? I can’t remember. But basically we recorded two hours of Ravenloft talk which we were really happy with, and then when I actually listened to the raw track it was HIDEOUSLY DISTORTED D: ! Through a series of mishaps, and perhaps the age and heavy use of our microphone, I was not able to get live playback during the recording and so I didn’t realise that the mic was recording us at utterly blown-out levels. Over the last month I have experimented with fixes suggested by lovely people on Audacity forums and reddits, and while I am not proud of the result, I have got the sound down now to where it will not blow out your ears. I still find the effect on our voices rather brassy and semi-robotic. I have to cut a lot of my voice and especially my loud laughter as that is still truly ear-shattering despite the fixes. Thank goodness though for James’s lovely deep voice, which doesn’t sound as bad. I hope the end result will not hurt the ears of our dear listeners!

A visual representation of how mad the distortion got 😦

The Great DRAGONLANCE Re-Read – Test of the Twins, by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman

First Impressions: Here we are! This really is the end of the story that began all the way back in Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It’s got the best covers too:

  • Original Larry Elmore cover: Epic, and so moody! Good composition with lines and triangles structuring it. There’s good use of colour, and clear linking of the two brothers, but they’re also in opposition.
  • Reprint Larry Elmore cover: Not as good as the original, but still moody and good linking and contrasting of the twins Caramon and Raistlin. They look really similar here.
  • Penguin UK cover: A Penguin cover that actually shows something from the book! Totally badass, but after the composition and theme of the last two, I’m disappointed.
  • Matt Stawicki cover: This is a LOT! I don’t mind it. The composition’s not as strong as the first two, but it’s still very interesting looking. But it’s totally over the top!

A word of warning for Dragonlance beginners: since this is the last book of the second trilogy, you might want to read the plot summary of the previous books here and here before continuing, as it can get a bit hairy from here!

Plot Summary: Caramon and Tasslehoff use the time travel device as Raistlin and Crysania open the portal into the Abyss. The two spells interfere with each other, and Caramon and Tasslehoff find themselves two years ahead of their ‘present day.’ But the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Everything is dead, lightning storms tear apart the sky, and the rearranged stars are going out. They find Tika (Caramon’s wife)’s funeral monument, and Caramon’s dead body at its foot. 

Caramon sees a new hourglass constellation and realises that Raistlin has won. He has overthrown the gods, and this devastation is the result of his victory. The two make their way to the Tower of High Sorcery at Wayreth, where this quest kicked off. They find the last two living beings there. Astinus, the immortal historian of Krynn, is recording how the world ends. Meanwhile, the archmage Par-Salian, who manipulated Raistlin into becoming a weapon to save the world and instead drove him to become a monster, is being tortured by Raistlin by making him watch the end of the world. Caramon and Tasslehoff take the history of the end of the world from Astinus, and go back in time two years, to the present day, to stop Raistlin.

Back in the present day, Lord Soth, Dragon Highlord Kitiara’s death knight ally, has decided that he wants Kitiara for himself. Kitiara has become the lover of Dalamar, Raistlin’s elven apprentice. Soth convinces Kitiara that Dalamar has betrayed her, and is planning to help Raistlin. He then tells Dalamar the same thing. As a result, Kitiara prepares to attack the city of Palanthas to stop Raistlin and Dalamar, while the forces of Good ally with Dalamar to stop Kitiara and Raistlin. If they’d just talked to each other, they could have worked this all out! Then again, even when they get the opportunity later on, no one trusts anyone else. The wages of evil… 

Also caught up in the final battle is Tanis Half-Elven, hero of the last trilogy, who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tanis, the knights and the good dragons go to fight Kitiara’s army at the High Clerist’s Tower, where Sturm Brightblade died fighting her during the last war. It controls the only road to Palanthas, but everyone is surprised when the evil armies arrive on a flying citadel and bypass the High Clerist’s Tower entirely! Tanis jumps on a dragon and races back to Palanthas, arriving just before the final battle starts.

Meanwhile, Raistlin and Crysania make their way through the Abyss. Raistlin’s magic has failed him, and the Queen of Darkness is torturing him with scenes from his life. Crysania acts as his shield, protecting him again and again. Raistlin manages to regain his magic, but Crysania is overwhelmed by the constant attacks. As she dies, she asks for Raistlin to stay with her as she dies. He abandons her without a thought.

Caramon and Tasslehoff arrive in Palanthas. They look at the book of the future and find that in only a short time, Lord Soth will kill Tanis Half-Elven. Tasslehoff saves Tanis, while Caramon attempts to break into the Tower of High Sorcery here, but its magical protections are too strong. (It occurs to me that people who haven’t read Dragonlance might be getting confused here. There are two Towers of High Sorcery. One’s in a magic forest, with the Conclave of High Sorcery; the other is in the middle of Palanthas, and is owned by Raistlin. There were three more, but they’re gone. Now you know!) The three heroes capture Kitiara’s flying castle and use it to fly to the Tower, bypassing its defences.

Meanwhile, Raistlin is exhausted from fighting the Dark Queen, but is winning. He is now making his way to the Portal, where he will return to this world with Takhisis in pursuit. In this world, Raistlin will be the stronger, and will be able to defeat Takhisis. His apprentice Dalamar is waiting to stop him. Kitiara manages to break into the tower, and fights Dalamar. The two of them nearly kill each other, and Dalamar is only saved by the arrival of the heroes. Lord Soth appears and claims the dying Kitiara for himself.

Caramon is the last person left who can stop Raistlin. He enters the Abyss and finds Crysania, who’s slowly dying. He then meets Raistlin, and tells him that he’ll succeed, but that he’ll destroy everything in the process, until in the end he consumes himself, and even then will still be an empty voice screaming in the void for eternity. Raistlin realises that his victory is empty, and that he’s destroying the people that he cares about in the process. Raistlin hands his staff to Caramon and tells him to escape with Crysania, and then holds off Takhisis himself, saving everyone at the cost of being tortured forever at her hands. But even as he is torn to pieces and does not die, he is protected by the memories of his brother. 

The battle is over. With Kitiara dead and Lord Soth departed, the armies of evil have been defeated, though the city is destroyed. Crysania is healed of her injuries, although she has permanently lost her vision. At the same time, she has gained wisdom, and becomes the new leader of the Church. Caramon returns home to Tika, having gained self-actualisation, and they live happily ever after. Tasslehoff finds that he’s still got the time travel device, and sets off on a new adventure.

The Good: I enjoyed this one immensely! Every dangling plot thread is brought together into a rousing climax. While Chronicles ended with a Frodo-esque attempt to infiltrate the land of the enemy to undo them from within with a cursed artifact, Legends takes its cue from the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Even then, Weis and Hickman are reluctant to waste time on meaningless sequences of violence and keep the focus firmly on our characters. 

Lots of characters and locations from throughout the six books to date return – Tanis, Lord Gunthar, Kirsah the bronze dragon, the High Clerist’s Tower, the flying citadel, the Tower of Wayreth – which ties together all the books so far.  This book’s key theme seems to be self-knowledge. Crysania’s fate has been extremely telegraphed, but she finally finds wisdom as she is broken. Caramon learns how to become his own man, neither dependent on Raistlin or wanting to murder him. Raistlin finally accepts that his quest for power is pointless and self-defeating. 

I don’t really have a lot to say here. Everything is good, and it all works well. 

The Neutral: This book is mostly set in 357 A.C., apart from Caramon and Tasslehoff’s visit to an alternate 357 A.C. While it mostly wraps up all the loose ends, there’s a few sequels. The short story The Legacy, from The Magic of Krynn continues the story of Raistlin, and I’ll be reading it next time! Meanwhile, Lord Soth’s story continues in Knight of the Black Rose, which takes him out of Krynn to the world of Ravenloft! Although Weis and Hickman aren’t fond of it, it is canon, so I’ll be reading it further down the track. There are also some tie-in RPG books that have been published over the years. The original campaign setting, Dragonlance Adventures, assumes that your players will want to play out the plot of this trilogy, so it details the characters and gives some ideas about how to do this. Much later on, the Legends of the Twins book uses this trilogy as a starting point to explore time travel and alternate timelines.

I also found the answer to my question from last time. How did the Portal get from Zhaman to the Tower in Palanthas? This book implies that it moved itself. That’s magic for you!

At the end of the book, Tasslehoff finds a map with the city of ‘Merilor’ marked on it. This is the setting of Weis & Hickman’s next series, The Darksword Trilogy. It’s not a D&D tie-in, however, so it’s outside the scope of this series.

The Evil:

…I’ve got nothing. Sure, it’s not Tolstoy, but then it was never meant to be. I could criticise it for still using problematic Dragonlance elements like gully dwarves, but it feels a bit unfair to penalise every single book for that, and they’re handled better here than in other books. 

Maybe we could have had more Raistlin and less Tanis?

Actually, one thing I would have liked – and this is true for the entire trilogy, not just this book – is more showing how powerful Raistlin was, rather than just telling us. There was a lot of focus on his weaknesses, but mostly his strength was communicated by how other characters reacted to him. I’m remembering Lord Soth bowing to him in Time of the Twins as one example of this. Most of Raistlin’s big magical feats, such as his battles with Fistandantilus, Takhisis, and her minions in the Abyss, take place off-stage; the only real demonstration of his immense strength is when he incinerated the plague village in War of the Twins. Then again, action scenes are pretty pointless and boring if they’re just an excuse for an omnipotent character to show off, so I’m very happy with the focus on characterisation, thoughts, emotions and relationships over Hollywood-esque pointless spectacle.

Final Rating: 5 Disks of Mishakal out of 5. This is about as good as D&D tie-in fiction will ever get, and better than it has any right to be. 

I found it hilarious that the end of this book has a postscript saying goodbye to Dragonlance. This is the last Weis & Hickman book – for now! – but the massive success of the first six books led to the publication of hundreds more books in the series. First up, we have the Tales trilogy of short story anthologies, so I’ll be reading the first of these, The Magic of Krynn.

Dev blog #42 – Where everybody knows your name

I don’t often talk about my day job, the one that I have been at for the last five years, not counting the previous five weeks. Straight out of programming school, I was hired as a software tester by Aderant, a company that develops software for lawyers and law firms. The HR Manager told me he was taking a big risk employing someone with no background in software. It was a bizzare sideways step from my arts and teaching background. But a few months later after delivering my graduation project he told me he had absolutely no regrets.

My first manager there realised that as someone a little less technical in background, I had a knack for sympathising with the user, and as an ex-English teacher I was perfectly nitpicky with spelling and little details like that. Often devs don’t want to worry themselves with little details like that, but let me tell you, a simple spelling mistake can utterly ruin your product’s professional image! Also, over time as I became more familiar with the product and became a bit of an expert in my particular area, I got to use my teaching and presentation skills when leading tutorial sessions, be they small or large. All of the training on the job, as well as the natural attention to detail I have, mean that I have been able to test both my major game releases in-house. And while any tester can tell you that, ideally, no dev should be testing their own work, so far there have been no bugs found in the English versions of my two major releases. So that’s something, until I can afford a tester of my own 🙂

When I got the job offer in theatre, it caught me at a particularly opportune moment. I was feeling a little worn out from over a year of working at home at various times, having a toddler on my hands and all that. All of this added up to a general dissatisfaction with life, and so a leap to theatre, my first passion as a young adult, was an extremely attractive prospect. What can it hurt, I thought. I even said in my exit interview, if this new career doesn’t work out, I’d love to come back to Aderant.

And so after a five week VERY MUCH NOT A HOLIDAY HAHAHA… here I sit back at my desk at Aderant. I am so, so, so happy to be back. My wonderful colleagues have all welcomed me back warmly. People are already asking me questions and treating me like an expert in my area of the product on only the second day back. I’m straight back into the swing of things as if I never left. I am so at home here. I forgot, when I thought theatre would be a nice change, that I am at heart an introvert, and that even while I might enjoy playing the extrovert on stage from time to time, I actually get healing from working on my computer all day amongst other introverts, occassionally stopping for a chat with the colleagues then getting back down to work. Everyone here is respected and trusted to be competent and responsible. It’s absolutely the best, most supportive workplace I’ve ever worked at, and I am so, so grateful to be able to come back. Earlier this week I felt a little like the spouse who strayed, then came back begging because I never knew what I was missing until I left. But I haven’t been treated like that, instead I’ve been welcomed back with no reprimands and that’s… honestly just refreshing, to have such honest and mature dealings!

All my little desk friends are back where we belong!

Ok so that’s my little non-gaming bit over, thanks for reading. This week things have been a little higgeldy-piggeldy as I have gotten back into the swing of things. My first sweep through the fully voiced and sound effect’ed Nine Lives presented a few bugs here and there that need fixing before I continue, so I think realistically I’m not getting this release out until the end of May. That will be a nice two year anniversary for the game!

I also have some feedback from the German build of White Rabbit to look at so there’s more work when I can get to it. Thank goodness it’s Easter this weekend, so I’ll have a little extra time to work on these!

Tonight James and I are recording an episode of the podcast where I will be leading the discussion for once! It’s about Pokemon. I am pretty hyped 😀

James has been plugging away at his Dragonlance reviews and working on Dragons of Tirenia. I’m so excited for his next roleplaying campaign. He has more ideas than either of us are reasonably able to produce as fully realised content… and I have more game ideas than I can possibly make too… Not trying to brag, just saying!

Dev blog #41 – Excellence in Narrative Finalist too!

At last, I can finally announce that not only is Wonderland Nights a finalist in the Excellence in Visual Arts category, but also in the Excellence in Narrative category! I am so, so happy. I feel absolutely validated as a writer of video games.

In further good news, I finished putting all the voices I have in to the Chinese version of Nine Lives, and all the current translation strings are in now. I’m just waiting on some approvals before I go ahead with finishing everything and preparing to test it! And for the English re-release, I’m just waiting on four characters’ voice files, and I’m still making the sound effects files. Gosh, I might finally be close to the re-release! You might notice on instagram I’ve started the ad campaign already. I think the English version will be out in a month’s time!

As for the podcast, we did our planned recording on the topic of Ravenloft again (almost two hours) and found that the audio was a bit messed up. Something might be wrong with our mic I think! But while I fiddled with that, our friend Benjamin Teh from the Dumplings and Dragons podcast came over and he wanted to do an impromptu podcast episode with us on the topic of Asian creativity in the wake of Anti-Asian hate. So we did that! And since the audio was better and the topic was fresh, we dropped that one instead on Tuesday. I’m still trying to salvage the Ravenloft one, but in the meantime I highly recommend Episode 20 which has serious discussion and a few good recommendations.

James has added more to the Dragons of Tirenia blog, so please check that out if you haven’t already. He has been thinking more and more about the next steps to take after his current campaign is over, and he has an exciting convention adventure planned. Check out the blog here: http://tirenia.blogspot.com/

Podcast Episode 20: Asian Creativity in the Wake of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

We had our friend Benjamin Teh around for a social visit, but given the events of the last week, it turned into an impromptu podcast episode: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/44011021

In this episode, we discuss Asian Creativity with Benjamin Teh, in the wake of the Atlanta shootings in March 2021.

Please note regarding the list of names: The version of the news story that Ben found and read misspelled the first name of Delaina Yaun. The story also misspelled Xiaojie Tan’s last name based on information provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. The story was also updated to include full and correct names for Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant and Soon Chung Park.

Here is a charity to donate to to support the Asian American community in Georgia during this difficult time: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-georgias-asian-american-community/

Here is another charity cause to donate to from artist Shaun Yu Yong Jian: https://fortifystr.myshopify.com/products/standard-postcard

Here is the Spinoff’s article about Anti-Asian hate in New Zealand: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/22-03-2021/anti-asian-hate-and-violence-is-not-confined-to-america-it-is-right-here-in-nz-too/

Recommendations made in the episode:

Golden Threads can be purchased and downloaded at: https://allanxia.itch.io/golden-threads

Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall is available here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/338920/Jiangshi-Blood-in-the-Banquet-Hall

Asians Represent podcast can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/c/aznsrepresent/featured

More info about Ten Thousand Coins can be found here: https://www.tenthousandcoins.com/

The Islands of Sina Una is available here: https://hitpointpress.com/the-islands-of-sina-una-campaign-pdf/

You can find the Dumplings and Dragons podcast, hosted by our friend and guest Benjamin Teh, here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoRRuYeg0Eqbu9vsl2TYfWg

The Great DRAGONLANCE Re-Read – War of the Twins, by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman

First Impressions: The only certainties in life are death, taxes, and that there’s more Dragonlance books to review! It certainly helps that I’m in the middle of the Legends trilogy, the high watermark of role-playing tie-in fiction. Before I get into it, we have the covers, though there’s not much to say about them.

  • Original and Reprint Larry Elmore cover: These are so similar that we’ve bundled them together this time. Claire says: “My thing with the first two covers is that these two people are dressed and look like they should be on a romance novel cover. But of course they aren’t romantic, so it’s just awkward.” Haha! This book almost is a romance novel in places. I like the first one the most: Crysania might be more cheesecake-y, but there’s more emotion and a stronger composition. The revised cover looks too static for me.
  • Penguin UK Larry Elmore cover: Claire says: “I sort of love this but even with how little I know of Dragonlance, I’m fairly sure that these are not the two main characters in the book, and I’m willing to bet money on this scene not happening in the book.” She’s right – it’s Laurana standing over Sturm’s dead body, from Dragons of Winter Night. It’s a massive spoiler for the first trilogy, with two characters who don’t even appear in this trilogy! That said, it is a fantastic piece of art.
  • Matt Stawicki cover: “As usual I like the greater dose of action posing in the fourth cover, and I appreciate the Tasselhoff cameo for once. Pretty cool!” I like Matt Stawicki’s art generally, but I’m not a fan of this one myself. I find the characters a bit too small, and the scene is just generic posing, with a griffon that barely features in the book in the background.

Plot Summary: Caramon, Raistlin and Crysania travel through time and return to the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas. Raistlin is very weak from casting the time-travel spell, and Caramon is still blind (Crysania cast a spell on him to stop him killing Raistlin at the end of the last book, you may remember.) It’s now several decades after the Cataclysm, but still hundreds of years before their own time. Raistlin plans to use the portal to the Abyss that the wizards have stashed there but finds that someone moved it for safekeeping. Oops! 

Side note – the portal is back there in the modern day. Given that no one can enter the Tower, how did it get back there? The only person who could have moved it is Raistlin, but if he did, he’d know it wasn’t here now. I wonder if this will be addressed in the next book, or if it’s just a big old continuity error.

Anyway, the gate is in an old wizard stronghold called Zhaman, in the land of the mountain dwarves. And ever since the Cataclysm, the mountain dwarves aren’t accepting visitors. The three travel south, picking up an army of renegade knights, plainsmen and hill dwarves who want to attack the mountain dwarves and steal their hoarded food and treasure. The mountain dwarves themselves know that there is no food or treasure, not that the invaders believe them, and so the Dwarfgate War begins.

Our heroes, coming from the future, are pretty upset because they know how this is all going to end. According to the rules of time travel, no member of a race created by the gods can change time – all they can do is change the details. So they know that Raistlin is going to fail to open the gate, causing an explosion that will kill them and their army. They all wrestle with this, and Crysania even tries to change destiny by bringing back worship of the true gods. Unfortunately, she goes to a plague village, and only manages to convert the last survivor, who dies that night. The past cannot be changed.

At least, not by them. Tasslehoff the kender is able to change the past. (Kender were created by a magical accident, not by intelligent design.) He wakes up in the Abyss, where the Temple of Istar got transported after the Cataclysm. Tas meets with the Dark Queen Takhisis, who plans to use him to change the outcome of the Chronicles trilogy. He also meets with Gnimsh, the gnome who invented the time travel device that Tas broke at the end of the last book. Gnimsh repairs it and the two escape. Raistlin finds them and murders Gnimsh. Raistlin is convinced that this means he’s averted fate. Tasslehoff finds Caramon and saves him from being murdered, and then the two escape with the time travel device back to their own time, as Raistlin and Crysania go through the portal into the Abyss. The spells still interfere with each other, causing the explosion that destroys Zhaman and the armies fighting outside, but this time Raistlin survives to continue his quest…

The Good: For all that Raistlin was the driver of the plot in the last book, we never had a chance to see inside his head there. War of the Twins finally puts the archmage, and his relationships with the other characters, centre-stage. There’s a reason why Raistlin is such a fascinating character. This book portrays him as a complicated set of contradictions. He’s at turns tender and ruthless, empathic and heartless, vulnerable and indomitable, caring and callous. His evil deeds are never excused, and his motives remain consistent regardless of what facet of his character he’s demonstrating. While I didn’t enjoy his relationship with Crysania (more about which, below), this book more than any other really shows us the deep bonds of caring and abuse between him and Caramon, which is the heart of this trilogy. I also found the scene with the gully dwarves – who are usually just the butt of every joke – extremely affecting. Raistlin, finding an army of gully dwarves dead after a battle, briefly believes that time can be changed because none of the history books ever mentioned them taking part. He quickly realises that the reason that the gully dwarves weren’t mentioned was because no one cared enough about them. 

While the last book was about free will – how Raistlin could choose evil, Crysania could choose to follow him, and Caramon could choose to destroy himself with alcoholism – this book is about predestination. The characters grapple with the fact that their destinies are written, and no action they can take can change them. This gives a great sense of dramatic irony to the events of the Dwarfgate War, as they hurtle towards seeming destruction.

The Neutral: War of the Twins was released in May 1986. This book is set in 39 A.C., almost three hundred years before the Chronicles trilogy. Weis and Hickman use this to give us characters who are like precursors to the original cast. Darknight the Plainsman is a proto-Riverwind, Michael the ex-knight is repeatedly compared to Sturm, and Flint Fireforge’s grandfather Reghar Fireforge is the leader of the hill dwarves. Reghar also has a weak heart, and the authors note that this runs in the family – it’s this heart condition that killed Flint in the Chronicles trilogy. 

The ruined fortress of Zhaman, since renamed Skullcap, and the hidden gates to the dwarf kingdom of Thorbardin, were a major plot point in the original DL3 and DL4 modules. This story was omitted from the original Chronicles trilogy but was finally detailed in Dragons of the Dwarven Depths.

The Bad: As much as I enjoyed this book, it definitely suffers from being the middle book of a trilogy. I came to realise that nothing important happens in this book. Caramon, Raistlin, Crysania and Tasslehoff end this book in fundamentally the same place that they began it, and the whole plot with having to chase down the portal to the Abyss is really just spinning wheels. Raistlin and Crysania could have entered the Abyss at the end of Time of the Twins, while Caramon and Tasslehoff headed back to their own time, and the outcome would have been fundamentally the same.  

I also continue to dislike Crysania as a character. This time around, my problem is more about her sexualisation. Both Raistlin and Caramon are sexually attracted to her, she’s attracted to Raistlin, she almost gets raped by bandits, and she gets physically assaulted by Raistlin when she attempts to seduce him. We also have the tiresome trope of her virginity being the source of her virtue. It’s not pleasant, and it’s a problem when she’s the only female character in the book – save for brief cameos from Kitiara and Takhisis, both of whom have their evil thoroughly intertwined with their sexuality. I smell Tracy Hickman’s Mormonism behind this! I did, however, like Crysania’s doomed attempt at proactivity, when she tried to change time by bringing back worship of the True Gods.

Conclusion: As I write this, I’m ripping through the final book in the trilogy, so I feel confident in saying that I feel this is the weakest book in the trilogy. Still, it does sterling work with the characterisation and relationship of Caramon and Raistlin, and earns three and a half Disks of Mishakal out of five.

Dev Blog #40: White Rabbit’s a Finalist! Excellence in Visual Arts in the Pavs

Hello dear readers! I have been champing at the bit to tell you our bit of news ever since we heard it, and the day to announce has finally arrived!

We are thrilled to announce that Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary has been selected as a finalist in the category ‘Excellence in Visual Arts’ in the NZ Games Festival’s Awards known as The Pavs.

Congratulations and big thanks to our artist Rose Northey! @whenpoetsattack

If you’re in Wellington April 19-25th come and play the demo version!

Now obviously we’ve known about this for a while, but honestly the shine has not dulled off for me at all. I mean, what a thing to help me not feel impostor syndrome about my role as a game dev, right? We’ll be down in Wellington for the exhibition and the awards ceremony, so hopefully see you there if you’re local!

I am also please to announce that the first test build of The Nine Lives of Nim has been sent off to Grand Vision in China for them to take a gander. It was an epic workload, getting 6000 lines of translation in, and the work isn’t over, as I need their approval on font and layouts and to redo any text in the artwork, and there’ll be tons of testing after. But for those of you who only speak English, we’ve just got one more actor’s lines to master (around 150 files out of about 2500) and then a few little sound effects to throw in, and it’s done! Well, except for the testing, which I like to be particularly thorough about, so I will be going through and personally making sure every line of dialogue is correct! And that’s not to mention the code changes that mean huge improvements to gameplay, including the ability to play the whole game more easily from your keyboard now if you wish.

James and I did a livestream of an old gamebook from the 80s last week, which was flirty and fun if you want to laugh/be disgusted, over on our twitch and youtube channels. We’re recording our next podcast episode tonight, and we’re doing another Ravenloft special because we’re in a gothy mood and Ravenloft has been the most popular topic on our youtube channel for getting views and subscribers. Unlike here on the blog, and twitter, which are havens for Dragonlance!

Other than that, we’re just keeping on keeping on between this, parenting, and our day jobs. I’ll keep working on Nine Lives, James will keep working on Dragons and Tirenia, and we’ll keep you posted!

We’re on the Bundle Buddies podcast!

After two months of trying and failing to record, including multiple lockdowns stopping us from recording, we’re finally here. I met Alex and Eric from the Bundle Buddies podcast when they followed @SkyBearGamesNZ on twitter and sent them an email saying I was a creator of one of the games in the bundle they were reviewing (if you weren’t here or don’t remember, it was the Itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality) and I would love to talk to them on either/both of our podcasts.

As you might remember, our SBG podcast episode with them came out in January, but there was a problem with the recording of our episode on their side, and with two lockdowns in Auckland meaning we were stuck with our toddler who is faaaaaar too noisy to record around, it took us around two months to actually finally wrap the episode.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these guys over the course of the two months, and I’ve listened to every episode of their podcast so far. Even if you don’t own the bundle I think it’s still worth it for some hilarrious moments and good recommendations both for indie games in th bundle, and gaming nostalgia from them and their guests. You can check it out here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9d387-fdc56b