Thursday, 28 May 2015

Radio Silence

Just a Note.

Things have been quiet lately. Not to worry, I'm still alive. This blog will still be an archive of my written works that are too long for the newer social media.

If you want to get in touch with me, look on my Twitter or Tumblr, or the Contact Page link in the header.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Fifty Two

Previous chapter: To The Pool.

Chapter Fifty Two: Back At Home.

"I'm going to look for the others," said Hera. "I feel uneasy since there's nobody else besides us."

"Feel free to try," said Isabel, before Francesca challenged her to swim laps around the pool. Hera rolled her blue eyes and got out of the pool.

Isabel and Francesca were still playing about, splashing at each other. Hera's bare feet went plop plop plop against the stone floor, and she tracked water into the gym.

The only other person in the gym was a redheaded woman that looked like Jessica Rabbit. Hera approached the woman and asked, "Where's everyone? Do you know anything about the pool's grand opening?"

"I don't know, I came here because of an anonymous tip," the redhead said. She looked at Hera carefully. "Wait, aren't you Channah Wilson, the singing gun-master?"

"That's my online name, I'm Hera."

"Rumor has it that one of your friends is working on an ending to SuperHero Quest, an unofficial one anyway. Is it true?"

"Yes, it is. It's still in planning though."
"Oh, cool!" said the redheaded woman. "I'll try out your friend's game when it's done, but I have to go now."

"I look forward to your feedback, see you later."

After the redheaded woman left, Hera went back to the pool. Her friends were still there, now resting at the edge. Francesca looked up at a nearby notice, then got up to look at it properly.

"Pool grand opening at eleven A.M.," she said. "It's one o'clock now."

"Oh! No wonder!" said Hera. "Hardly anyone goes to the gym during lunch hour."

"Speaking of which, I'm hungry," said Francesca. "I want to go home, Isabel."

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Fifty One

Previous chapter: Sisters' Plan.

Chapter Fifty One: To The Pool.

Two weeks later, it was business as usual, except that Attie was away at work and Francesca was constantly daydreaming about something. Isabel found her cousin grinning to herself after going to check on her.

"What's so funny?" Isabel asked her cousin, who stared at the wall.

Francesca snorted and giggled in reply. Isabel tapped her on the shoulder and broke the silly trance. "Beg pardon?" said Francesca. "What are you doing here?"

"We're going to the swimming pool. Grand opening today."

"Pool? Grand opening? The one at the gym? I haven't changed yet."

"We've still got time. Go on, get changed," Isabel said to Francesca and left the purple bedroom to give her cousin some privacy.

Isabel sat down and listened to some soft rock on the radio. She tapped her foot to the rhythm. Soon, Francesca came down in her white hoodie and black shorts. She sat down beside Isabel and waited for Hera, who minced out of her room.

"Well?" Hera asked. "Are we ready to rock the pool?"

"Aye, we are," said Isabel. "Don't mind my sudden accent."
"Okay, let's go!"
"Okay, let's go!" said Hera. Francesca stared off into space, daydreaming until Isabel shook her a little and dragged her along.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Fifty

Previous chapter: Art Tutorial.

Chapter Fifty: Sisters' Plan.

One afternoon, Isabel was jogging on the treadmill under the guidance of her twin.
"What's your plan?" said Attie, as she observed her twin's posture. "Besides running a convention at the museum and teaching art students these days."

"That's pretty much what I'm doing, besides looking after three young women who act like babies."
"Don't mock me!"
"Don't mock me!" said Attie. "You know very well I'm only ten minutes younger than you."

"You act as if you're ten years younger sometimes."
"Are you saying Fran's more mature than I am?"

"Yes," Isabel said, her expression still the same.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Nine

Previous chapter: Further Park Antics.

Chapter Forty Nine: Art Tutorial.

Days later, the housemates went back to their own routine, and Francesca was holed up in her room upstairs. She had taken to sleeping late and waking up late, since she no longer had to rush down to the SimCity Magazine house.

The Lion Twins and Hera still had more workdays than her, so Francesca was often left home alone. She didn't mind this arrangement at all. It meant that she could daydream, paint her face, her nails, and scribble as much as she liked. Nobody to complain about her liking for the Goth subculture, soft metal music, thick eyeliner, or dark nail polish.

She decided to send an email to her parents back in New York. As for her British cousin Norimi, she was busy travelling, so Francesca decided it wasn't much use blabbering in an email to her. She sent a simple one to Norimi wishing her a safe trip, then looked over some scenery photos posted on Norimi's Tumblr profile.

"Nice view of an English village, church and all," though Francesca. "Of course, my cousin is a pastor's daughter. I wonder what she's actually like in person. Will she complain about what I look like? Hope not. I won't make fun of her. Never felt the need to mock religion, though I don't really believe in it."
Fran wrote some emails.
The note for Francesca's parents, on the other hand, went into detail. "Isabel will give me an art lesson later this evening, after she comes back from work," she wrote after the standard greetings and questions about her brother Dennis. "I am going to practice drawing backgrounds, and maybe draw people if we have the time."

Once the emails were done, Francesca played Puzzle Cove. Sinopia was on the high seas again for the rest of the morning.

--------

Isabel came back from work as an art tutor, ready to teach her cousin the finer points of painting. "I need to be patient," thought Isabel.
"Use a ruler!"
When Francesca tried to paint a straight line freehand, Isabel said, "Use a ruler!"

"Why?" Francesca asked, looking at the lines. "They look fine to me."

"You tend to paint crooked. I've seen the way you paint your nail polish. Slop slop slop. Black or purple or red, no difference. Clumsy, but nothing a few tools can't fix."

Francesca took out the wooden ruler from the easel's toolbox. She placed the ruler on the canvas and painted a straight line with it.
"How's this then?"
"How's this then?" she asked her elder cousin. Isabel looked, putting a hand on her chin thoughtfully. She then waved her hands.
"No no no, smudge up the clouds a bit."
"You should smudge up the clouds a bit. Use some water," Isabel said. Francesca looked at her painting again.

"How much?"

"Half a brush, or rather, a few drops."

Francesca dipped the brush in the water and rubbed it on the drawn sky. The blue faded slightly.
She dabbed a little more green on the grass and trees, along with brown on the chimney.

Isabel watched her cousin paint slowly but steadily. Finally, Francesca was done. She stepped back from the painting and let it dry.
"Ah, nice painting."
"Very nice!" Isabel said, and she meant it. Francesca smiled at her drawing of a cottage.

Next chapter: Sisters' Plan.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Eight

Previous chapter: Out And About.

Chapter Forty Eight: Further Park Antics.

When Hera finished playing her violin, she realized that her housemates had scattered to different parts of the park. So Hera wandered to the fountain in the middle of the lot. She sat down on a small bench near a table and sighed tiredly.

"Hi, blue eyes," a little voice said. Hera looked up and across the table. She saw Ana.

"Hello yourself," Hera said. "Mind if I ask you a few questions?"
Hera interviewed Ana.
"Not at all."

"All right," Hera said. "Do you like superheroes?"

"I do too! Spiderman, Batman, X-Men!"

"Would you play a superhero game given the chance?"

"Yes!" Ana said loudly. "Are you making one?"

"My housemate is," said Hera. "Look out for the Mechanical Armageddon in a few months."

"Okay," said Ana. "Play chess with me."

Hera obliged, and Ana moved first. She put a pawn forward.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Seven

Previous chapter: Apologies.

Chapter Forty Seven: Out and About.

The four housemates all went to the big park that weekend, as they had little else to do at home. Hera immediately set up for a brief musical performance, minus the singing. She pulled out her violin and played a few scales to warm up. "Doe, a deer, a female deer," Hera thought to herself.
Fran hugged Isabel.
Francesca hugged Isabel as a crowd gathered in front of Hera. "I brought all of us to the park so that we can get some inspiration," said Francesca.

"How well do you think it's working?" the elder Lion asked.
"Hera's enjoying herself, for one," Francesca replied.

Artix Entertainment Review Extra 1.2

Previous extra: Click here.

Excuses, Schcuses.
I comment on the apparent opinion that chibi games don't work, then compare how you can break bad news tactfully or offensively.

Graphics, really?
When I was in contact with Cysero over Twitter, he claimed that "Nope. Artix considers the art style one of the multitude of reasons that HS flopped," (Source) when I asked him whether he would reconsider using the HeroSmash cast or art style in another short project.

This contact was after he posted his controversial article basically dismissing HeroSmash and Oversoul as unwanted ideas.

This would have been a reasonable response if Artix Entertainment hadn't just released a similarly super-deformed mobile game called BattleGems. Not to mention all the other disproportionate games out there with big heads and little bodies that are still being maintained.

Templates from HeroSmash.
Super-deformed is generally defined as skewed proportions where heads are big and limbs are short. Bodies may be much smaller to fit with the style.

The mascot of HeroSmash.
Graphics are important to the game, but they have to fit the tone. Even games with lackluster graphics can be a hit if its other features more than make up for it.

a) Nun Attack
A 2d mobile game about a group of super-powered nuns who have to take down one of their flock gone bad. It became such a success that a sequel and a spin-off were made, Run and Gun and Yuki's Silent Quest respectively.
Super-deformed with the backing of God.
Being chibi was not even a problem to cosplay. Cysero's assumption that chibi graphics were a factor in a game's failure is not true in this case. The game went beyond its graphical limitations to go overboard and tell a tall tale, as befitting a superhuman game.
Closeup of a Nun Attack character. (Source)
Nun Attack's graphics are the closest to HeroSmash as the characters in both games have extremely large heads, small bodies, and fine thin limbs.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Six

Previous chapter: Bringing Up Old Times.

Chapter Forty Six: Apologies.

Isabel stormed off to the park to cool down after Hera criticized her playing. Hera felt uneasy even after a quick shower and change of clothes. She read the notes for Carnival of The Animals, thinking of how to play them on piano later.

She didn't look up when Attie and Francesca came downstairs. The two of them started watching an action flick. When the title theme played, Hera got up and walked over to her housemates. "I'm sorry," Hera said.

"What's there to apologize about?" said Attie. "I've got no beef against you."

"I forgive you!" Francesca said, getting up from her seat. She stood in front of Hera.

"Really?" Hera asked. "I thought I upset you two with the Mechanical Armageddon game idea, I..."

Francesca knocked the breath out of Hera by hugging her tightly. "I love you, Hera!" Francesca said. "You're like a big sister to me. That main character mess is all water under the bridge."
Francesca hugged Hera tightly.
"You're the little sister I never had," Hera replied. She let go of Francesca and the brunette did the same. "You might be morbid, capricious, and childish, but you're great fun to be around."

Francesca smiled. She then looked aside, slightly embarrassed.

"Is something wrong?" Hera asked, concerned. "Toothache acting up again? I asked you to go see a dentist."

"Her passion's acting up," Attie joked. "Watch your back, Hera."
Fran went deadpan.
"What?" said Francesca. "Can't I hug someone without romantic intent? I'm not bi like you, Attie."

"Nobody said you were," Attie said and chuckled. "Though your heart is practically on your sleeve when it comes to feelings."

"Just like her superhero persona," Hera said. "Only difference is that she looks like a standoffish headsman then."

--------

In the park, Isabel was engrossed with a chess match between two men. She stared as the men arranged the pieces in reply to their opponent's moves. Isabel felt drawn to the man with straggly black hair.
Isabel had a captive audience.
So, when the black-haired man started talking, Isabel discussed her work at the museum. The onlookers were captivated by the small talk, but he did not seem too interested until she went on about Francesca's superhero story. He looked up then.

"Your idea sounds interesting," he said. "Let me know when your cousin publishes it." He then turned back to his game.

Isabel felt snubbed, so she plodded back home.

--------

The elder Lion returned halfway through the action movie her housemates were watching. She was glad to see that her housemates were no longer arguing with each other.

"You missed a lot of the movie," Attie said. "It's okay, you can still catch up."

"It's simple to understand, one of the latest Marvel movies," Francesca said.

Isabel sat down and the housemates spent a pleasant evening discussing the film afterwards.

Next chapter: Out And About.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Five

Previous chapter: Wisdom and Toothache.

Chapter Forty Five: Bringing Up Old Times.

Francesca felt her toothache was much better the following morning. When she came down for breakfast, Attie had taken a steak for herself and put out pancakes for Francesca. Hera had already eaten and was talking to Attie.

"As I was saying, Attie," Hera said, "I'll compose a few snippets of music for a new game project I'm making with Francesca, involving some of our old characters. So the story's mostly Francesca's idea."

"Oh really?" said Attie. "If that's the case, maybe Francesca can tell me all about it."

Francesca told her cousin about her plan for the Mechanical Armageddon. "You know Demoliri, right? The executioner girl who lost the Freedom Heart? This time, she'll retrieve it, while beating back the supervillains, the Mechanical Armageddon is her redemption."
"Wait, isn't Demoliri the Goth chick with a nano-leotard and executioner's hood?" Attie asked. When Francesca nodded, Attie blurted, "You and your dumb ideas! Making your character an executioner with a creepy mask and a provocative outfit, then putting her in the starring role of your game idea!"

"That's what the last storyline was before the admins of our roleplaying group gave up. I wanted to tidy up the loose ends."

"By the way, nobody's going to read a story where the heroes win, nobody wants a straightforward superhero victory anymore," Attie said. "Just my advice, cause so many people hated your character for what she did in the roleplay and won't read about her redemption if you post it."

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Four

Previous chapter: After the Library.

Chapter Forty Four: Wisdom and Toothache.

It was one cold night, as it had rained earlier. Francesca was curled up in her bed, tossing and turning.

"Go away, I don't need your hugs, your orders, and not your demands of me!" Francesca suddenly yelled in her sleep. "Leave me alone and don't come back!"

It seemed that the chill left her room right at that moment. Francesca woke up, shivering. She pulled the blankets around herself and tried to sleep.

--------

Francesca groaned as she typed an email to her parents and brother again. She wondered if she should mention the nagging pain in the back of her mouth. Knowing her mother though, Mrs. Takahashi was likely to rush up to Willow Creek, get her checked, then complain about her fashion choices.

She decided not to mention the toothache for now, and sent the email. She wrote a short one to her British cousin as well. Francesca then went downstairs and prepared some spaghetti for herself, as her teeth hurt too much to eat harder food.
"Oh, ouch!" thought Francesca when she accidentally bit on her sore gum instead of a noodle. "My poor mouth."

"I'll have better luck asking Hera for advice," thought Francesca. "I've seen Doctor Richardson, her mother before, and Hera's got a bit of medical knowledge."

Just then, Hera came out of her room. She noticed Francesca's discomfort. So Hera sat in front of Francesca, who complained, "My mouth hurts."

"You have a pain in your mouth?" Hera asked. "But your lips are fine. Have you been brushing your teeth lately?"

Francesca stared gloomily at her plate of spaghetti. "It's a big itch at the back of my mouth," she said. "Started this morning, and I do brush my teeth, thank you very much."
"Wait, you turned nineteen last December," Hera said. "Did you know that wisdom teeth come out around that time?"

"Not until you mentioned it," Francesca said. "Does it mean anything?"

Announcement about The Four Stars.

The first season will come to an end at Chapter Fifty Two, and as a result, this blog won't be as weekly as before.

Once The Four Stars' first season has ended, this blog will return to posting academic papers and game reviews.

Not to worry, the series will continue at a later date, and even if it doesn't, the story hasn't ended between a rock and a hard place.

The Chosen Sims and I thank you for your patronage.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Three

Previous chapter: Library Trip.

Chapter Forty Three: After the Library.

Once the pair got into the library, Francesca ran over to the bookshelves and scanned through the titles. She didn't find what she was looking for on the first pass, nor on the second pass.

"Miss, may I know where the literature and history guides are kept?" Francesca asked the librarian, after she just couldn't find the books she wanted.

The librarian pointed upstairs. "Go up two flights of stairs, they're in the reading attic," she said.

"Thanks."

Attie was looking at some sports magazines when Francesca tapped her shoulder. "I'm going to get some books from upstairs," the brown-haired girl said. Attie nodded and continued looking at the magazines.

Francesca then went upstairs, and Attie followed moments later, curious about her cousin's plan.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty Two

Previous chapter: Broadway on The Brain.

Chapter Forty Two: Library Trip.

One morning, Hera was very bored after looking up how to program simple roleplaying games. She looked at the blob of plasticine that Isabel had left on the desk, then took it. She molded it, rolled it around, and somehow or other got sailors on the brain doing so. As a result, she ended up with a miniature statue of Sir Francis Drake.

Then she heard Attie shouting about the post arriving. The younger Lion was watering the garden. Hera carried the plasticine bust of Sir Francis Drake to the mailbox, whistling the lyrics to Chubby Checker's Twist on the way.
Attie continued watering the garden behind Hera's back, grumbling as she did so. "What back breaking work," she said while pouring the water onto the plants. "We need a sprinkler, stat."

Hera picked up the postcards and went back in, still carrying the Francis Drake bust with her. Before Attie could say anything about the Francis Drake bust, Hera shut the door. Attie stood up and stretched after putting away the watering can. She then went upstairs to find her twin.

Isabel was painting as usual, too engrossed in her work to notice Attie sneaking up beside her.

Isabel yelled loudly when Attie roared into her ear. The elder Lion shrank back from her twin, and had to step back from her easel.

"What's all that about, dummy?" Isabel said crossly after Attie finished roaring. "I told you not to scare me like that if you want something. You want a snack or my permission to do something or what?"

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty One

Previous chapter: Guildhall Wannabe.

Chapter Forty One: Broadway on The Brain.

While Isabel settled down to watch television, Hera was pacing in front of the full mirror in the Twins' room. "I am the greatest!" Hera exclaimed to her reflection. "I am the best! The most marvelous! Ugh."
She looked at her own reflection. "Wow, I'm so drab," she thought. "Hang on, Hera, don't you look like the black version of a Hollywood star? Rita Hayworth mouth and nose, mi amigo?"

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Forty

Previous chapter: Smothered in Perfume.

Chapter Forty: Guildhall Wannabe.

One afternoon, when Attie and Francesca were away at work, Hera was bored. She was tired of guns and science fiction, so she wanted to do something musical.

"Isabel, since we have nothing better to do, I'd like to tune up your piano playing," Hera said to the elder Lion. Isabel was drying her hair after washing it.

"Wait till I get my hair dried, Hera," the Lion said. So Hera went downstairs and waited. It was fifteen minutes until Isabel sauntered down to the music corner where the grand piano was.

Hera tapped her foot impatiently. Isabel sat with a plop on the piano chair and her hands crashed onto the piano keys. Hera winced. "That's not how you treat the piano!" she exclaimed.

"When were piano keys made out of fine china, I'd like to know?" Isabel said, a bit sharply. She shifted on the seat.

"No, I just don't like it when people slam on their instruments and call the resulting mess music."

"Ah, you still have a strong dislike of metal and Goth-punk music then."

Hera gritted her teeth. "Shall we start with the very basics?" she asked. "Refreshing your memory and all."

Isabel obliged and placed her hands gently on the keys this time. "Start at C," Hera said.

"Do re mi fa so la ti do, do ti la so fa mi re do," Hera whistled as Isabel played the scales. "Again," the blue-eyed woman said. "Go as fast as you can without missing the keys."

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Nine

Previous chapter: The Scent of French Perfume.

Chapter Thirty Nine: Smothered in Perfume.

Isabel looked up when she heard the rocket lifting off. "Hera?" she asked, and went downstairs. Hera was busy composing a song on her computer. "Herakaris!" Isabel shouted. "Look out of the window!"

 Hera did as Isabel asked, then gasped in surprise. "MY ROCKET KIT!" Hera yelled at the top of her lungs. "It's gone!"

"Never mind that," Isabel said. "We have to find Attie and Francesca!" Hera ran out into the garden, still worried.

"Where the hell is the ship?!" Hera yelled at the sky. She had rushed out in such a hurry that she was still in her pajamas intead of her vest and skirt. Isabel tottered out on her heeled galoshes and peered into the sky as well. She narrowed her eyes at the sun's light. No sign of her twin or her cousin.
"Hey! Where's the ship?!"
 The rocket returned from its trip a few minutes later. It landed safely, covering Isabel and Hera in perfume. The door opened, and Hera saw her housemates inside.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Eight

Previous chapter: Percussive Maintenance.

Chapter Thirty Eight: The Scent of French Perfume.

It was two weeks before Hera felt the rocket was fit for flight. She had put in a dashboard computer, fine tuned the engines, and generally took her time to make sure everything was in place. It was also a day when the four housemates had the day off.

Hera was playing the piano trying to recreate some more game soundtracks, while Isabel was staring in admiration at the various snaps of art on Tumblr through her phone.

Francesca went out to weed the garden, and was picking the wildflowers from the base of the trees. "I hate this chore," she grumbled to herself. "I must scrub my hands after this."
Meanwhile, upstairs in the master bedroom, Attie was dressing to impress her cousin. She pulled on a simple red shirt and loose black trousers. "I'm hot stuff even in pants," she chuckled after seeing herself in the mirror.

With a big smile on her face, Attie sprayed some French perfume on her neck, just under her collar, and a bit on her stomach. She rubbed a bit of the fine scent onto her arms as well. After preening, she went out into the garden to find Francesca.

The brown-haired girl had washed her hands clean of the dirt, and was staring at the brick formations. She looked up and saw Attie. "Oh, hello," she said. "What do you want?"

"I want to know if you'd like to go on a trip with me," said Attie.

"A short one's fine with me," Francesca said. "Where to? Shall we take a bus to the library?"

"I've got a better idea. Shall we see stars, Fran?" Attie asked very politely. "Hera gave me permission to use the rocket ship," she said glibly. Francesca nodded.

"Then we'll go," Attie said and went over to the rocket ship. She opened it and grabbed two space suits from the hold.

When the pair put on spacesuits over their clothes, Attie paused before entering the rocket ship. She hoped that she'd be able to go through with her plan.

Francesca really believed that they were going to see the stars in the sky. "Are we going to see any big ones up there?" she asked, her eyes wide with excitement.

"You'll be seeing stars alright," Attie said. "Very intimate ones," she thought to herself.

They clambered into the rocket, and Attie started its engines. She quickly read the note that Hera had pinned for her own reference. The scrawled note stated that the rocket could only fly up to three kilometers in altitude.

"Three, two, one, liftoff!" Francesca quipped, and the rocket did just that.

Once the rocket got high enough to hover around, Attie set it to autopilot, and paced towards her cousin. Francesca was gazing at the stars. "Lovely view," she said.

"So are you, Fran," Attie said. She took off her space suit as Francesca stared at her.

"What? It's heavy. Would be more comfortable to take it off since we're not actually in space."

"Huh. Alrighty then," Francesca said and slipped out of her space suit. She crossed her arms when she noticed Attie staring at her chest. "Have I gotten plump?" she asked in her funny little British accent.

"Plump in all the right places," Attie said with a smile. Francesca's pale face turned bright red. Attie went right up to her and kissed her on the cheek. "What was that for?" Francesca asked.

"A kiss for a kiss, ma cherie Demoliri," Attie purred, putting a hand on her cousin's chest and reaching for the zipper with the other. "Maybe more."

Next chapter: Smothered in Perfume.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Seven

Previous chapter: Sinope Macaroon.

Chapter Thirty Seven: Percussive Maintenance.

As Isabel and Francesca watched through Hera's window, the blue-eyed woman in question was working at a steady pace to finish her rocket set. She carefully hammered in the joints and sealed them with solder, making sure each joint was covered before going to the next one.

She had finished the base and body. Now it was time to set up the top from inside the rocket.

Hera climbed up very carefully as she brought the parts up through the rocket's internal ladder. She fixed them in place, haphazardly at first, then carefully after consulting the blueprints.

"It's like a giant vehicle model," Francesca whispered to Isabel. "Can it fly?"

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Six

Previous chapter: Exploitation, Me?

Chapter Thirty Six: Sinope Macaroon.

Hera received a prize for winning a gaming contest at work. She brought the box back, with a plan to set it up the next morning. After her morning routine, she opened the box and groaned in disappointment. It was a virtual reality set. At that moment, Francesca entered Hera's room. "Where did you get that? Can I play? Did it cost a lot?" the plump young woman spouted off a lot of questions.

Hera put down the virtual reality mat and sighed as she set it up. "I got it as a contest prize. It's too bad I can't play it for long, unlike a normal computer," she said, as Francesca watched her.

"Can't play it? Is it on a limited trial?"

"I got a headache testing it out," Hera said. "You know why I have to take a nap in the car when the Lions are driving?"

Francesca shrugged. "Why can't you stay awake in the car?" she asked.

"I get motion sickness," Hera whispered. "In your case, I think you were bored of the drive. I've never been able to stay awake for an entire drive unless I'm the driver."

"The Lions won't let you drive, they complained that you drive like a madwoman back in New York."

"I can't help if the cars are just as mad there. How do Isabel and Attie manage to stay cool in the traffic?"

"They've got insurance," Francesca said matter-of-factly. "Their car's insured."

"I've got insurance too," Hera said. "Wish I could stop thinking of driving like a nut." She spread the virtual mat beside her desk and smoothed it down. "If you want to give the VR Mat a spin, be my guest."

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Five

Previous chapter: Postal Delivery.

Chapter Thirty Five: Exploitation, Me?

Francesca came back from work later that evening, looking annoyed. She grabbed a glass of soya milk and sat down to drink it. Isabel was eating a pepper and cabbage salad while Francesca sat down and drank her soya milk.

"What's bothering you?" Isabel asked. "Work, I take it?"

"Yeah, it's work. I'm not getting any responses to my applications for other editing jobs. People seem to think it's alright as a company not to give a reply even when the server indicates they've seen it," Francesca rambled on. "That French phrase asking to confirm your attendance or reply should be encouraged among companies."

"Reponse-sil-vous-plait," Isabel said. "Yes, it should be."
Francesca complained to Isabel.
"It's so tiresome. Plus another thing," said Francesca, waving her fat little hands around at the dinner table. "Attie acts just like a tar-baby, sticking to me like a big blob of glue, she thinks I'm her soft toy or something. When did I turn that cuddlesome? I'd like to know, seriously."

"Could be because you're a bit too stout," Isabel said. "I think you're just fine, shape-wise."

"I'll run, I'm pretty sure Attie wouldn't want to hug a pile of bones."

Isabel privately thought that Attie wouldn't care that Francesca would turn skinny, and hug her anyway. Her twin was away at a cocktail party, and wore a little black dress, which Isabel felt wouldn't look right on her. Then again, Attie was the sort to put herself on display. All long legs, short body, and a tendency to show a bit too much off.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Four

Previous chapter: The Kiss.

Chapter Thirty Four: Postal Delivery.

The beeping was the first thing Hera heard in the morning. She rolled over and picked up her phone. There was a message, and it said that her rocket kit would arrive soon. The news caused Hera to hop out of bed and put on her clothes on in a hurry.

A quick wash and brush later, Hera was ready. She sat by the mailbox, hoping for the delivery. It didn't come. Hera looked at her phone, it was six in the morning! She decided to go back in and sleep again, in her day clothes this time.

When she woke up again, it was around ten in the morning. She went out for breakfast and saw her housemate Attie.
Hera chattered about the delivery.
Hera greeted her friend cheerfully. "My rocket kit's coming today," she said, as Attie ate her breakfast thoughtfully. "If it comes in the morning I'm going to unpack it and put it together," Hera went on. Attie made a snort of approval, then got up and put her plate away.

--------

The post arrived in the form of a labeled parcel, which warned Hera to open it outdoors. A crash, a bang, and a thump later, Hera's parcel was finally unpacked. She stared at the resulting pile of metal propped up on the base.
An enormous set.
"I didn't expect a small box to hold a kit this big!" she said. "I thought it was a toy rocket. Don't tell me it's a Whovian bit of technology."

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Three

Previous chapter: Postal Order.

Chapter Thirty Three: The Kiss.

It was the weekend and the four housemates were having the day off from their work, so Attie dashed out for a run. Her long legs struck the pavement and she went as fast as the wind. "I really like running," the Lion thought. "Gives me time to myself."

After Attie came back from her outdoor run, she went upstairs, where Francesca was reading a book on Isabel's bed. Francesca sat up and put down the book. "How's the run?" she asked.

"Great, as usual," Attie purred.

"Wearing more clothes than usual, are we?"

"Since Isabel told me to put some more clothes on, or I might catch a cold," Attie joked. Francesca got up from the bed and walked over to her cousin.

"Want to hear a secret?" she asked. Attie nodded. Francesca leaned in close and planted a kiss on Attie's cheek.
She kissed Attie on the cheek.
Attie grinned as inappropriate thoughts of her cousin danced in her head. Francesca stepped back after kissing Attie's face. "That's a French kiss, right?" Francesca asked, looking uncertain.

"In one sense," Attie said, still grinning. "There are many others," she said, as she went to the bathroom to change her clothes.

--------

After Isabel came back from shopping for groceries, she put away the goods. She then sat down on the sofa to rest her back. "Case of the cold, now my back hurts, ugh," Isabel grumbled to herself. Attie and Francesca came downstairs.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty Two

Previous chapter: Acting For Sweeps.

Chapter Thirty Two: Postal Order.

Francesca told Hera a very rude joke involving blancmange over breakfast the day after the Sweeps stunt. Hera was grossed out, but tried to keep it down, along with the thin-crust pizza that was her brunch.
Hera was grossed out.
She wondered if she should ban Francesca from her life. On second thought, she pondered, it wasn't a very smart idea. It would just strain a good relationship, Francesca's sudden inappropriateness notwithstanding.
"Let's ban Fran," said Hera's brain.
Unfortunately, the thought "Let's ban Fran," resonated in her brain. She couldn't stop thinking about it, not even when she chattered about the game contest she had signed up for at work the week before. "I'm going for a Team Fortress 2 tournament," she said.

"Who are you playing as?" Francesca asked, giving Hera a curious look. "Soldier, Spy, or what?"

"I'd rather play as a Medic," Hera replied. Attie got up and cleared the plates as Hera ate the last of her pizza. "I can heal myself as well as the others."

"Good luck," said Francesca. "May you and your team win."

"Thanks, Fran. Same about your work at the magazine house today."

Focus and Continuity in AQWorlds.

Note: This was not written by me, but by another user of AQWorlds. I am simply rehosting their opinions with permission. The only changes I have made are spelling and formatting.

Author: Ergotth of Battleon Forums.
This is a little critique I have for AE regarding the direction AQW is going: all over the place and nowhere at the same time (Warning, this is a looooong text).

Introduction
Something I noticed more or less during the Spam Chaos Lord saga is that AE is not keeping the focus of its storyline. They want to keep throwing us so many random plot lines and events clashing with the current plot line that sometimes, between two events of the same plot, we have to wait a whole month to get back to where we stopped.

The Chaos Lord finale was a prime example of this, we kicked Drakath in July, Lore crumbled to dust, and we were about to meet the Loremasters. It took us December to get back with the Mother of all Monsters…and nowhere near where we stopped! What happened inside the Loremaster's temple? How did we get in the frozen wasteland? And why did it take 5 months frolicking in places that shouldn't even exist anymore to get back to the Mother of all Monsters saga, without even proper continuity?

And then we have 3 releases in the frozen wasteland, some nice quests, cutscenes, etc.. We finished it with an interesting note of two powerful villains getting closer than we wish they would... only to follow it in a different place from where we stopped again! Alas, in a place that shouldn't exist.

Lore's Geography
Northpointe shouldn't exist anymore, Lore itself crumbled to pieces, places like Battleon, Shadowfall, Arcangrove, etc are either sinking to the bottom of the ocean, shattered to pieces or isolated islands of destruction. If you guys had to emphasize so much the idea that Lore was literally falling apart (and I'm quoting a cutscene when I say "falling apart"), please give us a new map like you promised.

No need to make a new MAP, but at least make the rooms unrelated to the old Lore, like the Frozen Wasteland, it was a perfect scenario. At the same time, you should also make it very clear that Lore was scattered like a broken egg. Which was a very overwhelming plot device if you ask me, quite a bold move on the story. But you guys also need responsibility with this promise, because it meant a huge change in the map of AQWorlds that is yet to be seen. And speaking of the Frozen Wasteland, I don't think we had to leave that place yet. Don't be afraid to keep us in the same map for more than 3 releases in a row. it also helps the artist who makes the scenarios (J6, I believe) so he can easily keep what he was working on without having to jump from different themes so erratically.

Also, if you guys still can't part with some old areas, make some excuse to fit in, like, the area survived the destruction, or that room is all that's left of the whole area. Make some key points of the map as beacons in that sea of chaos (lower-case c "chaos"). So as much as Lore was destroyed, we get some places that survived somehow, like the places we saw in the Loremaster Temple release, what was left of Dwarfhold, what was left of Arcangrove, and so on...

And now we have yet another remake of the tutorial... Couldn't it just wait a little? The old tutorial was already explaining and introducing us to AQW pretty much fine on its own. Why can't some things wait? Please AE, make an engaging and coherent plot, a storyline that keep us eager to see the end, a continuous saga that wont be interrupted for so much time until we forget what we were doing. I liked how AQW was back a few years, with a whole story in a row, consistent and fluid, no unnecessary interruptions. However, I consider those seasonal events like Friday the 13th, Mogloween, staff birthdays, etc. necessary, they can't wait indeed).

The storyline in AQWorlds takes YEARS to be fulfilled, it's a long, complex story, BUT... it's split into smaller stories that converge in the end. The Chaos Lord saga was split into 13 parts and other related side events. Between the Chaos Lords' sagas, we had free time. Doomwood happened, Xan happened, Etherstorm happened. That is a good flowchart to follow. Try to keep the small parts of the storyline fluent and with short interruptions, so when they are finished, we can rest and enjoy some free time before the next adventure knocks on our door.

I know you guys have A LOT of brilliant ideas, but give it order, or else AQW will fall into literal chaos.

I suggest that every time you fine lads start a saga, consider the time it takes to make each part, try to avoid taking over 2 weeks to continue the story, and, if possible, avoid clashing the events. I would reccommend planning the order of some releases as a whole month plan.

Considering how a month has just 4 releases, 2-3 months sounds reasonable to just place the releases in order, you know, a flowchart, a pipeline. Something to place the releases in a line, take a step back and look at the order they have, and see which ones can change place with others. Sometimes it feels like the releases are planned looking forward but never looking back to analyze the trail they left.

I also have a few reminders of what was promised to us and so far, not a clue where they are going:
-last stone of Battleon: still about to turn into "something".
-Doomwood VS Grimskull: Grimskull was BRILLIANT, the dungeon was fun and the NPC was hilarious, we re all eager to see more of it (and make sure to explain us why Doomwood still exists when *ahem* Lore doesn't anymore).
-Descending into hell to get Dage's soul, promised after his birthday challenge boss fight, which specified that after the Chaos Lord saga finale, we would have this saga.
-The Scorned saga. We are still waiting to enter Dage's court.

I think it sounds a little harsh, but I'm speaking with a very sincere, worried and helpful intention. I see AQW losing some players, I can look at the servers and see how empty they get with time. Some players are quitting AQW, I'm not renewing my membership, because I feel like AQWorlds is becoming a pipe dream and its not captivating me as much as Dragonfable and AQ.

I don't want to see AQWorlds end up empty and deserted. I grew with it, alpha-tested it and saw with a very close eye every bit of development it had. I hold so many precious memories of playing... and this game has POTENTIAL, I tell ya. It is just veering off its direction a bit, so you must put it back on track. It's not a U-turn, just a few steps back to see your path, and keep your eyes on your surroundings. And most important, learn from the past. See what you did so you can plan what you will do, what you promised, what you must fulfill, what can wait, and what must be done immediately.

Battle On

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Four Stars Chapter Thirty One

Previous chapter: Declamation.

Chapter Thirty One: Acting For Sweeps.

The day after Francesca tried to declaim her poem of Attie, the housemates came back from work early. All except for Isabel, who had to stay back to conduct a night-painting session. Hera was playing through her game collection, checking up on VaudeVille, and napping when she felt too tired to continue.

Francesca ate a chicken sandwich for dinner while Attie had a lemon-covered salad. The Lion found her meal much too sour, but scarfed it down anyway. After Francesca washed her hands clean of the sandwich, she turned around and found Attie standing in front of her.

"What do you want?" she asked, a little peevishly. Attie grabbed Francesca's hands in reply. Francesca wasn't amused. "Did you hear me?" she asked again.
Attie took hold of Fran's hands.
Attie suddenly handed out a bright red rose after letting go of Francesca. Francesca took it and stared at her cousin. "It's for you," said the Lion. "You love roses, don't you?"

"A flower! Thank you!"
"I do! Thank you!" Francesca replied. She clutched the rose to her chest and smiled. "How did you know?"