Week 732

What’s this? I’m blogging about my work on a weekly basis – a simple way to track and archive whatever it is I spend my time on.

Last week I finished the second draft of my upcoming novel De verdwijners. It took me a bit longer than planned, but I’m glad to be able to say I didn’t rush any of it and made the text every bit as good as I could. (If people go on to decide the book is shit, it won’t be because I didn’t try.)

Next up, my editor will tell me whether we’re almost there, or more big changes are needed. I don’t expect that to be the case, but do have a long list of small tweaks to be made, which I’m planning to process simultaneously with the feedback from my editor. I also hope there’s time for some other people to read and comment. Other than that, I can only say I hope we’re still on track for an April release.

Last week, I also started playing Ni No Kuni. It’s been a while since I played a Japanese RPG and I must say I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the experience. I was enticed to try this one because of my interest in Studio Ghibli, which contributed to the game.

From what I understand, only the visual design (including character design and some gorgeous hand-drawn cut scenes) was done by Ghibli, but a lot of story stuff feels Ghibli-like too. The gentle banter between characters, for example, like when ’talking tree’ accuses ‘lantern guy’ of only visiting him when he needs something.

From the few short hours I played, I’m amazed at just how much stuff is in there. The game gives me the sense of a sprawling fantasy world, filled to the brim with colourful creatures and places, where you never know what to expect next. A bit like Final Fantasy VII… after which that series became more serious and coherent, and also more boring.

That said, Ni No Kuni is still a JRPG. So there are too many random battles, that aren’t that all that enticing, at least in the beginning. And there’s too much walking from A to B, then back to A, then back to B.

I was asked to write a piece about this game for the NRC Handelsblad film appendix, and I’m wondering what kind of advice I’ll give people who never play games, but enjoy Japanese animation. On the one hand, this feels like a long, somewhat padded but still tasty Ghibli film with bits of gameplay inbetween. On the other hand, the repetition of those random battles is going to be a bitch for most people.

So what else?

On Tuesday I visited the new Amsterdam NRC offices, where David Nieborg and I chatted with editorial chief Hans Nijenhuis about the future of nrc.next and the position of games in the paper. Lots of stuff is going to change, so even though the intention is to keep games in there, I have no clue how things will turn out. As always!

On Wednesday I wrote a piece for a Rotterdam-focused serious games and e-learning special that the gentlemen at Control Magazine are preparing.

On Thursday I wrote a column about Vlambeer, the only Dutch game development studio selected for the Edge developers top 50 (it’s at number 34). The column can be read here (in Dutch): Punkhelden van de games. Also check out the profile I wrote about them in 2011.

On Friday I visited Two Tribes. That night, Fridays at 7 with Kars Alfrink. Which was, among other things, a celebration of my De verdwijners milestone.

On Sunday afternoon, I visited the HKU faculty in Hilversum to judge the Global Game Jam games that were made there last weekend. It was the first time in three years that I didn’t participate in the ham myself, as plans to go abroad like last year didn’t pan out. So I was happy to still be involved somehow anyway.

It was lots of fun to be on the jury for once, though we got little time to judge a grand total of 26 games. I also got into something of an argument about the way game jam games should be judged (if at all). I’ll probably have more to say about this subject later!