It’s very, very important for fiction to have an appropriate tone. As for the difficulty of that, it’s strange. On one hand, I’ve seen many otherwise bland stories at least manage to keep an appropriate and decent tone. On the other, I’ve seen just as many ones-and these include professional and/or long works- that don’t.
I view maintaining a suitable tone as a kind of art that’s not easily explainable in terms of how to do, because you have no one answer for every story. What I also see is that getting the right tone is a very key factor in separating a proper story from a bowl-of-ingredients clunker where you have events and characters but they’re not really integrated. Not everything, but a big part.
Help, my rivet counting addiction has been triggered yet again. The culprit this time is the Micromark Army Lists, a very large list of orders of battle that range from the historical to the purely theoretical, from the musket age to the present. On Wargamevault (great site), they’re cheap, and I’ve been snapping them up en masse.
Weird how my cautious mentality gives way. I’ll waffle and hesitate over a cheap e-book, but have been wolfing down these dry lists like crazy. I’ve tried to get novel ones, but there have been a few duds I probably should have seen coming (You mean an unreformed ex-Soviet republic is going to organize its military on gasp-Soviet lines [that I already know a lot about]? .) In spite of that, the novel ones have been pretty informative…
Which is a big problem. I’m worried I’ll get too bogged down in rivet-counting minutia. In my Command scens, I’ve never been shy about brushing aside a specific unit’s availability by giving it a fictional name, and I’ve become even more inclined since writing that post. In other words, I might make a fictional aircraft carrier too.
But somehow I’m struggling mightily to translate that pragmatism to prose fiction. But I’m still trying, and I still have hope I can use the informative quality of stuff like the lists to my advantage while not turning into either an infodump fest (“oooh, X has two battalions of ___ per division, unlike Y who only has one, improving its firepower but also hurting it logistically….) or just stalling out.
There is such a thing as too much research, after all, especially if it’s misdirected research.
In lieu of Command Fiction today, because I’m having a case of writer’s block, I guess I should share something that I’ve learned, along with every single writer.
That lesson is that the speed of typing, actually pressing on the keys and making a paragraph, is much faster than the speed of writing, that of actually gathering one’s thoughts into something worth putting down.
Because I read and type fast, I’ve occasionally underestimated how long it takes to actually write something.
Arcade, one of the Marvel villains ideal for one story, yet utterly unable to work in anything beyond it.
Arcade, for most of his existence, was/is a normal human in a bad 70s suit and giant bow tie who builds deathtrap amusement parks called Murderworlds and has an inexplicable ability to capture superheroes and plop them in there. Appearing in the second-rate title Marvel Team-Up, by all means he should have been a one-issue wonder who would be “lucky” to be a victim of the Scourge, a character created to eliminate “embarrassing” villains.
Instead, the legendary Chris Claremont liked the character and used him as an X-Men villain, and he became a B/C-list supervillain, even earning a place in Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
There have been multiple attempts to make Arcade a “serious” threat, the largest and most recent being the Hunger Games/Battle Royale ripoff Avengers Arena. None have worked. How could they work? It takes so much effort to force a character whose gimmick is ridiculous even by comic-book standards that one might as well make a new character or use someone more appropriate.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Thankfully, the version that I call “Classic Arcade” is an ideal ‘filler’ villain that almost any low-mid level superhero can face. The amusement park gimmick can make for some interesting visuals, and Arcade rarely facing the heroes directly means his reappearances aren’t quite as contrived as-well, everything else about him.
The Ultimate Alliance appearance uses Arcade well, with his presence being an excuse to have a carnival level and some extra-hammy voice acting.
Even crossovers can work-there is nary a Marvel crossover I’ve come up with that doesn’t involve the other crossover characters being tossed into Murderworld.
Now, there’s arguably little that’s truly original. This is why, when I make my superhero fantasies, it’s not difference of powers that I focus on so much as difference of character.
But one bizarre coincidence, notable in almost how exact it is, and how coincidential it is, has stood out. See, there’s a character who can manipulate time, using it as de facto teleportation to outmaneuver enemies.
That describes Overwatch’s hero and mascot Tracer. But it also describes a supervillain in a notorious tie-in comic made twenty-five years before. The comic was NFL Superpro, one frequently trotted out as one of the worst of all time. The villain was, with a name fitting the football style, Instant Replay.
Instant Replay appeared twice, the second time also having an oddly coincidental connection to Tracer, as he had been phasing in and out of time uncontrollably, then semi-controllably. In both cases, he was defeated in a few panels (although the second time, the Superpro needed the help of his non-superpowered niece. Really).
So, either this is a massive coincidence, or someone at Blizzard decided to base a prominent figure in their newest flagship game on a throwaway villain in a decades-old throwaway comic. The latter is unlikely, and Instant Replay’s own style bears similarity to GI Joe’s Snake Eyes.
But it’s still an interesting thing to behold.
The term “hardest boss fight” is used far too commonly. However, I have found one that takes the cake.
It started when I was watching Saltybet, and noticed (repeatedly), a character called “General”. Looking up the origins of the general, I found that he was from a game called Kaiser Knuckle (known as Global Champion in a small US release), an unsuccessful and otherwise unspectacular Street Fighter knockoff.
Stylistically, the General is nothing but a cheap imitation of the legendary M. Bison, but in gameplay terms is so hard that it took twenty years for proof of a legitimate victory to be posted.
This is the proof of the victory over the General.
The boss got so hard that the developers nerfed him in a subsequent (and never actually released) update to the game.
The General is a relic of an era of less-strict game design-only stronger to his cheap-boss compatriots in relative terms, but overwhelmingly stronger nonetheless. Whether due to rushing the game or just horrible quality control, what should have been dialed back in testing ended up as this footnote in history.
Sometimes a limit can be reached, and the General was apparently that limit.
One final note: It’s a sign of MUGEN munchkin arms races that the General is not on the absolute highest tier in Saltybet.
I’ve talked about about how my “Rollback” plan ended up semi-stalling, but there was one exact “ok-looks like this isn’t working” thought that hit me. So I’ll explain it.
The exact moment when I realized my “Rollback” scenario project was when I was planning Super Tomcats, naval F-117s, and maybe even NATFs launching as part of a large carrier mission-and then realizing that I’d be putting them against the same force that was hopelessly bulldozed by units vastly inferior to that.
I’m sure other scenario authors have had a problem like that.