Stolen Pixels Update

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 22, 2011

Filed under: Personal 162 comments

I’d shelved Stolen Pixels for a lot of reasons. I wanted to put my time and energy into writing my book. Being unemployed, I couldn’t afford new games to feed the comic. I needed a break. I was stressed and not feeling particularly funny. Now it looks like these problems are resolving themselves.

I’m discovering that I can’t actually put 40 hours a week into my book. I’ve tried, but I end up spending a lot of the time staring and wasting time on the web. I can only write so much before I have to stop and let the next section take shape, and I can be doing something else while waiting for that to happen. It took me a while to realize this. See, I can always write more code. After 40 hours of coding the quality drops like a rock and I start making mistakes, but I can still keep moving forward. But writing prose is different, and I’m discovering that I can’t force it. This is a little scary to me. I really want to get this book out and see what happens. Can I make it as an author? I’m not expecting to be the next J. K. Rowling, but I do hope to make enough to keep me out of a cubicle. I’m really rolling the dice here, and the longer I spend on the book, the better it needs to do to make this work.

Sorry. I digress. The point is, I’ve got free hours in the week that I could be spending on videogames and punchlines.

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when I got my hands on some games. Jennifer Snow hooked me up with Dragon Age 2. On the same day that arrived, I got news that I’d (finally!) been granted journalist level access to games. In the past, I’d get the odd game now and again from PR companies and marketing types who were looking to spread their nets far and wide, but it was never something that I could depend on and it came too slow to feed the comic mill. (And Dragon Age 2 was not included in this boon, so I don’t have to feel guilty for accepting Jennifer’s gift.)

This is an excellent arrangement. In the past, I’ve been limited to lampooning games that I was actually willing to buy. For example, I’ve got Homefront right now. It’s a cover-based shooter designed for consoles. I wouldn’t spend my own gaming dollars on it, because it’s not my thing. And even if I was independently wealthy, I don’t think I’d ever be willing to put $60 into a four-hour shooter. But now that money and pride are no longer concerns, I can sink a couple of hours into the game and see if it yields any laughs. My access doesn’t cover all games, but it’s enough to feed the giggle machine.

The upshot is that Stolen Pixels might be a bit broader and more current once it gets rolling again. I’m looking to start it up next week, once I’ve played some games and gotten back into the groove.


From The Archives:

162 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels Update

  1. Jabor says:

    I always wondered where Stolen Pixels ended up. It’s awesome to hear that you’ve now got the time and means to get it going again.

  2. Joe says:

    I’m quite excited; having a broader range of games can ONLY help with your analyses and may end up introducing us all to some games we weren’t quite expecting. Huzzah!

  3. Jennifer Snow says:

    Hope you’re enjoying the game, I saw some of your tweets about it.

    1. StranaMente says:

      How is it that the single posts miss the link to twitter?
      I forgot to check those since I always look at your blog from rss directly to your posts, Shamus.
      Glad you bought DA2 for him, Jennifer. I’m eager to hear what he has to say about it!

      1. Jennifer Snow says:

        I didn’t exactly buy it for him. It’s a long story involving my desire to get the pre-order goodies and the EA store apparently losing my order repeatedly. So I got an emergency backup copy from Amazon. Then I offered it to Shamus when they both actually showed up.

        I read this blog every day, so it’s nice to contribute something I guess.

  4. ngthagg says:

    I’ve done a bit of reading on the subject, and most professional authors average between 1000 and 2000 words per day, which is about one to two hours of writing. The important thing seems to be making sure you hit that mark every single day.

    1. Dev Null says:

      That, and making sure that not all of those 1-2000 are rewrites of yesterdays quota every time…

      1. Aulayan says:

        That’s called the Martin effect. Heh. :D

        1. Mathias says:

          July 12, 2011. The world will end on that day.

          1. Syal says:

            That seems like a fun clock calendar.

            “The world will end on [current time and date]”

            1. Mathias says:

              July 12 is when the new Song of Ice and Fire comes out. It’s the fantasy geek version of Duke Nukem Forever, basically.

    2. JP Geoffrion says:

      Sounds about right. On a good day I can hit about 3-4k words but usually that entails that i’m planning the scenes while i’m working.
      And that i’m willing to write after work.
      Guess how often THAT happens? Stupid full time physical job.

      1. ccesarano says:

        I’ve found it’s easier for me to achieve more words when I want to discuss gaming or reviews, but prose is a Hell of a lot harder to deal with. I feel like I can burn through three pages saying nothing when reviewing a game, but when I try to tell a story two pages is like trying to climb a mountain without arms.

        I don’t know if prose is for me, though. I feel more comfortable writing dialog, but I’ve got no sense for script writing. So I’m at a bit of a pickle in that regard, and working a full time job makes it hard to work on such things in my spare time when I’m already working on being a games critic (which do I have less chances of? Being an author/writer of entertainment or writing in the games industry? I do wonder).

  5. poiumty says:

    Oh hey. The return of the Escapist’s only funny comic.
    This is good news (everyone).

    1. StranaMente says:

      I got to admit, since you went away, the quality of the escapist suffered a bit. Stolen pixel was funny. Well, maybe not all of the time, but I really enjoyed it.
      The only comic that’s capable of making me laugh some time is Critical Miss, but it seems they (she?) take theirselves too seriously sometimes.

    2. Halfling says:

      Yeah I really dislike Critical Miss. Way too much wannabe hipsterness.

      If you are gonna be a hipster you gotta be authentic, like Rutskarn.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Authentic Rutskarn hipster, now that’s an oxymoron.

  6. Joey Palzewicz says:

    See, Shamus? God always provides.

    I’m glad you’re coming back. I missed Stolen Pixels a lot.

  7. Aldowyn says:

    That’s good news! Just make sure you stay writing, Shamus, or we will come after you. At your house. In the dark.

  8. S. Richmond says:

    I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I’ve never found your comics funny and in fact I dislike them. I won’t go into why because my intention is not to insult you – I am well aware, and so should you, that its just my taste.
    I am, however, looking forward to hearing more of your intelligent game dev analysis. So I’m glad that you now have access to more games.

  9. Volatar says:


    Thats all I have to say :)

  10. Henebry says:

    Very exciting news. Your career is really taking off.

    Congratulations on this implicit recognition of your talent as a writer: you, sir, are a journalist.

    Just don’t start flashing your press pass when you go out for drinks.

  11. Cody211282 says:

    Oh you got DA2, I’m so sorry.

    I liked ME2 and think DA2 is crap.

    1. Veloxyll says:

      DA2 is just so very confused about what it wants to be. Is it a single player MMO, is it a CRPG, is it an Action game? It doesn’t know, and it shows

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Well, it has a heavy syndrome of being a console port but I didn’t mind the mechanics all that much, the combat is decent for someone who considers this stuff largely a filler for the game proper. I even somewhat liked the plot and structure initially, I liked how they got rid of the simplistic approval-disapproval system so you didn’t have to suck up to your companions all the time, I liked that the game wasn’t as blatantly “goodie-asshole” in its choices (the “sarcastic” dialogue option was often a lot of fun) as most other bioware titles.

        Enter final act and the game gets a severe case of stupid. It feels as if the people who wrote that part had no contact at all with anything that happened earlier in the game. Events make no sense, motivations are non-existent, characters who were barely introduced are suddenly referenced as being key to your past, people turn on you just for the sake of having another boss and pretty much all the choices you got earlier in the game are discarded in favour of a single “take this or this side and nothing else matters”. It made so little sense that a few minutes into the final act I started alt+tabbing and checking the wikia and walkthroughs because I was sure I somehow broke the game and skipped some key quests or something…

        Edit: Oh, and apparently with the whole mages-templars thing still everybody ignores you casting spells around in the middle of the square in broad daylight…

      2. Axle says:

        I absolutely agree with you.
        The games seems so unfocused – lot’s of characters, plenty of quests (most of them are just there to make the game seems longer ) and a very confusing and inconsistent story.
        I’m a few hours into the first act, I know I have to do some things but I have no idea why am I doing them. Not to mention that every couple of minutes I kill some people, so maybe the Hawke’s goal is to reduce Kirkwall’s population – The city that is overcrowded with invisible people.

        Richard Cobbert sums it up preaty well:

        I think it’s the laziest game Bioware ever created.

        Edit: Maybe it’s lazy, but I’m still having fun playing it and think it’s quite a decent game.

        1. Mathias says:

          It could’ve used longer dev time. Half a year would have polished up everything I didn’t like about the game.

        2. Jennifer Snow says:

          Actually, I think DA2 is more consistent and has a better-focused plot than most other RPG’s I’ve played, Origins included.

          The game is about the things Hawke decides to do in a city that (to use Yahtzee’s phraseology) is in the process of shitting itself inside out. *All* the quests organize themselves around this central theme. Everybody is trapped within this process of going insane.

          I’m not saying it’s perfect. There are major flaws, but every game has those. But it’s certainly no worse than Origins with its “I’m a Grey Warden against the Blight! Erm, why am I collecting garnets and solving the personal problems of hedonist assassins?”

          I think the way they fixed the goofy scavenger hunt board quests alone deserves a major commendation. :P Granted, they still HAVE scavenger hunt quests, but you get them by finding the STUFF first and then ditch it off with the recipient in exchange for some cash, which you actually need. Exploring every nook and cranny is a LOT more rewarding this time around.

          Granted, if you’re not terribly inclined to drive yourself crazy looking in every corner six or seven times, this means you’ll likely miss precisely that thing you most wanted to find.

          1. lurkey says:

            What irked me the most about DA2 weren’t even its flaws, but the feeling it would have taken so little to avoid the most part of them. Gameplay-wise: just a few more maps; no mobs teleporting right on top of the fragile archer and dogpiling him, or at least give the old camera back so I can move him to a safer place; story-wise: two endings with according end bosses would have fixed that dreadful finale to almost acceptable level; if you introduced a McGuffin explaining why certain someone got crazy, stick to it, instead of making every plot-important mage go abomination on Hawke, thus making me think, “Look lady, you are right, they really all are dangerous idiots with zero self-control”; ooooh poor mages are so oppressed wait what why is City Guard Captain running everywhere with two blood apostates and an abomination in tow and nobody gives a toss?

            In short, I suspect that a lot of people are annoyed not because DA2 is crap; it’s because it’s easy to catch a glimpse of a great game it could be – but you cannot touch the greatness because of the shit film on it.

            1. acronix says:

              The “magic” ambushes are really what made me put the game on easy for all my (two) walkthroughs. I decided to swtich from hard to it after, during a certain combat, a big group of fanatics spawned RIGHT in front of my eyes. I wasn`t even doing the “move back to a choke point” tactic: I was were what I guessed the designers thought the battle should take place on, but they still spawned a group of enemies inches behind it. And no, they weren`t even hidden behind a corner or something.

              The lack of a tactic camera bothered me too, but to a lesser extent. And the finale…no need to speak of it. *shrugs*

            2. Khizan says:

              I actually like the spawning adds because it makes the battles less of a straight up tank and spank. The teleporting in on the squishy is amazingly irritating, though. And on hard, some of the bosses have so much health that I drop it to casual just to prevent it from being a 20 minute fight.

              I’m pretty sure the reason there weren’t dual endings is because Dragon Age 3 is going to have a world seeded off of DA2, like 2 seeded off of Origins. Having two drastically different endings would result in two drastically different worlds, which would mean that DA3 either says “One of those worlds? It was wrong and non-canonical”, or is two completely different stories designed side by side.

              1. lurkey says:

                There’s no need for drastically different endings – after all, in most if not all RPGs there is but one ending: Irenicus dies, Nameless One goes to Blood War, the Reapers are coming to get us, so why not the world revolution of proletariat, er, mages? My most irritating gripe here is with that fight with Orsino when you’re on the mages’ side is an asspull of colossally insipid, brain damaging, story ruining, writer team shaming level. I understand they just wanted to toss in an extra fight for those who only play once, funny thing is – that boss is ridiculously easy what with the rest of your team + some other guys fighting him.

                Health bar of the bosses being their defining and often sole ability, yeah. After running around pummeling dragons with fireballs and casting Horror on the undead I was so grateful to find that boss fight where elemental resistance was crucial that I earnestly chipped at her health for all them 20 minutes. She earned them.

  12. Kavonde says:

    Awesome! Congratulations, Shamus.

    Possibly related to Stolen Pixels (or a review post, or a future season of Spoiler Warning), I look forward to seeing your reaction to Merril in DA2. I can’t be the only person who can’t decide whether to hug her or smack her upside her damn fool head.

    1. Jennifer Snow says:

      I’m firmly in the smacking camp on both Merril and Anders.

      1. acronix says:

        You would just smack him?

        1. StranaMente says:

          I can clearly picture the guys that made Merril.

          Guy a: “Well, Tali worked, didn’t she?”
          Guy b: “Indeed. There are eight bazillion fanfiction about her and counting.”
          Guy a: “So we can make Merril just like her, right?”
          Guy b: “Don’t know… really, they’ll notice it, right?”
          Guy a: “I got it. We make her an elf. Nobody will notice we blatantly copied her!”
          Guy b: “You’re a genius!”

          That’s right.
          As for the rest of the crew they just went for “Let’s get ’em 57% more emo. Especially Fenris. He’s totally a emo.”

          1. Kavonde says:

            I disagree with the Merill stuff, strongly. I think they did start with Tali as a template, but then (rather cleverly) decided to introduce a flaw that would make her simultaneously nerd bait and nerd bane. I absolutely love how the character is written, even while I want to strangle the character herself.

            Ditto Anders, actually. I really, really like that he has his own agenda that he actually pursues, rather than just mentioning how important it is to him in conversations while never taking any initiative. His agenda might be questionable, but it’s present and it affects the story. This is something we’ve never seen in a Bioware game.

            As for Fenris…I saw the white hair and big sword and immediately dubbed him Sephiroth. From what I’ve seen of him, I wasn’t far wrong.

            1. acronix says:

              The reason I want to smack (understatement) Anders isn`t because of how he is written, but of the particular action he as a character takes. Stabbing him in the back with him agreeing to isn`t very fulfilling.

              Otherwise, I liked that most companions in this game aren`t with Hawke just as sidekicks of the hero.

            2. Ringwraith says:

              If really hate a character and it’s because of the way they are written, though they have to be written well of course, then it’s not a bad thing, as they were obviously aiming for that.

              Mass Effect 2’s Jack is a good example of a character written to cause varying reactions.

      2. Halfling says:

        I romanced Merril but I too felt really confused and conflicted about her. Especially since I always had Anders with me as well and he constantly points out how stupid she is being, in the meanest way possible, and frankly I agreed with him.

        1. Jarenth says:

          Minor spoiler:

          At the end of Merrill’s last companion quest, if you bring Anders, he points out (yet again) what an idiot she’s being. If you bring Fenris as well, he agrees on this, then comments that that’s probably the only time they will ever agree on something.

          So I *guess* there’s an upside to Merrill’s quest.

          1. Halfling says:

            More Major Spoiler:

            There is a second upside to that quest. You then can slaughter a whole clan of Elves. I must have been channeling my Dwarf Warden who hated elves, for no reason, when I did that quest.

            That whole Merril quest actually annoyed me, since the her whole clan is dead and the mirror is gone thing was ruined for me because of an out of order cut scene.

            1. Jarenth says:

              The mirror was literally invisible for me in the whole of the third act, and Merrill’s final cutscene (after the clanslaughter — filthy knife-ears) didn’t play at all.

              This leads me to assume a hilarious continuity wherein Merrill is so in shock by what happened that’s she’s just repressed all the memories.

        2. Zukhramm says:

          Stupid was kind of the point of her character, I thought. Though I wish the game wouldn’t let the player character use blood magic himself without any conesequences.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            I feel sad that I can’t finish Awakening and see all of Anders from that… I kind of lost DA:O somewhere recently, and I reloaded my computer, and… I need DA:O to install Awakening. Dang.

          2. Halfling says:

            I really want to know how people in DA2 even have enough blood to fuel that Blood Magic. Every time you cast a spell in the blood magic mode there is like four liters of blood splattered beneath the characters feet.

            Blood mages must be great for blood drives.

            1. Jennifer Snow says:

              Considering the huge, major, glaring and goofy inconsistencies they have had in both games regarding blood magic, I think the explosive splatter is the least of the problem, hah.

              Actually, I personally think that the wildly inconsistent and apparently contradictory lore is PART of the DAverse. One of the major themes of the games is that nobody in Thedas really KNOWS the truth–and many of the biggest problems are caused by the people who have decided they do on insufficient data and catapulted themselves off the deep end. Whereas everyone who’s rational enough to say “I can’t really form an opinion about that yet” is either a.) the PC or b.) gets ruthlessly squashed unless they’re lucky enough to fall under the wing of said PC when PC is in a good mood..

              1. Klay F. says:

                I was under the impression that when the Tevinter Imperium tried to invade the Golden City, they used like a mountain of slaves to fuel the spell.

                That image is kind of off-tone for the way they portray blood magic in the game.

                1. Jennifer Snow says:

                  Well, this is the Chantry’s version of what caused the first Blight. Nobody knows for sure if this actually happened or not. Certainly, it was the practice in the Imperium (and is in the modern Imperium) to kill slaves to power magic. Why, I have no idea, because even the very nastiest blood mage you ever meet is a pushover compared to the PC, even if your PC decided to be a spirit healer. :P

                  Keep in mind that the DAverse is not your standard fantasy universe where all prophecies and beliefs are true, so if someone is spouting some mystic mumbo-jumbo, you can just accept it as given that the Maker exists and what the old gods were and so forth.

                  My personal hypothesis about where the Blights came from (with no strong evidence for or against it) is that one or more groups or individuals among the Imperium mages developed a super-soldier program of sorts that was supposed to produce an army that was utterly loyal to the Old Gods, but it (surprise, surprise) backfired *really badly*. People trying to create magical armies and having it turn out to be horrific is also one of the major themes in the DAverse, is why I have this suspicion.

                2. Klay F. says:

                  I wasn’t really talking about how the Blight came about, more about how the Golden City turned Black. I guess I just assumed that there was actual concrete evidence of Tevinter trying to invade the Golden City. Also, since the Black City definitely exists, I just assumed there would be records of it from before it turned Black.

                  Wow, there are a lot of assumptions there that were never specifically stated to be true. Hmm.

                  The Witch Hunt DLC from Origins would have helped if it had actually given ANY answers. Instead, it just launches more questions at you, “Lost” style. *grumble grumble*

            2. Irridium says:

              Everyone in the Dragon Age universe is just packing insane amounts of blood.

            3. acronix says:

              Let`s be glad blood isn`t under high pressure like in some animes.

        3. Kavonde says:

          I tried to romance Merill (and hopefully at least one of us is spelling her name right), but couldn’t help berating her for her naivete. I somehow managed to still get her to pay Hawke a “visit,” but after a lot of thought and a couple of reloads, I decided it was best of Hawke just shut her down and kept his “friends with benefits” arrangement with Isabella.

          The post-coital options of “thanks, toots, let yourself out,” “love’s kind of a strong word…uh…okay you’re crying now, wait, come on,” and “MOVE INTO MY MANSION AND OUR LOVE SHALL BLOOM ETERNAL” kinda weirded me out, too.

          1. Halfling says:

            More minor spoilers:

            Actually when Merrill finally does get to moving in, it is just kind of creepy. She comments at one point that she thinks Sandal is watching her, and that is after I had heard Sandal give a semi-possible sounding prophecy. If Sandal doesn’t trust something, then I clearly shouldn’t either.

            1. Jennifer Snow says:

              This is why I prefer Fenris. I don’t think he moves in with you. He actually seems pretty personally self-contained apart from being an emotional wreck.

            2. Jarenth says:

              The Sandal prophecy is both amazing and the creepiest thing in the game by far.

              I mean, Sandal himself is pretty creepy, but that minute of basically ominous ranting takes the cake.

              1. Halfling says:

                I don’t know if anything is creepier then that smile after you find him in the deep roads surrounded by dead Darkspawn. I was really worried he was about to kill me. Then my Hawke goes and kneels in front of him and makes a sarcastic comment. I was all like….wow check out those massive balls on Hawke.

    2. Kdansky says:

      At least people are here are still sane. At RPS, everyone rips DA2 apart and tells me how awesome ME2’s story is.

      That’s like telling me I should stop eating these steaks and potatoes, because the motor oil cake is surely more healthy. Now, steaks and potatoes might have their faults, but they sure as hell don’t poison you!

      1. Jarenth says:

        The same cannot be said for the third act of DA2.

        1. RejjeN says:

          That’s when they decided to pour gasoline into your glass of milk! :D

          1. Zukhramm says:

            It’ll just improve the taste. (Alright, I hate milk…)

      2. evileeyore says:

        Wait what?

        Have they even played ME2?

        1. acronix says:

          They have, but they didn`t pay attention to the plot parts: they are speaking of the box-based shooter sections.

          1. Irridium says:

            But those also sucked!

  13. Legal Tender says:

    Seeing as how it seems you are transitioning to gaming as a full-time job I thought it may be relevant to draw your attention to this:

    The folks at RPS are trying to get a campaign going to get release dates harmonized (basically between the US and the UK but I’d say it could well extend beyond that).

    They also have some words on The War on Piracy (TM) which you might find resonate with your own thoughts on the subject.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      I’m not going to demand close releases as it is now. Compared to the month old wait we used to get, the couple of days or week or so is perfectly fine for me.

      1. ccesarano says:

        It’s only really a problem when you have big role-playing games involved, and typically only the Japanese ones. So all in all I don’t think it’s a problem either.

        …oh, wait, have you ever seen Nintendo’s release dates for Europe? Nevermind, they can get pretty damn harsh.

        1. Zukhramm says:

          No, Nintendo has not been on my map a lot recently, though I do remember how they managed to deleay Phoenix Wright 3 for so long they released the fourth game before it.

          1. Klay F. says:

            Or the Pokemon games…Why must the world outside of Japan wait 6 extra months for Pokemon games? Also…every Final Fantasy game ever.

            1. Chargone says:

              six months to get to the USA from japan.. then, though this has improved depending on publisher and franchise to the point where occasionally something will release in europe First, 6-18 months More for europe. plus maybe another month for shipping to get to New Zealand so i can buy the thing. (we get US versions of PC stuff and european versions of console stuff, generally speaking. well, ‘cept maybe with the 360… but i think it’s release dates are just more of a ‘yeah, might be out by a month due to schedualing, shipping, and contract issues’ rather than ‘yeah, not making it in a form you can have, nyah :P’ )

              1. ccesarano says:

                This makes me wonder, one of the reasons games in Australia and New Zealand are marked up so high is because games have to be shipped over there.

                Wouldn’t it on the whole be better to just have plants that print the discs? I mean, the actual game data can be sent via the internet, or if you really want a master disc can be shipped to print from. Why would they still be doing things the hard way?

                1. Soylent Dave says:

                  They aren’t doing things the hard way.

                  They’re doing them the easy way, and gouging their customers anyway – because Aussies were already used to paying through the nose, so opening a CD / DVD pressing plant in Oz just means ‘massively increased profits’ for the distributor.

                  Why on earth would they pass those on to the end user?

            2. Ringwraith says:

              Actually, Europe got the latest Pokemon games before America did, and the gap between Japanese and international release is ismply because they need time to localise it, especially in Pokemon’s case as it’s available in a ludicrous number of langauges.
              They actually translated the lastest Pokemon games directly from Japanese for all languages instead of the old method of doing from the English, so they’ve even made the process more difficult for themselves while still retaining the same time period.

              1. Adam P says:

                Or to put it another way, the long wait period is to rid us of Volcano Bakemeat.

  14. NonEuclideanCat says:

    Everything in this post is welcome news. I’m really happy to hear that everything is falling into place for you, Shamus. Keep up the good work.

  15. StranaMente says:

    I put some money in the money place few days ago, hoping to ignite some new project (i.e.: buy you some new game), but Homefront?
    Why not Total war: Shogun 2 (aka: whatsitsname 2)?
    I heard from the folks at RPS that it can suck your life, but on the other hand you can come out with few interesting things from it, don’t you?
    Please take some time and burn DA2 to the ground. You’re allowed to talk well only of the combat and of the inventory. Nothing else.

    1. The money in the money place went to keep the electric going so as to keep the computer going so as to keep Shamus going–and for that we thank you — Shamus without computer is a cranky man. The game came with the journalist account which is now on the computer that is still going.

      1. StranaMente says:

        I’m glad with that, I didn’t bind the money to a specific pourpose, so that Shamus may use them even to feed himself on doritos and mountain dew if he sees this fit (I really hope he doesn’t, no human can live on that) just as long as he’s happy.
        From my point of view, patronage should only work as a hope for the future and a remuneration for the past work, and once given I have no voice on what you do with it.
        But I have to say that I’m happy that he didn’t used them for homefront, I heard that that game isn’t really much interesting (and fps are not good source material for Stolen Pixel usuallY), so you know, better this way. :-)

        And we can all relate to missing-pc crankiness.

  16. Exetera says:

    Hmm. If Stolen Pixels is coming back, might there be any chance for more Project Hex in the near future as well?

    Once again, good luck on that book! I’d love to hear more about it. (Any chance of an excerpt?)

  17. Adam says:

    I’m concerned, Shamus. On the one hand, I know you’re an intelligent guy from having read this blog for the last two years or so.

    On the other hand, as a will-be novelist myself, everything I’m hearing of your plan to switch to a novelist career doesn’t strike me as “risky”, but simply as a horrifying error of judgment; unless you’ve got some very special connections you’re not telling us about, I don’t see how it can possibly work.

    The average advance on a novel is somewhere around or above $6000, and a little more than half of that if you don’t have an agent. That’s what, three months of living expenses if you’re thrifty?

    And that advance will be meant to tide you over until the publication of your book, which will take at least a year, maybe a good deal longer. Even if it sells right off the bat, you’re going to be in need of an alternative source of income for a while. 7 out of 10 books don’t earn enough to pay a writer more than the advance, either.

    To top it all off, good writing takes a hell of a lot of time, especially for non-vets. It’s unlikely you could write one every three months worth selling even if you had a publisher stationed at the door to take the pages.

    All of which, again, I feel presumptuous in saying to someone who has never given me reason to doubt his intelligence, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how in God’s name you’re going to make this work. Do you have two years’ worth of savings you’re simply planning on burning through while you make this play and hope you catch nothing but net on your first try?

    1. Shamus says:

      I know ahead of time that I’m not going to have to spend a year spamming publishers like a new writer.

      I have a plan. I’ll say more as the book nears release.

      1. Shamus says:

        Addendum: I do not mean to imply that the plan is foolproof. Or even wise. But I’m pretty sure I’m being reckless as opposed to stupid.

        1. Adam says:

          Asked and answered. I wish you the best.

          1. Chargone says:

            if nothing else he can always self-publish. you’d be surprised how far that can get you if you do it right.

            1. RTBones says:

              Seconded. It means more work up front, but it is all work _you_ do, as opposed to dealing with the publishing industry.

              Shamus has a following here. I have little doubt that, once the book is done, if there were a link on this site that allowed folks to buy the book – it would sell.

              I will also raise the proverbial glass in Shamus’s direction and say, “Bon chance, mon ami de l’internet.”

      2. Peter says:

        In this, sir, you are truly fortunate. I have spent much of the past year doing very nearly that (spamming agencies, to be specific) with nothing to show for it. I hope your popularity (and possible notoriety) as a web presence will speed your work to bookstore shelves.

    2. wootage says:

      Hopefully online retailers and direct Internet sales will help him avoid the pitfalls of the Paleozoic-style publishing industry.

      1. Luke Maciak says:


        Shamus has a built in audience – fans of his blog and the show. I know I’m gonna buy his book for sure just to support him. I suspect many people here will probably do the same.

        In addition, we can help by spreading the word once the book hits the shelves.

        1. ccesarano says:

          This, plus my thoughts are that he could be looking to publish independently and via electronic medium. We could be looking at Kindle/Nook exclusive I guess?

          On that note, the folks at Dark Horse published Yahtzee Croshaw’s book, and that means Shamus has connections via The Escapist. Your average newbie novelist doesn’t get that sort of connection. It’s no guarantee, but it helps.

          This is all my own guess work, though, but on the whole I’m optimistic.

    3. Mari says:

      In addition to what everyone else said, bear in mind that Shamus isn’t the only income to the household. I have no idea (nor do I particularly care to speculate) on what Heather’s art is bring into the house but I do know that she’s getting something for her work. Combined with the generosity of readers here and Shamus’s plan (I so wanted to type “evil plan” but I just can’t apply that label to Shamus) they have a better than average chance of riding out the slack period.

      1. Chargone says:

        clearly, it is a Cunning Plan.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Now, is it the sort of cunning plan that would come from the Baldrick of the first series, or of the later ones?

          1. Lovecrafter says:

            Probably a plan so cunning, you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel.

  18. Irridium says:

    So I take it that the New Vegas arc you started won’t be finished? Aw…

    Oh well, Stolen Pixels is coming back, and thats what matters.

  19. somedude says:

    Great news. I was just telling someone about how good Stolen Pixels was a few days ago…

  20. Jarenth says:

    I firmly feel that an Internet that includes more Shamus comedy is a better place for everyone.

    That is all, really.

    1. Bubble181 says:


      1. Mari says:

        Motion is made and seconded. Any further speaking to this topic?

        1. Jennifer Snow says:

          Move that the debate be closed and the matter put to a vote.

          1. Irridium says:


            /scruffy… again.

        2. Irridium says:



            1. X2-Eliah says:

              Scruffy not part of this debate. Scruffy just lives here. /scruffy

              1. Jarenth says:

                Motion passes.

                Congratulations, Shamus, you are now officially making the Internet a better place.

  21. Blurr says:

    This is unrelated to the topic at hand.

    I am very much against Facebook integration on other websites. I know I can’t be the only one. I tried a while ago to figure out how to block Facebook when I’m not on the main Facebook website, but couldn’t find anything.

    My concern is that because this “like” link appears on blogs all over the place, Facebook can get a pretty good idea of my browsing habits. I am against this on principle.

    It also seems to me that very few people use the like button.

    I have been a reader since near the beginning of DMotR. Your website is one of the few that I have white-listed in ad-block (though sometimes ads don’t load anyway :S ). Please remove this terrible thing from your blog.

    1. Klay F. says:

      I pretty sure, even if what you are saying is true, that Facebook will have no clue of what websites you visit unless you actually click the “Like” button. Also, if you are that paranoid about it, just log out of Facebook manually.

      You are getting worked up over something you can just as easily ignore that will have no impact on you.

      1. ccesarano says:


        I can understand people not wanting to have ads customized to them (that’s what Facebook uses that information for, after all), but the mere presence of a like button on a web page isn’t going to do anything unless you actually click it. This site doesn’t automatically jump into your cookies to see if you have Facebook login info, THEN log you into the Facebook servers and THEN transmit the data.

        It only does that after you hit the like button (which reminds me, maybe I should’ve done that instead of manually sharing a link?)

        1. Blurr says:

          Are you sure? The part that says “Be the first of your friends.” makes me assume that it already knows who my friends are, even without my clicking on it. And just because I log out of Facebook doesn’t mean that they can’t still track me.

        2. Adam P says:

          Actually, having a Like button on the page is enough for Facebook. Doesn’t matter if you’re logged in or not. (Thanks, Cracked!)

          1. Blurr says:

            tl;dr: Facebook is evil.

          2. Irridium says:

            Its funny, because that Cracked article has a facebook “like” button at the bottom.

          3. ccesarano says:

            Alright, so I’m wrong.

            Even so, again, the only information that Facebook is selling is that I like going to sites about video games, and thus will post video game based ads everywhere.

            Is that really a problem?

          4. Klay F. says:

            Assuming this is actually true, it makes no difference. Why? Because Google does this on such a larger scale than Facebook its ridiculous. You won’t see people lining up to piss on Google from every corner of the internet. Ironically, people will actually line up to defend everyone’s favorite privacy violator.

            It reeks of hypocrisy. The only reason there is ever a backlash against Facebook is because the founder is kind of a douche-bag.

            Also, if you are so concerned and paranoid about Facebook stealing your soul through browser cookies, then delete them regularly. Hell, I do that out of habit anyway.

            1. Zukhramm says:

              Well, Google doesn’t have an account with my name to tie it all to.

              1. ccesarano says:

                Are you sure about that? Have you avoided Blogger, GMail, Google Analytics and Picasa at all costs? And other such data? Plus, let’s face it, all they need is your IP address and from there they can figure out who you are.

                1. Bubble181 says:

                  Don’t forget YouTube and many, many internet news sites which can combine with Google, too.

                2. Zukhramm says:

                  Yes I have. Not at all costs, I’ve actually never given any effort to avoid them, I just am never pointed in the direction or feel the need for any of them. And my IP adress will vary between where I am and I’m sure I wll not remain with this internet connection for the rest of my life anyway.

                3. Klay F. says:

                  Thank You! Google is more ubiquitous than Facebook will ever be. Moreover Google isn’t afraid of anything. People like them because even with all their means of obtaining information, they haven’t used their powers for evil…yet. Except that is bullshit. Google regularly deliver beat-downs on companies who try to game the search bar to get more hits for their websites.

                  Though I honestly can’t wait when Google gets the upper-hand in the Chinese search engine battle. Once they do, oh man, there will be a beat down the likes of which you have never seen. The funny part is, it will completely show Google’s true colors, but no one will care because it happened in China.

        3. Chris B Chikin says:

          I actually like the way ads are being tailored to me. Although I use adblock on most sites so it’s not such an issue, I’d much rather have ads saying “Try this new game” or “Low cost hockey equipment” than “Cheap Breast Implants!”

  22. Khizan says:

    Personally, I found DA2 to be superior to DA:O in most ways.

    I will admit, Origins seems slightly more polished. It doesn’t reuse dungeon maps, and it feels a bit smoother than does DA2.

    However, for all the polish and smoothness and quality of it, it’s still a generic “Man versus Orcs” storyline. They built this awesome world with all sorts of rivalries and conflicts and color, and then they used it to launch a stereotypical “Man versus Ancient Monolithic Unthinking Evil” game that didn’t take advantage of any of it. The conflicts don’t really show themselves as part of the story, in my opinion. The Mage/Templar thing shows up once with any seriousness, the dwarven factions are a bit bleh unless you’ve been a dwarf Noble, etc. The game is very well made, but rather bland all the same.

    DA2 is the opposite of that. It’s not the story of a hero saving the world, it’s the story of how a hero became a hero. You play around more in the society of Thedas, rather than taking the role of a Warden, who is an outsider by the nature of the job, during a major crisis. You see Templars who are dicks and Templars who are pretty cool guys, as well as seeing good apostates and bad ones.

    It’s not quite as polished as Origins, but the story is much more ambitious and much more interesting, imo. I also vastly prefer the companion system in it. The lack of armor customization for them is more than made up for by the fact that I don’t have to dress them up in a clown suit for optimal performance, and the lack of camp dialogue is more than made up for by not having to sit there and listen to them infodump at you. Combine it with the vastly better combat and you get a game that’s a bit rougher than Origins, but better despite it.

    1. Kavonde says:

      I absolutely concur with this post.

      I’d say Dragon Age 2 is, essentially, Bioware cribbing Obsidian’s writing style. And that is a good thing.

      1. Halfling says:

        No wonder I like it so much and people on the Bioware SN forums and the SWTOR forums dislike it so much.

        It is great to finally see Bioware crate a nuanced story and break from their more traditional formula.

      2. lurkey says:

        I thought the same. Then, Act III happened.

        1. Irridium says:

          Yeah, Obsidian’s writing style. Great stuff that completely goes to ass-town in the third act.

        2. Jarenth says:

          The residual nerdrage I have left over from Act III could be used to heat my entire household for weeks.

          1. lurkey says:

            I couldn’t finish it in my second playthrough. Just…couldn’t. Not even drunk. Beer goggles, they do nothing! :(

          2. Kavonde says:

            Wow, uh…I liked Act III, mostly. I didn’t like that my support of the mages had prevented me from getting the “right” ending, but having everything go to hell in a handbasket thanks to the agendas of certain party members and finding out that one of the antagonists was basically right all along (but still wants to kill you) was a really enjoyable experience for me.

            But then, that could have been because of how I played. There did seem to be a lack of options between “I’ve stuck with my convictions so far and I’m going to see this through” and “Oh god, they really ARE that stupid…fine, let’s just kill them all,” which I could see pissing off some of you who wanted a sane and rational third option.

            1. Khizan says:

              I also liked Act III. Spoilers for DAO/DA2 ahead, be warned.
              (I can’t get these blasted spoiler tags to work right, sorry.)
              … I liked how neither side was “good”. I liked how you were stuck between a rock and a hard place and had to decide which of the two options was the lesser of the evils. DA:O didn’t really have any of that. Siding with the Templars was just butchery(that most all of your party hates). The dwarven factions were unclear, but Bhelen was the bigger jerk of them by far. The werewolves were clearly the wronged party and curing them was the clear “good” answer. Branka was quite clearly a crazy evil bitch.

              DA2, you’ve got the shifty shady maybe-probably-bloody mages, and the madwoman forcing the Circle’s hand due to her insanity and paranoia. And these choices come up repeatedly. Do you vouch for the probably-not-possessed young paladin, or urge him to be stripped of his rank? Do you kill a guy who is and has been a pretty cool dude for a Templar to save the apostates, who claim they were only forced into blood magic to save their lives, and who are being chased by a guy who WILL kill them? Does the threat to their lives justify the use of blood magic? Are mages innately damned and is Tranquil Solution the best way to handle them?

              DAO had “Here’s what the good guys do, and here’s what you do if you want to be a selfish dick.”

              DA2 has “Here’s two sides. They’re probably both wrong, but they’ve both got decent reasons for being wrong. Which do you think is better? Whose behavior is more justified?”

              This is what makes DA2 so much more interesting to me. Its choices have teeth, insofar as game choices can have teeth. There is no clear “I’m a good guy!” option. You’ve got two crappy choices and you’ve got to decide which of the two is the lesser of two evils, and then you have to live with it. If you save that mage, will he become a monster in the next Act? Sure, I might like to give him a chance, but my MOTHER lives around the block from this family, do I want to risk that? Hell, my girlfriend lives right across the square from him. Can I justify letting him live with their lives at risk?

              I find these choices much more interesting than “Do I want to support the sociopathic bitch that fed her family darkspawn and then fed her family TO the darkspawn, or the noble Paragon who wants to see this soul-enslaving device destroyed?”

              1. acronix says:

                Those are the good parts of it, but there are things that are horrible.

                Particularly, the “lyrium idol” subplot started like it would be a big thing, but didn`t play any major role until Meredith mentions it. If she hadn`t mentioned it righ there…actually, I think dropping it completely would have been better. Meredith becoming increasingly paranoid made enough sense alone. The idol added nothing.

                There are others, but I`m too sleepy to mention them.

                1. Kavonde says:

                  I dunno. I suppose that wasn’t the strongest way to bring that plotline back into play, yeah. It might’ve been better if pieces of the item had been given to various city leaders (including certain of your party members) by some third party with a nefarious, overarching scheme of their own.

                  (Know who would’ve been a great candidate for the Big Bad? Inara. Just think about it.)

                  Still, I didn’t dislike how they used it. But maybe me and Khizan are just weird.

                2. lurkey says:

                  For me the only redeeming part of Act III (well, other than Anders’s firecracker show ) was that it finalized the point that Hawke was made into what he was just because people were manipulating and using him all the time. He never had any choice in anything crucial, and, given how many genre savvy and poking at game’s own cliches lil’ thingies you can trigger in the game, I believe it’s not just a hilarious accident on the writer team part. That’s why I still think it is a very good game.*

                  * Until yet another “Oh hai southwestern branch of The One Cave, I haven’t seen you for, what, two hours, where have you been hiding?” moment anyway.

                3. Jarenth says:

                  What pretty much murdered the deal for me is the fact that your choices don’t affect the outcome at all. Fighting on the mages’ side, the Orsino fight makes absolutely zero sense; fighting on the Templars’ side, the Meredith fight is shaky at best. But what you do doesn’t matter; you get the same fights, under the same circumstances, in the same order.

              2. Bubble181 says:

                So….What you liked about this game is what the Witcher did years ago, and better?

                I’ve got a game suggestion for you ;-)

    2. Klay F. says:

      Not to mention that Loghain’s entire motivation is racism. That single element almost completely ruined the entire game for me.

      Needless to say, I played through the entire rest of the game in a state of pissed off.

      1. Halfling says:

        Loghain racist? No. Nationalistic? Perhaps. Paranoid? Absolutely.

        He doesn’t hate Orlais because of race. But because their nation had stolen Fereldan’s sovereignty and much of his life had been about fighting to get that sovereignty back, he did not want to lose his legacy in the end.

        And you know he might have been justified. I bet the Orlesians would have helped end the blight then immediately try to reconquer Fereldan.

      2. ccesarano says:

        From our perspective it may seem foolish, yes, but think about how a lot of our grandfathers reacted to the rise of Japanese cars and electronics in a post-WWII (and thus post-Pearl Harbor) world. Those sorts of feelings don’t go away fast, especially when you yourself were a soldier or had friends and family on the battlefield (who may not have survived).

      3. Irridium says:

        He fought tooth and nail to kick the Orlesians out of Fereldan. He saw the horrors they wrought, and most likely lost good friends and family to them.

        As people have said, those feelings don’t just “go away”. And if he even accepted their help, there’s no guarantee they would just leave. Their wardens would have, but the rest of the Orleseans most likely wouldn’t have.

  23. shayto says:

    AWESOME ive been missing stolen pixels. and if your first novel was any indication you should have an easy time getting a book published, ive definatly read a lot worse from ones that were :P

  24. ccesarano says:

    Actually, question. What platform is your copy of Homefront for? I just popped the game into my Xbox tonight myself (I finally am actually playing a game at the same time as you instead of months after, it seems), and if you have it on Xbox I could give you my handle in case you want to try out the multiplayer.

    1. Shamus says:

      PC. Right now all my review copies will be PC.

      1. ccesarano says:

        Well, at least I’ll be able to follow along with your posts this time.

      2. Irridium says:

        I’m curious, do the PC versions have any sort of DRM on them? You probably don’t have much yet, but its just something I’m curious about.

        1. Shamus says:

          I’ve installed about a dozen games in the past 3 days. Nearly all of them had phone-home DRM in ADDITION to Steam.

          1. acronix says:

            Let`s hope your conection doesn`t suffer a hiccup…

            1. Irridium says:

              Lets hope it does, so instead of writing something about the game, he just rips the ever living shit at their stupid DRM systems. Old Man Murray style.

              @Shamus: Well thats just incredibly stupid. Yet thats sadly what I expect now…

              1. Volatar says:

                For a pre-release review copy it actually makes sense to have more DRM than the public release though.

                1. Irridium says:

                  Why though? To stop reviewers from distributing them online? That doesn’t seem to help much. An easier solution would be to insert a separate, meaningless strip of code into each review copy, send them out, and if a copy appears on the torrents, download it and look for the code. You now know who did it, and can cause them much pain. Well maybe not a small studio, but a studio like EA could really do some damage.

                  And still, its odd that we never hear about it from reviewers. Or not odd at all, depending who you ask.

  25. One step closer to legitimacy! Congrats!

  26. Randy Johnson says:

    I really want you to do a follow up on OnLive, Shamus. I have been using the crap out of it, and love it. If it was possible to combine the OnLive service with the Steam service, they would have the single greatest video gaming thing ever

  27. Kdansky says:

    >After 40 hours of coding the quality drops like a rock and I start making mistakes, but I can still keep moving forward.

    Isn’t that a contradiction? Whatever you write past the 40-hour mark usually ends up in such a horrible mess that finding the bugs later takes more time than it actually took writing. We all know that finding bugs is a lot more work than writing code, and when you already know that you are writing sub-par code, there is absolutely no reason to keep going.

    I point that out because I am the same, and coding past a certain exhaustion threshold is unproductive.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I think it depends on the bugs. A lot of time when I start making mistakes they tend to be either of the “the thing won’t compile” or the “what in the world was that commonly-used command, again?” variety, so if I’m tired I’d slow down because I have to look things up or fix compile errors, but overall there aren’t more bugs that’ll slide past quick testing.

  28. unconvention says:

    That’s good news.

    The near constant diet of Spoiler Warning (the least interesting brand of any of your posts by a long way to me) had me dropping Twenty Sided from my ‘check every day’ set of sites down to ‘check once a week or two’.

    Not saying Spoiler Warning is bad, it just doesn’t appeal to me, whether you’re playing a game I know or not.

  29. Vect says:

    Well, it’ll be fun to see you inevitably rage at the plot and characters in Dragon Age II, which I have a feeling you will inevitably do. Not sure how much compared to Mass Effect 2, but I’m sure the plot will find a way to set you off on a rant.

  30. ZapperDude says:

    YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSS!!!! Finally it’s back! Stolen Pictures was my favorite Shamus thing! Not that I don’t like the other stuff (actually i LOVE not like them :P) but Stolen Pictures was the bestest of the best, the awesomest of the awesome, the rarrawrwarwrarwrw *goes into spasms of joy

  31. Patrick the Capricious says:

    You may have everyone here fooled, but I know all about your plan to subsidize your console gaming habit by selling Crystal Meth to middle schoolers. “Journalist level access” my ass…… Nino Brown thinks you’re a punk!

  32. Daimbert says:

    I recently noticed the issue you’re having with writing prose with writing essays. I can normally churn out massive amounts of philosophical content quickly (as evidenced by my blog), but I had a final essay to write over my long Christmas vacation — since I don’t generally use the vacation my work gives me until then — and I was puttering around more on the web than actually writing anything. Part of it, I think, was that I had a totally artificial deadline (I wanted to hand it in several days before it was due just in case the weather got bad, but I could send it in by E-mail in the worst case) and so my subconscious mind was smart enough to realize that I didn’t really need to do that much work in a day. It got better when I got close enough to the deadline that I knew I needed to buckle down and do it. You might be in that sort of situation, where you have enough of a deadline in mind to make you feel like you have to do it, but not a solid enough deadline to actually make you feel … um … desperate (?) enough to drive you through the potential distractions.

    For me, the same thing happens with code. When what you’re working on isn’t due for months and you have lots of time to finish it, it’s hard to focus directly on it even as you do work on it.

    What I’ve found when writing things is that you write best when you’re in the flow. The best sign for me that I’m writing well is that I’ve had one scene in mind from the beginning and I write right past it and never insert it because the story flowed so well on its own that it just won’t fit anymore. So that you’re distracted would be a sign to me that you aren’t hitting that.

    But to give you ways to make you feel like you’re making progress even when you’re not writing prose, a lot of good novels have more to them than just the prose. David Eddings’ Belgariad was drawn from a map that he drew for fun. And it’s nice to have things like character backgrounds and histories and the like even though they never make it into a novel. So you might be able to do some of that work to prepare for your next writing phase before you do it, without getting stuck in writing prose.

    Anyway, some suggestions from someone who writes a lot, in general, but doesn’t get paid for it [grin].

  33. Wolfwood says:

    Congratz and i eagerly await more StolenPixels from you! Can’t have CriticalMiss and NameGame steal all the comic glory! XD

  34. Deoxy says:

    Yay for more Stolen Pixels! And Yay for free video games for Shamus (that they feed Stolen Pixels is also nice)!

    As to writing… as a programmer and writer-wanna-be, I find your statements about coding and about writing to be spot on. One can be forced for as long as the body will hold up – the other can’t.

  35. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    First proposed by two psychologists in 1908, [the principle of Yerkes-Dodson Law] holds that the more “aroused” (i.e., engaged and challenged) a person is by a task, the better he or she performs, up to the point that the arousal becomes anxiety or worry, at which point performance declines. In other words, beyond a certain point, the more difficult a writing task, and the more you think it matters, the more likely you are to become blocked. This may explain why journalists with, say, two deadlines per week almost never get blocked: no individual story ever has to carry that much weight.

    Laura Miller: A cure for writer’s block


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