Friday, April 29, 2005

The Public Forum(s)

I really, really
hate the forums.

Sometimes I go there to find the answers to specific questions. Invariably I end up sidetracked into ever-increasingly abstract levels of bickering and whining and counter-whining.

So, for those of you that play, well, any kind of online game, here is the basic forum format:

Post #1 - Makes a blanket statement/accusation or asks a seemingly harmless question.

Post #2 - Agrees with Post #1.

Post #3 - /sign.

Posts #4 through #8 - random bumps and /signs and catty agreement.

Post #9 - Disagrees with post #7.

Post #10 - Poster #7 responds with biting sarcasm.

Post #11 - Poster #9 calls #7 a harsh name. Misspells one or more words.

Post #12 - Call to end stupid arguing. Insults #9.

Post #13 - Cries that the game is broken. More insults.

Posts #14 through #18 - #4 calls #7 a moron, misspelling 'moron'. #5 says #1 and #2 are either sheep or corporate plants. #9 vows to quit game, but is still posting three months later, vowing to quit the game. #6 posts random pointless link. #9 defends position by quoting a dev.

Posts #19 to infinity - Endless back-and-forthing with playground insults and cries of, "You are!" "No, you are!" If there was a question in the beginning, it has been answered by post #25, yet people continue to argue. If there was an accusation of nerf-ing then the supposedly nerfed classes will tell people to "STFU" and all other classes will point out how "cheap" they are. If there was a suggestion it has been nit-picked to death by people yelling about how that would "unbalance" the whole game.

That's pretty much how it goes.

Two links today that have games In Real Life. Which I always find strange to say. After all, playing a computer game is no different than playing a board game. It is only the method by which it is played, the computer taking the place of a board or cards or what-have-you. It's not like computer games have to create a virtual world, or that they have the monopoly on the process. Settlers of Cataan, for example, allows for the sort of loose simulation that Simcity employs, and a game like Betrayal at House on the Hill presents a great way of creating a narrative structure from common horror elements.

Anyway, enough justification. Check out Gyft and Cheapass Games.

Of course, I'm not really sure Gyft is a game. Some of the cards contain mini-game type of things. I guess it's more of a social interaction system.

But game sounds better.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Cool. Feedback!

When writing
on this blog I tend to forget that, every so often, people actually read this site.

Especially when I mention them.

So it was pretty cool that I got a comment from the author, Carl Bialik, of the Gelf Magazine piece I talked of in my previous post, the piece I thought was off-base in its criticism of the Food Force game.

Here's the comment which, thankfully, was well-reasoned and totally cool (which does not happen as often as I'd like on the Internet):

"I wrote the Gelf Magazine review. I see how it can seem like I was holding the developers to a higher standard. But I think I was holding them to a different standard -- I would have rather seen more-rudimentary graphics, but tasks that required more contact with other people and more thinking, less mouse-ing. That seems like a better way to bring young children into the world of food aid."

Which, like, I totally understand. In fact, if that had been the conclusion to the review, I might've said, "Oh, yeah . . . that makes sense."

Here's what I would've considered had I been asked to make an educational game about food aid:

1. Our budget is 150,000 dollars. In gaming terms, this is spittle. There are designers that fetch most of that in a year. Okay, so a single-A title here, if we're lucky.

2. We've been told to reach as many people as possible, which means some quick action prefixed with simplified explanations of the food aid program. This seems the easiest way to draw in all types of young gamers.

3. We, unfortunately, have to be sensitive to the world - wouldn't want Sudan to be insulted because we mentioned how they can't stop killing each other long enough to feed their own people (of course, that's pretty much every country). So let's try to be nice.

4. It would be very nice to be able to show the human side of hunger - The assholes that restrict distribution, the growers that artificially inflate prices, the children with swollen stomachs, the politicians that give more of a shit about who other people are fucking than solving problems. Unfortunately, most parents don't mind education so long as its bland and inoffensive, so we have to keep polemicizing to a minimum.

Now then, how would I make a game about food aid if I were unhampered by budgetary or audience or political correctness constraints?

I see a game almost like Mercenaries. A wide-open gameworld set in a drought-stricken East African nation. You start off at a small distribution center, making drop-offs in small villages, consulting with doctors, bribing local warlords. When you arrive in a new town children flock to your vehicle with their arms raised. You have to decide how much food to give this time and how much to save for the next village.

Back at the center you must manage your budget. Food packs to take care of the immediate cases, or new drought-resistant seeds to try and provide for the future? Water purifiers? More personnel?

You link up with a Red Cross coordinator who is traveling to more remote locations. Upon trying to return you find your bridge has been washed away by a flood - along with the most recent crop efforts.

A village elder, consumed by pride, forbids you from entering the village ever again. A woman approaches you before you leave and asks you to meet her midnight at a tree outside of town. You have to avoid patrols to reach the meeting place and then move crates into the town.

The Nike Corporation has offered to set up a factory in the local area, bringing much-needed jobs and greasing political wheels, alleviating much of the famine but making the locals reliant on the factory, not to mention crippling your budget.

Hm. That would be a cool game.

Semantics As Usual

Over at
Water Cooler Games, on April 21, there was a really good post concerning a recent educational game, Food Force. I don't take issue with the post, but there was a part that I wanted to discuss, some would say nitpick.

The author makes this statement: "Who decided that games must be fun? Games must be engaging, compelling, interesting, but fun is not a requirement."

I disagree, but when I think of why, it mostly falls to semantics. When I think of fun, I think of things that are engaging and compelling and interesting. Which is probably the problem with much of game theory and criticism. What the fuck IS fun?

Most people can only answer by saying, "I only know what fun ISN'T!"

Fun, to me, doesn't mean exciting. It doesn't mean adrenaline has to pump or sweat has to break out. And because it's so tough to pigeonhole, it's so easy to make it a universal when it comes to game design.

The crux of it, for me, is this: If it's a leisure activity, and it makes you feel good when you do it, it's probably fun TO YOU. Which sucks, because we'll never ever ever nail down what the fuck that means.

Which, of course, is the challenge of game design.

Nobody gives a shit if you've made a game that goes into exquisite detail the ramifications of some subject or another if it isn't, in some way, fun. To put it another way, I studied Calculus in High School because I was told I had to, and I hated every fucking minute of it; But when I studied English, which I enjoyed, it was fun.

Why was English fun? I suppose it presents an interesting challenge to me, putting words together in new and novel ways, exploring the way they sound, the way sentences feel. Math, on the other hand, I stumble over, the concepts are fuzzier than they should be, the formulas indistinct.

But also, fun things don't have to resemble games. They can be challenges, too. I personally think stamp-collecting is exceptionally dull. But ask a stamp-collector whether it's a fun hobby, and chances are they'll say, "Hell yes." They might not act like it's bungee-jumping, but it sure-as-shit feeds their fun gland.

Maybe borrowing a transactional analysis word would help things out. Remember stroking? It doesn't refer necessarily to physical contact, but it can. In TA terms, stroking is feedback we receive from a person, positive or negative.

So maybe we should rate activities and, dare I say it, games by what types of strokes we get from them.

Math = physical abuse. Stamp-collecting = repetitive forehead-tapping. World of Warcraft = heavy petting.

Anyway, I went ahead and downloaded the Food Force game and gave it a whirl. And guess what?

Yeah, I thought it was fun. The gameplay was simplistic, sure, but no worse than anything on Popcap. The scary part is that I really did learn something. For starters, I learned there was such an entity as the World Food Program, and shit, isn't that minor thing in some way commendable?

The Gelf Magazine review was just . . . bizarre. Never mind that they said this: "It's as if the game's producer, Italy's Deepend s.r.l., wasn't allowed to name actual nations or issues but instead had to stick to the fantasy land of Sheylan so as not to offend anyone." Gee, ya think? [see Water Cooler Games' April 25th post]

They took an independently produced educational game to task for not tackling deep issues. While I think I understand their point (Hunger is serious, so a game about it must be serious and in-depth. Yeah, and all those World War II games captured the excellent moral conflicts that all military personnel face when they must kill for a living), why do we expect so much more from educational games?

But the article states that the game's audience is preteens, probably not the ripest audience for confusing grey-area issues. And it seems pretty clear that the game isn't purporting to go into the complexities of the food aid program. It looked like maybe they were just trying to provide a mildly-entertaining, mildly-educating diversion that young children would be allowed to play and maybe learn about an organization that is trying to help people.

Which, you know, the game did.

It could even, dare I say it, encourage some young person to work for the WFP someday.

Hell, America's Army doesn't have to be the only overt recruitment game out there.

Monday, April 25, 2005

One More Fix

Oh god
, it's happened to me.

World of Warcraft Addiction.

I'm definitely in Stage 1: Compulsive playing at the expense of health, sanity, sleep and personal/professional relationships.

I think the essential component that this game has that City of Heroes lacked is the ability to make things -- something I didn't really see as essential but definitely provides a good balance to constant brawls. And the idea that a person becomes a super-powerful Mage just so they could scour the lands for the perfect materials to make a shirt is very appealing to me.

I'm trying to get the spouse to start a sort of joint character, being that she cannot navigate three-dimensional virtual spaces without getting ill. In other words, I need a way to have an alt that doesn't get me divorced, and I see no reason why gaming shouldn't bring marriages closer.

It's not as if I can't see her enjoying aspects of the game. She has, at this point, read more fantasy novels than me, and she consumes them with zeal. Which makes me think that maybe I should find us a Role Playing Server.

I sucked her in by comparing aspects of WoW to Kingdom of Loathing which she played long after I got hopelessly confused by the myriad combinations of things. So I explained that there were different professions in WoW that were much the same and she nodded and agreed it was interesting.

Of course, the fact that she isn't averse to the idea is absolutely wonderful. The fact that she doesn't seem to mind the horrible way I will obsessively play videogames, at least until some kind of plateau is reached and I can safely back away, is commendable as well.

In short, I'm glad I married a geek.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

NCSoft's Next Challenge - Please?

is already making a future-game of auto combat (a la Car Wars), so why not a game that posits an altered-timeline-past of aerial dogfighting, air pirates, zeppelins and crazy Tesla inventions?

Yes, I'm talking about Crimson Skies.

I really loved the XBox game, great action elements, cool storyline. I longed for a ground game, however, not just the flying.

So give me the damn thing online already. And make it massive. And multiplayer.

There's so much backstory and detail in this world it screams for someone to snatch up the property quick-like.

They show seventeen airplanes on the website, leaving room for zeppelins, cargo planes, rockets and who-knows-what kind of experimental flyers.

I can see myself modifying my Sanderson FB-14 "Vampire", carefully tweaking the engines to deliver over 1700 horsepower, installing some black-market cannons, mounting a strange piece of technology called a Gauss gun (by the crazy scientist who made it for me) on the underside and putting the white hart decal some Navajo feller doodled up on the side of the cockpit.

Plenty of nations await exploration. Just beware of protected airspace. And don't even think about getting too far outside North America - there are nasty surprises waiting on the oceans, and most of them have big guns.

Fly the skies as a courier, bringing emergency supplies in the nick of time or delivering sensitive communiques. Or join the local air militia and work your way up through the ranks - maybe you'll get control of your own squadron someday. If you prefer to get paid well for your trouble, get a job with Blake Aviation Security and protect the rich and famous - maybe some'll rub off on you! Feeling like a bit of a bastard, then hook up with a group of Air Pirates - you get tough quick or you get dead quicker.

While you're not soaring through the air, take advantage of all that terra firma has to offer.

Seek out the restless inventors in the Industrial States of America and learn to assemble all manner of gadgets and gewgaws. Or voyage south to Dixie and learn some old-fashioned rifleman skills. Consult a Navajo medicine man and learn the art of herbs, healing and reading the signs of nature. Go to Columbia, meet with the League of Nations and brush up on your diplomacy. Maybe you'll travel to Hollywood and learn acting and deception.

Choose your sides. Support certain factions, or play all of them against each other. Sabotage corporations. Sell war secrets. Crush pirates. Raid shipping. Race your souped-up Bell Valiant MkII. Perform dazzling tricks in your Ravenscroft Coyote.

So how 'bout it, NCSoft?

Any takers? Any takers at all?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Play This Way

I have been following the Star Wars: Galaxies combat redesign with interest lately. Not sure why. I don't even play the stupid game.

I think maybe because the update has been so long in coming. It's like they're finally admitting how shitty they made the game and are seeking to atone for it, however slowly.

Figuring out exactly what role the different professions play in combat is an idea that I like only tentatively. On the one hand, the game suffers from profession-bloat, with way too many just-okay ideas polluting the gameworld. On the other hand, it's good to know what role you may be called upon to play in a group.

Looking at the balance diagram, however, I can't help but be disappointed. That diagram is the paradigm upon which MMORPGs are based, and it demands an extremely Procrustean game design.

Enemies must be designed so that this diagram will work against them. We know that someone will pull the enemies. Then we have tankers form a front line while the support teams do their things.

The problem I have with this is that there is no real challenge. A well-balanced team never has to change their tactics, because all enemies can be defeated with them.

What if enemies could respond to these tactics with similar ones? What if certain enemies could neutralize tankers?

Yeah, I know. There are a million what-ifs I could ask concerning the enemies, but all it really boils down to is: At the moment, it is too difficult to stream complex AI and still run an MMORPG without terrible lag.

It would also be interesting to re-examine how professions advance. Experience-based systems are interesting, but it would be nice to offer several routes to earning the next step.

Let's say you like to make rifles. You could earn your next rank by making a shitload of rifles - advancement through practice. Or you could make not-as-many rifles but pay a decent amount of credits to pay for specialized training - advancement through practice and tutoring. Or you could make a few rifles and undertake a series of tasks in acquiring and assembling materials, perhaps to support a local militia - advancement through practice and specialized missions.

I'm impressed by the ideas they've released concerning The Rage of the Wookies expansion. A world that is actually crafted rather than pseudo-randomly generated. An actual story arc. Not just random missions. Basically something they should be slowly leaking out onto the other planets.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Time Management

Just something
strange I noticed.

Now that I'm jobless (on the 24th, officially) I've found that I leave the blog alone for longer stretches. When I was busy and frazzled and dealing with military bullshit I wanted nothing more than to spend a few hours on the computer composing missives. Now . . .

Now I sleep most of the day and spend the night watching television or browsing the internet. Ideas come so infrequently.

I definitely have the problem detailed in the book No Plot? No Problem!, where Chris Baty encourages all month-long novelists to continue their hectic schedules, allotting writing time to specific chunks because too much time is often worse than too little.

Seems simple enough. I also get very few hits and no comments anymore. Not sure if I even have an audience.

There was a spike when I discussed certain Marine Corps experiences, and I can only assume that somehow acted as a weird magnet, drawing people into my site who then read the content with confused expressions. Video games? Wha?

I'm also getting to the point where I either figure out how going to school will be possible or just give up and look for employment. Which means trying to figure out how a high-school educated former UGA library assistant and former Microwave Communications Marine can get a decent job in the DC area that allows both self and spouse to eat and be sheltered. And maybe see a movie now and then.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Strategy Games REALLY Suck Sometimes

I like the
real-time strategy genre. It tends to be dominated by clones that are, at the very least, cloned well enough to be playable.

Such it is with Act of War: Direct Action.

Three words: Full-motion video.

These developers probably spent a boatload on their video sequences. The plot is a bad imitation of Tom Clancy scribbling on the back of a napkin. Some kind of gibberish concerning terrorists (cause they're the popular bad guys, right?) and oil companies (cause oil and terror are connected . . . somehow?) and Russia (not really sure yet . . . vodka?).

Here's the gameplay gist:
1. Build your base.
2. Defend your area.
3. Build a good mix of forces and kill the enemy.
4. Goto step 1

That's it, other than the few missions that start you with limited forces, because we all know how great it is to lose all your troops in the beginning and struggle to figure out exactly the way the designer meant for you to play, stupid gamer.

I don't really feel like going too in-depth. I think a few scattered thoughts on the game will serve to illustrate my distaste.

I'm given a medevac helicopter at the start of a level. In order to heal my men it must land near them. So I must be absolutely certain they are safe before I can heal them. No problem, I can deal with that. My helo is destroyed. What's this? I can't get another? I can send out for high-tech future tanks but I can't get an extra medevac? Who budgeted these forces? It's easier to send out cannon fodder then bother with the helicopter.

Ooh, I can build jeeps that repair my vehicles. That's very handy. But they have no weapons unless I put troops in them. Cool, nice idea. Wait, if I group them with all my other troops, they still won't regulate their speed, so when I click to attack something they race ahead of my front line that is protecting their asses and get blown up. Haven't these guys heard of formations?

Why don't the infantry units, when grouped with armor, intersperse themselves to protect the tanks from rocket fire?

Why can't you adjust dispersion?

Why is the pathfinding so fucking stupid? It's some of the worst I've seen. My great force gets decimated because it's too busy trying to navigate and doesn't bother attacking the guy that's shooting at it.

Here's a hint. Try building a game that acts at least semi-intelligently, especially if it's supposed to be a strategy game.

And how about innovating a little, or at least stealing some of the innovations that have elevated the genre. Warhammer had great ideas about fireteam combat and reinforcing teams. Age of Empires had city boundaries that influenced your enemy.

Pull from all games. Let me pause the action in a single-player game a la baldur's gate so I can queue up actions and feel like an actual strategist - in other words, real strategy, not a twitch game of 'click the new threat as quick as you can before it hurts you'.

This game brings nothing at all new to the genre. It is worse than a cliche - it feels exactly like the original command and conquer only with better graphics and worse AI.

I'm still, y'know, playing it.

But only because I like a good clone, even when it's bad.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My Fling With Eve

I decided to check out Eve Online, since they're offering a free 14-day trial period and don't ask for your credit card info (always a dealbreaker for me).

The client runs windowed. Not a bad thing, a little unfamiliar. I assume you can go full screen if you want.

After the tutorial I decide to keep it windowed.

This isn't a game, it's a diversion at best.

Well, it's a beautiful diversion, I'll give them that. Space is rendered with an amazing sense of scale, three dimensional clouds of gas and dust, enormous planets and distant stars. The ships are appropriately shiplike, moving in a compromise between the realism of 2001 and the maneuverability of Star Wars. There are thousands of corporations and stations and asteroid belts to mine.

It's a diversion because, like most space games, it's too large.

The time it takes to travel anywhere is insane. And traveling is monotonous.

Navigation is, however, incredibly easy. You right click and select a destination conveniently divided into groups like planets, stargates, stations. Then select warp or hit autopilot and . . . watch your ship go.

That's what you'll be doing most of the time. Enter station. Get mission. Leave station. Autopilot to destination. Complete mission. Return to station.

Not all that different from the format of most MMORPGs. Except that the travel time versus the actually doing stuff time is so unbalanced that the feeling of accomplishment is slim.

The skill system is interesting. Your character can learn any number of skills. Skill require real time to train. So, say you pick 'Missile Launcher Operation'. Train it to level one and it'll take maybe 30 minutes. When that's done, you can train another skill or go to level two, which will take more time. The time it takes to train higher level skills increases rapidly.

I'm not sure I like the system. On the one hand, it means that the grind isn't as prevalent, since you know how much time it will take to learn something. But then again, your skills aren't related at all to your accomplishments.

I found it ridiculous that skills were so incredibly focused. And pissed off. I couldn't use a missile launcher on my ship because I wasn't trained. Okay, that's fair, I guess. But after I trained it I couldn't use missiles because I didn't have the missile use skill. What? While I was training myself with the launcher I never actually loaded it with any missiles?

Pure fucking idiocy. That kind of frustration permeates, as you're constantly limited to what items are useful until you can train.

I also found that my assets were getting scattered all over the universe. I could understand not being able to transport goods instantaneously, but it would have been nice to order something on the market and have to wait to have it sent to where I was docked instead of having to take twenty minutes to fly to the one station that has my shit.

Of course, that would break their trading system. Which involves looking for something cheap on the market, flying there, buying as much as you can carry and flying to someplace that buys it for more than you paid. Whee.

It isn't a horrible MMORPG. The detail is amazing. The learning curve is a little steep, but things are laid out logically. There are lots of agents with lots of missions, and you can actually earn decent money doing NPC missions. You also don't have to fight to advance, so it's one of the few games I've seen where being a trader or manufacturer is a viable career option.

In the end, though, it's a whole bunch of spreadsheets linked together with a cool graphical interface. The combat is just okay, very Star Trek - maintain distance, fire when you can and try to get away if you're losing.

I don't mess with PvP and the problem is that Eve has no restrictions. There are safe sectors of space and NPCs monitor a lot of places, but it is possible to be destroyed by pirates or jerks at pretty much any time.

It doesn't get my vote as a worthwhile investment.

Still waiting on a space MMORPG (I'd like to check out Jump to Lightspeed, but I have no patience for the atrocity of SW: Galaxies) that is interesting and fun and new.

Fuck mining asteroids - let us set up platforms in the rings of a gas giant.

Screw the point and wait combat - add in the ability to hire and give orders to crewmen, constantly relaying orders and balancing systems and rerouting power and negotiating surrender. I want to have my ship smoking and sputtering, just barely limping into a nebula that blinds everyone's sensors, then sneaking out and trying to make it to a jump point.

Forget about the boring old space caravan - make it so that cargo ships can carry enormous amounts of goods and will affect the development of planets or whole solar systems. That tungsten drop-off you made just allowed a previously peaceful system to assemble a small fleet of war craft and now they're attacking their neighbors. That grain stopped a famine - now you're the savior of a station and they're clamoring to help you and have you help them.

I guess I'll do what I always do.

Play until the trial runs out. Admit that the experience has compelling elements.

Dream about an MMORPG that I'd actually enjoy.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Designer of Note

I'd just like to mention MDickie, a solo game developer.

His titles don't feature stunning eye candy. Or realistic physics. Or an expensive license.

Basically, he makes interesting games all on his own.

They're not all terribly fun.

But being able to make full-fledged games, and on whatever he wants, is the type of freedom and knowledge I envy.

Just reading about Wrecked makes me long for some programming skill.

Endless Void, Endless Gems

Spyro: A Hero's Tail

as reviewed by H.P. Lovecraft

It could be that perchance by some small bit of dastardly luck I might survive my horrendous encounter. That I sit here now and write unhampered by the cackling madness that o'ertakes me at random intervals is testament only to the fickleness of the human mind and not the result of any higher mercy at work.

My dreams, when sleep will deign to visit, is filled with sparkling gems, so many gems as to render them valueless. As I chase these worthless baubles I am struck by how heavy my head feels, and further investigation yields evidence of two horns sprouting therefrom, making my visage a direct copy of the Adversary's.

These dreams are filled with such colors; I can scarcely describe them, only enough to say that they frighten the senses, as if such colors should not exist. I shudder to think that my mind could create them, and shudder again at the thought that perhaps my mind did not. Perhaps my mind is only a passive receiver, like a radiowave antenna.

As a lumbering brute I scour the land, destroying large, midnight-black crystals that seem to ooze malevolence. Destruction of these crystals, however, seems to have no effect on the ever-hostile populace, who, aside from a sparse handful of perverse anthropomorphs, continually attempt my gruesome death by all sorts of nefarious means. What my misdeeds were that I should demand such ire I cannot even imagine. Given my appearance, my wanton destruction and casual slaughter I would assume I am vengeance given form.

Or perhaps a herald for a god that yet sleeps, sent to prepare the world for Its coming out from the shapeless void.

The void. I travel it back and forth, a wide, dense spiral that holds the attention even as it threatens to destroy all rationality. Each travel yields new destinations, new horrors. New chapters in my pastel nightmare.

I hope to end it, somehow. Whether I change each night in reality or only in dream is of no consequence anymore; My mind no longer distinguishes between the two. I awake and find myself attempting to glide from a flight of stairs, aching to flex not-quite-vestigial wings and crashing violently to the landing. I search the closets, the bathrooms, the basement for any traces of the oozing, inky crystals.

A man appeared at my door one day, a briefcase beneath his arm.

My handlers dose me with narcotics, hoping to induce a dreamless sleep, but it only intensifies the visions. I am not just the horned, scaly one, that terrifying, degenerate worm, but I shift into myriad forms: a feline created no doubt by the actions of a slumbering Idiot God, a winged insect with fearsome powers, a burrowing rodent-man bred for servitude by an Ancient Race for unknown purposes.

A man appeared at my door one day. A gibbering, raving fool greeted him. The briefcase fell to the sidewalk and spilled its contents.

My handlers cannot contain those within me. The dreaming can no longer contain those within me. It could be that my sanity is even now lost to me, and my current state of mind is only a half-measure of the insanity that at times overwhelms.

When they found the man the authorities puzzled over what could have burned, shocked, froze and drenched him so. And as I seemed the only witness, driven stark mad by what I'd seen, they took me into custody. Each day they ask me to amend my statement, to clarify my experiences.

The detective who questions me, I see the change in him as my tales erode his once-comfortable reality. He smells of fear and wonder. His awe is a palpable force as I relate the hunger in me, the never-ending hunger for sparkling gems and strange eggs of an unknown creature.

When I look in the detective's eyes, I see gems. Gems and the void.

I know he sees the same.