Friday, June 28, 2013

Indie Review, The Masks in the Mirror & Unmasked, by Angel Sharum

Angel Sharum has had many experiences writing stories with twists.  I have enjoyed her previous work, but chose a title that I felt demonstrated the growth of this particular writer.  Angel continues to deliver twists and suspense, as well as dynamic character depth, in her psychological double feature, The Masks in the Mirror & Unmasked.

Who will like this book?  This title contains two short works of psychological fiction intent on taking your mind for a ride.  The Masks in the Mirror deals with the mind of a schizophrenic woman who must cope with her less-likable personalities, who harass her from the mirror.  Unmasked is the story of an inmate who is facing death row.  Before his execution, he tells his story to a writer.

Personally, I enjoyed reading these stories because of the new character depth that Angel Sharum is showing off.  Maybe she was conscious of doing it, or maybe it happened naturally, but the characters in these two stories seemed to have more depth than previous characters in her work.  It seems as though she took her time where storytelling is concerned, and managed to improve upon some of her skills; most notable, I appreciate the extra time given to the endings, and how dynamic the main characters seemed to be, despite the length of the stories.

Some writers get to a certain point and get comfortable, but I believe that Angel Sharum is still growing as an artist.  I respect writers who continue to improve, and Angel Sharum is one such writer.

To find out more about Angel Sharum, visit her author website and blog.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Indie Game Review: Game Dev Tycoon

I talk a lot about independent art, and how much I appreciate the numerous ways I’ve been able to express myself as an independent writer.  However, writing is not the only form that independent art takes.

Recently, I purchased a video game from an independent company.  The company is called Greenheart Games, and the game is called Game Dev Tycoon.  Let me start by saying that, while I’m no stranger to the gaming world, I don’t consider myself to be a gamer.  I enjoy games with good stories, and I prefer my playing experiences to be casual.  Game Dev Tycoon was perfect for my playing preferences.

What’s it about?  Game Dev Tycoon begins in the 1980s.  You are the main character, and develop games for a variety of different platforms.  The platforms mirror the technologies made in the 80s, and lead all the way up to the next generation of consoles (Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Wii U).  The names of the consoles have been changed, but closely resemble their actual counterparts.  The storyline relies on the history of the gaming industry, and new consoles come out on a regular basis.  Most of the gameplay revolves around developing games, and running your company.

What can you do?  As a player, you develop games by trying to create the most enjoyable game combinations, and have to make decisions on game size, topics, genres, platforms and game engines.  You have the ability to train your character (and other members of your team that you can hire later on), research new technologies (such as MMOs, new topics, and self-created game engines) and develop your own consoles.  A big chunk of the game involves devoting the right amount of time to specific games.  For example, RPGs should have a lot of time devoted to dialogue, but racing games need a lot of work done on artificial intelligence, and would do well with minimum dialogue.

Personally, I enjoyed playing through the timeline of events.  There are around 30 years of progression in which new consoles will be released, consoles will go off the market, and new technology will be born.  Also, I liked experimenting with the different game combinations… Pirate Simulation?  Racing strategy?  Life RPG?  Virtual Pet Adventure???  All of these combinations are possible within the game, although none are a guaranteed success.

I really enjoy playing tycoon games, but this is probably the best one since the lemonade stand game I used to play while growing up in the nineties (simple, but iconic).  The creators of the game are very appreciative of their paying audience, and even sent me an in-game message to tell me how awesome I was for supporting an independent team.  They also have a sense of humor.  Apparently, they released a version of their game to be pirated.  In that version of the game, in-game pirates ruin the player’s company by pirating their games.  I think that’s hilarious.  However, I was so impressed with the trial game that I went ahead and paid the eight dollars to get the full version.

As an independent writer, I appreciate the hard work that’s involved in creating independent work.  Sometimes, all the work is done by just one person.  With Game Dev Tycoon, two brothers are responsible.  Support independent artists by buying the stuff you like.  Try the free sample of Game Dev Tycoon.  Don’t be a pirate.  Buy the game if it’s something you think you’ll enjoy.

Visit Greenheart Games to download your free sample of Game Dev Tycoon.

For more information about the author of this blog, follow me on Twitter, or check out my Facebook page and Author Page.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Indie Review, Trouble in the Mage Guild (A Rogue’s Tale Part II) by Saoirse O’Mara

Trouble in the Mage Guild, just like its predecessor, was enjoyable enough to read in a single day.  I admit that after finishing The Lost Diadem (A Rogue’s Tale I), I started reading Trouble in the Mage Guild the moment I got it.  I wanted to find out where the next adventure would take me.  For this review, I went back to the story so it would be fresh in my mind.

Who will like this book?  This book is intended for young adults, but enjoyable for all ages.  There is a focus on fantasy and magic, and centers around two young city guards who must disguise themselves as servants in order to solve a mystery.  Readers of The Lost Diadem will enjoy catching up with Tayla and Govin, the main characters of both books.  Although familiar, Trouble in the Mage Guild contains its own, unique story.  You don’t have to read the first book to enjoy the second.

Personally, I was happy to be reading about familiar characters.  Many of the independent books I’ve read aren’t part of a series, so I was looking forward to how Saoirse O’Mara would create continuity between the two books.  She does it well.  The story picks up a short time after the first book ends, and readers are shown some of the changes that have occurred since the last adventure.  The story doesn’t dwell on the past, however, and is quick to thrust our main characters back into action with a new mission that involves investigating magic and mages.

Trouble in the Mage Guild (A Rogue’s Tale Part II) shares many of the same qualities as The Lost Diadem (A Rogue’s Tale Part I):  They are both easy to read, written with young adults in mind, but written in a professional style.  If you have a teen that enjoys reading (rare these days), you should encourage them by downloading free samples of these books.  Crude language and adult content are completely absent from these books, so even young readers could enjoy these stories.

Also, be on the lookout for A Rogue's Tale Part III, coming out very soon.

Download a free sample of The Lost Diadem (A Rogue's Tale Part I)
Learn more about A Rogue's Tale and Saoirse O'Mara, here
Saoirse O'Mara's full contact information can be found, here

For information about about reviews, stories, or various other activities by Joshua Hicks, follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Test Results / Next Review

            This is another late blog.  I postponed publishing this one until I took my Praxis test.  I needed a score of 175 on reading, math, and writing.  My score were 184 on reading, 182 on math, and I’ll have to wait 10-15 days for the results of the writing portion.  If I fail the writing portion of the test, I give my full permission to the members of my writing group to excommunicate me… Not really, though.

            Speaking of writing, I’m trying to keep up with my blog posts.  I should really try to build up a backlog of them.  I would like to keep this medium of communication open so I can speak to those of you who enjoy reading what I have to say.  Ideally, I would be sending out stories, but my computer is still very unreliable.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it stopped working at any time.  The one I’m using has suffered numerous incidents of being pulled off a table after my sister’s dogs got tangled up in the power chord.  I’m actually surprised it works at all… but it seems to be holding out well enough to risk posting some blogs.

            So, what’s next now that I passed my Praxis?  Well, I have to start going through all the red tape at the college I want to attend… It’s not the most interesting topic for writing blogs, so instead I’m going to review another story from an author who has already made an impression on me with some of her earlier work...

            Saoirse O’Mara is next on my list of reviews, with Trouble in the Mage Guild (A Rogue’s Tale Part II).  Stay tuned.