Unicorn Bell

Today, I am writing elsewhere. Specifically, over on Unicorn Bell. I just love the name of her blog. Yesterday, she posted several random pictures, and challenged her followers to a 500-word maximum flash fiction piece, based on one of the pictures. I chose the man and woman with a spacecraft taking off in the background.

Unicorn Bell

I hope you like the piece and comment whether you like it or not! So head on over there and check it out.

**ring ring**

Hear that? Your Unicorn Bell is ringing…

Hero Games Introductions: Calvin


I’d like to introduce you to the Beta Testing team for Modson Technologies’s newest game in development: Hero Games! Modson is using their proprietary, experimental Neural Interceptor technology in a full immersion virtual setting for this new game. If the Beta trials are successful, they expect this technology to radically change the gaming industry, along with many other applications. Modson has been kind enough to allow us access to this technology to interview their Beta testers. Each one we interview will actually be comfortably at home, hooked into their Modson gaming system. Since this system interacts directly with their minds, we’ll be able to get much more complete answers than subjects may otherwise give. It’ll be almost like they are having a dream.

In addition, the Beta tester that gets the most attention from their interview (comments, Likes, +1′s, etc) will get a special in-game reward AND one of their lucky commenters/Likers/+1-ers will get a cameo appearance in Hero Games!

This week, we’ll talk to Calvin Moon! The young, Asian man that steps through the curtain is a shade over six feet. His slender build makes him look taller. Almond eyes peer through the small, round frames that ride high on his nose under the straight, dark bangs. The Hero Games tee shirt clashes styles with the simple slacks, and hangs on his shoulders like a wire hanger.

JACE: Hello, Calvin. Thank you for meeting with us.

CALVIN: Sure, no problem. 

JACE: Let’s start with you, Calvin. Would you tell us a little about yourself and then maybe your heroic alter ego?

CALVIN: The alter ego is probably more fun to talk about. He laughs self-consciously. Well, I’m 19. I’m a  sophomore in architectural engineering at Drexel University. I don’t do a lot of sports, well, any sports, and I study a lot. The most exciting thing I do is sometimes I play an RPG game called Elven Fire with a group at school who’s into that. I’m kind of a nerd.

JACE: Nerds are important, too, Calvin. What about your hero?

CALVIN: His face brightens up a little. That’s where things get more exciting. He’s a super hero, obviously. I made him with blond, surfer hair. He’s pretty athletic. He has a castle-hemmed cape, and a dragon on his chest. The dragon is for my school. I picked a pair of powers to start with: Statue and Lead Feet. Statue is a single-target freeze, and Lead Feet is an AOE slow. Of course, each one costs energy, so there’s some strategy in using them. It’s fun.

JACE: And AOE is short for?

CALVIN: Area-Of-Effect. It means it hits several enemies at the same time.

JACE: I see. That does sound like a good combination. Let’s talk about powers a little bit. Can you tell us how these powers work, and how you learned them? Press A to shoot, B to jump? Certain hand motions for certain tricks? Is there a tutorial, or do you figure it out in game?

CALVIN: He laughs comfortably. No, this game isn’t like that. There aren’t controllers; you’re completely inside the game. Whatever you do, you’re really doing in the game. A lot of players, when using classic controllers, jerk the controller up when they press the jump button. The game doesn’t care if you lift your controller or not. In some more advanced games, lifting your controller will make your character jump. In Hero Games, if you jerk your arms up, your character just jerks his arms up. If you want your character to jump, you’d better jump yourself. You and the character are really the same person.

JACE: Okay, so I know how to jump, and walk, but where did the real you learn how to cast “Statue” or “Lead Feet”?

CALVIN: Oh, that happens in the Training Room, with TrainerBot and his TAs.

JACE: That sounds interesting. Can you tell us a little about that?

CALVIN: After you make your character, you go down a mirrored hallway to the Training Room. It has a very high, arched ceiling and is mostly steel walls. You go back to the Training Room any time you learn a new power, to learn how to use it. TrainerBot is a floating robot. He’s metallic humanoid on top, but the bottom half of him is a round floating set of equipment. He guides you on using the powers, and the TAs, Training Assistants, are basically the practice dummies. They look like gym class rejects until they start coming at you.

JACE: The TAs attack you?

CALVIN: I think it depends on the kind of power you have. Mine is actively offensive/defensive, so yeah, they attacked me so I could use my powers on them. Using the powers is mostly a matter of concentration and focus. Since the entire game is wired into our heads, it makes sense that using the powers would just be in our heads, too.

Other Hero Games Introductions:
Nick “Virgil Ante”
Paul “The Peace Keeper”
Erin “Vanessa Pyre” 

Hero Games Introductions: Erin

I’d like to introduce you to the Beta Testing team for Modson Technologies’s newest game in development: Hero Games! Modson is using their proprietary, experimental Neural Interceptor technology in a full immersion virtual setting for this new game. If the Beta trials are successful, they expect this technology to radically change the gaming industry, along with many other applications. Modson has been kind enough to allow us access to this technology to interview their Beta testers. Each one we interview will actually be comfortably at home, hooked into their Modson gaming system. Since this system interacts directly with their minds, we’ll be able to get much more complete answers than subjects may otherwise give. It’ll be almost like they are having a dream.

In addition, the Beta tester that gets the most attention from their interview (comments, Likes, +1′s, etc) will get a special in-game reward AND one of their lucky commenters/Likers/+1-ers will get a cameo appearance in Hero Games!

This week, we’ll talk to Erin Moore. The girl that steps through the curtain has intelligent, watery blue eyes and red streaks in her shoulder-length black hair. Black combat-style boots with large buckles on the side peek out from under faded blue jeans. The leather jacket hangs loosely off her shoulders, and a simple black t shirt peeks out between the zippers. A thin black choker circles her neck, and her eyeshadow is dark, creating pockets of shadow around her eyes. She lounges in the guest chair looking very comfortable. She offers a pretty smile and waits for me to begin.


JACE: Hello, Erin. Thank you for taking the time to join us today.

ERIN: She shrugs. It’s no problem. They said you were interviewing all the Beta testers.

JACE: Yes, we are. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself to get us started?

ERIN: Okay. I’m seveteen. My birthday is October 8th if you want to send me a present. I read a lot. I do okay in school. I’ve never been arrested, but I beat up the last guy that said I was emo. When I was a kid, we had a lizard in our backyard, a gecko, and I got friendly enough with him that he would let me feed him. I like your goatee, and I think I’ve run out of things to say.

JACE: I’m caught a little off guard by her reference to myself. We were supposed to be talking about her! Ah, thank you, Erin. What about Hero Games? Are you enjoying being a Beta tester?

ERIN: Yeah, it’s fun. When I read, I kind of fall into the story, you know? This game is even better than that; I’m really in the world and action.

JACE:  Can you tell us a little about your character?


ERIN: Sure. Her name is Vanessa Pyre. She’s kind of a vampire. She wears a gothic corset and dress, and she can do some of the traditional vampire stuff, like turn into mist and bite people. Her bite just puts them to sleep right now, though.


JACE: Traditionally, fire is one of the ways to kill a vampire. Was the irony in your character’s name intentional? A pyre is a burning structure.


ERIN: She flashes that pretty smile again, perhaps even slightly longer and larger. I think you’re the first person to get that. I didn’t start with that in mind, but I liked the idea, so I went with it.


JACE: So, Vanessa is a vampire. Is that one of the options when you make your character? I don’t think we’ve heard much about that.


ERIN: No, the Character Creation isn’t like that. There are tons of options, and none of them are stereotypes. Obviously , you can stereotype if you want to, but it isn’t setup by default. There aren’t even player classes like in most games.


JACE: Could you explain more about that for our readers who might be less game-proficient than others?


ERIN: Well, most games like this, you choose a ‘class’ of character, like an tank, or a blaster, or a mage.


JACE: I think you lost me there, Erin.


ERIN: A tank is the term for someone who can take a lot of damage. They run in and keep the bad guy’s attention, doing a little bit of damage, but taking all the hits while the other guys attack the same bad guy. A blaster is someone who attacks from a distance, like an archer or gunman. And a mage is someone that uses magic. There are other types, but that gives you the idea. When you choose one of those characters, you choose powers or abilities or weapons that work for that type of fighter. In Hero Games, you don’t pick a class, and all the abilities are open for anyone to choose. You can make your own class, or spread it around and be a little of everything. It changes the strategy a little bit that way, and that’s cool.


JACE: What about the social aspects of the game? Are you making lots of new friends?


ERIN: A slightly disgusted look crosses her face. I don’t make friends. Yes, you can group, and there are options for that in the game, but you’ll have to ask someone else about that; I work alone. Everything’s going social these days. People act like you can’t do anything on your own, like it’s a bad thing to be by yourself.


Image created by HeroMachine.com

JACE: So you don’t talk to or interact with anyone else in the game?


ERIN: Well, there’s this one guy that’s helped me out a couple of times. He’s kind of sweet, really, but that’s the sad part, cause he’s just going to get hurt in the end. Nice guy, though.


JACE: Well, if you don’t go in for the social aspect, what is your favorite part of the game.


ERIN:  She clearly ponders this for a moment, her watery blue eyes looking off into the distance. I like the pure freedom of it. I get to experience things without worrying about getting trapped, or getting hurt. I’ve jumped off a building and faded into mist half way down, drifting gently to the street. I can talk tough to the bad guys, cause their just computer pixels. Yeah, I like the freedom to feel anything.





Other Hero Games Introductions:
Nick “Virgil Ante”
Paul “The Peace Keeper” Granados

Hero Games Introductions: Paul

I’d like to introduce you to the Beta Testing team for Modson Technologies’s newest game in development: Hero Games! Modson is using their proprietary, experimental Neural Interceptor technology in a full immersion virtual setting for this new game. If the Beta trials are successful, they expect this technology to radically change the gaming industry, along with many other applications. Modson has been kind enough to allow us access to this technology to interview their Beta testers. Each one we interview will actually be comfortably at home, hooked into their Modson gaming system. Since this system interacts directly with their minds, we’ll be able to get much more complete answers than subjects may otherwise give. It’ll be almost like they are having a dream.


This week, we’ll talk to… Paul! A stocky, broad shouldered Hispanic guy comes in, smiling and waving to a non-existent studio audience. He pretends to shield his eyes from bright studio lights (though his lime green sport glasses are bright enough), scan the ‘crowd,’ recognize someone with a big smile, and point them out before finally joining us in the overstuffed interview chairs. The Hero Games tee shirt from the company is put on over top of the collared golf shirt he wears underneath.


JACE: Good morning, Paul. You seem to be in good spirits today.


PAUL: Every chance I get! He shrugs. I try to focus on the happy side of life. So, what did you want to talk about?


JACE: Laughs. Well, I thought we could talk about your role as a Beta tester, and your experience in the game, and maybe a little bit about you. Tell us about Hero Games.


PAUL: Okay. Well, you have this tower thing, with a helmet-gizmo attached to it. I think they call it a Neural Inter-something. Anyways, you put on the headset, and your whole body starts feeling numb. Oh, and everything is dark. Then all of a sudden you’re floating kind of in space, and there’s a start button that you can reach out and click, then you’re in the game. You start by making a hero character, and then you become the hero and go out and fight crime.


JACE: That sounds intriguing. So, what sort of hero did you make?


PAUL: Oh, mine is named The Peace Keeper. He’s got all this body armor, and he uses a quarterstaff that shrinks down when I’m not using it. When I level up some more, I plan to get a Bolo Gun.


JACE: I couldn’t help but notice that you switched pronouns, there, Paul. You went from talking about ‘him’ to yourself. 


PAUL: He grins sheepishly. Yeah, well, that’s kind of the way it happens in the game, you really do become the hero. It feels so real. Once I finished creating the character and got into the armor myself, it was me out there fighting crime. It isn’t like you’re just pushing buttons and watching a screen; you’re really out there- or, in there, or whatever, I am the Peace Keeper. It’s great.


JACE: So, Paul, there may be some of our audience that don’t know what a Beta tester is. Could you explain that for us?


PAUL: Sure. When a company is making a video game, they have to write all the programming, and then part of the programmers’ job is to test it. Only they can’t see all the problems, cause they’re too close, so they do a Beta Trial. They invite a small group of people to play the game and see if they can find mistakes, or problems. We can make suggestions, and we can even try to break the game. I know one guy that always tries to find the highest part of the game he can and jump off, just to see how the game handles it.


JACE: I see. Have you tried that in Hero Games?


PAUL: He shakes his head vigorously. Not me; not in Hero Games. It’s too real. I’d feel like I was really jumping off a building. Some of the heroes can fly, though, so maybe they’ve tried it. But you do some exploring, you try to go into places of the game environment that the designers don’t expect you to go. I’ll be honest, I’ve mostly been having fun just playing the game. The world’s pretty complete, though. My buddy Blue Bow has been following the NPCs trying to figure out the patterns. He says they’re more complicated than any game he’s seen yet.


Images thanks to HeroMachine.com

JACE: NPCs?


PAUL: Oh, sorry. NPCs are Non-Player Characters. They’re just fake people run by the game to help fill up the world the game is in. 


JACE: Well, Paul, you’ve told us a fair bit about the game, but what about you? Who is the ‘man behind the Peace Keeper’?


PAUL:  His grin expands to cover half his face. Aw, there’s nothing interesting about me. I’m just a guy.


JACE: I don’t believe that for a moment. What’s your family like? What do you do for fun?


PAUL: Not much family, really. Just my mom and me. Mom doesn’t want me to work so I can concentrate on school. She wants me to get into a good college. She says she’s supporting me now so I can support her later. He laughs. She says when I turn 27 she’s going to retire, so I’d better be ready to take care of her. For fun, right now, I mostly just play Hero Games. It gets pretty addicting. I’m in there most of the time.


JACE: Offers Paul his hand to shake. Well, Paul, it’s been a pleasure having you stop by. I wish you great success in the future. Before you go, though, I have a special announcement to our audience:


The Beta tester that gets the most attention for his interview will receive a special in-game reward! So, tell all of your friends to come check out your interview, and comment, Like, +1, etc so you can get that special in-game prize. Also, the lucky Beta tester will choose one of their supporters at random for a cameo appearance in Hero Games!


PAUL: You got it! He gets up and again waves to the imaginary crowd, his grin as big as his heart. 




Hero Games Introductions:
Nick “Virgil Ante”
Erin “Vanessa Pyre” Moore

Hero Games Introductions: Nick

I’d like to introduce you to the Beta Testing team for Modson Technologies’s newest game in development: Hero Games! Modson is using their proprietary, experimental Neural Interceptor technology in a full immersion virtual setting for this new game. If the Beta trials are successful, they expect this technology to radically change the gaming industry, along with many other applications. Modson has been kind enough to allow us access to this technology to interview their Beta testers. Each one we interview will actually be comfortably at home, hooked into their Modson gaming system. Since this system interacts directly with their minds, we’ll be able to get much more complete answers than subjects may otherwise give. It’ll be almost like they are having a dream.


We’ll start with Nick. Nick is one of the younger Beta testers of the group. A skinny teenager with long, stringy black hair enters the room and takes a seat beside the desk. He’s wearing a trademark Hero Games tee shirt (provided by the company) and ripped jeans.


JACE: Hello, Nick. Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today.

NICK: Sure. I got a free tee shirt for it! (He leans back and pokes out his chest to show off the tee shirt.)

JACE: Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, Nick?

NICK: Well, I’m 14. I go to Bridgeton High School. I like to swim; I like to game. That’s pretty much it.

JACE: You like to swim? Are you on a swim team? I mean, do you compete?

NICK: I used to be. I’m not any more. We can’t afford it now. I still do laps in the school pool when I can, though.

JACE: Alright, we’ll talk more about that later. Have you had a chance to try the game out, yet?

NICK: (He gets a little more excited and slides forward to the edge of his chair.) Oh, yeah. It’s completely wicked. You’re totally inside the game. It’s so real-feeling. When you make your character, it’s like you’re standing in this room, and there’s a pool of goo that turns into the person as you’re making him, and then he kind of comes to life, but he isn’t really alive cause you aren’t in him, yet. He’s just showing off a little personality, you know?

JACE: No, I don’t quite know yet, but it sounds very interesting. What kind of character did you make?

NICK: Ha! I made this wicked eight foot blue giant with red eyes. He’s got a leather jacket and these crazy techno gloves that shoot lightning. (Nick starts gesturing and acting out his description.) He’s wicked strong and he can jump out of a high window or something and land on the sidewalk, making all these little cracks in the cement… it’s completely wicked. (He brushes his hair out of his eyes with one hand as he finishes the description.)  I called him Virgil Ante. Like, vigilante, you know, a hero kind-of guy?


JACE: He sounds quite intimidating. So, Virgil Ante is a hero?

NICK: Oh yeah, they’re all heroes. The game has it setup like that. If you do non-hero stuff, you lose experience and can’t level up.I think if you do too much of it, they kick you out or something. It’s still a pretty cool game, though. It needs a soundtrack, but I think that might be an unlock you can get later.

JACE: Excellent. Well, I’d hate to spoil the game while it is still in Beta, let’s talk more about you.

NICK: If you want, I guess, I don’t have much interesting to talk about.

JACE: Well, how about your family? What do they think of you being selected for the Beta test?

NICK: Uhm, well, my mom I don’t think really knows. She’s working a lot these days, so I don’t see her very much. My little brother knows, but he’s just kind of a pest, and I don’t allow him in my room. Bad things happen when he goes in my room. (Nick pauses thoughtfully, as though surprised at his own words.) Yeah, uhm, so anyways, he knows, and that’s kind of the house, cause our dad died a few years ago.

JACE: I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?

NICK: Well, when I was nine, I found this gun on the way home from school. It was just laying beside the fence in a paper bag, right? And I saw it, and I thought “Wicked. It’s a real gun.” I figured it’d be fun for me and Joker, that’s my best friend, his real name’s James, anyways, fun for me and Joker to shoot tin cans or something sometime. Plus, it’s not safe to leave something like that just sitting out where anybody can get it, you know? (He paused with the same look of self-confusion.) Anyways, I took it home and I was checking it out in my room when I heard my dad come home. I knew he’d probably flip and want to turn the gun in, which was fine and all, but I hadn’t even had a chance to shoot it yet. I mean, a couple of days difference won’t matter.

So I stuffed the gun under my bed and went out to talk with dad and throw the suspicion off. He started talking about this big swim meet that was coming up, and maybe how we could celebrate if I placed well enough. (His shoulders slump slightly, and his voice grows softer.) Then I see my kid brother coming out of the hallway holding the gun. He loved playing in my room, and it always made me so mad, cause he’d break stuff. This time was the worst, though. He’d found the gun, and he was only three, so he didn’t even really know what it was. He totally didn’t know it was real. He pointed it at us, and said “bang, bang!” We used to play that game. He’d point his finger at me and say “bang bang” and I’d all die goofy like. He thought it was funny. Only this time the gun was real, and it was loaded. I don’t think dad even really ever knew what happened. His eyes got all wide, and he tried to talk, but he couldn’t, and he fell on the ground.

(Nick pushes the tissue box away and wipes his nose and eyes on his sleeve instead.) I know I shouldn’t have had the gun in the first place, but if he hadn’t gone in my room; if he’d just leave my stuff alone…

JACE: That must have been terrible for both of you. Is your brother okay?

NICK: (shrugs.)  I don’t think he even really remembers it. He was pretty young. He probably didn’t even understand that I’d cost us both our father. I mostly take care of him, cause mom’s working all the time to make ends meet, and dad’s gone, so it’s just us at home.

JACE: Sounds like you’re trying to be his hero.

Images thanks to HeroMachine.com

NICK: Nah, I just make sure he doesn’t starve or anything, you know? I mean, it’s the least I can do, after… everything.

JACE: Well, we’re almost out of time, so let’s try to end on a high note. What’s the coolest thing about the game that you’ve found so far?

NICK: Hero Games? Aw, man, there’s so much wicked stuff in there. (He thinks about it a moment.)  Probably the feeling of being somebody completely different. In there, I’m not just looking at the back of Virgil’s head; I am Virgil Ante. I’m eight feet tall, with blue skin and muscles, and I can shoot electricity. It’s all so wicked-real.

JACE: Again, Nick, thank you for joining us, and we look forward to reading all about your adventures in Hero Games.

Tune in next time, and we’ll talk to another of our Beta testers for Hero Games, from Modson Technologies.

Hero Games Introductions:
 Paul “The Peace Keeper” Granados
Erin “Vanessa Pyre” Moore