Pimping Legion

Oh man, this kinda snuck up on me:  Crysis: Legion is officially out today.  Del Rey is doing a bit of online promo, including posting the first fifty pages on their “Fifty Page Fridays” site.  Of course, they won’t be posting them until Friday; in the meantime, though, I’ve written a series of four blog posts for their Suvudo pages; they focus mainly on the science behind the suit but they’re liberally illustrated with excerpts from the novel.  The first one went live today; it’s a bit short relative to the others on account of devoting a chunk of the word count to introducing the series as a whole.  (It’s also a bit less bracing stylistically than the material you find here on the crawl, on account of corporate oversight.  The phrase “Homoerotic Iron Man”, for example, definitely did not make the cut.)

I’ve also done a couple of e-mail interviews in between lying in bed and scouring out the inside of my leg.  The only one that’s gone live so far (that I know of, anyway) appeared on a little gaming site known as 3mgr.com, which has since apparently vanished off the face of the web.  Adi Robertson, the interviewer, posted it over on her own site so it would not be lost to posterity.  (Sadly, one of the elements that will not be lost is the fact that I inadvertently used exactly the same sentence in my answers to two completely different questions.  Sometimes I think my body is rebuilding my wounded leg by cannibalizing brain cells for protein.)

So, check ’em out.  Browse the excerpts.  We’re not talking Nobel-caliber by any means, but if you have the usual take on video-game adaptations, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday March 22 2011at 01:03 pm , filed under Crytek/Crysis, public interface, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

74 Responses to “Pimping Legion”

  1. *raises hand*

    I have the “usual take on video game adaptations”. I can’t believe I’m actually going to buy this book. I may even actually buy the game since Crytek decided to develop some common sense by tossing you the book gig, despite their whiny scapegoating of PC piracy regarding the technically prohibitive first game’s market performance. It’s got to be a fairly rare occurrence when someone buys a game because of the tie-in novelization, and not vice versa.

    “Homoerotic Iron Man” would have made a far better title, though. They lack vision.

  2. I just bought it for my Kindle. Didn’t think I’d be buying a video game novel either. Going to cover it at the Crysis Wiki:

    http://crysis.wikia.com

  3. Never gotten into game adaptation books before, even though I noticed some well/respected authors are working in the field. But I read John Ringo, does that count?

    SANTA would have been great, but the short fragment on suvudu seems to be in your voice. I’ll have to go and read it, after I got through the Rothfuss.

  4. I’ll definitely be buying it at some point.

    For the interviews, though, I really think you should consider some web cam interviews with the web cam pointed at your unbandaged leg. Bonus points if you can digitally alter the image to make it appear to talk.

  5. Comic book fans accepted the homoerotic thing decades ago thanks to Fred Wertham, I guess gamers are still in denial. That thing on the banner on the right wouldn’t look out of place in a SM dungeon, and that’s just fine with me.

  6. I’ve never bought a video game adaptation and doubt I ever will again, but this one’s on order. The excerpts I’ve seen are good; it looks like this’ll work as an actual novel.

  7. I’m actually a wee bit worried about the first excerpt, because it is so straight-ahead slam-blang videogamey. Subsequent excerpts show a bit more of the nuance you’ll find in the novel as a whole. And that first fifty pages will definitely give you a solid sense of the book-vs-game vibe.

  8. I like the excerpt on the Random House site (and the namedropping…), that doesn’t seem too videogamey. Tempted to buy, maybe I’ll get a gamer friend to show off the interactive mode later too. :)

  9. Ah, the things I do for a fix.

    Better buying a videogame adaptation than licking the inside of plastic baggies, though.

    *grin*

  10. re: “It would have been an absolute disaster to simply retell the game in novel form — you might as well try to convey the experience of 2001: A Space Odyssey in origami. Books and games are completely different animals, with different strengths and different purposes. The trade-off is always interactivity versus complexity; the more choices you give your protagonist, the simpler the storyline that continues from each of those choices simply because of the code required to give literary depth to every fork on a decision tree with a thousand branches. ”

    Violet
    http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=4glrrfh7wrp9zz7b

    Alabaster
    http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=b2g8je1xxtqzei4u

    Everybody Dies
    http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=lyblvftb8xtlo0a1

  11. I’m actually pleased Peter was able to speak intelligently on the whole gaming narrative angle. I hope that doesn’t sound insulting. I just meant that a lot of times, big brain types who generally wouldn’t do a lot of slumming in the gaming medium, tend to betray their ignorance and/or thinly veiled disdain.

    Peter cited all the correct references, and said all the right things. I’m actually curious to hear more about Peter’s gaming habits now, just to make sure he wasn’t coached. I wouldn’t have thought he would have a lot of time for that sort of thing, in between the writing, the minor transnational incidents, and being a medical curiosity. The man has a full plate.

  12. Now that the book and game are out, can you repost the bit where you rewrote the blurb/summary on the back of the book or whatever it was? I thought that was a fun example of making a great blurb out of an unremarkable one.

  13. hey, it’s available on the kindle. instant gratification!

  14. So do you have a recommendation: book first, game first, or doesn’t matter? I’m guessing they won’t interfere with each other, but would like confirmation before I start either (DVD is [over]due tomorrow; book is downloading from Amazon now; iBooks doesn’t have Legion).

  15. (the other was a script for Relic Entertainment in Vancouver that never went anywhere)

    Did the rights revert to you. If so, do you feel the script is up to par enough for you to want to release it on your backlist?

    I don’t know of any secret handshake that might allow an outsider to pitch an idea to the industry; a number of insiders have told me there isn’t one. You basically just live your life and one day the Magic Phone Call arrives and you jump at the chance, because, you know. Video games. Way cooler than the day job.

    If you find out any secret handshake let me in on it because I would like to recommend a kick-ass artist to the owner of the hand.

    Ps. I want the secret blockquote tag handshake.

    Pps. Why do the powers that be ask for characters who are muscle bound and ripping? It is tedious.

  16. Just ordered it from Amazon.

    I’m not a huge gaming guy, but I’m happy to read more Peter Watts.

  17. Pps. Why do the powers that be ask for characters who are muscle bound and ripping? It is tedious.

    I suspect Laziness + Marketing. They probably decided that the average customer is a weenie or fat young male (not a prime physical specimen) and designed with him in mind. If the game companies believe the average gamer wants to imagine himself as more powerful than he is, and with a better body than he has, they build the shooter that way.

    Consider Second LIfe – did anybody have an avatar that reflected their actual physique, or did they carefully build a ridiculous dream-body for themselves?

    If you were you being rhetorical and I missed it, apologies are offered.

  18. @Sheila

    “Pps. Why do the powers that be ask for characters who are muscle bound and ripping? It is tedious.”

    I suppose it’s because Woody Allen never tested very well for action movies. Who wants to put on a super suit that makes you look like a Proust scholar?

    Really though, this is certainly nothing new this century, as far as cinema goes. We’ve always enjoyed our action heroes to be muscle bound and well oiled. It’s probably no different in the classic era, if you want to go back and look at the depictions of heroes in antiquity.

    I’m fine with this. It makes an instinctive sort of sense to see a being of power depicted as being physically strong. Not that body-built physiques actually represent what a physically powerful human would look like..they’d look more like those burly caber-tossing Scotsmen.

    What I find much more troubling are the hyper-sexualized depiction of female action media characters with enormous breasts, and without the corresponding exaggerated musculature. Evidently female characters house their power in their breasts and impossibly sculpted asses, which suggests that a woman’s power comes from sexuality, not her ability to impose her will on the physical world.

  19. If you were you being rhetorical and I missed it, apologies are offered.

    semi. and who didn’t like homoerotic iron man? if it irked someone they should consider trying different physiques for the games. maybe my irksome comment adds to enough feedback that game designers try different things.

    I am also on a derail now wondering what a physique of someone seriously morphed by a bio-exo-skeleton-suite-thing would actually look like. to have enough strength to do things the suite might end up looking cabled with thick muscles.

    maybe even ones at different and weird angles compared to a human norm, if you want to give the body different ranges of motion and the body is so broken up that it doesn’t matter if you break it up even more. (I’ve read the first bit of the book now and I don’t think designers would feel constrained in how much they broke limbs etc.)

    except with materials that might not just be augmented muscles you might not get things that thicken like muscles do when they pull things.

    I would think it comes down to an artistic choice, and the game designers can hand wave any sort of justification.

    oh, so for that matter, they could make sprites for whatever type of body a user wants to play. oh, and then they could collect analytics on what people click. get enough demographic data then we could really test if it is males in some age group who also go for the ripped type.

  20. Feel free to mentally edit out the second “you” in the last sentence.

    Also, to be clear, I’m not saying their assumptions about the physique of their customers are correct, or that I have any actual inside info about game companies. I don’t.

    Pure extrapolation based on watching how lots of other stuff is being marketed – with some attempt to grab the consumer in the middle of the curve. Like chair height. Ever notice how chairs tend to be too short or too tall, depending on your height, as if Chair Production Central Committee used one average guy as the template for all chairdom? I hate that.

  21. I am definitely buying this book.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first Crysis game, more for its sandbox gameplay and incredible physics/graphics (the Nanosuit 1.0 was pretty damn cool too) than for its story. Hopefully Crysis 2 provides both (if my computer can even run it).

    Luckily my iPhone can easily run the Kindle app so I’ll at least get my taste of Crysis 2 that way.

    But what is this about a script for Relic Entertainment? How have I not heard about this. I know this may sound silly but their first game “Homeworld’ was a revelatory experience for me. I actually get emotional thinking about that first time playing through the single player campaign. Talk about a story!

    Please, please, please, give us more details about the script for Relic. Release it if possible. I MUST READ IT. I know an entire community over at the Relic Forums who would pay good money to see this, me included.

    It is a shame Relic never chose to go back to the Homeworld universe after the somewhat dissapointment that was HW2.

  22. Ps. I want the secret blockquote tag handshake.

    If I recall correctly, this place passes through the HTML magic (<blockquote>blah blah blah</blockquote>) intact, but it won’t be shown as block quotes. Or I could be wrong, we’ll see soon enough – I wrapped your PS in both blockquotes and <em> (emphasis) tags.

  23. While I’m waiting for my previous long winded response to Sheila to be freed up out of moderation hell (how do I avoid that, by the way?), I’ll also just mention I also loved Homeworld, and would love to see a Watts hard sci fi treatment.

    @Mattan

    My understanding is it’s not by choice that Relic hasn’t gone back to the Homeworld series, but because the property is no longer owned by them but by the publisher. I think all the Sierra games are owned by EA now.

  24. (Right, the blockquotes survived, but they’re “flat” and don’t stand out.)

    if you want to give the body different ranges of motion and the body is so broken up that it doesn’t matter if you break it up even more.

    On the other hand, that would presumably mean that the intuitions about what ranges of motion are available, that you’ve painstakingly learned through decades, are wrong. You might even have to teach your subjects to walk all over again…

    So sticking artificial muscle where you’ll naturally expect there to be muscle anyway might not be such a bad idea, I guess.

  25. @me

    “I think all the Sierra games are owned by EA now.”

    Wiki informs me that the last know owner was Activision, which would actually put the games under Blizzard’s control now. The point is, Relic can’t just decide to make a sequel, I dont think.

  26. @magetoo

    (Right, the blockquotes survived, but they’re “flat” and don’t stand out.)

    Poster Nix in the last crawl entry comment section appeared to successfully use
    blockquotes. I admit to being curious as to how he pulled that off.

  27. Sadly, that was not Nix’s doing. That was mine.

    I manually swapped out his ‘blockquote’ commands with ‘style=”padding-left: 30px; padding-right:30px;”‘, thusly. I thought that updating to the latest version of WordPress would fix that blockquote bug, but evidently not.

    Until someone does, I recommend using the padding option.

  28. Poster Nix in the last crawl entry comment section appeared to successfully use blockquotes. I admit to being curious as to how he pulled that off.

    By using explicit style attributes on a regular <p>paragraph</p>, it seems. I’ll give it a shot here, if it works just use “view source” in the browser to see how it’s done.

    But it really should be done in the site’s style sheet. Peter: would you consider removing “blockquote” from the list of tags in the very first entry in the .css file? That way it should get its margins back.

  29. (Damn, the “style” magic I put in got filtered out. For good reason too I suppose, that way lies madness and animated .gifs in comments.)

  30. @Sheila

    “maybe even ones at different and weird angles compared to a human norm, if you want to give the body different ranges of motion and the body is so broken up that it doesn’t matter if you break it up even more.”

    “I would think it comes down to an artistic choice, and the game designers can hand wave any sort of justification.”

    Except, I would just point out, as an artist you know that you use understood anatomical touchstones to communicate ideas. Even if you’re illustrating some fantastical creature that doesn’t exist anywhere on the planet earth, the anatomy you invest it with is still going to conform more or less to some natural standard, or it will look wrong. In realistic depictions, if something looks wrong, then it is wrong, even if it is technically accurate by your own internal reasoning.

    It’s far more efficient to convey a physically powerful looking humanoid body that is going to represent a human being doing physically impressive things, than it is to try and sell the idea of a human body that no longer moves, acts, or looks as we expect it to, albeit in augmented fashion. Being able to bend an arm in unnatural fashion is going to be more confusing than anything else to conveying idea of an enhanced human soldier, even if it is an intriguing idea.

    (mostly I just made this comment to test out a blockquote theory, so feel free to ignore it)

  31. Got my copy in the mail yesterday. Hope my wife doesn’t have any plans for us this weekend …

  32. Is there anywhere that sells the ebook of Legion to the UK? It seems most of the shops are embargoing it (presumably because the UK hardcopy version doesn’t come out until April).

    I know there are elaborate gift-card based tricks to buy US Kindle books – is there anything I can do short of that?

  33. magetoo, On the other hand, that would presumably mean that the intuitions about what ranges of motion are available, that you’ve painstakingly learned through decades, are wrong. You might even have to teach your subjects to walk all over again…

    oh, good point! but I’m not sure how long it would take to retrain considering some of the experiments out there were they get people to imagine themselves having a third arm. plus I remember some things where you get subjects to wear glasses that invert their vision and after a while it “fixes” itself.

    This is fun enough to think about that I am going to wonder how long it would take for someone to find a weird joint natural. I’ve seen people wear stilts with bird like angles for fun. I wonder how hard that is?

    My intuition is that it is not as hard as to be tedious for a story, but only based on some vague memory of articles I once read or heard about. though I guess it might seem too hard for everyone and thus interrupt the flow of a story. so a bad idea.

    ScottC, Except, I would just point out, as an artist you know that you use understood anatomical touchstones to communicate ideas. Even if you’re illustrating some fantastical creature that doesn’t exist anywhere on the planet earth, the anatomy you invest it with is still going to conform more or less to some natural standard, or it will look wrong. In realistic depictions, if something looks wrong, then it is wrong, even if it is technically accurate by your own internal reasoning.

    Now I am reminded of how hard it is for people to create good aliens while communicating the alienness of them. I think same thing kind of applies here. Peter pulls off good aliens with interesting body shapes, so it could happen in a game one day. (or we just use ascii characters)

    btw, I am willing to handwave technical accuracy to a certain amount in the interests of a good enough story.

    Ps. I don’t know how my tone comes off when I write here. imagine me reading this with a matter of fact and occasionally dopey tone of voice. only sometimes irked. and now mostly not.

    Pps. physical markup considered harmful!

  34. freed up out of moderation hell (how do I avoid that, by the way?)

    Sometimes I get stuck in moderation if I don’t populate the reply fields the same as I normally do… maybe that happened? Or maybe there is some sort of wonky heuristic wordpress uses occasionally.

    Ps. physical markup considered harmful but I still use it.

  35. @Sheila

    Now I am reminded of how hard it is for people to create good aliens while communicating the alienness of them. I think same thing kind of applies here. Peter pulls off good aliens with interesting body shapes, so it could happen in a game one day.

    The burden of describing something in text, and depicting it with a realistic visual representation are entirely different things.

    While there are certainly degrees of artfulness involved, and it’s easy to describe something that isn’t interesting, I’m pretty sure it is very difficult to describe something in a manner that is inherently wrong, as the reader will always filter the description through their own imagination in a way that makes sense to them. (I stand ready to be assailed by writers on this point, so please correct me if I’m in error). The reader will force something to look right, in the same way that things look “right” or real in a dream, but are really only half formed masses trading on your recognition of certain iconic features, but trailing off into ambiguity in the periphery. Peter has the benefit of the reader doing the heavy lifting on that end, and it should be noted even he makes use of templates based in nature to ground his descriptions on ( like the scramblers based on brittle stars).

    With a depiction that leans towards the realistic, the artist doesn’t have nearly as much help. They must impose their vision on the viewer’s reality, in a much more complete fashion. It must look like it fits into the world, occupy physical dimensions, and obey physical rules. And at any given point, there are myriad ways to veer of the path in some manner that will result in the subject looking wrong, even if the subject is a complete fabrication. It may be especially important if the subject is a complete fabrication, as it becomes more important to give the viewer recognizable touchstones, so the viewer will accept the reality of something they have never seen in real life.

    So sure, you can give a four armed man a “realistic” depiction, but those arms are going to have musculature that resemble the functional musculature we recognize, and look as if they would actually move in predictable fashion, within the same limits. You can depict something like a “dragon” realistically, but it’s going to be extrapolated from other recognizable animal landmarks. The musculature of it’s limbs might look reptilian or avian. But it can’t be completely whimsical or it will look wrong. It has to look like something that would actually work.

    Sure, you can break those rules, but doing so will break the realism, and result in something cartoonish. Or it will require a whole lot of effort to explain and sell the idea…something that wouldn’t be possible in a single static depiction which will just look wrong no matter how you try to explain it. And then your character becomes pretty much all about that deviation, and you’re explaining why your character is Plastic Man.

    In the case of conveying the idea of an enhanced human soldier who is superhumanly strong and fast, but still recognizably human, Im not sure that deviating from the human standard of form and movement in an unnatural fashion would be particularly helpful. I do, however, find the design of the Crysis Nanosuit to be a little mundane for my tastes.

    I’m pretty sure this was all completely unnecessary to explain. My work here is done.

  36. Sheila:
    Sometimes I get stuck in moderation if I don’t populate the reply fields the same as I normally do… maybe that happened? Or maybe there is some sort of wonky heuristic wordpress uses occasionally.

    I think there is a character limit at work. My pithy statements seem to go right through (as I’m betting this one will), but my wall of blather I made a post earlier is still in queue.

  37. Ps. I don’t know how my tone comes off when I write here. imagine me reading this with a matter of fact and occasionally dopey tone of voice. only sometimes irked. and now mostly not.

    As a clear, yet soothing note from a lone cello, with just a hint of sadness. No, I don’t know; but it’s nothing that stands out. You’re fine. (Either that or I’m desensitized from too much blog reading, and probably comes off as an ass myself.)

    Sometimes I get stuck in moderation if I don’t populate the reply fields the same as I normally do

    I think the blog software just compares those fields with a list of people who have posted previously. If you managed to be coherent and non-spammy once (or more?), you’re whitelisted. If not, the comment is held for moderation. Comments with multiple links often gets held too, regardless of posting history, so maybe really long ones also suffer the same fate. But that’s really just guessing…

  38. Oh right, the topic we were talking about.

    This is fun enough to think about that I am going to wonder how long it would take for someone to find a weird joint natural. I’ve seen people wear stilts with bird like angles for fun. I wonder how hard that is?

    Hmm. That’s a good point. There would probably be at least some things you could modify that would be relatively easy to get used to. Wild speculation alert: It doesn’t seem impossible to have chicken/cat legs, for instance, by “just” having a longer foot – it might just seem like walking on tiptoes all the time. Tentacles for arms would, I guess, be harder.

  39. @Magetoo

    “Wild speculation alert: It doesn’t seem impossible to have chicken/cat legs, for instance, by “just” having a longer foot – it might just seem like walking on tiptoes all the time. Tentacles for arms would, I guess, be harder”.

    As an illustrator and designer, my experience has been the opposite. Big, obvious deviations are easy. Its the smaller, subtle ones that cause trouble. In your example, having tentacles would be easy, because that’s an obviously alien and self-explanatory alteration. Furthermore, tentacles and psuedopods have a fairly ambiguous physiology that don’t require a lot of visual explanation as to their workings. We know that tentacles are fluid forms that have an infinite range of movement, as opposed to anthropomorphic limb that must be constructed a certain way and conform to certain expectations. They are simple forms that just sort of work.

    Giving a humanoid figure bird feet, or features that are just a little bit different, is where you’re going to run into trouble, because something seems off, and its not always clear why. Is the figure walking on his toes all the time? Is its foot broken in an unnatural manner? Or is the anatomy just off a little, and therefore wrong looking. Any time a visual representation requires explanation, something is usually wrong. If you’re going to give a humanoid character bird feet, better go ahead and give it a beak and feathers too to sell the point.

    So, tentacle arms, prehensile tail fine. Silly, but fine. Anthropomorphic limb with a little unexpected form or range of motion, or six fingers instead of five, problematic.

  40. Just saw an advert for the game on telly. I’m not a gamer but it looks very cool. Will be keeping an eye out for the book…

  41. Gordon Freeman never gets any credit in these talks about musclebound heroes, but he is a creditable example of non-musclebound FPS action hero (He even has a phD!).

    Frankly I wish they hadn’t stuck to the zero personality non-talking bit, I don’t mind my avatars having their own mind, John Marston from Red Dead Redemption comes to mind (And he’s not musclebound either, come to think of it).

    Regarding video game adaptations, I recently read “Fire Warrior”, adaptation of a 2003 ps2 Warhammer 40k fps, and it was interesting in that, while following the plot of the game externally, it adds a whole “Going progressively insane” aspect to the protagonist, who finds himself becoming increasingly psychologically unstable as he discovers his evident excellence in the art of killing. At the end of the game you fly away as the bad guys explode in the background, at the end of the book, the protagonist is committed in a medical institution. Probably most FPS protagonists would end up with the mother of all PTSD…

  42. @OP: I guess you’ll take a couple of days off now and put your feet up?

    @Peter, “I thought that updating to the latest version of WordPress would fix that blockquote bug, but evidently not.

    It’s not a bug in WordPress, it has to do with the theme you installed. That theme does sport a blockquote definition, although it seems to have been added or changed later.

  43. Addition: you’re using a modified version 1.0.1. of the BlacknWhite theme, the more recent version is 2.0.2. Winmerge or something similar for your operating of choice will be your friend when trying to figure out what it was you changed all these ages ago.

  44. Branko:

    How simple it turns out to be. Thank you.

    I actually never did edit the style sheets for this theme, so I don’t think I reset the block-quote parameters; in fact, blockquote was defined using the same common margin specs as body, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, and p. I had to write a new line specifying blockquotes on their own. But it works.

    Thank you.

  45. Nestor:

    Gordon Freeman never gets any credit in these talks about musclebound heroes, but he is a creditable example of non-musclebound FPS action hero (He even has a phD!).

    Dr. Freeman didn’t have superhuman strength, though. But he did have that sweet crowbar, and was a really good listener.

  46. Yay for blockquotes!

  47. Would the novel get translated (especially to German)? A co-worker got hooked on your work by me, and now is your fan, too (and he is a gamer …).
    I’ll order the book this afternoon, and fear/hope that I won’t get it too soon …

  48. ScottC says: Big, obvious deviations are easy. Its the smaller, subtle ones that cause trouble.

    Uncanny valley?

    http://www.slate.com/id/2102086/

  49. ScottC, H: Me too. I was thinking you could mine the uncanny valley for visuals.

    Anyway, I am about halfway through the book now so I don’t feel like I can discuss it much anymore more since I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything.

  50. 50 pages in, so far. Enjoyed the reference to a certain fascist border guard.

  51. Uncanny Valley actually refers to a similar, but slightly different phenomenon than the one I was talking about. Apologies by the way for belaboring the point, but I actually know a little something about this, and it’s so rare when that happens for me on the ‘Crawl. Blathergasm incoming.

    What Mori calls the “Uncanny Valley” is simply the well known artistic phenomenon where the more realistically you render a subject, the more rigidly it will be judged by that realism, and the more glaringly flaws will stand out. The more realistic it is, the more the sense of “wrongness” from the deviation from what we expect to see will bother us, even if we can’t put our fingers on why. This is one of the reasons painters use detail as a tactical resource in renderings, to give life or draw attention to a specific subject or area, and then no more than is necessary. Generally, the more detail or realism you add in one area, the more effort you have everywhere else as well, like making a clean spot on a dirty wall. This applies to anything, not just human figures, but when applied to animated lifelike characters or moving lifelike automatons, this “wrongness” is especially creepy.

    Uncanny Valley is generally referring to projects where the goal is to reproduce humanoid form and feature as faithfully as possible. I was referring to when you want to deliberately alter that form in realistic fashion, as you might want to do in depicting characters in science fiction and games. There, doing something big and obvious like giving a character tentacle arms, a prehensile tail, or an automatic can opener for a head are much easier to pull off than more subtle changes. I’ll give you a good example, seeing as the ‘Crawl is discussing games and game characters now (apologies to Peter for dumbing down the ‘Crawl, but he did start it with the whole video game tie- in thing).

    As an unrepentant serial fan-artist, I often do a little hackery based on whatever bit of pop culture nonsense has recently tickled my fancy. So a while back it was that I started on a piece with everyone’s favorite Mass Effect series character, Tali. Tali is a very difficult character to render, precisely because she is just a little bit different. Well, easy enough to render faithfully, but difficult to render in a faithful way that won’t trip the viewer’s sense of wrongness. She is an alien, designed to conform to the humanoid female standard, with maybe 7% variation. The purpose was to make something identifiably alien, and yet still reasonably physically appealing that we could find endearing, and possibly even attractive.

    To be honest, I think it works only because players spend so much time in the game growing acclimated to her alien-ness. At a glance, Tali is just off. In game, she has an odd gait that is just a little bit bowl legged. Her hips are (deliberately) too wide, her feet are too long (the fact that she has two toes is almost incidental), and her shins are oddly curved. It’s a human leg that cheats just a little bit towards a bird-legged standard, but not enough for someone at a glance to go, “oh, she has bird legs” (and incidentally, lose any bit of physical appeal she had). From a design standpoint, it’s a very delicate balancing act. From certain angles, her legs look almost human, from other angles, something clearly weird is going on.

    http://img703.imageshack.us/img703/3959/talio.jpg

    It took me quite a while in-game to figure out what it was about her that was bothering me, because she is so closely humanoid in so many other respects. If I were critiquing those concept renderings, and I didn’t have any knowledge of the character, my first instinct would be to have the artist address anatomy issues. Whereas is she were a faun and had clearly hairy cloven feet and goat legs, I wouldn’t think twice about anatomy (as long as the legs were accurate in terms of goat anatomy), because there’s no ambiguity there.

    So while I understand Sheila is lamenting what she perceives as another muscle bound action hero, and would like to see more action heroes that don’t fit that mold, or even characters that are more clearly inhuman, from a practical design perspective, I understand everything that is being done with that Nanosuit design. It needs to convey the idea of a suit that grants physical power, grounded in plausible technology, with a paramilitary aesthetic, but still recognizable as a human being, adhering to exaggerated but accurate human form and movement. I think the design is a little mundane, but it gets those ideas across. Even if the character’s elbow was capable of rotating an additional 30 degrees past the human norm, it would be a pain in the ass to illustrate that point in any manner that didn’t simply look more wrong than interesting, and probably not worth the effort, as it does nothing but confuse the issue of the character’s humanity.

    The question is, if it were a female character in that suit, would it bulk her up in the same manner, or would the suit instead augment her tits and ass to a hypersexualized degree?

  52. Spent the day, traipsing about the city, hunting for Legion. None of the big box bookstores had it in stock yet. Fortunately, Bakka-Phoenix did. Now I must go. I’ve a book to read.

  53. […] Even if the character’s elbow was capable of rotating an additional 30 degrees past the human norm, it would be a pain in the ass to illustrate that point in any manner that didn’t simply look more wrong than interesting […]

    I appreciate the detailed reply. I don’t have enough of a follow-up to merit a comment, but didn’t want to leave off without mentioning that.

    oh, and I’m almost done with the book now

  54. Having finished Legion and started Crysis 2, the book is clearly better than the game. 😉 I’ll try the game again in a while and see if I can wrap my head around the controls, but its design is very confusing.

  55. It’s a human leg that cheats just a little bit towards a bird-legged standard, but not enough for someone at a glance to go, “oh, she has bird legs”

    Given the face-mask, I thought of some kind of extinct New Zealand 6 foot tall bird, seeing one of those 17th century prints, colorized after the fact, of “what the first white men saw when they landed.” I didn’t do lots of rational evaluation, the image just presented itself. Interesting artwork in that it makes another picture pop into my head! Like it jumped my consciousnes to another page.

    How did others see it? How long did it take for you to think “Avian!”

    The question is, if it were a female character in that suit, would it bulk her up in the same manner, or would the suit instead augment her tits and ass to a hypersexualized degree?

    *thinking* Well, this is a vidoe game, a commercial product marketed to young men, sooooo…. Wait. That was another rhetorical question, wasn’t it?

    Otoh, the overly-muscled homoerotic ironman has a tiny package… you’d think they’d give him a great giant codpiece, wouldn’t you.

  56. Sounds like I might actually buy a videogame adaptation, to say nothing of reading it.

    The 50 Page Friday excerpt isn’t up yet.

    One more thought on the Invisibility piece: if it can use gravitational lensing, doesn’t that make the metamaterial prisms redundant? Then again, the more mundane tech probably uses less power and would work as a backup.

  57. Here’s hoping this becomes a regular and well-paying sideline for you — both helping plot out games, and writing less-trashy highly-lucrative novelizations. 😉

    With more input and less creative restriction!

  58. Hey ScottC, if you felt like expounding on the art thing I started a thread on legion over on offensivesquid because I didn’t want to bogart the threads here. Feel free to hope over and start a flame war, I mean, start a discussion. :)

  59. http://fashionablygeek.com/t-shirts/robot-saves-us-from-a-space-octopus/

  60. Hi Peter,

    Congrats on the release :) Just a heads up that I did a little write up on the 4-part series at Suvudu and Del Rey’s 50-page preview. Hope you like it!

    http://wasdintranslation.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/the-first-50-pages-of-crysis-legion/

    Hope you’re on the mend and starting to see positive feedback on Lesion- sorry, *Legion* :) Picking up my copy tomorrow!

    P.S. All this talk of the Free Man has reminded me – where did you get that awesome “Good Dog” shirt from the God, Jackboots, and Rule 34 talk??

  61. Sheila:

    Feel free to hope over and start a flame war, I mean, start a discussion. :)

    Why do people always assume I’d start a flame war? Is it something in my tone?

    Sadly though, I have to wait until my next monthly Amazon harvest to read Legion, so I am avoiding spoilers for the time being.

  62. Congrats on the release, Peter. Just letting you know I did a quick write-up about the 4-part Suvudu series and the Del Rey 50-page preview. Hope you like it!

    http://wasdintranslation.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/the-first-50-pages-of-crysis-legion/

    Hope you’re on the mend and starting to see positive response to Lesion- Legion 😉 Great read so far, looking forward to picking up my copy as the official companion to the game! Or is it the other way round…

    P.S. All this talk of the Free Man has reminded me – where did you get that brilliant “Good Dog” shirt from the God, Jackboots, and Rule 34 talk??

  63. Started reading the excerpt, am 20 pages in. I liked the idea of submersible stealth troop carriers. Hadn’t heard of them before, but the idea seemed of the type straightforward logical that it is part of the world now. I see the Soviets were working on one, but that one also had wheels.

    Furthermore, body bags for the living, an alien menace, biomechanical technology for making black people white (or blush, whichever way you want to read it), and infamous US border guards snuffing it—what’s not to like?

  64. Is the Canadian edition not out yet? Amazon.ca says they’re still trying to get it. And . . . I assume Crysis 2 and Crysis: Legion are both the same book, just with different titles for different markets? But, is that asumption correct?

  65. Dominick Grace:
    Crysis 2 and Crysis: Legion are both the same book, just with different titles for different markets?

    Crysis 2 is the name of the game that the book, Crysis:Legion, is based on, Dominick. Hope you find a copy soon!

  66. @ScottC–yeah, I know the game is Crysis 2, but Amazon.ca, back when I first ordered the book, listed ITS (the books’s) title as Crysis 2, with the title Crysis: Legion appearing only on amazon.com (listed from a different publisher and with a different page count; hence my assumption about different editions for different markets). So, I ordered it as Crysis 2 from amazon.ca. Now, they’re saying that Crysis 2 (book, not game) is not yet available, but they DO have a listing, now, for Crysis: Legion, and list THAT book as available. So, does that mean Crysis 2 was in fact a phantom or place-holder listing or something, that will now never materialize? I’m thinking I should cancel the first order and reorder under the Crysis: Legion title, but I’m supposed to have free shipping for the original order, since it was part of a larger order already partially shipped. Not that I can’t come up with MORE stuff to order to get free shipping again, but . . . grrrrr.

  67. I think the UK publisher is Triton. In my experience there’s been a few crossed wires between them and Del Rey in the past, over when to release certain bits of info. But there is no book called “Crysis 2” — or if there is, I didn’t write it.

  68. lol! Well, that solves that problem then. amazon.ca still lists it (i.e. Crysis 2) as a title from Titan, 320 pages long, with these isbns: ISBN-10: 0857683276 and ISBN-13: 978-0857683274 and a different price from the Del Rey edition. But the cover image that comes up actually says Crysis: Legion on it. Ah well, cancel, reorder, come up with $12.00 more worth of stuff to get free shipping. . . .

  69. “…squashes Beaudry like a bug”

    ha ha, I see what you did there

  70. @ScottC: I’m actually curious to hear more about Peter’s gaming habits now, just to make sure he wasn’t coached.

    I wasn’t. But I don’t play a huge number of games either, simply because I’m afraid that when I go in, weeks pass before I come out (if I come out at all). The last game I really dove into was Bioshock; prior to that Halo, Portal, everything in the Half-life universe. Left 4 Dead. But though my gameplay density is low, my history is deep; I was into this stuff when Infocom was putting out text adventures. I fell in love with Starflight and Star Control 2 back before most of you was even born. I even played ascii Star Trek on a minicomputer with eight-foot floppy disks, back in the mid-seventies.

    @Finn: can you repost the bit where you rewrote the blurb/summary on the back of the book or whatever it was?

    Sure. The original teaser text went:

    NYC 2023. Terrifying alien invaders stalk the streets and a nightmare plague strikes down the city’s myriad inhabitants with brutal epidemic speed. The city’s systems are in chaos, its streets and skyline are smashed and in flaming ruin. The battle is on against the lethal, armoured, bipedal war machines that stalk ravaged New York.

    In fact, that text is still up at Amazon.uk.

    The teaser text I wrote (which you will not find in its entirety, even on the Del Rey release; they cut out a number of bits at Crytek’s behest) goes thusly:

    Manhattan is under new management.
    They’re not from around here.

    Welcome to the Big Apple, son. Welcome to the city that never sleeps: invaded by monstrous fusions of meat and machinery, defended by a private army that makes Blackwater look like the Red Cross, ravaged by a disfiguring plague that gifts its victims with religious rapture while it eats them alive.

    You’ve been thrown into this meat grinder without warning, without preparation, without a clue. Your whole squad was mowed down the moment they stepped onto the battlefield. You’d be dead too if someone hadn’t scooped up your shattered remains and wrapped this high-tech battle chassis around you like a second skin. And the chorus of voices whispering in your head keep saying that all of this is on you: that you and you alone might be able to turn the whole thing around if you only knew what the hell was going on.

    You’d like to help. Really you would. But it’s not just the aliens that are gunning for you. Your own kind hunts you as a traitor, a biohazard, a thing so infested with alien technology that your very thoughts aren’t even human any more.

    Your job might be a bit easier if you didn’t have the sneaking suspicion they could be right…

    @Mattan Ingram: But what is this about a script for Relic Entertainment?

    I never wrote a complete script. I wrote parts of one (some of which, IIRC, I posted over on the Relic forums many years back), but I did have a pretty comprehensive outline. I’m not unwilling to thumbnail the story at some point, but the end of a dying comment stream is not the place. Remind me in a few weeks.

    @Andrea_A: Would the novel get translated (especially to German)?

    I don’t know about German, but some publisher made a translation enquiry a few months back — from Poland, I believe. But this is not my property, so I’m not in the loop; I have no idea how those (or any other) negotiations turned out.

  71. Peter Watts:
    The last game I really dove into was Bioshock; prior to that Halo, Portal, everything in the Half-life universe. Left 4 Dead. But though my gameplay density is low, my history is deep; I was into this stuff when Infocom was putting out text adventures. I fell in love with Starflight and Star Control 2 back before most of you was even born.

    Cool. Of course you’re aware that Portal 2 is out this coming month. I think it may be really special.

    Ah, Star Control. I think you underestimate the fogey factor of your audience. There’s a game I think you’d like that I should look in to gifting you. It’s perfect for the sci fi author on the mend, laid up with a laptop. It will eat weeks out of your life you’ll never get back, and is chock full of science fiction in-jokes. It will help balance out the metal stimulation you’re getting from catching up on all that reading.

  72. Enjoyed the hell out of the book, Peter. I think after reading it, it’s the “dumbest” story of yours I’ve seen; I definitely wasn’t used to that much narrative exposition from you in action scenes. Unquestionably, that still makes it the smartest novelization of… well, anything, I’ve read. The meaty parts were delightful; and the (theoretical) reveals about the nature of the flaws of the alien ‘invaders’ deeply satisfying.

    One thing I liked for this book was the clarity that having just one protagonist offered; while it restricted much of the dialogue options, and at times I could almost see you there, hand-waving at your keyboard to hurry up and write past Yet Another Moment Of Shooting Stuff, it left no confusion in my mind as to where the story was charging towards. And your oligarchic (oligarchique!) cynicism fits the plot perfectly; I think Crytek probably had a gleeful evil overlord and mustache twirl over their fictional version of their role in the story.

    Most of all, exploring the sheer terror of being up against alien intelligences who cross the stars like we cross the street has my appetite wholly whetted for Dumbspeech.

    And I have a hope that the book will draw in a good many more readers ready to level up past novelizations, and start chewing the meat of Starfish, Blindsight, etc. :)

  73. I wanted to thank you for writing this novelization. I am enjoying it thoroughly, and it has made me laugh out loud twice now at very inopportune moments.

    Excellent work, as always.

  74. P.S.

    > blorple the featureless cube