Friday, October 10, 2014

Shadow of Mordor - The Nemesis System will change the RPG industry

Let me say this: the Nemesis System will change the RPG industry
You won’t find a more engrossing open-world next-gen action game than Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I’m having as much fun with it as Dragons Dogma, which is to say, a lot of fun. It’s got all the elements to make a successful RPG—upgrades galore, loot finding, varied action, good pacing, a compelling story—but where the real world-building begins is in the Nemesis System. This is one of the smartest and nuanced mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game. Other writers have described it before, and probably better than I can, but I will say that it adds a level of realism and player investment that I’ve never seen before.

Dying by the hands of an Orc that killed you before and leveled up in the Orc ranks (because of your death)… that’s humiliating. I wanted to hunt down that rhyming, spitting butthole-eyed toad and turn his throat into a sprinkler. In time, I did. And man, it felt good.
Mastering the controls takes a little while if you aren’t familiar with other fighting games like the recent Batman series. In about 2 hours, I was grinning with every beautifully choreographed execution kill. So yeah, the developers mashed up the best of Assassin’s Creed and Batman, blended together tried-and-true RPG elements, and worked hard to make this world real. What did they get? A hit. They hit it out of the park. I’ll go as far as to say that the Nemesis System has raised the bar and will set a standard for AI and new types of storytelling.
I can’t wait to see where they take this in the inevitable sequel. Hats off to WB Games.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

So Say the Waiters book 3 release party

So Say the Waiters book 3 release party
Thursday, September 25th 7pm
Baltimore MD

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Beta Testing Popular Discussion Topics


Because I am serially checking in on the progress of So Say the Waiters, I noticed that Amazon just launched a tool that organizes reviews by popular topic. You can see that “Characters”, “Writing”, and “Action” are highlighted in the screen gab above. I like this for a few reasons. A savvy reader will know what kind of fiction they enjoy—be it character driven novels or action packed plots. This lets a new reader filter hundred, sometimes thousands of reviews into manageable blurbs. Alternatively, it can show faults in the novel. Some action-based books have flat characters because the author is relying too much on plot. Consumers can quickly (or, more quickly) see if that’s something that reviewers have pointed out.
I also like it because I can quickly see trends in my fans’ (or haters’) reviews. It’s an effective tool for understanding your work on a popular level. The internet, if anything, is honest. Anonymous reviewers, as I’ve quickly learned, do not hold back. Hell, they’re downright mean. They told me that Henry is a crybaby in the first book of So Say the Waiters. They’re right. I overdid that part and regret it a little.
I hope Amazon keeps experimenting with features like these. They helpful not only to the consumer, but the content creator. I’d love to see what topics Amazon filters out, though. What key words will never pop up in the topic menu.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

So Say the Waiters update / TV option / audio book / box set

Wow, haven't posted here in a while. So, big updates. Firstly, the audio book is 2/3s finished. Midnight Treehouse in NYC is producing the entire series and I couldn't be happier. It's really weird hearing a narrator bring all of these (8-10?) characters to life. After listening to about twelve hours, I'm absolutely convinced that Pete, the narrator, is the best guy for the job.  
Book three is finished and with my editor. I never imaged I would ever write a 900 page novel, but there it is. I'm planning on publishing the last book of the series, book three, this summer.
Nolen Strals of Post Typography is drawing illustrations for the three covers which will essentially rebrand the entire series. That's exciting for a number of reasons. 1. I never loved the covers I designed. Book two looks pretty cool with the twisted tire, but people who aren't familiar with the series have no idea what it means. 2. Nolen is an old friend from college and a local Baltimore punk / graphic design hero. He's perfect for the job. Plus, his old band is mentioned in book three.
This brings us to the box set. All three books, now that they will be rebranded, will make a nice box set. I'm trying to figure out how to package them together in an inexpensive way. A zip-tie binding all three together? I don't know. No matter what, when all three books are lined up, they will look awesome.
Lastly, and this is the big one, I finally signed the final, final draft of the option. Word is, my producer has another high profile producer/actor on board, but I can't name who it is yet. This positions us to pitch to major cable networks with a good chance at filming the pilot. Keep checking the So Say the Waiters Facebook page for more info. We are already talking about who will make the best Dani and Henry.  

I'm also keeping the price of book one really low to get new readers into the series. Spread the link around if you have a second.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cat Hole (autographed)

102 pages / perfectly bound / matte cover / $9.99
most of these poems were originally published by Newlights Press.

The tattoo / underneath the tattoo / speaks the language I want to learn.”  Justin Sirois has always been one of my favorite living poets.  “You have / everything you need / when you’re naked”, I trust, I trust ALL his discourse with our throbbing excitement for communion.  His poems are our best possible use for ears.  If I don’t know you and you LOVE these poems as much as I do, let’s get together to read them out loud over a delicious slice of something.  “Lick the window / & your reflection licks back” is a delicious something we all love.  It’s important they know to have a copy of this book resting on my heart when they cremate me.



The poems in The Heads by Justin Sirois make me feel so many things. They are not “temples,” but “squishy” things that “I love to put my face in.” I like it that way. These are poems that are part of life, constantly affirming and reaffirming it. A life that greets you with its magic. As when "What fits in the hand/ grows into armfuls." Or when you "sex this bathroom until the bathroom ain't for/ bathing no more." Everywhere is the “imagery” of life that “repeats in heaps of beauty." These are also poems that are part of the digital America we live in now and so they make that alternate existence beautiful. I hear echoes of Walt Whitman, Eileen Myles, and Blake Butler in these poems. I hear echoes of old folk songs. Most importantly, I hear the breathing of an indefatigable in these lines. One that is living and listening. Let's follow it.

Dorothea Lasky


"When you realize the new Old Spice ads might be working on you, when you're trying to split the difference between desk jobs and shoulder licks, when you're old enough for raunch to go holy but still young enough for GIFs to go infinite—that's when you know you're in the LoS of Justin Sirois's barking and bounding poems. The Heads are singing to the super ugly animals that pace the medians. They are twitching to put back some magic. They are winking that the word "okay" is the most useful word in the room, and they are hoping to be together with you because the only way a head gets a name is when another takes it in."

Mike Young

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and Falcons on the Floor

A literary critic and professor at SUNY Buffalo is writing an article contrasting The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and my novel Falcons on the Floor. The Yellow Birds is a well respected novel with multiple awards and it was put out by a large publisher. It was short listed for the National Book Award and it got the PEN/Hemingway prize along with The Guardian's First Book Prize. Authors like Tom Wolf blurbed it. It has over 11,000 ratings on Goodreads. 

On the other hand, a small press published Falcons on the Floor. It had no agent or publicist. All the promotions were done by Adam Robinson or me. Although it got a lot of praise by magazines and journals and even Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera producer and author of Beyond the Green Zone) and Alphonso Lingis. It received no prizes. Compared to The Yellow Birds, almost no one outside the indie lit community read Falcons on the Floor

From what I know of the article, it's pretty critical of The Yellow Birds. I'm curious to see what it says not just about the novels, but about Kevin Powers who is also a poet. I know these are two very different novels, but they do have similar motives.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

great review on 200 Books A Year

So Say the Waiters is the first instalment in a series focused on the people using and making the app. It’s weird, wonderful, and au currant, with a grimy window into the life of Baltimore hipsters.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baltimore Pratt Library's 10 most memorable reads - So Say the Waiters

"This is a shameless plug for a Baltimore writer, but I honestly had more fun reading this book than almost anything else this year. It's a page-turning exploration of loneliness in the age of social media (yes, really), a character-driven drama full of unexpected twists and a cyberpunk-ish look at life in certain circles of Baltimore." -- Emmett Buckley, librarian, fiction Department, Central Library"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' Playstation 4 commercial a missed opportunity

As much as I like this commercial, I think Sony really missed an amazing opportunity. Think about the subtle and maybe not so subtle power it would have had if they chose two women instead of two men. This would have been the ad that everyone other than gamers would have talked about. It would have appealed to not only hardcore gamers (Sony's key audience), but to minority players. Women are routinely verbally attacked when playing online multi-player games. I've witnessed it myself. If Sony chose to give a nod to this marginalized audience, think about the appeal this ad would have had. Male players would be thrilled to see female players featured. Female players would have been surprised and empowered. Maybe it's time for Microsoft to do a counter ad with badass women having their own perfect day?

Ryse, Son of Rome would have benefited from this

With a melee game that is so concerned with armor and hand-to-hand combat, don't you think Ryse, Son of Rome would have benefited from this combat system? Imagine weakening woe's armor with targeted strikes instead of one boring and redundant shield thrust.

Name: The Aim Select Posture (ASP) Menu

Justin Sirois copyright 2013
Breakdown for handheld melee weapons

Single posture handheld weapons provide a limited range of attack.

Watch any film with a sword fight and you won’t see two people holding their weapons with two hands the entire time. And you definitely won’t see them swinging the same two or three swings over and over. Watch a third person game created in the past ten years and you’ll see what I just described – a stiff and limited posture for holding handheld weapons.

Although this mechanic has worked for a while, there is room for improvement. The Aim Select Posture (ASP) Menu is the solution.

What ASP does for melee weapons.

The Aim Select Posture menu (ASP) adds a dynamic dimension to third-person games by giving the player eight additional options to hold their weapon. Depending on the scenario and environment, a player will choose the best aiming posture to gain an advantage over their enemy.

By holding down the right button the game pauses and a circular menu appears, much like Red Dead Redemption’s weapon select menu (refer to diagram). This menu lets the player select eight different postures / angles for holding a sword, dagger, axe, or mace in one hand. Depending on the posture selected, the third-person camera angle pans slightly out and over the shoulder, giving the player an advantage.

Some postures include:
  • Right handed, over the head for striking the head for more damage or over shields or knocking off helmets
  • Right handed, over the right shoulder for striking exposed necks for beheading
  • Right handed, from the side for striking exposed arms, either damaging or dismembering
  • Right handed hip height for concealment or damaging / dismembering exposed legs / chopping tentacles 
  • Right handed below waist for jabbing to keep enemies at bay or striking exposed areas

 A balanced approach

Armored and non-armored enemies dictate varying game play:
Enemies with different types of armor will make ASP selecting crucial for making critical strikes. Smarter enemies will switch their own postures during battle to keep the player on his toes. Helmets, breastplates, shields, chainmail, and other armor types will make the game play infinitely variable, as players will have to study their enemy’s weaknesses.

Unarmored enemies including beasts will be vulnerable in different ways. Striking quicker, more agile enemies in the legs will be key to fending off large groups. Hacking tentacles might make an enemies bleed out making head strikes unnecessary. Jabbing certain flying enemies might be more efficient.

And of course, hacking through a horde of unarmored enemies after some tedious posture switching battles will be rewarding.

Switch it up:
Different types of enemies will engage the player at once. Knowing what type of weapon be it a quick, dagger or a slower broadsword, will make fighting more effective. Temporarily disabling certain enemies with low (leg) attacks, letting a player engage a heavier armed 2nd enemy will add strategy to the fight.

An important feature might be a regular strike button, one that just slashes. This button would not only deliver a medium "generic" attack, it would return the posture to a regular stance. When the play wants to select a specific poster, they will access the ASP menu. 

Level design will be infinitely variable as different waves of enemies (armor classes) engage the player. 

Critical strikes:
Powerful, over-the-head strikes will be harder and harder to accomplish throughout the game. Whittling down an enemies armor and health will expose their appendages for critical strikes. The harder the enemy, the more whittling, but that final head shot (decapitated, split in two, or crushed) will be the most rewarding points during game play.

Focus Mechanic:
A simple push of a button would slow down time and zoom in on an enemy, much like Fallout 3's "select fire" mechanic. This would give the player time to evaluate the enemy's armor and understand where to strike. The player can re-evaluate the damage the enemy has taken at any time during the fight. 

Weak vs. powerful strikes:
Like other games, there could be a weak strike and a more powerful (slow) strike button (A and X button). Coupled with the 8 varieties of ASP posturing, the variables double. Maybe an over-the-head powerful strike is slower than a weak over-the-head strike, but if you nail it, the power is devastating. Heads explode, not sever. Similarly, if a player is in a low posture for leg slashing and uses a weak strike, maybe it is much faster than a powerful leg strike. The possibilities are nearly limitless when applying these strikes to enemy armor classes and types of skins, scales, or fur.

Fun with armor:
Think about the possibilities with knocking off an enemy's armor. A critical strike to the head might knock off a helmet. It rolls away, but another enemy picks it up and wears it as he attacks you. Imagine knocking  a large weapon or shield out of a large enemy's hand only to have a smaller enemy try to use the same weapon or shield. It slows them down and makes them almost easier to kill. 

A free hand:
When using the ASP, the character’s free hand will be useful. When surrounded, a free hand can shove (using the B button) one enemy when the player turns to strike another. Picking up and throwing severed limbs or decapitated heads (that you’ve just cut off) could distract enemies and beasts. Knowing that a certain beasts prefers human flesh, you can lob a human arm into a group of beasts and attack them from behind. Lobbing a severed head of a human at an unsuspecting human enemy might scare them, making them drop a weapon or shield.

ASP will give player added agility and speed when a one-handed weapon is selected.

The ASP will allow players to conceal a dagger or small weapon by their side to stealthy close encounters.  Posturing from the hip will make the character turn slightly to conceal the weapon. This might be handy for around-town encounters or when trying to trick an enemy. 

Incentives and rewards
Throughout the game, players will gain experience that will help steady one-handed striking. Players will choose a weapon class they want to develop first, making them more proficient in small, medium, or large weapons. Switching between weapon classes within battle will be key which will make the game play varied and ever-changing.

Players will adapt
The benefits of different postures will quickly become obvious to the player. Players will adapt their own style according to their favorite weapons.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

buy MLKNG SCKLS (autographed)


Very limited amount left - Autographed
and you also get a free limited edition print by Connor Willumsen