We’ve Got History: The Legulus, the Ven, and Earth in The Tears of a Machine SC

Listen to this post.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about all the different aspects of the text of The Tears of a Machine SC. I’ve carefully weighed out my decisions and tinkered endlessly with my word choices (even before my editors saw anything.) I think that’s valuable work – worth sharing, so I’m going to post more of these “director’s cut” blog entries. Hopefully they’ll not only inform but inspire ideas for your own games.

Legulus and Venator

In the basic setting for The Tears of a Machine SC, Earth is first visited by benevolent beings from outer space; the Legulus. They offer to build a high-tech paradise with humanity, in exchange for the use of our brains in their neural network supercomputers. Greed, fear, and xenophobia prevent most of the world from accepting the bargain and the Legulus are driven off. Ten years later, they return but have transformed themselves into the Venator. Now motivated by their own aggression and superiority, they attack the Earth to take what they want.

Why did I write that? Why did I choose to create this backstory? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to have the Venator drop out of the sky and attack? Well, it’s complicated, but it’s the kind of complication I enjoy.

Faceless Foes Are Dull

The invaders could be implacable monsters driven only by an appetite for destruction, but that puts a limit on our stories. By giving them a backstory that includes those days of peace, when the visitors lived alongside us, it opens the door to peace again. Our pilots have room to ask those questions of “what happened to create the Ven?” and “could the Legulus return?” They can strive to be more than pilots in an endless war if they try to learn about their enemies and themselves.

Sometime, somehow, the war between the Preservation Force and the Venator must end. If the Ven are only monsters, then it only ends with an extermination. But if they are something else then the possibility exists for the world to go on once the Saints and Magnas fall silent.

The weapons of the Ven were beautiful statues… at first.

Not So Different, You and I

Robotech was my first mecha-focused anime. It’s not the massive cannons of the SDF-1 that win the first Robotech war. It is (spoiler alert) the music of an up-and-coming idol that appeals to the Zentraedi. Their commanders find a common understanding as pop songs connect them to emotions that were suppressed by their conditioning as cloned soldiers. In addition, the earthlings get their first insights into the minds of their foe when the Zentraedi ace Miriya infiltrates the SDF-1 to kill ace pilot Max Sterling. In a rather ham-fisted scene, the two recognize that they are star-crossed lovers and marry to create the first union between Earth and Zentraedi. Those character arcs made Robotech different to me. They inspired me to think beyond the immediate story of our pilots and their war in The Tears of a Machine SC.

We’re still running our campaign on Kickstarter. Join us, if you haven’t already, and you can decide how your story goes and your war ends.

We’re Live On Kickstarter

The Tears of a Machine SC is now live and accepting your backing. Help us to make this game something that we can share far and wide. Your support will allow us to transform the text with more art, professional layout, and release in physical and digital formats.

Most importantly, you’ll be funding the recording of the text into audio that can be used as a supplement to the text but also in a read-along accessible audio book.

Visit the Kickstarter page to learn more. Share the news and ask your questions. Thank you all for helping us to make this game happen!

Cover Image for The Tears of a Machine SC. Two pilots sit in the outstretched hand of a fallen robotit statue. Another giant robot stands by behind them.

Tears On Sale Until September 15th

To celebrate the release of, well, everything, Tears of a Machine is available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow at a discounted price. 25% off the standard price for PDF and Print-On-Demand. Now’s your chance to tell your friends to go get their own copy or gift them one to share the fun. This offer expires on September 15th, so be sure to spread the word and take advantage of it soon!

Tears of a Machine – Digital Talking Books

I was so excited yesterday that I wrote a long, babbling post and buried the lead! Here are the links to get the book files and some free playback software.
Download the ePub with this link: Tears of a Machine ePub. You’ll need software or hardware with support for ePub 3 rich media files, like Readium. You can still read the text with other software but you will not have audio playback synchronized to the text.
Download the DAISY files with this link: Tears of a Machine DAISY. Unzip the files and add them to your DAISY library. You’ll need DAISY playback software or hardware to get the synchronized audio playback while reading. Try Amis for a free option.

Making the DAISY Format Book – Part 3

Here we are; the home stretch!

Step 7 Continued – Finishing Up the Editing

In the end, after editing out some errors and tightening up the timing between the paragraphs, the audio version has clocked in at 7 hours and 17 minutes. I’ve listened through word by word and made some minor tweaks to the audio and the text to help them line up a little better, especially around the page marks. It’s not perfect, there’s some stuff I’d like to rework later, but I think it’s ready to be seen and heard.

Step 8 – Export the DAISY Digital Talking Book

TOBI includes a few different options for DAISY output. The most important choice is the format for the audio files. Higher quality files mean a cleaner sound but the book takes up more space, meaning longer download times. Because the audio is just spoken word, I choose to set the sample rate a 22,500 Hz. The reasoning behind this has to do with the Nyquist frequency and physics but suffice to say that the range of the human voice sits pretty well in this frequency band. In fact it’s the sample rate used for AM radio. After setting my MP3 encoding bit rate to 128, a mid-level quality the end result is a DAISY project folder about 200 megabytes in size. Continue Reading

Audio Book Update

You may think I’ve been very quiet. Just the opposite! I’ve been very talkative in my studio, with my microphone and TOBI recording. Now that first big milestone is past: All of the text has been recorded! The raw audio files total 8 hours and 4 minutes so my prediction was good.
Last Page
Next will be the detailed editing passes as I go through all of that audio removing stumbles or misreads and ironing out the placement of marks. How long will that take? I’m not sure but I expect it will be easier to get the time for it since I only need my laptop and headphones instead of the home studio and a quiet day. I’ve set a goal for myself to have the book released in DAISY and EPUB formats by August 2nd, the one year anniversary of our Kickstarter success.
Speaking of anniversaries, if you have any friends who’ve been wanting to get their hands on Tears of a Machine but are waiting for a sale, July 3rd is the anniversary of the KS launch, so they’ll soon have their moment.

Making the DAISY Format Book – Part 2

Picking up where I left off in the previous post, I’ll continue to guide you through the steps I’m taking to bring Tears of a Machine to you in an accessible format.

Step 4 – The Recording Application

TOBI is a free and open-source application programmed by DAISY Consortium members. It’s a flexible application that lets you work with your text and audio in a few different ways. You can record right through the application or if you want to use other software that’s more familiar to you, then you can import the audio files into TOBI later, matching up sections of the file with sections of the text. There are other applications on the market, some of them quite expensive, but TOBI’s basic features are enough for me.
Loading the new project is pretty easy. I just point TOBI at the .xml files that I got from the Save As DAISY operation in Word. After a quick conversion it opens up the file as a TOBI project. Continue Reading

The Books are Here!

After several weather delays, the books are in my hands and will soon be on their way to Kickstarter backers around the world!

Books laid out

200 Copies of Tears of a Machine

Rewards lined up

Books, Patches, and Cards

It’s quite a relief to have them. Now it’s time for addresses and mailing supplies and several trips to the post office.