Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sam I Am

I need another project -- or a story idea -- like I need a thing that is not needed. But try telling that to the Plot Bunnies.

Like the bunny that came this afternoon muttering, "No one leaves!" in archaic Japanese. I just can't seem to leave Yamatai alone. Well, here's the latest wild idea; leave Lara Croft home. So this becomes Samantha's story...and the rest of this meandering sketch-in-progress goes below the fold.

Edit to add; I went ahead and started it, and I just put up Chapter Five.   The changes from the game get larger and larger from this part in, though, which I assume means I'll have to spend longer on each chapter as I try to figure out how to make things work properly.


Chapter One

A famous explorer once said....something about a mountain. Or about adventures being something that happened to other people. Or was that Bilbo Baggins? Dammit, girl! I chided myself, you've got to start documenting your citations!

Focus. I was deep into editing the material from Camera Two. Whitman was going to hate it. Sucked to be him. He'd flubbed the fish thing totally, so no point in editing it up as the kind of fluffy filler we'd intended to shoot. But cut it from the hand-held and put the focus on his little temper tantrum -- yeah, that would fly.

Whitman was the star of the show, but he didn't realize what kind of star he was turning out to be. His sympathy for archaeological theories a bit out of the mainstream had attracted my family's attention. And, yes, they were serious in seeing if it was possible to learn something about the fabled Yamatai and my famous maybe-ancestor Queen Himiko.

But they were also businessmen, and they knew out-of-the-mainstream sold. The public didn't care about good science. They weren't going to tune in to watch someone dig test pits or sort potsherds. But put a rugged man in khaki on a beaten-up tramp steamer looking for a lost island full of magic and lost treasure, and, yeah. Whitman's flair for publicity and his short temper only made him better copy. There was even rumors of a messy divorce in progress that he was trying to keep under wraps.

If the public couldn't have a hero, they'd have a poseur and watch as he self-destructed. He had the whole package. Lecturing down at everyone like he was Neil deGrasse Tyson or that old guy from Cosmos. (The "billions and billions" one.) Vest with pockets and sports watch on a manly band -- one of those ones that gives the phases of Mars and humidity and water temperature in Waikiki -- but you could tell at an instant that a brisk walk would leave him winded.

He was also a total prick and I wasn't sure how much longer I'd be able to put up with him.

There. I paused and marked the frame, just as Jonah Maiava paused in his turn, holding the gutting knife in one hand and the fish in another like some sort of religious offering to a temperamental god. You could practically hear the laugh track. Hey, it wasn't National Film Board material, but you worked with what you could get...

"What the FUCK!?"

There had been this giant noise, all the lights flickered, and the damned wall went out of its way to come over to my bunk and hit me in the face.

"Ow!" I said. "What the hell?!" The door had popped open and now everything was wet. Water was ankle-deep on my floor and more was coming in and now the Attack Wall was leaning away from me. I grabbed the camera and cradled it against my chest to protect it as I staggered to my feet and tried to walk uphill to the door.

More water. My room -- sorry, "cabin" -- was too wet to stay in. I staggered outside. All dark except for flashing lights from somewhere. That was a big help. I looked left. Err, port. Err, aft. Whatever! I squinted doubtfully. It was all dark down that way and didn't seem friendly. I looked the other way.

"Oh, fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!"

White water filled the passageway and was roaring down on me like the bulls in Pamplona.

It hit. I was rolling over, smashing into things in the dark and water, trying to breath. I was blacking out. In our darkest hour...we ask if someone could find a damn light bulb! Yeah, that's how I was going to die. Trying to remember a quote I'd heard somewhere. Write the shit down, Sam! I told myself.

And all of a sudden, sodden, I was on the deck. The ship looked like a mess. The sea was in the wrong place, and wouldn't stay still. Clouds hurtled overhead, lit by lighting. It looked like that IMAX documentary Stormchasers out there. I didn't want to be in the eye of a hurricane!

Suddenly there was Angus, doing something to one of the lifeboats. Battening the davits or whatever you did to launch the things. "Y'r gill be nae to whence a'ga comin'!" he said. Yeah, don't look at me. I can't understand a word he says. I think you have to be born Glaswegian.

"Hey!" I said. Angus had shoved me into the lifeboat. Hard. I fell face-first. This was a bad day for faces. The Endurance's captain turned, gesturing towards someone, or something...and another wall of water came out of the sky and whipped him out of sight. His arm must have hit the release as he went, because my boat was in motion. The Endurance jumped away from me. Then swung back for another try, the steel wall of the hull looming over my head about to flatten me. Hung that way for eons. Then slid away again.

And then I could see and hear nothing but water and storm. Rain was tearing out of the clouds in such great sheets it was impossible to tell sea from sky, and my little boat was wallowing about so much you didn't know which way was up to begin with.........


Yeah, so here's the thoughts:

Try to keep as many of the game's set-pieces as possible. Or, rather, as both are appropriate to the character and are thematically appropriate. Keeping in mind that half the reason to re-approach Yamatai is that some of the game's approaches don't work.

Also try to keep Sam on her track when possible. Which implies, for instance, she meets Matthias early on...but he can't leave with her because then she wouldn't get to do the deer scene and all that.

Lara simply doesn't exist. Or isn't involved in any way. And that probably means no Roth, either. Yeah, Roth is somehow expedition leader as well as Lara's mentor and surrogate parent. But I don't quite buy it. It feels like a convenience set up for Lara's story, not something organic to the make-up of the Endurance expedition.

And the point here is to use other tools. Sam of course has film-maker as her hat. But then, the mystical woo on the island is just as amendable to investigatory documentarian as it is to archaeologist. In any case, she does need to travel some of the same arc as Lara did, but without combat taking the same primacy.

A quick note here -- yeah, she's not as skilled or as physical as Lara. I don't think she would be able to sell the same kind of combat. But she's not helpless. She did manage to get that deck gun working, and when you get down to it Lara did no better in controlling the one she took over. And the one time you see Sam use her pistol, she drops a Solarii with one shot. I'm completely comfortable with having her be a crack shot. But with pistol, not with the FPS trio + Melee.

She's also going to snark. A lot. And some of that is going to be Take That. And I think she's going to have a skill of convenience. Her version of "It's right here in the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook!" is "I saw a documentary once on..." And, oh yeah, her reaction to every confrontation is to go into interview mode. That's gonna confuse the hell out of some of the enemy!

It is possible that part of her internal conflict is between the recorder-observer and the actor. Or at least a tendency to distance herself behind the lens (and the snark, and the referencing to secondary sources -- tending to show things as if in someone's film instead of as happening to her and people she cares about).

As portrayed in the game, a case could be made for her to be conflicted between passive victim and fighting back. Except this is only an inference the player is likely to make, seeing as you almost never see what she is going through and your avatar is actively her rescuer for large parts of the game. Again -- the one time Sam is in a position to take action on her own behalf, she stands off three or more Solarii, drops one, and successfully escapes the others.

A better case might be for her shying from necessary violence, but this just doesn't work for me as a character arc. I'd prefer if she is emotionally capable of violence but lacks experience. And in any case, I want to downplay the idea of violence as the solution for the majority of the game's conflicts!

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