BASICALLY A PINNED POST, SORT OF: Jim Rossignol Things

Hello!

Status update from Jim Rossignol world, as of late 2015.

Game dev: We’ve been wrapping up on Sir, You Are Being Hunted over at Big Robot, and that now has multiplayer – with enough people playing it to sustain a server population. The game has come a long way from that early access in August 2013, and I’m enormously proud/pleased.

We’re now working on something new, which we’ll announce in 2016.

Words: I’m no longer editing at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but I will consider one-off writing projects on a case-by-case basis.

Internet: You can find me wittering on Twitter, and collecting images on Tumblr.

Contact me directly: jim@big-robot.com

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A Sunday Morning Essay On Those Fiery Collisions Of Script And Ink

As well announcing a comic – The Ludocrats (which I can’t currently give any details on the appearance of) – I’ve been reading a swathe of the panelled stuff over the past year or so, and I thought I’d offer a couple of thoughts and recommendations. Having taken a year off this criticism business makes it feel a little odd to be writing like this again, but that’s probably healthy. No point letting all those words cause a blockage.

So.

The Spire, by Si Spurrier and Jeff Stokely only has two issues out at the moment, and it’s already one of my favourite things of 2015. Not an adaptation of the William Golding novel (although gosh that’s ripe for such treatment now that I think of it), but instead a vibrantly sketched genre-bestriding fantasy set in an only-just-pre-industrial hive city, with “the sculpted” magical make-a-mutants living alongside class-condemned humans in racist disharmony. Cheery and inventive world-building gives the protagonist a fantastical beat against which to practice her Cop With Challenges routine, while Spurrier’s chatter draws on a rainbow of sources to provide wit and tenderness in the face of instant tragedy and savage violence.

The Spire reminds me of comics such as The Incal, where a bunch of ideas all surge up together to create something with a messy, rich flavour and an esoteric end result. The individual ingredients wouldn’t have carried a comic on their own, but few comics get to stir as many of them into the mix. Spurrier’s sense of drama and Stokely’s engagingly characterful artwork combine to make something that is pop and playful, while having the momentum and heft of something which is going places (probably on fire, certainly covered in gore). It exhibits my favourite sort of sense of genre cherry-picking, with the kind of result being a combination weirdness and digestibility which comes from doing unconventional things in a conventional way. Six-Gun Gorilla, a previous collaboration between these two, might have had access to many of the same components, but it feels like both writer and artist are working at greater velocity this time, and the pay off is gripping.

ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward. I have mixed feelings about this, because although I love what the project is about, and have wide-eyed enthusiasm for how Ward’s astonishing phantasmagorian art is delivering it, I find something slightly awkward in the telling. Fraction has recast The Odyssey as a space voyage, and Odysseus is Odyssia the clever hero. The war in which aftermath Odyssia’s travels are troubled is a cataclysmic galactic conflict fought by a culture of warrior women, whilst the puppeteers of events are a malicious matriachy of Gods, headed up by the all-mother, Zeus. The gendering of the story is both brilliant conceived and spectacularly presented: Ward’s art – which I will attempt and fail to describe adequately in a moment – manages to feminise and psychodramatise space opera, and bring with it a wild, fleshy… wait. I want to say virulence or perhaps virility, but both of these words seem like they would be betraying the project, because their root is in male sexuality. Perhaps I should say artemisian? My vocabulary fails me. And immediately, even in thinking about how to talk about ODY-C, I get to see how the gendered roots of my words skew things in a particular direction. Art causing me to examine my assumptions. Who’d have thought it possible?

ODY-C

So Fraction’s concept is fantastic and fulfilling. Ward’s art, which is blossoms and explodes across the page in some of the most extraordinary unfoldings of light and colour I have ever seen (return to pages again and again to look at how cosmic, metaphysical scenes are unwrapped in violent hues, blood for stars, sinew between worlds), is revelatory. I don’t, however, think the story is particularly well told. I am not engaged, and by contrast to the immediate momentum of (for ease of example) Spurrier’s comic, this retelling of one of the greatest of tales lacks some of the dramatic delivery that is usually so clear and bright in Fraction’s other work. Nevertheless ODY-C is an event of a comic. An explosion. I would recommend witnessing it for yourself.

Trees and Injection, by Warren Ellis (art by Jason Howard and Declan Shalvey respectively). These aren’t exactly companion pieces to each other, but I’m reading them and experiencing them as such. Trees I won’t say much about, aside from it being an essentially (and valuably) political science fiction outing. As such it reminds me how much Ellis owes a debt to a certain cadre of science fiction author, and it’s hard not to imagine this story being some sort of 21st century echo of the new wave stuff we were reading in the second half of the 20th century. Even the cliffhanger-free delivery reminds me of reading long-form stuff distributed across old science fiction magazines, where the overall spread of high concept for the story was what kept you interested, rather the individual dramatic beats with their episodic hooks. That expected pace seems to characterise everything from TV to videogames in contemporary work, and is refreshingly absent in Ellis’ tale of vast alien pillars pushing themselves into the Earth. Trees is very much meant to be a graphic novel read in a large sweep, and consequently I think it will be best when we can read it in that format.

trees

Injection, too, makes me think on Ellis’ influences, possibly because they are so close to my own. It immediately reminded me of Robert Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways, with its walking ancient trackways of Britain feeding into English identity, although Ellis tells me he hadn’t read Macfarlane until after he had written this, again revealing the sort of undercurrent Macfarlane himself identifies in writing such as this article on the eeriness of the English landscape.

“This eerie counter-culture – this occulture – is drawing in experimental film-makers, folk singers, folklorists, academics, avant-garde antiquaries, landscape historians, utopians, collectives, mainstreamers and Arch-Droods alike, in a magnificent mash-up of hauntology, geological sentience and political activism. The hedgerows, fields, ruins, hills and saltings of England have been set seething.”

Injection exhibits this stuff in droves, while also (again) reflecting Ellis’ interest in the abstract political machines, run by very real people, which operate to attempt to filter the world for the people enmeshed in its societies. Agents, control, pollution. Familiar and important themes, and dealt with here in that decidedly English mythos of deep history and sinister location. I love Injection because it makes me think that if Ellis ever got to write James Bond, he’d get the charming brute of MI6 just right, and the plot would reveal Q as a savage druid, and have the stolen WMDs be medieval antecedents to LSD. (UPDATE: Apparently he is writing James Bond. So that’s weird.)

More soon.

Look: Here’s A Status Update From Rossignol-In-The-Wind

Hello.

I’ve been pretty quiet for the past year, and it’s about time for an update. Oh! Hey, look, I’ve got a personal blog. Remember those? I’m going to be updating it irregularly, of course, and will probably be covering a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with video games or even Jim Rossignols. Sorry about that. Some of it will be about games though. So there’s that.

Anyway, aside from a bit of chatter on Twitter, and a few articles here and there – I’ve got one in the next/current issue of HOLO – I’ve not published much at all since 2014. There’s a couple of a reasons for that, but the main one is pretty obvious: I’m no longer writing for RPS. Of course as a site founder I am still implicated in the ongoing RPS conspiracy, but I won’t have anything to do with their Words About Games for the foreseeable future and haven’t really had anything to do with them for a while. I’ve been waiting until the guys announced beautiful Graham as editor-in-chief before saying anything about this, because that’s the really important announcement. RPS is hitting new heights, and doing it with a formidable team. Graham is a veteran with a strong grasp of What Needs To Be Done, and he’s doing it. The site is publishing amazing work under his direction, with highlights like Marsh’s columns, or Quintin’s hugely articulate Cogwatch video series. I am very proud. Prouder still that RPS doesn’t need me anymore.

Leaping Aboard My Lightcycle And Off Into The Neonset

The other reason I’m not publishing much is that I’ve had so little time to write. That’s because I am working on a new game project with Big Robot, and it has inevitably taken up most of my time. It’s a huge undertaking for me personally, as well as the rest of the team, and probably won’t even be revealed until we’re some distance into 2016. Tom, James and myself – along with a Olly Skillman-Wilson, our art New Kid – are sinking time and soul into this thing, and it’s exhausting, terrifying, fantastic. I can’t say more for a while, but I think everyone will recognise the keystone Rossignol obsessions when it finally surfaces. It’s quite the thing. We’ll explain more when it’s appropriate to do so.

What the previous paragraph implies I’ll now make plain in this one: Sir, You Are Being Hunted has been a considerable success for us. No one is buying a yacht, of course (we’d all just drown in a horrible accident), but success has meant we’ll be able to knuckle down and work on a new game for a couple of years without major worries.

I find myself in a constant state of giddy surprise over how fortunate we are to be able to do that. I want to offer profound thanks to everyone who supported the game, whether you backed the Kickstarter or bought the game in a sale. You got that game made, and now we can do even more. Big Robot trundles onwards, thanks to that momentum, and the games we have planned will be beautiful.

I’m so proud of what we did with Sir, and Tom Betts and James Carey – the people principally responsible for its creation (I was only ever a small part of that project) – achieved what I can say represents a remarkable feat of creation. It’s a vibrant, enormous chunk of game with incredible character, and the reception it has received from players has been astonishingly positive.

More recently, to have Dan produce the multiplayer version (the test phase for which is live now) has just crowned the great mad heap the game magnificently. I’m going to talk a bit more about that, and the game as a whole, in a later post, because there’s a tonne of stuff we’ve learned and discussed over the past couple of years that needs an airing. Naturally I’ll cross post that stuff over at Big Robot.

Basically Unimportant Concluding Remarks

So that’s what’s going on with me.

As for this place, stand by for some posts about tabletop RPGs, comics, movies, and probably something about the fine game of politics. (Although I might find another venue for that particular spleening.) Not writing for a while gives me a right old brain itch, and I need to get to scratching it.

More soon.