Monday, January 03, 2022

Reprint_Inspiring adventures on the high seas through Sailwind's realistic take on sailing

"In a game with no enemies or combat of any kind, the possibility of getting lost adds an element of risk and challenge. The risk of failure is what makes success meaningful, and it's one of the necessary elements of any game."

Sailwind is a physics-based sailing simulator, largely made by one person. Your character is onboard a boat, and operates it by pulling ropes and spinning the wheel. There is a map (in your inventory), but it doesn’t tell your exact location. Instead you have to use other means to discover where you are and where you’re headed, and it’s up to you to figure out how to get to your destination.

Sailing isn't only about controlling a ship on the the open seas, however. Along the way, you are faced with survival and trading elements that help to create emergent tales of exploration and adventure. Of course, opposed to those meager trading efforts are the forces of wave and wind, storm and starvation as meaningful accomplishment can't truly be felt without a little risk thrown into the mix.

Coming from a background of VR development and immersive experiences, developer Raw Lion Workshop calls Sailwind their most ambitious project to-date. The dev explores that complexity in this chat with Game Developer, digging into what brought about this open-world sailing simulator, its realistic sailing physics, and the elements of survival, trading, and adventure that define this journey across the sea.

Game Developer: Sailwind is a full 3D sailing simulation made primarily by one person! How long have you been going, and what technology do you use to put it together? How do you handle creating the game's content?

Raw Lion Workshop: It's been close to three years since I started the project, though only the last two years were full time work. The game is made in Unity, using the Crest ocean asset for rendering the ocean and basic boat physics. Most of the other features I have developed on my own. The models and textures are made in Blender, and for sound effects I use creative commons and public domain sounds available online, often heavily edited to fit into the game.

All games that simulate some real-world activity must do so through some degree of representation, but Sailwind does a good job of exposing players to the details of how sailing works. Most nautical-themed games take a more game-ish approach to this subject, while Sailwind almost seems like it wants to teach players how to actually sail a boat. What caused you to think about going in this direction with the development, focusing on the kinds of details that triple-A games would strive to eliminate?

The project started as a simple prototype - I was just having some fun playing with a realistic sailing physics model. At this stage, I didn't really consider any game design or player experience aspects. As I played with my prototype, I realized that it was actually quite fun and satisfying to handle the sail, watch how it reacts to the wind and how it affects the boat and its movement, and that's when I decided to build a full game around it.

A Sailwind screenshot. The player looks out on the sea at night from aboard their small sailboat.

It was only after the game was released that I discovered how challenging this realistic sailing model was for many players. To be honest, it was quite a big surprise to find out just how much people struggled with it. After all, I thought, sailing really isn't that complicated, compared to, say, flying a plane in a flight simulator. If anything, I was worried the game would be too simple, and I was considering adding more complexity to the controls to make it more interesting and engaging. After many complaints about the steep learning curve (and a relatively high refund rate), I understood why the triple-A game studios often have to simplify their games so much. Big studios have to appeal to the widest possible audience in order to make a good return on their investment, and that means the barrier to entry for new players has to be as low as possible and the learning curve very forgiving. Unfortunately, such design generally makes the game less appealing for those who are looking for a deeper and more challenging experience.

I'm still trying to find the happy medium between making the game approachable and pleasant for new players with no sailing experience, and keeping the complexity, realism, and integrity. There is certainly a lot of satisfaction to be had when you master the techniques of sailing and navigation, and the learning and struggles can add to the experience and make it more meaningful. Games that hold your hand, give you lots of hints at every step, and pretty much play themselves don't provide that same sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. However, if faced with too much challenge at the start, many players will just quit in frustration.

Sailing is complicated. How does Sailwind go about helping players get their feet wet, so to speak, in learning to operate a boat?

Currently, the tutorial is quite basic - there's a scroll on your boat which contains text and pictures describing the basics of gameplay and sailing.

Improving the tutorial is definitely something I'm working on. It's all about finding the balance between smoothing out the learning curve to avoid the initial frustration, while still challenging the player to figure things out and learn by themselves. I've recently added a new tutorial feature which visually shows you the no go zone when trying to sail upwind, which is a very important concept when learning to sail. This new addition was controversial in the community for a good reason - features like this can diminish the sense of accomplishment and make the game feel too cheap and easy, so I am very cautious not to move too far in that direction.

Actually operating and manipulating a boat is just part of sailing of course. Some other games find it challenging to enable the player to find his position and get oriented in the world, even with the use of UI aids, but Sailwind don't use those on purpose! The possibility of getting lost, as in real life, is another part of the game. How does a player handle navigation, getting bearings and figuring out the best direction to head in?

Getting lost is fun! That's often when the real adventure starts, and it's a great opportunity for emergent challenges and organic stories to develop. Also, in a game with no enemies or combat of any kind, the possibility of getting lost adds an element of risk and challenge. The risk of failure is what makes success meaningful, and it's one of the necessary elements of any game.

In Sailwind, there are many ways to navigate, and you'll have to choose between them depending on your current situation. There is of course the compass, but if you accidentally drop it overboard (which does happen to many players, apparently!), you can also use the sun, or even the stars in the night sky, to find the cardinal directions. 

There is also the quadrant (a simpler version of the sextant), which you can use to determine your latitude, and the chronocompass, a rather complicated tool which uses the sun and its shadow to find the latitude and longitude. More instruments will be added later on. Skilled use of these instruments is necessary in order to successfully complete long ocean voyages (which can take many hours in real time!).

It's easy to focus just on the sailing and neglect talking about the non-sailing aspects of the game. There's survival elements, and a basic trade simulation where the player takes on delivery jobs, and attempts to complete them for money while keeping his reputation up. How much of the game do these aspects make up? Are you considering deeping these elements of play, like, are there plans in the offing to require that players carry limes to prevent scurvy?

I actually don't consider those features as separate from the sailing aspect. For me, sailing is more than just controlling a boat. When I think of sailing, I think of adventure, travel, exploration. I think of brave men confronting the forces of nature on an epic journey towards the unknown. Without these aspects, sailing is reduced to just pulling ropes, turning the wheel, and steering the boat towards no particular goal. Those things aren't all that fun by themselves, it's exactly that context of the epic adventure that makes sailing so appealing. 

The survival and trading elements in Sailwind serve that goal, they are there because without them the sailing wouldn't be "real" in some sense. The need to stock up on food and other supplies adds an element of risk and strategy, the trading and delivery missions mean you have a destination, a goal which is a part of a bigger story. 

In Sailwind, you're not just sitting there watching your boat move through the water - you're on an epic voyage across a vast ocean, battling storms and overcoming challenges to deliver vital goods to people living in distant settlements. That's what sailing is really about!

This is also one of the main areas I want to develop further. Expanding the trading system is a high priority item on the roadmap at the moment, and there are also plans to expand food and drink systems, such as introducing the need for balanced nutrition and adding food spoilage.

A ship with two sails approaches a city along the shoreline.

One of the interesting design decisions you're made is to enforce the need to sleep. It's amazing really how many games handwave sleep away. A one-person vessel on the ocean has unique strategic requirements. The boat doesn't stay still while the player's character is unconscious, but continues to travel. What would you say this brings to the game?

As with most features of Sailwind, I didn't consciously think about the game design implications of the sleep system. It is simply something that just... made sense. After all, that's how sleeping works in the real world! As it turned out, it fits in the game quite well, but this is more of a happy accident than a planned decision. 

First, it adds another layer to the challenge and decision making aspects, which is pretty important in a relatively simple game like Sailwind. Second, it gives players an opportunity to take a short break, maybe stretch a bit, shift their attention away from the game for a moment, which is probably a healthy thing to do in a long gaming session.

A concession it seems Sailwind must make to physical reality is the nature of the time scale compared to player's life. 24 game hours cannot equal 24 real hours if the game is to progress at a reasonable rate. How does Sailwind handle this? Does it make day lengths shorter, distances shorter, or speeds greater than in real life?

Sailwind takes place on a planet which is significantly smaller than Earth, and the distances and time are scaled down accordingly, but I've tried to keep this scaling somewhat consistent. That is, sailing around the globe in the game (not possible currently, by the way) might take a similar amount of days as it would in the real world on Earth.

The boats are generally slightly faster than they would be in real life, but not nearly as much as in most other sailing games. This slightly faster speed is purely a game design decision - realism is good and all, but going very slow can often feel frustrating and just not very fun.

Sailwind is a fascinating game even at this early stage. Part of what I find personally exciting about it is, it feels like a simulation of an ancient real-world activity that used to inspire a whole genre of literature. Sandbox games are kind of like a self-told storytelling device, a way to have imaginary adventures that can actually be affected by the player's actions, and Sailwind's concept is unusually powerful here. But that's just me; why did you decide to make this, what is it about the idea that pushes you to work on Sailwind every day?

I think the biggest advantage video games have over other media is precisely this potential to create dynamic and unique stories. These stories can be important and meaningful, they're more than just "fun". For me, it's these stories that can make playing a game a worthwhile experience, and that's why these are the types of games I'm interested in. I'm not really into games that try to capture your attention with highly engaging visuals, instant gratification or cheap rewards. That type of entertainment feels good in the moment, and can be highly addictive, but it leaves you drained, tired, and often feeling like you've just wasted your time doing nothing productive. 

On the other hand, when you create and experience a meaningful story during your gaming session, it feels fulfilling - the time is not wasted, it was well spent. That's always my goal when making games. To provide more than just entertainment. I want the player to feel like they've spent their time well, and experienced something meaningful.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

A Secret Island Treasure to Inspire Storytelling

With ochre-stained streams, crimson-hued beaches and enchanting salt caves, Iran's Hormuz Island is a geologist's Disneyland.

"You should get a taste of this soil," said Farzad Kay, my tour guide on southern Iran's Hormuz Island, as we stood at the foot of a ruby-red mountain that loomed majestically over the shoreline, engulfing the beach and waves in a crimson shadow. I approached his suggestion with some trepidation, as I was yet to understand this mysterious, mineral-laden landscape.

Set 8km off Iran's coast amid the murky blue waters of the Persian Gulf, Hormuz is a teardrop-shaped shimmering salt dome embedded with layers of shale, clay and iron-rich volcanic rocks that glow in dazzling shades of red, yellow and orange due to the more than 70 minerals found here. Nearly every inch of Hormuz Island's 42 awe-invoking sq km imparts a story of its formation.

According to Dr Kathryn Goodenough, principal geologist at the British Geological Survey who has previously worked in Iran, hundreds of millions of years ago, shallow seas formed thick layers of salt around the margins of the Persian Gulf. These layers gradually collided and interlayered with mineral-rich volcanic sediment in the area, causing the formation of the colourful landmass.

"Over the last 500 million years, the salt layers were buried deeply by younger layers of volcanic sediment. Since the salt is buoyant, over time, it has risen through cracks in the overlying rocks to reach the surface and form salt domes," said Dr Goodenough. She added that these thick layers of salt, many kilometres below the land, are actually present across much of the Persian Gulf area.

This geological makeup has resulted in ochre-stained streams, crimson-hued beaches and enchanting salt caves. In fact, Hormuz is often called the "rainbow island" because of the spectrum of chromatic hues that it exudes. It's also home to what's thought to be the only edible mountain in the world, which Kay was encouraging me to try.

Locals believe that the salt found at the Goddess of Salt mountain has the power to release any negative energy (Credit: Saeed Abdolizadeh/Alamy)

Locals believe that the salt found at the Goddess of Salt mountain has the power to release any negative energy (Credit: Saeed Abdolizadeh/Alamy)

The red soil on the mountain I was standing near, called gelack, is caused by haematite, an iron oxide thought to be derived from the island's volcanic rocks. Not only is it a valuable mineral for industrial purposes, it also plays an important role in local cuisine. Used as a spice, it lends an earthy flavour to curries and goes perfectly with the local bread called tomshi, which means "a handful of something".

"The red soil is used as a sauce," explained Maryam Peykani, Farzad's wife. "This sauce is called soorakh and is spread on flatbread as it is almost cooked. Apart from its culinary usages, the red soil is also used [in paintings by] local artists, dyeing, creation of ceramics and cosmetics."

Beyond the ruby-red mountain, there's plenty else to explore on Hormuz. In the island's west there's a spectacular salt mountain known as the Goddess of Salt. Extending more than a kilometre, its pale caves and sharp-edged walls are covered by shimmering salt crystals that look like the giant columns of a marble palace.

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Locals believe that the salt possesses the healing power to soak up and release any negative energy, and Kay advised me to take my shoes off so my feet touched the salt dome. "The rock salt is known to release immense positive energy," he told me. "After having spent [time] in this valley, you are bound to feel much more invigorated, which is why the valley is also called the Energy Valley."

Similarly, in the island’s south-west is Rainbow Valley, a stunning display of multi-hued soil and vividly coloured mountains in shades of red, purple, yellow, ochre and blue. As I walked, I noticed patches of bright colours forming geometric patterns that glittered and gleamed as the sun's rays hit them.

In the nearby Valley of the Statues, rocks were weathered into fantastical shapes by thousands of years of wind erosion; with a bit of imagination, I could see birds, dragons and other mythical creatures. It was like admiring Earth's very own art gallery.

The island glows in shades of red, yellow and orange due to the more than 70 minerals found here (Credit: Lukas Bischoff/Alamy)

The island glows in shades of red, yellow and orange due to the more than 70 minerals found here (Credit: Lukas Bischoff/Alamy)

Despite the island’s surreal, kaleidoscopic natural colours, most travellers don't know about it. According to the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran, just 18,000 visitors came here in 2019.

"This natural phenomenon is not fully discovered by world travellers despite its significant tourist attractions, historically and naturally," said Ershad Shan, another local, as I sank my teeth into a spicy, fragrant curry of sardines, red onion, lemon and orange, prepared using soorakh. "If more attention is paid to the infrastructural development of Hormuz, this island can be changed to be an important attraction for tourists."

Locals have started to offer home-cooked meals for tourists and driving rickshaws and motorcycles to transport people around the island. "We feel responsible for doing our bit for Hormuz. It's so rare and is a part of our identity," Shan said. "We feel an urgent need to contribute towards getting the world to take notice of this eco-heritage."

As I devoured my curry, it struck me that while Hormuz is without doubt a geologist's Disneyland, it is the edible soil, which is literally runs through the veins of its inhabitants, that make it truly special.

Geological Marvels is a BBC Travel series that uncovers the fascinating stories behind natural phenomena and reveals their broader importance to our planet.


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Monday, June 21, 2021

Need to Market your historical fiction with people of color or black leads?


Need to Market your historical fiction with people of color or black leads?

Black History isn’t actually “black”; but about those of African descent, and such lives are throughout ALL HISTORY and PREHISTORY, not just Urban, Harlem Renaissance, and American and European “Black” Slavery. Newer sciences say ALL PEOPLES began in African and have become many flavors of humans, in all sorts of lovely shades and features.

And back when Europeans were cutting up the entire continent of Africa like a dessert pie, each of those slave states had interactions and intermarriage with Africans. These “mixed race” and “biracial” people have historical stories too.

Ancient Romans enslaved everyone but also freed many and took anyone into their vast armies, during and after the Romans there was a long history of castration cities in the Mid-East and Asia providing eunuch slaves, few of those were “black”, many were other colors.

England then Great Britain plus Europe and Russia had perpetual serfdoms; where people were treated as their masters’ property stock, or they were—many Russians were serfs (slave property) into the 20th Century of the First World War.

What parts of history or hidden histories are you interested? Do you have a story or novel about that time, or a reference text you’d like to share? This is the place, a centralized marketing home for character leads of color:

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Neale Sourna Writing Services / Editing Services at (Games Narrative, Novels, etc.)


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

New Page_Writing Sample: WAITING for YOU


-a dating sim

(work in progress)

        A struggling author meets a sweet girl, a wild girl, and a tough guy husband.

        What could go very right or very wrong in the game of love, lust, and making a living?

_dialog / narration / characterizations built upon from client outline


MEET Angelica


P ANG smiles to the COTS

P ANG looks at COTS - she isn't satisfied



 ABR visits the office building for the first time and he needs to meet his publisher. ANG guides him.

 After clicking on Angelica

P ANG stands behind the reception counter smiling

        ANG: Good afternoon, how may I help you?

        ABR: I'm Abramo Tutti. I have an appointment with Stephen More at “Black letters” publishing house's new offices.

        ANG: All right, Mr. Tutti, just let me check his schedule. Oh. Here it is. Yes, your meeting is on the twenty-third floor and ... you're already five minutes late.

        ABR: I know. Sorry. All these towers are confusing, I wasn't able to find your building, without stopping twice and asking for help. I don't come downtown too often.

        ANG: Don't look so worried. I work on Stephen's desk a lot, he nearly always runs late; so you have a good chance to beat him to his office. Here's your guest pass and take that bank of elevators over there. I'll call ahead to let his assistant know you're on your way up, Mr. Tutti.

        ABR: Thanks. What is your name, good lady?

        ANG: "Good lady"? Well, good sir, my name is Angelica. Don't be nervous, you'll do fine, Mr. Tutti.

        ABR: Thanks for all your kind help, Angelica. I need all the prayer and well wishes I can get.

P ANG has her hands on the counter and smiles to the COTS (CENTER OF THE SCREEN)

        NARRATOR: I'd entered the forbidding office tower feeling harried and afraid I was about to lose everything. If I'm not a published writer, then I'm an unemployed writer. But, now I truly feel more confident and less like I'm dragging a burden. Maybe there really is a God, or whoever who sent the kind angel, Angelica to bless my day. Well, everyone's day, she's not just here for me. Or is she?

        NARRATOR: Hm, good story point. Whatever, if this publishing goes bust, maybe I'll try for a regular day job in this building so I can see and speak with Angelica every day.

New Page_Writing Sample: Flirting With Yasmine  


-a dating sim

(work in progress)

        A guy crashes at his married best friends' apartment, where he gets to meet some new friends, and gets better reacquainted with his close besties, while getting his life and loves back on track.

        Who and what would be your choice?

_dialog / narration / characterizations built upon from client outline


Day 1

S_0001 LOG in CASUAL clothes with luggage standing in front of a building

        NARRATOR: Fuck! I don't want to do this! But, here I am, anyway, standing in front of my best friend's place, ready to move in 'cause, currently, I don't have a place to live. I was evicted from my apartment … for not paying my rent, which wasn't.... Fuck it, that's an unpleasant story I'm just too disgusted to talk about, right now.

        NARRATOR: I know you're thinking I'm a fortunate guy to have a friend like Nathan ready to provide me shelter, meals, and WiFi for 30 whole days; but, well.... I'm more lucky than you know. Kind of. You see, Nathan may be my best bud; but, he married THE girl of all girls for me; my high school crush - Yasmine.

        NARRATOR: Oh, yes, Yasmine, the one girl, who could lift my mood with just the mischievous quirk of her shapely lips; my partner-in-crime, who would laugh until she'd nearly faint whenever I got away with something; the girl, who bested all of my stupidest jokes with even sillier ones of her own.

        NARRATOR: Yasmine was my confidante, the only one who ever lent an attentive ear to any and all of my problems and secrets; except one. 'Cause, I kinda, well, never told Yasmine my most important secret; that I'd fallen, completely and undyingly, for her. I never told her that every time she had spoken to me of another latest crush on some lucky, stupid guy ... I would grimace a brittle smile, while feeling my soul shatter to shards, taking my broken heart with it.

        NARRATOR: I do know why she never thought of me like that, except because my fat ass then could never, would never number among any of her crushes, or desires. Why would I want to see lovely and perfect Yasmine, again, knowing she would NEVER see me as more than a friend? An asexual … friend.

        NARRATOR: That is Yasmine for me: Heaven and Hell in one gorgeous package. Honestly, parting ways with her after high school graduation was the most bittersweet and painfully difficult experience of my younger life. Meeting her again may top that long ago childish history. Married to my best friend, while I've avoided her, until now.... I'm not quite sure what this will be like.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Showing Writing Changes, Chap 1 Becca DuMaurier (part 1)


Showing Writing Changes, Chap 1 Becca DuMaurier

      This and the next few posts will show you changes made while changing several website story chapters of a short story "novelette" into a novel, well, novel series. Here is proof that good things need time for story, character, research, and a novelist to grow something wonderful.

      Yes, the shorts were great, if I do say so myself and my client and her website visitors; but more of a good thing is great too.

Original Client Short Story_Feb 2008

_899 wds


Becca in the Woods Cornwall, England UK; 1680s

Becca’d been on her way to her betrothal, or rather she’d escaped from crowded, maddening London, back to her stormy, Atlantic tossed Cornwall coast;,; three hundred miles further west than most London courtiers would ever venture.


The whole world was in mad upheaval! Pirates raided coasts. Neighbor killed neighbor, for God and Right. Their Catholic king’d run away and his daughter, with her Dutch Protestant husband, now ruled; as Becca’s healthy loveliness and strong family name remained besieged by an earl, whose grown heir had died, and now he wanted another, by her.


Unlucky Becca.


She’d lost two babes; both to fever, then lost her beloved, gentle husband in the king’s senseless wars and now this earl, older than her father, had reached out his covetous hands, to make her his countess, in payment for her father’s impending bankruptcy.

Both men had...more...

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Another "Simple" Way I Name Characters_Sep 5, 2020 at 10:26 PM EST

This is a simple naming technique when writer characters and degenerating character names.


When I travel, to work or wherever, my stories and characters are percolating in the back or to the fore of my mind. Street addresses to name a character. Especially, ones that come one after another or conjoin at intersections can be helpful; because you can find interesting character names.


Just keep in mind if what you come up with relates to their ethnicity or culture, time period, financial level, etc.


Happy hunting.


More helpful tips at....

Friday, September 04, 2020

BUY Neale Sourna of PIE: Perception Is Everything ebooks at Payhip





Neale Sourna at PIE: Perception Is Everything

Neale has been authoring, editing, doing book/ebook layout and publishing about a decade and won's Best Erotica Novel award for her first novel, "Hobble," published through her own company, PIE: Perception Is Everything, and Neale successfully ranked as a finalist for New Century Screenplay's national contest for her script, "FRAMES." Neale also writes and edits for others through her writing company Neale Sourna's; including stories for the Orchid Games' / Sandlot Games distrib: Heartwild Solitaire Game Series and Inertia Software's Margrave Manor Game Series. Neale's many published works, for ebook, print and online, have an edge that always brings the reader back to the core of being human. "I don't write 'romance' stories, but character love stories.