Tuesday Reviewsday: Pillars of Eternity

Every week, I like to leave reviews for a few things I’ve enjoyed. This week, it’s just one review: Pillars of Eternity. screenshot

I’ve nearly finished this single-player isometric-perspective RPG, which was born from a wildly successful Kickstarter. It’s been out for a year, but I only began playing it in January.

After a rocky start, I’ve found myself digging this surprisingly grim (and PG-13) story of soul harvesting and fallen gods. I like the characters in my party so much that I’m never tempted to swap them out for other classes. The quests are challenging enough to keep me engaged, but never googling the forums for help.

The game runs smoothly on my recent-era iMac, with fans rarely spinning up. In keeping with the fixed-camera POV, a lot of the UI is deliberately old-school, with slots and textures and a lot of clicking. But Pillars has made some smart updates for the times, with an intelligent combat system, flexible (and retrainable) skills, and essentially unlimited inventory. If you play on the easier settings, you can avoid entire aspects of the game like food and potions. If you want more of a challenge, go for the higher difficulty settings and keep your flasks handy.

In the end, I’d recommend Pillars to anyone looking for a classic D&D-style RPG.

I played the version on the Mac App Store, but it’s available through Steam for other platforms.

Bronson Watermarker gets a minor update

Bronson Watermarker, our app for quickly personalizing PDFs, has an update in the Mac App Store. Version 2.0.4 fixes a drawing bug. screenshot I don’t mention the app as much as Highland or Weekend Read, but Bronson has become the go-to app for a lot of productions in Hollywood. If you’ve received a watermarked script in the past few years, there’s a very good chance it was created with Bronson.

Bronson is available in the Mac App Store.

What is good writing?

Scriptnotes: Ep. 239

It’s an all-craft episode as John and Craig discuss what they mean when they say good writing.

Quality isn’t an objective measurement but rather a subjective experience. It’s the relationship between the reader and writer. From vulnerability to voice, consistency to surprise, good writing shares many characteristics with good acting.

We then look at three new entries in the Three Page Challenge, trying to apply what we just discussed.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 3-3-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

The job of writer-producer

Scriptnotes: Ep. 238

Dana Fox joins John and Craig to discuss her role as both screenwriter and producer of How to Be Single. Like Simon Kinberg and Chris Morgan, Dana is one of a handful of feature writers taking responsibility for delivering not just the script, but the finished movie.

We look at how and why she made the transition, and the differences between a feature writer-producer and a TV showrunner. We also discuss the challenges Dana faced in this role, from studio politics to pregnancy, and whether she’d do it again.

Our postponed interview with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan is now scheduled as part of a WGF/Nicholls event. Details in the link below.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 2-26-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, died today at 89.

Everyone reads To Kill a Mockingbird in high school or college, right? For years, I recalled it being on a summer AP English reading list. I no doubt rushed through it to get to Heller or Dostoyevsky.

But last year, as the controversy over Go Set a Watchman started bubbling up, I began to wonder: did I actually ever read Mockingbird? Like a lot of great books, it had permeated American culture so thoroughly that I could fake my way through a conversation about Atticus Finch without first-hand knowledge the book he appears in.

Sadly, discussing things you haven’t read is an important skill in Hollywood.

I bought and read Mockingbird this year over the Christmas holiday. Spoiler: it’s terrific. Through cultural osmosis, I already had some sense of Atticus, Scout and Boo Radley, and the trial at the center of the book.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how smart and funny Lee’s writing would be. She manages the difficult feat of telling the story from the perspective of a willful six-year-old tomboy while vividly painting in the details of Maycomb, Alabama. As the reader, you understand the complicated lives of the adults even while the young protagonist is annoyed and baffled by them.

Lee’s scene work is terrific — a nighttime walk back from school is harrowing — but her transitions are remarkable. She can thoroughly document a moment down to each scowl and scrape, then zip through months in a sentence. This ability to stretch and compress time is so much harder than Lee makes it look.

To Kill a Mockingbird is usually studied for its themes and cultural issues, but I’d urge you to read it — or re-read it — just for the writing.

Sexy But Doesn’t Know It

Scriptnotes: Ep. 237

John and Craig look at how to introduce characters in a screenplay — and how to avoid being mocked by a Twitter feed for it. We go back through previous Three Page Challenges and several of the screenplays nominated for awards this year to examine trends and techniques.

We also discuss writing two projects at once, and offer follow-up on previous topics including screenwriting software, top-100 lists and our favorite Australians we’ve never met.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 2-19-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.