LitRPG Podcast 028
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 28 of the LitRPG podcast.
I’m Ramon Mejia. I’m here to bring you the latest LitRPG news, reviews, and author interviews.
New Releases and Reviews:
Luck Stat Strategy (Secret of the Old Ones Book 1)
Lion’s Quest - Undefeated
You're in Game! LitRPG Stories from Bestselling Authors
Growing Pains: The Proving Grounds
Sucked into an RPG: a LitRPG Novel
Realm of the Nine Circles
We’ll begin with LitRPG news
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The LitRPG Facebook Group has reached 3,000 followers and the LitRPG Society on Facebook have reached over 1,000. To celebrate these milestones both groups are having give away contests. A number of LitRPG authors have donated copies of their e-books, physical books, audiobooks, and more to be given away for these prizes.
For the full details including rules and deadlines visit them on Facebook or click on the links in the shownotes.
LitRPG Society Facebook Contest
J. A. Hunter has released the cover art for the second book in his Viridian Gate Online series, Crimson Alliance. He’s also mentioned that he’s shooting for release date of Feb. 17th.
William D. Arand is putting his Otherlife trilogy out as an omnibus collection and it’s up for pre-order now with a release date of Feb. 2nd. For $9.99
Spawn Campers: A LitRPG Adventure (The Crucible Shard Book 2) (Jan. 31st, 2017)
Nagant Wars: The Pawn's Dilemma (Jan. 31st, 2017)
Dungeon Madness (Book #2 The Divine Dungeon series) (February, 2017)
The Beginning (Dark Paladin Book #1) LitRPG Series (Feb. 7, 2017)
Viridian Gate Online: Crimson Alliance (Feb 17th, 2017)
Spetsnaz: A Permadeath LitRPG LitFPS (Feb 28th, 2017)
The Crystal Sphere (March 10th, 2017)
Awaken Online: Precipice (March 31st, 2017)
The Karmadont Chess Set (The Way of the Shaman: Book #5) (April 2nd, 2017)
Onto New Releases and Reviews
(Play Music 3)
New Releases and Reviews
Luck Stat Strategy (Secret of the Old Ones Book 1)
Secret of the Old Ones is a deep dive VR game, the likes of which the world had never seen.
Trent Noguero, a hardcore gamer, has been playing for a year and is about to get his big break. He is about to catapult himself into the ranks of the most powerful players in the world.
However, power comes with a price, and celebrity creates enemies. Trent has the keys to massive success, but he also accidentally painted a target on his back… both in, and out of the game.
My Opinion: 153 pages (though should be around 225), $2.99, Not available Kindle Unlimited
Blaise Corvin, author of the best selling novel Delves LLC (http://amzn.to/2jN7BAk), has released a new LitRPG series. The author describes it as “hard LitRPG set in a Steampunk/Victorian era HP Lovecraft-type horror world”.
For the most part that’s a pretty accurate description. The Lovecraft influence is mostly seen in the some cool game mechanics where magic has an additional cost of possibly making the user go insane if they fail a sanity check and monsters attacking that same sanity. It’s an interesting and unique mechanic and I liked that characters had to be careful about how they used magic because of this additional cost.
I really enjoyed reading this story. The characters are great, there’s lots of action and adventure. The game world is set in a unique Victorian era setting with plenty of steampunk influences. There are PVP and PVE battles. The character classes are unique and theme appropriate, like artificer and alchemist.There’s epic end game loot, rare items, and an interesting storyline about what happens to a player that gets hold of that stuff when it’s worth a great deal of real world money.
The only real complaint I have about the story is that I want MORE. The author has stated that this story is a side project of his that has helped him increase his writing pace on the Delvers LLC series. He’d always intended this story to be a novella and reading the story I can see some places where he likely edited out several thousand words and summarized. This world is so cool, I want to know all the lore, all the skill builds, and all the backstory for each character.
This story is an easy 8 out of 10.
Lion’s Quest - Undefeated
Astarar Unlimited is the best virtual reality game the world has ever known, and Leo "The Lion" Lennox has been the game's champion for ten years in a row.
But when a mysterious woman tempts the champ to try her cutting edge game, Leo discovers a world that is beyond fantastic. Can he resist the lure of this strange world and the beautiful woman that has asked him to quest on her behalf?
My Opinion: 697 pages, $7.49, Not available on Kindle Unlimited.
Full disclosure: The author sent me an advance copy of the novel for review but I’ve purchased a copy since it came out.
Author Michael-Scott Earle has written several successful series, including the Destroyer and Concrete Chaos series. Now he’s written his first LitRPG story, Lion’s Quest - Undefeated.
Leo “the Lion” is a competitive VR gamer who’s at the peak of physical and mental skill and has been the undisputed champion of Astarar Unlimited for the last 10 years. After his latest championship bout he’s approached by a beautiful woman and introduced to the next generation of immersive gaming, Arnacript. There he’ll experience gaming so real it’s indistinguishable from real life and meet fantasy creatures that he can form real connections with. Unfortunately, someone doesn’t want the champ to retire from professional gaming and will do whatever it takes to stop him from switching games.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and can see great potential in the series. The characters have depth, the fights are wonderfully descriptive, and I genuinely wanted to read more about the world of Arnacript when the novel was done. I have a few quibbles with the story but overall I really enjoyed my time in this world.
The beginning chapters of the story are almost an exploration of virtual reality tech. Astarar Unlimited, uses technology that is mostly available today. VR goggles, a omnidirectional treadmill, and haptic feedback based on vibrational motors. The new game, Arnacript, uses the type of next gen full immersion system that virtual reality enthusiasts dream of. The two different game worlds are both interesting, one as an extension of the popularization of competitive gaming, the other as an exploration of a detailed simulated world full of realistic A.I. If all this novel did was describe this advancement I’d still think it was a good story. But it does so much more.
Combat in both Arnacript and Astarar Unlimited were visceral and fun to read about. In Astarar Unlimited the combat it very game oriented, with hot keys, pre-selected classes, levels, and abilities, and player versus player tournament battles. In Arnacript, combat is more realistic, though gaming aspects are slowly introduced. These difference adequately describe the different game worlds too. Astarar Unlimited is a popular MMO that’s a notch above Warcraft. While Arnacript, when first encountered passes as portal fiction. Though slowly, gaming element like health bars, item descriptions, and character sheets are introduced, it still maintains that feel of simulated reality with both the world and it’s inhabitants being indistinguishable from reality. In Arnacript combat is based on a person’s real world abilities and Leo as a martial arts master is totally over powered in combat but somehow still makes the fights interesting.
Two things I think could have been done better: Less time in the real world, and more world building.
The format of the story is set up this way, about 15% game stuff, 35% real life stuff, the remaining 50% game stuff. I have to say that while the real life stuff created some real emotional connections to characters, it just of went on a little too long.
One of the only other things I would have liked more of in Arnacript is world building. We’re only introduced to a few races and locations in the world. I would have loved to get more stories about each race's culture and the some more historical understanding of the world than just a reference to a single event.
Lion’s Quest - Undefeated gets a big recommend from me and solid 8 out of 10.
You're in Game! LitRPG Stories from Bestselling Authors
This fast-paced collection of novellas and short stories from leading Russian LitRPG authors sheds new light on their signature worlds. New works by Vasily Mahanenko, Andrei Livadny, Alexey Osadchuk, Michael Atamanov, Pavel Kornev and Andrew Novak! Expect your favorite heroes to play second fiddle to an array of new main characters; once-minor plot lines to lead you in unexpected directions; familiar story events to take new surprising turns.
SIX unique writing styles. SEVEN meticulously conceived gaming worlds, two of which come from authors new to LitRPG but who are already experts in the craft of genre fiction.
My Opinion: 162 pages, $3.99, available on Kindle Unlimited.
Right off the bat, be aware that there are ton of ads for novels published by Magic Dome Books at both the beginning and end of the book.
Full disclosure: Magic Dome books gave me an advance copy of the book to review. As usual, I purchased the book when it was officially released.
There are seven stories from four well known Russian LitRPG authors and two newcomers. Any short story collection is hard to review because there are always going to be stories you like and stories you don’t in the set. So, I’ll review them individually.
Shamanic Rites - Vasily Mahanenko (Way of the Shaman series)
Remember when Mahan got his totem? That first shaman trial? Well, Fleita, another character is doing the same thing to get her totem. Lots of hero worship of Mahan but besides totem she gets, nothing really new.
Purgatory - Andrei Livadny (Phantom Server series)
Set before the Phantom Server series, a short story about a character testing the neural implants used to jack into a game where he can create items from his memory through an act of will. It’s also about the character facing his troubled past. It’s a cool story.
Throne World - Michael Atamanov ( Perimeter Defense series)
An account of some of the events from the Perimeter Defense story told from the POV of Likanna, daughter of the main character Crown Prince Georg. While there’s some original story here, it also felt like a review/clip episode of a TV show.
The Best Quest - Andrey Novak (Alterra Series) a new LitRPG series.
Since this is from a new LitRPG series, everything is new. The ‘short story’ actually felt like the first chapter of the book and may be a way the publisher is testing the market.
Set in a future where the real world is a wasteland, Alterra is a game setup by the elites, that even ‘ghetto inhabitants’ are allowed to play, and earn credits that can be turned into real world money. In this short story, Jack the Drifter tries to make a living in Alterra. New LitRPG, totally into it.
Countdown - Pavel Kornev (A standalone LitRPG short story)
The story is set in a fantasy full immersion VR game world. The main character is sent in as a gun for hire/trouble shooter to find a player killer who gruesomely murders his victims making sure they feel every bit of pain before they die. Again, original LitRPG material, enjoyed it.
The Date - Marina and Alexey Osadchuk (Mirror World series)
Events in book 2 of the Mirror World series, told from another character’s perspective. Remember the guys that hire Olgerd to pick up rare resources for them because they want increase their reputation but need a high level resource gatherer? It’s that story plus the real life date two of those characters go on, Count and Irene. It’s cute.
The Story of a Raid - Vasily Mahanenko (The Galactogon series)
If you’ve been wanted more from the Galactogon series, this is likely the closest you’re going to get until Vasily finishes writing the Dark Paladin series.
The story of the ship Alexandria and the player Marina as they go on a raid in the game. This is a standalone story set in the Galactogon game world. Fun to dip my toes into this world again.
So, I like five out of the seven stories in the collection. You may like more of fewer of these short stories depending on how you feel about their larger series.
Growing Pains: The Proving Grounds
The massive virtual reality game The Proving Grounds had a bit of a rocky start, but with some outside help the developers got it under control.
But technological progress doesn’t wait for anyone and a new advance is already in the works: a form of input that builds on their standing devices and works via the players thoughts. Early tests were less than successful, which saw the device shelved early in production, but now a new test subject has been found…
An unconscious subject. Peter is a coma patient whose doctors heard about the device and reached out to the company in hopes of maybe getting a glimpse into his mind.
They got more. Much more. Peter has awoken to a new world, but a world he is unable to leave as he is still comatose on the outside. In the hopes of gathering more data and finding a way to help him, he’s let out into the world… with some oversight.
Unfortunately nothing new comes without issues to resolve, and the timing couldn’t be worse as new problems spring up around them. But when the world is in danger and he is sent away for his own safety, Peter finds it hard to sit idle. After all, his friends and his new world, his only world, need the help.
And yet it’s possible none of these problems would have arisen without him…
My Opinion: 267 pages, $3.99, available on Kindle Unlimited
Everytime Wade Adrian puts out a new Proving Grounds books, for some reason I’m surprised by the improvement in his story telling. I say each time “Oh, this is better.”
I’d consider this a stand alone novel in the Proving Grounds game world more than a sequel to anything else in series, though some familiar faces to make appearances and there are some call backs to the other books.
Pete’s been in a coma for the last two years and is using a experimental neural interface that’s allowed his mind to wake up and exist in the game. His doctors hope this stimulation will help him wake up but as far as the story goes it’s a new way to explain the ‘trapped in the game’ troupe. The first chapter sets up a potentially fascinating journey as Peter proves he can not only exist in the game world but actually feel pain and a full sensory experience. Something the other players can’t.
Unfortunately these raised stakes for Pete are a wasted story opportunity for the first 30% of the book as he’s taken through character creation then escorted by the game developers through his first level up, and later power leveled.
My favorite parts of the story are the times Pete gets to explore the game world, fight on his own, learn about what his class can do and even do some crafting.
It’s a lot more interesting than the more epic story of the devs and heralds dealing with the consequences of events that happened in the last two books and why the game world is glitching.
I’d give the story a 7 out of 10.
Sucked into an RPG: a LitRPG Novel (Sucked into an RPG, Book 1)
In the middle of attacking a difficult boss, Jamie gets sucked into the game. It’s not long before he learns there’s no way back home and that the only people around him are NPCs. He spends his days completing quests, hoping one will lead him back to reality. But the days go on and he wonders if he will ever see his family and best friend again.
Then he meets her—another player. She got sucked into the game months ago and has been stuck there ever since. Together, they embark on the journey back to Earth. But is there a way out of this fantasy world or are they doomed to live there forever?
My Opinion: 251 pages, $3.99, available on Kindle Unlimited
Author Dee J. Stone is the pseudonym for two sisters who have written almost 30 books on Amazon, including a teen superhero series and several long romance series. The author’s first foray into LitRPG is less than spectacular and honestly feels like an attempt at cashing in on a new trendy genre.
While the story is set in a game world, there is no character progression according to the game rules. The character gets one level up but it’s so weird to read that he’s suddenly level 12 when no level was given before and no description of XP is ever given for completing quests. Also leveling up doesn’t seem to have any impact on the character’s power. The extent of game mechanics being shown are the character’s inventory, quest dialogue, and a few game notifications.
For the first 30% of the novel, the NPCs in the game worlds are absolutely boring and flat. They’re not A.I. with personality or the ability to deviate from their scripted dialogue. The only way the player can interact with the NPCS is by reading his own scripted dialogue options. So the main character basically talks to himself the first ⅓ of the book.
Then the NPCs suddenly become self-aware and the dialogue improves about a 30% into the story without any explanation why.
The main character doesn’t even run into the other player trapped in the world until 40% into the story. At which point it turns into a teen romance novel, which is the type of story the authors normally write.
Which brings me to the worst part of the story. The game world. It’s just boring.
So no recommendation from me. I’d give it a 3 out 10.
Realm of the Nine Circles: A LitRPG Book
In the MMORPG Realm of the Nine Circles, things are not as they should be. NPC behavior is a little too realistic, and the game's ultimate bad guy, Lord Mylos, is acting weird and killing heaps of players just for fun.
Dante is an entry-level game developer for Plexcorp, the company that owns and runs the game. He knows the secret to the strangeness lies near. Will the answers be in the cavernous depths of the Plexcorp building, owned by the man who created the game? Or is the answer deep within the Nine Circles itself? One thing is certain: asking questions might get him killed.
To figure it all out, Dante must lead a band of adventurers into a virtual reality world where he has to play the game to save not only his own life but the entire Realm itself.
My Opinion: 309 pages, $4.99, available on Kindle Unlimited.
Written by Amy Hopkins, author of the Urban Fantasy series Talented, and P. Joseph Cherubino, who’s written a number of sci-fi stories. This is their first LitRPG novel.
In the real world Gideon Thistlethwaite is the genius creator of the MMO Realm of the Nine Circles and super rich CEO of the company that runs it. In the game world he plays Mylos, the monster lord. A terrifying bullheaded, tentacled, magic flinging creature most players think is a high level NPC.
When his employees create technology for the world's first full immersion rig, Gideon starts to change the game to make the NPCs artificially intelligent. When his employees discover the secret behind this amazing leap in A.I. they oppose him both in the real world and in the game with a little ‘inside help’ and the new immersion technology.
I’ll begin by saying that I liked this novel. The story is an interesting mix of fantasy and speculative sci-fi about what a madman would be willing to do to push the boundaries of A.I. tech in his game world. The characters feel very fleshed out and I cared about them almost immediately. The fantasy game world of Realm of the Nine Circles is well described. I could picture the creepy Blood forest with it’s deadly murderous trees vividly. There are some rather good action scenes later on in the novel. The science behind the game immersion tech is believable. You can tell that the authors have lots of experience writing fantasy and sci-fi. However, when it comes to describing the game mechanics of Realm of the Nine Circles, there’s a lot left to be desired.
From brief exchange I had with one of the authors it seems like they made the decision to very very gradually introduce LitRPG elements into their story so that they wouldn’t alienate their existing fan bases who would read the story. Unfortunately, this decision also makes it less likely that LitRPG fanatics will give the novel a full read.
While you get some well described glimpses into the game world, alot of the early parts of the story take place in the real world.
At about the 40% into the story the characters jump into the game world full time and there are a lot more battles and game notifications. Weapon damage%, healing %, spell damage %, etc. Many LitRPG readers just won’t stick with the story that long without getting more of what they came for, the LitRPG stuff.
Even when the story gets more game centric, the game mechanics that are mentioned are not explained and the terms used feel superficial because the reader never got context to understand them. Even after finishing the whole book, I don’t understand how the game world works. Is it a class based game? What are the skill trees? What do the character stats like strength or intelligence relate to? How does the magic system work?
Some game mechanics are described by percentages and others by numbers. Then they’ll switch. For example, armor. On the character sheet you’ll get armor at 100% but no actual numbers sometimes, then other times you’ll get an armor rating with a number like 315 attached. Which is great but I don’t have context to understand if that’s good or bad.
The player characters level but it doesn’t seem to mean anything. At least the authors haven’t explained what it means. I don’t know if leveling increases health, mana, and endurance. Or if they get stat points and skill points every level. It felt like something they just got after a good fight then ignored.
There’s a lot more things I could point out (I had long list) but I think you get the idea.
As video game fiction or a sci-fi/fantasy novel it would get a 7 out of 10. As LitRPG, it get’s 5 out of 10.
That’s it everyone!
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Thanks for hanging out with me today. Until we can hangout again, remember to go read some LitRPG!
"Blip Stream" "Mighty Like Us" "Big Shift" "Vivacity"
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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