Mad Max (the Game): Is it any Good? (Spoilers) by Matthew Marchitto

Mad Max (the game) is one of the best licensed games I’ve played. In theory, it’s a prequel to Fury Road, but I don’t think the story is canon. The game starts with Max getting into a fight with Scabrous Scrotus, losing his Interceptor, and is left in the wasteland with nothing but his torn up clothes.

Enter Chumbucket, the deformed hunchback who believes in the Angel Combustion. He’s a black finger (a master mechanic) and thinks Max is his warrior saint. Max needs a new car, and Chum promises to build him the Magnum Opus—the car you will be upgrading throughout the game.

Max’s goal is to create a car that will be fast, durable, and able to carry enough fuel to get him to the Plains of Silence. As you get upgrades for your car, you’ll meet stronghold leaders, lunatics, scavengers, and a whole crapton of war boys.

The gameplay consists of two major parts, car combat and ground combat. Both are equally fun, but have their own little quirks and issues.


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Flash Fiction Challenge: The Ritual of Souls by Matthew Marchitto

This flash fiction challenge, posted over at Chuck Wendig's, had one stipulation: incorporate "there is no exit" in some way. Thematically, as literal dialogue, or whatever.

And so I whipped up The Ritual of Souls (in 1.5 days, so go easy on me). It ended up like a Saturday morning cartoon, but slathered in blood (which is pretty cool). 


Blood rushed to Kelly’s head as she hung upside-down, hands tied behind her back. She stared into the emerald eyes of Nagazhul.

“You can’t stop it now,” Nagazhul said, his voice echoing deep in his throat.

The swirling violet crystal behind him hummed, emanating light to the chanting acolytes encircling it. Beyond, Kelly could see the cityscape, each window like the light of a firefly. Those people had no idea how close they were to death.

“Ritual’s not done yet,” Kelly said, writhing against her bonds. She shimmied her hands to the knife hidden in her belt.

Nagazhul reached out with a clawed hand and ran blackened nails along her cheek, he inhaled, as though smelling her scent. But Kelly knew he was tasting her soul, just the edge of it. Being an agent of the occult, Kelly had an iron will that meant shitheads like Nagazhul couldn’t work their magic on her.

“Eight million souls, agent Kelly, all in a matter of seconds.” Nagazhul turned his back to her, staring out of the skyscraper's windows. “It will be death on a scale so sweat, so unimagined. I will ascend. Can you comprehend this? Godhood awaits me, in a matter of moments I will be a breaker of worlds, eater of eras. And you will be my mortal witness. You’re terror will ripple throughout purgatorium. It will taste so sweat,” Nagazhul inhaled. “There will be no exit, no escape from my will.”

He turned to Kelly, his emerald eyes glimmering with delight.

Kelly stabbed him in the eye.

He reeled, clutching his bloody socket.

Kelly, arms free, cut the ropes around her feet, hit the floor with a roll, and charged at the ritual crystal. It hovered in the air, spinning faster and faster, radiating blinding light.

Nagazhul roared, his voice echoing with the power of a thunderstorm. “Kill her.”

The chanting acolytes turned as one, staring at her from shadowed hoods, jagged serpentine blades held high, screeching.

Kelly drew her boot knife, twelve inches of carbon steel, and slammed it to the hilt in an acolytes gut.

They swarmed her, kicking and biting and stabbing. Kelly’s blade flashed, arcs of red splattered on the floor, on the ceiling, on herself. She reached into a shadowed hood, and felt the chill void on her flesh, and then she clutched his windpipe and squeezed. A soft, wet gurgle escaped the acolyte.

Kelly broke bones with kicks from her steel toed boots, her knife dug through robe and flesh. And Kelly shoved the bleeding acolytes aside, charging for the now spinning crystal.

She reached up, an unspeakable force pushing against her, trying to drive her back. Her fingers inches from the crystal. Just. A. Little. More.

Got it.

Kelly tore the crystal from the ritual circle with a crack of thunder. Nagazhul bellowed, but she was already running for the window, crystal under her arm.

The acolytes leaped for her, trying to grab her arms and legs, and each time she barreled past them, kicking and punching them aside.

And then she hurled the crystal into the window. The window shattered, and the crystal pin wheeled to the street below, exploding into a thousand pieces.

“Rituals done,” Kelly said.

Nagazhul stared out the window, hand outstretched, mouth agape. Then, his brow furrowed, his features contorted into a bestial countenance. He inhaled, and as one the acolytes bowed to him, their souls draining away like blown mist, spiralling up into Nagazhul’s mouth and nostrils. The acolytes slumped, their bodies drained, dead. Nagazhul glowed with their power, glowed from the surge of strength it gave him.

He set his emerald eyes on Kelly and breathed deep.

Pain lanced through Kelly’s body, piercing from the inside out. Her hands melted away, dissolving into mist, pulled into the wide maw of Nagazhul. Then her legs dissolved, her torso, and it crept up her neck until her sinuses burned and her eyes watered, and then blackness.

Solid blackness beneath her, miles upon miles of blackness surrounded her. Kelly breathed, and no air entered her lungs, but somehow she lived.

Nagazhul tilted his head, a beacon in the darkness. “Curious,” he said. “How do you persist?”

Kelly was an agent of the occult, her spirit iron willed. And unlike the others Nagazhul had eaten, Kelly’s spirit was weighted with the will of her determination.

Nagazhul hadn’t expected Kelly to lunge, but he especially hadn’t expected her grasping hand to have weight, to clutch his robe, and to throw him to the ground. Nagazhul shrieked, confused. Kelly drove her knife into his heart, and his face contorted into a visage of primal pain.

The blackness below him opened. Tentacles thick with bloodshot eyes writhed and wrapped around Nagazhul. He pleaded, begged for mercy. “Don’t send me back there. Please. I can’t take it anymore.”

“You don’t have a choice. Enjoy a century of nightmare, fucker.”

Kelly twisted the blade, and Nagazhul was pulled through the rend, consumed by the writhing, bulbous mass of the eldritch domain.

And then she was alone. The blackness crowded around her, pressing against her like water filled sacks, suffocating her. She dug her fingers into the darkness, pinpricks of light emerging from her finger holes, and she tore it in twain.

Nagazhul’s flesh fell to the floor, shed like a false skin. Kelly stood in the skyscraper, bathed in blood, surrounded by bodies, hair whipped by the broken window.

Just another job done.

Guardians of the Galaxy and Narrative Structure by Matthew Marchitto

There’s a lot to love about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, but what pulled me in was how intertwined all the character arcs were. Each character had room to shine and grow, as well as moving the plot forward. None of it felt bloated or needless.

But I want to talk about a few of my favourite aspects of the movie.

***Spoilers Below***

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Camp NaNoWriMo and the Mighty Newsletter by Matthew Marchitto

Camp NaNoWriMo turned out to be a success. I’d pledged to write 20,500 words, and I hit that goal plus 55 extra words.

The project was the sequel to The Horned Scarab, tentatively titled The Underbelly War. I had already written 10,000 words of the rough draft, and wanted to use Camp NaNo to spur me on to finishing it. I’d guesstimated that the story would only need 30,000 words to tell, but I’d been wrong. Looking at the rough draft and all the dangling plot threads, I’d think it needs another 20,000 words before it’s a complete (albeit rough) story.

I don’t know when it’ll get those extra words. As I’ve said on here and on my twitter, The Underbelly War is unlikely to see the light of day. The Horned Scarab just didn’t make enough to justify the expense of self-publishing a sequel. So for now, I’ve written 30,000 words of it—including some rough endings—and made a ton of notes for whenever (if) I return to it.

In its place I’ve been working on submissions for shorter works, but I’m going to devote the majority of my writing time to finishing a full length novel. Once done, I plan on shopping it around to be traditionally published. Wish me luck.


The Mighty Newsletter

In other news, I’ve made a newsletter. You can subscribe here or on the sidebar of my blog. It’ll be a sorta monthly email letting you know when new stuff I’ve made comes out, as well as book recommendations, and sometimes even a mini-blog only for subscribers. I plan on including other goodies in it, short stories, poems, and even giveaways. SUBSCRIBE and you’ll get it all sent right into your inbox!

Book Recommendations: Cyberpunk, Luchadores, and Elder-Thing Monstrosities by Matthew Marchitto


Necrotech is a gut punch of a cyberpunk novel. It has a protagonist who'll tear your nards out through your throat, a brutal unforgiving world, and nanotech zombies. What more do you need? Go buy it!

| Amazon | Goodreads |


Rencor: Life in Grudge City

Luchadores are the heroes and villains. They orchestrate crimes on a grand scale, only to be thwarted by the hero luchadores. Thing is, those were the old days, and two rival luchadores from those bygone times have to team up to solve a museum robbery. Cross chops, body slams, and ass kickery ensues. This book straight up made me happy. I couldn't put it down. Go. Buy. It.

| Amazon | Goodreads |


Hammers on Bone

Hammers on Bone is gross in the best way. Following a private investigator who's also an eldritch horror monstrosity as he tries to put down other equally horrifying eldritch monstrosities. The story is enthralling, with a macabre sort of fascination to detail, and prose that is at a master craft level of artistry. GO BUY IT!

| Amazon | Goodreads |

Game Structure and Narrative by Matthew Marchitto

Recently I played Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was a lot of fun, but it got me thinking about narrative and game design. Namely, the idea that they don’t fit together well. A lot of games, Tomb Raider included, are broken into two parts: gameplay and story. They’re both pretty self-explanatory, but I want to talk a bit about how they interact.

The gameplay is the part where you run around and shoot the baddies, get the points/experience/whatever. Rinse and repeat. This is usually the part where the protagonist gets shot in the head and chomps on a turkey leg to regenerate health. The gameplay is always the meat of the experience. It’s what we spend the most time doing and why we play to begin with.

If the gameplay is the meat, then what’s the story? Usually, it’s the framing (or the skeleton). The story is an excuse to bust in the tower door and decapitate the wizard. It gives us a reason and context for what is going on, why it’s going on, and how we’re going to shoot it in the face. The story is told in three to five minute cutscenes that break up the action (unless it’s MGS). Again, the gameplay is the meat so we don’t spend a lot of time in the cutscenes.*

*I know there are certain games and genres that buck this trend. I joke about Metal Gear Solid, but JRPGs are story heavy as well, though if you consider their 100hr length versus how much of that is actually story it might be a rough equivalent to the format mentioned above.

The story will always be regulated to a second tier, and that is why is loses some of its importance, its ability to unfold and pull the player in. But, on the opposite end, I’d rather play a game with good gameplay and a bleh story than one with an amazing story but bleh gameplay. Bad gameplay is much harder to tolerate than a bad story.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a great game, with phenomenal gameplay and action sequences, but a bleh story. It’s only there to propel us on the adventure, and we never get to dig deep into the subjects presented. The game did its best to set up as much as it could, to try and communicate through subtext of conversation, but there’s only so much you can do in five minute intervals. It favoured the gameplay instead of the story. Even the cutscenes seemed eager to remind you of this. They had a tendency to end with gunfire, an explosion, or a threatening helicopter as if to say, “don’t worry, the gameplay is still here.”

No one takes notice of how messed up Lara’s become. She lights dudes on fire and stabs them in the head.

No one takes notice of how messed up Lara’s become. She lights dudes on fire and stabs them in the head.

Gameplay and story have always been disconnected, and we don’t see it anymore. In gameplay mode the protagonist takes a shotgun blast to the face, ducks behind cover, and puts a band-aid on in. In story mode, a bullet to the gut means they’re dead. And we just accept it, because we all know the game wouldn’t be fun if the player died from one or two bullets. That’s why I dislike this structure. We’re used to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

The Last of Us melds the two together well, but still falls into some of the same traps. Joel’s combat sequences are more than just gameplay mechanics, they build his character. Joel isn’t a good guy, he’s a broken, selfish person, and each time he murders an enemy we get the sense that it’s affecting (or reinforcing) his mental state. The gameplay shows us what he is willing to do for self-preservation, and this is then supported by the story in the cutscenes. When it comes to the game’s final decision, we’re more likely to believe that Joel would make the selfish decision over the altruistic one. In this way the gameplay informs the narrative.

Story as a bookend is frustrating. It’s clear that it’s only there to set up some context, to be an excuse for the adventure. I like the adventure, I want to be on the thrill ride too, but I want the story to keep up. To be more than just set up for the next action sequence.

Of course, this isn’t all games and there are some that do both phenomenally (Witcher 3 comes to mind). Do you guys have any examples of games that you think intertwine story and gameplay in effective ways?

This was originally posted on Medium.

Gnomes, Big and Small by Matthew Marchitto

I’ve had multiple secondary worlds tumbling around inside my head. One of them is Aftania,* a world that is unashamedly inspired by things like Dungeons & Dragons and Warcraft. It features all manner of monstrous creature as well as the expected “races” like elf, human, orc, and gnome.

Absent from this world are Dwarves and Halflings. Anyone that knows me would think the absence of Dwarves was weird, fantasy dwarves are one of my favourite races (coming in close behind orcs). But I decided to condense them all into gnomes. So, gnomes, in the world of Aftania, can be small three-foot humanoids, slightly larger (halfling-size), or burly and wide shouldered with bushy beards like Dwarves. This makes gnomes more similar to humans in that they can be a whole variety of sizes and shapes as oppose to all being made out of the same mold.

It also gives me more freedom to make certain body types and features more common among certain gnomish cultures. Maybe the mountain gnomes to the north are the burly ones, while the gnomes with deep ancestral roots in urban areas are smaller. It allows for a lot more variance.

It bugs me when all of a race are the same. It doesn’t make sense that elves high in the mountains have the exact same culture as the completely disconnected elves on the other side of the continent. Same goes for physique, though I’m not sure if this is a remnant from Tolkien or the influence of video games/pen and paper RPGs.

I’m trying to keep all the things I love about this kind of high fantasy but with a few twists that make it uniquely mine.

*Aftania is actually the name of the largest territory, and is also where the majority of my current stories/characters reside. The planet is referred to as Mo’den (an orcish word), but particularly arrogant Aftanians insist on calling the planet “Aftania.”


NaNoWriMo 2016 was a Bust by Matthew Marchitto

National Novel Writing Month did not go well this year. I only wrote a pitiful 15k words, far below the goal of 50k. But I did draft three short stories in those words, so there’s something that I can work with and hopefully refine/rewrite into something decent. 

A few things threw me off balance this November, one of which being the election. Even though I’m not American, it still managed to occupy a lot of my time and thoughts. Another hurdle was my own disapproving brain meats. I’ve gotten to the point where nothing I put out into the world seems to stick, being it self-pubbed works, submitted stories, or even this blog. There’s been some serious soul-searching as to whether I should continue to pursue writing. Ultimately, I think I’ve decided to throw in the towel and focus on other things. I’ll still write and post short stories here (and maybe on Wattpad), but the idea of writing as a profession is probably going out the window. 

I hope you all had a better NaNoWriMo, and let me know your word count totals!