Upgraded WordPress

I’m not yet sure how much I like the new admin interface, but sometimes that’s the price we pay for progress. I’m also not entirely sure what features were added to justify a major point release ( to 2.0). In either case, let me know if anything goes wonky.

Offhanded Rambling

I haven’t really just rambled about things in a while, which is sort of a shame, as I do find it remarkably cathartic and useful in recharging my creative batteries, so to speak. Lately, all it seems like I’m doing is just giving quick updates about what’s happening in my life, without much in the way of me in the process. Sometimes, I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten how. I’ve been reading a lot lately (and even then, not as much as I should; I really ought to just sit down and cram a few more books into me over the next week or two), including quite a few blogs mostly talking aobut game design, development, the gaming industry, and game related politics. (A quick segue: as most of you are aware, I am adamantly opposed to government legislature that restricts any civil right, no matter the reason. Needless to say, I am furious over FEPA. Regardless of the current trend, I stand by my belief that we were not meant to be governed by a nanny state, and will be once again writing my congressmen saying as much. Seque addressed; back to the topic.)

Games have been a major part of my life for quite few years at this point, and in a lot of ways it’s been great to have an excuse to immerse myself in the subject. That said, it is a large and daunting topic, and more than once in the past two months, I’ve felt somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of material to not only read and internalize, but also then reflect upon and write about it in time for my monthly due dates. While I’m sure that personal factors have a major role in how scattered I’ve been with it all, that is ultimately an excuse that does nothing for very real deadlines and very real concerns over worth and hireability in the post-graduate world. The last thing I want to do is bullshit my way through this semester and come out of it feeling lackluster over my abilities and value to potential employers. I am well aware that I am overly critical of my own knowledge and abilities, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I should be doing better.

I’ve been hashing out a few game ideas, and hopefully I will be in a position by the end of the semester to take some of these ideas and bring Critical Games into the development realm (this is, and always has been, my long term goal). This would involve certain things going very right in terms of securing capital (among other things), which while I’m confident CAN be pulled off, still involves a good deal of luck and being in the right place at the right time. The first step is to do well this semester. The second step is to make a good impression at the Game Developer’s Conference this spring (still haven’t received word over getting trust funding to attend that… more prodding may be needed). Third step is to secure funding (I have some assets now, and potentially more coming in the following months, but let’s face it, starting a development company isn’t cheap, even assuming you are able to hire developers for equity). I have some ideas on what to do about the hiring/funding part, not the least of which involves giving developers “points” in each game in a similar fashion to how movies are handled, rather than equity in the company itself; unless it’s a best seller with a great contract with the publisher, development houses tend not to really make much of a profit (and often fold), so equity in one can be a hard sell.

Shifting back toward an academic bent for a moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to organize my final product. I know what the product will be (a collection of essays about games), but now comes the challenge of writing those essays in a cogent, cohesive manner and in a fashion that really addresses my core topic (games as literature and art). My writing feels rushed (because it is) and scattered (also because it is), as I’ve been addressing whatever topics strike me as wanting or needing to be talked about. While that’s fine for a blog, I need to be a bit more collected for my study. Ideally, I’ll wake up tomorrow, feel rested and whole, and start pounding through books and essays like a man possessed.

Instead, I’ve been an insomniac, not being able to sleep before 3, 4, 5am. Not for lack of trying, I just haven’t been able to pull it off. I’ve also been painfully aware of a feeling broken, incomplete for the past week or two. This isn’t surprising; when the marriage abruptly fell apart back in April, I was put on a fairly high dosage of a powerful anti-depressant (20mg Lexapro, for the curious), which I only recently got off, so it’s entirely possible that the “broken”, “scattered” feeling is attributable to withdrawal symptoms. This certainly adds an extra challenge to the semester, but I’ll simply have to learn to cope; I have no wish to be on anti-depressants any longer than I have to. Besides, if I can get organized and pull out a great semester through all that, I can get through anything, right?

One step at a time: I’m in the second to smallest bedroom in the house (the smallest that’s being used as a bedroom), and have arguably the most “stuff” to try and find a place for. This has proven to be an interesting adventure to deal with, though hopefully I’ve finally come to a final solution this weekend with the delivery of a wardrobe (the room has no closet), so I can stop living out of a suitcase, and a bookshelf, so I can finally empty out and get rid of the pile of boxes of books that are scattered around the room. This is more important for me than you might think: for me, a clean room is a clean mind; organizing my room is a meditation that helps me organize my thoughts for writing. (As those who’ve lived with me in the past can attest, you’ll never see my office cleaner than when a school packet is due.) I haven’t been able to organize my room because I simply haven’t had anywhere to put anything.

I suppose it’s dichotomous that I talk about these personal issues in the same post that I talk about ideas for handling game development, but I’ll let you in a little secret; that’s simply how I am. I feel embarassed talking about myself and my personal problems, I hate doing it, but still feel the need to get it out, and feel better after I’ve done it. Talking about impersonal things is my shield from my personal self, and it’s where I go to hide after exposing myself and to build up the courage to expose myself again. I’ve been cognizant that this is what I’m doing for a long long time, but I haven’t ever really sat down and explained this before. My apologies if this frustrates anyone; I doubt it will change any time soon. I suppose i could just separate the personal and the impersonal into separate posts, but that’s kind of opposite to my whole writing philosophy, on several levels: it breaks the flow of writing; I rarely (if ever) write drafts, so what you see is raw and usually written in a single sitting. (You wouldn’t believe how fucking nuts it drove me writing my online communities essay, since it was too long to do in one, or even two sittings… this is also my biggest hinderance in actually writing a novel, or anything longer than a short story. I don’t care about the personal/impersonal thing, but THIS is something I want to change, ASAP).

I know a lot of people who read this blog have commented in the past that I tend to write long, dense posts, and that makes it work to read. In consideration for those people, I should probably end it here. Those that read it in syndication on LiveJournal also probably don’t appreciate the giant swarms of text filling their friends page, either. But who knows, maybe they do.

It’s remarkable how quickly I’ve been rebuilding frustration with Avatar. I’ve been back for a few months at most, and I’m already feeling disillusioned and disappointed over the interaction between staff and players, communication on all levels, and the direction of development. Core principles of game design (as delineated from social design, which also has issues going on) are not being considered or implemented. (An immediate example, without giving out specifics, is a failure to balance playability of all user-accessible content; while varying levels of challenge is expected and desired, awareness of the outer limits of playability should always be kept in mind and addressed.) Maybe it’s tied to the withdrawal again, maybe not, but I am getting very close to my threshold about this, and increasingly interested in finding a way to incorporate designing a new MUD into my study (this isn’t much of a stretch; while implementing it would require more time than I have, establishing a roadmap/design document using a type of game I am already extremely familiar with isn’t much of a stretch to include at all).

I hate ending things, especially on a sour note like griping about a game I’ve been involved with for nearly a decade, but there it is. I’m just not sure where else I could take it from here, and don’t really have anything else I want to say right now… leave it to a stress-point to kill a perfectly good ramble.


I’m probably late out the gate on this, but I just found a new blog that has proven to be both readable and fascinating. It’s a blog dedicated to former Google employees (there are currently two writing, with a third in theory somewhere in there). I think it says something that I’ve spent the past two hours reading it rather than getting some much-desired rest.


Canon 5D

I picked up the Canon 5D today… more on that later, but here is a quick (and wildly reduced in size… I could count hairs) picture of my dog Freya. (Mickey, ping me if you want a larger image, I have some others as well.)

Freya!  with a Stick!

On Everything

I actually wrote a post since the last, but it was unexpectedly lost in an absentminded reboot.

My friend Adam has his site back up. Much randomness, just as a heads up for those that used to read it. Also, the non-profit my friend Mike has been working on for the past few months now has a site up over at http://www.highlandeducationalcenter.com. Another site worth noting is The Gizmo Project, which is another VoIP/SIP netphone system that’s pretty slick. Crossplatform and a halfway decent interface for once. I’m TheNadreck or 1-747-627-6040 on it.

School is going slowly but steadily. I pounded through Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun the other day, and really enjoyed it. I think he had some really interesting insights into the nature of game design; I also completely agree with him that the state of story writing within the games industry is by and large at the level of high school. There’s vast room to improve, but i’ll be writing more in depth about that in another post over at my other site real soon now. I’ve also been actively reading a pretty good array of design blogs, notably TerraNova, Video Game Media Watch, Greg Costikyan’s blog, and of course GamaSutra.

Something really interesting and worth reading that was recently posted over at GamaSutra was Eric Zimmerman’s A Game Developer’s Bill of Rights. Again, more insight on that soon over at Critical Games. One last school related tidbit before I move on: the author of one of the books on my bibliography dropped me a line on here a little while ago, which I think is awesome… just goes to show how interconnected the internet is, even if only through Google. Marcus, if you’re reading, I’ll definitely be talking to you later! Online social engineering and communication is a topic near and dear to my heart above and beyond this particular semester.

My relationship with Erica is going smashingly; she’s simply fabulous, and I hope things continue to grow for a long time to come. I’ve been spending most of my weekends down there with her, watching movies and just in general spending time with her. It was kind of weird not going down this past weekend, but it being Thanksgiving, she was in NY with her family anyway. One of these trips, I’ll need to actually get ahold of the family I have down in Rhode Island.

In Vermont, things are going well. We’re all pretty well settled into the house in Montpelier. Good music, good food, interesting conversations… and I heat my room entirely with my computers. Uri and I have been MUDding a fair bit on AvatarMUD, as he’s been making a push to finally Lord (8 years after he started… looks like it should be doable by before Christmas, as he’s finally big enough to really pound through the levels). It’s been interesting, because playing has gotten me back into the MUD in general, after a long hiatus as a staff member. I’ve been active and visible quite a bit, helping with basic sundry stuff (lost passwords, setting altofs, helping with corpse retrievals for linkdead characters, et cetera), and also finally finished one of the areas I started 3 years ago. I’ve also been playing some of the new classes that have gone in since I last really played, like Paladin, and Fusilier.

I still want to write my own MUD, though. That’s on the backburner until I get more programming under my belt, however, since I want to write from scratch (the point isn’t to make the same mud with different content, the point is to do something unique within the genre).

Things have started to settle into something resembling a routine at this point, so hopefully I’ll be able to get back into writing regularly again. I guess time will tell.

Alas, Gondola

This summer brought with it the loss of our favorite chinese restaurant, Panda House. It seems that the trend is continuing with the loss of our favorite deli, Gondola Deli… between increases in staffing and supplies costs, they ended up closing their doors today. It’s a real shame: they had some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had (mmm, in-house made fresh rare roast beef piled high…), and it shoots down yet another non-chain business in the Upper Valley. My family has been going to Gondola for easily 20 years now (my dad swears longer, but that’s how far back I personally can remember), and it’s hard to imagine the area without it.

No more good chinese, and now no more good subs… where the heck are we supposed to eat now?

Up and Running

With four days to go until my school residency, we finally have an internet connection at the house in Montpelier (JUST finished getting it set up). A lot has happened since I gave a real update, so let me sum up: I’m living in Montpelier with Uri, Andy, and Kate, and will be starting my final semester this Friday. UberCon VI was a lot of fun, and I did indeed pick up a sword (it’s sweet), and ended up selling my graphics tablet (Wacom Intuos2 12×12) to Erica, who is an extremely talented artist and fantastic person in general.

In fact, she and I are now seeing each other. It was unexpected and entirely welcome. I went down to drop off her tablet, and we ended up spending the day together… While I’m aware that I’m getting into yet another long distance relationship, and with someone who is insanely busy, I really like her and we both want to see where things go. This is my first real relationship since Mickey, and I’m a little nervous that I’ll end up carrying too much baggage with me, but I’m going to do my best to simply be as open, honest, and caring as I can, and hope for the best.

Okay, if I keep talking about that, I’ll get mushy, so let’s move along. I’ve been hanging out with a lot of people lately that I haven’t seen in a while, in particular my friend Tiffany, who is a leet gamer that also writes reviews and is a contributing editor for Computer Games magazine. She’s getting me back into Final Fantasy XI (I know, I know… however, I am planning to critique the game for my study), which should be jolly good fun, in that “OMG, I’m hardlining MMOs again” sort of way. Just in general, though, I’ve shipped my game systems out from Seattle and picked up a Nintendo DS under the auspices of my study, and am aiming to try and get a press kit from Nintendo about the Revolution, so I can write about that in particular. (The DS and the Revolution are key points in how my study is formulating in my mind, more specifically how they view/affect the concepts of gameplay and interfacing with games.)

All in all, it’s starting to look like the shitty period is drawing to a close, and things are really starting to look on the up and up. I’ll try and be a bit more cogent/coherent later… still feeling a little scattered and worn out, so I’m going to go drink a couple gallons of water and go from there.

UberCon VI

Being that I’m on the east coast again, and the opportunity to attend just as an attendee, and talking it over with a friend who was also interested in going, I decided to go to UberCon. All in all, it’s been a good time. I’ve mostly just hung out and chatted with people, and by and large have been able to do what I wanted, helping where I want to help, but not being expected to do so. It’s a great way to go.

I’ve also been chatting with some of the vendors, and am going to look at some hand forged 13 folded katanas the sword vendor has with him. Very reasonably priced considering the quality, just a matter of finding one that I want. Kevin and I have come to an understanding about roles and money and everything else, which is good. I’m probably going to help out in an unofficial capacity in getting company contacts, as I’m very good at it, and have proven to have more luck doing so than just about anyone. This, however, will be at my own pace and discretion, so I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Anyway, time to head back down to the convention… just wanted to give a quick update as to what’s going on.

Seattle, Montpelier, and Me

I’m in Seattle again, this time having flown out to help Uri pack and to collect some things out of my storage unit. Every time I come out here I’m reminded why I moved out here in the first place, how appealing the feel of the place is to me. I still hate the traffic, though. Uri has shared a similar sentiment, yet he’s also moving out of Seattle… he and I are renting a house in Montpelier, Vermont, with our friends Andy and Kate. In fact, we officially moved in about a week ago.

This might seem rather abrupt to some of you… that’s because it IS abrupt. Uri has spent the past month living in Brooklyn with Andy, and while there, the idea of moving to Montpelier just sort of got tossed into the air. They looked into it briefly, and managed to find an awesome old house just off Vermont College campus, and so they decided to go for it. I found out about all this when they happened to swing through town on their way up to check it out, and ended up volunteering to go in on it, which made it financially more feasible for everyone (splitting the rent four ways is much better than splitting it in thirds). The whole thing just sort of happened all in the course of about a week and a half.

While naturally I’m a little nervous about it all, and was enjoying the free rent at my parents’ house, I think this will prove to be a beneficial move. I’ll be splitting my time (most of my time in Montpelier, a few days at my parents, playing with the dog and such — Freya is staying with them, more room to play, more stable routine), which I think will help me organize my time for my upcoming (final!) semester. Also, I’ll have broadband in Montpelier, and will be setting up my game systems, which should prove useful given the topic of my semester (game design).

I’m getting back from Seattle on Tuesday morning, and then will be heading down to UberCon VI the following weekend. I was really waffling about going or not, as I think it might be nice to catch up with some of the folks down there, and can just go to enjoy myself since I’m not attending as staff. Any help I end up offering will be entirely at my choosing (which, knowing me, will be quite a bit… that’s not the point, though), so I think it’ll be a lot more fun. The final deciding factor was that my friend Tiffany was interested in attending as well, so this gives me that last bit of an excuse. I’ve only told one or two people that I’m attending, and I don’t think any of the usual UCers read my blog with any regularity, so I’m hoping to surprise them.

I’m hoping to get back into the groove on blogging regularly, but I’m not going to hold my breath… if it happens, awesome. I think it would be good for me, though. Once I get the computers and broadband hooked up at the house, I think that process will be a bit easier. Time will tell.

New Site Features

There have been a few updates to the site that I would like to point out. First, I’ve updated my Gallery installation to the newly released Gallery 2. I’m really liking the new interface and features, and have migrated all users and images from the old installation into the new one. One of the nifty new features is arguably the most obscenely easy to use “image block” feature I’ve seen to date (they’ve had this feature for a while… it’s new to me, however). I’ve implemented it here on Wandering Ways, so those of you who are Feeders, swing by the main page to see what I’m talking about (it’s the nifty random image in the sidebar). The next step I plan to take is to set up a sub domain of http://gallery.criticalgames.com, simply because I think that’s a cleaner address than http://www.criticalgames.com/gallery2/. I do need to do a little digging to see how gallery-created links will handle that, though I don’t expect there will be a problem.

I haven’t forgotten about the site. I’ve just been a little scattered. I promise, a real post soon.