06 July 2014

Out With the Old...

The beginning of the end.
On a lark, I went ahead and updated the template for this blog. Blogger said it would save a copy of the old one, but I'll be damned if I can find out how to restore it. So, yeah. Progress. I'll probably screw around with it a little bit and get it just the way I want to.

Also in the new category, the Age of Rebellion Core Rules are out, representing my first published freelance work since 2010. They even let me write a brief article about my part of the project. I've got a number of other projects in the pipeline, things I've already finished that should be released eventually. When they're announced, I'll be more than happy to fill everyone in.

I'm sure everyone's had a chance to check out the D&D Basic Rules by now. Everyone but me, that is. I have yet to check it out, though I have downloaded it. I'm a pretty horrible grognard about some things, you see, and I'm pretty happy with all the 3.5 stuff I've got for the game. I never even made the switch to Pathfinder, and as for 4E... well, let's just say that I've played in a number of 4E games, and it never really did much for me (and I'm not looking to argue about it, either--it's just a matter of taste).

I have a penchant for picking up core rules for games, so I'll probably do the same with 5th edition when they come out. Whether or not I switch over to the new rules remains to be seen.

This is when Stephen stuck the knife in and twisted it.
After a lull, the boy and I have been playing the X-Wing miniatures game again. We tried out the CR90 corvette using the opening scenario from the epic campaign that came with it. Basically, he had six TIEs and I had the CR90, and his objective was to cripple one of my ship halves within six turns. He had me down within four turns.

The CR90 is pretty neat, but it really needs close support. Its turbolasers are useless at close range, and outside of a salvo or two in the opening turns, I didn't get too many shots off.

WildStar keeps on keeping on. I've got lots of exciting work to do in the office these days, so I can't complain too much. I've been moved into the Narrative office after being in the same cube for the past two years. Speaking of which, this Wednesday is my two-year anniversary with Carbine, and I celebrated by 41st birthday five days ago.

I'd say it's funny how time flies, but it isn't. So I won't. Wait, didn't I just? Oh, the hell with it.

22 June 2014

Age of Rebellion at Pair a Dice Games

A couple months back, I approached the management of Pair a Dice Games in Vista and asked them if they'd like me to run a game of Age of Rebellion for them when Free RPG Day rolled around. I did some work on the AoR core rules, and I thought it'd be a neat way to get the word out about FFG's latest entry into the Star Wars RPG market.
Just before we got started.
They thought it was a swell idea, especially since I contributed to the game. I was suddenly being treated like a minor celebrity, even being mentioned by name in their email flyers leading up to the event. It put a little pressure on, to be sure. After all, I didn't want to go in there and run a crappy scenario for folks who were expecting champion-level storytelling from someone "in the industry."

Thing is, I don't generally go out of my way to tell people I do freelance writing/game design and that I've worked for several big-name game publishers. When they get to know me, they usually find out. Maybe it's worth bragging about, maybe it's not, but I keep it on the down-low most of the time. I don't think I'm better than anyone because of it, and I'd hate for anyone to assume I feel that way. It's just something I do because I find it fulfilling.
Anyway. It is what it is.

Kane, Jared, and Bridgette.
Yesterday was the day of truth. I'd put together a small adventure along with seven pre-genned characters. Since the AoR core rules haven't been released yet, I had to rely on the AoR Beta rules. Using the Beta wasn't a problem, and I don't think any of the players had even seen the book before. Hopefully, when the core book comes out next month, it'll have a positive response with folks. It really is an excellent product.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. The day of truth.

I was worried that the publicity would result in me having too many players to fit into the scenario. In the end, the player group consisted of five very awesome players. Three of them were experienced with Edge of the Empire, so they knew what they were doing. This was great, because they ended up explaining rules to the players who weren't familiar with the game. By the end of the session, everyone was rolling the dice, reading the symbols, and contributing to the story effectively.
Robert and Vance.

My other fear was that I hadn't had an opportunity to playtest the adventure prior to Free RPG Day. The schedule's been tight lately, so I ended up going in blind. Fortunately, the adventure worked. I made a couple of changes on the fly, but overall I felt it was successful (in fact, it might have been too easy!). We got rolling around 1 pm and were finished up by 5:30 in the afternoon.

A number of my personal friends showed up to say hello to me. Since I was running the game, I couldn't break away and socialize, which made me feel kind of bad for them. They understood, though, and it was nice to see everyone, even for a brief moment.

The players succeeded on their mission, and they all seemed to enjoy themselves. Hopefully I run into them all again sometime. If I had more time, I might even make a regular night of it. As it is, my schedule is pretty crowded, so I can't. It's going to have to be an occasional thing rather than a regular one.

In the end, I'd like to extend my thanks to Vance, Robert, Bridgette, Jared, and Kane for playing and making the game a success. It wouldn't have been the same without you guys!

06 June 2014

Paul

My wife's grandfather, Paul, died on Tuesday morning. He lived about ten minutes from Carbine, so I would drive over to have lunch with him whenever I could. For a while, it was our Wednesday routine. I'd drop in, we'd eat and chat, and then he'd walk me out and say goodbye. As things got busier and busier closer to launch, my visits became less common. There was so much to do and so little time to do it all. I'd go when I could, but it wasn't as often as before.

I felt very close to Paul. My grandfathers had already passed, and he'd always treated me like family. The first time I met him, we got to talking about my interest in history. I was a Civil War reenactor then, and Paul thought that was the neatest thing ever. He opened up and told me about his experiences in World War II, something he'd never done with anyone else according to my wife and her grandmother.

Paul in Germany, 6/20/1945
Paul served on the ground in Europe as part of an ambulance crew, starting on D-Day +2, through the Battle of the Bulge, and until well after the end of hostilities. He was proud of his service in the war, rightly so. It was an experience that shaped him and changed him forever, and he wrote a memoir about it and sent me a copy which I've kept to this day.

Paul was a little old fashioned about some things, but he was a great guy. He had a quick wit and a jovial laugh, even though he'd often tell the same jokes over and over again. I never minded. It was a pleasure to sit with him and hear about his past, as well as his thoughts on the future. Oftentimes, when we would have lunch, he would talk about the technology of his youth as compared to the technology today. He had no idea where the world would be when my kids were his age, but he was certain of one thing--that it would be amazing.

Paul's in the pink shirt (10/2008)
Since I was always coming from and going to work before and after our visits, he always asked me how things were going. It was clear he didn't quite understand what an MMORPG was, or what it was I did exactly. Still, he'd listen when I tried to explain it, comparing it to this or that, trying to make some kind of sense out of it all. He was proud that I was supporting his granddaughter and his grandchildren, who he loved a great deal.

He called me a couple of weeks ago. "I haven't seen you in an awfully long time," he said. "Maybe we could have lunch soon."

"How about tomorrow?" I asked. We were close to launch and I wasn't as strapped for time as I'd been in those busy months leading up to the fin
al stretch.

I dropped by the next day. My father-in-law was there, too, and the three of us had lunch. Paul was miserable, and he had been since his wife died. His health was slowly deteriorating. His eyesight and hearing had gotten worse, and he hated it. I tried to direct the conversation to other topics, like the kids or the things he'd done way back when. We toyed around with the idea of having a Fourth of July bar-be-que at my place so he could see my children. He made a fuss about not wanting dessert, but I cajoled him into eating some ice cream (which was his favorite thing).

When the hour was up, he walked his son and I to the door and we said goodbye. Despite his complaints, he still seemed strong to me. He appreciated my visit, and I hugged him goodbye and patted him on the back. I drove back to work, knowing that WildStar's launch was only a couple weeks away. I wasn't sure what the future held, but I sure as hell didn't predict that it was the last time I'd see him.

Paul in his favorite chair.
At midnight on Tuesday, June 3rd, WildStar went live. Six to eight hours later, Paul was dead. I didn't find out about his passing until just before noon on the 4th. It hit me hard. I still can't believe he's not with us anymore, and I can't get it out of my head. I'll never sit down to lunch with him again, or show him the game I spent so many hours working on to give him more context into how it worked and what my part in it had been. He'll never tell me about his experiences before, during, and after the war. All those memories, except for those he wrote down, are lost.

We make sacrifices every day. One thing trumps something else so we can get things done. I feel bad that I wasn't able to see him as often as I wished. I know he didn't blame me for it, but I'd give all those overtime hours for just one more hour with him.

29 May 2014

Reflection on the Past and the Unknown

As you may or may not know, Mythic Entertainment closed its doors today. This is especially meaningful for me, as Mythic was my first industry job. It's also meaningful to a lot of other folks who worked at Mythic, from the CS reps to the QA testers to the engineers, designers, artists, and everyone else who made the studio what it was.

Before joining the Mythic family, I worked as a buyer for an orthodontic manufacturer. I did a good bit of freelance writing and design for tabletop games prior to that, including work on the 2nd edition of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG. Mythic was developing Warhammer Online at the time, and when an opportunity to apply for a Content position opened up, I somehow managed to make it onto their radar. After a phone interview, they flew me in for an on-site. I must have done something right, because they hired me.

I left my job at the orthodontic manufacturer, and my family and I moved to Fairfax, VA. Making a cross-country trek in a Scion xB with my wife, son (then 2 years old), daughter (4 months old), and three cats was quite an experience. We celebrated July 4th in a cheap motel on the Virginia/North Carolina border. By the end of the next day, we were in our new and very empty apartment. Not long after that, I was at the office learning the ropes from a number of very talented people.

I was pretty green back then, and it was all very exciting. There I was, working on a triple-A MMORPG for the company that had made Dark Age of Camelot. I was thousands of miles from home supporting my family and doing a job that I was actually happy to get up for every single morning. That's not to say it wasn't work, but for the first time in my life--with the possible exception of a 13 month-long stint in a hobby game store--I loved my job.

Warhammer Online eventually launched, but it wasn't the success that the powers that be hoped it would be. Things got scary for a while, and I survived two rounds of layoffs before I found myself out of a job in November of 2009. In all, I spent two and a half years on the Mythic payroll. I worked with and met wonderful people, made many friends, and learned a lot about what to do (and not to do) when developing an online game.

"Play WildStar, or I vaporize game designer!"
I don't regret my time at Mythic, not one bit. Being laid off was scary, especially so far from home and without any manner of safety net, but I bounced back. By January of 2010, I was employed by 38 Studios and living in Maynard, Massachusetts. Once again I had a job I loved. Once again I was working with a lot of very talented, passionate people. I'm sure we all know how that story ended, but I'm not here to talk about Amalur. I'm here to talk about Warhammer... and WildStar.

The studio that gave me a shot back in 2007 closed its doors today. Tomorrow at midnight, the studio that gave me a shot in 2012 will launch its first title. It's bittersweet in some ways, but it's also exciting. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm going to meet it with my head held high.

I'm proud of my co-workers, I'm proud of myself, and I'm proud of WildStar.

26 May 2014

Things Are About to Get Real

In less than a week, WildStar will drop. That would be 6/1/14 at 00:00:00 am. Three days after that, it goes live for everyone (the first three days are a head start for those who pre-ordered the game). I've worked on the game for just under two years now, and I'm proud of what the team at Carbine has accomplished. We've all been waiting for this day to come for a long time.

I still need to get a computer that can run the game. We've got two old desktops in the house that, sadly, date back to 2007. My wife and I both have newer laptops, but they were cheap and I'm not sure if they'll be capable to doing WildStar justice. The game is beautiful, and while I see it in all its splendor at work, day in and day out, I'd hate for my wife to experience it in less detail.

In other news, I continue to do some freelance in my off time. It's looking like my first published work in almost four years will see the light of day when Fantasy Flight releases the Age of Rebellion core book. I don't know when that will be, but I'm nearly as excited about it as I am about WildStar dropping.

We still continue to play games here at home. Outside of the Edge of the Empire game I've been running since December, I've recently started up a D&D game for my son and a couple of the grown-ups from the Star Wars game. It got a little emotional last time when Stephen's character was dominated by a vampire. He's still new to these games, relatively speaking, and he felt somewhat cheated when his Will save of 18 wasn't quite good enough to resist the vampire's gaze.

Amy and I managed to talk him down from a /ragequit over the next few days, and the boy seems to be feeling better about the ordeal now. The next game is this coming Saturday, so we'll see how it plays out.

I took Stephen to see the new Godzilla movie today. He loved it. I enjoyed myself, overall, but I had some reservations about the movie and how often the G-Monster shows up on screen. I've given it a more detailed treatment at my new blog, "Popcorn, or Popcorny?" which is where I'll be reviewing horror films that I've seen. If you guys can't get enough of my blog entries (and we all know you can't!), please check out the newest blog if you have a spare moment.

That's about all for now. Keep an eye out here for more WildStar and Age of Rebellion news!

24 March 2014

Another Sporadic Update

I really should try to update this blog more often. I don't usually think about it, to be honest. Life consists of work, family, and the occasional game. Is there really enough time to write on my blog? Or, better yet, do I have anything interesting to say?

This evening I'll be appearing on my friend Peter's vidcast, Mythwits, to talk about games, gaming, and (of course!) my contributions to WildStar. If you're free and willing to listen to (and even watch) me discussing the creative endeavors of my life, tune in. The show starts at 9:30pm EST (that's 6:30pm for all us west-coasters).

Work at Carbine has been hectic. WildStar is set to launch in June, and there are plenty of things for me to work on in the meantime. This is pretty exciting, overall. I haven't launched a title since the late lamented Warhammer Online went live. There are some parallels to WildStar and WAR, but not many. WildStar is definitely its own beast, and one that I'll be proud to see running free out in the wild.

I've also continued to freelance. Most of the projects I've contributed to haven't been announced, so I can't so much as tease you with generalities, much less specifics. One title has been announced, though, and that's Fantasy Flight Games' Age of Rebellion. It's the second of FFG's Star Wars role-playing games. Whereas Edge of the Empire covered the fringes of galactic society and the scum that dwell there, Age of Rebellion focuses on the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

My contribution to Age of Rebellion is the adventure that appears at the end of the book. I'm very excited to see it in print later this year. I haven't had an RPG product with my name on it since Galaxy of Intrigue was released by WotC back in 2010. Part of the reason I stopped freelancing back then was lack of time, but I think it mostly had to do with Wizards' loss of the Star Wars license.

Ever since, I've missed freelancing. I mean, it's awesome being able to write about the things you enjoy and to create things that other players will find interesting and fun. Plus, it's Star Wars, which I've loved since I was three or four. My kids are also coming to grips with what their dad does, both in the office and when he wears his mercenary freelancer hat at home. My little girl spotted a book I'd worked on years ago (the Future Player's Companion) and was delighted to see my name on the cover.

As far as gaming is concerned, I'm still plugging away. My home gaming group and I have been playtesting my last freelance project out (sorry, I can't tell you what it is). It's been fun so far. At work, I started a Hollow Earth Expedition game with six of my co-workers. We've played one session so far, and it's going to be interesting to see where it goes.

Oh, and this morning, I found out that Dave Brockie died yesterday. Dave was the lead singer for GWAR, one of my favorite bands dating back to my high school years. I've seen them in concert about four or five times, the most recent show being last October. It's not like I knew Dave personally (though I did shake his hand once), but I've certainly enjoyed his antics. I wonder if the rest of the band will keep GWAR alive or not.

That's about it. Time to get back to work!

31 December 2013

Another Year Gone

I don't place much stock in the new year. I never make resolutions, but as much as I'd like to keep my eyes forward, I always end up looking back.

This was the first full year I've spent back in my home state of California since Amy, the kids, and I left for Virginia (and EA Mythic) in 2007. I'll admit, I like the familiarity of this place, even if a couple of things have changed since I was away. I'm not all that fond of Santa Ana weather (then again, I never was), and I could do with a bit more rain.

As far as my job goes, WildStar is a lot of fun... not to mention a whole lot of work! I continue to learn a lot and improve in my craft (I hope). There are a lot of great people there - folks from 38 Studios, folks from EA Mythic, and many, many folks I'd never met before I started - so I'm in awesome company.

One good thing that happened this year is that I was given the chance to freelance again. So far I've worked on four projects, and I've enjoyed the hell out of them all. I figure they'll start to hit the presses in 2014, and I'll have my name in print once again after all this time. That'll be a trip and a half, let me tell you.

Gaming... I've done some this year, though not as much as I'd like. Feels like there's too much going on, and I'm not as young as I used to be. After all, I turned 40 this year! Life goes by so fast, and it never seems like there's enough time to do all the things I want to do.

I'm trying to learn guitar, but I get increasingly frustrated at my fat fingertips. Practice makes perfect, I suppose. If I can write well, I can learn to play guitar... right? RIGHT?

So there it is. Not a lot to say, really. Not much of a retrospective. But it's the thought that counts. I'm looking forward to 2014, because there's a lot of great things on the way. As those freelance projects begin to come together in a more official capacity, I'll be sure to let you all know about them.

Happy New Year!