31 March 2008

A World of Warcraft Moment

I call this particular screen cap "Beef Stew" for obvious reasons.

For some reason, a bunch of Tauren folks performed a sort of "Thunder Bluff Jonestown," and drowned themselves in the pond near the bank. They've been floating there for several days now.

I can only imagine what it must smell like.

25 March 2008

Geek Chic (or "Revel In Your Geekiness")

A while back, I got some replica patches from Intergalactic Trading Company that emulate the insignia worn by the characters in the movie Aliens. I'd sat on them for a while, but one day I decided to put them to use.

Basically, I bought a flight jacket (an MA-1, to be exact) and put the patches on it. Seeing as it's a flight jacket, I decided to theme it after the drop ship crew in the movie; namely, the characters Ferro and Spunkmeyer. In the movie, the two of them only wear flight suits, not jackets, so it was all an extrapolation. I patterned the insignia lay-out based on how they had their flight suits laid out.

So, this is basically what I have. The only thing that's different is the red "Bug Stomper" patch on the right breast. It's a patch never portrayed in the movie, but it matches the name of the drop ship that the crew pilots down to the surface of LV-426. Everything else (the Colonial Marines rocker w/Regimental Patch, the US Flag, and the blue "Victory by Wings" patch) is positioned just like in the film.

I mentioned I got the patches from Intergalactic. Well, all except for the Victory by Wings patch. For some reason, that one isn't available there, and I ended up getting it on Ebay. According to the Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual, it's the "unofficial unit badge of the 3rd Marine Aerospace Wing."

The jacket isn't an official MA-1. It's a knock-off produced by Tru-Spec, a company in Korea. I bought it from US Cavalry. While the first jacket they sent was the wrong size, they replaced it with a jacket in the correct size that fits well. It's sturdy, warm, and very comfortable.

Problem is, it's going to be too warm come summer. I'd like to find a light all-weather field jacket to put the other patches on, and model it after something the ground troops were wearing. That's a project for another time.

I guess it's pretty geeky, eh? The average person won't know what they're looking at, I reckon; they'll figure it's just a flight jacket with patches on it. So much the better.

21 March 2008

The Day Job

So I was playing WoW last night ...

Back up. Rewind. Let's start this over, give it a little bit of perspective.

My wife is a member of the Straight Dope Message Boards. The SDMB formed a guild in World of Warcraft on a new server named Cairne. Now, I'd been playing on a PvP server where my co-workers go, and I'd gotten a rogue to 40th there and was actually enjoying the PvP experience.

Thing is, Amy wasn't. Not really. Not with Tarren Mill being the gankfest it is; not with an inordinate amount of 70's running around killing anything ten levels or more below them. She'd been griefed and ganked and was fed up. I guess I can't blame her, since it's not what she's into. I'm not really into it, either, but sometimes it's nice to have a fair, one-on-one with one of those Alliance pansies.

I digress.

So she goes and creates a character on Cairne, and I figure I'll do it, too. Maybe we can quest together. Being on a new server is interesting in a number of ways. The economy is all wonky, so making gold in the usual fashion (farming for copper, leather, whatever) doesn't really pull in the same amount of coin I'm used to. It's a struggle just to have enough to train, much less keep your equipment current.

I'm chatty with the guildies, too. They're all pretty good folks. It's a good guild experience, folks helping folks and hanging out and chatting. They're all mature, too, so there's no l33t to speak of.

One of the guild folks I've spoken to logged on, and I greeted him in guild chat. He asked how I was, and I told him that work was "sucking my brains out of my nostrils." Which is just my way of saying, "I'm writing all damn day, and when I get home I feel empty and somewhat used."

He asked, "What do you do?"

Being a game developer, especially one that works for a competing company, I'm somewhat leery of admitting what I do. My wife chimes in from down the hall, "Just be honest!"

So I said, "I'm a content developer for a computer game company." End of story. But just to be on the safe side, I added, "And it isn't Blizzard, either."

I expected some more questions, but these folks are pretty savvy, and they don't pry, which is nice. Hell, I'm not all that private. I tend to let most of everything hang out here (though I don't like talking politics or religion on my blogs; there's a time and a place for that sort of thing, and this isn't it).

So, what's my point? Heck, I don't know anymore. I'm sure I had something lined up when I began this post, but it's been lost in the shuffle.

I suppose it had to do with writing in general, and in making a buck or two off of my desire to use my talents. How many people get that chance? Here I am, mid-30's, and I'm writing in my day job, writing on freelance projects (for the Star Wars RPG, no less), and getting paid for it.

It's not easy. I guess it's easier for me than for most people, but what I'm saying is that it's work, what I do. I don't mind doing it, but it tires me out just as much as any other job I've had. Maybe more, because I'm really pouring myself out, tapping the creative well. I hope it doesn't dry up, because now (more than ever) is when it really matters the most.

Back to work now. I'll be in this weekend for a few hours, too, so I can get a head start on Monday's chores.

14 March 2008

WAR is Coming

So I work at EA Mythic, and I create content for the up-coming MMO Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (or simply "WAR" as we call it around here). Back in January, I was asked to write a zone overview for the High Elf land of Saphery, which would appear in the February Warhammer Online Newsletter.

The guy who normally writes the overviews was swamped with other tasks, and he felt that I might be interested in taking a stab at it. I figured, yeah, what the heck? I've got a little bit of spare time, and I don't mind hammering out a few hundred words. Plus, something like 500,000 people read the newsletter. How's that for exposure?

Well, exposure wasn't really in the cards, as the zone overviews are printed without a by-line. As it is, those of you who frequent this blog will probably be the only folks who know that I was the one who penned the following prose. Now that the February Newsletter is in the Warhammer Online archives, I feel safe in posting the link so that interested parties may take a gander at it.

Go here and check it out. You can peruse the rest of the February newsletter here, and if you're really interested, you can check the entire archive by following this link.

12 March 2008

Influential Game Designers

JD Wiker has gone and made a list of the top ten folks in the industry who influenced him. I'm not sure I can reel off a list of ten names, but I can always try. It's tough to put them in any kind of order, but here goes.

#10 - Kevin Dockery: One of the first games I ever played, back in 8th grade, was The Morrow Project. Now, as I understood it, The Morrow Project was written by Kevin Dockery (a real-life "civilian contractor," or mercenary) as a college thesis. It was a game of the post-apocalypse, firmly rooted in movies like Damnation Alley. The combat system was deadly (to put it mildly), which only added an edge to the game that hadn't existed anywhere else for me up until that point.

#’s 8 & 9 - Troy Denning & Timothy B. Brown: I gotta give these guys equal time because they're the minds behind the campaign setting that taught me that fantasy gaming wasn't all about elves singing in the trees. Give me cannibalistic halflings any day of the week, I say. I'm talking about Dark Sun, of course. I can only describe my initial attraction to Dark Sun as a disease, because once I picked up the boxed set, I couldn't stop. This was a first, for I was a constant critic of AD&D, of level- and class-based game play, and of anything even remotely related to fantasy and magic. Dark Sun was gritty, it was mean, it was nasty, and it ultimately changed my perception of gaming in a number of ways. Lucky for you, I don't have time to go into them all right now.

#7 - Jeff Barber: For Blue Planet and Midnight. I tend to doubt that Jeff remembers me, but back in '97, I stopped by the Biohazard Games booth on the last day of Gen Con and picked up the only copy they had left of Blue Planet 1st Edition. I joked, "Can I get it signed?" and Jeff was nice enough to do so for me. Reading that game on the flight home gave me the desire to write for it, and I made a couple of attempts to get my foot in that door (esp. in regards to Undercurrents, which was an ezine that Biohazard was posting on their site). I never made any progress, but Jeff was always very encouraging. Plus, he's one of the minds behind the Midnight campaign setting, which is probably one of the top three products that made me want to write for RPGs.

#6 - Mark Rein-Hagen: I'll admit, when Vampire: The Masquerade came out, I had some reservations. I played it initially, but I quickly grew tired of it. Besides the real-life politics within the gaming group I was a part of, there were plot issues; the campaign we played was very much tied into Anne Rice's books, and it seemed like everyone had read them, lived them, loved them, and applied them to their characters. I quickly grew tired of the drama, and left for a time, but I did end up coming back to Vampire (and its many off-shoots) eventually. Despite the apparent pretentiousness of the line, it was one of the best products out there, with an elegant rules set, innovative layout and graphic design, and a lot of very interesting background material. It also taught me that game books didn't have to be stuffy and chock full of rules, nor did said rules have to be written like a physics thesis.

#5 - Rose Estes: Though I guess she's not technically a game designer, she did write the Dungeon of Doom Endless Quest book. Dungeon of Doom was the first taste I had of what gaming was. I bought it at an elementary school book fair, probably in the 4th or 5th grade. I wasn't terribly intellectual at the time, though I was incredibly imaginative. Reading about the monsters and encounters in Dungeon of Doom (as well as the other Endless Quest books I ended up buying) got me interested enough to buy the first edition of the Monster Manual just so I could learn more about the critters that kept leading me to such famous endings as, "...your life, and your quest, end here."

#4 Greg Costikyan: After I got the gaming bug, back in those sweaty, adolescent days, I came across a title in the Waldenbooks at the local mall that combined gaming with one of my all-time favorite films: Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. There was little question that I had to have it, and shortly thereafter it was mine. I think I begged my mother for the money, and ended up with both the first edition rules as well as the Star Wars Sourcebook. Even at that age, my knowledge of Star Wars was pretty vast (at least compared to my player base), and I ran countless Star Wars games (many of them via email). Now, I don't know Greg, but I do know that, because of the Star Wars RPG, his contribution to my life as a GM, a player, and a writer has been astronomical.

#3 - Lynn Abbey: I consider Lynn Abbey a good friend, and I made her acquaintance in a relatively innocuous manner: by sending in a fan letter. I don't remember the details, but I don't think the email gushed praise. It was more along the lines of, "I love what you did with The Brazen Gambit! Can you give me some clues on what the city-state of Urik is like?" From there, we ended up emailing back and forth for a number of years, until we finally got to meet in person when I was asked to write for Green Ronin's adaptation of the Thieves' World setting. If Lynn taught me anything, it was about world and character design, and that you need to consider the minute details that make up the larger whole.

#2 - Mike Pondsmith: For Cyberpunk. I've known Mike for many years, but I can't say I know him very well. If I didn't give him props for Cyberpunk, I'd be a liar of the worst sort. Cyberpunk was one of the first games I played (and eventually bought) that got me running and playing on a regular basis. After a time, it was the first game I really made an effort to tinker with, rules-wise, and it was also the first game I tried very hard to write for professionally (I wasn't successful, but I did learn a lot).

#1 JD Wiker: Yeah, yeah. Blame JD. When Alternity was at its height (which is a somewhat relative indication of altitude, given that I was the only person in Southern California who was buying its products on a regular basis), I made a couple of submissions to Dragon Magazine in support of Alternity. Somehow, I managed to open up a dialog with JD, which eventually led to a long-lasting friendship. JD taught me what Wizards of the Coast expected of freelancers, sure, but he also gave me an insight into the fact that what you write has to be more than just cool; it has to be balanced and it has to make sense. I'm not sure I would've gotten anywhere in publishing if it hadn't been for JD's insight and encouragement.

There are a number of runners-up, and it's a tough stretch to say I can list them all. There's Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax (for forging the way), Ray Winninger (for his work on the Chill Companion), Steve Jackson (for GURPS, gods bless him), Charles Ryan (for Millennium's End), Erick Wujcik (for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG), Ken St. Andre (for the original Stormbringer RPG), Kevin Siembieda (for the Robotech RPG), and Rob Schwalb (for being evil incarnate, and for teaching what dedication really means).

There are more, far too many to include for every contribution that they've made to me in regards to the hobby, but I'll try to be graceful and leave it like this. It's four am, after all, and I've got to be at work in five hours.

08 March 2008

Livejournal Activated

I've gone and created a Livejournal page for myself. Don't ask me why; I guess I just want to try it out and see what all the fuss is. Besides, I've got some friends who use Livejournal, but who don't use Blogger.

Yet another networking tool. ::sigh::

04 March 2008

E. Gary Gygax, RIP

I haven't posted in a while. It's somewhat of a downer that my first post in I don't know how long is to mention the passing of Gary Gygax.

Most gamers know who Gary Gygax is. He's one of the hobby's pioneers, and he was loved and respected by many people. I never met him, though I walked past him on the convention floor a couple of times. I'm a relatively shy guy, and I hate being a pest, so I never bothered him. In retrospect, I wish I had. I had the opportunity to correspond with him in email late last year (after GenCon), and given that overture I might have introduced myself to him the next time our paths crossed. It looks like that won't happen again; at least, not any time soon.

The news is still coming in, and all the relevant forums are very slow at the moment. Take a moment to reflect on Gary, and the contributions he made to our hobby.