05 December 2010

World of Warcraft has a Potty Mouth

Cataclysm is coming, so a lot of folks I know and work with are going back to World of Warcraft to see what's new and different. The pre-expansion quests are slick in a lot of cases. I've only tried out one of the revamped starter areas so far (the Undead one; it's been a while since I've played anything Horde-flavored), but I plan to try the rest. Call it market research if you want to.

One thing I've noticed as I've brought my Undead priest from 1st to 16th level is that the amount of potty humor in WoW has increased. I mean, sure... we had a good number of what I like to call "poop quests" in the old WoW (specifically in Burning Crusade, though there was some poop happening in Lich King as well), where the player has to (usually) sift through poop to complete the quest.

Though I haven't seen any poop quests yet (I'm sure I will), I've noticed that the language in these newer quests is a bit courser than I'm used to with WoW. In one instance, an Orc calls Silvanas Windrunner a bitch; in another case, an orc (who you've awakened from a drunken stupor) comments that he may or may not have pissed himself. In a third example, an undead apothecary explains to you that he's placed a stick of laced dynamite up a chicken's butt.

Those are just a few examples, but WoW always seemed to aim for a more accessible, family-friendly tone. Profanity was the exception to the rule. Heck, they rarely even mentioned the word "poop" in relation to the aforementioned poop quests. That's not to say that I'm offended by profanity, far from it. I curse like a sailor on a near-daily basis, and I work with people who could make George Carlin blush (okay, maybe not).

I guess my point is that this new-found vulgarity seems outright juvenile to me now. WoW was never very serious (or, at least, I could never take it seriously), but it rarely stooped to the level of juvenile, scatological humor. Just going from 1 to 16 on my priest has revealed a number of instances where this kind of content is pretty much front and center now. I can hardly wait to read what the quest text says next.

Incidentally, the Undead starter area isn't much more impressive than it used to be. The storyline has moved along a little bit, and they do try to get you into the role of your race a bit more, but overall... it's just lipstick on a hellboar. I have yet to try the gnome and troll areas out, and I hear that these are where the lion's share of big changes and innovation can be seen. Time will tell.

17 November 2010

The Day Executor Died

Executor was my laptop, named after the SSD that Vader used as his flagship. How's that for geekitude? Only it took a header into the second Death Star on Monday morning and won't be coming back for the sequel (if there is, in fact, a sequel to be had). Luckily, the hard drive was fine and I was able to salvage my data. The data is more important to me than the laptop itself.

I was initially quite depressed, prior to learning that none of my work had been lost. With the knowledge that I don't have to rewrite anything (or re-rip my CD collection, for that matter), a weight was lifted from my heart. Except now, being without my laptop, I find myself at odds. No more can I constantly monitor Facebook, check my email every five minutes, or play WoW from the kitchen table. It is to this sorry state that I have been reduced.

The solution, potentially, lies in our old desktop computer. It's a Dell that we picked up shortly before our move to Virginia in 2007, so it's not exactly new. It'll likely do everything I was doing on my laptop, though, so long as it still works. We haven't plugged it in or booted it up since before we moved to Massachusetts in January. If it does work (and, really, I have no reason to believe it won't), I'll likely adopt it and start shopping for video cards.

I'll miss the portability of my laptop, no doubt. Being able to take it anywhere was a real treat. As I'm not freelancing any longer, that benefit isn't as important to me as it used to be. This brings with it a certain amount of sadness, too... I do miss the freelance work. After all, freelance checks often paid for my laptop upgrades.

Listen to me whine! Gods, I'm such a baby. I know everything is going to be fine, and I know that it's not the end of the world. I just expected my Super Star Destroyer to last more than a year and a half.

So, aside from the death of my laptop, what has been happening?

Stephen is in Kindergarten now. He's loving school. Loves his teacher, loves making crafts. He has a new best friend, which is awesome.

Maddy is getting bigger, and will eventually rival her brother in size. She has trouble finding things to do when he's at school, which leads to her getting into all sorts of trouble.

The new cat, Felix, has been fixed and is turning into a pretty good pet. I like kittens in theory, but I think that (in my middle age) I prefer mature cats more. They're less obnoxious and rowdy.

We've all been sick, incidentally. I firmly believe that we've been infected by a plague that Stephen acquired at school. Amy's had the worst of it, though I've been similarly stricken (though not to the extent that she has).

Thanksgiving is coming, and my mom will be here to celebrate with us. It's tough being so far from home around the holidays. The kids are pleased that they will be seeing Grandma very soon.

On the gaming front, I've retired Star Wars for a little while. The group was digging it, but I needed to take a break from blasters and lightsabers for a while. We rolled up some Warhammer Fantasy characters this past weekend. The current group includes an elf vagabond, a human performer (juggler/knife thrower), a human apprentice wizard, a human fisherman, and a human protagonist.

Up until Executor took an A-Wing to the bridge, I was playing a lot of Warcraft. The pre-Cataclysm event isn't all that impressive to me, but mostly I was working on leveling up a new character to play with folks I know at work. Now that the laptop is little better than a pile of refuse with a keyboard, I find that I miss WoW less than I expected to.

Work is awesome. Busy, but awesome. I am truly blessed with my job and my co-workers.

03 August 2010

My GenCon Indy Schedule

I hadn't expected to go to GenCon this year. In fact, I'd more or less decided against it. I'm still digging myself out of the hole that last year's lay-off at Mythic dug for me (which isn't to say I had no support, but breaking a lease--especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia--is an expensive thing to do). Between the cost of airfare, hotel accommodations, food, and anything else I might want to purchase, the trip was looking to be an irresponsible option for an otherwise responsible me.

However, it turned out that my employer, 38 Studios, was going to be attending GenCon in some capacity. I wasn't aware of this until I actually asked about it, and when I expressed an interest in lending a hand with convention support, I was given the opportunity to do so.

I've worked the majority of the GenCons I've attended. I don't think I've been to the convention as a "civilian" more than once or twice. I actually enjoy working the show, even though it usually means long days of standing in an exhibitor's hall that is either too hot or too cold and very rarely "just right." It's neat to watch the world pass by, to talk to gamers and fans, and meet the folks who make it all possible.

So I'll be in Indianapolis this week, from Thursday to Saturday. I've got a number of things on my schedule, but I should have some free time here and there to spend with the folks I only ever see at GenCon. There are a lot of you, and the number only seems to get larger as the years pass me by. I wouldn't trade any of you guys for all the tea in China.

My schedule looks a little like this:

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
I'm going to be participating in a Saga Edition Star Wars RPG Retrospective seminar, brought to you by GMSarli Games. Though it's an unofficial seminar, many of the good folks who brought you Saga Edition Star Wars RPG material (including me) will be on-hand to discuss the game and their contributions to the line.

Game ID: SEM1013330
Gaming Group/Company: GMSarli Games
Title: Star Wars Saga Edition Retrospective
Description: Game professionals who worked on the Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition take a look back at the product line, sharing their experiences and what they learned from their work.
Start Date & Time: 08/05/2010 02:00:00 PM
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Marriott : Indiana Blrm B 

Friday, August 6th, 2010
This is my busiest work day. Starting at 1:30pm, I'll be at Booth 838 in the Exhibitor Hall, where we're going to be giving out free, limited-edition Reckoning t-shirts to fans. In addition, R.A. Salvatore and Curt Schilling will be present until 3:30pm to meet fans and sign autographs. So come on by, pick up an awesome t-shirt, and meet two of Reckoning's visionaries.

Saturday, August 7th, 2010
I'll be sitting in on R.A. Salvatore's seminar, "A Discussion with R.A. Salvatore," from 2:00pm to 4:00pm in the Marriott's Indiana Ballroom G. The seminar is described as, "Join celebrated fantasy author R.A. Salvatore to discuss his past work, his upcoming projects, and what else is new in the world of the Forgotten Realms campaign and the life of Drizzt Do’Urden." It should be fun. R.A. is a wonderful guy with a lot of knowledge, so don't miss this one.

After R.A.'s seminar, I'll likely be packing everything up and heading home. I'll try to be as flexible as possible, but I'm still not 100% sure of what I'll be doing in my off-hours. For those of you with my cell number, give me a call or send me a text message and let me know where you'll be and when you're going to be there.

That said, I'm going to sit back and relax for the moment. I ran my Cyberpunk game tonight at work, and I'm way behind on updating the New Untouchables blog. Soon, I promise!

20 July 2010

Game Announcements

This is a big week... an exciting week. And seeing as there are a couple of official news items out there, I figured I'd post the links to them.

Obviously, I can't talk about anything. What you see in these stories is what you get for now.

"Curt Schilling Tries New Ballgame"

"Curt Schilling and 38 Studios' throws its first pitch at Comic-Con"


28 May 2010

Moving on to June

This year is just zipping by.

Yesterday, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games celebrated their one year anniversary. BHG flew up to Maynard, and it was a day of feasting, gaming, and revelry. Remind me to never again drink beer before noon. I'm too old and fat to partake of such extravagances so early in the morning.

On the gaming front, I've been wondering if I've completely lost my GMing muscles or not. I suppose I'm a little rusty. I need to jump back on the bike and pedal a little bit harder. It's been over three years since I've run a campaign of any length or depth. Right now, I'm committed to running two of them.

The first is that Star Wars (Saga Edition) game I'm sure I've mentioned here at one time or another. I've got a lot of work to do so that next session will be a fun-filled destructo-fest for the players.

The second is my New Untouchables Cyberpunk 2020 campaign, which I'm resurrecting for a group at work. I started the game in Virginia at Mythic, but it was cut short by the loss of a number of my players. I always regretted that; it had a lot of potential, I thought. I figure this is my chance to see if I was right or not.

I've also been delving into other games, at least insofar as reconnecting with them goes. One of those is Alternity. Man, what a great system that was! I can feel the tugging of GM ADHD coming on, and I ... must ... RESIST! Though I may run a one-shot for some folks at work, anyway, for old time's sake.

I also picked up a bunch of the new Talisman 4th Edition stuff, but haven't played it yet. I wish my son could read, because we'd be playing right this second if he was literate. As it is, he's getting the idea of written language. I wish there was a reading/writing boot camp I could send him to.

I've more or less given up on freelancing again. I keep coming back to the topic, mostly because I miss it so damn much. But just because I've resigned myself to not freelancing again doesn't mean I won't if the right people ask me to (hint hint).

I think that this (long holiday) weekend is going to be a nice one if my kids can keep their internecine strife to a minimum. There's a coffee shop here in Hudson that looks promising, and I'd like to head over there with my laptop and see if I can do some mental exercises (not to mention work on my campaigns). Plus, if I do end up getting some freelance work heading my way at some point, it'll be nice to know if the place is a good place to work on stuff.

That's about all, in a nutshell. Overall, I'm very positive about the future right now (as I usually am on presentation day). I've still got a couple of things I need to get done (enroll Stephen in kindergarten, which involves him having a physical exam and probably getting some shots), as well as register my car (which has been a comedy of errors, let me tell you). June is the month to do it, since my VA registration expires in July. Joy!

All for now...

11 May 2010

Neuromancer, the Film

I was briefly excited when, a couple of years ago, I heard that William Gibson's Neuromancer was going to get a film treatment. Like the Lord of the Rings, Neuromancer is a seminal work of its genre. The people who are fans of the book and, by extension, William Gibson (its author), are very particular. The movie, if it ever gets made, will need to be done properly. Even if it's made, and made well, not everyone will be pleased. A director's (or writer's) vision is subjective.

Then I learned who was set to direct: Joseph Kahn. Not being familiar with his name or his work, I set to finding out just what this guy had directed, and what made him special enough to direct a film based on one of my favorite books. What I found out dismayed me. At that time (and currently, it seems), he's done very little outside of music videos and automobile commercials. His single feature film credit is Torque, a (in my opinion) truly awful movie that tries to be The Fast and the Furious on motorcycles.

I'd caught Torque on cable TV one night, a long time ago. At the time, I felt like I was watching a train wreck. The movie was so horribly bad that I couldn't peel my eyes away. I couldn't believe that something that terrible, that preposterous, that ludicrous, had actually gotten any kind of funding at all. Period. End of story.

Flash forward to me learning that the freshman director who had thrown Torque together was the same man who had been entrusted with making Neuromancer into a feature film. If I'd been reading a book on such a topic, I'd've thrown it across the room in disgust.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Mr. Kahn is a wonderful guy. Really. But the single movie he's made, which I had accidentally watched one lazy evening, gave me very little confidence in his ability to lift Gibson's vision from the pages of Neuromancer and apply it to the big screen. This wasn't a Britney Spears video, after all, or a derivative motorcycle action flick.

There wasn't much news about the movie after that. Rumors circulated that Hayden Christensen had been slated to take on the role of Case, the novel's "hero." I wasn't real thrilled with that choice, either, given Hayden's performance in the Star Wars prequels. Then again, I've heard from other sources that he can actually act, so long as George Lucas isn't directing him. So any misgivings I had about the choice of actors was mitigated somewhat.

From the looks of things, the Neuromancer film has been in development limbo for a long time. I learned just yesterday that Kahn is no longer directing. Instead, Vincenzo Natali has been chosen to replace him. This comes as a relief to me. Although I'm not familiar with all of Natali's works, I am definitely familiar with Cube, which he wrote and directed. Cube wasn't a high-budget film, but it was quirky and enjoyable, so I'm hopeful that Neuromancer, if it gets off the ground, will be somewhat better than it might have been under Kahn.

There is a god, it seems.

25 April 2010

Of Grills and Gaming

Back when we lived in California, before I took a plunge head-first into the computer gaming industry, we had a very nice grill. It was a gift I bought for myself on my very first Father's Day (in 2005), when Stephen was still only a few months old. I loved that grill. It wasn't top of the line -- I think it only cost me about $250 -- but it was a big step up from the grill we had before. More cooking space, more heat, higher quality components.

When we moved to Virginia from California, we left the grill behind. We were going to an apartment complex in Fairfax that didn't allow grills of any kind. This eventuality meant that my options for preparing food were reduced by about half; maybe more than half.

Let it be known that I'm the cook in this family. Amy can bake cookies, roll sushi, and she makes a mean pot of miso soup, but that's about it. This leaves me to figure out what goes on the family's menu most nights. I've been feeling pretty uninspired since we moved to Massachusetts. It seems like my typical menu since the last migration includes roasts (cooked in the crockpot), chicken fajitas, stir fry (pork or chicken), hamburgers (cooked on the George Foreman grill), and pasta. Honestly, it's gotten boring.

The condo we're renting in Hudson has a deck out back. It's not a sprawling, huge deck, but it's a good bit larger than any balcony or patio that we've ever had access to. Plus, just about everyone in the neighborhood has a grill, which made me a tad bit envious. I agonized over the decision to buy a new grill, trying to justify spending the money just as we're start to work the kinks out of our new budget. The thought of being able to grill burgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks, chicken, pork chops, London broil, kebabs, carne asada, and vegetables (corn, asparagus)...

Let's just say my appetite won out over my money sense.

So, yeah. I've got this grill. Like the last one, from three years ago, it's not top of the line. It's the same brand (Char-Broil), and it runs about $200. Four burners with 48,000 BTU, 480 square inches of cooking space, and a side burner (which, I admit, I had but never used on the last one).

What's this have to do with gaming, you ask? Well, it's simple. Grilling is an easy way to prep food for guests. Even if they're bringing their own meats to the game, I certainly don't mind throwing it on the BBQ and cooking up a dish of awesome for them. We may need to start an hour early, but damn... it's going to be fun.

Today is Sunday, the last day of my weekend. Yesterday was something of a wash, given that the grill didn't arrive until well after 5pm (over an hour later than the latest delivery time I was expecting from the shipper). As a result, I wasn't able to get a propane cylinder and light it up last night. I'll need to do that today, in addition to finding a cover for the thing. The forecast predicts rain today (a 20% chance, down forty from yesterday's 60% chance), but I like those odds. Tonight we dine in Hell!

Er. Well, not exactly, but I couldn't resist the 300 reference (regardless of that movie's relative mediocrity).

I'll let you know how things turn out.

27 March 2010

Gaming in Lovecraft Country

Surprisingly enough, we're not playing Cthulhu. Well ... not yet, at any rate. That comes later when Leo breaks out the campaign she was running for us back in Fairfax all those many moons ago.

No, I'm running Star Wars (Saga Edition), and we've already gotten through two games. The first was a prelude session, where the four players (Amy, Justin, Leo, and Matt) came to grips with their individual pasts and how they came to be hooked up with the Rebel Alliance (as it stands in @2 BBY). The second was a brief adventure wherein the players rescued a burned out drunk of a Jedi from a small Imperial garrison on a back-water Outer Rim planet.

Overall, it's going very well so far. Amy, after not gaming for a very long time, is enjoying herself quite a bit. It makes a difference given our new digs because the kids are sequestered upstairs, in their own bedrooms, after lights out. In Fairfax, they shared a bedroom which was literally ten feet from the dining room. That made getting them to sleep nearly impossible, especially in the rare event we had company over.

I need to formulate the next wing of the adventure. I've got ideas but I need to flesh them out. At least I know where I (think I) want the campaign to go. We probably won't play again until mid-April, as two players will be out of town, so I've got some time to work it out.

In other news, I'm trying to work up Saga conversions for an article I wrote a while back which is currently formatted for D6 R&E and SWd20 Revised Core Rules. I'd gotten a lot of them done previously, but I need to pick it up and finish it. I'm thinking I'll send it to my friends at d20 Radio and let them post it on their site. Obviously I can't sell it, and since Saga is going away there are plenty of people out there who might like to have some new material (even if it's not official).

Oh, I attended PAX East for a brief time yesterday. It was a fun trip, but it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Given the limited amount of time we had to look around, there wasn't much of anything to see. I suppose if you're there for panels, competitive gaming, and the like, it's probably a lot more interesting. The convention center seemed really small for the amount of attendees. The show was sold out, so you can imagine that it was packed to the gills. Oh, and the queuing area was insanity. I felt like a cow being led to slaughter.

On the plus side, I got to see Brian Audette, a friend and co-worker from Mythic. I've really missed him.

Work is going well. My first milestone as a productive member of the crew is quickly approaching. Hopefully I've made a good impression on everyone. I also flew up to Big Huge Games in Baltimore (well, in Timonium, actually) last week to meet the BHG crew and get a look at Mercury. All in all, a good trip, but I couldn't help but think about all the work I had waiting for me in Maynard.

It's a lazy Saturday. I took a very long nap after Amy got up, and I'm still somewhat groggy. The day is more or less behind me now, and I haven't a clue what to do about dinner.

All for now!

09 March 2010

News from GDC

The following news items relate to Project Mercury, 38 Studios, and Big Huge Games.

Obviously, I'm not at liberty to discuss anything about it, but I figured I'd pass on the links to the various news articles to anyone who might be interested.

Official Press Release from 38 Studios

Official Press Release from Electronic Arts




Ten Ton Hammer



Update: 3/11/2010
RA Salvatore interviewed by Massively.com at GDC; read the interview here.

Update: 3/12/2010
Two more articles about RA Salvatore's role in Copernicus, plus a meaty detail about the game world.

Gamasutra: R.A. Salvatore On Building Worlds, Copernicus

Joystiq: R.A. Salvatore Wants You to Die

27 February 2010

One Month Down

I've been in my new position at 38 Studios for about a month now. Mostly, I've been learning the things I need to learn in order to do the job I've been hired to do. Next week will begin my first real foray into providing the written content they need ... and boy, is there a lot of work on my plate.

I'm excited, but also a little worried. I'm confident in my own abilities as a writer, though I will admit a little bit of performance anxiety. My overwhelming concern is: Will I be able to keep up? Working on WAR, I knew what I could do and how long it would take to get it done given the processes we used.

In my experience, though, once I've got my feet wet and I grow accustomed to what needs to be done (and how), I'll be able to work much faster. At the very least, it will provide a benchmark for what I can do in a specific amount of time, which is a good thing. Plus, I have an excellent team standing behind me, so it's not like I'm alone. The crew at 38 is incredibly supportive in every single respect. It's an awesome team to be a part of.

So, on the whole, I can't wait to get started!

In other news ...

I haven't done much gaming yet, but I'm planning to start a Star Wars game in the next 2-3 weeks. It's been hard to wrangle anyone for a game at work, largely because the people who gaming are already playing in one or more games. Not only that, but 4th Edition seems to be the default rules set in use. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I'm sure 4E is a great game, but it hasn't yet been proven to be [i]my[/i] game. Maybe if I pick up the new edition of the Dark Sun setting, I'll be converted. But that's a big maybe.

What I have done at work is get involved in a studio Magic: The Gathering league. I haven't played M:tG for a long, long time. The odds are pretty even, as everyone gets the same number of cards to start with (six booster packs each), and the financial investment is limited to those cards alone. I see it as a way to get to know my co-workers, and have some fun on the side.

In non-gaming news, yesterday was Maddy's birthday. She's three now, and one year closer to being old enough to draft into playing my own RPGs, card games, and board games. She's got a number of years left before she can really participate, but the first three went by so damn fast.

That's about it for now.

28 January 2010

So Long Star Wars

There was some talk among freelancers as far back as GenCon of last year that the Star Wars RPG (published by Wizards of the Coast) was in trouble. At the very least, it wouldn't be seeing further support. Looks like it was more than just talk, as this post on the Wizards forums shows.

The salient details are as follows:

"After a lengthy evaluation, Wizards of the Coast has decided not to renew the Star Wars license with Lucasfilm. We’ve had a long and fantastic run, but with the economic downturn, we have made the tough decision to discontinue our Star Wars lines."

As a freelancer who had the privilege of contributing to a number of Saga Edition products, it's heartbreaking to see another good game take a dive. I'm hoping that another studio can take up the reins.

Update (1/30/2010)
There's a news item on StarWars.com about WotC's decision to ditch the Star Wars license. You can read it here.

25 January 2010

My Best (Cat) Friend

Well, here we are in Massachusetts, though we lost one member of our family in the process. Not that I feel the move was responsible for our loss, but it certainly set the tone for our long drive north from Fairfax to Maynard.

Merlin, my cat, died yesterday as the movers were loading our belongings into their truck. I had taken the kids out to the Fairfax mall to keep them out of the way. Just as we parked, I got a text message from Amy: "Please come back. Merlin just died."

Stephen's high chair was like Merlin's throne.

An unobtrusive (though not unfriendly) black cat, Merlin had been a part of my life for damn near 12 years. When Amy and I worked in the fan factory, the company owner had a couple of cats. After one of them (a fluffy white and quite nearsighted cat named "Mozart") met a grisly end beneath the tire of a passing car, he bought a new kitten who would come to be known as Merlin.

Merlin wasn't the first "Merlin" to rule the company roost. The original Merlin had succumbed to some kind of heart failure, and had been replaced by Mozart. The boss had a thing for black cats named "Merlin," so before long the newest Merlin became a part of the warehouse staff (which, admittedly, consisted of Amy and myself).

Coincidentally, Merlin's arrival at the fan factory corresponded to the death of my own cat, Polly. Polly was an inbred calico with extra toes, and I'd been very close to her. She died suddenly of kidney failure (an autopsy showed that she'd only been born with one kidney to begin with). I didn't want to get attached to the new kitten at work; I was still mourning Polly's death. But I couldn't help it.

As a warehouse cat, Merlin had a special love for cardboard boxes.

While Merlin was also an office cat, he was most definitely a warehouse cat from the beginning. He spent much of his kittenhood atop our workbench, sleeping, eating, playing, and cuddling. It made an otherwise unpalatable employment opportunity acceptable, and in time Merlin came to view me as his person (with Amy running a very close second).

As much as I loved Merlin, he wasn't my cat. He belonged to the boss. However, the boss being who he was, Merlin didn't see the kind of veterinary care that he really deserved. His teeth were in dire need of cleaning, but the boss wouldn't spend the money required to get the job done. Amy and I ended up taking Merlin to the vet, and we paid something in the neighborhood of $300 out of our own pockets for a variety of tests and to have his teeth cleaned.

When the boss heard about the vet bill, he did something that we didn't expect: He gave Merlin to us. We were all too glad to have the little guy, given that the boss permitted the factory cats to wander outdoors in a very busy industrial park (which is what led to Mozart's death). The cats were very much property items to him, and though I figure he liked them in his own way, I doubt he really respected (or viewed) them as living, breathing individuals.

From that point, Merlin came to live with us in our apartment. He adjusted rapidly, for an apartment has creature comforts not typically had by warehouse cats. Sofas, beds, pillows; all were his for the having.

Never has a cat looked so hip in a Halloween sweater.

He was my shadow, always looking for a quick cuddle (though he would likely cuddle for hours on end, if I'd let him). He was vocal, too, and we had a lot of conversations ... mostly about food, I reckon. At night, he would invariably curl up next to my head on the pillow, and if I was taking more than my share he would touch his cold nose on my cheek until I made room for him.

The night before he died was our last one in Virginia. He didn't seem particularly nervous or worried as the movers packed our stuff on Saturday. Mostly, he sat on the bar in the kitchen and watched as things happened around him. Later that night, I shared some left-over roast beef with him as Amy and I, devoid of internet access, watched Anthony Bourdain on television. That night, like many others before it, he slept next to my head.

Madeline and Merlin, cuddling.

On Sunday, when the movers came to load the truck, we put the cats in the bathroom to keep them from escaping out the front door. My last interaction with Merlin was scooping him up and depositing him in the bathroom with Amy's cat, Hastur. Of course, I didn't realize it'd be the last time I'd see him alive.

Amy found him later on, laying dead on the bathroom floor. From the looks of things, Merlin passed swiftly and without any real muss or fuss. He was about twelve years old, I reckon; maybe a little older or younger. Since our move to Virginia, he'd developed a cough which I suspected to be asthma or allergies. Despite a number of trips to a cat specialist and hundreds of dollars in tests, we never figured out what was wrong with him.

My hope was that the move to Massachusetts, as well as a new house, would alleviate Merlin's symptoms. Now I suspect the problem might not have been with his lungs, but with his heart. Still, it doesn't look like I'll ever know for sure. Though he seemed as calm as ever, perhaps the stress of the move was too much for him.

Bedtime will never be the same without him.

I'll miss you, Merlin. You were a good friend, always there when I needed you. I'll miss you sleeping near my head at night, sitting nearby as I wrote for this freelance project or that one, and staring at me, annoyed, while I devoted my attention to Warcraft or some other video game. I'm sad that you won't be here to share this new chapter in my games career with me, but I will never forget you.

Happy trails, little buddy.

11 January 2010

House Hunting, Day One

I viewed about six or seven properties today with the aid of my faithful real estate agents. Along for the ride was my friend Leonor, who I know from our mutual days at Mythic. The places got better as we went along, and on the way to the best of the lot (in my humble opinion), we were rear-ended at a stoplight by (of all things) a garbage truck. A FRICKIN' GARBAGE TRUCK.

I've been in one other rear-end collision, back when I was around 17 or 18 years old. That was a pretty major accident; I was sitting at a stop light, minding my own business, when a flat bed truck came from out of nowhere and turned my car into an accordion.

The differences between that accidnent is that I heard that truck's tires squealing as the driver attempted to avoid hitting me as I sat (quite stationary) in his path. Today's accident included no such sounds: no squealing tires, no screaming brakes, just the bone-jarring impact of a very heavy vehicle plowing into the car I was riding in.

I'm feeling somewhat stiff and sore. Whiplash is not a myth invented by litigious ambulance chasers, as many of you probably know. I expect tomorrow will be a kaleidoscope of full body discomfort. And before you ask, I've got a follow-up appointment with a chiropractor in the morning.

In any case, the police and fire department showed up to clean up the mess. The real estate agent went away in an ambulance, and Leonor and I continued onward with her business partner to view three more places (after securing another car to drive). The next house was, frankly, awesome. It's only got two bedrooms, but it's in a very nice location and it's very, very big. Hopefully I'll be able to secure it.

Of the last two places we saw, one was promising (though not ready for occupancy, as much of the interior is being finished). The last place, at least from the outside, was (as Leonor put it) "sketchy," so we opted to drive by and head back to the agent's office to get the paperwork moving.

In a nutshell, the day was interesting. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

10 January 2010

Back in the Saddle

I've got a job waiting for me now with 38 Studios in Maynard, Massachusetts. I won't say all the stress I felt was for nothing. It certainly was a learning experience. I got to spend a lot of time with my kids, for one.

My story of being laid off has been told, but I've been pretty quiet about the weeks and months that followed.

I started out sending resumes to every game company and studio with an opening that even remotely fit my skill set. I even sent my resume to some companies that didn't, in the hope that these blind overtures might pan out. I never expected to hear back from any of those studios, but one of them (38 Studios) contacted me after a mercifully short amount of time. For that, I am very grateful.

The initial email contact evolved into a phone conversation with the studio recruiter, followed by a phone interview, which was quickly followed by an on-site interview in Maynard. What I saw there impressed me, and it wasn't just what little I was shown of the project that got under my proverbial skin. It was the people, above all, that made me want to land the job. Everyone I spoke to brimmed with enthusiasm, talent, and (above all) excitement. They all loved the jobs they were doing, whether it was implementation, design, or art. It was like a breath of fresh air.

The on-site interview was a long process that lasted an entire day. I spoke to a number of people, all from different disciplines. I did a lot of talking, naturally, answering questions and asking a few of my own. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but hopeful, and I wanted it to work out even more. It went well beyond the fear of being unemployed and wanting a job. By that point, it had come down to a very genuine desire to lend my skills to a project that I could really, truly believe in and contribute to in a meaningful fashion.

The offer came before Christmas. It was the best Christmas present I could've hoped for, and I enjoyed my holiday even more knowing that there was something waiting for me ... even if it was nestled in the icy chill of Massachusetts. Lovecraft country, truly! And once we're settled, I plan to explore the places that inspired some of Lovecraft's greatest tales: Salem, Marblehead, Ipswitch, and Bolton.

Today, I fly up to Boston in search of a place for Amy, the kids, and I to live. I don't want to be away from my family, but I see the necessity of the trip even as I feel the pain and worry of leaving my wife and kids behind for a relatively brief time. Once we lock that in, we'll be able to get our stuff moved and start over in a golden (if cold) land of opportunity and adventure.

Yeah, I'm a geek. But I'm an employed geek, using his geeky skills to contribute to the future of MMORPGs.

Things are going to be just fine.