October 29, 2010

Levar Burton's Six Degrees of Scary.

The Boyfriend showed me this awesome image.

Cyberpunk Costume Update

It's almost Halloween and I barely got this thing going at all before yesterday!

The Boyfriend was a super help in being crafty and assembling stuff, along with helping me cannibalize much of his old equipment.  With that, I am going to post some pictures of what I have so far.  I would love to add more but this might be it for this year.  Next year I will build on this design.

So the first thing I worked on was the glove.

I took a black glove and took off the finges, add some the inside elements of a keyboard to the glove and then added the wires.  I wanted it to look like my fingers had some input as well as buttons on my glove. I added the wire to go up my sleeve so that way it looked like it connected to my body.

Up close and personal.
I just with I had a detail brush or something for the fabric glue, which is shiny and makes everything look bad.  I'm a little sloppy when it comes to crafts like this.  Unless it's props for a show.  Then it is something I definitely go the extra mile for.  This was just something that I thought would be cool and fun to do.

Now the goggles.

Her you can see them with the wires.  At first I tried to glue some circuit board capacitors to the edges but that didn't work.  I also didn't get some LEDs like I wanted to but I hadn't given myself the time to get some.  However, the Boyfriend had some other cool stuff to add to the goggles.

I took parts from a broken webcam and attached them to the right side of the goggles.  I put one of the button parts from the keyboard and put it on my goggles so I could ad something to it later.  Maybe buttons without holes or something like that, maybe paint it.  I put a little external wire to make it stand out more.

And I also have a while from that side that will actually plug into the right side of...

the vest.  It took forever to find any kind of cheap clothing that I would be willing to glue random stuff over, but this had the right material, even if I don't like the white button.

Here's the point of interest on the vest, with some old connectors.  Again the keyboard parts show up, along with a couple cards of RAM and some cable for flair.  I forget what the connections for that lower left thing is but it helps bring a lot of the costume some life.

Here's the whole thing together.  Not super impressive but it gets the idea across.

And here is the cord of the goggles connected to the vest, but of course since everything's black you can't really see it.

I think I may put some more stuff on it today or tomorrow, but I think for randomly hunkering down without much of a plan and very limited budget, I think I did pretty well. Ninety percent of this was done yesterday, and once again I want to proclaim to the world I have the best boyfriend, who delayed working on stuff for his company to help me piece together all of this.  He even filed things down and used "dangerous" equipment to help get things apart.  It was fun to do together.

We'll see where this goes, as times goes on I may work on this to make it better for next year.

October 27, 2010

Need to be PC on the PC? Enemies in video games.

Alright, this isn't a topic I have thought about too much and I might not write much since my arm has decided to spazz out on me this week.  But it's something I was thinking about, and I want to apologize for the dry spell of writing.  Now to get back on track.

I am sure a number of you are aware of the controversy Medal of Honor suffered because they were going to use the Taliban as the opposing force in their game.  Many politicians and families of those lost in the U.S. Army's recent conflicts, were offended and outraged by that possibility.  They said it's "too soon".

So what the Medal of Honor do?  They just removed the name Taliban.  But it didn't remove the characteristics.  They're still insurgents in the Middle East.  You could argue that you're still fighting the Taliban even if they're not called that name.

I can understand the alterier motives for the army officials to some extent, but as a consumer I get screwed over.  I think a good number of us do.  Sure, I love fighting enemies in space or in fantasy settings or in alternative universes or even in the past.  But sometimes you want something more in the modern day.  Games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty try to provide that, but because of public perception and feelings you can't make it too realistic.

I'm an empathetic person.  If I were grieving a loss of a family member that served in the army, I wouldn't want to see any of these games.  I am not sure if I would be as publicly outraged or scorned as some of the people speaking out in the articles linked above, but that outrage can hurt sales.  You don't want your consumer feeling guilty when they go to the local store to buy his or her copy of Modern Warfare.

However, sometimes the better stories are soaked in truth and realism.  Video games cannot grow as an artform if public opinion is going to alter what's produced.  There are plenty of books, movies, and pieces of art that are offensive.  Some of them were created with the full intention of offending, and most of them weren't.  To have video games become a full part of art, we have to be willing to make games that will make people angry, even if you might lose a customer or two.

Another random point entirely--I would like more realistic enemies and organizations in general.  Call of Duty has a problem with bringing in the russians when they're no longer relevant.  To be fair, a good number of companies have a similar issue.  But if you want to tell a modern story, make it relavent to current events!  America is probably more worried about whatever China is doing than Russia these days.  Just a pet peeve.

Anyway, back to the original point-- there are a lot of people who want video games to be considered art.  It's an impossibility if we continue to conform the "artform" to the expectations of our culture's morality.

October 20, 2010

Quick Question for the Masses.

My writing for my trilogy is going slow.  Was able to quickly type out two chapters, and ending the one I'm on now is hard.  But I'm suddenly re-inspired by my DeWitt on Titania blurb I did.  And for once, I'm hoping I'll get a response from you guys.

Would you, my dear readers, like to read more about this universe?

I may have an idea in the works which would be more immediate satisfaction for you, dear readers. Please let me know if you would at least like to see more.  If you don't want to comment here, email me at d20sapphire AT gmail DOT com.

And for those of you who respond--thanks.  I appreciate it.

October 18, 2010

VIVA LA REVOLUTION! Or how I will support developers with my money.

I woke up late this morning because LAN Sunday went late last night, ate a pancake, and then decided to see what the sites I usually kept up with were doing.  I saw Game Overthinker had a new episode, and I love his rants, so I watched it.  And then I got dragged into a revolution.

Watch this (about 17 minutes long) to see what I'm talking about.

For those of you who may not have time to watch it, the Game Overthinker points out the direction that the gaming industry is going right now--in the direction where only games that they know will make bajillions of dollars will be sold.  The blame is going to one mega giant corporation--Game Stop.

I used to work at Game Stop, so I don't see it as evil.  But I can see how it's business model is threatening game developers everywhere.  If any company has a bright idea for a game, it either has to fit into an existing franchise, be so solid that publishers will know it will sell, or it will never get published.  Why?  Because the used game market prevents the previous profits that publishers knew they would get over time from happening.  

I think I stated earlier in the blog that the game companies only own the ideas and intellectual properties that they sell continuously.  Once they sell a complete game in the fancy box the first time, the person who owns that physical copy of the game is the consumer.  Since many consumers will now sell their games when they're done playing them, which then get resold at Game Stop, there is a huge consumer base that is willing to wait the week to get a resold game at a cheaper price, even if that price is only a 5 buck difference.

This is bad for developers who are up and coming and want to try something new, like the Boyfriend and his small company who will be looking for investors in the next year or two.  We want to support the little guys, not just because they are little, but because they have more incentive to promote innovate ideas that gamers will love.  If you don't want more of the same, help these guys.

You're allowed to not like the big guys like EA or Activision.  But everyone has their favorite developers--personally I have been a fan of Maxis, Valve and Bioware a lot these days, and those are just the big names.  Luckily with the PC gaming market it's easier to get the little guys in there too. But you still have to go out of your way and try to find them.  If the developers who do new and interesting things don't get support, we're never going to get new and interesting things.  

Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to buy new games when I can.  Right now it's easy for me to do that since I use Steam for my PC gaming.  But it's going to mean saving up for stuff on my Wii.  I got my eye on Kirby's Epic Yarn.  That's going to hurt my meek pocket book.  But if I really want it and I want to support the right people, I will.  And I'm not going to buy used games.  Easier said than done, but that's what I want to do.

If you guys want to support developers, listen to the suggestions in the video above and see what you can do.  Any little step is going to help the video game industry listen, especially when it comes to where we'll be spending out money.

October 17, 2010

Recap, Session 6: Good Spy, Bad Spy

Today's game was short because of previous obligations by players. Real life does come before game, which is something that you have to do if you want to be a functioning adult. But we did get a lot done.

Again, regarding the world and characters that I created:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Before the party could leave the capital of Vidrigez to investigate the disappearance of Prince Aeriche, Escrow the druid came down with a horrible stomach ailment again, unable to join his associates in the trip to Everterre.  After a random attack by some wandering trolls, the party was able to get to Everterre mostly in tact, although the trolls certainly weren't.

Atreyu confirmed that the man they were looking for was actually the head of the guard, who's named Ingard.  He proceeded to find the man and tail him for a while.  Dreamtar took another approach and actually filed a missing person's report with the guard, giving the exact description of Aeriche.  In the process of revealing himself and some of his assignment, the guard ended up arresting him, telling him they needed to protect him as a witness while telling Bram and Atreyu that he had been arrested due to implicating himself in that crime (that they were also investigating).

Atreyu continued to follow Ingard into the night and saw that he with another fellow guard went back into his home's cellar.  Atreyu quickly went back in town and roused Roto and Bram to see if they could catch Ingard and his coworker in the act.  Instead they came back to an empty cellar, where amongst the stored food were the leavings of someone living there.

The three went back to the inn at the night, knowing that Ingard had been keeping someone in there.  In the morning Atreyu scolded Dreamatar for putting Ingard on their trail.  Dreamatar defended his tactics.  Meanwhile Atreyu also received a note from the guard's office...


I am sad that we were only able to get three hours in, but we're hoping to find a new space that is less restricting on time than the local library.  If any of you know of any place where gaming for long hours is acceptable in Chicago, leave a comment.  We have some ideas in mind. the question is convenience at this point. (we seem to live in totally opposite corners of Chicagoland)

Next time, will we figure out where Aeriche was?  Did Ingard have him?  Will the PCs go to King Aust empty handed? Find out next game session... which is going to be a while from now.

October 13, 2010

Sonic 4 Fail

I have heard a few things where people are excited for Sonic 4 and think it's fantastic, but occasionally you get the one person who gets a bizarre glitch.

October 12, 2010

The Sims 3 Is My Skinner Box.

I have finally figured out exactly why I keep on playing the sims to almost legitimately addictive level--It's a self made Operant Conditioning Chamber.

Doesn't that sound like an apparatus from an villain in a sci-fi film or something like that?

You might be asking yourself "what the hell is that?"  Well, an Operant Conditioning Chamber, or Skinner Box, is a structure where a subject being studied, usually a lab animal, is given some sort of lever system for either a reward or punishment.  Common applications include a lever for food, or a lever to prevent electric shock.  The nature of some motivational tools was discovered while using these structures in tests.

One thing that was noticed was that if pulling the lever always gave food, the subject (let's just call it a mouse) wouldn't worry about food.  The mouse would just pull the lever whenever it was hungry, knowing that the food would be there.  However, if the lever would only sometimes provide food, and sometimes nothing would happen, the mouse would press the lever all the time.  Therefore, it was discovered that if a reward was random, the mouse would repeat the action again and again to make sure it would receive it's reward.

Now, we all know food is a more important reward that many other things, but the Sims 3 is doing that to me.  Its making me press the lever again and again!

"But d20 Sapphire," you might respond, "the Sims 3 has no goal!  You can't be getting any reward from that game."

Au contraire, my dear devil's advocate, that's what makes this worse.  You see, although the Sims 3 may not have concrete goals for gameplay, it allows the player to decide what goals he or she wishes to obtain.  And they make sure there are plenty of goals.  Other than just the usual happy family model to make, or doing scandalous stories like I do (because an affair from time to time makes things pretty interesting), there are tons of things to do like wishes, lifetime wishes, collectables, careers, skills, points to spend on rewards... and as the expansion packs continue the list goes on.  Essentially I am the mouse, and I am deciding what reward will come out of that lever, even if I have to pull it hundreds of times to get the desired result.

It's almost like I'm convincing myself I'm customizing my experience because I can choose my goals, but to be honest reaching each goal puts me back in that Skinner Box.  Different bait, same trap.

I'll be nice to the sims though, it's not as bad some other games.  Cracked.com had a list of how games will get you addicted using some of the Operant Conditioning Chamber discoveries.  A good amount of games will do this, partly because it's more effective and consistent way of profits than say, oh I don't know writing a good story and creating an engaging world?  Yeah, it's cheaper to do it the brain washing way.

Think about it the next time you play your game.  Are you comfortable as a player with a designer thinking of you like this:

And are you really getting enjoyment from your game if you're playing it like a mouse in that chamber?

No shame if you do, but it's a legitimate question to ask yourself.  Because if you like these types of games, the market is going to put out more of them.  Do we want to encourage game developers to think of us as mice in a Skinner Box?

October 9, 2010

Promoting Cool Projects: Diary of a Job Seeker

I remember telling you all about a playing reading that I had in April, and the guy who directed it was Jeremy Lee Cudd.  He's a brilliant guy.  He was able to see things in the very raw first draft of my text that I hadn't even known I put in their as a writer.  The reading went extremely well, and to be honest Jeremy is one of the reasons I'm forcing myself to write so much more.  He and the cast of that reading showed me that there is a world out there that appreciates exactly what I want to put out there.

In turn, I think a lot of people are going to appreciate Jeremy's latest project: Diary of a Job Seeker.  Only the first episode is out but it's proving to be funny and honest.  Watch it here.  I'm not going to embed the episode because I want people to remember where he's going to post the next one.

As I said, he's brilliant.  I'm hoping that with you guys taking a gander on his great show.  It's my way of showing him thanks for all the hard work he did when he did the reading for my play.  So go watch it!

Writing: Should it have limits?

There was a meeting about plot development for the novels people are pursuing this November for NaNoWriMo this morning.  Me and a few other people in the Chicago area got together and just talked about our plots and figuring out certain things.  It was really helpful for all of us.

I got to talking to one other author who is also working on a fantasy trilogy of sorts.  I don't want to give away everything he mentioned, but the classic ideas of destiny were there along with a long journey, and it is definitely something that was compelling.  But he was mentioning to me his experience with publishers, and giving me great tips on the system.  One thing he mentioned was word count, and how you need to be aware of it.  It's definitely something that would be taken into account depending on your story, and certain genres have certain standards.  If you are submitting to a publisher and you have a certain way you want your story published, you need to keep in mind the word count they're expecting.

At first I was a little scared, but then it made sense to me.  After a while a genre has a standard set, whether on purpose or not, and you have to know that your readers are expecting that much of an experience.

But then on an art level, is that fair?  You could say that in some ways, you're limiting the art if you do that.  Shouldn't the writer be able to write his story at the length he sees fit?

There is an argument for that positon, believing that no story should be limited.  Some times a good story has to take it's time, and the reader will appreciate it more because of that.

However, a lot of the time a story is longer or shorter than usual because the story has yet to be refined.  People forget that writing is a skill, not just a talent.  Rarely do you have someone that writes well enough to be remembered for a significant period of time, like Shakespeare, at a considerably young age.  I doubt Shakespeare had his gift at age ten.  It's not to say that anyone can write if they practice enough, but it is to say that it is a skill that has to be nurtured over time.

What parts of writing involve skill?  Well, being able to describe the idea effectively and efficiently is important.  Effectively meaning there is a clear picture in the reader's mind what the author of the piece is getting at or talking about.  Efficiently means without putting in too much or too little information.  A lot of the time writers can get caught on either side of that spectrum, and don't tell the story in a way that engages the reader.

And that's where the limits come in.  Writing in many ways is meant to be the opposite of the visual arts. Your painting can be as big as you want, you can make it  structure that can be tiny or huge, and you can  have be as interactive or as isolated from touch as you want.  Limits are not really as much of an issue as they have to be in writing.   I couldn't start telling you about my ridiculous dreams of pink elephants with wings in the middle of this post.  It wouldn't let you in on the idea I really want to tell you.  Sure, there's a style that would let me utilize some crazy tools of language that could still get you to the same idea, but the goal is to get one point across, and one's skill in writing helps determine how good one is at that.

I agree that most of the time, you need word limits or goals.  Page counts.  Something of that nature.  Because if anything, it helps determine that you are at the skill level necessary to tell your story well.

October 8, 2010

Stuff I May Need For My Halloween Costume.

Before it gets too late, I need to start thinking about my Halloween costume, and how to wear it.

The idea is that Proptart is going as ateampunk and I will go as cyberpunk.  Cyberpunk has many manifestations, usually describing a world rather than a particular costume.  I'm writing out what I need here so that I can figure out what I need to do in the next 20 days.  I'm hoping to make it relatively simple.

Here's some pictures that I think are closer to my idea of what I want to do.

P.S., if anyone knows where to credit these pictures, let me know.  The internet has a bunch of art stealing jerks who don't credit the work.  

I am probably not going to do anything super intense, but something I can hopefully put on again and again because I like the idea of being in cyberpunk clothing just because I can.  I know, I'm weird, but that's what makes this blog interesting.

I'm thinking of using some goggles I have and attaching some LEDs to it, also attaching some wires to the sides so I can have them adhere to my neck.  Maybe get a cheap glove and put some buttons on it.  Might also put something right under the nape of my neck, to keep it freaky.  

Right now, things I have to help include: Goggles, old computer parts, black clothing I look good in, time this upcoming week.

Things I need: Wires, LEDs, costume skin adhesives.  

I will take pictures of some of the progress.   

October 5, 2010

15 Games That Will Always Stick With Me

I got tagged for a facebook note that goes like this:

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. 15 games you've played that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what games my friends choose.

Problem is I hate tagging people for this stuff on facebook even if I like talking about it.  Luckily the person who tagged me knows this blog, and I guess in a way I'm tagging you guys... don't feel obligated though.

So what's my list?  Here it is (in no particular order) with explanations:

1. Mass Effect 2

This is one of my favorite video games of all time.  I particularly love it because it is so well written!  I know a lot of people were disappointed because it wasn't as monumental plot-wise as the first game, but you have to understand it's setting up the end of a trilogy.  If you look at it that way, the set up is AWESOME.  Good characters, and in general the good guy versus not-so-good guy choices made it totally replayable.  In fact, I plan on replaying it soon, and this time, my Shepard is going to kick ass and take names later.

2. Dungeons and Dragons

I remember when I first was introduced to the game by a friend and her dad, I knew I had to run a game of it.  And I did, but of course actual learning as a kid got in the way.  But college brought me back to it and it was totally worth coming back to.  I ran a game for three years with the success of an entertaining time had for all, and I'm doing it again.  I will always have a soft spot for it, even if later incarnations prove to be not what I grew up with.

3. Hex Hex

Fantastic card game that involves you screwing over everyone else at the table.  I have great memories playing this with a good number of my college friends late into the night while drinking.  Adding awesome house rules made it even better.  I bought it for myself and to have back home, and it's always deviously fun to play.

4. The Sims

I have an addiction to the Sims 3.  I must want to be God.  Is that a big issue?

5. Settlers of Catan

To be honest, I was never the best at this game but I love it anyway.  It's a great strategy board game that involves monitoring your resources, so my economist sensibilities gravitate toward it.  Another game I played a lot in college.

6. Unknown Armies

Again, discovered this in college and it's modern, urban, dystopia themes are fun to play.  If you really want to get into the game, play someone who's obviously crazy to everyone else but himself.  The focus on conspiracies and deep plots also making it great, giving a fantastic setting that's malleable enough for any good GM.

7. Dragon Age

I could say it's the good story (which is good) or the kind of gameplay where I get to micro-mange or the awesome friendship system.  But I'll be honest with you: I still have a crush on Alistar.  And I think I will for a while.
The Boyfriend also doesn't mind this, which works out great.

8. Tetris

My grandmother has, on a kid's standards, the most boring house.  We used to visit a lot so my mom could help take care of the house, and my brother and I would bring our gameboys because there was nothing. else. to do.  Tetris saved me from bordem.  I played that thing for hours, causing my mom to be haunted by that music for the rest of her life.  She doesn't mind too much.

9. Kirby's Adventure Land (real title?)

Another gameboy game that saved me from boredom, and introduced me to the awesomness that is Kirby.  He's just a fantastic protagonist, super cute but he'll swallow your soul.  Kinf of like chibi cthullu.

10. World of Darkness games

LARPing is one of the first activities I did as an adult on my own in Chicago.  World of Darkness was a great way to start the hobby because I was able to do a character driven story where I can be as important or unimportant as I want.  I like the new friends I've made and I like the worlds I've played in.

11. Monopoly

My family used to play this, all four of us, on the weekends.  One thing you have to understand about my parents is that they didn't go easy on us.  My dad had multiple monopolies, and would trick you into selling your properties to him so he could have an empire.  I was 10 mostly when we played.  Good family memories though, and I kind of appreciate that my parents didn't make it easy.  Means I had to earn my winnings.

12. The Game that can Only End in Sorrow

In college, it was our version of Truth or Dare when we were doing a late night of drinking.  Only it was only truths, you'd roll a die to see who'd get asked the next question, and then the rest of the group would think of a question to ask.  Less damaging than Psychologist, and more laid back.

13. Left 4 Dead Series

My first real online game, as in I played the game with strangers online.  Also, who doesn't like killing zombies?

14. Pathfinder

When I heard about Pathfinder, I knew I had to experience it.  I was hoping D&D 4.0 was what Pathfinder is now.  I like the system, because it cleaned up the things I thought needed to be cleaned up in 3.5 but kept the stuff I thought was worth having in.

15. The Boyfriend's Current Development Project

I can't say much about it, but the reason that I am so psyched about it is because 1) it looks like it's going to be great and an indie game for those of us that like RPGs with great stories and world and 2) it's the first video game I'll get to see in the production process.

October 2, 2010

Writing Plans

Sadly, there is no DnD game today.  Scheduling and finding a room seemed to be super annoying.  However, as soon as I have taken my usual hit of Sims 3 for the day (seriously, this phase is going on for a while) I am going to sit and write. Ah Writing.

The problem with writing is just that its very long term, and you don't get the immediate fulfillment you get with a lot of other things these days.  Even this blog gives me a short term goal that's easy to reach, rather than just a long term goal of finishing a book and getting it published.

So for now, I am going to list my writing goals for the next couple few months.

1) Four blog posts a week.

I am finding that a good number of people are actually following this blog and reading what I write.  I find it flattering.  Thanks everyone!  It's also great practice for writing.  A mantra of Stephen King is "A writer's a writer's a writer", meaning a good writer should be able to write anything.  The blog is good practice in that it forces me to write something that's not fiction.  Sometimes I actually write something that's an essay, or a humor piece.  It keeps me varied.

2) Finish the first book of my trilogy this month

I write, right now, on average a chapter every two months.  ANNOYING.  It's going too slow considering that the best ideas come half the time while I'm writing this, the other half is through random experiences that I can't predict.  I'm going to bunker down and actually write this thing.  Sure, this isn't to have a final copy to allure agents and publishers with.  I really just need to get the first part of the trilogy down on paper, and then go back and edit it later.  Also, there's another reason to chuck this thing out by the end of October...

3) Write "Consent" for NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I think I'm going to do it.  Just going to buckle in there and write.  I have a story in mind that hasn't evolved much since I last wrote it, and in fact I have some of it written but I'm just going to write it again anyway to see how I've changed.  "Consent" is actually the story where my Changeling LARP character comes from.  It's a complicated tale and it really  isn't a huge universe I want to shape unlike my trilogy (I have years of writing planned for that stuff).  So it's perfect for November.  50,000 words in 30 days.  I'll take that as a challenge

4) Explore "DeWitt on Titania"

For those of you who were nice enough to read my piece base on a R.K. Milholland picture, I'm afraid it was the start of something major.  Not as major as my trilogy world, but something close.  I keep on thinking of that world, and how it's different and the ideas in that story that I could extrapolate on.  Over time I want to make a series of short stories about Titania, and possibly continue on with pictures inspiring me.  It's exploring the idea of a dystopia, something that I think Brave New World has already mastered so I fear I will never get close to that brilliance.  But that doesn't mean I can't write some more. It might be something I try to self-publish online.  I don't know, I will keep you all tuned in.

5) Remember my plays

I have two play ideas, one that is finished, had the reading, and needs some editing.  The other his only a couple scenes in, but I want to go back to it, especially since it's inspired by a Lady Gaga song.  I get inspired by music and art, what's wrong with that?  Regardless, I can't forget my plays.  Considering the great reception I got from my small reading, I got to continue.

6) Focus on those first five things.

I can become easily distracted when it comes to my goals.  I know I can.  Hell is my brain--having a 1,000 ideas and not enough initiative to start one.  I hate doing it but to get better I have to admit it's a problem I have.  I think I'm going to get some friends of mine to keep my butt in gear.  I know the Boyfriend will nag me about writing if I ask him to.  I have a couple other friends who can help out every once in while.  But I can't let another idea replace these five.  I have enough work on my hands as it is.

Wish me luck!