Two weeks. And not long before that there was a ten day gap. I blame a lot of things. The untimely end of the Rebuild project was a bit of a blow. I had intended that to be a weekly feature here on the blog for a long while, and my motivation to start back up has been flagging. I will though, as I plan to sit down on the coming weekend and play through the entire game in one or two sittings to get all the details and screen shots I need, that way the game can’t delete on me again. This will have the unfortunate side effect of me knowing how it ends before I start, knowing who dies before I create them, which is less fun for me as I enjoyed the idea of being shocked and then forced to write out the scenes. I also needed to revisit how I did the screen shots. Before I was manually doing Alt+PrtScr and then pasting into GIMP, but now I’ve got IrfanView which will give me a simple key combination that will screen shot directly to a file in a directory of my choosing, so I can speed through the game. Then I’ll probably take a week or so off and start writing, hoping I’ve forgotten exactly what happens to any individual character.
I’m also working on Season 2 of Man vs Wife. I’m calling it Season 2 because of the, at first, unintentional break we took. In part this was because Dungeon! was such a bad play. I mean, I like the game, but the 2 player version in the manner we chose to play it was rough. The wife hasn’t really felt like playing much, though I did manage to get her to play Fluxx (the write-up for which is going to be hilarious). Any way, so I decided that we are going to line up about 8 games and then do a marathon weekend, which will become Season 2, eventually. I just need to find 8 games worth playing. And I might cheat in order for me to actually win a game – I’ve got a copy of Trivial Pursuit, Genus Edition from the mid-1980s that I’ve played a lot, plus I am a fountain of inane and useless information, and she isn’t.
In spite of not doing much writing for the blog, I’ve actually been writing quite a bit. Reviews for Shakefire as well as my own stuff. I got crafty and took a couple of Sharpies to my NEO and now instead of being Sherman Tank green it’s black on the back and has a nice blood-red top. I haven’t colored the keys yet, and I’m not 100% sure I will. I kinda like that the keys stand out. I’ll post a picture at some point, once I’m sure it’s done.
Speaking of crafty… Dragon*Con is also coming up, and we’ve been trying to actually put together ideas for costumes AND execute them. That second part will be a new endeavor this year as we usually just dream them up and never do anything.
Also, I’ve been sort of working on an idea for a podcast. It’s still in idea mode and I’m working out some of the logistics, but I think it’ll be pretty cool, and different. Maybe… it also might suck royally. Or I might drop the idea and simply not do it.
Anyway, more to come, I promise.
Dragon*Con 2012, 8/31 - 9/3
The thing that I love most about Dragon*Con is that it is a convention for fans by fans. It isn’t an industry event. While we are more than happy to have the industry support us, they don’t guide the programming or run the panels, and I know personally that we’ve left money on the table rather than allow someone else dictate have more control than we were willing to give.
And the fans make the con. Seeing people who love stuff loving that stuff is incredible. There is no better feeling that being at the front of a room, looking out at a sea of faces and knowing that they love what you are giving them because you love it too.
But more than just sitting in panels and listening to the guests and staff talk about stuff, Dragon*Con also hosts a number of workshops that an attendee can sign up for (at additional cost – we have to pay the instructors something for their time). I’ve personally done one of the 2 day writing workshops and it was well worth the price.
Some years I don’t pay much attention to the workshops when I know I won’t have time, but this year I just happened on the page and noticed they’ve got some really cool stuff.
- Acting Workshop – Writer, director and actor Amber Benson is doing 2 days of classes about the business of active, improv, character building, and scene breakdown.
- Artist Workshops – David A. Cherry is doing a series of 2 and 3 hour classes on acrylic painting, life drawing, photoshop for illustration & game art, and game asset creation in 3D Studio Max. He’s also doing a smaller personal project review of illustration & game art.
- Astronomy Workshop – 2 days of astronomy fundamentals, stars, planets, common science fiction science issues, misconceptions, jargon and more, presented by a panel of astronomy and education professionals.
- Benjamin Radford Scientific Investigation Workshop – 2.5 hours of Ben Radford explaining in detail how to investigate mysteries and miracles.
- Belly Dancing with Phoenicia Workshop – 4 sessions to teach you to belly dance. (This one is free with your con admission.)
- Tai Chi Workshop with Erin Gray – A 1 hour introduction to the theory and practice of Tai Chi and Chi Kung.
- Virginia Hey Meditation Workshop – An hour of discussion followed by an hour of guided meditation.
- Writer’s Hourly Workshop with Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston – 15 one hour sessions covering many topics in the world of writing.
- Writer’s Two Day Intensive Workshop with Jody Lynn Nye – 2 days with one teacher, covering many aspects of crafting stories, ending with a personal critic of material you submit prior to the workshop. (This is the one I did, but back when Ann C. Crispin was teaching it.)
It’s just cool to me that this kind of stuff goes on. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the things a lot of panels cover. The costuming track alone does so many on crafting costumes…
I’ve never been to Comic Con, and one day I might just to see the spectacle, but it seems to me it’s the sort of con where you go to see your favorite stars and maybe get an autograph. Dragon*Con, to me, has always been a con where you go to hang out with other people who love the same stuff (or different stuff) that you love and maybe run into one of your favorite stars who have come to hang out too.
I go to Dragon*Con every year. Despite the fact that we live in Atlanta (or near enough to it), we book a room at one of the host hotels and stay downtown for the weekend. It’s like a half-vacation. We go, we have a great time and love every minute of it, but we aren’t really “going on vacation”. Six years ago, I took another non-vacation. An overnight really. We drove to Savannah on Monday, stayed the night, and drove back Tuesday. That was our wedding. A couple of years before that, we did a long weekend in Savannah. You’d have to go back to, I believe, 2003 to find a real vacation-vacation in my life. We went to Cozumel for 5 days. And before that, we went to Mardi Gras in 2001.
On Saturday, the wife and I will be heading up to a little cabin we rented in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We’ll be coming back on Wednesday. Five days and four nights, away from home, in another state. It’s been about nine years but we are finally going on vacation.
When we go to Dragon*Con, the weekend is pretty well mapped out. There are panels and parties. I’m on staff. It is, as far as vacations go, pretty regimented. When he did Cozumel way back when, there was little plan. We had a hotel, all-inclusive, and that was it. I’d been to Cozumel before and mostly just gone to beaches and bars and the usual stuff (I was part of a group of 30 people who went together). But this time it was just us. One day we rented a jeep and just went driving around the island. We found some unoccupied beaches and a little restaurant on the windward side of the island. It was great.
This time around, I’m aiming for something in between. The final day we have to check out of the cabin early anyway, so we are just going to check out really early and drive over to Asheville and visit The Biltmore, and then head back home that night. Either on the day up, or one of the three middle days, we’re planning to spend some time touring the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. We also plan to do some hiking, and of course a little casual relaxing. It’s cold here, and we are going north, so I expect some time spent in front of a roaring fire might be in order. And as weird as it sounds, we are planning to curl up and watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night. We don’t have cable TV anymore, so events like this are something we don’t get to watch at home.
The cabin has a kitchen, and we are trying to plan some meals to cook and foods to take with us for snacking, though we probably will eat out at a couple of places that have been recommended to us. We are driving up, so the only limitation is what we can fit into the Jeep Cherokee.
And then we get to packing clothes. It is still winter, so we’ll dress warm, maybe throw in an extra couple of sweaters and make sure we take our jackets. There are no plans to do anything super fancy so no suits or cocktail dresses.
I’m very excited about the whole thing, probably more than I should be.
If you were eagerly awaiting my day by day posts for Dragon*Con that I’ve done for the last few years, I’m sorry. I decided this year not to do them. I probably could have, but instead chose to focus on actually being at the con. To find out what I was doing there, head to the MMORPG Track website and find the 7 posts I did about our programming.
Personally, I had a blast. Our Saturday WoW Meet & Greet (the Darkmoon Faire) and the MMO Gathering of Heroes party were insane. Lots of happy people and I was very proud to have helped make that happen.
Hotel reservation already made for next year (yes, the Sheraton and Hilton are taking reservations already) and I look forward to a year worth of planning to make 2012′s con even better.
I owned J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon for quite a while before I read it. In addition to being a slow(ish) reader, I have a pile of books, a three shelf bookcase actually, of books waiting to be read, so sometimes books wait. After plowing through DBDA in March of this year, I picked up the sequel, Beyond Exile, which I just finished last night.
Both of these books are excellent. Written in the style of a personal journal, we follow the story of an unnamed Naval Officer as he notes his thoughts and experiences in a world quickly becoming overrun by zombies. Personally, I thought the journal style worked very well, the only drawback being that since things are always written after the fact, you know that no matter what is being written about the author has to survive or else he wouldn’t have written it down. This journal style, however, is also one of the complaints many people have about the books, so you have to know about it going in. They claim things like “I just read a guy’s personal diary and I didn’t learn anything about them.” I have to wonder if they’ve ever read anyone’s personal journals that weren’t fictionalized. Most journals, especially those started by men later in life (not as kids) tend more toward facts and what happened, and are not full of emotions and internal dialog about how they feel. Think of it less as a diary and more of an After Action Report by a military officer and it’ll probably work better for you.
Another common complaint on zombie stories is they seem to have a “right wing slant”. And while these critics might have a point, when flesh eating zombies spring up, who is more likely to have a gun ready to shoot them in the head, an NRA member with a right leaning political view or a liberal gun control supporter? Similarly, why are the survivors always military or people with training? I think that’s a question that answers itself. I mean, I go to Dragon*Con every year, and when I go to panels about apocalyptic themes I know every person in that room thinks they are going to be victorious if the zeds should ever start walking, but realistically most of them wouldn’t last a week, and probably not more than a day.
Anyway… back to the tales at hand. I found both stories to be very entertaining and engaging. I especially enjoyed the use of slower shambling zombies and opposed to having them all running and jumping and stuff. I highly recommend both books, and I believe there will be a third next year. The second book takes a turn at the end that I’m interested to see where J.L. Bourne goes with it.
It’s August and that means it’s time to start the final prep work for Dragon*Con. I’ll be working staff again this year. If you are going, drop by the MMO Track (we own the Sheraton and can always be found in the Savannah room, but at other times will be in the various ballrooms of that hotel) and say “Hi!”
Speaking of the MMO Track, one of about a dozen reasons I haven’t been posting here lately is because I’ve been working on a series of posts for the track website all about what we have in store for the big weekend. The first post is up, six more will follow.
Going along with my last post, I was reminded that the Atlanta Radio Theater Company performs at the con each year. I’ve been having lots of fun listening to other radio shows recently, so I think I’m going to make an effort to see them.
In any event, last year I was sort of a deer in headlights. While I had gone to con for many years, however my first year working it I had lots of fun but I felt like I was always hyper-vigilant, trying extra hard to make sure I didn’t screw up too badly. This year, I know what to expect, so I can relax a little bit. I’m also incredibly excited about our line up. The Darkmoon Faire looks to be awesome, and we’ve got a couple of panels for The Guild (and a marathon viewing of all 4 -maybe 5- seasons). I can hardly wait!
The other day I was thinking about when my family used to go on vacation. The topic came up because someone else was planning their vacation and booking flights, and I asked if they ever considered driving. They immediately shot down that idea, not wanting to be “trapped” in the car for long stretches with their kids, or taking multiple days to get somewhere. I’m sure that my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, but I look back fondly on our vacations when I was a kid. Of course I remember some of the fights too, but there were so many good things that came out of them.
Early vacations with both parents and three kids in a regular car were a bit tight, but in those days our vacations were shorter. We lived in Florida and drove to other places in Florida, like Disney or the beach, or north to Georgia to visit family. When we moved to Pennsylvania though, and trips to Georgia and Florida and other destinations got longer, the family bought a mini-van. It had two bench seats in the back, my older brother taking the front one, while my younger brother and I took the rear. In order for us both to be able to stretch out back there, we’d put a sleeping bag on the floor. It turned out to be the best place to nap because down on the floor you avoided most of the light that came through the windows.
The key, however, to long term survival in the car for our family was the purchase of three Walkmans. It is hard today to imagine the impact that portable tape decks that ran for many hours on a couple of AA batteries had on the world, but it was huge. Suddenly we kids weren’t fighting with the parents for where to tune the radio. And while music tapes had their place, for me, for vacations, there was something better. I have no idea how I got it, but I imagine it come from my older brother, through some friend of his, but I wound up with a tap of Dr. Demento’s radio show. It wasn’t a real tape, it was copied – maybe from a real tape or maybe from the radio. But it had songs like Fish Heads and Another One Rides the Bus and more, as well as other comedy bits and longer stories. This, along with a couple of Bill Cosby tapes would end up being the things I listened to most… until we wandered into the Cracker Barrel one day.
If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, it’s a restaurant with a gift shop attached to it. The shop is full of candy, folky art and decorations, and a random assortment of toys. We’d been there many times, and I’d often perused the tape rack, which tended to contain the works of John Denver and a variety of country singers which after I discovered MTV I just wasn’t into anymore. But one day I was spinning the rack and found a tape that had two “radio dramas”. I asked my mom what they were and she explained it to me. I don’t remember who bought them, but we ended up with three tapes. War of the Worlds, The Shadow and The Green Hornet. I played those things so many times, I’m surprised they tapes didn’t break. I’m pretty sure if I look around, here or at my dad’s house, I could find those three tapes.
Many years later, after the Walkman had been replaced by the Discman, I found a radio show style recording of Stephen King’s The Mist. I love movies and I love TV, but there is just something special about putting on headphones, sitting back, closing your eyes and letting the audio wash over you while imagery explodes in your mind. It’s like reading a book but without the reading. In fact, I’m pretty certain stumbling onto those tapes decades ago actually affected how I read, because I let the words sink in and I build the scenes visually within my mind. The downside is that I read slow. The upside is that I remember what I read very vividly.
Anyway… despite loving those things and them being an integral park of my growing up, I admit I don’t keep track of what’s going on in the world of radio shows. I mean, yes, I’ve been lusting after the Dark Adventure Radio Theater set for quite some time now, and I run across things now and then, but I haven’t actively sought things out. But recently I’ve discovered (years later than most) podcasts. While I tend to hate most talk radio, I’ve been enjoying a few podcasts, mostly entertainment or comedy related like The Nerdist. It’s actually through that site that I’ve found We’re Alive, which is just awesome and one of those “Why did I not know this existed?” sort of things. (Mental note: make sure the Apocalypse Rising track knows about this for Dragon*Con.)
So now I’m looking for more. Know any good radio show podcasts? I don’t want people just sitting around and talking (but if you say it’s completely awesome I’m sure I’ll try it out). I want radio dramas, mysteries, horror, adventure, whatever. Point me in their direction…
I don’t maintain a blogroll here, or even links of any kind to other sites unless they are within posts. However, in a fit of narcissism I decided that I would post a list of links to all the sites that are contained within my Google Reader. So without further ado, presented here in alphabetical order, and in one giant ugly paragraph, is what I read:
.: Cedarstreet :., < witty title >, A Next-Gen-MMORPG, A Softer World, A Tree Falling in the Forest, Anyway Games, Applied Game Design, Basic Instructions, bbPress Blog, Bio Break, Brass Goggles, Brea Grant, Broken Toys, Clients From Hell, Coding Horror, Corvus & the IGDA, Crabapple Cove, Critical Distance, crowdSPRING Blog, Daily Dragon Online, daspetey, David Wellington, DESIGNER NOTES, Digital Diary Detailing Datamancer’s Deeds, Digital Gaming@Dragon*Con, Dinosaur Comics, DOGHOUSE, Don’t Fear the Mutant, Dragon*Con MMO, Dragon*ConTV, DragonCon, DreamHost Status, Eating Bees, Elder Game, Epic Slant, Ethos Incarnate, Experience Curve, Felicia Day, Fidgit, Fullbright, Fun in Games, Fun in Real Life, Game Design Concepts, Game Design Reviews, GARY WHITTA, Geek Girl in Training, Grim News, Grumpy Gamer, Hark, A Vagrant!, Heartless_ Gamer, I HAS PC, ihobo, indexed, International Game Developers Association Board, into survival., James Van Der Memes, Karnatos, Kieron Gillen’s Workblog, Kill Ten Rats, Killed in a Smiling Accident., Kung Fu Monkey, LevelCapped, Lost Garden, Man Bytes Blog, Middle and Up, MMOData.net, Mobhunter.com, Moo Tang Clan, Mumble, My Name Is Michael, National Novel Writing Month – Breaking News, Nerdist, Nerfbat, Netflix – New choices to watch instantly, Netflix Community Blog, Not Always Right | Funny & Stupid Customer Quotes, not much’a nothin’, On Beyond Zebra, One Of A Crowd, Online Games Are a Niche Market, Only a Game, Over00, PARA ABNORMAL – the comic, paulietoons, paulneuhaus.com, Penny Arcade, Picture’s Up, Play Like a Girl, Popnarcotic, PostSecret, Psychochild’s Blog, PvPonline, Quarter to Three, Radioactive State, Rands In Repose, Raph’s Website, Real Life Comics, Running With My Eyes Closed, Scott Hartsman – Off the Record, screen play, Script Frenzy – The Beat, Sexy Videogameland, Shakefire.com blogs, ShrinkGeek, ShutterDreams, Smed’s Blog, Stylish Corpse, Surviving The World, Symptom of a Greater Cure, T=Machine, Tami Baribeau, Teaching Game Design, Terra Nova, Texas State Word, That’s a Terrible Idea, The Ancient Gaming Noob, The Banstick, The Brainy Gamer, The Celtx Blog, The Common Sense Gamer, The GameDev Project, The Grouchy Gamer, The HoneyComb Engine, The Internet Crashed, The Mod Squad. Blog., The Oakstout, The Oatmeal – Comics, Quizzes, & Stories, The Office of Letters and Light, The Official DreamHost Blog!, The Psychology of Video Games, The Word of Notch, This Side… Down, Tish Tosh Tesh, Tobold’s MMORPG Blog, Twitter Blog, Undead Labs – News, Van Hemlock, We Fly Spitfires – MMORPG Blog, Welcome to Spinksville!, West Karana, WIL WHEATON dot NET: in exile, Wolfshead Online, WordPress Development Blog, Words from Ward, WorldIV, xkcd.com, You Got Red On You, You Might As Well Be Unemployed, zen habits, Zen of Design, Zombie Reporting Center
Make of this what you will.