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Now that I'm not teaching, and not working every spare hour, I can take some time to get back to my old habits, and hit Jerm's little variety show every other Tuesday at the Carousel Lounge! In my absence, the Total Foxes have switched bass players - Gary was pretty darn badass there, but he's playing a lot with someone else, so Jerm brought in Corey from Sheboygan (the band, not the city), who's keeping up with the new craziness just fine. Stacey drummed for the opener, then the Foxes as usual, and then a short break while a drunk guy who was giving her a little too much attention from behind the snare was ejected, and then a surprise appearance by who I assume must be one of the owners of the bar. She came up to the mic, and launched into a little harangue about the blue language used during the performance, how she thought she was hearing things, because she's been working there for seventeen years and her family has owned the place for forty-three, and they've never allowed such filth in their establishment. Must have been sixty or seventy, with copper clown hair, way too much lady makeup, red pumps and black fishnets, straight out of a David Lynch movie. She warned Jerm that if the language continued, the cops could come and arrest them all for obscenity and so on. And then, the improv comedy group Tight came on and did a few bits with the band, with a minimum of cursing. Well, technically, anyway. And then, the Family Feud, and then we had to leave before we were done, so we migrated down to the Horseshoe Lounge down south of the river, and spread wacky joy and freakishness to the denizens there. They were not expecting such frivolity, to say the least. More beers, and then a walk home around 2:30am, and the night was at an end.
Now, at work, and pretty tired. If I could just grab a nap for an hour or so, I'd be significantly more productive, but there's really not anywhere inconspicuous here to zonk out for a bit, so, more coffee! Wooo!
Whee, busy day for a Saturday. Had our semi-regular Saturday morning AGD meeting, getting stuff together for the next couple of panels we're hosting ("Diversity In Games", with Sheri Graner Ray and some other likely candidates), and for our booth at the upcoming Austin Game Conference - we've been working with Chris Sherman, the organizer, off and on, and since we're a local non-profit and all, they're giving us some free booth space, which is mighty nice of them, considering what they usually charge. Even nicer when we found out that they're giving us a bigger one, since we decided to share it with Bob McGoldrick's folks from ACC's game development program. We're also going to talk with the IGDA folks a bit upstream from us, and try to organize some kind of semi-official convening of as many of the national IGDA chapter coordinators as we can wrangle together on such short notice. There's apparently already a get-together of some sort at GDC, but that's way too expensive for most people, and it'll be cool to have a nice little YAPC-style mini-con for those not attached to a large corporate entity. And, along with the new and current stuff, I've still got a significant list of stuff that I'd like to get done to our website that I've had backloaded through these few months of hairiness. So, there's that.
After the meeting, I ran downtown to my improv class at the Hideout. I gotta say, I didn't really know what to expect, but I think it's turning out pretty well. The instructor is a good guy, we've got a class full of not-obnoxiouis but not-boring people, and I like the direction that it looks like things are going. There's a lot of standing and falling down and acting like an idiot and hollering and whatnot, which is pretty fun, and a little more action than I usually get in a typical afternoon of sloth, which is also a good thing. (The guy who organized the recent zombie attack on the American Idol auditions here is also in the class, so we got some entertaining little inside bits on that. Branes.)
Bernie picked me up from class, and we stopped by Wiki Wiki next door to get some teryaki bowls, and then back home to chill for an hour or so before heading back out to the Downtown Alamo to catch the new Sinus show of Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Jesus. I think the boys have met their match. I mean, we've seen them do some pretty terrible movies - Crossroads, He-Man, and a variety of awfulness from John Travolta - but this was the first one where we were just squirming in our seats, waiting for it to be over. I mean, they were still funny as usual, and the "stop the movie" bit was up to par, but man, nothing could make that piece of shit stop stinking. We stumbled out of the theater like we'd just witnessed someone getting their head blown off in front of us; just totally dumbstruck, in shock. I'm starting to get the Fear again, just thinking about it. Gotta stop now.
Also, in the free time I've had in the last couple of days, I've finally gotten around to building out a functional skeleton of the game I've been rolling around for Gizmet, and I think it's gonna look pretty good. I've got Quoc's wife, Eva, signed up to do the UI and character artwork for me, so it's not just going to be my usual crappy programmer art in the final product. It's been too long of a while since I've actually kicked out any working game code (except for the class I taught this semester - branes) and it's a good feeling to actually make something of my own for a change that's not tied to some crappy, bloated, corporate piece of junk. I mean, the corporate junk pays a lot better, of course, and I've got a long way to go and not a lot of time to get there, east bound and down, but hey, actually enjoying programming! There's a concept! Now if I can just figure out how to get paid for this, my master plan will be complete. But first, back to the check-bringer.
Holy crap, air conditioning is still totally broken at the office. Cortical temperatures reaching critical levels. Shutdown failure immanent. Bats everywhere. Engaging emergency incalescence failsafe interlocks.
(Translation: fuck this heat shit, I'm going home.)
Well, yesterday was pretty fun. After work (which I can't really ever talk about because the stuff we do is Very Important and Top Secret or something) I headed over to Enspire Learning for a SIG meeting of the Austin chapter of the American Society for Training and Development. I hadn't been over there in a couple of years - they've obviously been doing pretty well for themselves, because they've moved to some sweet new digs over on Guadalupe since I saw them last. Anyway, I met up with some of my AGD pals (David, Quoc, Eva, and Mikey) and another fify or sixty folks in the e-learning and game development business.
After some general milling around and a brief introductory presentation, the organizers broke us up into about eight groups of around six people each (according to the color of a little dot on our nametags), and gave us a design task and twenty minutes to come up with something. We had to put together a little instructional game to teach "personal financial planning to professionals in their twenties", and were provided an envelope of props to work with - dice, poker chips, play money, and so on. Our specific tasks were:
- Choose at least one learning objective for the game.
- Assign at least three game objects (tokens, or game elements) to be used in playing the game.
- Determine at least two actions that the learner can take.
- Construct at least one choice or tradeoff that the player must make.
- If there was time, determine what the structure of the game space looks like, choose a duration or time structure for the play period, and determine a concrete "win" state for the game.
I actually wound up in a group with Mikey Lubker and a guy that I've worked with before here in town. After throwing a few ideas around, we decided that we'd make a game called "Financial Planning For Losers", where the object is to save enough money to move out of your parents' basement. We eventually came up with some card-based match-or-beat play, and added a "relationship points" mechanic, where you could choose between going for making money all the time, or work on collecting chips that you could use to get a significant other to move in with you, effectively cutting your rent or cost to move out in half. The design wound up being a little more on the competitive and entertaining side than I think was intended, but I think it came off pretty well, regardless.
After time was called, all the groups made brief presentations of their designs, which were all fairly decent, and the rest of the meeting was all questions/comments/discussion about the designs, and the meta-learning game that we all just participated in. One interesting thing that I noticed was that our game was the only one that didn't really rely on chance - most of the others used the dice at some point to determine starting debt, salaries, success at various tasks, the motion of the stock market, and so on. Also, although we were supposed to be teaching about financial planning, about half the groups added some measure of "happiness" or "relationship" to their games. Overall, it was a great experience, and I think everyone had a good time, and learned a little bit about that whole intersection of e-learning/game design stuff.
It was funny that the meeting turned out the way it did, because beforehand I was talking with David Markum about a panel he wants to put on at the upcoming Linucon. It's basically the same thing we did at the SIG, only with a few professional game designers up on stage, with an improv type of setup, where we take suggestions from the audience, and go through the process of designing a game within those constraints in the hour or so that we'd have for the panel. I think that sounds like a whole lot of fun - we've got a couple of people lined up (Brian Urbanek from Ninjaneering, James Ernest from Cheapass Games, and maybe Wes Jenkins, who I think is working with Critical Mass and teaching at ACC) and it should be pretty entertaining and instructional for the audience, so it looks like we're a go. Totally looking forward to doing that.
(Doing something along those lines was mentioned by some Foo Camp attendees, and James Earnest tells me that he has put on a similar panel several times in the past, so I have high hopes for this coming off well.)
Afterwards, Bernie picked me up and took me home, where I had presents and a birthday dinner waiting. I got a bunch of nerd toys (a bunch of EL wire and a radio frequency scanner and some blinky things and whatnot), and then Bernie cooked up some kind of super-tasty beef tenderloin and mushrooms and some kind of fancy potato thing and sauce and salad and wine and general tastiness, which was eaten. There was coffee and tiramisu for dessert, but I was whupped, and crashed out on the giant beanbag shortly after the main course. So, that didn't suck.
Whoo, okay, I've been like busy and stuff. I finished up teaching my programming class a couple of weeks ago, and it's not being offered this fall semester, so I'm off that hook until January or so. I think I'm just finishing up the last of my paying contract work now, aside from a couple of touch-up bugs here and there, so my primary revenue-generating obligations are just down to my full-time job at frog, which, after the last couple of months, almost seems like having no job at all. So, now I can concentrate my free time on other stuff, like seeing what I've been slacking on doing for AGD, taking that class at the Hideout, helping get the house beat into better shape, or working one of the other super seekrit projects I'm trying to get knocked out.
Oh yeah, and catching up on my GameFly and NetFlix queues. Burned through a few movies (over the last few weeks: Code 46, The Devil's Backbone, Ikiru, The Machinist, I Heart Huckabees, and Primer, all pretty good stuff) and a couple of games. God of War had some really fun hack'n'slash gameplay broken up by a bunch of really irritating things, but still fun, overall. Psychonauts, however, is one of the best games I've played in a long time. It has super writing, great voice acting, wonderful graphic design and animation, and a pretty darn original take on the whole busted old platformer genre. Like God of War, it kind of blows it a little at the end with a fairly painful jumping puzzle sequence, but overall, it's brilliant and totally fun. If you like games at all, you really need to check it out.
Oh yeah, and, of course, I've been sucked into the whole Urban Dead thing. Branes.
I've been working my way through a couple of non-fiction books for research stuffs (global history from early neolithic to the first millenium, and some pretty interesting stuff on the morphology of folk tales by Vladimir Propp), but other than that, I haven't really had it in me to make a dent on the many feet tall and growing piles of books on either side of my desk. Or sorting out all the papers and mail and junk that have been accumulating on it while I've been at the office. I'm not sure how my desk winds up getting messier when I'm not at home than when I'm sitting there all day, but there you go. Must be goblins. Stupid goblins.
I also got a giant robot dinosaur from my dad. That was super cool.
Oh yeah, and happy birthday to me. Almost halfway there! Do I have to get a sports car or something now? 'Cause I'm not gonna.
I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor,
I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor,
I'm being swallowed by a boa constricter,
and I don't like it very much.