Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Practiced Voice

I've been stressed lately.  Lots going on at work, called into and serving Jury Duty, girlfriend doing grad school, and... well a lot of artificial stress.  Resulting in migraines and illness and whatnot.  Just a personal update before the meat of things.  Since it's been a while.

The space game has been cancelled due to one of the players in our skeleton crew getting fired in unfortunate circumstances.  My live group played for the first time in forever, but as usual new game new characters new premise...  It gets a bit repetitive.  Maybe I should insist on continuing something next time.  My Google Hangouts group IS doing a long arc game.  I say long arc as I know it will end and we'll end up starting over again.  I haven't done nearly enough work on any personal projects, what with the new employees at work and everything combined with my reaching another low point in my ever roller coastering mood, I haven't had the energy.

I still have ideas, ideas I could execute and some which I think would actually make it easier and quicker to prototype.  But that's neither here nor there right now.  Right now this post is about something else.

Lately I have been thinking about when I sought professional help for depression.  I've done it twice in my life and both times left me feeling... Well not better, that's for sure.  Right now I feel like I'm functional, I know my mood rises and falls like the tides (on longer cycles I think), but in some exceptional cases, I just felt so down I never thought I'd rise out again.  That nothing was going to get better, there was nothing *I* could do.  Not how I am.  So I went out into the world for help.  For real solid help on what I was missing what I needed to know and understand to control and improve myself, to keep myself from being in this place in the future and drag myself out of the deep hopeless...  I would say pit, but imagine it more like being at the center of a great hollowed out planet.  A pit you could walk around the bottom, or grab onto the sides and climb.  In the hollowed out hole, there is nothing... nothing you can do.  Nothing to grab, no down or up or even if you could wrap your head around the center BEING down and everything else being up, it would be admitting that THIS was it, the lowest you would ever be and there was NO escape, no easy direction.

So with this feeling I went to a professional.  I went to a location where they said, "Come here for help."  Help is an interesting word.  I wonder if those people knew what it meant.  Or if perhaps my impression of help is too high a bar for a professional to meet.  The first time I did this, was after breaking up with my first girlfriend.  I have a hard time with transitions, between jobs, between schools, between homes.  They always set me into a bad mood.  It's not something active, I just get angry.  When I graduated from High School, the person who walked next to me was very upset I ruined her graduation pictures with my foul frown.  But such is me.

Anyhow, so I went to the college health center, following up on all the recommendations that freshmen are given (I was a sophomore, but it's irrelevant really) They plopped me in front of some faceless person who listened to me say two sentences then passed me a trial bottle of anti-depressants and told me to see if they help before shooing me out.

What do you do with that?  Isn't the first step to helping listening?  Isn't it asking questions and honestly wanting answers?  Isn't it finding the root of the problem and helping to solve that?

This wasn't really what got a rock in my craw recently and made me want to write though.  It was a doctor I spoke to recently about my migraines that got me itching to post.  To post about another occurrence over a year ago when I visited a doctor about depression.

After another event that drove me to pretty extreme emotions, I visited my Kaiser medical facility following up on a specific section covering depression.  This time I came a bit more prepared (I'd since learned that just shutting up and listening is apparently a terrible idea if you really want to get anywhere in life), and went in being more specific and talking clearly and elaborating with the doctor.  He nodded, and looked right through me.  Not at me, but in the direction of my face with vacant eyes.  He reached into a drawer grabbed a pamphlet from the top and handed it to me.  And then began to talk to me in a slow, methodical and altered tone.  At the time I thought it was a patronizing tone, but after my recent encounter I can only conclude, it was supposed to be a sympathetic (or empathetic, there is a difference) voice.  But all his physicality, the falseness of the whole thing was like a slap in the face.

Since then, I don't know if I could go back to that kind of professional for help with depression again.  I think I'd rather pay someone to chain me up in a dark room and feed me through a straw for a few months until I missed my old life desperately enough that the depression had all but left me.

No, it's experiences like this that taught me that structured society has no place for people with issues like me.  People with issues that don't just disappear with a pill.  Or at least people who refuse to use that as the perpetual treatment of symptom.  Me, I can cope.  I have friends and family who will help me when I'm down.  I don't even need to say depressed, I can just go to them and talk or whatever.  But what about the people who can't even do that?  After the doctors spit in their face a few times and they realize they are truly and hopelessly alone, where does that leave them?

I'm not surprised there's so many people out there who can't take it and fold.  I'd rather talk to someone who doesn't know what to do but listens than listen to that damn practiced voice.

Anyhoo, sorry to be a downer, I just had to get that out.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Progress 4/6

Though lack of blog updates is evident, I have actually still been working on the project.

I'd concluded enough changes had occurred that a reprint was necessary, and even since then have done more work.

This has included writing down some abilities for the science and engineering roles, recording damage effects, upgrading the ship sheets for the engineer and creating one for the pilot, expanding on travel and making notes about critical failure during damage.

I'm adding more about how characters can get damaged on a ship.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


No update for this week, but I do have a thought I'd like to try and expand on.

I got an email from a video game website called Gamasutra.  It was an advertisement on behalf of a book claiming to be able to improve the reader's writing skill in things such as quests, missions and puzzles.  This line alone sent me thinking.  So I'll set it up with an example of a very noteworthy experience in MMO gaming I had.  Specifically a Quest/Mission/Puzzle.  A Quest/Mission/Puzzle that ruined me forever in the world of Quests, Missions and Puzzles.

The setup for the mission was rather simple.  The player didn't have to seek out a quest giver, they all had it already and decided to do it on their own.  However, the quest didn't have a defined destination and furthermore the ACTUAL destination was one of those ones that moves around.  In this game there was a HUGE world to explore and the destination could pretty much be ANYWHERE.  Finally, there wasn't any mission text associated with the quest.  It was just kind of a known thing that had to do something to get the reward.  Strangely enough most people just knew the basic idea of what they needed to do.

The execution for the mission was a bit more tough.  Depending on the amount of tools you had you could use expensive expendable items to narrow down the search to about one of 20 giant zones.  If you didn't, you had to play a game of hot and cold on each of the zones and compare the best 'hot' result between all of them to find out which spot was the actual reward.  Anywhere else would be a lesser reward which might be acceptable for lower tier players, but at the upper echelon would simply not do.  Each of these giant zones could take a day to explore in any reasonable manner as well and were populated by extremely dangerous enemies at times.

The difficulty was compounded by the fact that the reward could be claimed by another player preventing you from claiming it yourself if you were too slow.

This reward was not something a few people were seeking every once and a while.  I guarantee you were in competition with at least 30 or more people at any one time.  The task was cutthroat.

And even if you spent the time and found the reward, it wasn't something useful to start with.  Firstly you had to have expensive and specialized equipment to claim the reward.  It wasn't instantly gained, it could take hours before you saw ANY of the reward.  Once you claimed the reward it wasn't worth anything but what other players would pay for it.  It, in and of itself was worthless.  It wasn't a weapon, armor or consumable.  It had to be converted to something useful.  This usually required searching for THE SAME KIND OF REWARD AGAIN.  Possibly several more times.  If you didn't, it might have well been some shittier version of the reward.

After that, you had to have developed super high quality skills, purchased amazingly high quality tools and work with other people who have done the mission as many times as you, and have similarly high quality tools and skills to turn the reward into something useful.  Did I mention to get these skills you had to develop your character to have them from the beginning?  Furthermore odds are, this useful item was worthless to you and you would have to SELL IT TO SOMEONE ELSE or give it to another very high skill character of yours to use.

And it was amazing.  It was beautiful.  It was the best Quest/Mission/Puzzle I had ever done and would ever do.  It ruined me for every Quest/Mission/Puzzle I had ever done.  And do you know why?  Because there was no written story.  Nobody had taken the time to come up with the plot for this.  This was the highest tier of crafting for a game called Star Wars Galaxies.  The people who were able to complete these quests played as a class called the TRADER.  They literally had a class for crafting.  A class that had no quests past the first starter quests.  The most elite would complete this 'Mission' and be widely known as the one with the best blasters, armor or lightsabers or whatever it was their specialty was.  Because you couldn't even do everything!

This sounds like a horrible mission, but it wasn't, because the people who surveyed whole planets looking for the best metal did it willingly.  They did it to be the best and succeed at far greater skill than anyone else.  They had to level up BY CRAFTING to get to that point.  Monsters gave no XP to Traders.  They enjoyed it because it was the path they had chosen.  Not because it was shoved down their throats by someone who thought we would want to save the Jawas by fetching them 3 idols of Jabba the Hutt after killing twenty Gammorians.

So why the hell would I buy a book about writing great missions, when the greatest mission I ever pursued had no writing?  I just can't keep my morale up while grinding through the 30th Gungan.

Monday, March 10, 2014

3/10 Update

No game last week, cancelled due to lack of players.

Spent more time working on a Wasteland Weekend costume upgrade and my other team's project (coming out soon to a kickstarter near you).

I should have tried to do more, didn't end up doing it.

I did however confirm a group for scenario playtesting eventually (just repeat combats with minimal context)

I think I should have worked more on setting lore since I'm waiting on rules for another pass attempt to see which direction I should take it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Progress Update 3/2

Need to ensure I have one running between each of these posts.

Addressed most issues from last post.  Hopefully ready for next running.
Going to try and only print out necessary sheets for next game.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Delayed Update for 2/22

Was supposed to be a very busy weekend.
Had three games planned and had to get the system playable for Monday.

Two games cancelled and one downgraded to online resulting in having a lot more time, but also resulted in me forgetting about posting.  Should set an alarm or something...


The first game with the system in use went much better than expected.  The players caught on quickly and the system went through a functional combat.  I need to come up with a pilot sheet and maybe some counters to shift around to make things easy, but I think it's looking good.

Areas that need development.  Warp, aside from needing a new name needed to be written down and jump delays evaluated.

Salvaging needs minimal functioning rules.

Cargo space needs to be developed into minimal functioning rules.

Chases need to be developed into having slightly less bias towards ship agility and more bias towards skill.  I think I've already got a handle on this.

Player morale is good, I think they're looking at exploring their options.

Damage effects NEED to be written down.

I need to take better notes during play.

Gotta figure out why Google Docs didn't have the most up to date doc on another computer (the one with a printer) <--- VERY IMPORTANT

Formations 'worked'.  Haven't tried with PCs in a formation.

Game started off with a crit fail on a warp check followed by a crit fail on a notice check.  This was amusing but had us start with a pirate ambush.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Positive Introspection

I'm procrastinating again.  The moment I have a deadline for my setting project I just collapse.  I can guarantee I'll have something passable by Monday (my deadline), I can work on Thursday and take notes Friday evening during game, and even maybe do some brainstorming over the weekend, my Sunday group is a bunch of lightweights, so I'm sure I'll have hours in the evening and morning.

But the procrastination isn't really what this post is about.  Perhaps it is the initial spark, but as I was perusing the blog, checking my old comments, I read the last one.  It was a long time back talking about things I carry with me always, and very personal.  Reading the end, I think now is a great time for a follow up.  Probably one of the last paragraphs.  Right now it's 8PM so I'm well before the damn 2AM depression/insomnia window.

I put down many things I might talk about at the end of the post.  But I think I would like to talk about my successes.  As usual, a stream of consciousness, but it's going to get personal, and specific.

I think if I look backwards, far far down the line, some of my favorite memories are of games.  Playing computer games with my father, I was proud to do so.  Of doing the jumping part on Super Mario Brothers that the baby sitter's daughter couldn't do when we hung out (she probably could, but also probably was boosting my young ego as some do.  Keep me involved and whatnot.)  I can remember when I first beat Oregon Trail, just as they called me in to collect my birthday pencil in elementary school.  I can also almost remember the proud moment when I pieced together a 386 that was my first computer.  Although that was well past elementary school.  And then there was when I made my own cyberpunk system for playing with my neighbor in a tent in his back yard, and he enjoyed it.

I knew it was crap, as I had played a full fledged D20 system who's name I cant recall at the moment and the neighbor would follow me into a den of hungry bears, but it is one of those strong memories.  It was games that stuck with me.  I played sports, but I never had much pride in it.  Sure there was stealing home and winning the game when the coach told me not to run, and there was playing a goalie in soccer and scoring goals every once and a while, but they didn't stick.  For me, the big victories were in games, in sharing them, beating them and building them.

One of the oldest games I 'made' that I can remember never saw multiplayer.  I would take Jenga blocks, RISK and monopoly and make them into soldiers that fought each other, and you had to buy the blocks and soldiers based on your performance.  Simple, but it still had structure, form and customization.

Another great success in my life was my being nominated for a big event in Texas called the Youth Technology Leaders Summit.  In retrospect I know the reason I went was because the prior kids couldn't afford it, and somehow my parents could, I still will never know how.  They supported my education throughout my life and I owe a LOT to them.  It was an even where many different 'kids' got together and shared their skills and attended seminars.  The culmination of the event is to solve some world problem.  It was pretty amazing, and after 9/11.  The towers were downed and we were bundled inside and hidden from the terrorists, even then I knew it was bullshit, but fear is fear.

There were other small successes, a smart trick in Boy Scouts during a one sided camp game, a pinewood derby car simple but efficient, a science project of a spinning atom, a catapult that bent 1/4 steel rods that had to be replaced after multiple shots, going from the worst unreal player in my class to dominating everyone...  Lots of small things, nothing stands out much in that period.

College however opened up a lot of opportunity for successes with meaning to myself.  For one thing, graduation.  High school graduation made me angry, college, knowing I had to fight for it  made me relieved, and lost.  But it was a hard fought victory.  Incompetent and self absorbed teachers were rampant, and good ones were always there to help.  My poor memory skills brutalized me in GE and Art History, but I still prevailed.

It may not have gotten any GE requirement, and most people wouldn't understand, but my D in human anatomy is the grade I am most proud of.  That class was the epitome of everything I am weak at, but I put in the hours and beat out 50% of the 50% of the class that DIDN'T drop the class.  Had they all stayed that probably would have been a pretty damn good grade.

I am proud of standing up against two of my incompetent professors, one publicly in front of the whole class.  By building a polished sculpture of a hand flipping off the viewer.  Specifically facing the professor who ruined two of my projects.

I am proud of the time I came to the office hours of the shitty programming professor and told her that I had come to her office hours every week for the last 2/3 of the class and not gotten a straight answer on why the program I made that the entire class was based off was not working for her and did for me.  I am also proud of the final project I made despite the issue, the project I put in my portfolio for getting a job.

I am proud of knowing when to swallow my pride with the logic and critical thinking teacher who remembered me 4 years later when I came to talk about that one assignment he had refused to grade as I had apparently insulted him in it.

I am proud of taking the reins on my final game design project and making it happen despite 1 of my two partners was completely incompetent.

I am proud of how well I eventually drew still lifes and figures in hand drawing, and how well I actually painted in painting.

I am proud of doing black and white photography in a dark room by hand.  I am proud of the art that came from it.

I am proud of having attended regular events at the local comic shop and befriending the owner.

I am not proud of what may be one of my greatest successes, accepting my partner of 9 years' proposition of getting together.  I am proud of the results, but honestly I was betraying a friend who was interested in her.

College was good for me.  But there was more yet to life.  I still had to find a job, and that came with new opportunities.  I spoke of my previous job when I was still at it.  When it had rotted and become fetid with neglect pending a buyout by a larger company.  These were dark times and did not make the last post any brighter, but they had many bright times too.

I was chosen to be hired for one.  That was a great success as at the time jobs were hard to find, and competition for the spot was actually existent.  I was station 13, I was proud of my work and I worked hard.  There were times I even slept on site because the train stopped running when we got off, then I started work again the next day.

I managed to be picked for a particular project.  Getting chosen for this project actually was going to change my life forever.  One of the leads advised all the testers to learn a skill called Compliance Testing.  I was the only one to do it.  I am proud of this, it opened a gateway to save the day on another project when the normal Compliance Testers were out.  This I am very proud of as it got me a permanent job as a Compliance Tester.

During my job I got sent to Microsoft in Seattle, decreased the submission rate to 1:1 (submission to passes) and was the gatekeeper to ensure that a multi-million dollar company did not miss deadlines or pay fees on a 2-3 year project that all hinged on a short one week process.  I did this many times before I got my last position on an unreleased project for the company.

I became an assistant lead.  Technically it was a demotion, but as there were few projects and even fewer positions available, I watched as many other testers, some I was good friends with, were let go.  I even had a bit of survivor's guilt, but was kept on.  I am not as proud as I should be perhaps, but I still haven't seen most of those people since.

I took up a position where I learned new skills, made new processes, forged new ground and established new guidelines.  I built a level for the game, I consulted on the design and had meaningful talks with VERY important people on the project.  I am still in communication with the creative director on it (hopefully he'll be in my Sunday game).  AND I still did compliance work.  It was the most important I've ever been at work.  I touched everything and without my hands, everything would have been off schedule and everyone would have been hindered, from the designers to the producers to the programmers.  I even eventually got my own employee (minion) to manage.

I type slowly now, fondly remembering the time with nostalgia.  It did fade and rot as it became more and more clear the game would never be released.  I am proud I stood my ground and did everything in my power to ensure it still did and was ready should it be given it's chance.  Still sadness remains at what never was.  Years of many people's lives lost.

But enough of that.  I am proud I sought work with a strong morale and purpose.  I am proud of how many people wanted me to work for them.  Especially of one friend who's opinion I greatly value, and of how his co-workers greatly desired me to work there and even asked about me (I had turned it down previously as I was still employed at my job and felt it would be wrong to leave when they needed me.)

I'm proud that I have friends who at least tolerate my presence.  I am proud they still wish to stay in touch with me and value my opinion.  I care about them.  In all honesty that is in my mind now.  I don't know if they feel the same way, but I honestly care about them.  I fear that I may seem to distant and cold.

I am proud of some parts of my new job.  I still have doubts that it is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I am proud they value my opinion there.  That they value me enough to pay more significantly more than minimum wage.  That I have taken charge on a development tool and improved it greatly.  That I am learning new things and managing outsource testers and taking on new roles and skills I never have before.

And now I am here.  I am proud I have a group of players who want to play my game.  So much so that on their Monday off, they want to spend it with me.  Playing in my world.  I'm actually tearing up a bit right now.  But that might just be from the emotion thing in that other post.

Oh and I'm very happy tonight as my partner is coming home with In-N-Out.  Maybe she'll even play Magic with me if I'm lucky.  Sometimes it's hard not to feel how wonderful my life is.  Sometimes it's the opposite.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Quick Update

After an unintentional total party kill when some skeletons apparently rolled really well and had perfect timing with a troll, my party decided (with no prompting of my own besides listing space with about 8 other genres) that they wanted to start a space game.

Therefore, I offered up my space setting.  So now I have to get it at it's basest level functional by Monday.

I guess there is going to be a LOT less video game time this week.  Also because I'm in two different day long games on Saturday and Sunday.  Time is not my ally this week, so I need to manage to play through one entire combat session by Thursday night.

We'll see if I can deliver.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Progress 2/15

Got myself a bunch of yellow notepads.
I love them, I can fit them in my back pocket and take em anywhere.
Great for spontaneous notes.  Now I just have to figure out that car ride home issue.

Started reworking my concepts of technology in the setting.  This was apparently a huge sticking point from one player who had to have realism inserted into a setting made for a cinematic game.  Anyhow, while I wont be going into Newtonian physics for him, I'm putting more thought into the hows and whys.

Got a good start on the hows and whys of faster than light travel, and how the tech behind it generally is what makes up most of future tech.  I'm working on the power source technology now too.

I also decided to add a group temporarily named 'spacers' to be all the rough survivalist folks living in shitholes in space.

Ruleswise I added a lot for Formations in ships.  Basically benefits and drawbacks for flying in formation.  In general it should be more advantageous to fly in formation if you are skilled pilots, but if you aren't you are going to lose a lot of options in combat for some defensive and offensive bonuses anyhow.

Formations also extends to escorts offering defensive benefits for the escorted ship.

I broke out a lot of the stats into averages for ship sizes and added more listing for ship equipment and the limits of upgrading ships and ship parts.

I'm looking at stepping through a sample combat sequence to understand where I'm lacking.  To be honest I should have been doing that from the beginning.  It's just playtesting 101.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Progress 2/8/2014

Made more progress.
Roughed out some general ideas for interesting new character weapons.
Expanded on ship equipment and damage effects (hull breach, fire, malfunctions)
Expanded on some of the Chase vs Dogfight rules.
Started gathering resources for ship character sheet.
Started sketching out thoughts for the ship combat map.

I'm beginning to think I should actually start mocking up combat rounds.  Possibly starting with fighters (super simple and easy to draw up) then moving to mid range craft which will likely be piloted by a full party as a crew.

From there I need to start investigating the effects of subordinate extras on wildcards manning stations.

I think I should also start considering the idea of 'extra' space ships and what that means in this combat system.  As it stands I think there might just be a base guideline of size ratio difference being an automatic extra or wildcard as far as damage is concerned and a guideline for true wildcards as getting the bennies while effective wildcards don't.

The problem arises that wildcards in fighters will be VERY vulnerable to a single or even two steps difference in ship size.  This hazard drops some when going up a size or two, but is still pretty harsh.  Perhaps I will suggest only extras pilot fighters.  That said, if you need to do a trench run, I want a decent fighter as an option.

If you haven't caught on yet, the majority of the work on this system is effectively replacing the vehicle system Savage Worlds uses (which I hate) and replacing it with my own 'fast, furious, fun' system.

Furthermore the fact that I use two Google accounts for this blog is really a pain.  Maybe I can hook this one up with Google drive and share it so I can work on the doc with either.

It doesn't sound like much work to me.  I feel like I could do more, but I console myself with the thought that I am doing any work at all.  Given I'm in 2 'live' games, 3 online games, a project on a team of cool people and trying to spend time with my significant other, I think I'm doing alright.  Though maybe after she get's through grad school I can take a LOT of time off just to work on this project...  Assuming it isn't done in 3-4 years.  Which I hope is NOT the case.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Little Progress

Held up by a bout of depression this week.
Will try and get rolling again next week.
Weekend should be a good boost to mood due to finally getting to hang out with my live gaming group again today.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Progress Report

I've decided weekly progress reports to keep up with the work might help...

Still digging up random files, putting everything in one place synced with a cloud seems to be a VERY good idea now.  I'm using google docs which will let me work on my computer and it shall update automatically.

I rebuilt the edges, outlined some gear, moved in the ship stats, and added ship parts.  Not as much work as I honestly would like, but I only have myself to blame for that one.  My plans for the next week include more fleshing out of basic ship stats, developing the ship activities further and perhaps tackling some outlines for the actual setting portions.  It would also be nice to be done digging up numbers and have them all converted to the new document, but I have to go about dealing with converting one note files to a readable format.  I SHOULD be able to do that, but we'll see...

Friday, January 17, 2014

False Starts

I've done quite a few false starts in the interim.  Tried to cover the various exploits I've pursued, explain my distractions.

Hardly really matters if nothing gets posted.

After many false starts I've decided to work on a complete work and submit it.  Finally design something, finish it and submit it.

As such I am pursuing making my spaceship rules for Savage Worlds into a setting.  I think the biggest difficulty will be maintaining the steam, but we shall see.

I don't promise to do continuous updates on progress, but wish I could say I will.

Right now I'm at the beginning.  I'm recovering and covering old ground and putting it into one single document separated as one would an actual book.  I intend to keep all the ship rules, the general universal and social structure and the character rules.

After I get the rules into a playable state I intend to make working character/ship sheets as necessary.  Then I will be looking for viable play test scheduling.  I'm actually part of a group that is working on getting another Savage Worlds product out there and has a record of succeeding at those, so I'm hoping if they have a gap in their schedule I can mix things in.  Furthermore they probably have resources for art and advice.  This is looking pretty far into the future however as we have a lot of things to do on the old project and some fun activities as a 'just hanging out' group we like to do too.

I've also done one vital thing.  I'm using Google docs to back things up.  I have a bad history of losing hard drives at inopportune times.  Furthermore I have a vague concept of a special method of play testing that could be augmented with Google docs.

As shorthand for the rest of life...

I got fired from LucasArts over a year ago, got a new job that isn't really games anymore and am sad.
Rethinking my future path and how to go in that direction.
Played a lot of video games.
Still play pen and paper when I can, but mostly just here.
Also play on RPOL, but it's generally shit games.
Ran a superhero game on Skype and bombed it. (Rules good, GMing bad[big ego hit])
Attended Wasteland Weekend and met awesome people and did awesome things (huge ego boost)
Finally cleaned off my desk.

So yeah, life and stuff.