Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All Good Things (Part Two)... indeed come to an end.

However, this time it isn't hobby related. Discovery Kids is no more. Now for those of you without a horde of your own, this is pretty dull news, however for me it is a disaster.

DK is the science-for-kids branch of the Discovery Channel and in our house it was the kids favourite channel. The programming - a mixture of UK and US kids science, history dressed as mystery and a few cartoons (including the awesome Kenny The Shark) - really fired my girls and their interest in science and history. They absorbed the content every morning, loving every minute of it.

The downside was that the channel only had a very small set of programs to choose from. Thus we had probably seen every episode of every series maybe a dozen times. The kids were seemingly immune to this monotony, but us adults were grinding our teeth. Indeed, we were cheering when we heard that the channel was going 'online'

Until tonight, when it closed it's doors for good. It was like the kids had to sit and watch a friend leave. They were in tears. Christine was nearly in tears. Even I had a lump in my throat at the thought.

So goodbye to Crash Test Danny, Mystery Hunters, Timeblazers, The Big Bang, Science Please, Scientrific, Gross, Star Munchies and of course Kenny the Shark. If only you hadn't been so bloody repetitive!!


All Good Things... indeed come to an end, and it would appear that my time with World of Warcraft is hurtling in that direction. Life (well, work mainly, which I refuse to identify as life) is making it impossible for me to consider the time and energy needed to commit to endgame raiding in The Burning Crusade. My time is too precious to grind reputation and spend hours at a keyboard in pursuit of 'teh phat lootz'. I have better things to do, it would appear.

I would have quite happily toddled along with the game, if I had been able to stay attached to my current guild, 'If In Doubt, AFK Out'. However, Iain, the guildmaster, has just announced that the minimum requirements for membership is the ability to commit one night a week to raiding. One night? That can't be hard, can it? Well, at the moment, with me crawling in from work at 7.00pm after logging 9 hour days without a break, yes, yes it is. There was a possibility that there would be some sort of 'friends' status extended, but it appears that was just a rumour. It's a serious business, endgame raiding, and you don't need people clogging up your guild list with their part-time avatars.

I could seek another guild. I could return to the Dungeoneers - I'm sure Matt/Grimvok would have me if I paid him with enough red wine. I could seek membership of some other random faction of freaks and misfits. I could try to start my own guild. OK, that last one was a joke. However, in the end, I don't think it would be a good idea. I'm very jaded with the entire guild experience, especially the 'guilds within a guild' nonsense and the absolutely dire levels of communication that these things seem to engender in everyone. It really isn't worth the hassle.

So, I have to decide what to do with Gorthaal, Gortessa and Kylea - oh and the pre-pubescent Gorthadin of course. Will they become dormant? Will they go to the great ebay auction in the sky? Will they be passed onto a friend? Will they just tootle around Azeroth wondering whats happening?

Who knows...


Friday, February 23, 2007

Mid Life Crisis of Finally Discovered Self Confidence

Today is a good day. Let me explain...

A while back, I was stood outside my kids school watching the mothers going about the same dull morning routine and I wondered - is this it? The likelihood of humanity existing is so randomly minute that it is hard to believe that it is not for some possible greater purpose - and I find it hard to believe that this greater purpose is discussing Jade Goodie or the number of bonus points you have at Tesco. It then struck me that we allow the mundane nature of life and the pressures of modern living really crush our ability to strive to be better than we are - we are, essentially, trained to be risk averse.

This anti-risk nature permeates everything that we do - including things that simple shouldn't be risks at all. It also makes us underestimate what we are and what we can achieve. What struck me after that was that with a degree in marketing, 20 years gaming experience, really quite decent design skills, web design and management skills and a cohort of some of the most educated, versatile and friendly gamers at my disposal there is no reason on this Earth why I couldn't live the dream and write a roleplaying game. So I have and it is going rather well.

However, the mundanity of life has slipped in again. When people have asked me - 'Are you going to sell this?' my answers have always been very negative. They have always been indirect, evasive and generally no. After all, I couldn't, could I?

Well I had a long chat with a couple of associates last night who work in the student media industry and we were talking about my current quest for new employment. Frankly, they were bemused that I couldn't find a new position and went on to tell me, in no uncertain (and very flattering) terms about my position within the market and reputation and such. Apparently, I deliver. Apparently my ideas are ahead of the curve. Apparently I am quite good at my job.

Which got me thinking.... sometimes the situations that we are in can specifically be a downer on our own potential as much as the world that we live in. I've been seconded to run our Print Shop recently and it has really dumbed down my self-belief by doing very menial work. Looking beyond that 9-5 grind and remembering who you are and what you are capable of is so important.

And the point of this meaningless voyage around my mid-30s career crisis? Well, I'm going to go for it. Yes, I am going to develop Omniverse and maybe some other ideas with an eye to releasing them into the wider market. Yes I am going to do it 'properly'. Yes I am going to bring my full broadside of skills, resources and experiences on it.

Why? Because I bloody well can and the only thing that seperates me from the people that have done it in the past is the belief that it is possible.

wish me luck...


Monday, February 19, 2007


Last night during Omniverse playtest, I realised that I needed to get some new dice... or rather I needed to supplement my horrendously depleted dice collection. Part of me is thrilled at the prospect, part of me is horrified that my old faithfuls have been lost. Well, most of them. My Yahtzee d6s (the best rolling dice in all of Christendom) are still around, as is my 'lucky' d20. However, many of the less used dice seem to have found their way into the hoover, the cat or the diet of a small child*

So, as I have readers now I'll throw a question out to them - what are your criteria for quality dice?

Only on a roleplaying blog....


* Note to social services... I don't feed my kids dice. That might count as nutrition..../grin

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Forging a New (Virtual) Reality

Things have been pretty frantic over the last few days and it has been pretty damned good. Lets start off with World of Warcraft. I had a potter for a few hours on Saturday morning but other than that I haven't touched it for about a week now. And guess what? I've hardly missed it. OK, thats a little shy of the truth - I'm not missing the game, nor am I missing the people, but I have got those odd feelings of compulsion and a little guilt regarding the guild. However the actual gameplay is just not needed. Thats very strange, especially considering the amount I have played the game. I don't know how long my WoW holiday will last, but at the moment it's going fine.

So, if I am not playing WoW, what the hell am I doing with my time?

Roleplaying has taken to the ascendency in a major way as of late. A couple of weeks ago we played a session of Pendragon that, I believe, most people around the table would rather forget about. I haven't mentioned it specifically in 'The Bottom of the Glass' because so much was mentioned about it elsewhere. I would rather dwell upon the way that, I believe, it acted as a little wake-up call for many of the people around the table.

Maybe we had become a little complacent? Maybe we were a little too full of our own cleverness? Maybe we just forgot that we were there to ROLEPLAY? I have no idea. However our last session was nothing short of magical. Nigel excelled himself in the GMs chair by taking things a little slower, slipping in some tried and tested GMing tools and making the game focussed wholly on the characters. Around the table the banter and near constant WoW side references stopped dead. We played. We played in-character, we expanded the story, we energised the setting. It was just brilliant. Moreover, we also established 'Steak and Cinema Sunday' - a Sunday once-a-month where we have something to eat and then see a suitable gamer-esque movie. Our first one will be '300'.

Subsequent to that session we have been abuzz with relationship mappings, ideas for storylines and other hints and help. Really, it is 'Ask not what your GM can do for you, but what you can do for your GM' at the moment.

Omniverse continues apace and we had our first real face-to-face playtest session. It was amazing. I cannot really describe the buzz of seeing people you respect taking your little game very seriously indeed. Questions were asked, debates were had and you know what - they 'got it'! That was the best bit, they seemed to understand and buy into the ideas I had put down. Oh, I know it was only character generation but it made me feel magnificent.

A smorgasbord of gaming and related pursuits seems to be my fate at the moment. And that, readers of my sometimes rather pessimistic blog, is a VERY GOOD THING INDEED!!


Thursday, February 08, 2007


Last night, amidst the wonderful vista that is Netherstorm in Outland, Gorth finally 'dinged' 70. It was late, so I received a light smattering of 'grats' and then settled into the knowledge that my month long journey of discovery had come to an end ... and the new endgame was looming before me.

However, the question that was preying on my mind was not where to start with this new challenge, but whether I want take part in it at all!?

As I have been questing my little head off, I have been watching in the background as my guildmates take part in a neverending series of instance runs and reputation grinds to get 'keys' - and these keys allow access to other instances which are harder and then more keys and more instances. You get the idea?

I have had no desire to instance during The Burning Crusade at all. The ridiculous dichotomy of the druid has hit home hard. I have levelled as a pure feral form and I am death on four paws. Its fantastic. However, when I have to shift over the healing I really am a stand-in medic at best. To become an effective group healer again, I would have to return to Restoration spec and that makes all of the wonderful fun I have had disappear. I'll readily accept that I am a far better healer than I am a tank or a dps player but still... returning to the tree and losing my wonderful damage potential makes me sad.

The schedule is another thing that I simple cannot find myself getting enthused about. The idea that I would put whole evenings aside to run dungeon-after-dungeon to get eventually incremental increases in the equipment my avatar wears seems .... well, ridiculous! I've been there and done that. I've dedicated countless evenings to the pursual of items like the Staff of Dominance or the Cauterising Band. Even then, the acquisition of the items was always less important than the fun and frolics that was being had with the people I was playing with.

Sadly, my increasing feeling is that 'AFK' is not really a fun and frolics guild. The people in it are great folk, and really good players but therein lies the problem. There's a certain degree of focus, a certain tenacity and a certain level of expectation within the guild that increasingly doesn't seem to match the way I feel about playing the game. I certainly don't want to be holding a spot in a guild with such high endgame aspirations if I cannot dedicate myself to matching those aspirations. Thats not fair on the people in the guild or those that wish to join it.

In the end however, it also comes down to time and how I spend it. I have a lot of things on my mind at the moment, namely work-related nonsense. I need to look closely at how I use that time and how I make it work for me. Is spending four evenings challenging to get one upgraded piece of equipment in a computer game really what I want or need at the moment?



Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How do the Swedes do it?

Survive that is?

Yes, it's that time of year again when the dread words are echoed by the Met Office.


Now you would expect such grave tones to be taken for howling gales tearing trees from their roots, torrential rain causing flash floods or surging tides washing away low lying villages near the coast.

Nope, it's a light dusting of snow. In North Shields this morning there was - I'll be generous - a centimetre of snow. You know the sort that kind of clings to the middle of a paving stone so that it might constitute 'lying' is you blurred your eyes. Not enough to make a decent snowball. It now constitutes the total and utter breakdown of civilisation as we know it. Metro services are put on restricted timetables, peoples abilities to drive on perfectly clear roads stop dead and children are mummified in their cold weather clothes like it was a dry-run for 'The Day After Tomorrow'. The newspapers don't help with one of them claiming that the entire country would close down if there was 6 inches of snow.

How do the Swedes do it? Indeed, throw in the Russians and Norwegians and Canadians and even the good people of New York? In fact anywhere that has a reasonably snowy winter? Surely they must just hibernate for the winter, never venturing from their boltholes in case some meteorlogical catastrophe should befall them?

Well no, they just get on with it don't they. I remember a friend from Prince Edward Isle in Canada saying that until the snow drifts were six feet deep it didn't constitute a proper winter. We would simply all die if that happened here. What we have now is not 'severe weather' - it is something slightly different from the normal grey, moist, overcast tripe that we have for 95% of our year.

Personally I blame Micheal Fish. Ever since he assured the populace with:

"Earlier on today apparently a lady rang the BBC and said she heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well don't worry if you're watching, there isn't."

Ever since then the Met Office have been so shit scared that someone, somewhere might be possibly offended or inconvenienced by them underestimating the 'severity' of the weather, that EVERY change in weather is labelled as a possible nightmare writ large upon the Earth.

A guildmate on WoW asked me last week whether the Brits held the Scandanavian races with any contempt based on how the Vikings raped and pillaged them. I answered no, but I'm going to revise that to yes. Why? Because you damned well didn't teach us how to deal with SNOW!!!!