Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pointlesness? What is "fun"?

This is a rambling post about MMO Burnout. I know that I'm not the first to go on about this, but it's something I'm dealing with, atm.

Remember when games were fun? When games didn't require months of character grinding.

It seems to me, the gaming universe has suffered a schizoid break, of sorts.

Most MMO's, for a long time now, have leaned either towards the FPS kill/die/kill or the grind/grind/grind. It's not just W101, but most games. The whole concept of "leveling=progress" is a carved-in-stone truth of gaming. But the quests all, inevitably equal "Kill, X, collect X, Deliver X". Crafting is another example of "how to spend time" in character development. How does one keep the feeling of progress, without "the grind"? I think it's an answer many may be looking for, both player and developer.

There's IRL stories of suicides , dating from the old pen-and-paper D&D days onwards, of "heavily invested" characters dying off, with their IRL players following suit. It's sad. All too often, we emotionally link out avatars as a direct extension of ourselves, forgetting that they are no more than digital puppets, and we, the puppeteers. One of my issues is that I "solo" most of the time, so a lot of MMO's make it much harder to progress unless you have a heavy-firepower team along with you. I know, why join a MMO if you play alone? Doesn't makes sense, but that's about the size of it. Still looking for my ideal MMO "home".

(Another rant altogether, is how the archer/ranger class is consistently the "red headed stepchild" of nerfing. Solo+Archer+[insert MMO here]=frustrating. )

I don't even know where I'm going with this post, just throwing some thoughts out there.

Is all gaming, in one form, or another, a grind? I'm thinking so.

I can understand the difficulty of making a MMO, *any* MMO, as "fresh" for the long-term player , as it is for the new arrival.

At current, I have several games on my desktop, and I'm not interested in playing any of them, so I know the issue is with ME, not the games themselves. Sometimes I miss the simple, and ultimately re playable adventure by Atari, but I can see how even this could be a grind.

What makes a game "fun"? I'm probably missing something, atm. I can't see the trees for the forest. I've been spending time on Kongregate, sifting through small, noncommittal games, trying to kill time.

So, I ask you, the readers, how do you keep your games "fun"?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Penny Dreadful Ch1 Pt 5 ::VOTE::

Merle was the one to break the silence. "Now, dear friends, we must be on to business. I will state it quite plainly, actually.", he gestured at Penny.

"I am here for your daughter."

All was quiet in the room, as the magnitude of Headmaster Ambroses's words settled in. Even the fire in the fireplace seemed to crackle much quieter than before. All eyes, of course, were on Penny.

"There has to be some mistake!" Penny declared at last, "I'm no wizard!"
"Please, Headmaster Ambrose", added Penny's mother, "surely there has been some oversight, somewhere?"

The Headmaster simply shook his head quietly. "Penny, my dear child, I know for a fact that you are a wizard."

Penny's mind raced. How could he know factually? There had never been any suggestion to her having any kind of magic abilities.No unusual events in her childhood. No omens for good or ill, suggesting she had a hand in the currents of energy that flowed and ebbed in the world of magics.Suddenly, a very recent event popped into her head.
"The capstone!" she offered, in a burst of realization.
"Quite precisely, Penny", Merle nodded, " Of course, I chalked up all the spell work, but if you did not possess The Spark, you could have pounded with that rock all day, and the boulder in the field would not so much as budged."

"Excuse, me Headmaster" queried Mr. Dreadful ," 'The Spark'?"

"Oh, ho! Yes, indeed! The Spark is what makes wizards, well, wizards." Merle explained, "Many have tried to determine it's source, to no avail.It simply 'is'. It has no connection to a persons geography, their lineage, no links to family history at all."

"In fact,", he continued as he reached into his velvet bag yet again, "We have a fault proof system of actually proving the existence of The Spark in an individual." Withdrawing his hand from the bag, all saw he had a metallic orb with it's own mahogany holding base.

"This, my friends, is The Spark Detector" Merle explained. Everyone closed in tighter to get a better look at the device.

It was no more than six inches in diameter, and it was etched with undecipherable markings all over it's surface. A white crystal, carefully carved, protruded from the little metal planet's "North Pole". Headmaster Ambrose continued his impromptu show-and-tell.

"You see, all Sparks are not created equal. All can be trained and refined through years of practice, but all wizards start from an undetermined, and very individual, starting point. Allow me , please, to demonstrate."

With that, he placed his hand on the metal orb. There was a soft humming, and a faint glow from the crystal in the orb's top. A sphere of light appeared over the crystal, bright and shining, spiking in random directions, and color shifting like a soap bubble.

"That, my dear friends, is my Spark. I've invested countless years refining it. You can have two wizards study all the same texts, cast all the same spells, do all the same things, but their Sparks will develop as individually as the wizards they reside in."

Sliding the device in it's base towards Penny's mother, Merle offered her to try it. Reluctantly, and with patient guidance from Merle, she did. Again the soft hum, the glow in the the crystal, but no lights. For Penny's father, (who required considerably less convincing), the same result.

Now it was Penny's turn. She looked at the Orb, at the man who she just met mere hours ago, and at her parents. All she looked at returned her questioning glance with encouragement.
Steeling herself, she reached out, and touched the orb with a finger. The Orb was cold. Nothing happened.

"See?", Penny sighed, quickly withdrawing her finger, "No Spark. No Wizard, here. Just you Headmaster Ambrose." And as soon as she had said it, she realized that nobody in the room was going to be fooled.
"Penny, m'dear", Merle Abrose leaned forward, "Nobody can make you something you're not. As Headmaster, I will accept no student that is not at Ravenwood of their own free will, It is a school, not a detention center.
This is a simple, and painless test, simply to confirm what we already know. Please." With a waving gesture, he invited her back to the Orb.

Penny, was entirely too curious not to try, but deathly afraid of what it might mean.With a deep breath, she closed her eyes, and firmly grasped the Orb.
Again, the cold.
Again, the hum.
Again, the glowing crystal.

And there it was. Her Spark. Certainly not a large, or as bright as the Headmaster's, it pulsed with a slow, steady rhythm, varying between hues of gray, and the color of purple slate.

Merle Ambrose let out a soft whistle, examining the display of light. The abruptly, his eyes twinkled and he softly and genuinely congratulated Penny.
"That, my dear, is a most impressive Spark, for someone with no magical training! Why, I'd daresay that that Spark falls right on the curve of a level 20 student! Some wizards struggle for their first few years to refine their Spark to the same parameters your untrained Spark has!"

Mr. and Mrs. Dreadful looked exceedingly proud. "Our daughter, a wizard! Can you imagine?!"

Penny, however, was not as jubilant as everyone else around the table. This little 'test' carried with it massive, life altering ramifications.

"What if I choose to stay here?" Penny suddenly asked. Penny's parents looked shocked. Merle raised his hand, to stave off any comments the girl's parents might have made
"As I said, Penny. I would not let you into Ravenwood, without you wanting to be there. This isn't Dragonspyre we're talking about."


Penny shuddered. Dragonspyre was the place all frustrated mothers threatened to ship their disobedient children. It was a Military Academy, which was bad enough, but they accepted non magic users, as well, and it was rumored that their recruiting was as harsh and calculated as their training. Granted, they forged some of the finest soldier The Spiral had ever seen, but to Penny, the cost seemed too high.

Everything was happening so fast! The room swam, the heat felt stifling. Penny excused herself, to step out for some cool evening air.

The it was early evening already. There was a gentle breeze, and the smell of fresh cut grass. Penny sat down on a nearby hay bale, and leaned against her humble little home.

Looking up into the clear Summer skies, she looked at the stars. On a really good night, you could make out the curvature of The Spiral, and tonight, almost like an imagined omen, was one of those nights.
But the stars she saw appeared somehow different. She knew, logically, that they were in fact the same, that it was her own perception of them that had changed.

"Got room for one more?" a voice asked, pulling her back from her distracted thoughts. It was her father.
Penny scooted over and her father sat beside her, and he too, gazed up at the stars.
"It's a beautiful night, isn't it? So much to take in.", he volunteered

"Daddy, what if I say 'Yes'?" There, she said it.
"Pumpkin, you will always be my girl, whether you farm, or cast spells. Your mother feels the same way. No matter where you are, or what you do, nothing will change the fact that we love you, and want to see you happy." Penny snuggled into her father, who wrapped her in a brawny, protective arm.
"I..I just don't know!" she sniffled a bit.
"Headmaster Ambrose is not making you choose right this minute, but he should have an answer soon. He said he will be back to hear your answer."

"He's gone?! Penny sat upright.
"Why, yes. Packed his things, and 'poof'! Quite wizardly, it was."
Penny rushed back into the house, and true to her father's words, there was no sign of Merle Ambrose, his owl, or indeed any other trace that he had been there. Penny's mother was there, wiping down the table.
"You know, dear", her mother said without looking up, "Your father and I only wants what's best for you. This is an opportunity that a modest country farm girl might only have once in her life, and she the luckier for
having had it at all." Meeting Penny's eyes, she walked over, and planted a firm, and well practiced Motherly kiss on Penny's forehead. Her father was standing behind her , in the door frame. He agreed with Mrs. Dreadful with a simple "Mmm-hmmm."

Penny's mother fell back into a "business as usual" mode of motherhood."Now, it's been a Dreadful busy day, young lady. Since there's no dish work to be done, I'll expect you to retire early..though I don't expect sleep will be on your evening's agenda."

And, as usual, Penny's mother was right.

Decision Time!
Does Penny accept the offer?
Since this is (finally) the first in the 'decision process' , it is going to be a simple 'yes'/'no' poll.
So you, the readers will decide if :

YES: Penny decides to venture out into The Spiral

NO: Penny lives out her life as a simple farm girl.

Let the first vote of the "Chosen Fate"commence!
This Poll will only run 4 days!

And, as a personal note, please feel free to let your friends know, as well. The more votes I see, the more motivation and encouragement it fuels me with. I'll be honest with you, there is already more writing than I originally imagined, lol.

Be well!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Penny Dreadful Ch1, pt4

And with that, they all climbed aboard the wizard's wagon, and headed for Penny's house. She glanced over her shoulder at the golems wading through the field, and wondered to herself what what 'Important Matters' needed be discussed.

Little did she realize that tonight''s dinner would change her life, forever.

Penny's father, and the wizard sat up front, talking animatedly, and exchanging farming hints and tips like a pair of excited schoolboys.
Penny sat in the back with her mother, who looked at her with encouraging wonder.
"Isn't this exiting, Penny! Just think! We have golems in our fields, and a wizard coming to our house!"

Penny was excited, to be sure, but there was a nagging little thing in her mind. Something she couldn't quite place. There was no doubt
that the miracles they'd seen today were extraordinary, but Penny was concerned that there was a catch, somewhere.

Arriving a short time later at their house, Penny's mother bustled on ahead, and went straight for the kitchen, Guests were not uncommon,
but usually consisted of neighbors, friends, or the occasional visit from a traveling merchant. Never before a wizard!

Penny followed her father and the wizard into the house, and she looked at it as she imagined the wizard, who was seeing it for the first time,
must bee seeing it. It was a plain house, nothing out of the ordinary. But it was well build, clean and practical. There were not a lot of decorations to be seen,
more the unused farm implement here and there, a butter churn in the corner, old yokes placed 'artistically' over the mantle. Just like Penny,and farming life in general, the house was much more
"function", much less "form".

"Welcome to the Dreadful home, M'lord wizard!" exclaimed her father, as he ushered the wizard to the seat of honor at the head of their table.
"Oh, really, I must insist, I..." began the wizard, but was interrupted by the singsong voice of her mother, whisking out of the kitchen with a tray of drinking glasses.
"Nice, fresh-squeezed lemon water, sweetened with sugar beets!", she cheerfully offered. "I apologize that there is no ice, but it's rather late in
the Summer, and our winter stockpile has all melted away."
"Oh! How delightful!" beamed the wizard. "Please..allow me."
With that, he reached into his sleeve, and pulled out what looked like an icicle. Tapping each of the drinking glasses in turn, Penny watched as each glass frosted over.

"Wondrous!" claimed Penny's father, as he began handing out the now cold glasses on Lemon water.

"Well, gentlemen." announced Penny mother, to get their attention. "Our pantry is not so bare that we can't put on quite a dinner for this special occasion."

The Old Hedge Wizard lifted his hand, as if to halt her enthusiasm. "Dear woman! Sit and rest your weary bones! When I invited myself to dinner here, it was not so
you should exhaust your holiday reserves, ho,ho! No, madam, your part is only to provide the table, which you have already done so kindly. It is I who shall provide
the dinner tonight, if I may."

Penny thought back, trying to recollect her trips in the wagon. There was nothing in the wagon that could be considered parts of a meal.

Reaching into the sash of his robe, he pulled out a small black velvet sack. It really wasn't much bigger than a medium size potato sack, Penny thought.

Then the wizard did something amazing. Laying the bottom of the sack on the table, he opened the top, reached in up to his shoulders, and began pulling out an amazing
assortment of silver plated dishes from across The Spiral. Fresh fish from Grizzleheim, Palm dates from Krokotopia, Teriyaki Pork from Moo Shu, and thick breads and spicy
curries from Dragonspyre. In no time at all, there was more food on the table than they could possibly eat.

"I'll have to have you come and cook more often, sir! Penny's mother joked.
The wizard caught sight of Penny's curiosity , and simply stated "Bag of Holding." , which clarified exactly NOTHING to Penny.
"Ah, Mrs. Dreadful, I cannot take credit for the preparation of this food.." he explained, as he pulled out a tall bird perch, and set it aside.

Then, the bag began rustling and moving on it's own and an owl, in flight, blasted through the bag's opening, startling all but the wizard.
"A fine, and dramatic entrance, old friend." The wizard commented approvingly.
"Oh, I do say, it's about time!" the owl chided, as it circled the rafters, and settled down on the bird perch.

"please, dear friends, do allow me a moment of proper introductions", he requested, as he pulled a monocle from his sleeves, and affixed it in place, "I am Merle Ambrose, Headmaster
of Ravenwood Academy of the Magical Arts. And this is Gamma, my friend and confidant."

Ravenwood!, Penny thought, Oh the stories she had heard of that place! Many a made-up story in The Spiral began with "One day, at Ravenwood.."

"Headmaster Ambrose, we are truly honored to have you here tonight! You and Gamma are welcome at any time!"
"Well, that's certainly good to hear", said The Headmaster, who made a motion towards the floor. A luminescent blue 'X' appeared, showering particles of light like a fountain.
"and now", he continued", it shall be much easier to get back. That's the whole downside to teleportation, to set it up, you have to get there by more 'conventional' means."
"Now, please, let us sit, and dine, and make small talk. What we are gathered for can wait just a little while longer."

And so they did. Sampling the varied foods from all over The Spiral, listening to Merle's tales of deeds past, occasionally corrected by Gamma, who tended to correct at length.
It was during one of those pontifications, that Merle Ambrose, with Gamma rambling on at his back, began secretively writing something on a scrap of paper. He then surreptitiously slid
the paper over to Penny, and mouthed the words "Ask him this".

Penny looked at the writing on the paper, and looked at Merle with furrowed brows, unsure of what she was asking, and why. The Headmaster had a wicked gleam in his eyes, as he again encouraged her
to ask the question on the paper. Reluctantly, Penny obliged him.
"Excuse me.." She offered in Gamma's direction, interrupting his scholarly diatribe on the political structure of gryphon society.
"Yes, dear child, what is it?"
Clearing her throat, she read the question aloud: "Mr. Gamma, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a charmed candy pop?"
The owl looked at her, stunned. Then he exploded into a fury of indignant feathers!
"Wot? WOT? WOT!?" shrieked the owl, at which point Headmaster Ambrose fell apart in laughter, slapping the table.
"MERLE ABROSE! You intolerable old trickster! YOU put her up to this!"
The Old wizard simply laughed even harder.

Penny and her parents all looked at each other, unsure, It was as if they were watching a family fight that was not meant for their eyes.But the more the Wizard laughed,
the more flustered the owl became, which made the wizard laugh more. Soon, the laughter became infectious, and the whole room, except for Gamma, of course, was laughing. The owl simple
turned on his perch, putting his feathery back to all of them with an audible "Hmmm!".
"I have found", Merle gasped to explain between laughs, "That nothing stops a know-it-all like an unanswerable question." he said, wiping a tear from his eye.
"Not even your best one!" Gamma's voice chided.
Penny now understood. This was some long-standing game they had. Much like the questions 'clever' children would ask younger kids to show them how 'worldly' and 'smart' they were.
Questions like "How many pips fit on the head of a Seraph", or "If a treants trips and falls, and there's nobody around..does it still make a sound?"

Soon enough, all was once again settled and placid, the euphoria of unbridled laughter surrounding the diners like a warm afterglow of memory.

Merle was the one to break the silence. "Now, dear friends, we must be on to business. I will state it quite plainly, actually.", he gestured at Penny.

"I am here for your daughter."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The polls on polls.

Well, the readers have spoken! Well, voted.

Yes, there will be polls! Henceforth, polls shall be 7 day polls. The one exception I will make is for the "Chosen Fate/Penny Dreadful" experiment, because even 7 days may be a little long.

Also, I wanted to point something out. In most of my polls, you will usually find a "gag" vote. These votes are not directly "yes" or "no" questions, so I get to use them however I see fit. Which, to say, is I will put them towards the existing majority, at poll closing. The example this time around was "Isn't THIS a poll?" Well, duh, of course it was! It was neither Yes or NO, however. So, it seems we shall continue to have polls. Thank you to all who voted!

One other thing I wanted to point out, is that polls will often times be related, as in the recently closed polls. Now, I know my math isn't the best, (read:horrendous), but even I noticed a poll discrepancy:Even I know that 9>1.
It is, isn't it?
I'm pretty sure it is...
Maybe I should go check...

Be Well!

NOT Penny Dreadful, lol

Sorry to leave you in suspense, but the Printing Press is down for maintenance. More coming soon, I's just that weekends are very time-pressed for me.

Well, another Meet and Greet is now done, (for me, at least). I gotta tell you, having them in Sunken City Area is so visually soothing to me. So, thank you, Evil Theurgists and Diary of a Wizard. Speaking of "Diary", why haven't you joined Fallon, yet? It's all about ConnectX, my friends! I'm definitely a fan. AND a member.

So, the meet and greet was crazy busy, as per usual. This one even had it's own YouTube:Anyways, I showed up (late, sorry!), and began plugging Fallon's website and ConnectX, when I noticed something. Every time I shouted out for "Diary", someone shouted out for "Homework"/
Know who it was? Why it was Allan DragonHammer from The Fair Pyromancer.
I can't resist a good plug!

(Umm..Allan, I *am* back. You may wanna update, yes? Thanks! ) Here's to Allan, and all his future posts!

On that note, I want to encourage all of you to blog. Express yourselves. Be heard!

And, Join Fallon at ConnectX, if you would be so kind!

Be well!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Penny Dreadful, Ch1, pt3

"Go..go...go..go.."Penny stuttered, a stark raving fear of realization seizing every fiber of her being."Go..go..go.."
"Yes, Golems, m'dear.Earth Golems, to be quite precise." The wizard chuckled.

No showman in the history of the Spiral had their audience more captured.
It was refreshing, casting magic for the uninitiated. Their responses were always whole-hearted and genuine.

For the longest of moments, Penny could do nothing but stand, an stare. Just a few yards from her, in her own field, were not one but SIX giant earth golems. Dust cascaded from their nooks and crannies as, to the best Penny could tell, they stood, and stretched, as if waking from a long and pleasant slumber.

Sensing Penny's simultaneous fear and curiosity, the Wizard invited "Oh, ho! They're quite harmless, m'dear. Why don't you walk up and touch one of them."
Penny was extremely dubious. Just walk right up and TOUCH one of them? These were GOLEMS, for Saint's sake! Not some mewling kittens recently birthed in the warm recesses of a barn! Golems were one of "those types" of creatures. you know, the type that heroes have to battle and overcome, to save some damsel in distress. Well, at the moment, Penny was feeling quite distressed.

And yet...

She took a single step forward. Oh, the other kids at Winter School were NOT gonna believe this! As the tales would have it, one had to be a pretty good wizard to summon ONE golem. What kind of hidden powers did it take to conjure SIX of them? It occurred to Penny that this Wizard was certainly no 'con man', but he was certainly more than the eyes beheld!

She stopped, and examined the golems. They just stood there, looking at Penny, the Wizard,her parents, and their general surroundings. They didn't seem particularly 'pleased' or 'displeased', as if one could tell by reading their stony countenances.

Penny too another step forward. The closer she got, the more ready she was to bolt in the opposite direction. Those few yards between her and the golems were shrinking, but they still felt like miles, to her. I mean, hey, she wasn't a frog yet, right? Yet one did not have to be a frog to be squished under those enormous stone ...."feet?" Penny questioned?

The 'Old Hedge Wizard' Chuckled "Well, m'dear, you and I need feet, to push against the earth. These new friends here actually ARE the earth. They don't 'push against' , as much as 'connect to'. The ground itself is their feet, ha!"

Penny marveled. Wow, those were some pretty big feet, she mused. No cobbler on earth could make them shoes.

Again, she tentatively stepped forward, this time with slightly less fear. She was now so focused on the golems, that she jumped when the wizard had stepped up behind to her side, and spoke, unannounced.

"Golems, m'dear, are like many other summoned creatures. For the most part, they are never really 'good' or 'bad'. It's how their summoner chooses to use them that makes that distinction.

"Very few absolutes." Penny replied, as if to say she was starting to , now at last, comprehend their earlier part of their conversation.
"Ah, ha! Spot on, dear Penny!" beamed the wizard, "You're a quick young lass, aren't you?"
At that, Penny blushed. Granted, she was at the head of her class in Winter School, but the stuff they taught there was easy enough.
Penny re-focused."So, I can actually touch them?".
"Why yes, of course!" He replied. And turning to Penny's parents, who still hadn't moved, "And you two , as well, if you please."

After a few false starts, the wizard coaxed Penny's parents to join them up close to the golems. The wizard then strolled forward, like he was enjoying a day at the park, and no only touched the nearest golem, but actually leaned against it, as if were a wall. Well, in a way, I guess it really was a wall. In this case, a very tall stone wall.

Emboldened by the wizards actions, she stepped forward, and with a final check, looking up into the 'eyes' of the looming golem, she reached her hand out ever so cautiously, and then she made contact.After a moment, Penny's parents had done the same.

"It doesn't feel any different", Penny commented, "than any other stone surface." It was neither hot, nor cold. It just "was".
"That's because it's not any different from any other stone surface, m'dear Penny. However, it's what's beneath the surface that counts, ho,ho!" With this he gave Penny another knowing wink. "But come, come! Let us see what the big boys can do for us, shall we?"

At that, the old wizard bent at the knees, and took a pinch of soil, and placed it on his tongue, savoring it like a diner would examine the flavor of a fine meal. "ho, ho!", he exclaimed, "This is some fine soil, indeed! Fine soil, indeed!"

Penny's father spoke up "Thank you sir. We do what we can, but there's just never enough water to do what we want, especially with this drought."

The Wizard placed his hand, palm down, on the ground, and closed his eyes, his head subtly moving as if he was reading a book.

"Ah, ha! There it is!", he suddenly exclaimed, "It's not that you don't have water, it's that you don't have water HERE."

Standing up, he looked up into the 'face' of the golem he had previously been leaning against. Making sure he had it's attention, he made some strange gestures with his hands, with no sounds, and pointed off into the field. The golem slowly nodded. It then made some grumbling noises directed to the other five golems, who, in return, grumbled. Penny thought the sound was like a cross between earthquake and landslide.

Then, the golems started walking, or as the wizard had illustrated, 'connecting' and 'disconnecting' from the earth, in the direction that the wizard had pointed. When they got to that pre-determined spot, they spread out in a circle, and began plunging their 'arms' into the ground. Soil began pushing back, and away from the golems, creating a large, open crater in the field. Apparently satisfied with their landscaping, the golems climbed out of the new hole, and started pushing soil in a straight line, in several directions, all at right angles.

Penny was amazed! In no more than 5 minutes, these golems had just done more earth moving than a team of 20 farmhands! She, and her parents, watched in wonder as they lumbered along through the earth, pushing it aside, like a man walking waist-high through the snow.

"But, our crops?" Questioned Penny's mother.

"Believe you, me, ma'dame when this is done, you will gain more than you loose, to be sure!" the wizard guaranteed.
"Now, since 'the boys' are already trenching, let's get ourselves to the crater, shall we?" The wizard strode confidently towards the open pit, with Penny and her parents rushing to catch up.What new wonders would this stranger's visit bring for them to behold?

Once at the pit, the wizard gently dropped down into it. Penny could see his target, immediately. There in the center of the pit, was a large boulder. Carefully, Penny scrambled down, and caught up with the wizard, who was fumbling in the folds of his robe.

"Now, where did I put...AH! There it is!" he said, as he pulled out a piece of chalk.
"Is that magic chalk, sir?" Penny questioned, already wondering what miracles you could do with magic chalk.
"This? Oh, no, m'dear. It's just chalk, like you might have at Winter School. You see, a chalk can provide lines, and color, but it is the artist that makes us see letters and pictures, and not just some chalk on a board."

With that, he began drawing on the boulder, strange symbols, lines, circles, and representation she couldn't identify.At the top, he drew a spiral.
"If you please, dear Penny, I'll need your help. Would you fetch me that melon-sized stone over there? Yes, that's the one, excellent! Now, bring it here, won't you?"

Penny complied quickly, and cheerfully. This was fun! She brought the stone back to the wizard, who had finished his drawings on the boulder.
"Good. Now, I want you to take that stone, and hit right over here, on the spiral drawing , Please. And don't be shy about it, we need a good strike."
Penny was confused. HE was the wizard, shouldn't HE be doing this? However, the overriding joy of being a 'wizard's helper' made her abandon her confusion, and brought the stone down onto the drawing of the spiral.

Nothing happened.

"Oh, ho! A bit harder, m'dear, if you please" The wizard directed, keenly watching Penny at work.

Not wanting to fail at her first, and probably only, chance at being a wizard's helper, she brought the stone high over her head, and brought it down with a mighty strike, using her weight and muscles to assist gravity. Expecting stone chips, she involuntarily closed her eyes.

Also involuntary was her young body being ejected from the top of the boulder, as if she had had a glancing hit with a galloping horse;
She landed with an "Oof!" into the freshly turned soil, at the base of the crater.

"Well done, Penny! Well done indeed! Look!" The wizard cheered, pointing to the boulder.

Penny followed his finger, and saw the boulder now lay cracked open, like a Hallows Eve pumpkin. And from beneath the boulder, and through the cracks, water was gushing, starting to pool around, in the pit.

"You can create water from stones?" Penny exclaimed.
"What? Oh, no, no, dear child. That boulder was a 'capstone', of sorts. The water was already here, just trapped in a aquifer.Come, now, unless you want to swim, we'll need to get out of this hole , and soon." The wizard said, offering Penny his hand.

Penny's parents, watching in awe, assisted Penny and the wizard out of the hole.
"Irrigation!", her father exclaimed in wonder, the pieces of the puzzle now in place

"Quite correct, sir" the wizard confirmed, "Once the golems have completed their little walkabout, you should find that water shall no longer be an issue, for you. And, I dare say, with this soil, your farming will be quite productive!"

"Kind sir! You are truly and wholeheartedly welcome to break bread with us! It would be our honor to offer you the hospitality of our home!" Penny's father exclaimed. She had not seen her father this happy in a very long time.

"Well, then, shell we retire from the fields early? We do have important matters to discuss."

And with that, they all climbed aboard the wizard's wagon, and headed for Penny's house. She glanced over her shoulder at the golems wading through the field, and wondered to herself what what 'Important Matters' needed be discussed.

Little did she realize that tonight''s dinner would change her life, forever.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Penny Dreadful Ch1, Pt2

Chapter One,Part two

"Of that, Mr. Dreadful, you need have no worries. As a matter of fact, you will have more when I leave, than when I arrived. And less." he added, a knowing twinkle in his eye.

Penny suddenly remembered her fear. If what this strange wizard just intoned wasn't ominous,she just didn't know what was.

This time, it was Penny's mother who spoke up. "Sir,we would be honored to host you in our modest home, tonight. The road must be long, to bring you this far off the beaten path. However, the work here in the fields must get done, and soon! The drought of late has made it necessary to work as long as daylight will allow.."

The Old Hedge Wizard glanced up at the sky. "Hmm..", he pondered aloud, "That seems several hours away. What we have to discuss is rather important, and yes, the ride HAS been a bit longer than I am used to. Let me see what I can do to speed things along for you."

With that, he reached into his robe, withdrawing a clenched fist.

Was Penny about to see actual magic? Not some midsummer festival's sleight-of-hand, but honest to goodness MAGIC?

The Old Wizard certainly had every one's undivided attention.

Apparently, the wizard knew this, as well. Slowly, ever so slowly, he twisted his fist, and uncurled his fingers to reveal..

"Rocks?" Penny blurted out, her curiosity taking full control over actions. She hadn't been turned into a frog,(yet), and if she was going to see actual magic, why, she'd bee the envy of the other farm children at winter school, when there was nothing to harvest.

"Well, in a way yes.", Answered the Wizard, keenly studying Penny's rapt attention on the stones."And no."
Penny met the Wizard's eyes, confusion roiling within.

"Sir, how can it be both 'Yes' and 'no' at the same time?
"Ah, ha ha!, m'dear! Very, very few things in the Spiral are absolute. Not even Death is absolute."
At that, Penny pulled back a bit, wary.
Now on her guard. For the first time, she considered the possibility that this 'wizard' might just be a hungry con artist, disguised as a Wizard, just to fill his belly on the reputation of actual wizards.

"Not even death?" Penny asked, meeting his eyes with a studied glance not usual to a girl of her tender years. Living on a farm was a hard life, but in those that could shoulder the burdens, made for a sturdy, practical, and resolute character.
If this 'Wizard' turned out to "not be", well, she had no pity for him, nor any guilt for what the eventual mob of farmhands would be putting this would-be wizard through.

The old wizard's eyes twinkled, as if he had a large fish on the end of his fishing line, waiting for the net.
"No, young Penny Dreadful, not even Death, ho, ho! Step forward, m'dear, and gaze closer at these 'rocks'. Tell me what you see."

Penny leaned forward, glancing at the wizard's hand, then his eyes, then his hand, again.

What she saw was 6 little square stones, thicker in the middle, than on the ends. They looked highly polished, and their tawny color reminded her of the caramel sweet treats they had at Winter's Solstice. Each was no bigger than her big toe.They were pretty, sure, but they really didn't look like much..until one moved.

"Whoa!" Penny exclaimed, now leaning as far away , as she had just been leaning in.

"Oh, ho! No need for fear, Penny, no need for fear at all! Please, look closer.", The Wizard invited gently, "Look closer."
Leaning back in, Penny did indeed look closer, and noticed that the stones didn't quite move, but occasionally rippled, as if each were it's own individual pond, with some invisible little had tossing in invisible little pebbles.

Her curiosity in high gear now, she peered closer still, and saw that there were faint markings, etched in copper, on each stone. All six stones had the same etching, and she could have sworn she saw one etching actually..well, 'twitch'.

"Those...those are runestones!" Penny gasped, remembering some of the tales that traveling merchants would tell of wizards in far off places.
"Ah! An excellent guess, dear child. But wrong. You were very close, though, I must say. No Penny, these are runeseeds."

"Runeseeds?" Penny tried grasping the concept. She worked on a farm her whole life. She didn't care how much a stone twitched, you just couldn't grow a rock the same as growing a pumpkin.
"What is the difference between a runsetone, and a runeseed?"

With a knowing smile, the Wizard explained thus:
"Well, mostly just one difference. With runestones, if you do this..", he casually tossed the stones like chicken feed, "Nothing happens."

Penny watched, frozen in place, as each stone fell to the earth, and sunk into the ground, each one buzzing madly, like an angry bee's nest. Then in quick successions, six dull "thumps", all in the order they had hit the ground, leaving little dust rings over where the lay buried.

Then, silence.

Penny looked to the wizard, who met her wild, questioning gaze patiently. "Wait for it, m'dear. You will see..."

Again, six "thumps". this time deeper, and stronger than before.

Then the ground started pouring. Like an hourglass, in reverse, soil began pouring up, where each stone had sunk down. Like six impossibly big anthills, the field only a half dozen feet from where they were standing was undulating ripples. Each 'anthill' sent ripples outward, interlacing with the ripples of the other five 'anthills' Then, as abruptly as is began, it stopped.

She looked to her parents. Her mother was firmly embraced in her father's protective arms, but the wizard stood between Penny and her parents. She didn't need to ask to know that this was their first real display of magic, as well.

"What was that all..." Penny was trying to ask, when the Magic Hand of Interruption appeared yet again. She saw that the wizard was softly mumbling something, his concentration focused, his eyes intent on the six, now dormant, anthills. Then his expression lifted.

"Happy Birthday!" He exclaimed, like a giddy child. Penny was puzzled. "But, its not my birthday, sir."
The wizard shot her a mischievous, knowing wink. "Again, m'dear, 'Yes' and 'No', but it wasn't you I was talking to. It was them."

And the the field exploded in six places, erupting sod and earth like dirty splashes around them. Six hulking, and growing, figures began to take shape amidst the settling dust.

"Go..go...go..go.."Penny stuttered, a stark raving fear of realization seizing every fiber of her being."Go..go..go.." Her parents were equally stunned silent.

With a casual gesture, the Old Hedge Wizard nodded.
"Yes, Golems, m'dear.Earth Golems, to be quite precise." The wizard chuckled.

No showman in the history of the Spiral had their audience more captivated.
It was refreshing, casting magic for the uninitiated. Their responses were always whole-hearted and genuine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An experiment.

I've had this idea. Something I've wanted to at least TRY. Something I haven't done before, and want your input on. "Fan Fiction". Not just any fanfic, however. Fanfic "with a twist".

Remember those old "Choose your own Adventure" type books? I'd like to try something like that, except YOU do the choosing, and I do the writing. Approximately once a week, (or so), a new chapter would get posted, and depend on the majority decision, via poll, of the readership from the week before. I can't guarantee how well this will work, or if it will work at all.
I already have a "test story". The beginning and end are already written, but it how we get from Alpha to Omega? That is yet to be decided.

Wanna give it a try?
I knew you would! (You're awesome like that!).

So, as an example, I present , for your consideration, the first "Chosen Fate" fanfic:

Ready? Yes? Okay, here we go...

Chapter One
A road less traveled

OUNG Penny Dreadful stood dutifully outside Headmaster Amrose's Office, as was usual.

With her books and journal stewn about her feet, she watched the other wizards scurrying back and forth. There was a great buzz in the air, since the news was a small group of four Student Wizards had teamed up and defeated the Ominous Malistaire.

Penny sighed. It figured that someone else would have done that, because "poor Penny", as she was known, didn't do much at all.
Oh, sure, there was that one incident, where a fellow student had come and rescued her, but that was a while ago.

The young wizard stood there, and thought about her life...or, at least, as much of it there was. At least it was more than she would have had.

Originally, Penny was from a small farming community. How small? So small, it didn't even warrant a name. it was just "here". Had not fate intervened, she would have trudged out her weary existence as a milkmaid, destined for hunger, hard work, long hours, and little respect. But, as it would happen, Fate DID intervene, in the form of a mumbling Hedge Wizard, passing through her dust-blown village.

The Old wizard was rambling by on a wagon that had seen better days, and little maintainence. He sat up there,wrapped in a old and threadbare cloak,with just the slightest bulge under it, as if a package lay secured in it's folds. He was seemingly lost on thoughts of the horizon, as his stare hardly wavered. That is, until he caught sight of Penny.

"Oh, why, Hello!" The wizard beamed , startling Penny.
"Good afternoon, sir." Penny respectfully replied. It was well known that you should ALWAYS be respectful to a wizard, even a country bumpkin hedge wizard, lest you be turned into a frog.
"Oh, tish, tosh!" The wizard answered back, "No need for formalities with ME, m'dear!"
Penny was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. She was used to being invisible, or at least ignored. Now, here was a wizard, peering straight at her, almost, it seemed, straight THROUGH her, and not in an 'invisible' kind of way.

"Tell me, child.." continued the Old Hedge Wizard, "Is this your home?"
"Yes, sir, if it please you." stammered Penny.
The Hedge Wizard chuckled. "Well truth, is truth, my dear, whether it 'pleases me' , or not! What's your name, child?"
"Penny, sir. Penny Dreadful"
"Penny Dreadful, is it? Hmm..what an interesting choice of names."
"I'm sorry, sir..but I didn't choose it, myself. It was my parent's idea."
"I'm sure they thought it was." grinned the wizard, "Sometimes, we choose names. Sometimes, names choose us. Tell me, young Penny, where ARE your parents?"
"Out working the fields, sir. I'm just doing my chores."
"Of that, I have no doubt. Come, then, hop on up!"
"Hop on up? Sir, please, I beg you! Don't turn me into a frog, or something! Please!"

At this , the old wizzard actually guffawed, laughing with a full, earthy zeal.

"No worries, for you, M'dear. You and I have things to discuss..with your parents."
"W..wi..with my parents, sir?!" Penny was growing more and more concerned by the moment.
"Yes, yes! Nothing bad, oh no! Of that, you can be assured!"
Reluctantly Penny obeyed this wizard, and dutifully sat at his side, high in the wagon.
After an uncomfortably stilted 20 minutes, or so, the pair arrived, with Penny's direction, at her parents, working hard to cultivate some vegetation, in the arid soil.

Both of Penny's parents looked at their daughter, the Hedge wizard, and then each other. It wasn't Penny's style to get into trouble, especially with strangers. Especially, especially with Strangers who were magic users. It was Penny's father who spoke first.

"Good Morrow, M'lord Wizard!" He cautiously offered.
"Oh, my! Again with the unnecessary pleasantries! Well, it's no doubt where young Penny got her manners, ho,ho!"
"She's not crossed you, has she? If so, I humbly apologi.." The statement was abruptly cut off, with the raising of the Wizard's hand. (Best not to interrupt a wizard's interruption, you understand).

"Good, sir, let us pare this talk down to it's bones, as it were"
Penny shuddered. She had heard tales of wizard's abilities, and the idea of a wizard paring ANYTHING to it's bones was a very real picture in Penny's mind.
"I am here ", The Wizard had stated "To invite you to dinner. At your house."
Penny forgot herself for a moment. Forgot her fear. What nerve! They barely had enough to feed themselves, now this stranger was just going to invite himself to a share of that? Penny was sure she was going to go to bed hungry, tonight.
Apparently, so did Penny's father. "Good, sir, we're naught but humble farmers, and hard pressed to provide as it.."

Again, the Magic Hand of Interruption.

"Of that, Mr. Dreadful, you need have no worries. As a matter of fact, you will have more when I leave, than when I arrived. And less.", he added, a knowing twinkle in his eye.

Well, there *is* more, of course, IF you, the readers, choose. Since there isn't a decision (in the story) to be made, I ask you to comment on whether or not this little literary project is worth continuing, or if better left to more capable writers. Penny's Fate, as well as this project's, are yours to decide.

Be well.

MMOney and value

Advisory: This post is about general game economics, and not W101 "specific" stuff, so feel free to skip it. (or, educate yourself a little more, and make yourself a more "well rounded gamer")

"Hiya", readers!

Gonna take a stab at this subject. I'm going to say right off the start, that this post is no way "all inclusive", like some Caribbean Cruise. It's going to be a quick overview of the dreaded money subject, in regards to MMO's. If MMO's are still kind of new to you, I'd suggest al least reading Wikipedia's MMO definition, as a good general primer. This subject, however is WAY too involved to be wrapped in up one post. In fact, I think you should just spend some time over at Gamasutra, and MMOGCHART, since a lot of my resources for this post all seem to end up coming from that direction. The better you know how the industry works, the better you can understand your little corner of the MMO Universe. You know the industry "bigwigs" read this kinda stuff, so why shouldn't you?

Aw, c'mon, Autumn, you gonna beat that dead horse again?

To quote Phineas and Ferb: "Yes. Yes, I am.". However, this is going to be more ex'pose, less "I want". Refreshing, huh?

I have absolutely no problem spending money for a game, whether it be "up front" at the display case, or online; Subscription, or "Free to play", (which I intentionally put in quotes, because "free" rarely stays free. Long ago, while playing Rohan:Blood Feud, I wrote a post about the whole subject of "free" players constantly hating on, what I termed "The Cashop Warrior" .

So, let's look at MMOney, shall we?

Remember: it IS a business.

Factoid: By some industry analysts, MMO's revenues hit about 1.8 billion ($us) in 2008, and are projected to hit 13 Billion dollars, by 2013.

That's no "chump change". Remember, for you and me, it's a little "log-in vacation" to get away for a while. For people on the other side of the server, it's the food on their table at home. However, let's not look at that as all free money, since MMO's have to deal with fraud, like anyone else.

First, a little "Industry Lingo". There's 2 acronyms, related, yet very different. ARPU and ARPPU, neither of which have anything to do with Associations of Retired Persons, (though I'm sure we have gamers from THAT community, as well)

ARPU: Average Revenu Per User
ARPPU: Average Revenue Per Paying User

These are terms used to help calculate how "well" a business, (in our case, a MMO), is doing. Now, HOW a company reports (ARPU/ARPPU) makes a lot of difference, as seen here. (The "other" method is to drive through the Employee Parking Lot: Is it a "used card dealership", or an Aston-Martin showroom? )

Programmers, Buildings, Servers, bandwidth and electricity all cost money. "Free to Play(F2P)" does not mean "Free to run". A MMO, without question, HAS to make money, or it will fold like a cheap lawn chair. There's 2 ways to do it:

1) Subscription, (and I'm gonna put in "via Game Card" in this category): W101 Has this.
2) 'Microtransaction': (In-game store/Cash Shop/Item Mall/Prospector Zeke). W101 has this, as well. This is the primary system for many Asian "F2P" games. (being a "Cashop Warrior", I love these games.)

You're smart. You know how those work. Unless W101 is your first MMO, you've likely encountered one, or both of those systems, elsewhere. W101, has both.

It's all about YOU

Now, *this* is where we get into dangerous territory. This is not a concrete aspect, as is economics. This is a personal perspective. As Tesh recently commented (Yes, this is a comment, not it's own post ganked from somewhere else on the 'net):

"That anonymous comment actually echoes a lot of comments I see across the "blogosphere" of late. There is a growing sense that the "endgame raiding" treadmill game design is overused, and honestly, anyone ragequitting when they have a level-capped character who has "done everything" will likely be the subject of this sort of suspicion. A lot of players *do* want that sort of Groundhog Day existence, but a lot of others are sick and tired of it (rightfully, methinketh).

It really is OK for a player to finish with a game, even an MMO. It's especially nice that W101 Access Passes (like Guild Wars before it) allows players to keep in touch with friends without ponying up a subscription fee. But really, if you *have* gone through everything and had a blast doing so, and find little else that interests you (including alts), it's OK to be done with the game. Better to go out on a high point than drudge on forever on the raiding treadmill.

It might be good to ask: Did you feel like you got your money's worth out of the game? Do you feel that you overpaid? (And notably, if they *do* start churning out more content, you'd probably have to pay *more* to access it.) If you can make a good case that your money was ill spent, that's something that King's Isle really should pay attention to. If you're just burned out and finished with the game, taking a break is perfect. If you still have friends in the game (and it sure seems to me that you have some good ones), it's awesome that you can still come by for a visit. :)

To me, that's the strength of the Access Pass model. You can leave and come back without incurring more costs. I love that about GW and W101."

Wow, huh? Now that's a comment! (if you think that's good, check out the blog).

Value, and the MMO are a personal relationship. Many a MMO has "gone by the wayside" on my C:\ drive. The half-life of a mmo on my desktop averages from 2 days to 2 years, depending on cost/playability/replayability. (WoW finally got the boot, after a year of not playing). Once I find "The One"(of the moment), it gets my full attention-which usually means "endgame". Then, the search begins anew. Very few stay on the hard drive, unless re-visiting them doesn't cost me anything. Current examples: Free Realms, Perfect World International, and Ether Saga Online. W101 is also in this category, because my investment is secured. They run good on my laptop, don't incur a subscription, and keep me "checking in".

I could give you a long list of what I've played, but it's pointless. It's MY list. You have YOUR list. "What stays", and "what goes" are as individual as we, the individual players. This is where a lot of my personal frustrations lay. As a "Crowns" player, the investment we make, over time, does not give us the same level of 'recognition' that a subscription player gets. There's no 'threshold'. Spend $10 on Crowns, spend $200 on Crowns. Doesn't matter. We still want your subscription. To that , I say "Give me a reason, because PvP, and forum 'priveledges' aren't near enough.

So, what is a MMO worth? Honestly, it's only worth what players are willing to pay for it, pure and simple.
Despite the rants, raves, and ragequits, I have enjoyed my time with W101.

Will I buy more Crowns for the next expansion?
"Probably". ...
Don't look at me like that!....
Alright, alright! "Yes."

Even if it's only to give myself more things to write about for you. For, to me, you, the player base, have far more intrinsic value that any collection of 1's and 0's. And I'm not gonna charge you a single penny.

01000010 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01101100 00100001

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Meet and Greet Mini

Hosted by Jessica Fairyheart from The Awesome Pyromancer's Diary threw a cute little soiree today, at Festival Park , on Cyclops Lane. Here's Jessica:And something I hadn't considered before: Wizard Hottubbing!

Yay! But I think my wraith is drowning!

An idea.

Yes, I know that I'm quite often skeptical, cynical, and first to point out "areas of opportunity" in the game. It's how I'm wired. If I were a Wizard at Hogwart's, I would probably be Severus Snape

Oh, yeah. Definitely

However, on that rare occasion, I have an idea. One that does not involve burning any bridges. I've been up all night, I'm tired, and it hits me...DOORS.


Let me explain, if I may. What does W101 have loads of , (besides potential, and an awesome player base)? Yup, you guessed it:

But Autumn, where the heck are you going with this...?

Ah, patience, dear reader..I'm only just firing up!

Now, it is no secret that there are secrets in W101, right? I mean, even the "secret Trainers" are so well documented, that they all-but-have Las Vegas Neon signs pointing to their locations. Even with the release of Grizzleheim, if you go into Niffle-whatever-it-is, there's 2 HUGE doors, that don't seem to be anything but an end to a hallway. How many doors in W101 go to nothing? How many are merely "wall decorations"?

W101 already has "instancing". Every tower is an instance, every dungeon crawl for each brother of Jotun&Co, ltd, is an instance, and even some quests are "you battle all by your onsies" instances, ( at least there's one for Necromancers, anyways).

In an earlier post, which shall not be named, one of my points was lack of scalability, and content creation. Well, those issues notwithstanding, what about the idea of "micro-instancing"? Instead or waiting a year or so for "The Big One" to come down and be patched (cough, cough, Celestia), what if KI had "mini patches", say every other week, using the existing worlds, where each new 'minipatch" brought on another segment in some parallel storyline? Once in place, it doesn't have to be touched again, just some basic "tile set" hallway, maybe a room or two, to continue the story. It need not be groundbreaking. It only need be "something I haven't done". Ask any Grandmaster, an empty quest log is an abysmal thing to behold.

Make it scalable. Make it as difficult for a Grandmaster, as it would be for an Adept. You don't even really have to create a whole new batch of mobs. Take a Lava Snowman, scale him in size to the size of a Humungofrog, the mechanics are basically "all there".I really believe the player base would overlook a lack of voice acting. Heck, make it all a "Malistaire's Redemption" story, played out over months, Chapter by Chapter, Minipatch by minipatch.

Over time, all of those minipatches are going to accumulate. There are more than enough doors in the Spiral to attach them to.

But again, I'm only an "ideas" person. I don't have to go through all of the messy business of actually building anything. I'm like the nasty little food critic that, in 5 minutes, can dismiss a meal a chef slaved over for hours. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why KI "can't" do something like that, but I can think of "Over 2 million" reasons why they "could".

All of it, just on the other side of a door.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Blogger "How to".. Graphics.

"Basics" and the "Layer" concept.
(I'm gonna call it "done". If you read it while it was "in progress", you might wanna start over)

Hello, fellow bloggers, and readers.

Recently, I was in WizTalk Chat at ConnectX , and it was brought to my attention that graphics are a "learning opportunity" for some of my fellow bloggers. So, I will attempt to detail the simple methods I use, (cheap and easy), so that other bloggers can , at their discretion, employ them on their respective blogs. Just about every graphic on this blog was done, using these methods, (or variations thereof). Even the "Tenure for Dworgyn" picture is composed of 5 "layers".

What is a "layer"? Think of a stack of 5 transparent pancakes. Each one has a single chocolate chip, placed differently than the other 4 pancakes. However, when you look straight down at the stack of pancakes, all you see is the 5 chocolate chips, regardless of which pancake it is on.

Now, instead of looking straight down, think of a picture as a stack of pancakes glued to a wall. Each Pancake "layer" has a different part of the picture, but when viewed all the picture "elements" (Chocolate chips), all mesh into one picture.
Layer list for "Tenure for Dworgyn" picture:
1)Background layer(lowest): The black. There is nothing further back than this.
2)Next highest "pancake": graveyard picture.
3)Next highest: Dworgyn's body.
4)Next: The frame.
5)Highest: Dworgyn's hand and lantern,(which gives the "out of picture" effect), and the Death School logos

Before we get into graphics, I'd like to emphasize you should not go around stealing every pic you find on the internet. Be judicious in your use of other people's works, please.

First , we need a powerful graphics program.

No, I'm not talking Photoshop, Gimp, or any other "pay to use" kind of things. It's a program that you most likely already have...MS Paint.

MS Paint? Are you kidding?

No, I'm not. It has all you need for "collage" style graphics. And it's free. The key is to think in "layers".

For this example, we're going to duplicate the "W101 fanblog" piece off of the Homework Banner(which, in iteslf is a graphic built up with several layers. We're gonna "deconstruct" it, and build up another):
Now, the easiest way is to right click the picture and "save as..." to your preferred picture folder. Another way to capture a graphic is the "Print Screen"(PrnScr) option, which copies EVERYTHING you're looking at. If you do this, you'll have to "Select"> cut, and paste to get just the graphic you want. It's a harder method, but sometimes the only way.

Now open up your paint program (Usually under Programs>accessories>paint), and open up your saved graphic. It should look like this:Now, we want to cut away everything we don't need. Select your "Select" tool (the dotted box), and put a box around what you want to KEEP.

With that selected, go to "Edit" then select "cut", all of a sudden, you get a blank space where your selection was. Don't worry, it's fine. now go "File" Select "New" (choose "Don't save" on the pop up). You now have blank canvas. Good! Select "Edit" then "Paste", and viola! here's your work piece!
Now comes the "fun" part. This is where the "pay for it programs" shine, but since we're doing "free", we have to do a bit of "leg work" ourselves. Now, pixel-by-pixel, we have to cut away everything we don't want around the picture. You can "select" some of it, but a lot of it will be done with the line tool, paintbrush, and a lot of "zoom".

I usually "select" and "cut" most of the bulk stuff away, "Line" tool to carefully outline what I want to keep, and paintbrush the rest. Here's a "work-in progress", cleaning up the image. I use green, (for reasons I'll explain later).So, after some careful "painting" around the graphic, we'll have something like this:

As you can see, I used the "Fill with color" tool, so now everything I DON'T want is green.

By now, the graphic is far too large, so feel free to "Select" around what you want, and use the "Cut", File>new, "paste", method to reduce the file size.

Now is a good time to save your work. Make sure you name it something you'll remember.

* A quick note about saving your graphic files, for working on later. Not all MS Paint programs are created equal. Some of the later versions will let you save a .JPEG or .JPG files. While that format is fine for finished work, I *strongly* recommend you save your unfinished work as a Bitmap (.bpm) file, early on while learning "the process",because it's paint's native format, and easier for you to work with in MS Paint. Once a picture is a .JPG file, it's significantly harder to manipulate. Also, when saving a JPG to BMP, you can expect some color loss, and mild graphic degradation, but it shouldn't be too bad. Try to avoid "misty" or "sparkly" jpg's, because they really translate poorly into a 256 color bitmap. Or, if you REALLY want that sparkle, go ahead and save as JPG, just know that it's gonna be more work, so rock on!

Once that is done, Select "New".

We need something to put the graphic we just edited on. I'm going to choose a random picture from the internet:(Okay, so it's not really so random...sue me.)

Now, we need to save this graphic, but before we do, we need to expand the canvas a bit, to give us some workspace. You should notice tiny little blue dots, centered on the bottom, and the far right of the canvass. If you mouseover them, your cursor will turn to an arrow, allowing you to expand or contract the canvass. We need ours just a little "taller", :

Now we save this pic, and open up our previous one, the "fanblog" part we edited down so carefully. "Select" as little of the pic as you can, open the "Diary of a Wizard" pic, and "Edit>paste" Bring it down into your blank "work area", it should look like this:

Now, this is the "cool" part. Remember I told you I used green for a certain reason? It's because in this picture, green isn't a necessary color. So, take your "fill with color", and fill all the green with WHITE paint. Then, select white as a background color (right click it on the color palette), and make sure you have "the invisible button" selected:Ready? This is where the magic happens. Use your "select" tool, surround your "fanblog" element, and now MOVE your graphic element OVER the "background" picture. Let's place it in the upper right hand corner, shall we?

Caution! Danger, danger, Will Robinson! Once you "unselect" your element, it will be permanent ! You will not be able to adjust the position of your element. Your only hope is the Edit>undo option. Since this is MS Paint, not Photoshop, we cannot manipulate layers, at will. If we mess up too bad, we have to start all over again! So, "measure twice, cut once".
Once you're happy with the placement, you can deselect it (click anywhere, really), and POOF! You've now made your first 2-layer picture! Gratz!

Anything else you want to add to your graphic? Just repeat those same steps. Each element has to be processed individually. Also note, TEXT is considered a graphic element, once it has been typed! Don't think of it as "words" but a "picture of words". You can type up your text in your "workspace", and "select" and move it to your graphic, just like any other element.

So, just for example's sake, I will "fast forward" through our example picture, to a "finished" product:

Note, that by repeating the above steps, we added the URL , Fallon's pic, and her speech bubble. Everything is a separate element, and some elements are made up of layers, themselves.
This example was done in .bmp format. Not as shiny and glitzy as doing it all in .jpg, but hey, whaddya want? it's only a "cheap and cheerful" example.

So, there's my secret to blog graphics. The rest is up to you, and your creativity. Many things in life are composed of layers, not just pancakes and pictures. Look around you with new eyes, and see the world again for the first time.

Whew! A 2 day post! Graphics lesson AND a plug for ConnectX? Autumn, you need to rest!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tales from the open grave

To steal, unabashedly, from Sean Emeralweaver's "Word of the Day" idea, I'm going to post one of my own: Ragequit. Hereby described:


To stop playing a game out of an anger towards an event that transpired within the game.
What about when the ingame event IS the game?

But, I thought you said you quit...why am I even reading this?

An excellent point. If you notice, I *did* state that I would "check in" from time to time, and there are several (3) factors that brought me back.

First, and foremost: YOU. I can honestly say that I was more than shocked by the outpouring or my fellow bloggers, and fellow blog readers. When another blogger goes so far as to post a Memoriam to your passing,(Bless you, Amber Stargem and Jessica Fairyheart! ) . it stops you in your tracks. And when your mentor and inspiration to blog in the first place, (in this case TFN), mentions that you're leaving has more than a trivial impact, then one has to stop, and step back, and look at the bigger picture.

(And, also, caution against being swayed by "Cult of personality." I am no "Golden Child", I am simply another player, albeit a very vocal one. Always, and I mean always think for yourself. Weigh both sides of the debate. Choose your own path.)

If there is any one thing that this game has, that no other does, is an awesome player community. That means you. "Let calmer heads prevail", as is the case with Thomas, Fallon Shadowblade, and Countess Shadowbane . All who left wisdom in the comments that kept W101 from the recycle bin on my desktop.

The second thing that brought me back was an as-of-yet unpublished anonymous comment. I will reprint it here, in it's entirety:I've never put much stock in anonymous always seems like sniping from a blind.

The above comment is almost too professional, and too composed, aside from a single spelling error. That, and the fact that the Link to Homework was pulled off the W101 "Fansite links" in record time all smell, to me, like "damage control"

Call it paranoia, call it conspiracy theory, but I've worked in the corporate world long enough to get a sense when a business is covering it's assets. Which to me, means I may have been closer to the mark than I thought.
My predictions and "insights" are always foward-looking, in the 6 months+ category, never immediate tense. (But, that's another post altogether, as is the above anon comment.)

And I'm guessing with my fall from grace, the "insider" updates won't necessarily be coming through here. S'okay, as long as the information continues to flow.

Item, the third. Outright curiosity. Like I said in my ragequit post, I'm invested in this game, to the tune of over $200. No need for pity. I knew it when I was spending it. But now that I "own" the game, it's an investment, and not soon to be deleted from my hard drive.

Well, Autumn, what is it that you want, then?

I WANT KI to prove me wrong. Nothing would be better than "Gee, don't I feel stupid?! How short-sighted of me!"
Would absoloutely love it.
Time is the revealer of all truths, and if I don't watch, I won't know.

So, in a slightly limited capacity, "I'm back". Perhaps, in the future, I should just take up Friendly's offer to do guest writing. Perhaps I need an editor. Meh, we'll see.

My heart is with you, my fellow bloggers, and readers.

Be well.