31 August 2011

WEBCOMICS! (and Random Mushy Bits)

First of all, after over a week (omg!) Escape from Lowresia is still alive! I originally thought I would be putting up one strip a week for now, since I didn't want to commit overly to something like this, but I started to feel the pace like that would be infuriatingly slow, and I seemed to have a fair number of strips ready, so, guess what, twice weekly it is then, at least for the time being! (Wow, that was a long sentence.) If you've somehow missed this, EfL is a silly little webcomic about the antics of forgotten retro video game characters who find a new life inside their creator's computer. Geekiness abounds!

I'm tentatively thinking of Wednesday and Saturday for new strips. (Saturday because it was pointed out to me that the weekend is something of a gaping hole as far as web content is concerned. And there are plenty of Monday-Thursday strips, some Monday-Wednesday-Friday strips etc., but none that I follow release on weekends...)

And onwards, but not untouching upon the same topic...

If I discovered new webcomics every week I'd be... dead. I kinda have this habit of being pretty intense in reading through the back archives of a new discovery. It happened with Girl Genius, and Looking for Group, and now Questionable Content. (Honestly, even if I did survive the first few days of every new comic, I don't think I'd want to be following all that many more than I do at the present. A lot to keep track of as it is.)

Questionable Content is fun, although it maybe, partly, appeals to a slightly different part of me than comics like Girl Genius or LFG. Of course it does have some sci-fi elements and tons of geeky references, but it's mainly about people and relationships. I don't usually consider myself a romantic, in that sense (quite the contrary really, a cynical cold self-centred bastard in many ways). So it's a mystery to me why sometimes, just sometimes, a particular relationship story affects me in a weird way. Even defining that 'weird way' is rather hard. Like a mix of nostalgia, longing, amusement, an 'awww-factor', etc. The fact that I am, indeed, single, must be a factor of course. Perhaps there's even a slight masochistic streak, the part of me that enjoys melancholy and nostalgia... (Oh gods, I'm not going emo, am I?!)

And... this can't really be of interest to anyone really, so I guess I ought to spare you and leave it at that.

(Oh, and Hannelore is, like, totally hot. What? I have a thing for strange girls, so what?)

22 August 2011

There Is Solitude in the Rain

there is solitude in the rain
a silent vacuum inside these walls
while outside the rain
is physical
is tactile
and a part of me
calls out to be touched
if only by the rain
screams out
without a sound
but comfort prevails
and here I remain
in solitude
in the rain

Introducing: Escape from Lowresia

Sometime in the late nineties I discovered Japanese console RPG's. Since I had always been interested in computer programming, I thought it would be cool to make something similar. I was working with very primitive technology at the time (QuickBasic was my primary programming language), which, combined with my lack of skills with graphics, meant the game would have been rather primitive, reminiscent of early 90's console games perhaps. But it was hardly surprising that the project never really took off.

However, I did create a handful of character sprites and stuff. Which for years have been lying around on old backup discs. So recently I had this idea: perhaps I could use those graphics to do something more simple and less time consuming than programming a game. Something like a... comic maybe? Obviously there are way too few amateurish web comics in this world, right? Um, yeah...

So yeah, it doesn't look fancy, it's put together from a limited selection of very lo-res graphics, and I don't know how long I'll have the motivation to keep up with it. But the first few pages are online now, and I'll keep adding pages weekly for at least a while. It's about characters created for abandoned games, who find themselves stuck inside the strange world of their creator's computer.

Here's the website.

15 August 2011

Living Worlds

So last weekend I game mastered not once but twice, for different groups. The first time I already blogged about. The other game was my ongoing campaign Tales from the Teya'o Iva.

Big things have been happening in that game. There's been a war. And now it looks like the war may have come to an end. With a bang. One major city has been left devastated. An emperor has disappeared. Under mysterious circumstances, of course.

These events are large enough to warrant updates to the world's website. Of course there is a lot of material there that could (and should) be tweaked and expanded, but thus far it has more or less been true. Now with the succession of a ruler and a major change to the nature of one significant location, this was no longer the case. Think of it as a content update patch to a game.

It was always my hope when designing Va'ita that it would become a lasting world, not just a momentary phase (like so many of my abandoned creative projects have turned out to be), that it would take on a life of its own. It is safe to say now that in the year and a half or so that the world has existed it has developed and been used more than any other fantasy world I've created over the years.

I also set out to create a world. Not just a single RPG campaign. It would be interesting to see it used in other contexts as well. But just now there don't really appear to be many opportunities for such things.

13 August 2011

The Strange Dungeons of My Mind, Vol. 3

A follower of my blog (if such a mythical creature exists) might have noticed me going on about D&D and Pathfinder RPG earlier this year.

Well, today I finally started my new Pathfinder campaign. I've been writing for years about wanting to run something D&D-ish again. Of course I always, until this year, imagined it would be with an earlier incarnation of the rules. But I do like Pathfinder. With all the options available, it does perhaps take a little more learning, but I think it's worth it. Probably. I hope so.

Nothing much happened, really. There were a couple fight scenes, some sneaking about a ruined tower. But I didn't expect much more. Time was reasonably limited, and we still had to put some finishing touches on the characters (created for the most part earlier this summer). This was more about learning the game than playing it. It'll require some more playing still before it runs really smoothly. But I, at least, enjoyed the session.

I have no idea as of now what direction the campaign will go in. The characters aren't perhaps the most... conventional possible. Words like 'Evil' and 'Chaotic' are found on several character sheets. This could be a recipe for disaster, game mastering-wise. Or we might just forget about such things, as often seems to happen, and keep on happily looting dungeons. Or there might be some mind-bogglingly huge plot involving the fate of the whole multiverse to get tangled in. If we don't get bored with the game in just a few sessions, that is. Only time will tell.

I'll not be writing plot summaries publicly for this game, as I have done for many previous campaigns. Partly this is because I may be using ready adventures at times (and the setting is proprietary, anyway), so writing much about them wouldn't really seem appropriate.

I indirectly have the web comic Looking For Group to blame for this campaign, although it turned out very different from what I was imagining at that time (see blog post from last spring). I hope Paizo Publishing appreciates the money LFG made me spend on their products.

7 August 2011

The Compulsory Assembly 2011 Post

It's Assembly weekend again! Or was, it's over now, I guess. If you don't know what Assembly is, or the demoscene, my post from last year tries to explain it a little, so I wan't go into much detail here.

I didn't go, of course, mainly for the same reasons outlined in that post. Maybe I will one of these years. We'll see. But I spent a lot of time watching AssemblyTV again, and it was fun.

So, like last year, I'll just share some videos of a few of my favourite works. For starters, I'll just copy-paste from last year the description of what a demo in this context is (copied from the Assembly website):
Demos and intros are not pre-rendered animations but rather non-interactive programs made for a chosen computing platform (Windows, Mac, game consoles for few examples). These programs are made to show off one's skills and to entertain the general audience. Since the user cannot interact with the program flow the demos are kept short, packed with stunning visuals and often synched with a catchy soundtrack.
Once again the deserved winner of the demo compo was ASD, with their new cool and unique demo, Spin (albeit I found it perhaps a little more monotonous than their entry last year). One other demo that particularly stood out for me was Luna : Reactivation by Vovoid. There might've been potential for more in it, but I quite liked the aesthetics and attempt to bring in a little narrative.

The 64k intro category was cancelled this year, due to lack of entries. However, one entry intended for that category was included in the demo compo, and made it all the way to second place. This was Uncovering Static by Fairlight and Alcatraz. I imagine that the fact that people knew it was a 64k may have helped it on a bit, but it is a nice looking creation in its own right. And darn impressive for something packed into just 64kb.

4k intro... well, there were a lot of good looking effects, but the problem was, the entries were mostly about that one effect and nothing else. I'd like to see a little more variety and structure, even at the expense of maybe not having the best effects possible. Here's the winner, though, as a sample: Anglerfish by Cubicle, a fairly impressive feat for 4kb. A special mention should go to Coder Porn! by Archee for an absolutely brilliant cloth effect, but, alas, it's rather too short, imho, to consider it a particularly great demo.

Last, but not least, oldskool demo. Again there were fairly few entries, but the quality was not too bad, mostly. Once again the winner was Dekadence with another Amiga demo, Chaotic. Dark, atmospheric stuff again, rather similar to last year's, but with some new effects.

Then there were the music compos, of course. The quality this year was OK, I guess, but little really stood out for me. The extreme music compo had a few reasonably good chip tunes, such as this one, or this one, which won the compo. If I should pick one track from the main music compo, well... I'm actually kinda divided between Fast-Forwarding Thru Hell by King Thrill/Tekotuotanto and the winner, Tiananmen Ghost by Aikapallo.

(All the entries can of course be viewed in the archives at Assembly's website.)

3 August 2011

The Secret of the Secret Blog, or, The Mystic Me

Is there anything as fun, and cruel, as telling people you're doing something that's secret? When I casually mentioned writing a secret blog in a Facebook status, my friends were obviously intrigued, if not outraged.

I've been debating if and when I should write about this, because I don't know what end it would serve, really. Is it merely attention-seeking exhibitionism? On the other hand, this 'secret' blog doesn't even have that much content, and it's impossible to say whether it'll have any longevity, or just get chucked into the large pile of my abandoned projects. And what there is, is unlikely to be of much interest to most people, if they even understand it in the first place. But since I was already in something of a soul-baring mode with my previous post, I'm thinking what the Hell... I'd end up talking about it sooner or later, anyway. 'Cause that's the kind of guy I am.

It's not that the topic is new, or that I would ever have tried to somehow cover up this interest of mine. I've touched upon it in this blog on several occasions (albeit not so much recently). But it is somewhat personal, and there are probably people out there who would think it at least odd, if not downright wrong. Which is strange, since basically it's just about the stuff that goes on in all our heads, about getting to grips with how the world works, and what one can do about it.

So, yeah, I'm talking about the Occult. The Big 'O'. Magick with a 'k'. The Black(ish) Arts.

This isn't really a 'coming out of the wand cupboard' post, since I've talked openly about my interest in magick before in this blog. But I might not have gone into the details much. And I'm not about to, not in this post or this blog, which is mostly meant as an outlet of my geek side. To call myself a magician would be something of a leap. I really can't brag about actually doing much. I'm about as adept at it as Rincewind (I probably mostly have laziness to blame for that). But I do like to think about it, toy around with various theories, etc. And when you think of things enough, you eventually need to write them down.

At one point I tried to start a section on spirituality under the existing website structure. But it never really caught momentum, and with the way my brain works (I always seem to have a need for new things, not being satisfied with a particular tradition or system), the articles there were very outdated before too long. Offline, personal writings tended to suffer a similar fate. I figured a new start was in order, a new format, more dynamic, flexible and spontaneous. So I decided to create a blog. This coincided with a certain shift in my own views, an attempt to approach the matter in a more free form, dynamic way than before, while also trying to remember the silly side of things. (These days I consider myself a proponent of the school of thought[sic] known as Chaos Magick.)

Reflecting all this, I named the blog Grimorium Vivum, the 'living grimoire'.

And there's little more to say about it. The usual sort of warnings, like, if you read the Grimoire, you'll probably go mad, etc. Oh, and there's the link.

Hail Discordia!

2 August 2011

On Solitude

A somewhat more serious post for a change.

I recently read this article by Matt Skala (former author of Bonobo Conspiracy) called 'What (not) to say to someone who is alone', and it proved quite thought provoking. I momentarily considered just sharing the article on Facebook, but quickly decided this would serve no purpose, other than to highlight my own solitude, since my situation isn't really quite the same (as the lives of any two people won't be, of course). So perhaps the matter calls for a little more pondering upon, to clarify my own take on it.

The article is about the hurt of being alone, and about the hurtfulness of unthoughtful remarks and 'advice' offered by others.

So, yes, I am single. I have not always been single (somewhat to my surprise, and possibly others'), but I've been single for a long, long time. However, it is not a topic that usually comes up in conversation. I don't actually remember anyone ever offering me advice in that area (and I'm pretty sure that's nothing but a good thing). I don't know whether this is just because in my circle of friends and our activities it's not an issue of any real interest, or if it's a cultural thing (we Finns are, after all, famously silent and unemotional).

The thing is, much of the time I don't actually mind being alone. Often I think I even prefer it. I am a lazy, self-centred bastard, after all. Or an individualistic, artistic person, to put it more nicely. The thought of having to plan each and every day's activities while constantly having to take some other person's wishes (or mere existence) into account gives me the shivers. Heck, I wouldn't even take a pet, I couldn't cope with the responsibility. (And I can categorically state right now that I will never want children of my own.) I am a person who needs his own time and space. And many, if not most, of my interests (video games, music etc.) really just aren't social, either, and they are not something I would ever want to give up.

If all this makes me a bad person, or 'emotionally crippled' or whatever, then so be it. I've never claimed to be a perfect individual, quite the contrary in fact.

But of course there are those times when the longing for another person is quite real, and on occasion almost overbearing. And I'm not (just) talking about sex here, mind you, yet something more than mere friendship. Such simple things as a touch or an embrace can be incredibly powerful sometimes.

One could spend an endless amount of time analysing why it is that I am alone then, that I haven't even been on a single date during my adult[sic] life, but of course it all boils down to the old cliché of 'not meeting the right person'. And there is little one can do about that. You could talk to me about 'meeting more people', but frankly, I'm pretty happy with the circle of friends I currently have, and I have no interest in seeking new friends just for the sake of it. And as for meeting people solely for the sake of potential coupling... sorry, but my brain just won't work like that. For reasons I've already touched upon, I'm not that interested in dating to try to force it in any way. Bottom line: if it doesn't happen naturally, then it most likely won't happen.

I can't really say that I've met many people in my life that I would truly have been interested in (call me picky, if you will, but it's not like I can choose what I like). And of course if such a person miraculously stumbled into my life (and I'm reasonably convinced they won't), the chances that they would also be interested in me are of course next to nil, so why bother? Call it cynicism, if you will, I call it realism.

This is about the point in the discussion where such concepts as 'self-esteem' start being thrown around. Perhaps mine isn't the highest possible, but I'm not naive enough to think that that is without reason. I am no one's daydream, or what some might call 'boyfriend material', that is blatantly obvious. And it's not merely my appearance, poor articulation skills etc., the stuff that makes up people's first impression of me, but my emotional shortcomings as well which would not be insignificant in the long run, like the reservations about relationships outlined above, as well as the utter non-achievement which has ruled my adult life (and, more than a little, the resulting financial situation, living conditions etc).

And there you have it. A pretty meaningless post, in the end, I think. It'll change nothing. I guess I'm just something of an emotional exhibitionist, who gets kicks out of baring his soul every now and then.

(Lastly, just to clarify, in case someone had doubts: yes, I'm straight.)

If I Were a Rock Star...

...sooner or later I might want to do a cover album. It'd be a weird one, 'cause, if you know me, you'll know that I like some very different types of music. It'd have to represent all my very varied interests and influences, and the arrangements wouldn't necessarily be what you'd expect.

OK, so this will almost certainly never happen, of course, but just for the fun of it, I'll try to think of a selection of tracks that might be featured on such an album. With YouTube links, to boot.

  1. 'All Along the Watchtower' from Bob Dylan. However, the arrangement would definitely have to take influence from the version of the song featured in Battlestar Galactica.
  2. 'Nymphetamine' from Cradle of Filth. The twist: it'd be an acoustic cover.
  3. 'Small Two of Pieces' from the video game Xenogears.
  4. 'The Needle and the Damage Done' from Neil Young. Just one of many possible choices from Neil.
  5. 'Sleeping Sun' from Nightwish. I don't think there are many Nightwish songs I'd feel confident performing, but this one is simple enough for even me to learn.
  6. 'Walls' from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Again, one of many possible choices.
  7. 'Cup of Coffee' from Garbage.
  8. 'Ice Frontier' from Skaven. OK, this is a bit of a weird choice, but it could be fun (and challenging) to do a personalised arrangement of it. Or even add lyrics...
  9. 'Your Rain' from Silent Hill 4. Not my favourite game of the series, but the soundtrack has some decent songs.
  10. 'Daylight Again' from Crosby, Stills & Nash.
And I think we have an album there, every track quite different, yet definitely 'me'. Or, that never becoming reality, a not uninteresting cross section of my taste in music, at the very least.