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beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

Archive for October, 2010

Plain Speech

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Language Log informs me that today is International Talk Like a Quaker Day, and so I think I’ll take the opportunity to think about plain speech, and what it means to me. I don’t think that thee-ing (not, as Language Log discusses, thou-ing) is really appropriate in the modern age. I’m generally against orthopraxy, and I think that the idea of plain speech is to set you apart not by strangeness, but by clarity, honesty and directness of speech. Continuing to thee really misses the point, as far as I’m concerned.

So, do I speak plainly? I try to. I fail in many ways, though: I certainly respond reflexively with clearly-false absurdities in many cases talking with small-f friends. I think I also, generally speaking, talk too much, and don’t allow time to consider my statements and what I’m responding to.

I’ll take today as a reminder to talk less, and mean more.

Do Science to It

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Note to self: game design is great for many reasons. One reason is that you get to make a game, and then do science to it. We’ve identified a number of possible problems with the current game, and now we’re going to try to isolate them. Control! For variables!

We played a playtest session of Loom tonight, and it went well. Some issues with pacing, which Austin claims are probably just his storytelling, and these might be tied to issues with Arcs. If I were as awesome as Matt McFarland, I’d write more about the system as it currently stands, but I’m not and it’s in Sooper Seekrit mode right now, I guess, anyway. So I’ll just make oblique references, and then explain if anyone asks me. What else? Group size may be an issue—there’s a real sweet spot. Finally, we need to work out whether stakes are independent per party.

John put it well: it’s all about this issue of scope. What is the conflict about? Zoom in to the appropriate level. That is pacing.

EDIT: Due to various problems with the name Loom, it’s now called In a Dragon-Guarded Land.

Dread: Dungeons and Dread AP

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I mentioned a bit ago that I played a game of Dread run by the estimable John. Having gotten the permission of the participants, and having edited out some bits like our having dinner in the middle, I now put up the three-part audio of the game. There are five participants, a bit of overlap in the three sections, and a lot of cleaning up I could do if I had time. However, instead, I’ll just put this up and hope people find it useful or at least entertaining.

[audio:] [audio:] [audio:]

Easy A

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

A short one: I saw Easy A today, and it was fantastic. A great movie, possibly a classic-to-be. A great soundtrack. Surprisingly deep and nuanced. Go see it.

A Little Mad

Friday, October 1st, 2010

I fear I have gone a little mad. My mind and time have been so occupied by one thing—linguistics—that I retaliate by thinking about another—games and their design—as much as I can. I am filled with a manic energy, and sleep goes by the wayside. I read for my classes as fast as I can, internalize the ideas and render them almost automatic, and then go back to grappling with whatever the question of the week is—how to encourage this sort of story in a game, how to model that. I get to bed at 3am, I wake up at 9 on the days I can get up late. It all fits, somehow.

The theme of one of the games I am working on is this very madness—not the madness of someone trapped by their own mind, but the madness of someone driven, someone with ideas fighting their way out, demanding to be realized. Jonathan Strange in his time in Venice seems not an altogether inappropriate comparison; I fear that were someone to enter my chambers, I might very well be distracted by the sensation that a pineapple were issuing forth from their mouth, rather than words. Except, here, a pineapple is meant to stand for a narrative structure, or a game idea, or perhaps a strange discourse pattern.

This is what I came here for.

And yet, there is more. I do not simply overflow with game design and lack of sleep. I teach, and hopefully clarify. My students are a joy—they ask questions, they understand the material, they dig deeper until they reach the limit of what I can usefully explain and they can understand. I hope I help more than hinder, of course.

So, I ask your pardon if I have been monomaniacal. I am still here, just full-up. I’ve been singing, some. It helps.