Find what you're looking for

Thursday, 27 July 2017

On Possibly Hat-Eating....

NB: this one will probably be a longer one, and more emotional. If that's not your flavour, try another post over on the right somewhere.


Last night (as of writing these lines) I went on an online Christian dating site for the first time. Yeah.

It feels kind of weird, saying it. (Writing it. Whatever.) Like a dirty secret that I'm airing out, even though I've barely used it yet. Previously, I've been one of the first people to say that I'll never use a dating site, dating apps, anything like that, for many reasons - I'm not into casual dating, I think it's a bit weird pouring your money into that before you even get anywhere, and there's already a lot of great people that I know. It's mainly that last one that grates on me a bit, but we'll get to that in a moment. First up, I want to talk about why I went there, rather than why I feel so weird about it etc.

So, for anyone who's been reading/aware of what's been going on for me for the past while, I've talked a few times about my desire to be in a relationship. But almost always, along with the caveat of, "I'm not in a healthy place for that right now." I needed to do some growing, I needed to focus on my relationship with God. Which is good! And I'm glad that I've had the strength to do that.

More recently, though, I feel like I'm getting into a healthier place. I'm no longer blinkered in to just this person, or that person - there isn't really anyone that I'm just super-crazy about, which is fairly rare for me. Not saying there's no-one I'm interested in at all - because that wouldn't be true - but not to the degree that I have been in the past. And I think that means that I can come at it a lot better than I have previously; I have been a bit.....all at once, before. It's not ideal. But hey, emotions, right? Fun stuff.

At the same time, I'm not saying I have it all together now! I don't. I'm still figuring out work stuff (as in, trying to get more, so that I can actually move out again, and stop sleeping on the couch bed), still trying to spend more time with God, and still struggling with stuff like loneliness, and fantasy, and lust, and all that great stuff. But hey, that's just Thursday for me. And Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday, and....anyway. You get the picture.

So I guess I wanted to start taking a couple of steps towards being in a relationship with someone. But then the question is - who? And that's where it gets fun. Because I could give you a list of people (not a super-long list, but a list) that I'd be quite happy to be in a relationship with, or at least get to know better to see if I would be interested in that. But, for all I know, they're not wanting a relationship right now, or I don't really know where they're at with God (which is rather an important thing for me), or they're just really not interested in me (which is totally fine - there's another 3 billion other guys out there for them to choose from).

This is where that last point I made earlier about why I generally don't like online dating sites comes in, and why I'm kind of annoyed at myself. Because for me, the fact that I am looking there, online, rather than just sending a message to someone that I already know - it feels like a sort of fear, and cowardice. That I'm afraid to put myself "out there", and potentially ruin a friendship.

And I'll admit - that is quite a real fear that I have, born from experience. So far, each of the times that I've been interested in someone and talked to them about it, that has resulted in us not really talking any more. Not always immediately, and not always completely, but pretty close to. To clarify - I still think that each of these girls are amazing, beautiful people, that I still call friends, and often think the world of. But I don't really know what they think of me (or, admittedly, if they think of me, in the earlier cases), and perhaps it's best that I don't know. And yeah, we don't really talk.

I don't really want that to keep happening. Maybe it would be a bit different if I'm just asking if someone wants to catch up for a drink (read: tea/hot chocolate/milkshake, not alcohol), rather than getting super-emotional over them, and it probably would be. I'm probably getting a bit paranoid about it. But forgive me - when you're putting your heart on the line (which is what I do), and it already feels pretty tattered and broken, you don't want to be just throwing it around casually. You want to be careful with who you give it to. And I have tried to be, in the past, and I think I was. Just a bit too....quick, perhaps. It's hard to know. Relational and emotional understanding isn't my forte. Thanks, Asperger's. Doesn't stop me from having crazy emotions!

So, yeah. After the constant thoughts of, "I want to be in a relationship, I want to be in a relationship," rattling around for quite some time, and rather insistently over the past while - I checked out a few Christian dating sites. The hard part is finding ones that are free, that also allow you to message people for free. Those ones also have lots of fun ad pop-ups all over the place, but hey - beggars can't be choosers.

It seems like there's some good people there, but it's hard to tell sometimes. People can write what they like on a computer, and what they write isn't always them. I guess that's the risk that you run with this sort of thing - and what you pay for on the better ones.

At this stage, I don't really know what I'm going to do. I think it's something I'll need to sit with for a bit of time, and talk to God about a bit more. I really don't know. I'm just making it up as I go - and hoping I don't make any mistakes that are too massive. Because that's always fun.....

If you want to talk to me about any of this, feel free to drop me a line. Realise I'm talking about a couple of things I haven't talked about in quite this depth before. But be nice, please. :)

Friday, 21 July 2017

Interview Bias.

I should note that I'm not talking here about bias in interviews. I'm talking about the inherent bias of interviews themselves. Let me explain.

In every interview that I've been in, whether it's a solo interview or a group interview, you don't get told the questions beforehand. You might get a vague idea of some topics that might be covered, but for the most part, you're going in blind. There are plenty of sites on the internet that spurt out lists of questions that prospective employers ask; but really, there are always going to be things that you won't expect. And of course, that's part of the idea. They want to get your honest response in the moment, rather than something that's pre-conceived and built up. They want to get to know you, not a façade.

Part of me totally gets that. But part of me also finds it rather annoying.

Because the thing is that I'm at my worst when I have to think on my feet. You give me a question and say that you need an answer right now - my brain pretty much shuts down. It hates having to work fast; it moves along at its own pace, jumping here and there, mulling over things, reflecting on them, all that sort of thing. It doesn't really do fast. And so, in most of the interviews that I'll go to, there will be at least one question that I can't answer. That I think over and think over, but I can't come up with anything. Because I'm terrible when you put me on the spot, in the heat of the moment.

But what I'm fantastic at is planning. Where I'm best, is planning. Analysing. Breaking something down, and understanding it at every level. Thinking about things in ways that other people don't, coming at it from a different angle. You give me a project ahead of time, chances are, I'm going to smash it. But you give it to me and say you need it done right now - I'm going to be terrible.

It rather annoys me that interviews are specifically geared against people like me. I've gotten better at this over time than I used to be, but it's something I definitely still struggle with. I'm just not good at thinking on my feet. And I don't really know how you'd be able to change that for an interview, without compromising what you're trying to achieve. Maybe you can't. But yeah. It makes things rather difficult, sometimes.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Feeling Like A Kid.

This is something that's been buzzing around my brain for a while now, but I haven't known quite how to nail it down properly. Hopefully I can express it well enough now, though.

Often, I feel like I'm still a kid. Like I'm still 12, or something. Though I should probably separate this from my usual thing where I say I feel like I'm 8 and 80 at the same time - though it might be related, but I think it's a different thing. I certainly don't feel 24, though. (Though what does 24 feel like, really?) I feel like I'm a little boy, just crying out for attention. And I'm not sure how to stop that.

Because on the one hand - I feel so alone, and lonely, most of the time. I don't have many people that I hang out with; one on a somewhat regular basis, and other random ones here and there somewhat sporadically. I don't really chat to people that often, and I'm not the type to just head down the bar/club on a Friday/Saturday night. Just no. I have people that I'd call close friends - but I don't know if anyone would call me a close friend. And so part of me cries out, trying to get people to come closer, to hear, to see.

But on the other hand - I feel like that pushes people away, rather than bringing them near. Because no-one wants to be near a 24-year-old that's acting like a 12-year-old. It's just weird, and embarrassing. And so I feel like I should stop - but then, won't I just be alone?

It's a vicious cycle. I feel alone, so I try to bring people closer, but that ends up pushing people away, so I feel even more alone, and feel even more pressure to try and bring people closer. And so it just feeds into itself, getting worse, and can I break that cycle? By just being myself? There isn't really anyone to be myself around. My family, sure, but they're along for the ride anyway. Just stop? But then, is anyone else actually going to put the effort into engaging with me? Most of the time, it seems like people don't put in that effort unless you put the same into them first - and even then, that's no guarantee. That's not the case with everyone, mind, and usually each person has a few people that they're willing to just give their time to - but I don't think that's ever me, really.

People are hard. Worth it, mind - but hard.

NB: Sorry if today's post is a bit ranty. Just been impacted by this sort of thing a fair bit lately, and had more time to dwell on it.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Patriam Semper

Also, this is the "national anthem", if you like, of the land of Patriam, which is the land that Septimus takes place in. 'Semper' means forever, so the title would be "Patriam Forever". Though I will note that 'patriam' actually just means country. So it's "Country Forever", I guess. Oh well. It's less a song, more spoken word. It has a strict tempo and rhythm to it, so imagine a drum beating in the background while each septimus says their section. Then they all say the last line together.

Patriam Semper
White are the peaks where the wise monks live;
White are the flowers that they give.
White are their robes,
White is their hair;
White is the colour of Seneca fair.
Orange is the clay that the builders mould;
Orange are the bricks and stones they hold.
Orange are the cliffs,
Orange is their due.
Orange is the colour of Ennius true.
Grey is the fog where the soldiers dwell;
Grey are the metals they dig and sell.
Grey is the storm,
Grey is their song.
Grey is the colour of Petronia strong.
Blue are the seas where the boatmen sail;
Blue are the skies under which they hail.
Blue are their eyes;
Blue is their meat.
Blue is the colour of Terentius fleet.
Red is the fire that the powdermen burn;
Red is the desert in which they turn.
Red are their hearts;
Red they do see.
Red is the colour of Ignatia free.
Green are the trees where the glassmen toil;
Green are the grasses on their fine-tuned soil.
Green are their crops;
Green they do build.
Green is the colour of Maximilianus skilled.
Purple is the silk of the trickster’s dress;
Purple is the heather which they possess.
Purple is their mark;
Purple is their sound.
Purple is the colour of Untalia proud.

Patriam, Patriam, the Septem Septimus unite! Patriam, Patriam, the Septem Septimus unite!

Thoughts After Protospiel.

So, over the course of this weekend, I was at an event called LFG Sydney - basically a boardgame convention, that runs once a year. And as part of that convention, they hold a workshop called Protospiel. It's for board game designers, where they can bring along their prototype, show it to other designers, playtest together, and also do a quick pitch to publishers, get some feedback, etc.

There were about twelve of us there who were designers, plus a few extra playtesters. I think mine was one of the freshest - I'd been working on my game since about the end of March, whereas some of them had been going for years. Though one did have a game that they'd done in the last six weeks! And their art was incredible. (They did it themselves. Advantages of being a graphic designer/artist as well, I guess!)

Firstly, it was a lot of fun. I got to meet a bunch of other game designers, who were mostly a little older than me, see a bunch of cool games, play a few of them, and get my game playtested. It was the first real playtest - I had done a quicker one with my brother earlier in the week, but that was really just trudging through it to see what worked. I also met someone else later in the day who, after playing their own prototype, was interested in having a go at mine. It was then that it was confirmed for me that Septimus is absolutely terrible as a two-player game. For the earlier playtest, there had been four players, and it had been quite fun; this wasn't fun. For the first little while, it was okay. But then, it got tiring. Hard. A bit after we got into the middle, we both called it quits.

But this is good to know! And that doesn't surprise me too much. Often in two-player games, you'd choose heroes that were on opposite sides of the board - so you're not going to go anywhere near each other (unless you're trying to) until you're right in the middle. And even then, only really if you want to. Even three players could mostly be by themselves. When we had four, they started interacting fairly well, but they still wanted that a lot more. I think the optimum number for the game would be five. I also think it could get cramped with seven, but I'm not sure.

But I got a lot of good feedback from that playtest at Protospiel. Even though there were some things that didn't work too well, they still generally enjoyed the game, and each of them could certainly see potential in it. Which is encouraging, considering how young it is! However, it really felt too much like a solo game a lot of the time. You were just doing your own little thing, and the little bits of interaction weren't really meaningful enough. And the choices you made didn't seem to matter, a lot of the time. And all the numbers in the game really worked against the story aspect of it.

And on reflecting a bit after this, I realised that what they were saying actually made rather a lot of sense. I had built the game around a particular story that I had constructed in this fictional world, where seven Heroes are sent into a Maze, each starting at different corners, all trying to get to the centre. And, in that story, they wouldn't really interact much. That's not the point. I mean, they are trying to get to the centre first. But they can't see how anyone else is doing - it's the Middle Ages, there aren't trackers or anything! It's just them and the Maze. Which isn't really that great if you're trying to do a multiplayer game, strangely enough! But could be really interesting for a single-player experience.

But then, I've also got this world that I've already put a lot of effort into building, and these seven factions, the Septem Septimus, and the different flavours, playstyles, etc., that they have. (It's really rather similar to the MTG Colour Pie, for those who play Magic.) And that was certainly one of the points that different people all really liked, and thought was interesting. So that's a world that I can create other experiences in, other games in. Maybe a seven-player co-operative game. Maybe a simpler, smaller game for a few people. Maybe quite a few different games! I don't really know yet. But there are a lot of possibilities that arise from that.

So yeah. Don't have any plans just now. I've been intensely working on that over the last week - well, and further back than that, to get it ready in time - so I'm going to take a break from it for a bit, more than likely. But I'll come back to it before too long, and then we'll see what we come up with :)

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Building Games With Story.

As I've written about before once or twice, I'm working on a board game called Septimus. I've now actually done all of the printing, and have all the parts - though I could probably use some more dice. I can get dice easily enough, though. That's not too hard.

I just spent way too long looking up 100 packs of d6s. *sighs* Actually can't seem to find an easy way to get them in bulk, at least not in different colours. I'll keep hunting around, though.

Anyway. That's not what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about was the difficulty of building games with the story at the centre, which is what I'm trying to do with Septimus. And also, solving multiple problems with one solution.

What I mean is this. A lot of games have some sort of story to them. But most of the time, it's somewhat tenuously linked to how it works mechanically. Choices are always made in favour of making the game work, rather than making the story work. Because the game is more important!

And it is, in a sense. But with this game, I wanted to develop it in such a way that all of the mechanics, as much as possible, made sense from the perspective of story. They should also have a purpose mechanically, of course. But they should make sense within the world that I'm building.

I'll give you the example that I've just been struggling with. So this whole game happens within a giant underground maze/dungeon type thing. With lots of rooms that you go through, and each room has an encounter that you have to face, to both get closer to the middle of the maze, but also to get skill boosts and items. Now, this is all set within the Middle Ages - at about the time when black powder was happening, because that's what one septimus (clan/faction) is focussed around (they were pretty much going to be the wall removers, but then I've taken out walls from the game, because they weren't working; so they're now much more along the actual flavour of Red in MTG). There's no magic. And so the idea was, that when an encounter is revealed, it stays there for the rest of the game. Which makes sense, story-wise. Rooms don't really shift around and move too much, particularly not without magic, or some serious modern-day tech, and especially not underground.

And I created these Encounter Markers to help that - to show which space on the board an Encounter was tied to. They're rather fidgety to sort through, but they're helpful.

The thing is, though, the way that the game plays out, even if you have less players, you're revealing most of the encounters on the board. There are seventy spaces. So probably around sixty cards, let's say, each 8.89cm x 8.89cm. That adds up really quickly, and your playing area grows and grows. If you're playing on a table, that doesn't really work too well. If you're playing on the floor, it doesn't matter so much, but it's still awkward. But I can't really make the cards any smaller - I need that room for all the rules text, the numbers, title, and it's nice to have some flavour text and art as well. (I don't have art at the moment - just a space for it.)

But I realised that this was a problem, and going to be more of a problem the more players you had. It's supposed to work with up to seven players, being optimal at probably four or five. So yeah, there wasn't going to be enough room.

As such, I introduced a new mechanic. The shuffle.

"At any time during a turn — except when an Encounter is being drawn or faced — any player may declare a Shuffle. When this is done, all visible Encounters are shuffled back into their respective decks, and the Encounter Markers put back, except for ones that Heroes are standing on. All other spaces now revert to being Unknown, and are drawn again as normal. If you draw an Encounter that you have already defeated, follow the rules further down. A Shuffle may occur a maximum of once per round; also, the same player may not declare a Shuffle twice in a row."

Unknown spaces, fairly obviously, are spaces where you don't know what's there. If you draw an Encounter that you've defeated, you get a free movement to another space, or can just end your turn if you so choose. A round is when all players have had one turn. I decided to leave in the Encounters that players are on at the time - because that makes sense from a story perspective. All these rooms are shifting and changing around you, but your room doesn't change. It might move to a new location, or something - but that would be complicated to do. I also could have done it that rather than being shuffled back into the deck, they were just shuffled into themselves, and then immediately drawn again until they are redistributed around the board. But that both takes up too much time, and completely misses the point of what I'm trying to achieve with this mechanic.

The idea is that with this, you will have less cards out at any one time. If the encounters that are out at the moment seem too difficult for you, you could declare a shuffle, hoping to get some easier ones. If you think that someone else is just having a super-easy run of it, you could declare a shuffle, hoping to make it trickier for them. But it's going to affect everyone, of course.

Now, there are a couple of things that don't really make sense here, story-wise. I've already mentioned that in that time, rooms really aren't going to be able to move. But hey - the Ennius are master builders, love mechanical things, and I've already got lots of other rooms that I can't explain from a Middle Ages standpoint - particularly not in just a 10m by 10m space or so! So I'm sliding over that a little, so that it will work better as you play.

It also doesn't make sense that one Hero would be able to know what's happening with another one. They can't really have tracking devices or anything, monitoring cameras. A map with little coloured dots showing the other Heroes. Now, again, I might be able to come up with a way for each player to mark their route in secret, perhaps only revealing it when they go to a Junction Space, or something similar. But that's really, really annoying to make work for multiple people at the same time. One person, that's okay. Multiple people? Yeah, no. So I accept that as something that I really can't do anything about.

I mentioned at the beginning that I would be solving two problems with one solution. What were the two? Well, the first, as I mentioned, was the game taking up too much space. The second is that, on opponent's turns, players don't have much to do. I mean, you can watch, and hopefully it's an interesting enough game that that's enough. And some of the players do have Abilities that they can use on an opponent's turn; and there are some Items that work that way too; but not all do. So this gives players another opportunity to be able to do something on an opponent's turn.

Hope you've enjoyed that little look at mechanics, story, and board game design!