Category Archives: In Person

Remembering Brian Green

The cascade of events, the non-stop drum beat of bad news that this year has been has made me more than a bit numb.  A person can start to feel like they cannot care any more, that so many things are going on that are beyond their ability to control that they just start to let events pass by like visions in a dream.

And then something closer to home hits and wakes you up.

Last night I was shocked to read that Brian “Psychochild” Green had passed away.   A tweet showed up, echoing around the people I follow, that announced his death.

My reaction was perhaps a bit blunt, but like I said, I was shocked to hear the news.

He was probably best known for being on the team at 3DO that developed Meridian 59, an early entry in the MMORPG genre and later, after 3DO shut the game down, how he and a partner obtained the rights to the game and relaunched it.  Their company Near Death Studios, ran the game as a viable business from 2002 until 2010.

Brian was a big believer in community and was involved in many, including what I tend to think of as the neighborhood of blogs that seemed to gel around VirginWorld about 15 years back.

Zenke’s representation MMO Blog island back in the day

He was as involved in that community as anybody and often made time to read and comment on blogs large and small that were interested in the genre.  He left a lot of thoughtful comments here, though for some reason the spam filter had something against him and I had to fish many out of there over the years.

And, of course, his own blog was often quite active.

A blog header from another time

His last burst of posts happened a year ago, when he joined in with the community once more (he was a mentor in the group) for the Blaugust celebration of blogging, writing up a series on role playing.  But his posts go back to 2004 on his site. (All backed up at the Internet Archive.)

I actually got to meet Brian a couple of times up at GDC in San Francisco when the VirginWorlds collective would get together for dinner.  Here we are back in 2010.

Dinner at Le Colonial

In that picture is Darren (The Common Sense Gamer), myself, Brent (VirginWorlds), Neil Kirby (who was speaking about AI at the conf), Karen (Journeys with Jaye and Massively), Shawn (former Editor-in-Chief at Massively), Sinea (GuildCast, RingCast), and Brian.

The last time I saw him in person was at GDC in 2011 when Potshot (Skronk in the instance group) and I hung out with him for quite a while.  While Potshot could not hang around for dinner, I tagged along with Brian as he went to meet up with Damion Schubert and spent the evening listening to development stories from 3DO, Meridian 59, The Sims Online, and a few things I had to sit on about the then in development Star Wars: The Old Republic.

At that point he stopped running Meridian 59 and was working on a few indie projects.  He was also involved with Namaste, the Storybricks product, their Kickstarter, and their dalliance with the EverQuest Next vision. (He wrote a series of posts about the whole thing later on.)

Later he packed up and left Salinas (of John Steinbeck fame and about an hour from where I live) and moved to the east coast to join the team Mark Jacobs was putting together to build Camelot Unchained.  At some point that ended, which gave him more time for other projects, streaming, and joining in on the Blaugust celebration for a few years.  He did not join in for Blapril this year, though he was logged into Discord every day so his name was always on the mentor’s list.

The last I saw of him online was on Twitter where he would announce his appearance on a weekly Twitch stream with Maulgrim, which often involved playing Warframe and talking about indie dev topics, the last one being on August 4th.  He passed just two days later.

And now I feel guilty that I never quite found the time to watch that stream, though some of the episodes are archived so people can go back and watch/listen to them.

His passing thus appears to have been sudden given he was streaming just a week or so back.   But natural causes covers a lot of ground.

The responses to the post on Twitter shows both how many lives he touched and the shock and dismay of the communities of which he was a part.  He is missed already.

Brian “Psychochild” Green : Nov 1, 1973 – Aug 6, 2020

Other remembrances:

Graduation Day

Today my daughter graduates from high school.  While a mere high school education is something many sneer at these day, it is still the culmination of a lot of work.  It is rightly a proud moment for both parent and child.

Her mortarboard decorated

And my daughter has done more than just get through high school.  She was very involved on campus, took hard classes, volunteered, and even took a zero period class her junior year, which involved getting up earlier than most teens can manage.  I would have never done that in high school.

Come the end of summer she will be off to college.  A transition in life for all of us.

A simple and common suburban story.  But we live in interesting times.

A pandemic, a crumbling economy, the worst unemployment since the great depression, and protests against injustice and police brutality against African Americans… all of which have been made manifestly worse for every American by an obscenely narcissistic president whose calculations are only ever based on what he can do in a given moment to benefit himself… means that normalcy isn’t a thing even out in the suburbs.

We are under both stay at home orders due to the pandemic and a curfew due to protests.  Social distancing requirements mean that there will be no traditional graduation ceremony nor any sort of grad night party.  We will be having a drive through graduation instead.  Students have a time slot when their family can drive up.  Students will hop out of the car, get their diploma, have their picture taken on the set where this will take place, then get back in their car and drive off.  The pictures will be assembled into a video with music and narration that will be posted in a couple of weeks so relatives can see the ceremony.

Not the big event she was expecting back at the start of her senior year.  She is disappointed.

The future is uncertain as well.  The college she will be attending has been saying that there will be classes as normal come the fall semester, that students will live on campus and, while some precautions will be necessary, things will be mostly normal.  But they haven’t committed to that wholeheartedly yet and a lot of other schools… like the whole California State University system, with 23 campuses and nearly half a million students (not to be confused with the University of California system and its 10 campuses and quarter million students)… have already declared that come the fall some or all learning will be remote.  So we are still waiting on that.

And yet we know we are better off than many.  I still have my job.  The bills are still getting paid.  My wife, a real estate agent, managed to close a deal during the pandemic, which is a key part of the whole “paying for college” plan.  We’re still healthy as is our extended family.

Things are still pretty good, all things considered.  So we’re thankful for that.

Road Trip with Mojo Nixon

We are into the third week of Blapril here and my weekly posts about it are coming later and later in the week.  I may have to work on that.

The Blapril commeth

This week is getting to know you week.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

As with so many things, I am perhaps a bit skeptical that there is anything I can write here that would end up with anybody reading this “knowing” me very well at all.  I can recite biographic facts, dates and times of specific events, games I’ve player, colors I favor, religious beliefs, or my astrological sign and leave you no more the wiser as to who I am really.

And that leaves aside the deeper philosophical question of who we really are in any case.  Do I even know me?  Who am I really?

I get annoyed when I go to family gatherings and my siblings seem so keen to dwell in the past.  Specifically, nothing that happened after high school ever seems to come up.  Not that I am against living in the past.  This blog is, in a way, a shrine to the past.  We are, it seems a product of the past, just the sum total of our experiences existing in that razor thin sense of the present.  It isn’t that they go to the past, but they pick such a mundane part of the past to bring up.

So rather than something formulaic or statistical, I am going to tell a story about a past event that popped into my mind earlier this week.  It was sparked by Mojo Nixon.  I saw somebody asking, “Where the hell’s my money?” online about the stimulus checks we’re alleged to be getting some day, which just happens to be the title of a Mojo Nixon song.  So I brought that up in iTunes (you can listen to it here on YouTube if you so wish) and started listening to it and the rest of the tracks on the Frenzy album.  And that sent me back to when I first heard one of his songs.

It was the summer of 1987.  Or maybe 1988.  Bill and Tony and I were headed south out of Silicon Valley… that name was still fresh and meaningful back then… towards LA for the Crossroads of the West Gun Show.  It took place at the Panoma fair grounds and was the largest guns, militaria, antiques, and collectables show west of the Rockies at the time.  The event was absolutely huge, spread out over multiple event halls, and my friend Bill was (and remains) a big military collectables guy, so was headed to the show to scout items, make deals, and meet potential sources.

I think I had some vacation time handy, so went along.  I am not sure how Tony got invited, or who Tony really was other than being some sort of Armenian royalty whose family fled the place when the Bolsheviks took over.  He had a Russified Caucasian last name, put in for gas, and was good company, so he was welcome enough.

For some reason I ended up driving us down to LA.  I had a fairly new Mazda 626 which had a decent stereo and a cassette deck… the idea of a CD player in a car was at the luxury end of the market, if at all at that point… and we were pushing various tapes in the deck as we made our way south.  I didn’t have a lot in the car.  I think we went through the Repo Man sound track, but  I tended to listen to books on tape in the car on long rides, which were fairly common as my girlfriend at the time was going to Chico State, a four hour drive north from home.

Tony had a tape though.  He had Bill put it in the stereo and Mojo Nixon came pouring out of the speakers with I Hate Banks.  I had never heard him… or heard of him… before, but for three twenty somethings on the road in the middle of nowhere it was about the perfect sound track.  I don’t think we played another tape on the trip.

Interstate 5 is four and six lanes of blacktop through the middle of nowhere for most of its run through California, interrupted only by a bad smell as you pass by Harris Ranch.  So a loud sound track is appreciated.  We rolled on through the summer heat, windows down, yelling along with Mojo.

It wasn’t until we hit LA that we ran into traffic.  The fairgrounds are off of the 10 in LA, which is a major artery in the congestion that is LA.  I seem to recall seeing my first car pool lane on that trip, down there on the 10, or maybe on the 210, which required three people per car to use.  There were three of us, so on we went.

We stayed at a Best Western near the fairgrounds.  I still have a postcard from it.  We checked in, put our stuff in the room, and went out into LA for the evening.  I have almost no memory of that evening, not due to drink but just the fading of time.  I do recall, however, that we wandered into a record store where I found a copy of Back from Samoa by the Angry Samoans on CD, which I purchased and still have.  There is maybe 20 minutes of music tops on that CD.  Short songs were the punk thing.

The next day we got up early and headed to the show.  This is also a bit of a blur, though I recall going by the booth that had on display a Walther PP pistol owned by Heinrich Himmler.  I am not sure it was even for sale, but it was the center piece of somebody’s booth.

We spent a lot of time digging through displays of wings and badges.  Bill’s current passion was pilot wings and he could spot the good from the bad.  This was at a time when a lot of WWII stuff was becoming collectible and, thus, valuable.  Things that were laying in heaps into the 70s were suddenly becoming interesting as the 50th anniversary of the start of the war approached.

The problem is, a lot of the stuff is faked up.  Less so back then, but it was still pretty common.  Now the odds of anything you run across being authentic are pretty small, but Bill was an expert at spotting anomalies that marked fakes or at least put authenticity in doubt.  And he had a nose for the real deal.  So we spent the day deep in the minutiae of the collectors, occasionally stopping to goggle at some big item, but mostly talking to dealers with wings, badges, and patches.  And Bill found some deals.  He always did.  I remember going over to his apartment one day and finding it full of WWI British uniforms.  RFC tunics with wings in golden thread and uniforms of various regiments with ribbons and buttons shined bright, and uniform caps to go with them all.  He’d gotten them at some auction and they were all about the house as he sorted them and found buyers.

After the show shut down we went back to the room for a rest.  I then went out to meet up with somebody I knew through Air Warrior and hang out.  We nerded about the game for a while and I flew a bit on his account, which is where I twitched to some of the differences in the clients.  One of the controversies of the game, which Kesmai denied for ages, was that aircraft on the Mac client were not as powerful as those on the IBM PC and clients which derived from it, being the Atari ST and Amiga versions.  But playing on his IBM machine it was immediately obvious to me that the planes were noticeably more powerful.  Later it came out that the method for calculating engine horsepower was much more generous on that code base and it eventually was fixed.  But those of us who flew on the Mac felt validated when the news finally came out, not to mention a little superior, having often held our own even when the deck was stacked against us.

I headed back to the motel at about 2am, which back up in Silicon Valley would have meant having the highway to myself.  But LA, even then, was busy around the clock and the freeway, while not rush hour full, was still packed like it was maybe a Saturday afternoon.

When I got back to the motel room it was clear that something had transpired while I was away.  To start with, Tony’s clothes were in the pool, as were all the screens from the windows of our room, and maybe those from a couple of other rooms.  I knew ours were in there because all the windows were open and all the screens were missing.  There was a bunch of paper in the toilet… not toilet paper, but note paper…, the bathroom window was cracked, and the bathroom door had apparently been kicked in as the door jamb was split.   Tony was lying on the floor under the little coffee table that was in our room while Bill was bundled up in the comforter from the bed laying across the foot of it.  He was there because the top half of the bed was wet.

To this day I do not know what they got up to while I was away.  There were some empty beer cans, some of which were also floating in the pool, but not enough to explain wild behavior.  I got Tony up and we fished his stuff and the screens and what not out of the pool and tried to put the room back in some sort of order.  Then I found a dry pillow and a corner of the room and got some sleep myself.

The next morning we got up kind of early… youth knows no end of energy… and quietly checked out of the motel and headed north, stopping at the traditional last point in LA, In-N-Out Burger.

Now there is an In-N-Out Burger a few miles from my house, but back then the last one was off the freeway by Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm and it was the usual routine to stop and eat there on the way home.  So we got out and had our double-doubles or whatever.  It is hard to say what the real draw of the place is, save for simplicity of menu and quality of product and service.  I might pick Five Guys some of the time, given a choice, but In-N-Out can be damn good when you’re in a mood for it.

We ate up and walked out to the parking lot where I put the key in the lock of my blue Mazda 626 2-door and got in, Bill in the passenger seat and Tony in the back.  At that point there was a car alarm going off and Tony, still a bit blurry from the night before, asked if the child’s booster seat had been there on the trip down.

We were in the wrong car.

My Mazda was parked three spots further down the row.  But my key let us into the closer one, or seemed to.  It might have been left unlocked, due to it being equiped with a car alarm, which was what I had been hearing.  It was surprisingly muted from within the car, but as we unassed the wrong car it seemed very loud.

Oddly, this was not the only time I ended up with the wrong car in LA.  My girlfriend and I were down there a year or two later.  I drove her down to LAX because her year of study abroad was departing from there and not up north.  We stayed the night and the next day I went to go put her luggage in the trunk and, when I opened it up there was a huge bouquet of flowers in there, which sent her into tears.  That quickly stopped when I announced we had the wrong car and moved to one in the next aisle which had my stuff in the trunk and no flowers.

Back at In-N-Out we quickly made our way to the correct car and left as quickly as we could, heading north for home once more.  Mojo Nixon once again blared from the speakers as we headed through the central valley heat, zipping along at well beyond the newly posted 65 MPH speed limit.

All of which came bubbling back up into my conscious thought as I listened to Mojo Nixon sing Where the Hell’s My Money earlier this week.  Listening to his music… and I think I own most all of his albums… brings me back to a youthful state of mind full or irreverence and lacking in much of the responsibility that weighs on me today.

So do you know me any better after that?  What if I told you I took that quiz and my top match was Frodo Baggins?  Any better? Probably not.

All of that seems like an eternity ago and very recent at the same instant.  Time is strange, memory is flawed, and in that the past is all we really are.

Being a California child, automobiles enter into many of my youthful tales.  Other car stories I’ve written about here:

The “Bill” in the latter of those two is the same “Bill” in this story.  I might have to record another tale or two involving him.  Maybe our Friday the 13th adventure.  But that is for another time.

The Tale of the Two Chocolate Pies

I am almost done with maybe half a dozen posts, but I am tired and haven’t finished any of them, so you get a Christmas vignette instead.

We were up at my father’s house for Christmas, which is about a 3 hour drive away, which is part of why I didn’t finish anything.  Six hours in the car will do that.  Also, I started playing RimWorld when we got home.  That will eat up time.  So here I am writing this on Boxing Day, with the cat watching me… from a box… I am serious.

A cat in a box watching me write on Boxing Day

Christmas dinner is a pretty stock standard tradition there, and the menu never varies.  My step-mother does the most well-done prime rib possible every year.  And by well-done I mean cooked so that the colors red or pink are nowhere visible.  The president would approve.  Whatever.  She’s coming up on 80 and will do what she damn well pleases.  The meat was still tender and enough horseradish sauce makes up for most sins.

Anyway, after dinner I was sitting at the kids table with my daughter and a few of my nieces to avoid the determined clean up operation that gets set in motion the moment it appears people are done eating.  All evidence that there was ever a meal must be eliminated.  The first time my wife ever came to Christmas we went up the street for about 45 minutes to visit my grandmother and by the time we got back both dinner and desert had been served and cleaned away to oblivion.  We ended up eating Christmas cookies in the car on the way home we were so hungry.

My daughter and nieces range from 13 to 24, and two of them are involved in Hollywood so often have interesting tales.  But in the midst of a discussion which involved season five of BoJack Horseman and Ted Danson’s folding straw, my 19 year old nieces saw that desert was being put out on the counter and felt the need to point out that there were two chocolate pies.

Let me make that clear.  There were TWO chocolate pies.  This was significant.

This was important to her because last year, unbeknownst to me, she did not get ANY chocolate pie.  All of the chocolate pie had been eaten before she went to get any, so her chocolate pie aspirations had been thwarted.  Her brother, who has the last piece, declined to share his pie with her, which was no doubt the shocker of the century.

This situation last year was apparently intolerable because there were TWO chocolate pies on the counter.  I imagine my sister had heard enough of this that she just made sure nobody would lack for chocolate pie.

And we are not talking about any sort of extra special chocolate pie here.  This looked to be the stock standard, no-bake, pudding in a pie crust desert that is out every year with its siblings, the pumpkin and coconut pies.  Chocolate was just now 50% of the “pies currently on the counter” demographic.

My sister confirmed that there were a pair of chocolate pies for the reason stated, and did so with a weariness that comes from trying to balance the demands of three teens under her roof.

So when the time came to serve up some pie, I got up and got myself a slice of chocolate pie, just on the off chance there would be a rush for that particular flavor.  I mean, last year we ran out before my niece even got a slice.

I actually had two slices, and managed to get them both without depriving my niece of her slice.  I must admit that my sudden lust for chocolate pie was, in part, to see if we could eat it all again before she got any.  But there would be no pie denial melt-down of any sort.

There was enough chocolate pie for all who desired any.

As I stood in the kitchen by the trash, helping to hide all evidence that there was any desert served after the meal we had so successfully disappeared, my niece walked up to scrape the remains of her pie into the trash.  In her hands I saw a paper plate with a huge glop of chocolate pie filling, missing really only the crust.  The main essence of the chocolate pie, the actual chocolate bit, appeared mostly untouched and she was happily dumping it into the trash.

So I called out in a loud voice, “After all of that talk about chocolate pie, are you telling me that you don’t actually like chocolate pie?  That all you really wanted was the crust?”

My niece confirmed this in a mildly embarrassed voice.  I turned towards my sister and called to her, even louder, so that everybody in the room could clearly head, “Did you see your daughter’s plate?  She was so anxious that she get some chocolate pie that we have TWO chocolate pies, and she is even now scooping almost all of the chocolate from her slice into the trash, having only eaten the crust?”

My sister was willing to play along in some public shaming, but the look in her eyes was, “Welcome to my life.”

In the end, nobody even took a slice from the second chocolate pie.  All of the chocolate pie related needs, including my second slice, were met by the first pie.  The second pie was entirely superfluous.  But at least it got a mention here.  They also serve, who only sit and wait.

The EVE Online 2019 World Tour

As announced at EVE Fanfest… last year I think, I know the plan has been knocking around for a while… there will be no EVE Fanfest in Iceland in 2019.  Instead, CCP plans to take Fanfest on the road for 2019.  In addition to the usual EVE Vegas event CCP will be adding additional events to their schedule as well as dropping in on regular player events, turning them into official Fanfest occasions.

Here are the announced locations for the 2019 World Tour:

Fanfest 2019 Locations

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands March 23-24 – Joining in with the traditional EVEsterdam event
  • St. Petersburg, Russia May 4 – Bringing an event to the large Russian EVE Online community
  • Sydney, Australia May 23-26 – CCP one again attending EVE Down Under
  • Toronto, Canada June 21-23 – CCP in Canada for the first time with an event for the northeast
  • Kemiönsaari, Finland August 23 – The winner of the Fanfest Home contest gets CCP in their living room
  • Berlin, Germany September 13-14 – CCP joins up with G-Fleet for a German event
  • EVE Vegas October 25-27 – The traditional Second Fanfest will return to Vegas
  • London, England November 23 – EVE London will have CCP in attendance

That is eight official EVE Online events being run for 2019.  And if the 2019 T-shirts for all of these events isn’t a concert tour knock-off with all of those dates on the back, I will be sadly disappointed.

For those of us who might make just one of these events in 2019, the plan is to stream them all so we can play along at home.  There is even a teaser video for the whole plan.

The only question that remains: Can PermaBand play a world tour and survive?

Further details at the dev blog announcing the tour.

Home From EVE Vegas 2018

This post won’t be going into the things that CCP announced at EVE Vegas.  Not in any depth anyway.  Some of those items will get posts of their own, though some I will likely wait for the appropriate dev blog to show up before I cheer/jeer/panic.

EVE Vegas 2018

Instead, being true to my presentation, this is more my story of EVE Vegas than anything else.

My wife and I probably made about the minimal duration visit to the event, flying in Friday in time for registration and having to catch a cab during the closing ceremonies to get out flight home.  Silicon Valley is just an hour away from Vegas by air, which makes that seem reasonable.

The Linq

This isn’t the worst venue on the strip but, as I noted last year, it does leave something to be desired.  It used to be the old Imperial Palace hotel, easily the cheapest place on the strip in its day, and Caesar’s Resorts takeover and refurbishment of it was only a semi-successful attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

It isn’t a bad place to stay, and it is still reasonably price, but it ain’t the Bellagio or Madalay Bay or even the Cosmopolitan.

Our room was nice enough.  We arrived before check-in, but if you upgrade your room they’ll get it for you straight away.  After some discussion as to what constituted a “strip view” (the Linq is set back from the strip, so you most see the backs of other buildings) we ended up with a room in District 3 looking out over the High Roller Ferris wheel.  It was very pretty at night.

The High Roller from our room

During the day it was less impressive.  That patch behind it is a construction site where Caesar’s Resorts are building even more stuff.  Maybe that will be District 9.

Fortunately our room was pretty much directly across from my room last year, so I knew the paths through the hotel and the secret of the “No Casino Access” elevator that pretty much goes directly to the casino level.

The real problem for the Linq is that its convention/event space is really sub-par.  Planet Hollywood had the sort of huge event areas that I am used to from professional events, with a lot of hallway space in between and some big open areas for people to congregate.  The Linq’s space is relatively small and EVE Vegas used it all.  That was good in a way, being the only event there.

EVE Vegas Floor Plan

The problem is that this was the biggest EVE Vegas so far, which meant something over 1,200 people from around the world showed up.  However, the Showroom, where the keynotes were given on Friday can seat maybe 500 people tops, and probably not even that.  So they had to put most of us in Social A to watch a live stream of the keynotes, which meant most of us in attendance ended up watching a big screen showing the same thing everybody at home was seeing.  That is not optimal.  And while there was free beer for the room, the supply was limited and ran out quickly.

There was a gap between the opening ceremony and the EVE Online keynote, during which I found Nosy Gamer and joined him at his perch near the back of the main hall, so I saw that live.  It honestly makes a difference.

Anyway, the word is that next year EVE Vegas will be at a different venue.

The CCP Presentations

  • Opening Ceremony

Mostly about the other projects CCP is working on.  Posted to YouTube.

  • EVE Online Keynote

Preview of things to come in-game and to be talked about in presentations.  Also on YouTube.

The bit about War Decs was interesting.

War Dec Stats

Half of war decs come from five corps.  Those corpse make about 105 kills for every loss they sustain.  Only 4% of wars have a defender making a kill.  But the kills per war go up significantly if the defenders have a structure.  So the coming in December temporary solution is going to be to restrict war decs to corps that have structures, with a full re-work of war dec mechanics underway for 2019.

It was clear from the presentation and from talking to CCP Burger later that this was in the minutes because CCP had, at last, spent time looking into data around it and found it was worse than they expected, so CCP wanted to get it out there that it needed to be changed.  PC Gamer already has an article up about it.

  • Upwell Structures – The Future

Interesting and controversial as CCP maps out moving the last few POS restricted features to the Upwell format.  Jump bridges without jump fatigue that can move titans.  Waiting for the dev blog on that!  But the new visuals for that, and for upgraded art for jump gates, are awesome.

  • Project Nova

Interesting look at Project Nova.  It is in pre-alpha but looks really good.  They are clearly trying to find some positioning for it that doesn’t make it a space version of Call of Duty.  You can sign up to be in the alpha.

  • Ships & Balance

New triglavian ships.  I missed some of this getting ready for my presentation.

  • Introducing The Activity Tracker

I missed all of this because I was talking to Matterall, but they spoke about some of this at Fanfest earlier this year.

  • Events & The Agency

This was good.  Guess what, the Federation Grand Prix event was not popular.  Who knew?  I mean, besides anybody who actually tried it.  Also, a big revamp for The Agency interface is under way as well as more events.

  • Closing Ceremony

Was catching a cab to the airport, but it is also on YouTube already.  It was announced that in 2019 one of the “away fanfest” locations will be Toronto.  Good for Canadians and those in the northeast US.

Player Presentations

They were all excellent.  I showed solidarity with my fellow speaks and attended them all, and I was clearly in among some very talented people.

My own presentation wasn’t streamed and was at 4pm, which put it at the end of day two and just three hours before the party, so let’s just say that it was an intimate event.  My wife counted just over 30 people present, and I only knew about ten of them already.

Me looking serious at the podium, my winter beard already started

Still, it went well, people there were engaged and asked questions, and the wormholers at the back responded when I said they need to get somebody writing about what goes on there because I want to hear about it, but I’m not going to go live there to find out.

Probably the biggest loss due to presenting in that time slot was the person who went after me, Ahlea Corinth.  His presentation,  “Multiple Accounts = EVE On Steroids” was great.  Fortunately, CCP cut back from Stream Fleet and streamed his presentation, so you can find it at the end of the day two stream at CCP’s Twitch site at about the 4 hour 43 minute mark.

My presentation was the only one not streamed and is lost to history.  My moment of streaming fame came at the end of Talking in Stations on day three.  I have a two minute summary there.

Or there is this image that I made as a summary.

Highlight of my Presentation

Addendum: The Greyill put together links to all of the presentations in the recorded streams if you want to go directly to any specific one.

The Party

Drai’s is awesome.  This is a high roller location.  I can see coming to EVE Vegas and not getting a badge for the presentation if you want to hang out with friends, but the party… you have to get a ticket to the party.

Looking at the stage from the back

More up the center line

The drinks were free (and not the cheap stuff either) the crowd was happy and having fun (though Rixx was scowling some in the ABA pit when I passed by and shook hands) things were loud, and Permabanned played, as they always do.

CCP Guard on stage

That brings the house together as well all know some of the words.  HTFU remains the fan favorite I think, though Warp to the Dance Floor isn’t far behind.

People

This is why you go to EVE Vegas.  I am glad my wife went with me, as I tend to be quiet in person (though often tagged as a “good listener”) but my wife, the sales rep, she will get into any conversation and has no problem talking to strangers.  So we went around the event, and especially around the party, talking to people.

Of course, I talked to old friends from past events, like Matterall, Johnny Splunk, Nosy Gamer, and of course, the larger than life Dirk McGirk, who ran the Open Comms Show operations from a pool-side cabana at the Linq, where he was looking much worse for the wear after the Friday night Fremont Street roam.  The cabana reminded me a bit of a civil war aid station, with worn bodies strewn about the loungers.  But Dirk was looking out for me again and had an EVE Vegas Open Comms shirt for me.

Wormholers survived all the same

Anyway, I will wrap this up with pictures of some of the people who I talked to at EVE Vegas, though I have a special one I want to call out.

CCP Falcon and I at Drai’s

I’m sure that will send Gevlon’s tinfoil hat spinning.

Anyway, this isn’t everybody I spoke to, just those that I somehow ended up with in a picture, along with some other shots.

Heading to EVE Vegas 2018

That time of the year has arrived, at the other side of the calendar from EVE Fanfest in Iceland is EVE Vegas.  This coming weekend, October 19 through 21, CCP will be setting up in the city most closely representative of New Eden, if only New Eden still allowed gambling.  CCP has a dev post up covering the various aspects of the event.

EVE Vegas 2018

There will be a lot of eyes on CCP as this will be the first public event for the company after the acquisition by Pearl Abyss, the deal having closed on October 12.

I expect that the keynote will cover this in a very “everything will remain business as usual” sort of way.  Neither CCP nor Pearl Abyss wants to rock the boat right now, so a sense of soothing continuity seems like the best plan.

Still, if you want to panic about something, you can go check out the job posting for the new Monetization Director position at CCP.

You will work with Project Managers, Directors and EVE development teams to strengthen monetization designs, vision and process.

As it turns out, CCP is in it for the money.  Who knew?

EVE Vegas is also where we’re likely to hear about the next big thing for EVE Online.  We are at the end of the year where we often get a big, named release as opposed to a monthly update, and CCP like to announce that sort of thing in front of a live studio audience.

We will no doubt be hearing about CCP’s other New Eden related plans.  There is a presentation for Project Nova on the schedule.

For the fourth year running I will be attending EVE Vegas.  This year, in a change up from my usual lurking off on the side, I will be doing a presentation.  If you are going to EVE Vegas as well you have a good chance of spotting me at 4pm on Saturday in the Social A room.

EVE Vegas 2018 – Saturday Schedule (Pacific Time 16:00 = UTC 23:00)

Yes, my topic is blogging.  Go with what you know.  I will be attempting to evangelize the joys of blogging about internet spaceships.  So if you are in Vegas, have a badge, aren’t going to the Abyssal Deadspace round table presentation, and cannot find anything better to do, you can see me mumble into a microphone about the history, future, and reality of blogging.

If you are viewing from home… and CCP is streaming a lot of the event on their Twitch channel… then you’re not going to see me.  While some presentations are being streamed, the block of time where I am speaking is being used for Stream Fleet.

EVE Vegas 2018 – Saturday Streaming Schedule

Given that at least one slide of my presentation goes over the new media options that have supplanted blogging over the last decade, the irony of being pre-empted by streamers is not lost on me.  I suspect they looked at the list of speakers and put the two most dull topics into the same hour so they could turn the camera elsewhere.  Hard to blame anyone for that.  But at least the pressure is off and I don’t have to worry about accidentally saying “fuck” or anything.

Anyway, there it is.  I will be at EVE Vegas to hear what is coming for the game live and in person as well as communing with my fellow blogging types.  These events do tend stratify into groups, so it is probably telling that I’m over in a corner talking about CCP and New Eden rather than at the bar drinking and being loud.  Look for reporting on the event and some pictures next week.

Addendum:

After writing this I got the email from CCP about watching EVE Vegas remotely which includes a streaming schedule that is different from the one on the megablog post linked above.

Alternate universe streaming schedule

I suspect that the one in the in the original post is correct and that somebody just copied the presentation schedule rather than the streaming schedule, but who can tell.  Maybe you’ll see me, maybe you won’t.  We’ll only know when the time comes I suppose.  But now I’ve gone from wondering what I should wear to not caring what I wear to again being concerned about what I will wear.  I’m thinking one of the Open Comms show T-shirts.

No More Toys for Us

I remember the coming of the big Toys R Us store in Sunnyvale, over on El Camino Real near Mathilda Avenue.  It was, in a somewhat conservative time, a brash statement of color.

Something akin to what it looked like back in the day – Pic swiped from the internet

And, more importantly to me at the time, if was full of toys.

More recently they transformed the building into the bland beige store front style so common on strip malls across the country.  But for a while it stood out.  And it was haunted.

Of course, as a kid, it was a big deal even without the alleged ghost. (There is a post on Snopes about the haunting, a recurring story here in the valley, which had to get mentioned one last time when the location was set to close.)  But toy stores seemed to be a thing back then.  We not only had Toys R Us expanding into the valley, we also had a local chain, Kiddie World, with a couple of equally sizable locations, and later another big store… King Something’s Kingdom of Toys I think… it was over off of Interstate 880 with a big wooden soldier on the front of the building … along with smaller local retailers and the mall toy stores that eventually all became KB Toys.  And then there were the pseudo-toy stores, the hobby shops and the like, which grew in importance to me as time moved along.

I suppose it is in the nature of being a child, know where all the toy stores are and which retailer has a decent toy department and which does not.  I recall being disappointed with the one at Sears back in the day.

But even before the internet began to thin the heard of brick and mortar toy stores things were changing.  Silicon Valley was growing.  The population has more than doubled since that Toys R Us location opened.  Population pressures and a level of land scarcity (exacerbated by zoning laws favoring single family detached dwellings, leading the valley to be called a gang of suburbs in search of a city) began pushing up real estate prices, something reflected in retail rental costs, which killed off a lot of the small, independent toy stores.

Time, change, and competition send others packed.  That big toy store off 880 whose name eludes me was gone by the end of the 80s.  By the mid-90s Kiddie World, shrunk to a single location not too far down the road from the haunted Toys R Us, was trying to make its way by focusing on patio furniture and backyard play sets before it closed down.  And, as I mentioned, KB Toys scooped up the mall toy stores… at least before land value made having as many malls as we did economically nonviable.  And then even it fell over, as did the famous FAO Schwartz.

But Toys R Us seemed to be able to hang on and even thrive, scooping up fallen rivals and opening up Babies R Us in the late 90s, the go-to store for new parents.  Gift cards to Babies R Us were very welcome at baby showers and the like.  And in the age of Amazon the chain was able to strike a deal with wrecker of the status quo, even if Amazon reneged on the deal.

The chain was around for my daughter to grow up with.  Trips there were fun for the both of us.  There is something about being able to see and touch toys in person, to get their measure in reality, that surpasses any online purchasing experience.  The web is for buying, but stores are for browsing.  And Pokemon events.  Toys R Us used to host Pokemon download events, and my daughter and I attended more than a few of those.

However the internet kept pressure on the company while retail competitors like Target and WalMart.  Then they screwed up a couple of season of buying and were soon in deep trouble, needing to borrow more money for 2017 holiday season, a time of year which generates the lion’s share of their revenue.  That did not pay off and, having not turned a profit since 2013, the company was in serious trouble.

And so it goes.  Today, Friday, June 29, 2018, the last Toys R Us in the US is closing down.  It has been reported that their overseas subsidiaries will follow suit and the company will effectively disappear.  There is a farewell notice on their web site.

Farewell from Toys R Us

I am, at least theoretically, well past the need for a toy store, though I have persisted pretty well on the “don’t ever grow up” front.  As well as can be expected.

My daughter too is past toy stores for now, but she was sad as well when she heard the news.  She remembers going there when she was younger.  It was a memorable experience, a rite of childhood, being able to go to a big toy store.  And she has picked up some of my sense of nostalgia as she has realized that childhood doesn’t last forever.  The only constant in life is change.

And so one more facet of my life, of my daughter’s life, of the life of the valley, passes into memory.

Good-bye Geoffrey!

It will be a while… I hope… until grand kids are a concern.  I wonder what will fill the gap for them?  What will replace the toy store experience?  Or will video and virtual be all they know?

Home From EVE Vegas 2017

That went fast.  Very fast.

EVE Vegas 2017 – SOLD OUT

I was sitting there in the big auditorium with Nosy Gamer and Dire Necessity and Mynxee and Johnny Splunk as CCP Guard and CCP Falcon said from the stage that EVE Vegas 2017 was over and I think the reaction among several of us was, “Wait, it’s done? That’s it?”

It seemed like too short of a weekend.  Still, a lot happened.

CCP Presentations

CCP expanded on some of the things they were talking for the upcoming Life Blood expansion.  We already knew the Guristas were going to get a shipyard in north null sec, a mirror of the Blood Raiders in the south.  We learned that there would/could be up to three Guristas shipyards up at once as well as the capital ship blue prints they would drop; they include a faction version of the Phoenix dreadnought and Leviathan titan, which both can launch fighters in keeping with the usual Guristas theme.

There was also some updates on the new moon mining structures, how they will work, and some video of them in action.

But I think High Sec got a lot more attention than in past presentations.  There were, of course, the Guristas and Blood Raiders outposts, mini versions of the shipyards to find in empire space.

Then there was the announcement that moon mining would be coming to high sec with the new structures.  It will only be available in 0.5 sec status systems, and only deliver ore and not moon goo, but you can still get supercharged rocks out of it that boost yield for your mining op.

There was also the update to The Agency, which is slated to be the all-in-one place for finding PvE content.  It won’t just be for events any more.

But I think the big thing for high sec will be Resource Wars.  That is a new, co-op PvE system where you can join in, but don’t have to fleet up, to either mine or kill pirates to help your empire gather resources for rewards.  Semi-sorta public quest-like in nature, it touches on the three things I was going on about with EVE Online PvE.  They will provide progression of a sort with some meaning (akin to missions), have predictable return on investment, and are somewhat on demand through The Agency interface.  I want to try them out when they go live.

In the grand tradition of the game, I am sure somebody will be complaining about all of this.  CCP can’t add anything to the game without some people saying it isn’t enough while others bitch that it is too much focus on somebody else.  I just see new stuff and am happy.

Then there was the expansion of Alpha clones, which created what might be called an “Alpha Plus” or “Alpha Prime” class of players.  That will need its own post, but there is an article about it up at PC Gamer. (Also, I briefly met Steve Messner, the author, and got to thank him for linking to one of my posts last month.)

And, in addition we got updates on Project Nova and heard about the new Project Aurora (which some people got to play), both of which represent CCP figuring out that maybe they should team up with other developers when they make something in an arena they have not mastered.

Anyway, there are many other articles on the presentations and I will probably do posts about individual things later.  Suffice to say, much was learned about upcoming releases and plans going forward.

Player Presentations

EVE Vegas always features some player presentations, and the ones I saw this time around were all excellent. These are the ones I managed to sit in on.

Mike Azariah of A Missioneer in EVE spoke about finding your own path to “win” in EVE Online.

Eveline Vos and Keskora Yaari talked about the nature of life and conflict in wormhole space which, as an outsider to that corner of New Eden, was very interesting.

Emmaline Fera, a friend from Twitter, gave a simply awesome presentation on EVE Online leadership skills and how they transfer back and forth to real life.  I would love to see this again or at least get the presentation.

Matterall gave an hour long presentation that followed the experiences of a single NCDot player from the OTEC era through to today.  This was especially interesting as my own time in null sec started just before OTEC (I came in during the war against White Noise) and closely paralleled the story, only on the other side of every conflict. Addendum: Somebody recorded it off of the Twitch stream.

Debes Sparre (who used to comment here now and again) and Elise Randolph gave a presentation about building fleet doctrines that was very good.  I liked that they framed as a parallel to ship fitting.  As you pick modules for your ship, so you pick ships to fill out your doctrine.  They also promised to put their presentation and final fittings up on the web.

And then there was the usual Max Singularity presentation.  This time around his New Eden Physics Class 101 developed a consistent tech lore as to why ships in New Eden behave the way they do.  This was, in part, covered by his submission to the Frigates of EVE book, but he gave us the expanded, one-hour presentation as to why our ships work they way they do.  I can only hope that this all ends up some place where we can reference it at some point.  Anyway, now I have to buy that book as well.

Demos & the EVE Store

CCP had the usual array of demo stations and such setup in another room.

I went and tried out Sparq for a bit.  It is interesting, but perhaps not as accessible as Wii Sports, to which it has been compared.  The VR aspect of it is cool and immersive, but I still had problems just getting my hands to go exactly where I wanted them.  I don’t know if I’m just clumsy (high probability) or if the PlayStation 4 VR just isn’t as precise as I expected it to be.  Also, I could never quite get how big the shield on my hand was for deflecting shots.  It looks tiny from your own perspective, but you can see your opponant’s shield and it looks much bigger.  The fact that you cannot have local matches is probably the biggest hindrance to the game. (Unless your friend brings over their PS4 and VR headset to play.)

EVE Valkyrie: Warzone was on display of course.  Oddly though… or perhaps not… there were no VR headsets with that demo.  They wanted people to play the non-VR version, with stations setup to use keyboard and mouse and others with the XBox controller.  I didn’t try that out, but I bought a copy on Steam, so I’ll have a post about that later.

And then in the same room was the EVE Store, which finally had some decent items available.  And I mean simple things, like a T-shirt that just said EVE Online, that should have been there by default last year.  Also a year late was a Warp to the Dance Floor T-shirt.

Of course, it isn’t the EVE Store without some sort of screw up.  They were supposed to have EVE Vegas 2017 pins, but they were delayed so didn’t make it to Vegas.  I was told I would have to order them through the online store.  But the online store was completely failing to work with my phone browser, so I figured I would just order one when I got home.  But they were apparently only for sale during the event, so I missed out.  Bleh.

I did buy my daughter a Permaband T-shirt.  Her response was very “meh.”

People

There were many.  Over a thousand.  I did not speak to nearly enough of them.

Nosy Gamer, Dire Necessity, and I went to Holstein’s over at the Cosmopolitan where, once again, Dire order the shake with the comically large addition.  Last year it was a whole slice of pumpkin pie.  This year it was pretty much a whole ice cream sandwich in his cookies and cream shake.

Gonna need a bigger shake…

I also had a great dinner with Debes Sparre where we did the usual thing that long timers in the tech industry do; exchanged work horror stories.

The Venue

The Linq hotel was a strange bird.  I couldn’t quite place my finger on it until somebody pointed out that it used to be the old Imperial Palace hotel, the one-time cheapest place to stay on the strip.  Caesar’s bought it and spiffed it up, but it was still a matter of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  So I had a room with very nice decor, but the hot water system isn’t of the recirculating type typical of nice hotels, so you have to wait for the water to warm up.

And nothing screams “high class” like soap dispensers attached to the wall in an otherwise very up scale shower.

They all dispensed similar clear liquids too

There were also not enough elevators.  The main set were slow, heavily used, and glitchy.  I got in one that insisted on going up on every other stop, which made getting to the lobby a 10 minute ride.  The elevator car of the dammed.  And this situation wasn’t help by signs like this.

This sign is a complete lie

There was an elevator four doors down from my room with this sign, so I didn’t use it on the first day.  Later I discovered that it would put me on the second floor about a dozen steps from some steps and a door that put me on the casino level, which is where you need to be to get anywhere.  Those elevators were never busy.  So, I guess technically there were enough elevators, but the hotel was scaring people away from some of them.

Also, I got lost at one point, as all three towers… or districts… connect on every floor so I ended up going to a room with almost the same number as mine.

So it wasn’t the Bellagio, but I have to admit that the room prices were pretty good for what you got.  Of course, it probably helped that CCP didn’t book the event during Halloween again.

The Party

The party venue was like the Chateau of previous years on steroids.  Bigger, better, and many more bars to serve up free drinks.

Club Drai

CCP Guard and a few other got up and sang some of the Permaband numbers, though Killing is Just Another Means was left off the play list due to recent events in Las Vegas.

Not being the party person I was 30 years ago, I went back to my room and went to bed after that.  But there were many after parties and some people looked the worse for wear the next day.

Goodies

Of course there were things to pick up, both from CCP and players, as part of the event.

CCP had a goody bag that came pre-loaded with some items, including three SKINs.

EVE Vegas SKINs

I redeemed them and immediately activated the Megathron SKIN on my main.  I left the other two unredeemed wondering if I should send them to my Gallente Alpha alt, since he actually has the other two ships.

I have to send a special shout out to Dirk MacGirk who gave me one of this year’s Open Comms show T-shirt featuring the show advisory on the back.

Not mentioned: Alcohol Consumption

I wore the T-shirt from last year at the event, as it is one of my prized EVE Online possessions.

There were other nice items, including a Signal Cartel card and poker chip from Mynxee and an event T-shirt featuring one of the new moon mining structures.  I tried to sum that all up in one picture.

EVE Vegas Loot

That star on my badge is from Mike Azariah certifying that I have “won” in EVE Online.

Blade Runner 2049

I went to the charity showing of Blade Runner 2049 that CCP hosted.  No spoilers, but it helped to have seen the original… or the director’s cut I suppose, if you want to be technical…, it didn’t feel like 168 minutes sitting there, and you probably want to see it on the big screen.

Summary

A good time was had.  I would do it again.

I haven’t covered nearly enough of what I saw and heard, and I am nearly 2,000 words in.  More for further posts I guess.  I am sure I have forgotten something major I wanted to mention.

And, naturally, after a weekend of EVE Vegas I feel like I need another weekend right away just to get back in my day-to-day stride.  This no longer being young stuff sucks.

Where I Started Typing

My Aunt moved earlier this year and, in cleaning out her house, came across any number of items that had been stored away for years.  One of them was a typewriter.

Nothing to do with deviled ham

Probably one of the reasons I have done as well as I have in the computer age, or the information age, or whatever we end up calling this era, is that I learned to type at a fairly young age.  And the first place I started was with this typewriter.

A look under the lid, the ‘N’ key is the one sticking up in the bunch… we’ll get to that…

That is a 1937 Underwood Champion portable typewriter that my grandmother hauled off to college when she was 18.  It was portable by virtue of the fact that it came with a hard carrying case with a handle.

Typewrite and case

The typewriter sat in that case in the hallway closet at my grandmother’s house and when I would come over to visit I would often haul it out to bang away on it just for the feel of putting words on paper.  There was something about that action that made words feel more “real” or “official” to young me.

Later I would take typing in school and get my own typewriter, an Olivetti Lettera 32.  It was also a portable, though considerably smaller and lighter than the old Underwood.

The baby blue Lettera 32

(Picture source)

That was probably a fitting choice of brands as the Underwood company was purchased by Olivetti back in 1959.

I do not know where the Olivetti ended up.  With the coming of my first computer I immediately started shopping for a printer and what passed for a word processor back then.  After some fumbling about I got a copy of AppleWorks for my Apple //e and was off to the races.  At that point the typewriters went back into storage, rarely to be heard from again.

And so it goes.

Now I write a blog on much more sophisticated (or bloated… or both) software and share some of my words not on paper but electronically across the world via the internet, but I still put my fingers on the same keyboard layout I started to tinker with back in the early 70s.

And it was the internet that helped me figure out how old this typewriter was.  There is no date of manufacture stamped on it that I could find.  But I could see a serial number stamped into the frame.

Serial number inside the unit

With that number I was able to use Google to find the Typewriter Database site which includes a page of Underwood Champion serial numbers by year.  That pinned down the year, which lined up with my grandmother graduating from high school and heading off to college.

The typewriter itself still looks to be in prime mechanical condition.  “They don’t make them like that any more” might be cliche, but it has some grounding in reality.  And among the other things you can find on the internet are ribbons compatible with it.  I am sure the ribbon in there hasn’t been replaced since the 1950s at the latest.  There is scant print ability left in the dried out husk that is in it currently.

Some words are just visible

Actually typing on it requires quite a firm touch.  I recall how my grandmother used to brutalize the IBM Selectric in the library where she worked, pounding on those keys that would activate with a much lighter touch.  The mechanical operation requires you to push it, and hitting the shift key lifts up the entire platen unit, so not something you can do without a pinky that has been working out at the gym.

And then there are the quirks of early keyboards.  Each key cost money, so they only included what was necessary.  You will see there is no key for the number one.  The lower case ‘L’ was deemed sufficient for that.  And with no key for the number one, there is also no key for the exclamation point.  To make one you would type a period then backspace and type a single quote over it.  And forget about your angled, square, or curly braces.  Straight up parenthesis is all you better need.

You do, however, get a special key for the fractions 1/2 and 1/4, while some of the other standard punctuation is scattered about the keyboard in places you might not expect to find them.

The keys work… mostly… save for the ‘N’ key, which sticks.  It used to stick occasionally, now it sticks every time you hit it.  The arm of the key is slightly bent so gets stuck as it strikes and you have to reach up and pull the key back every time you used it.  Nobody will be typing the great American novel on this machine… not very quickly anyway.

Also, there is a little bell that rings when you hit the end of a line so you know when to hit the return lever to start on a new line.  I had forgotten about that aspect of manual typewriters.

The case however has seen better days.  The hinges on the back are broken, so you can no longer carry the case by the handle.  You have to carry it like you were carrying a cake in a box lest the typewriter come loose and fall out.

Now I have to figure out what to do with the unit.  This 80 year old typewriter is a minor bit of family history, but not really an heirloom.  My daughter was interested in it momentarily before going back to her iPhone.  I expect I will find some room for it in my office with the rest of the junk I hang onto.