My Life as a Blog
by Rich Carlson
Wizardry vs. Telengard
Let's level up!
"This topic must be cursed."
First I was going to write about Wizardry. Then I thought I'd write a little about another addictive early crpg, Telengard. Then my computer crashed. I hadn't saved the text file I was working on. This topic must be cursed. Perhaps this was a passive aggressive act on my part. Perhaps it was corporate mind control. I really can't say.
At any rate, you can download Telengard here (PC version) but I don't think that you can legally download Wizardry for free. Perhaps there is an Apple emulator version out there. Not sure. You can check out Jim Hayes' Wizardry website if you're interested in information about the first Wizardry game. You can learn more about Telengard at Pete's Telengard Tribute site and The Unofficial DND Home Page.
Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"Why clowns hate urinals..."
Firesign Theatre, Now Playing on NPR: Feb. 17, 2003 | New Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons game | Peace in Middle Earth in our time | Celestia | Why clowns hate urinals | Buglord | M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula | Top agencies compete for vid game business | Battlefish | A Fabric Glowing with Emotion | The Silicon Valley Tarot | SiSSYFiGHT 2000 | The Adverstising Artwork of Dr. Seuss
M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
Time out for celestial wonders!
"The most famous of all astronomical nebulas..."
From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website: "The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image, faint wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion."
You can view the original M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula post with more information and related hyperlinks here.
News (Really) Bites
The Movie | The Contest
"The winner will receive a mounted Battlefish..."
A couple of news items from Digital Eel have crowded out a paragraph or two about the classic crpg, Wizardry, that I was going to post. I hope I'll get back to it at a later date.
Here are the news bites. I'll do some real writing, um, soon.
Strange Adventures in Infinite Space: The Movie! Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little. Okay, a lot. Actually, this is a short 30 second .avi clip (640x480; 33.9MB) which features scenes from Strange Adventures in Infinite Space and new music. While you are waiting for the multimillion dollar Hollywood version to begin production click here to download the SAIS clip.
If you are planning to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California we invite you to stop by the Digital Eel pod and enter the SAIS high score contest. All you need to do is play Strange Adventures in Infinite Space -and impress everyone with your fabulous high score. The winner will receive a mounted Battlefish crafted by Phosphorous. (Digital Eel psychic force.)
Further details will be available on site. Hope to see you there!
Dumbbell Nebula Close-Up from Hubble
Yes it is. No it's knot.
"...knots of gas and dust..."
Not too much to say right now. I'll likely update more substantially this weekend. Meanwhile, here's the latest astronomical treat from the Hubble Space Telescope and APOD.
From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website: "What causes unusual knots of gas and dust in planetary nebulas? Seen previously in the Ring Nebula, the Helix Nebula, and the Eskimo Nebula, the knots' existence was not predicted previously and still not well understood. Pictured above is a newly released image of the Dumbbell Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope showing details of its gaseous knots. Also visible are many bright young stars and dark sheets of interstellar dust."
You can view the original Dumbbell Nebula Close-Up from Hubble post, with hyperlinks, here.
Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"Wow, that's really fast."
The Complete Movie Version of The Lord of the Rings | The Lost World of Lake Vida | Alcor | On Thud and Blunder | Terry Gilliam, 'Lost in La Mancha' | Ow, my eyes! | A Beautiful Game: Piet Hein, John Nash and Hex - Hex | Wow, that's really fast.
A Beautiful Game
Piet Hein, John Nash and Hex
"The game was called Nash..."
From Jack van Rijswijck's Hex history page: "So simple are the rules and so deep is the strategy, that I like to say that Hex was discovered rather than invented. In fact, it was discovered nearly simultaneously by two people independent from each other. Danish poet, mathematician, and architect Piet Hein discovered it in 1942 and called it "Polygon". In 1948 the game was also discovered by John Nash, of "A Beautiful Mind" fame, at Princeton. The game was called Nash, whimsically also known as John, referring to hexagonal bathroom tiles."
For those of you who are interested in John Nash and Hex, here are a few additional links: Jack van Rijswijck's Hex page | Piet Hein bio | John Nash bio | Craige Schensted's website | Queenbee Hex | Hexy | Jing Yang | American Experience: A Brilliant Madness - The story of Nobel Prize wining mathematician John Nash. (PBS) | A Brilliant Madness transcript | Home Page of John F. Nash, Jr. | Abstract Strategy Games | Mark Thompson's Abstract Games page | The Game of Y | The University of Alberta Games Group
In the Seattle area, KCTS will be rebroadcasting "A Brilliant Madness" on Friday, February 7 at 1:00 AM PST (that's very late on Thurs. night). Check your local PBS station website, or call them, for rebroadcast information in your area.
The Columbia Tragedy
Space Shuttle and Crew Lost During Re-Entry
From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website: "Saturday morning (February 1), the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry. Pictured...is the seven-member crew that was lost." View the APOD tribute with important links here.
The #secretlevel Awards
Where PC Games Get What They Deserve
#secretlevel is a mailing list that I've maintained for a few years now. I pester people with news bites and links, mostly gaming-related, and we have a pretty good time with it. (If you would like to be on the list, email me here, but please understand that you'll receive daily spam and lots of it.)
Since it's game award season, I thought I'd put together my own list and send it out. Nobody was asked to vote; these choices are solely my fault. It's just my way of saying thanks to the game industry for some of the damage they have done to my medusa oblongboxa.
The best part is that I don't have to actually award anything. No plaques or fancy parchments, just recognition here for silliness, and coolness, above and beyond the call of duty.
The #secretlevel Awards
Congratulations to the winners! Designers, your games have been very entertaining one way or another.
Best junk food - popcorn, Underworld: the Stygian Abyss
Best use of moss - moss arrow, Thief series
Best health bar - tattoo, Trespasser
Best square head - "the Quake guy," Quake
Best gratuitous violence - Max, Sam & Max Hit the Road
Best spiders - Shadow Caster
Best fart - bile demon, Dungeon Keeper 2
Best bathroom break - tie - Duke Nukem 3D; Dark Forces
Best mindf*** - tie - Bad Day on the Midway; Hitchhiker's Guide to
Best use of brown, green and brown - tie - Quake; Daikatana
Best untimely dismemberments - Phantasie series
Best alien transmissions/translations - Starflight
Best weapon repair sound - tie - whetstone & hammer clink,
Betrayal At Krondor
Best former porn star cameo - Rachel (Ginger Lynn), Wing
Best goofy main character name - tie - Sly Boots & Stiletto Anyway,
Best insane priest - Noctropolis
Best chanting wizards - tie - Heretic; Hexen
Best open gl goo - Incoming
Best alien theme music - Star Control 2
Best use of Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee - Alice
Best gibs - Quake
Best buckling hull sound - Aces of the Deep
Best elevator music - System Shock
Best sphincters - Quake 3 Arena
Best swords - Morrowind
Best sword +73 - Telengard
Best Wagner soundtrack - The Dig
Best evil demons - tie - Anvil of Dawn; Doom 2
Best giggly fairies - Stonekeep
Best 8 bit theme song - M.U.L.E.
Best damage and death descriptions - Wasteland
BHR 71: Stars, Clouds, and Jets
Realm of Shadow
"Because of its mysterious dark nature, I find this (APOD) entry both disturbing and inspirational"
Cripes, the multiverse is strange. Just when you think you've seen it all, those plucky observers with their earth and space bound imaging systems knock your socks off again, and again, and again.
Because of its mysterious dark nature, I find this Astronomy Picture of the Day entry both disturbing and inspirational. The black thing in space. The obscuring dark veil. The void, visible within the net of gems. Heady stuff, and great fodder for games, fiction, art and further study.
You can view the original APOD BHR 71: Stars, Clouds, and Jets post, with related links, here.
Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"It wasn't destroyed!"
The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins | Three new moons | Giant squid attack | The Anagrammy Awards | Wanted: Math Solutions | It wasn't destroyed! | The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion | Gulf War 2 (aka World War 2.5) | Astronomy projects in ruins | The Musical Sounds of Space
The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion
Bluer Than Blue
"...two of the most prominent reflection nebulas... "
From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website: "In the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex, several bright blue nebula are particularly apparent. Pictured...are two of the most prominent reflection nebulas - dust clouds lit by the reflecting light of bright-embedded stars."
You can view the original APOD Reflecting Dust Clouds post, with related links, here. To learn more, czech it out.
Three Shades of Darkness
A free Morrowind mod from RC and Iikka Keranen
"...the mod contains numerous bizarre items... "
The crud is finally passing. I'm feeling a whole lot better. Sorry to gripe last time. I'm such a wimp.
Iikka and I released that Morrowind mod I mentioned. It's called Three Shades of Darkness, and I really like the title because it refers to the three "bad guys" in the story, who aren't human of course.
Morrowind players are going to freak. Besides adding three underground areas to the game, the mod contains numerous bizarre items, Easter eggs and custom characters and monsters, including the two new weapons pictured in the 01/04 entry here. But that's just the standard stuff we'd put in anyway.
There is at least one feature that will blow players' tiny minds for sure. It's called the Pandemonium Parade Baton but I'm not going to spill the beans about it yet. Iikka made the model and it's super special. Iikka's Moonshadow blade turned out really well too. The model he made for it is amazing. And the sword's effect is a classic bit of Morrowind fun. But, 'nuff said about all of that.
If you play Morrowind and you're interested in trying the mod, "click here now."
The Creeping Crud
Oh, What Fun It Is To Sneeze
"But the real problem is that I can't game."
Heheh, I got the crud. That kind of killer cold that creeps up on you almost without your knowledge, and then taps you on the shoulder and says "I'm here. Get down on your knees and sneeze, game-boy."
It isn't so much the sneezing that bothers me, or the pesky cough, but my head is all swirly. I'm dizzy, and the last couple of nights I've slept poorly. Fever dreams, with their repetitive loops, can drive you bonkers. You get up at 1am. You're fever is raging. You get up at 3am. You're still dreaming the same cursed dream-cycle. You get up at 5am and probably stay up, because the ditto dreams won't cease.
You pop a couple of aspirin, or a couple of those Tylenol cold and allergy pills, which I call heroin because they make you feel all floaty and strange, to break the fever. It usually works.
I'm on my second day of what will probably be a week of grunginess and head-banging stuffiness.
But the real problem is that I can't game. I can't do much of anything else either. Not for very long, anyway. But I fired up Diablo, an old staple I'm replaying lately. No dice. I got slaughtered. I pulled up Starships Unlimited, but after about ten minutes it was a no go. The Yellow Kawangi had my butt in a sling already. Dungeon Crawl? Nope. Morrowind? I didn't even bother.
The saving grace, however, is that I can still read -a chapter at a time with little breaks. So I'm rereading Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone books and it's been really fun. I'm hooked on the series again so all is not lost. At last there's something to do.
Writing helps pass the time too and you don't really think about being sick until your fever breaks for a while and you start sweating like a pig. Or you get woozy again and have to stop. But that's okay.
Meanwhile, I'll leave you with that for now. Hopefully I'll shake this demon bug at least by the weekend, so I can dig into things with the usual amount of gusto.
Also, here are some nifty Links of the Week to keep you going until I post again. Be well and happy -I'll work on it too.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys | Fans Outraged at New Character in The Return of the King | Abell 1689 Warps Space | Doctor Fun | Opera Baby | 'Priceless' Beatles tapes discovered | Greg Costikyan's blog: Games * Design * Art * Culture | Talk Like a Gamer | Peter Turnley's 'Unseen Gulf War' | Origami Boulder Company | Blinkenlights
The Man Who Invented Time Travel
"Then it happened..."
The Man Who Invented Time Travel|
Thank you Dr. Ferrier. (Audience applauds.) Yes, thank you. You can all sit down now. (Applause quiets.)
Thanks. It is very good to be here. It has been quite a while since I've spoken to such a large group. I hope these amplification sensors are working. Yes? Fine.
My name is Ralph Freester. I did something very strange a few short months ago. I invented time travel. (Loud applause and cheers which quickly die down as Ralph clears his throat..)
Ahem. Now, I should explain that I really didn't actually invent it; I'm no scientist or mathematician. No, it invented itself, so to speak, with a little nudge from me.
I am, as you know, filthy rich. I do fairly reek of the stuff. And I have certain....connections. Hell, I practically own half of the U. S. Congress. (Laughter.) I'm joking of course, but I'm not comfortable with that perception. I realized early on that being so wealthy, it was also my responsibility to do good and helpful things for my fellow man. (Applause.)
Thank you. Back in 1993 I personally interviewed and selected several promising young scientists fresh out of school for my new think tank. We relocated them to the Moose Lake resort area in northern Wisconsin, a recluse that we all share fond memories of. I needed things nice and cozy there. I wanted to make them feel secure before I dropped the bomb.
I could tell they all thought I was nuts when I told them about the new project I was planning. I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed watching them squirm. After all, what could they do? I had just turned them loose on two hundred million government dollars! The company accountants had tears in their eyes when I told them, they were so happy. (Laughter.)
We began construction of the very first time travel research institute late in the chilly winter of 1994, in Woodview, Minnesota. Elaborate physics, electronics, engineering and medical facilities were set up with great care and expense. Dorms, kitchens, recreation rooms and an extensive reference library were also provided so that our research team could work around the clock if they wished, unhampered by any distraction.
It took nearly two and a half years to complete and another year to fully staff but on June 3, 1997, the TTRI project officially began.
Nearly everyone at TTRI assumed that what was being undertaken was an impossible task, but I would console them.
I would say somethlng like "Time is on our side. Just keep working diligently. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know." That kind of thing. Stalling. I admit it. (Laughter.)
They still thought I was out of my mind, I'm sure. Fortunately nobody resigned. Things went well enough and by September of that year we unveiled The Dais. (Oohs and ahs, followed by surprised laughter.)
I can tell you now that the dais was made of an iridium plexsteel alloy developed for us by 3M. It's impressive. 44 feet in diameter. I'm sure you've seen the vids. The domed time chamber which encloses it looks like a set from Things To Come. And even then, nobody knew quite what it was for, except me, and my hunch made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I saw it completed for the first time.
The press was invited in shortly thereafter. I welcomed their intrusion. I knew that it was impossible to keep them away forever, and that it would be fun for our employees, allowing them a chance to brag about some of the more interesting work that was being done at the Institute. With that much talent and money all in one place there was plenty to show off and the press were having a field day.
Then it happened.
It was nothing like in the movies. No swirling lights. No arcs of electricity or hot plasma. No radioactivity. No noise. A fairly normal yet familiar looking fellow appeared out of nowhere, standing on the dais, wearing a coppery green uniform and a baseball-type cap with the TTRI logo embroidered above the brim.
(Ralph puts on his glasses and reads from a transcript.) "Are you Ralph Freester?," the fellow said to Jack Swanson, our CFO, who just stammered and pointed at me, while dropping his Coke.
"Ah, you then. Of course."
As he came closer, a strange feeling of recognition, inexplicable at the time, came over me. I actually shivered.
"We couldn't have done it without you, Ralph, and I congratulate you and your team. It took almost two hundred years to complete the work but that's beside the point now."
People were starting to understand, whispering and murmuring to each other. The curious-looking fellow continued and gestured at the dais.
"Thanks to this facility, we knew precisely, safely, when and where to go with our first human test. Well done, Ralph! You and your team are going to be very famous, I can assure you of that."
With this our company psychologist, Martha Quist, fainted. Several others had gone white with fear. A few just stared blankly, mouths open, not quite fathoming the implications. One employee, I won't say who, ran from the room, presumably heading for the bathroom. Then reporters started asking questions and photographers began snapping photos of the whole incredible event.
The time traveler explained that his name was Rurik Freester, a distant descendant of mine, and that he had brought something for me. He opened an invisible pocket in his shimmering uniform and produced a large orange-tinted plastic envelope. Inside many documents imprinted with all kinds of scrawly notes, diagrams and strange mathematical formulae could be seen.
"It's all here, Ralph. And you'd better get to work on it. A lot is going to change so let's try to do this right. Rome wasn't built in a day you know!"
I had to laugh, tickled as I was that my vision of what might happen had been surpassed so sublimely. Then Rurik continued.
"Ralph, I only have a window of a few short hours before I have to return to my time. Are you ready to change history?"
I nodded. I'd been ready for years. Ever since I'd read H. G. Wells when I was a kid. I took the plastic folder from him. As the medical team escorted Rurik to his temporary dorm, I followed, holding the future of mankind in my hands and a thousand questions in my mind. People began to cheer. Applause thundered in the time chamber. It was an overwhelming experience for all of us, to say the least.
Now, as you all of you are well aware, life is quite different. Death has been conquered. The secrets of the ages have mostly been revealed. Much has been learned. Mistakes have been corrected. Disasters avoided. Sadness and loss abolished. Things are better. (Loud applause and cheers.)
So, here is my advice to you, young graduates of this fine First Lunar Academy, in the words of Leo Szilard, the fellow who helped Einstein design the atomic bomb so many years ago:
If you want to succeed in the world, you don't have to be much cleverer than other people. You just have to be one day earlier.
(Tremendous applause and a standing ovation. Fade to black.)
- RC 1997
Links of the Week
A Mixed Bag
"Happy 20th Birthday to the Internet"
BMX XXX | Firesign Theatre: NPR New Year's Eve Show | The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adventure game online | The First Human Clone... No Proof? | Happy 20th Birthday to the Internet | Middle-Earth MadLibs | It's Life But Not As We Know It Part 4 | Jesus 'healed using cannabis'
Post Holiday Update Thingy
Gamey Stuff & Mod Fever
"A multidungeon romp loaded with custom stuff."
First off, happy new year! 2002 was nuts, and 2003 is going to be even nuttier. Are you ready for the future? It's just starting now.
Meanwhile, the secret project continues with no fixed deadline in mind. Those of you who know what I'm talking about will have to wait a while longer. The rest of you can go here to start catching up.
Word is that the Diceland Strange Adventures in Infinite Space expansions will be out in March. Stay tuned to your hyperwave radio for more details.
The Morrowind mod craze is well upon us. Iikka and I are hovering over the mod I mentioned, and it's shaping up to be quite an affair after all. A multidungeon romp loaded with custom stuff. So far, so good. The bosses are tough and the items are working. Watch your back for The Tickler! More on this later.
Lastly, the Firesign Theatre whipped up a New Year's show for NPR's All Things Considered. If you're in the mood for some yucks, czech it out.
New goodies for Morrowind.
What's been going on?
"Things are pretty quiet here at Digital Eel."
Well let's see...What's been going on the last few days...?
The holidays. A goodly time of peace, fellowship and reflection. And an emotional time when memories flood, and the recollections of those folks you have lost are particularly poignant. The kids are the focus of much of the action, as it should be. And all is calm, relatively speaking, for a few days. Hope yours was nice.
I've been working on a new Morrowind mod with Iikka. He had a nifty idea for a sword and modeled it in Max. Meanwhile, I'm working on a few NPC's, and creating a number of weapons, scrolls, magic items and books. I'm not sure how we'll present this stuff. We have a few ideas. It's really a simple mod, but it contains a lot of our favorite items that our PC's created in the game itself. I think Morrowind players will like it. Hope so.
You can czech out the Morrowind mods that I've made so far here. 20 Books is my favorite.
Iikka's off in Finland for the holidays. Things are pretty quiet here at Digital Eel, although Phos brought over some wonderfully weird new game art today. Work will continue on our secret project next week after the 1st of the year.
So that's about it other than the Links of the Week. See you next time.
Firesign Theatre Christmas show on NPR | What Tolkien Officially Said About Elf Sex | It's Life But Not As We Know It Part 3 | Welcome to the Casketfurniture Store! | Computer Games Have Words, Too | Science Jokes! | Goofy Image Gallery
The Emperor's Bird
"The people of that land still tell stories about its song..."
The Emperor's Bird|
a bedtime story by Iikka Keranen
Once upon a time in a far away land there was an Emperor, who was very rich. Not just rich like Bill Gates or Uncle Scrooge, but truly insanely rich. His palace was 55 stories tall and it was made of gold and diamonds. It was so beautiful that just looking at it would make your eyes water, and it was filled with the most precious treasures found in the whole world. There were giant halls stuffed with ancient statues, beautiful paintings, big crates full of gold and jewelry. But the most important of the Emperor's treasures was his garden.
This garden, placed on the top of the palace, was known throughout the world as the most beautiful place on Earth. Nothing else in the world could even try to match the beauty of this garden. Visiting it was like going to Paradise, and it was told that those who go unprepared could be struck blind by the sheer glory of the view. But it was not the marble pavements or the ruby apple trees or the golden fish majestically swimming in the glittery silver pond that made the garden famous; it was the birds.
See, the garden was on top of the palace and it was open to the sky so that all kinds of birds would fly in. And what kind of birds the beauty of this garden lured in! Yes, you guessed right, the most colorful and exotic ones like nobody had ever even dreamed of before. They were in all the colors of a rainbow, glittering like gems themselves as they flew from tree to tree, singing like you had never heard before.
There was one bird that was exceptionally beautiful, unlike anything seen before even in the Emperor's garden. It was pure white, but sunlight made it shine in all kinds of colors, like if its feathers were made of little diamonds. Once you saw it you would never forget it; it was truly a sight out of this world. The bird's beauty was only second to the way it sang. Whenever this wonderful bird sang, the people living close by would stop their work and gather around the walls of the palace, and by the time the song was finished their eyes would be in tears, and for the rest of the day their thoughts would be flying with the birds in heavens.
However, there was one thing that bothered the Emperor. No matter how much gold and jewels and exotic trees he put into his garden, this one bird would not stay. It would fly in for a couple of days and then disappear to fly somewhere else and sing to other people; unlike everything else in the garden, the bird had a mind of its own and the Emperor couldn't control it. And like everyone else, once he had seen and heard this bird he could not get enough of watching and listening to it.
Then one day the Emperor got very angry because he wanted to show this incredible bird to the king of the neighboring country, but it was not in the garden that day. He decided he has to do something to make the bird stay. The same night, the Emperor called in the royal gardener who took care of the garden, and told him his plan. The gardener was to trap the bird into a big cage and feed it with the most delicious fruit and seeds, and take care of all of its needs. This way, the Emperor said, the bird would be as happy as always, but stay in the garden and sing to the Emperor whenever he wanted. He could even take the cage into his dining room and watch it while eating, and never miss it again.
What the Emperor didn't know was, the bird had just returned and was sitting on the window as he was talking to the gardener. And it heard every word. Not wasting any time, the bird took off, never to return to the Emperor's garden again. It flew North, as far as its wings could carry it, to a land so far away that nobody there had even heard of either the Emperor nor his palace. It landed on a branch of a pine tree just as the golden sun rose, shining off its jeweled feathers like a rainbow made of diamonds, more beautiful than ever before; and the people of that land still tell stories about its song, long after the memory of the Emperor has vanished from the face of the Earth.
- IK 7/99
Archive the 1st
Independent Games Festival finalists announced
IGF, SAIS and Links of the Week
FST Thanksgiving show axed by NPR
Links of the Week
Links of the Week
Two New Board Game to PC Ports
How to Write Science Fiction Without Really Trying
The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge
What is the next entry?
The Plasmaworm Collection
Two From Space
Lord of the Rings
The Doctor Fun Page
certain maxims of archy
Flog the Blog
Caricature by Gabriel