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Click my cartoon head to view The Ultimate Codex.Today's Doctor Fun
My Life as a Blog
by Rich Carlson

Instant wisdom:

Missing Links
& News from the Fringe
12.09.05 | Indie Innovation Influx | Top-Earning Dead Celebrities | "Lovecraft Monster" Excerpts | The Well-Tempered Plot Device | Scientists discover singing iceberg in Antarctica | John Lennon: The Wenner Tapes | The Beatles' 'Rubber Soul' Bounces Back | Strange Adventures source code released | Weird Worlds FREE DEMO | The Modmaker's Guide to the Galaxy | Death by Caffeine | Top 100 Toys | Steve, Don't Eat It!

John Lennon, 1940-1980
We all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.

I can vividly recall only a few key dates in my early life. The day my mom died very suddenly, and too young. The day I graduated and re-established a romance with my ex-wife. The Christmas Eve when we, the family, were all glued to the television watching the astronauts orbit the moon. Events like that, which were important turning points for me, for better and for worse.

One date that stands out is December 8th in 1980. The day John Lennon was shot by a lunatic.

I was with my girlfriend Kathy at the time, in her house. We heard it on the radio and saw it on TV. Friends and family called; we called people too. It was unbelievable. We were in tears. A family member had died. A friend had passed away.

A unique, brilliant, inspiring, playful, poetic, dark, light and humorous voice of the Earth had been silenced by a gun.

I will always hate guns because they coldly delete important lives (And what life isn't important?). When people say it's the person not the gun that murders or assassinates I think not in all cases. Chapman was not a person when he squeezed the trigger; he was out of his mind. Lennon died because somewhere, somehow, an insane man acquired a gun and then used it. That's all there is to it.

Lennon changed my life instantly in the 60's, or perhaps it is more apt to say that he validated it. I don't care if this sounds like a cliche thing to say because it is profoundly true.

The Beatles were great and everything. You know, so much terrific music, and everyone loved them and owned Beatle records and so forth but I singled out Lennon and his particular songs immediately.

First you see A Hard Day's Night, and there's the stereotype witty and sarcastic John Lennon. That image doesn't go away but then you listen to his music, his Beatles songs (they're the ones he sung, obviously) and those that followed the demise of The Beatles, and you realize that there is a real human being there, not a Beatle, saying amazing things directly to you.

As Paul McCartney seemed to embrace the forms and structures of pop music, writing in third person about any subject that came to mind, John usually wrote in first person about his own observations, memories and feelings. He also wrote the weirdest songs on each album. I liked that too. It helped of course that he was talented and the songs were always first rate musically, but I thought he was braver than the rest of The Beatles and, regardless of his ego and perhaps ironically because of that, the least pretentious.

If you listen to Let It Be, I Will, Michelle or Yesterday, you hear McCartney, the clever tunesmith that delivers predictably creative and marketable songs. But if you focus on Lennon's music, all the bets are off. His music was everything from outrageous to whimsical to simplistic to avant garde, and that so many of his songs were #1 top 40 hits is still amazing to me. Unfortunately, music by an artist like Lennon wouldn't be marketable by today's music industry but that's another subject.

It was always the Lennon songs I liked best. They seemed the most thoughtful and sincere, even when they were acid-tinged during the Beatles psychedelic phase. I was interested in world religions, electronic music, surrealism, underground art and avant garde music, and so, shared interests with almost nobody in school. When Lennon came along I thought "Wow, here's someone at the forefront that thinks like I do!" which is very reassuring when you feel separate from "the group" in jr. high (middle school).

I didn't emulate Lennon or dress like him or want to be him. I wanted to be as brave as he was, musically and in my life's work. I knew that when I was a dozen or so years old, and I learned from Lennon, and others, that life isn't about goals; it's about the adventure. I got to grow up with John Lennon's adventures, through all the twists and turns, and see that life and art and humor goes on and on until you die (one long continuous work), so death is the only finish line you should ever think about.

John Lennon presaged his death many times, usually in jest, sometimes in song. I can't listen to Happiness Is A Warm Gun without wincing but it is still one of my favorite Lennon compositions. So much so that I have shamelessly ripped off that title to use as a tagline for Weird Worlds --Happiness is a warm particle vortex cannon. I hope he would have appreciated the tip of the hat and my humorous intent.

Other Lennon songs that stand out to me aren't necessarily the ones most often chosen to represent his work but I think they're amazing. If you haven't heard them, I think you would too.

Tomorrow Never Knows, Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Come Together, I Am the Walrus, Revolution, Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam, Dig A Pony, Instant Karma, I Want You (She's So Heavy), Good Morning, The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, The Ballad of John & Yoko, Sexy Sadie... Each one a set gem, a framed work of art and a great song, yet all a part of Lennon's stream of consciousness and creativity as golden gifts to a troubled world, which will always be troubled. Serious song-crafting magic, and a source of special kinds of healing energy, weirdness and inspiration if you care to listen.

Btw, BBC Radio 4 is currently running a number of specials and features throughout this week to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lennon's death. Good stuff too, like the Wenner tapes, somewhat controversial and heard now for the first time, and other ongoing features like Songs in the Key of Lennon (listen here), that help remove the hype, focus on the songs and help to reveal the man. These aren't text articles; you can listen to them online as long as you have Real Audio installed.

Dragon Wars
The Bard's Tale + Wasteland = Fun

A few days ago I began to play Brian Fargo's remarkable computer roleplaying game, Dragon Wars (1989, Interplay). I'd never played it before, although I have played Fargo's popular Bard's Tale games, and if I had known that Dragon Wars was originally meant to be "The Bard's Tale IV" (I've since read that this is true), I certainly would have checked it out.

Nevertheless, Dragon Wars is noteworthy and it deserves to be remembered (and played). It improved the Bard's Tale game system in significant ways, like including a skill system that places the game closer to Fargo's all-time classic crpg, Wasteland. (You know. The brilliant game that inspired Fallout.)

I've got all kinds of fantasy roleplaying games on my hard drive. Everything from roguelikes to Fable, so why is this game, this ancient relic from the heady golden age of computer games, doing all of the good things to me that most of the others don't?

One reason is that your party of adventurers are not told the story, as such. They evoke it, they experience it and in many cases they can affect it. This is serious fun:

Karg the barbarian and his brave company of adventurers began to explore the quirky seaside town of Phoebus... Soon, they found a shady park (perfect for a well-deserved rest) and met there a seemingly friendly (if eccentric) blue-robed wizard --who suddenly began to threaten them and then attacked with several guards!

The blue wizard's accusations were outlandish, of course, and his actions were obviously over the top, but it quickly became clear that he was the local ruler, and that there was no option for Karg's troupe but to fight.

Unfortunately, luck did not favor heroes that day. Despite his combat prowess, Karg was overwhelmed and knocked unconscious. After a long dark sleep, he awoke only to find that he and his comrades had been stripped of their gold and locked in a dungeon cell far below street level.

The cell door was bolted from the other side, a fact that frustrated Fingers (the rogue of the bunch) to no end. Escape seemed impossible. However, after spending a dismal week enduring the heartbreaking cries of doomed captives being tortured, a mysterious stranger unlocked the barred door, and described (vaguely) a means of escape.

Dungeon guards were stationed at the end of the hall of cells. The guard captain was asleep and snoring in his chair. Karg and his stalwart crew stealthily slipped past them, exiting the guard room through a cunningly hidden secret door. Once free from the prison area, they began in earnest to search for an exit.

More guards were encountered. Fortunately, they were quickly and quietly dispatched. Even the blue wizard arrived to do battle once again, only to teleport away before Karg could finish him off for good. Coward, thought Karg, and he said so to the rest who all agreed that the blue wizard, while being somewhat cruel and unpredictable, was all show.

As things turned out, Karg and his brave company never did find a stairway or ladder to the surface, as such --but what they did find was a terrified prisoner hanging from a chain above a pit with a very large --and very agitated-- dragon at the bottom!

A boorish hunchback (a minion of the blue wizard) was preparing to lower the poor fellow into the pit --but Karg would have none of it! Ignoring the hunchback's protests, he released the tortured wretch who, although grateful, immediately fled into the shadows.

At this, the dragon was so enraged that it began to destroy the scaffolding above the pit. The hunchback, thrown off balance, toppled in --only to be gobbled up by the rampaging lizard! Not content with that, the huge fire-belching wyrm began to wreak havoc upon the dungeon itself thereby causing great calamity in the town of Phoebus!

Karg, Luna, Ulrik, Esme, Valar and Fingers huddled together under a stone arch awestruck by the immensity of the beast, and the ferocity and power of its efforts to escape the dungeon that had been its prison for so long. It must have been cruelly mistreated by the blue wizard's minions and now it was having its revenge, thought Karg in a rare moment of empathy.

As buildings undermined by the dragon collapsed into the dungeons below, the remnants of the town began to burn. Karg and the others did manage to climb out of the rubble and escape, only to witness the utter destruction of Phoebus as it was reduced to ruins. After the last building had been destroyed (the manse of the blue wizard no less) the dragon screeched triumphantly, spread its vast wings, launched itself into the sky and flew away to the east...

The Dragon Wars story unfolds by discovery. Your characters aren't forced through the narrative; you uncover the story as you go along (as you explore various places and dungeon settings). There are often many possible outcomes for each section of the story, not just one, depending on the choices you make. (Karg's bit of story above is one of many results that can occur depending on choices made within the Phoebus dungeon.)

Other reasons:

1. Much of the game is non-linear. For example, a vast underworld region allows alternate access to other areas in the gameworld. In fact, an entrance to the underworld exists in the area in which you start the game. This means freedom, to do what you want to do and play the way you want to play most of the time.

2. You create your own characters. You aren't forced to play a stupid character that someone else made up. (Instead you can create your own stupid characters, but just they way you like them.) This means investment and the payoff is that you'll care a lot about your characters.

3. No silly "character classes." Skills chosen by the player determine a character's areas of expertise. Why be stuck as a "fighter" or a "magic user," and why be stuck with their class limitations? You should be able to create and play any kind of character that interests you. The Dragon Wars game system allows you to do so.

4. Skill point awards are conservative and skill point allotment is tight as a drum. This is a good thing. There's no overlapping and no bloat. You have to carefully consider how to build effective characters.

5. Hit points, yes, but also STUN points. Different attacks against player characters do different amounts of stun and hit point damage. In the example above, the blue wizard's guards only did heavy stun damage when they attacked. Their role was to imprison the PC's, not kill them. When a character is stunned, when its stun points reach zero, it falls unconscious. This makes combat more interesting and fun and it also lessens the threat/frustration of outright death...a little bit.

6. The combat system is actually challenging. Dragon Wars is not an easy game but I haven't seen melee combat, ranged combat, rank movement and spell casting so tightly knit since the Wizardry series, and that's saying something. Combat is turn-based, and cautious thought and shrewd tactics are almost always required. Dragon Wars combat rarely lapses into "same old same old," even at high experience levels.

7. Puzzles and other dilemmas can be solved in multiple ways. Wow, why aren't more modern computer roleplaying games like this? This means you never get stuck by a game stopper, yet you always feel a sense of accomplishment no matter your means of solving a particular problem. No designer meanness (when you have to "think like the designer" to solve a puzzle or when you need a specific item to get past an obstacle) but no handholding or spoonfeeding either.

There are other cool things about Dragon Wars to talk about, and plenty of them, but you may as well just click here if you'd like to try the game and make up your own mind (I put together a nifty zip with the game, maps, manual, reference card and paragraph text, collected from here and there. Btw, Dragon Wars seems to run fine in XP.).

Note that Dragon Wars is abandonware, so there's always that slim chance that I will have to take it down (Still, it has been 16 years...) --but what the hey, everybody deserves a good game and it's my sworn duty as a dungeon game fiend to let you know when I find a good one that is FREE.

The Weird Worlds Demo is Online
And A Heads Up for Mod-makers

Have to mention that the nifty-as-heck Weird Worlds demo is now available absolutely free at the Shrapnel Games website. It's cool because it includes a fully-playable game on the smallest of three starmaps. Everything is randomized for each play session, so there's plenty of stuff to keep you busy and having fun (we hope!). If you want more, you'll have to get the full game, however the Weird Worlds demo is almost like getting its predecessor, Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, for free (!) and all gussied-up and looking and sounding even groovier. Check it out!

Also, Iikka has begun to update the Weird Worlds Modmaker's Guide to the Galaxy website, starting with an excellent tutorial that explains how to make your own ships and put them in the game. If you're a modder, you simply have to stop by and bookmark the site. It will grow, and grow, and grow... There's a lot of information to cover!

Other places to learn about modding Weird Worlds and Strange Adventures (and hobnob with other modders) include the excellent Infinite Space Federation website and the Digital Eel section found on the Shrapnel Games Forums. All hail the mod-makers!

The Weird is Out
RC Needs a New Thang

Hey, Shrapnel just released our brand-spanking new space game, Weird Worlds! Holy moly! So, you better go buy three or four copies right away! It's the perfect stocking stuffer for space gamers. Santa Claus is coming to town with a mitten full of Digital Eels just for you!

It kind of caught me by surprise after all this time (over a year and a half). Now, "development" (as those game industry folks call it) is over, finito, and I can actually think about other things, and do other things and dream other dreams. Hmm...

Being done (oh, there's a patch in the works and the demo version has only just been submitted, but this is all pretty low key) does leave a big hole in my day though; time that was spent playing Weird Worlds, sighting bugs and taking notes, and tweaking the text, music and sounds seemingly endlessly. An amazing amount of time and work that is even now becoming part of the fuzzy forgetfulness that is slipping past the back of my mind. Somehow I don't mind as all of that minutiae sinks away.

Was it worth it? Oh yeah, all of it. Doing something you believe in for the love of doing it always pays off one way or another, and the game, clockwork wonder that it is, turned out devious and cool. Bill did his Bill thing and produced amazing art for the game like nobody does or can do, and Iikka did his Iikka thing, which means he worked harder than Bill and I did, to code the game, make the ships look terrific, spruce the interface and lordy knows what else. Bill and Iikka are...phenomenally dedicated. We wouldn't be doing this for five years now if that wasn't the case, right?

...And even though perfection is impossible, we're all perfectionists, so you might be able to imagine the level of focus, the OBSESSION, involved in completing Weird Worlds. But that phase is over except for hanging out with SAIS and WW modders (love these guys) and the wonderful loyal friendly and groovy Infinite Space community at large (love these guys too).

Fun! BUT now I have to cultivate, or dredge up, a new obsession to last until we start making another game. A new thang. Wonder what it will be...?

Weird Worlds is Golden
More Strange Adventures in the Purple Void

Hey, here's some semi-huge news. Weird Worlds, a dandy new space game hand-crafted by Iikka Keranen, Phosphorous and mice elf, just went gold, which is a "hep" way of saying that development has concluded, the game is complete and it was accepted by the publisher, Shrapnel Games, fine folks that they are. Things have wrapped up nicely too. The game turned out really cool, and it's in great shape for v1.0. I was just playing it again now and believe me, it's downright devious. Btw, Weird Worlds will be available in two to four weeks.

Missing Links
& News from the Fringe

Intellivision Lives (Cool free PC & Mac games) | BBC Obituary: Dr. Robert Moog & Robert Moog: Music Pioneer | Cannonball man flies over border | Death to the Game Industry: Long Live Games by Greg Costikyan & Death to the Game Industry, Part II | Fresh Tiger Stripes on Saturn's Enceladus | Kurt Vonnegut: 'A Man Without a Country' | Local Names Make Rude Britain | Original Alice work in 3D online - Go see! | Quest For The Rest (by the folks who created Samorost) | Telltale Games secures rights to Sam & Max | The Compleat Telengard - This zip contains the game (which runs great in XP), documentation, a nifty poster and more. (Game history) | The Killer List of Videogames | Face Off | WMAP Resolves the Universe

Manifesto Games
Greg Costikyan Walks The Walk

Good news for indie game makers and players! Check out this press release and read more on Greg Costikyan's blog.

Manifesto Games
Building a Viable Path to Market for Independent Games
Because the Games Exist. The Need Exists. The Technology Exists.

For Immediate Release
New York, New York -- September 28th, 2005

Game industry veterans Greg Costikyan and Johnny Wilson announced today that they are joining forces to launch Manifesto Games, a new venture to build a strong and viable independent game industry. Its site will offer independently-developed games for sale via direct download--a single place where fans of offbeat and niche games can find "the best of the rest," the games that the retail channel doesn't think worth carrying. Three types of games will be offered: truly independent, original content from creators without publisher funding; the best PC games from smaller PC game publishers, including games in existing genres like wargames, flight sims, and graphic adventures; and niche MMOs.

While games were once the domain of hobbyists, today, the game industry considers any title that sells fewer than 1 million copies to be a failure; "The typical game store only has 200 facings," notes Costikyan, Manifesto's CEO., "They can only carry best-sellers. On the Internet, there is no shelf space and you are limited only by how well you can market yourself, your site. This is where niche product can rule." Manifesto believes that an independent game market is analogous to film or music, where less commercial offerings aimed at identifiable markets and produced at lower budgets than the "blockbusters" can achieve profitability and critical success.

"The game industry has become moribund," notes Costikyan. "Because of ballooning budgets and the narrowness of the retail channel, it is now essentially impossible for anything other than a franchise title or licensed product to obtain distribution. Yet historically, the major hits, the titles that have expanded the industry to new markets and created new audiences have been highly innovative. It is time for us to find a way to foster innovation, because it's not going to happen if we leave it to the large publishers."

"Many companies are entering the direct download space," Costikyan continues, "but in most cases, they're either focusing on casual downloadable games, or on offering the back catalog of major publishers. It's amazing that casual game publishers can succeed selling games to people who, historically, haven't bought them, but we'd rather try to sell games to people who already buy them. By offering greater exposure to independent games, we'll be introducing gamers to a universe of games they haven't already seen--and that, we think, is the winning strategy."

"I left Ziff-Davis Publications after 18 years when I realized that electronic games were becoming so mass-market that they didn't have the appeal for me that they once had," says Johnny Wilson, Manifesto's Executive Vice President for Community and Content. "Games were becoming as homogenized as the movies. The big budgets required to keep pushing the technological envelope were proving to be self-fulfilling prophecies of an era of sequels, imitation and indistinguishable, derivative material. So, I moved back to table-top gaming for a while. Now, I am thrilled to realize that the downloadable potential of cerebral, thought-provoking 'indie' games is giving me a chance to move back to the kind of in-depth, exciting, quality coverage we enjoyed providing back 'in the day.' The only difference is that we're not 'back in the day,' we have a very real chance to create a 'new day.'"

Greg Costikyan will blog the entire process of building and funding the company at In addition to games, the Manifesto site will include player reviews, blogs and articles. Manifesto expects to begin carrying original content by early 2006.

About Greg Costikyan: Greg Costikyan has designed more than 30 commercially published board, roleplaying, online, computer, and mobile games, including the first online game to attract more than 1 million players. He has written extensively on games, game design, and game industry business issues for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Interactive, Salon, Game Developer magazine, and The Escapist. As a consultant, his clients have included IBM, Intel, the Sarnoff Corporation, France Telecom, Roland Berger & Partners, and Wieden + Kennedy. He was co-founder of Unplugged Games, one of the first North American mobile game start-ups, and is an inductee into the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame for a lifetime of accomplishment in the field. He recently left Nokia, where he served as a games researcher, to pursue this venture.

About Johnny Wilson: Dr. Johnny Wilson was an early partner in Computer Gaming World magazine, where he served as Editorial Director from 1981 through 1999. He then served as Group Publisher for the Wizards of the Coast magazines until he helped to spin them off to Paizo Publishing, where he served as President. He has written 9 books about games, and has given more than 200 radio and television interviews on the subject; including CNN, and the History Channel. He was the , the keynote speaker at the Game Developers Conference for two consecutive years and has lectured at MIT and UCLA. He is also an ordained minister and a novelist.

Manifesto Games can be found at

Articles and relevant links can be found at

For more information, press inquiries or to set up an interview with Greg or Johnny, contact:

Eleanor Lang
(eleanor at manifestogames dot com)

Quotable Quotes and More Weirdness
The Beat Goes On

Found some great quotes lately that I had to include on the "instant wisdom" list above (which has grown over the years to include over 80 entries). A couple of chestnuts; a couple I've never seen before....

Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.
-John Carmack

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
-Frank Zappa

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
-Dr. Seuss

Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.
-Dr. Seuss

We are not at war, we are having a nervous breakdown.
-Hunter S. Thompson, 2004

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.
-Hunter S. Thompson

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creative.
-Charles Mingus

Still dilligently working on Weird Worlds, getting it ready to fly, be free! Things are going well. One of the Shrapnel testers jokingly asked if we'd please put some bugs in the game so they could find some. That was sure a nice thing to say. However, it's not squeaky yet (but it will be by gold master time in September).

Weird Worlds is almost there. Dangerously close to a sweet spot, and right where it should be for the last phase of adjustment and polish. Work/play will continue by ourselves and two groups of testers, and very likely up to some last possible moment. Nails are being bitten. Foreheads are being smacked. All of the things that should be happening are happening, and just wait until you see/hear/play this thing. Oh, man...

Just a Quickie
Three Shades & Privateer Remake News

DeAnn posted a nifty Three Shades of Darkness mod review on that was fun to see. This must have been put up there fairly recently since the topic responses all date from 2005.

Three Shades of Darkness is a dungeon crawl mod I made with three complete dungeons, two new weapons modeled and skinned by Iikka Keranen, gobs and gobs of new NPC's, books, weapons, magic items, scrolls and lordy knows what else. If you're interested in playing it, go here. It's clean and compatible with Morrowind v1.2.0722.

Also, Privateer Remake v1.2 has been released. Go here for full versions and patches. Note the new URL.

Weird Worlds Soon To Be Unleashed
Happiness is a Warm Particle Vortex Cannon

Here's some groovy news! A few days ago, Shrapnel Games announced that they will be publishing our latest game, Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, the much-anticipated (we hope) sequel to the almost-award-winning "instant space opera" we and Cheapass Games released a couple of years ago, Strange Adventures in Infinite Space.

The gold date is Sept. 15th with release to follow shortly thereafter. So, everyone's pretty excited about this, of course. It's been a longer haul than we thought it would be. We started working on the game over a year ago (!) but the time spent has been worth it and with Shrapnel's able help, gamers of all shapes and sizes will be able to play Weird Worlds very soon!

Right now (and all along) the Digital Eel Fearless Testers are (and have been) bashing away on the thing, and the Shrapnel testers will dig in in August, so Weird Worlds will be squeaky clean by the time it comes out. If you'd like to learn more, review the feature list and see a few screen shots, point your mouse arrow in this direction.

TV, Toys, Books & Games
And All Kinda Stuff Like That There
06.12.05 (Updated 06.15.05)

What's up? Trying not to watch American TV except for Jon Stewart, The News Hour, Frontline and The Simpsons. Avoiding ALL of those trendy little electronic gadgets (Take them away!). Picking up my newly-overhauled bike tomorrow. Heading out this summer.

Read Sturgeon's More Than Human. Wow, it's good; four solid stars. Reading DeCamp's Conan vs. the Spider God; two and a half so far. Read The Hobbit again (4th time in 25 years); four stars. Also reading a Henry Kuttner collection of short stories, and I can tell this will be another four star book. Sturgeon and Kuttner could really write. DeCamp too but ol' Spider God's not one of his best.

Played three paper games recently: Reiner Knizia's lavish Lord of the Rings boardgame; two and a half stars but the art is gorgeous. Also Knizia's Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (like Stratego but with LotR characters), four stars, and Avalon Hill's Monsters Ravage America, a three star crowd pleaser.

Still playing the Privateer Remake (PC version); late night short burst sessions, and no, it still hasn't crashed. And, of course, working on our game, Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, actually most of the time. (Soon... Soon...)

Last but not least, here are a few more Privateer Remake thumbs to wet your Thrint whistles.

Update: Privateer Remake v1.1 has been released! Full version download or patch for Windows and Linux. Full version (but no patch) for Mac. Go get it!



The Privateer Remake
The Stars Your Destination

If you like space games like Elite, Wing Commander: Privateer, Freelancer and Star Fury, you should definitely check out the Privateer Remake. It's open source, based on the Vega Strike engine, and version 1.0 was released a few weeks ago. As you might expect, it's got trading, smuggling, bounty hunting and fast and furious space battles, and all of that "purchase and customize your own ships" jazz. It's also nonlinear, meaning that you can free roam and ignore the story thread whenever you want to. Nice.

The whole presentation of this remake is a faithful homage to the original and it's just as addictive, so be forewarned. Note that a few glitches do crop up here and there but most are minor, cosmetic issues. I've never seen the game crash and that alone is impressive. It's cool that the Privateer Remake is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems, but what's the best part? It's fun! What's the second best part? It's FREE!

Privateer Star Map

Sales Pitch (.ogg sound file)
Helpful Stuff 1 | 2

Missing Links
& News from the Fringe

Comix Out of Context | iFiction | SSI Shredding Demonstrations | American Science & Surplus | Lost Labyrinth | The Laws of Anime/All I Ever Learned, I Learned from Anime | Digital Eel GDC Mystery Tour 2005 | Motion Induced Blindness | Interview: Electronic Music Maestros | Blockies | Monster Road/Bruce Bickford NPR interview/Bruce Bickford, Mr.B. | The Zoomquilt | OverClocked ReMix/Streaming OverClocked ReMix | Dark Tower | The Fairy of Eagle Nebula

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
My Take
04.30.05 (Updated 05.01.05)

**Mild Spoiler Warning**

I was so ready to pounce, as you know if you read my previous entry, but I'm going to be very kind to this movie because it deserves it.

The theater was packed in Redmond last night. Showing on two screens yet the line was long. Fan base is strong here, apparently.

Three stars. Easy to score. A nice sort of gentle retelling of the tale. Wow, great visual ideas all over the place. Incredible art direction, and nice sets, models, CGI, etc. Magrathea was amazing. The Heart of Gold was sweet, and the infinite improbability drive was done perfectly. Oh, and opening with the dolphins was brilliant.

Funny? Yep and you'd have to be one surly jaded movie goer not to think so. The whole audience was in stitches pretty much throughout the film, myself included. The script was good, and I was surprised by that. There's still an awful lot of DNA (Douglas Noel Adams) in there.

I didn't mind what was missing, except when some dialog or narration that was cut contained the punch line to a joke, like the second part of the Babel Fish explanation, but mostly this didn't matter because H2G2 is overloaded with ideas and jokes as it is. The cast was good, and they pulled off their offbeat characters well --except Trillian, but poor Trillian never had much to do anyway. My only advice to Hammer & Tongs is: do more takes, guys.

Malkovich's bit was a funny tie in with the corny Jatravartid joke, but as a plot element it was dodgy, and "get me the gun" is a glaring loose end that the movie left behind.

Catch the original Marvin (large "toy robot") standing in the Vogon queue? Catch Simon Jones (the original Arthur Dent in the radio play, records and TV serial) as the warning announcement from Magrathea? Lots of other little bits that were fun for longtime fans.

As with all of the H2G2 versions, this film will play better and better each time you watch it (you'll pick up on the bits and pieces), unless you've been steeped in the story, in all of its incarnations, already.

This movie will stack nicely with the other versions. There are plot and character changes, and wild inconsistencies in every version, but it's all about DNA doing his thing, and so we forgive him even as we choose our favorite. For many, this movie will be their favorite.

Personally, I'll stick with the radio play version (6 hours) but the film did it to me too, and I respect it for what it is: a very very silly movie, in a good way, with moments of brilliance that might even take your breath away.

Update: I've heard that if you wear red/blue tinted glasses, the Magrathea warning (Simon Jones' head) is in 3D. Also, Phosphorous IS Zaphod Beeblebrox. Go here and here to see.

David Bianculli on 'The Hitchhiker's Guide'
NPR audio

Updating the Update
More Stuff & Nonsense

Finished the Amber novels (the "first chronicles").

Holy moly, what a remarkable series. I'd love to talk about them, and I could at length, but I don't want to spoil a single thing in case you haven't read them, which you should if you haven't.

(Trust me. I would not waste your time. Start with Nine Princes in Amber. Check your Tolkien at the door.)

Now I'm reading Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human, which I've never read although everyone in the know has been telling ME to read it for decades. They were right. It's quite good. Sturgeon treasure.

Still working on Weird Worlds, of course. Iikka and I got a boatload of features into the game this weekend and everything is coming along fine.

Hey, check it out, I found this randomly on the WWW. I've posted it here (right click and download it - 1.3MB .mpeg video) in case you want to see what a jet fighter breaking the sound barrier looks like.

Also, everyone, including mice elf, is going to see the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy flick this week. Terrifying. I'm a rabid fan of the radio series, and the TV and vinyl versions (pretty much the same cast throughout with DNA in close proximity). Now, no Adams (he passed away in 2001), a modern treatment and it's a Disney property... The movie is going to blow monkey farts, I just know it.

Just an Update
Stuff I'm Doing Right Now

...Finishing up reading the Amber books, the first chronicles, by Roger Zelazny. I've read these before (Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon & The Courts of Chaos) and the set has always been among my top two or three favorite fantasy series. Rereading them only confirms in my mind that Nine Princes, and the rest, should be the next big fantasy saga to be put on film. Yes dear friends, there can be fantasy, intelligent adult fantasy, without elves, orcs or lovable laughable ogres.

...Working, in general, on Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. This is our sequel to Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, a game we made and released a couple of years ago. Going steady on this one, taking the time to make sure everything is right. Our tester friends are helping too. Those guys, some of them, bust this thing so good for us. No telling when the game will be ready to go but it should be soon.

...Also, I'm still working on music for Weird Worlds. Most of it is done but there are still a few themes here and there that need to be put in. Actually, I have a surplus of music that I had prepared for the game but you know how it goes. A lot of it just doesn't work in context so you have to replace it. I'll probably be putzing with this stuff over the next couple of weeks or so.

...Still playing RuneScape (look for Zdim on one of the Seattle worlds). One of the best multiplayer fantasy games on the WWW. I won't get into it any more than that (everyone hates someone else's mmorpg stories) other than to say at $5 per month it's a great deal. You can also play much of the world for free, btw. RuneScape just rocks, that's all.

...Still playing roguelikes. Crawl (the graphics tile version) and Lost Labyrinth, mostly, but even a little Heretic 2, of all things, which, ahem, isn't really a roguelike but still feels like a dungeon crawl game. (It's pretty sweet as a matter of fact.)

I like roguelikes a lot because they offer endless variety and surprises, and really fun tactical fantasy combat. They also don't try to tell stories or pretend that computer roleplaying games have any actual roleplaying elements at all. Also, they are deadly, and your characters actually die, for good, and in great numbers. I like that. Save slots are for sissies, and what better way is there to justify the common thread among all fantasy dungeon games that states "many have tried to plunder the secrets of the forgotten tombs, but none have returned to tell the tale of their exploits"?

The Way Has Been Revealed
Underdelve Maps Released

Underdelve: Level 16I put together a set of maps for Underdelve, the dungeon add-on that I made for Dungeons of the Necromancer's Domain (see below), as a play aid for those who don't care to map the dungeon on graph paper. The cropped .jpg maps are from level screen shots from DM.exe, the original dungeon creation tool released by Bill Knight, the author of the game. Only walls, doors and secret doors are shown. Altars, fountains, dragons, elevators and other special features are not depicted. (Note: The location of the Orb is revealed on map 20, not that it will be easy to obtain even with this knowledge.) Click the hypertext links to get the Underdelve maps or the whole kit and caboodle (the Dungeons of the Necromancer's Domain game, DM.exe, add-on dungeon: The Sewers, add-on dungeon: Underdelve, the Underdelve maps and "Maze," an easy to use random dungeon generator also created by the author). Neato.

Gif-o-rama Theatre
What about a catapult?
Hack 'n' Slash
The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge
Stan & Ollie
Classic Crumb
Glider Gun

Archive the 7th
To GDC and Beyond Beyond
It's DND Not D&D
New Consumer Laws
Missing Links
Welcome Intrepid Adventurers!
Crawl in Technicolor
Iikka's Stuff
Missing Links
To a New World of Mods and Adventures
Yuletide in Cyberspace
Earthsea in Clorox
H2G2 Game and Fallujah Links
Brian's Pirates! Review
The Roman Toothpick
The Iris Nebula
A Brief History Of Computer Games
Zarnoth Declared Victor In Galactic Prez Bid
Decision 2664
Fear Me
2004 Vice Presendential Debate
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Swifty Boats Are Coming To Win Us
Damp Kawangi
Weird Worlds of Baffling Mystery
The Great Nebula in Orion
A Perfect Short Game
Weird Worlds
The Sorcerer's Cave Nabbed

Archive the 6th
Things To Do
Mixed Bag
Masters of Fantasy
Missing Links
Of Mystic Woods And Sorcerer's Caves
Your only REAL choice in 2004
More Digital Eel News
Real Magic
Buckminster & Jinx
Digital Eel News
Closer to the Edge
Links of the Week
The ElectroComp 101
Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
Now Serving...
The Best of My Life as a Blog
JinxCam Live 24/7
The Art of Game Design
Google-Eyes Art
Three Flat Games
Patching the Blob
SAIS Patch Released/Enchanter Revisited

Archive the 5th
Road Beat
DBO Nabs Two
Dungeons of the Doomed
Doom Is Not Dead
Links of the Week
Edge of Oblivion
Oblivion Released
Cheapass Games Circles the Square
Ion Storm
Name Matters
Links of the Week
Steel Dawn: Forgotten Rebirth II Gold Edition
All Things Must Pass
Intellivision Lives
Links of the Week
Laurel & Hardy
Have A Jolly Holiday!
Quake Level Name Generator
IGF Finalists Announced

Archive the 4th
Chicken Heart
IFComp 2003
Links of the Week
3 For 1
To Mars And Beyond...
A Dark and Stormy Night
Space Empires: Starfury
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Halloween Masks
From Space to Spacy
Links of the Week
Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox
Inside the Eagle Nebula/X Minus One
What's in the box?
Ossman's Audiola
Dice History 101
Rod Lord's H2G2 Guidebook Graphics
Links of the Week
Flash At Its Best
Elements of the Swan Nebula/Eigenradio
I Wannabe (A Rockstar)
Blog Wars: A New Scroll

Archive the 3rd
Still Playing
Boris the Dodger
Some Get It and Some Don't
Links of the Week
It's Alive
The Sun's Surface in 3D
Something To Hold On To
Links of the Week
Mr. Kosmik Sneez
Digital Eel Summer
Late News
A Sonic Boom
Report from the Skink Works
M17: The Omega Nebula
Attention Gwog!
London at Night
Light Echoes from V838 Mon
Monsters, Surrealism and the Kustom Kulture
BushWorld and the Trees of Mystery
Links of the Week

Archive the 2nd
Wizardry vs. Telengard
Links of the Week
M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
News (Really) Bites
Dumbbell Nebula Close-Up from Hubble
Links of the Week
A Beautiful Game
The Columbia Tragedy
The #secretlevel Awards
BHR 71: Stars, Clouds, and Jets
Links of the Week
The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion
Three Shades of Darkness
The Creeping Crud
Story Time
Links of the Week
Post Holiday Update Thingy
Ketchup Date
Story Time

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?
Story Time
Little Ghost
The Plasmaworm Collection
Liquid War
Two From Space
Firesign Theatre
Lord of the Rings
The Doctor Fun Page
certain maxims of archy
Flog the Blog

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