Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Celebratory Quinquennial Post!

Five years. Five paternally inter-coursing years. I have now had this blog for five years. Time sure flies when one rambles like a madman. By which I of course mean, I ramble like a madman. In case that wasn't already obvious. See, I'm doing it right now, crazy world, right? Many things evolve during the span of five years. So I suppose it's only fitting that I — that means you too — take a look at how I've evolved as a writer and how what I write about has evolved equally much. And then I end it all by looking a bit more into the future as well as my list of Underdog Posts of the Year. On for each year.

First though, let's see where and how it all started.

The year is 2008 — the 18th of May to be specific — and based on the first post and the frequency that follows I can only conclude that I hadn't quite figured out what this “writing” stuff was really about. Which is why the year 2008 will forever be the year when I write one measly post and then seemingly forget that I even have a blog for over a year. Yes, the shame and public humiliation. But ever since I started writing — with more frequency obviously — I've always strived to not really edit myself. Once I've published a post it's there. Done. No backsies. Occasionally it's felt warranted to make minor edits but the idea has always been/is that, spelling mistakes and all, whatever I've written should act as a time stamp of my cognitive and metacognitive abilities.

That probably sounds like a weird thing to keep track of but I find it very interesting to see how I expressed myself a few years ago compared to how I express myself now. If I edited myself afterwards I wouldn't be able to accurately gauge the progression, now would I?

But back to May 2008. I had been making a Flash game — way before the iPhone — for a few years. A behemoth of a project which was to include things like a day/night cycle and dynamic NPC encounters. It had many other ridiculously enormous ideas but I want to expand on the idea behind the dynamic NPC encounters. Which was that you would never have to fight anyone.

 Two meters would keep track of your Alignment and your Renown which in turn affected how characters or creatures are likely to react to you. Your Alignment is a multidimensional dichotomy between various elements, such as Fire and Water or Air and Earth. Pissing off creatures or characters aligned with Fire means anyone aligned with Water will be more positive towards you. It's essentially religion in a miniaturised form. Renown simply tells you how well known you are and works as an amplifier of whatever your various alignments are. Whilst you can try to stay neutral as much as possible, you will find that, being so intricately interconnected, it's difficult to do anything without pissing someone off.

So, whenever you encountered a character or creature — for example an Orc, who are usually Earth aligned — you were always given 3 options. “Attack, Reason or Avoid”. So even though you could choose to attack this Orc, they might choose to reason with you because they're not feeling hostile. Equally, you might attempt to reason with them but they are in fact hostile towards you so they try to attack you right away. Or maybe you try to avoid them altogether but it turns out they are hostile and faster than you… better prepare to fight then.

You even had a stat for Empathy, which at high levels would enable you to more accurately gauge a characters or creatures feelings towards you, giving you an upper hand when interacting.

Exciting, right?

There were also many different professions you could pursue such as a Woodsman or a Fisherman. In game terms it's as simple as buying a fishing rod and going to any body of water. But I'm actually really proud of the mechanics behind it, utilising a “Learning by Failing” -model I managed to make a very — what I think at least — natural way of levelling up. At level 1, it takes you ten — actual, real life — seconds to chop wood. Since you're an Amateur Woodsman you are also very likely to fail and not get any wood at all. Not to worry though, every time you fail you receive 10 XP which brings you closer to gaining another level (you level up every 100 XP). Should you succeed and chop yourself some wood you only gain 1 XP. The higher your level is, the less likely you are to fail. Which means less XP but more wood. The actual time it takes you to chop wood is also decreased as you level up. There are 4 different types of wood; Pine, Larch, Oak and Ebony which can be sold to carpenters who can also carve you handles for weapons. Different types of wood have different durabilities. Which type of wood you got was random though.*

Keep in mind by the way that because this was way before Farmville I didn't have any monetization plans. I just wanted to make an RPG game that I would enjoy to play. One less focused on fighting and more on well… living-ish I suppose. Looking at it now though I am struck by the sheer scale of it all. I was clearly out of my mind thinking I could ever create such a world… in Flash. But it was an exciting project where I was able to learn so many different things and even though the game is probably never going to see the light of day — at least how I originally envisioned it — I suspect aspects of it will pop up again in the future.

But the least I can do is to offer you this, an executable version of my RPG game titled “The Sphere of Talluh”. This is an alpha build, numbered where you can do… well… actually a surprisingly large number of things. But bear in mind, it's still alpha. You've been warned.

Here you go.†

And thus we have arrived at May 2009. Ironically, the first post in 2009 — where I try to resurrect my blog — is about a year after the post we just talked about. Apparently, I tried to do something that failed. I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish. But one can clearly tell that I'm beginning to get the hang of this “writing” thing people talk about because one day after post #2 I write post #3 and this time I actually have something to write about, specifically the dolls I am exhibiting at the time. A few days later I write yet another post, this time mostly pictures of the dolls but still.

Back then I had only created three dolls; Zombie Clown, Valandil Singollo and Sgt. Jack Dæmon. I haven't created that many more dolls since though I definitely will but I do have a doll to show that you might not have seen before because… well… I've never published a picture of it before. Yes, you heard me correctly, never-before-seen exclusive picture of a Carlos Eriksson creation! Just think about it, this post alone, is going to be worth imaginary money some time in the imaginary future.

By May 2010 I have about 60 posts under my belt and have by now mastered the art of this “writing” thing. By now I have written posts about a wide — not really — variety of topics, such as my now defunct but back then new-ish laptop, growing my own herbs, how the A.I on Easy in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun Firestorm shows me how it's really done and consequently kick my ass. Occasionally I remember that half of the name of the blog is “Design” at which point I write a post about how I should write more posts about design related stuff. Then I forgot all about it again. Already one can start to discern patterns in the things I write about as well as how I write about them.

2011. May. This writing, me good. Words to make sense, yes. 150 times me write.

By now I have actually — like for rizzles — gotten the hang of writing with a certain amount of internal consistency. But instead of writing interesting and thought-provoking Pulitzer price worthy material I write about coffee. In May I discover the wonderful world of fresh coffee. After that I pretty much talk about nothing but coffee. I talk about coffee here, here, here, here and here. Oh, and here. And then I talk about coffee some more.

But before I get obsessed about fresh coffee I manage to have a bit more variety in my topics, such as designing several of my own t-shirts and then selling some of them online, finally getting married, writing a long-overdue (love?) letter to my Xbox, creating a to-read list consisting of 1001 books and the death of my back then new-ish laptop.

By May 2012 I had written a total of ~230 posts but I also had a — not — surprisingly low number of posts in the beginning of the year, because I've been too busy looking for job in England. But when I do find the time to write posts it's about the usual things, such as playing old games like Fallout, redesigning the Windows 8 logo, comparing the levels of hate for days of the week and I make an attempt to blend in with the indigenous population as I fly — all on my own — to England for a couple of interviews.

2013. The year of the snake. That most vile and slithering of creatures. Or intelligent, but with a tendency to be somewhat unscrupulous if you believe Wikipedia. May. The month named after the Greek goddess Maia. That skanky little goddess of fertility.

Anyway. The post count is at about 340 and by now I have a staple of patterns by which I draw upon. I write about gaming, old as well as new but mostly old because my list of games to play is a bit behind. Most recently I finished Portal 2. Before that I played Hitman: Absolution and wrote about how terrible I was. I write about coffee and the theme of this year is roasting my own. I do meticulous research using Google and design charts to go with the results I get. I'm still reading books from my 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list — which I would like to have as an online list — but to be frank I am probably going to die before I read them all. Old age and such. I write and record my own songs as well as butcher other artists' work. I design things too — all sorts of things — and occasionally even write about them.

Some new things I've started — more or less — and that I am looking forward to writing more about; Gender equality in gaming and design, the intriguing world of ale, a multi-part short noir story about a detective with thigmatithm (part I and II) and a “Design-a-day” challenge I have recently started. And I'm sure — or more specifically I hope — that there's other topics that are going to be born as time goes by.

Which brings us to the end of these five chapters. Wow. Five years. I feel like I should have had a speech prepared. But then again, I've never been one for writing much.

[distant sound of crickets]

So, what better way to celebrate five years of blogging than with a list of under appreciated posts of the year. The Underdog Post of the Year. One from each year.

Year 1. More Glorious Shots Of Dolls
Year 2. My Xbox My Way, Runner Up…
Year 3. Leo, You Bastard!
Year 4. The Afterlife Is a Harsh Mistress
Year 5. How Skype Took A Dump On My Metaphorical Carpet

Here's to another paternally inter-coursing five years. Cheers! Skål! Kippis! Santé!

* The different XP's you get are of course very rudimentary because they hadn't been balanced yet.
† WASD = movement, Q = inventory, E = action/use, F = journal