Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tipa at West Karana recently posted about ShutterCal, a website where you can post a picture a day, in a calendar type format. It also will send you reminders to get something posted when you might forget. As I mentioned in a prior post, I've been looking for something to get my creative juices flowing again, and I think this would be a lot of fun! I've always got my digital camera in my bag, and now that I have an IPhone on my hip, taking pictures is super easy.

This is similar to a project that Stargrace recently participated in, NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. While I don't have the gumption to participate in something on that scale, I think focusing on this blog and trying to keep ShutterCal up to date can help provide some structure to my need for a creative outlet. I've been feeling stifled lately, and simple things like this that will help me channel my creative energy should be just the ticket.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lego Trains in New England

On Saturday morning I dragged Jason up to Wilmington, Mass, to check out a Greenberg Train and Toy show. The reason I wanted to go was because NELUG, the New England Lego Users Group, was putting on a display at the show. Their display was HUGE! 6 ft. x 35 ft., with tons of trains, buildings, and a fully functioning carnival all included. It was pretty cool to see so much Lego in one place outside of a Legoland park.

My pictures aren't the greatest, but they give you an idea of the layout. My favorite part was absolutely the carnival. I've toyed with the idea of putting together a Lego carnival for years, and seeing one executed so well was inspiring. I took lots of close up pictures of ideas I want to stea- err incorporate into my own projects.

The NELUG members running the display were very friendly and I'm seriously considering joining up. I was a member of BAYLug (Bay Area Lego Users Group) back in California, and attended a few of their events. It is always a lot of fun to get together with other AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) and see the amazing things they put together in their spare time.

I've been a long time Lego collector, almost 22 years now, but have been going through a bit of a dark age for the past five or so years. Prior to my most recent move, any time I wanted to get my Lego out to do some building it meant taking over 3/4s of my house. Now that I have the whole basement of the condo to myself I can pull out my Lego to work on projects and not have to worry about putting everything away when I want to take a break.

A project I would like to take on, and have been planning out in my mind since this summer when Jason and I visited Provincetown, is to build the Pilgrim Monument. I think it would be a fun project, and something that would really get me back into the swing of Lego design. Lego Castle has always been my first love, and the Monument has an excellent Gothic architecture that falls right into the building style I like the most.

My hope is to build it as "realistically" as possible - meaning I want it to be to minifig scale. The typical Lego Minifigure should be able to make their way up to the top of the model and look around, just like we can in real life. It should have some unique building challenges, as I would also like to incorporate the many different engraved stones that pepper the inside of the tower showing the years the various towns in Massachussets donated to the building process. I'll keep you posted as I begin work on the project!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Video Games Live!

Friday night I went to Video Games Live! here in Boston with Jason and our friend Sarah. What an AMAZING concert. I only took the one picture (above) with my IPhone, but the evening was definitely one to remember.

The event is comprised of live orchestral and choral renditions of popular video game music spanning the last twenty years. Everything was represented - Mario, Zelda, Tetris, God of War, Gears of War, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, MegaMan, Metroid, you name it. There was a piece for every gamer. Designed by Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, the music of the games was augmented by light shows, video clips, on stage shenanigans, and the catcalls and shouts of the audience members. Every section of the show had its avid supporters, and nobody hesitated in making it known. This was strongly encouraged by Tommy who took every chance to rev up the crowd.

My absolute favorite part of the show was when they introduced Ralph Baer and Bill Harrison, the originators of the video game. These two designed and built the very first system back in 1969, when televisions were black and white and had 13 channels. Mr. Baer, now 86, has a website chronicling the history of the development process. It was phenomenol seeing these two founders of what has become, in 40 short years, the multi-billion dollar gaming industry. I think they got no less than three standing ovations during their time on stage. Mr. Baer and a child from the audience also went a few rounds on one of the original "Brown Box" devices that held a functioning version of the very first video game. It was a tennis type game (ala Pong) with controls for moving your "player" up and down, left and right, and also to put some english on the ball and make it curve. The little boy who got to play ultimately won, to the cheers of the audience members.

Another great bit in the show was the Guitar Hero competition. Before the show everyone got a chance to play Guitar Hero in the lobby, with the winner getting to play Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion on the Hard level during the concert. If they scored more than 200,000 points they got to go home with a prize pack. I forget the name of the guy who won, but he was amazing. He didn't play on Hard, he played on the Expert level, and ended up scoring over 300,000 points - a 90% success rating on notes hit. For someone who (still) struggles on some of the EASY stuff, I was very impressed.

My favorite piece of the musical selections was absoutely God of War. As much as I love Mario and Zelda, the scope of God of War's music is perfect for the concert venue. The music washing over me made me want to run right home and jump into Kratos' world to tear up some gorgons and ogres. The choral effect was amazing, and the soloist who sang had a wonderful voice.

All in all it was a great concert experience and I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes video games of any stripe, music afficionados, and just about anyone who enjoys a good time. Jump onto the Video Games Live! website and see when they are coming to a concert hall near you!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Way I Play

I've been reading through Stargrace's posts regarding the new EQ2 expansion and the Ancient Gaming Noob's recent reminisces of his MUD days, and they got me to thinking about how I play games.

Back when I was a kid my parents had a very strict policy when it came to computer games - no new ones until I finished the ones I already had. This lead me to long hours playing games to the hilt, exploring every inch of the universe until I solved the final puzzle and reached the elusive end game "movie" that was the reward for the graphical adventure games I favored.

The HOURS I spent on the little hoverbike in Space Quest 1, trying to get from the crash site of my escape pod to Ulence Flats, crashing into rocks and ending up buried head first in the sand. The days it took me to sort through the spells in King's Quest III so I could knock off the evil wizard and escape back to my homeland. Let's not even get into the weeks of my life absorbed in Super Mario Brothers 3 at my best friend's house, memorizing patterns of marauding turtles and mushroom people.

All of this playing had me writing copious notes in order to remember where everything was. You never knew when that blue rock that could be moved was going to be an integral part to a puzzle. One game in particular, Starflight and its sequel Starflight 2, had me creating pages and pages of notes - habitable planets, lucrative trade routes, worm hole coordinates - I kept everything in a log. I was so obsessive about it, I even wrote letters to Electronic Arts (the publisher) checking to make sure I had found EVERYTHING!

Fastforward to today, and my gaming habits are a very different picture. From my computer desk I can see rows and rows of PS2 and Nintendo Gamecube games I've never even put into the console, let alone played through completion. They're right above the DS games and below the (rapidly growning) PS3 library which is following a similar path. I just FINALLY put Lego:Batman into my console this past week, and I've had that for at least a month or so already!

Beyond the vast library of games is the way I play games now. I'm the first to run crying to EQ2I when the immediate answer to a Norrathian quest isn't right in front of my nose. I've got a stack of console game walk throughs and cheat guides holding down one end of my entertainment center. And for anything that I don't have a printed version for, there are at least a thousand on-line walk throughs or hint sites I can run to for help.

Somewhere along the way I lost that drive to find everything on my own, at the same time gaining a disposable income that threw the "rules" of game buying out the window. How did this happen?

As I've thought about it, I can't decide if it is because I have become a lazy gamer, or that I just don't have the time to commit to marathon gaming sessions anymore. Have I become a too busy adult, who would rather let somebody else do all the playing while I receive the payoff for their effort? "Where's the fun in that?" I ask myself. That isn't how I want to enjoy my hobby.

So, I have resolved that for the latest EQ2 expansion - The Shadow Oddyssey - I'm not going to use any spoilers or write ups as I adventure. I'm going to do it on my own, exploring and discovering all the great content the developers have put together. I want to figure things out, and work through the quest lines, and enjoy the stories of Norrath at my own pace, not plow through them as quickly as I can.

And if I do come across something that I can't quite figure out on my own, well, it IS a MASSIVELY MULTIUSER online game. I can always fall back on one of my friends for hints and tips, rather than a canned write-up from somebody I don't even know!