25 January 2010

Lulu First Run Toll

It's inevitable, I have discovered. Just like going away entails leaving some small but irritatingly necessary item behind at home so printing with Lulu entails finding one glaring but ultimately trivial thing wrong with the first batch of published product.

With Random Encounters the problems are superficial but relevant to me (it probably won't make a lick of difference to anyone else):

1) Slight overcropping on the front cover, even though I was careful to keep within the software cover designer.
2) When I first published the book to review the PDF I made sure that the spine was consistent with the Core Book having title and authors at the top and a product number at the bottom. Apparently, somewhere in the multitude of republished editions that have followed the cover designer seems to have reset to the default. Title at the top of the spine account holder's name at the bottom. So the spines of the first eight copies of RE read "Random Encounters-Leo Stableford". That's rather embarrassing, there were four distinct authors of the volume and an illustrator (who was one of the four authors!) just having my name on the spine is wrong and makes me feel a bit awkward.

Obviously, I shall have to make sure both of these issues are remedied before any more are printed.

18 January 2010

Missing By A Mile

Recovering from a system bork I found this in my unpublished drafts. It's an article by a much more old-skool games designer than anyone I hang out with.

What I found amusing was the referencing of games designers pandering to rules lawyers. It has to be said that hitherto most successful games companies have made money by doing precisely this. It makes me wonder if we're going about this the right way or if we should be producing another 200 page rules supplement every week like some other games companies.

Oh well, guess we'll never be rich and we'll be considered wrong and foolish; at least we're happy not wasting our lives looking for a definitive decision on that rules quibble.

Connection Issues

There comes a time when staring at the same old blog interface becomes... well, a little staid, tiresome, tedious.

It doesn't mean you love the blog any less, oh no, not at all. Just a blogger craves a bit of variety.

I know, I know a blog is for life not just for christmas but still, the tumblr interface promised something blogger seemed a little hesitant to deliver. Interconnectivity. The way I understand it I should be able to publish here, it will appear on my tumblr dashboard and I will be able to then reblog it there with an option to send a summary to Twitter.

The disadvantage of this is that I have less idea how many people are lurking on any of my blogs. The upside is that a blog is supposed to attract comments and as I hardly ever get comments lurkers are unimportant. It's not really how many people you have no idea are reading your stuff that's important, it's the people you do know are reading and commenting on what you write that's important.

I've been blogging somewhere since about 2004, my proper blog first blossomed into existence in 2006. Four years on and I have no idea how to garner comments from the wider world. I sometimes throw a sideways glance at more able blogger's like Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood and wipe away a tear of frustration. I think it's a holy grail to turn a blog into a discussion and I've never known anyone actually be able to bottle that particular species of lightning.

Anyway. I live in hopes that one day I will attract commentators to my blog and I think being more connected is definitely a step in the right direction. Although, obviously, nothing can be proven on this score.

13 January 2010

2010: The Year We Got Busy

I wish that the amusing implication of the post title was anywhere near accurate. No, a more literate version of the semantics is to be inferred.

The plans are afoot for a calendar littered knee deep with exciting and rewarding events. The problem is that none of them are planned. Unplanned events are the absolute worst kind. You know they are going to resolve into the flesh but until you have a time, or a place, or both they torture you with vagueness.

Among the highlights of a full summer programme are: New No Dice events at Nottingham's new game and comic shop where Justin and I are also almost certain to organise a bit of Heroscape. Especially seeing as WotC seem to have released the Scape freeze to produce a D&D themed Underdark expansion set, which looks pretty yummy.

We'll also be wanting to get out and about in the summer time as outdoor No Diceing last summer was a brilliant success. In addition we want to hit three conventions, our friends at Beer and Pretzels, IndieCon (our non-attendance at which was an epic fail for us last year) and GenCon (if there is one). It doesn't stop there: we want to organise our own massive shindig to tie in with the release of Levercastle.

Finally, myself and the Mrs want to slope off for a couple of holidays in amongst all that. And there's the ever present joy of the Belper games weekends!

2010 will be eventful for sure. But will I survive it?

P.S. Check out our new slimline podcast available from the link top right.

7 January 2010

Britain Thinks: Wisdom of Crowds or Mob Rules?

Have just decided to show some practical support for new internet site Britain Thinks which looks like it could be jolly good fun. At the moment the interface is a bit sparse, I imagine it's intended to be a sort of social networking site with an agenda of debate. Well, we have loads of social networking opportunities, but debates not so much. So they've opened the site with a number of debating tools.

Basically you can go to a topic, there's voting buttons and a neat flashy type widget that plays videos. Obviously the videos are all, or mostly, the starting content, mostly minute long soundbites, but I saw one sort of documentary style piece as well. Inevitably there's a comment box and lots of rating facilities and so on and so forth.

So you watch the videos, you read the comments, you vote on the voting panels and you do so having signed up for an account.

Initial thoughts?

Well, I'm a bit disturbed that for a substantial site, or at least a site that purports to be all about the substance of debate about everyday issues, it seems quite bitty. In my cursory inspection it seemed quite difficult to flit from clip to clip, the tumult of opinion seemed quite random. As someone who likes a good organised debate I was quite dismayed that there was nothing there to get your teeth into.

I have to say the site was only launched on Monday, as such it's probably a more technical achievement at present than an instant classic of web design. Things I would hope to see in the future:

  • I am a user, but I have no acces to edit my account profile! Oh noes!
  • There are other users but they have no visible public profiles.
  • The debate pages are designed cleanly from a graphic design POV but this masks an underlying incoherence in conceptual structure. Is this op ed Twitter where statements of length are to be frowned upon?
  • I think I would like to be able to aggregate debates and even run them from within the personal profile I don't yet have. This would help enormously with, my final point...
  • The content is grouped by topic and videos are star-rated but the arguments are not streamed like an essay, you just get assaulted by a little bit about this and then a little bit about that. The topics are huge and being banged around in an opinion pinball machine is weird. If topics had administrators who applied some sort of taxonomy to the issues this would help a bunch. For example in a debate about education comments could be labelled "teachers", "exams", "government", "parents", "students", "curriculum" so that you could watch streams of comments about one sub-topic.
Having said all that I think the idea of using the web as a speaker's corner is a great idea. Usually the forum for issues are controlled by government or some half-baked subset of functionality offered by a social networking site built, primarily, for other purposes.

I would love to see Britainthinks become something that gets referenced on the news when emotive news stories arise, I'd love to see its clips being used in Question Time and things like that. If the man on the street can vent a sophisticated opinion at home and be watched by people who are going to entertain his ideas seriously and respond in kind that's a great leap forward in net based political interaction.

I imagine it will also be a home for people to vent shocking stupidity and vile hate speech, but that's as important.

If you are reading this, and you're British I urge you to support this initiative, I think it's a winner. DISCLAIMER: In 2006 someone sent me an invite to link to their profile on something called "Facebook". I looked at the site, decided it was rubbish, it would never work, so I never accepted the invitation. My powers of prediction should be measured by that opinion...

3 January 2010

2010 - Time To Regenerate

After a fine New Year's gathering which saw me singing in the new year along with Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" NYD itself was all about Doctor Who. For me and 10m other viewers the regeneration of Tennant Who into Smith Who was essential viewing.

Number crunching ain't good for much but let's just take a look at this here and now. Total number of people who took active roles in Rage vs Robojoe 1 million. People watching Doctor Who, 10 million. Now admittedly they weren't charging any money we hadn't already paid for us to watch Doctor Who but still.

If you had told me in 2000 that in a decade I'd be joining 10m others to watch the new and much beloved Doctor Who morph into his youngest form yet. And then you had gone on to say that Doctor Who would  become a bigger UK cultural touchstone than it had ever been and I would have told you you were crazy. If you'd have topped it off by saying that the head writer would be a cultural leader for the equal treatment of the gay lifestyle, that he would work these themes into a spin off set in Cardiff and that people would regularly discuss both series round the water cooler and well...

You have to admit, it sounds jolly unlikely.

I'd hate to be in a position where one of my characters had had such a patchy history. It's a matter of personal pride. I have a fairly harsh inner critic and if I finally hit the sweet spot after so long (not, obviously, that RTD et al were responsible for the whole of Doctor Who but you get the point) I would be tempted to reboot.

I don't mind any reboot that's been along so far. BSG was fine and ended so disappointingly that it could even do with another reboot to fix the disappointing end of this version. Star Trek as envisioned by Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman was wonderful. I can't, off the top of my head, think of a reboot that's done any harm.

Of course technically, if you're sticking strictly to canon, apparently, the Doctor only has one more regeneration left (because of burning one up but not actually regenerating during the 10th Doctor's tenure). Rather than cheating and giving him new regenerations wouldn't it be better to reset the whole thing and start again from scratch.

It's something that writing types do all the time, the old etch-a-sketch end of the world routine. I think a reader can accept a reboot more readily than, perhaps, a remake. Maybe I'm wrong.

Anyhoo, that's all from me for the time being. Here's to a 2010 full of hope for the future. After all it might seem to many of us that the only way is up after the last few years!