Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Old School Gaming

There's a blog I follow. The latest post is over at - http://jeffro.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/game-design-supplemental-books-and-other-materials

He blogs a lot about role-playing games and tabletop games and gaming with his kids. Today's post, though, talks more about old school computer games. No, not the NES or SNES - I'm talking REALLY old school. Text adventures on a computer back in the day when you had to type the code in yourself old school...

His post really brought up a ton of memories and I started to comment, but decided I had enough floating around in my brain to make my own blog post... This was going to be about memories and a day trip Vanessa and I took a few days ago, but I'm going to expand on this today and take that up next time...

My first introduction to computers was in the 9th grade. Mr. Bill Myers, one of my favorite teachers of ALL TIME (and sadly I can't tell him that as he passed away shortly after I graduated high school in 1985) brought his TRS-80 Model IV to school. He had written some BASIC programs for teaching math and wanted to give an intro to computers to kids that might otherwise never see such a thing.

When math class was over he and I talked a bit and he showed me the basics of BASIC (no pun intended) and it clicked with me! When he had a free period and I had P.E. (small school - 7th through 12th grade in one building - it was not uncommon to have extended P.E. or "go to the gym" on various days) I went back in his room to explore some more. He introduced me to Scott Adams' text adventure games. Wow. This was a new world for me...

Soon after I met the guy that would become the bass player for The Bare Basics. He was taking classes at Dyersburg State Community College on computer sciences and had a TRS-80 Color Computer. He showed me some stuff and again I enjoyed it, so that year my dad bought me a TRS-80 Color Computer II with extended memory. It had the additional 16k for graphics and hooked up to a television. I dived right into BASIC as well as bought the TRS-80 adventure games on cassette.

This was about the time I was reintroduced to a friend (Craig) who introduced me to his cousin (Brent) who introduced me to his cousin (Chris). The four of us would go on to be longtime friends and gamers, and it's these three guys (and Brent's son Jonas and my son Kyle) that meet with me every week on roll20.net for Edge of the Empire.

Anyway - Craig had a Commodore VIC 20 and I think Brent did too. Chris had a Commodore 64 and Brent would later get one of those as well. I was the odd ball with the TRS-80, but it also meant that we all had exposure and access to more than one platform. Sine we were playing RPG's, it was common for us (at least I remember Brent and I doing this) to develop character generators for the games we were playing. Since BASIC can generate a random number it was really as simple as a spreadsheet is today to assign the variables a random number and then have the computer calculate those variables and show them as different stats.

Now I admit today that I'm partial to the tactile feel of dice and the physical act of "rolling dice," but at the time this was a giant leap in programming and understanding how computers work in regard to random number generation, variables, showing data on the screen, etc.

One other thing in relation to Jeff's blog entry... I well remember the days of typing in line after line of code just to have the program error out and have to go back through the code to find the problem. If you've ever seen Jurassic Park and heard the programmer talk about the "lines of code" to find a problem, that's a real thing. As far as typing in text adventures, you would think that you would "see spoilers" - but I remember there was a trick of encrypting the text by doing a shift of characters, very much like the way geocaching.com encrypts the hints. Since you're typing in what looks like random characters you don't know the "keywords" you are typing in. Yes, you could cheat, and I had one game that you couldn't beat because there was a typo in one of these words. I had to find and fix the typo to be able to complete the adventure, but the programming adventure was fun in and of itself. :-)

Man - I've not thought about that stuff in a long time... a long time. I guess I really have been a geek for longer than I've realized. :-)

It's New Year's Eve - be well - be safe - be happy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 is almost over

Hello friends! The year is almost up and I see that I've not been as diligent in my writing this year... As you know, if you've read this before, I don't do "new year's resolutions." I don't think you should wait till the new year to turn over a new leaf, but it's kinda tradition for most folks, so it's a good time of year to reflect on what has gone by and what is to come, whether you plan it or not. :-)

So in that spirit, here we go...

I've taken the last couple of weeks off from writing. Yes, it's been over a month since I've finished a song, but I am always recording new ideas, thinking about stuff, learning new songs. I tend to take "this time of year" off from actively working on new material and self promotion though. My last "new" song - I Thought That I'd Forgotten

I'm playing in a dance band on Saturday nights in Hornbeak. Just a small place with a little dance floor, but the people really enjoy it, which makes it easier for me to enjoy "performing." :-) I've also been working toward getting something going in the way of Bluegrass. I know the "Bare Basics" of 30 years ago can be no more, but I'm using the name again and getting it started back. My YouTube channel has several videos of James Wallace and I doing some instrumentals.

Dueling Banjos

Berlin Waltz

Nine Pound Hammer

...and others.

We have a lead on a bass player and we plan to get back to weekly practices after the first of the year.

We spent the holiday weekend with Kyle and Devin in Indiana. I took X-Wing and Kyle and I got a game in. We picked him up a copy of Zombicide and we got to play it as well. He called me Christmas Day to tell me about a 2 hour game they had. Sounded great! Can't wait for him to bring it home on his next visit so Colton and I can enjoy it with him.

My old friends from High School (our old gaming group) are visiting family this week and we're trying to work out a time to get together. Fingers crossed that we can do it before they all have to travel back... This is the same group, plus Kyle, that play Edge of the Empire with me via roll20.net.

The local Open Mic thing has not taken off like I had hoped. As I communicated earlier in the year, the venue we were using were told to cease and desist since they didn't have a local license, even though what we were performing was original work and not covers. I had another place in mind, but they closed their doors before I could even go and visit.

I decided to wait about it and see if the first venue called to start it back, but they haven't. After the first of the year I intend to start making contacts and see where it goes. On a related note, I drove by Music Highway Crossroads the other day and the place was empty. Sad, as I had some great memories of performing in that venue as well as some great friends I made... That is where I found out that there are more songwriters in the area than I would have thought!

I've had people come up and ask me, "how's the music business?" and my standard answer has been the following - I'm still writing - I'm still performing - but I am NOT driving to Nashville every few weeks like I was. My style is NOT what's on the radio today and there have been better things to spend that travel money and more importantly spend that TIME on. I do enjoy performing in Nashville and it's still my "favorite city," but I've been working more on honing the craft and making connections that just going there and trying to "break in" from outside. If a move ever takes me closer then I'll pursue it with more diligence, but for now I'm trusting God to lead me in the right (write) direction.

One last thing... There has been some talk on Facebook this morning about geocaching and people hitting milestones, etc. Vanessa and I are up to 1202, but we've not "actively" cached in a while... We will grab one from time to time, but we haven't "hunted." Reading the posts this morning kinda gave me the itch (and yes, it's a game, so yes, it's a form of gaming - and one Vanessa and I can do together) so I pulled up "our map." This shows the caches around and whether we own them, found them or have yet to find them.

WOW - I was shocked at the number in the Jackson area! I can't testify as to whether they are what I would call "good" caches or not, as I don't recognize the names of the cachers, but knowing there are a TON around close means we can drive a short ways and jump in if we want to. If we find that they are not "fun" or "quality" (as we define them) hides then we can go a few more miles...

We do NOT do the numbers game any more. We were on track to hit 1000 cache finds several years ago and we got to where we were not stopping to smell the roses but were so intent with getting "the next one" that we failed to enjoy the scenery, etc. We love caches that take us somewhere new and if you're just for the numbers then you won't drive 20 miles out of the way for that ONE cache and you'll miss that wonderful view! Or you'll miss that store that had JUST the thing you were looking for.

In closing, no matter what your resolutions are for 2014, or what your current plans are, or even what's on your mind - I wish you the BEST year you've ever had!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Star Wars Gaming

If you've been following this blog, you know it's mainly about my musical journey. You also know that my thoughts and feelings get "logged" here as well. And you further know that "gaming" as a hobby has made a big resurgence to me. It's the latter that I want to talk about right now...

It's been a big week for gaming for me! I hung around town Monday night and went to the FLGS and played TWO big games of X-Wing and had a blast! Tuesday night James couldn't meet to play music, so I went back and played an even bigger game of X-Wing! Wednesday saw a cancellation of our roll20.net session, so I worked on a prominent NPC for our upcoming Edge of the Empire RPG.

Thursday night I was right back at the store and had two more games of X-Wing! After the game my opponent and I were talking and I mentioned Edge of the Empire and getting a campaign started with Kyle & Craig & Brent. He said that several from the store were interested, but no one had stepped up to GM it. I told him about us working up a campaign and I offered to run it.

I stopped by the store this afternoon and saw two other RPG'ers (they play Pathfinder on Monday nights). The first one is the GM on Mondays and he wants to play (and I'm prepared to GM) so he's in. Another guy was concerned about the time to "roll up" a character and all the die rolls and so forth. I gave him a VERY quick over view of how to build a character and now he's excited about it, so he's in. There are AT LEAST two others that I'm told are interested, but I haven't talked to them yet...

I've been posting on FFG's forums as well as d20radio's forums and there are several others that want to get in on a campaign, so I *MIGHT* be starting a third one online... I say MIGHT because it depends on the times that people can play.

Back to X-Wing as I close out this blog post. I played five games at the FLGS and only ONE game at home. At the store, we used 100 point squads, full tourney rules, etc. The one game at home last night was with Colton. I had shown him the game pieces before but this was his first time to try it out. He took Luke and R2-D2 and I tool two Academy Pilots and I taught him the basics. After about three minutes he was zipping through the turns. He finally pulled out a win with only ONE hull point left on his X-Wing.

After he and Tiffani had supper with us and they left to go home, I told Vanessa that was the simplest game of X-Wing I had played all week. It was just a basic duel, but it was also the most fun. Why? Because I got to play it with my son. :-)