Monday, May 25, 2009

Episode 18

Despite the fact that I'm working on one o' them eeevil MMO computer games, I'm a paper RPG player at heart.

My eldest brother first mentioned the original Dungeons & Dragons books to me back when I was in grade school. He tried to explain what it was like, but I wasn't invited to attend his gaming club with the older kids. So I tried to play D&D with a friend, based just on my memory of how he'd described it. Boy did I not get it right. For one thing, the 'dungeon map' I drew was a cutaway cross-section. As I recall, that made it very hard to describe things to my player.

I did eventually get to participate in a one-shot game with my brother's group, but not of D&D. They were playing Chainmail, the miniatures game from which D&D evolved. I got to control one very tiny unit of troops, led by a knight. The troops all got wiped out, but my lone knight leader figure tromped all around that map, and I role-played my heart out through that little guy.

The first paper RPG I ever ran was TSR's wild west themed Boot Hill. Not because I'm particularly interested in the genre, but because it and Empire of the Petal Throne (which I mentioned in a previous blog) were all that my brother left behind when he left for college.

I still remember a moment in that game when a skilled gunslinger, armed with a shotgun, managed to miss an enemy who was standing right in front of him. That was the moment when I first understood that the rules of an RPG are important. If they allow ridiculously improbable things to happen, they can spoil the fun.

A lot of paper RPG players denigrate the rules, thinking of them as (at best) a necessary evil, or (at worst) an actual impediment to having a good time. I disagree. To me, the rules of a paper RPG are the physics of the world. They're what enable the player to grasp what we all feel instinctively in real life: a sense of the odds. If the rules can provide that in a way that feels right, without being very complex, then that is (in my opinion) a GOOD set of rules.

-Jeff Dee

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Episode 17: Transhumanism

I'm a transhumanist. Transhumanism is the view that our finest destiny lies not in merely embracing our humanity, but improving upon it.

This video beautifully portrays the transhumanistic outlook:

The Wikipedia transhumanism page offers an excellent overview:

-Jeff Dee

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Episode 16

I missed a day. That was very bad of me.

Today we tromped on down to the lawyer's office to sign the final paperwork on Nemesis Games. We're officially & completely in business! Except that we don't have a company bank acccount yet, we haven't lined up an accountant yet, our web site is still blank, and on and on... but it's another step forward.

Been a while since I dropped any hints about the Semi-Secret MMO project, so here's another one: it is NOT based on any of my previously published paper RPG games. Though I think Teenage Demon Slayers could make a pretty cool MMO. Maybe someday...

You know what's pretty cool, that you probably never knew about before? This:

If you can't be bothered to go take a look, I'll tell you: the man makes amazing balloon sculptures - and costumes! - of weird undersea creatures. Is that amazing, or what?

-Jeff Dee

Monday, May 18, 2009

Episode 15

Another cool thing you might not already know about:

This is the most fascinating fantasy setting ever devised, in my opinion. Published materials include novels, treatises on history, culture, religion and warfare, maps, and several different role-playing game systems. I spent most of my spare time last year adapting the previously published game material to my own tabletop role-playing rules, Pocket Universe. For a while I was running three concurrent Tekumel campaigns. If you have any interest in this sort of thing, you should check it out.

-Jeff Dee

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Episode 14

Phew. Busy day, I almost missed writing this one.

The Atheist Experience caller that I mentioned yesterday didn't call back to the show today. I was prepared to make my comments anyway, but then there wasn't enough time left. Pity. Still, I got to have fun with a nutcase spouting theistic cosmology, and deliver a little talk regarding the Euthyphro Dilemma. So, it was still a lot of fun!

-Jeff Dee

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Episode 13

Had a pretty good birthday yesterday. Thanks all of you who sent birthday greetings. I treated myself to lunch at Mimi's Cafe, where they give you a complimentary muffin with any salad order. Yum. Then it was off to the dog park in Round Rock with my puppy. We normally do this every week, but we skipped last week cuz I had a cold. When we don't go every week, his little paw pads soften up - and so when he gets to the dog park and runs around like a lunatic, he gets blisters. Poor puppy!

My partner (I say 'partner' instead of 'wife' because I think 'wife' is condescending and sexist) took me to dinner at Texas Roadhouse, where they were kind enough to serve us quickly so we could hurry off to our movie on time. The movie was 'Angels & Demons', which I have to say was a major disappointment. And not just because the Vatican fails to get blown up by an anti-matter bomb. No, seriously, it was simply nowhere near interesting or well-made as DaVinci Code.

I'll be on The Atheist Experience tomorrow, with Matt Dillahunty. Last week Russell Glasser and Matt Wagner were on. Near the end of the show, they had a caller who said, "I know this won't mean anything to you, but I just want to tell you that God loves you." To which Russell replied, "We know it means something to you, so thank you." Wrong answer, in my opinion. The guy said he'd call back; if he does, I'll be happy to give what I think is the appropriate response.

-Jeff Dee

Friday, May 15, 2009

Episode 12: A couple of things.

Squid In Flight:

Scroll down a bit for the startling photo. Is this for real? I have no time to do the research for myself this morning, so I rely on you my loyal readers to check it out and report back.

In the meanwhile, here's a fun clip from 'The American Astronaut', an obscure independent film that I really enjoyed:


And oh, yes. It's my birthday!

-Jeff Dee

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This Blog Goes to 11

Finally, there's something official that I can announce regarding the Semi-Secret MMO. The name under which we've incorporated, to publish this and hopefully future products, is...


The web site will live at, though there's nothing there yet.

Yesterday was indeed a madhouse, but much was accomplished. I had a chili dog for lunch which I believe is destroying the lining of my upper intestine.

More later.

-Jeff Dee

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Episode 10

Double digits. Wahoo!

Had to take my car in for an overdue and overly expensive tune-up this morning. It's a red PT Cruiser with flames, and it's my favorite among all the cars I've ever owned, despite intermittent mysterious electrical problems.

On a thematically related note, my air conditioner went on the fritz yesterday. It got up to 85 degrees inside. The repair guy they sent out was totally awesome. I now know more about managing airflow than I ever thought possible.

Today's a big day for the Semi-Secret MMO project. Brian and I generally work at my place for 4 days a week, with Bruce only coming in on Wednesdays (like today). But today we're also gona be joined by the Jason who wrote the engine and the other Jason who's doing the music. I have no idea where I'm gonna put 'em if they all show up at the same time. But it'll be a hoot.

-Jeff Dee

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Episode 9: A Waste of Breasts

Human beings have a lifespan of up around 120 years, tops. Most of us don't make it past our 70's. So explain this to me: what is the point of spending several months of that precious limited time talking about Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean? Don't we have much more important things to discuss like, oh I dunno, curing cancer and feeding starving people around the world? Solving global warming? Putting a permanent human colony on the moon? How about extending human lifespan, so we'll have time to waste on trivialities like whether Miss California USA is a homophobic bigot who lied about having taken topless photos?

And that's all that I have to say about that. Ever.

-Jeff Dee

Monday, May 11, 2009

Episode 8: Why am I numbering these?

So, why am I bothering to number my blog posts sequentially? Several reasons.

1) If you recall, I'm trying to get into the habit of posting every day. Numbering 'em is part of my effort to cement the habit in my brain, kinda like counting breaths 1 to 4 repeatedly to meditate.

2) I'll have an excuse to celebrate every time I get to one of those big round numbers that we 10-fingered hominids seem so excited about. Hey! Post number 10 is right around the corner! We shall have to throw a little party.

3) Ease of reference. A year from now, you'll be able to reference this post by specifying "blog post #8", instead of having to vaguely refer to "that one time when Jeff Dee wrote that crazy shit about why he was numbering these things".

4) I can't help myself, because I am extremely anal. I mean good grief, I even numbered the reasons why I number my blog posts! What the hell is wrong with me?

-Jeff Dee

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Episode 7: Grab-Bag!

Hey everybody.

My cold slowly lingers. I'm taking a lot of Vitamin C and chicken soup. Mmmm, soup... My dog had his anal glands expressed (eww) by the vet, and is feeling much better now. Work progresses in the Semi-Secret MMO. The thingies I needed to draw are finished, and look great in-game. Today I'll be doing animated tile art for fierce island warriors. I still can't reveal any details, but that time draws nearer. I rescued kids from Little Lamplight from the clutches of the slavers in Fallout 3. God claims remain unsupported by evidence, and faith remains bankrupt as a means of determining truth. I saw Star Trek again last night, and am happy to report that it worked a lot better for me this time around. I still haven't gottten caught up on my TV shows on Hulu. I'm still re-reading the John Carter of Mars books. Captain Carter has determined that he must escape from the Tharks with Princess Dejah Thoris before they deliver her to their brutal and sadistic ruler.

More on these and other exciting developments tomorrow! Stay tuned!

-Jeff Dee

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Episode 6

Short one today. I'm developing a cold, and on top of it my poor lil doogy has to go see Mr. Vet. Believe me, you don't want any more details than that.

I received my first piece of junk mail addressed to the new company we're forming around the Semi-Secret MMO. Which is exciting, but also mysterious, because I didn't think the incorporation papers were even filed yet, which is why I haven't announced the company name to you folks. I'll check with the lawyer, but my hunch is that the name of the company was leaked to junk-mail marketers by, through whom we've reserved the domain where our web site is gonna live.

Gonna take it easy today, apart from seeing the vet. Maybe I'll catch up on my TV shows on Hulu - I'm a couple episodes behind on Dollhouse, Kings and Fringe.

Thanks for reading!
-Jeff Dee

Friday, May 08, 2009

Episode 5

I saw Star Trek last night. Didn't like it as much as I'd hoped. I attribute this, in part, to me reading too many over-the-top glowingly positive reviews.

I *was* impressed with the fact that they had me believing these new actors were those old characters. Kudos on that.

On the downside, the whole story is extremely rushed - from warp drive that can apparently get a starship from Earth to Vulcan in a matter of *seconds*, to romances between unlikely characters that also occur almost instantly, with no prior development.

I haven't heard anything about a 4-hour director's cut of this film, but if there is one, I'd like to see it. Maybe it would flow more naturally.

I think I just prefer longer, more fully realized stories to epics crammed into 2 hours. So I wish this reincarnation of Trek had taken place on the small screen.

Episode 5, eh? This is fun.

-Jeff Dee

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Episode 4: Star Trek Day

First off, I'm puzzled. I distinctly recall posting a blog (#3) yesterday, wherein I babbled about the upcoming John Carter of Mars film amongst other things. Yet this morning, I don't see it. This is especially bizarre since I've been cross-posting these things to my page on Blogger [], and I don't see yesterday's blog post there either. I have no idea what to make of this.

Moving right along...

Unless you haven't been paying attention, the new Star Trek movie opens this evening [].

Despite this being my second blog in a row to mention movies, I'm not a film guy, nor am I trying to become one. Back in the day at Origin, where we made the Ultima and Wing Commander games, practically all of the game designers (I was still officially an artist back then) saw games as a stepping stone into Hollywood. What they didn't seem to realize is this essential dichotomy: the more something is a movie, the less it is a game.

Watching a movie is a passive experience, while playing a game is an active experience. Sure, you can make a series of tiny movies that you watch passively between short periods of game activity, but the two activities can't actually mix in the way that these designers (I'm looking at you, Chris Roberts!) seemed to think they could. Sprinkling bits of game into an ongoing movie just doesn't work; 'interactive movies' have been tried, and just didn't catch on.

On the other hand, raising the graphics and audio in a game to movie *quality*, and sprinkling short passive viewing moments into an ongoing game (without actually turning the game into a movie) *does* work. But it's not a path to Hollywood, its just a path to more realistic game environments for those games that can benefit from that sort of thing.

This concludes episode 4. Tune in tomorrow when I blather on about whatever other nonsense is on my mind!

-Jeff Dee

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Episode 2

Back again.

I'm kind of surprised, here on my second day of blogging, that my problem is having too many things to talk about and having difficulty picking one of 'em, rather than not having anything to say at all.

The main thing on my mind at the moment is, of course, getting the MMO done. I've just completed a first pass on the NPC combat stats, and drawn the basic player character shapes (not including the custom paperdoll stuff yet). My next task is to complete a whole set of... um... things for the map that I can't say exactly what they are yet without giving away a bit more than I want to. Brian, who's responsible both for the map and for getting combat working, needs these thingies in order to complete some very crucial parts of the map: key places of interest that will be central to the game play.

How's that for vague? I feel like I should reveal a little bit more. So, here's another tidbit: we're tackling a genre that has never been done as an MMO before.

Ooooh! Exciting.

Our next major goal is to get combat working, so we can test the combat system I designed and get a feel for how the game will actually play. I'll talk more about the combat system in a future episode.

-Jeff Dee

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Blog a Day: Episode 1

Hey folks.

I've been informed by people whose opinions I respect that I should be more communicative. This may prove difficult, what with all the time I spend listening to podcasts, watching last years' best TV shows on DvD, playing Fallout 3 and City of Heroes, occasionally appearing on the Atheist Experience or The Non-Prophets, and oh yeah, working on my semi-secret mini-MMO project.

So I figure the best way to break myself of this habit of not posting is to simply force myself to post something every day until it becomes a habit.

Don't worry, I'll do my best to actually include some interesting content in these things. For instance, this time around I'm going to reveal some cryptic details about the semi-secret project. Ready? Here we go:

1) I've teamed up with two other guys, both of whom I've worked with before. In fact, one of them was my boss at Aspyr.

2) We've been working on the project since February, and steady progress is being made.

3) We're using the same 2D game engine as these guys:

4) The game map depicts the real world, covering an area from India in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from pole to pole.

Let the speculation commence!

In retrospect, maybe I should only have revealed one of these tidbits at a time. That would've kept my posts going for four days instead of one. I guess this is just one of the lessons I shall have to learn.

I'll be back tomorrow with another installment of A Blog a Day. Thanks for reading!

-Jeff Dee

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