31 Days of OtherSpace II: No. 1 – “A Simple Question”

October 2, 2011 2 comments

“Where is it?”

The pasty-skinned Light Singer sounded friendly enough as he loomed over the grayish-brown furred Lotorian chained against the rough stone column. Nothing friendly about that crimson aura, though. Or the eyes. Cold. Icy blue, like the frozen B’hira wastes.

Zoznazz tried avoiding the eyes, staring toward the broad maw of the planetoid’s cavern entrance, which opened onto a shimmering starscape. It might be the last thing he ever saw. That disappointed him. His final view should be something far more magnificent than a glimpse of stars from a Medlidikke pirate hideout. He’d seen plenty of stars before. What he had never seen, though, was his homeworld of Lotor. Not that he would ever be likely to see that fabled chunk of rock again. Zoznazz wanted to stand on the ancient grasslands, stare up at an impossibly blue sky, and smell the scent of–

Sharp stabbing pain, just above the right wrist. Spear point, rammed in by one of the Vollistan Light Singer’s companions – this time, a Hekayti pirate with skin the color of bruises, half a nose, and a broken horn jutting from the left side of his pock-marked skull.

“Difficult to focus?” the interrogator asked. He cradled the Lotorian’s whiskered snout in slender white fingers, tugging so that Zoznazz was looking at him again. “Come now.” A forced smile. “The sooner you tell me, the sooner this suffering can end.” The Light Singer released his snout, then clasped his hands behind his back and started pacing around the column. Six Hekayti pirates watched, while a dozen Nall warriors waited in gleaming black armor next to a shuttle that was aimed toward the stars. “You may think that I enjoy what I do,” he said, behind Zoznazz. Coming around to the Lotorian’s right shoulder, he leaned over to whisper, “You would be right. I do. Very much.” The smile wasn’t so forced now. He stopped, staring directly down at Zoznazz once more. “Imagine my disappointment if you deprive me of further amusement. I cannot tell you how angry I would be if you suddenly told me exactly what I wanted to know.”

The Lotorian gazed up at the interrogator, mouth falling open in confusion, eyes glazing. What he said made perfect sense. Just tell him. Take his fun away. He wouldn’t like that. No, he wouldn’t like that at all.

“You can do it,” the Light Singer assured him. “I won’t like it. But you can do it.” He turned to look out at the stars, the faint blue haze of the atmosphere containment force field barely visible. “The artifact’s location. Tell me.”

Zoznazz’s angular ears swiveled as he tried to work his way through the tangled confusion of his thoughts. He didn’t want to say anything. It felt like a trick. He knew all about the deceptions of the Kamir and their ilk. Like most Lotorians, he trusted no psionic aliens, but he was especially distrustful of Aukami, Light Singers, Timonae – direct descendents of the ancient and manipulative Kamir. Yet he wanted very much to make this Light Singer furious, and it seemed obvious to him that talking about the Kamir artifact he had seen on the derelict in the Plosa Nebula at coordinates…

“There we go,” the Light Singer said, aura shifting to a cool blue as a smile broadened across his face. He turned to the Medlidikke with the spear stabbed into Zoznazz’s arm and said, “Ready your crew. We have a location.”

“What about him?” the pirate growled, nodding toward the chained Lotorian.

Still smiling, the interrogator said, “Oh, I’m so enraged that I couldn’t possibly stand here and look at him any longer. So I want you to take him into the cell and finish him off for me. Don’t take too long, though. The Vox is waiting. He’s much less patient than I am.”


31 Days of OtherSpace II

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Back in March, inspired by Jonathan Coulton’s Thing a Week, I committed to writing at least one vignette a day about OtherSpace for 31 days straight. The result? This collection of short OtherSpace fiction.

It’s time to do it again!

Exercises like this have a few great benefits. First, they let me get my brain back into the ground-level storytelling elements of OtherSpace, instead of all the time I spend mostly looking at things from a stratospheric view. Second, it provides creative content for the blog. Third, it might encourage others to write their own stories. Creativity as a contagion! Fourth, these glimpses into the OtherSpace universe might draw more people to get involved in the game.

For those wondering about National Novel Writing Month in November, though, I’m sad to say that I won’t be participating this year. I’d like to, but Catherine and I are planning a trip to the Virgin Islands around Thanksgiving time and I just don’t want to put that kind of time pressure on myself with everything else that’s going on. Let me know if you’re giving NaNoWriMo a try, though. I’ll cheer you on!

The Road to World Conquest: Brody’s World!

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m trying to bring all my worlds together in an easy-to-manage package.

Facebook friends, Twitter followers, former colleagues from the St. Petersburg Times, new neighbors in the Triangle, pals from World of Warcraft and Fallen Earth, classmates from high school and college – I want everyone to feel welcome in the virtual universe that I’ve created at Jointhesaga.com.

So, to that end, I’ve built a new chunk of grid that I call “Brody’s World,” where new characters created on the MUSH will start from now on. First, you’re dropped in my neighborhood, Watts Hospital. If you want to go to OtherSpace, you walk into my house, up the stairs, into my office, and through the door marked ENTER OTHERSPACE. But if space opera’s not your thing, if you just want to wander around my brain or sit and chat, I’ve got places for that on the grid.

I don’t spend a lot of time on instant messengers like Skype. You will rarely find me using Facebook’s chat feature. But I’m often active on OtherSpace. So, if you want to contact me in real-time, the best thing to do is visit jointhesaga.com 1790 and give me a shout! I’m usually lurking in Brody’s Office.

For useful client software that’ll help you connect, visit this link.

The Road to World Conquest: Gaming up the MUSH

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Dominion‘s going to turn OtherSpace into EVE Online.”

That’s the sentiment someone shared in a discussion on the MUSH the other day. Despite the fact that OtherSpace gaining 450,000 players like the popular multiplayer space sim would be amazingly awesome, this comment wasn’t intended to be complimentary.

Dominion is an extension – call it an expansion pack! – of the basic OtherSpace crafting system, designed to allow players to go beyond simply making personal weapons, armor, and gadgets into the realm of macro-crafting – building on their professions, becoming business moguls, and maybe even shaping their own empires.

To the extent that you can use the system to create corporations, I suppose it is like EVE Online.

But the truth is, it’s not a fair comparison. Honestly, the real comparison that detractors should be making is something that probably will cheese them off even more: Dominion is much more like a Facebook game, such as Empires & Allies or Mafia Wars. You’re using limited but replenishable resources (Saga Points for OS, “energy” in Zynga games) to grow your holdings and you can’t do it all on your own. You need help from other friends who play the game. So, OtherSpace Dominion is much more like shaping a metropolis in Cityville than it is like zooming around the galaxy, blowing people up for fun and profit in EVE.

I don’t consider this a bad thing, either way. Roleplaying MUSHes are a rarity these days. A MUSH that provides a Facebook-style game with a text interface? I think right now that makes OtherSpace one of a kind, and something like Dominion might make our MUSH even more attractive to potential players who fall under the Socializer/Achiever/Explorer quadrants of the gaming archetypes.

We might trick all these Farmville players into joining a *truly* collaborative social online game.

Wouldn’t that be great?

The Road to World Conquest: Juicebox pilfering

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

So, lesson learned: We don’t park the Juicebox on the street in front of the house ever again.

Last night, I almost moved it back into the driveway next to Catherine’s Honda. Unfortunately, when it occurred to me to do so, I was already fading from the effects of the Benadryl that I’d taken a little while earlier.

When I woke up this morning and took Huck for his walk, I found that the car was unlocked. The glove compartment was open. Papers were scattered on the passenger and driver seat.

No damage to the car. But…yeah, stuff was missing. What they took:

* The Garmin GPS device. It was kind of wonky, anyway. I didn’t use it because the virtual keypad sometimes just didn’t register the touch of my finger when I tried to hit certain letters or numbers. It’s not too reliable. And the guy yelled “Recalculating” way too much. Good riddance!

* The iPhone charger/radio transmitter we picked up in Mobile during our road trip. This let me listen to iTunes over my car stereo while it charged the phone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was useful. I’ll miss it.

* The multi-socket power adapter. This let me plug in my iPhone, the Garmin, and Catherine’s Blackberry charger. I’ll miss it too.

* Size XL Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band souvenir T-shirt from the greatest hits collection that I picked up a week or two ago. I liked to let Huck lie on that when he was in the back of the car. Smelled like wet dog. I won’t miss it.

Things they didn’t take:

* The car title. Yay!

* The hub caps. Woo!

* The checkered silver and black tie draped over the back seat. Not my favorite tie, but glad it’s still around.

* The basketball on the floorboard. Apparently, my thief was just a gadget freak and not at all into fitness. I suspect he’ll pay a price for that in the long run.

This is the first time I’ve been the victim of a property crime since the 1990’s, when thieves stole my Honda Accord and took it joyriding around Tampa while playing death metal on my cassette player.

Welcome to Durham!

The Road to World Conquest: Crime may not pay, but at least it’s not extorting me like being a good guy

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m breaking the law.

My Alabama license plate expired at the end of July after we moved back to Durham, North Carolina. I’ve been trying to get new NC plates since we got here, but suffice to say that this has been…challenging.

Last week, I reported to the DMV with my old NC license plate, my Alabama car title (which I had just received after getting my Alabama plate in March), and a checkbook to cover the cost of the new tag. The amiable old man behind the counter looked up my license plate number and informed me that Wake County had a tax block on reissuing a tag. Apparently, I owed some money to the county from 2010. He didn’t know how much. Also, the system seemed to think that my GEICO car insurance had been cancelled, so I would need to bring in a Form FS-1, which I would have to request from the insurance company.

That day, I called the tax office and discovered that I owed about $6 somehow. Paid it immediately, removing the tax block. I called GEICO and requested the FS-1 so that it could be mailed to me.

Yesterday, the FS-1 form arrived. I had everything I needed!

This morning, I jumped in the Juicebox. When I got to the tag office, however, I realized that I had brought everything except the FS-1 form. Not to worry. Luckily, I live just a few blocks from the DMV. I drove back home, snatched the form from the box on the kitchen counter, and then made my way back to the mall.

The clerk this time was a kindly middle-aged woman with bleached blonde hair who took my old NC tag, my driver’s license, my GEICO FS-1 form, and my Alabama title. She started filling out a form on the DMV computer. Then she told me that because I hadn’t turned my tag in after moving to Alabama, and because the system showed my insurance as being cancelled, I would have to pay a $100 fine for driving without insurance before I could get a valid plate.

I’ve had car insurance the entire time. However, I shifted it to the state of Alabama after moving there.

“Can I make that fine go away if I can demonstrate that I’ve been insured the entire time?” I asked. “Because I have. My coverage never lapsed.”

“Oh, sure, you can do that,” she said. “You’ll need to get an FS-1 form from your insurance company.”

I pointed to the one on her desk. “Already did that, didn’t I?”

“That’s not for the right date,” she replied. “You have to get one that proves you had coverage on 1/22/11.”

“Really not making this easy for me,” I said.

“At least you’ll save the hundred dollars,” she said.

“Maybe,” I said. “Can I get a temporary tag?”

“Not without that form.”

“So maybe I’ll save $100, but maybe I’ll have to pay a fine for driving with an expired tag,” I said.

“I don’t know how much that would be,” she said. “I’m not a police officer.”

I checked the web. Non-moving violation fines like that can cost up to $500, but it’s probably more in the neighborhood of $150.

Now I’m back to square one. Gotta call GEICO again, swim through the bureaucracy, and snag a different FS-1.

It shouldn’t be such a hassle to try to be a good guy.

The Road to World Conquest: Distracted

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Three weeks without a new blog entry? Seriously?

I could understand this level of neglect for someone who has a job. But for one of the unwashed masses living off unemployment, it’s totally unacceptable.

What else have I got to do, after all? Watch soap operas? Those are all getting cancelled and replaced by infomercials. Take a walk outside? Don’t you know the terrible things that await people who try to cross in traffic? Or, perish the thought, look for an actual job? I’m really enjoying all this free time listening to Huck bark at squirrels, rabbits, joggers, fluttering leaves, wind, cracking asphalt, satellites in high orbit…

Actually, I’ve been plenty busy.

First, thanks to some very generous backers, the OtherSpace Kickstarter project was a success. So, next Thursday, a new story arc will start, underwritten by sponsors for the first time! We’re still looking for more OtherSpace sponsors, though, so if you’ve got a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you want to help enable my caffeine addiction, I’ll return the favor by putting your name in print and maybe sending you some OtherSpace swag!

Second, in preparation for the arc, I’ve been busily building a new grid on OtherSpace for the city of San Angeles on Earth, where most of the action will take place during the next few months.

Third, I’ve been looking for so-called “real jobs” in the video game, journalism, and public relations industries in the Raleigh/Durham area. No word back on any of these opportunities so far. Maybe they’re waiting until October to see how the fiscal quarter wraps up. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m not math-inclined enough. Whatever. I’d just like some kind of feedback that provides either hope or closure.

But, you know, the Roy Neary part of my brain – the part that wants to build mountains out of mashed potatoes and chase UFOs across the country – that part doesn’t want me to settle for a real job.

That’s the part that made me go online and order a new magnetic Jointhesaga.com sign to slap on the side of the Juicebox so I could drive around town advertising OtherSpace. It’s the part that has me reaching out to Triangle gaming enthusiasts and local colleges to build word of mouth. And it’s the part that, emboldened by the success of the Kickstarter fundraising effort, decided to add the element of tiered sponsorship and rewards to the new JTS website.

It wants me to do what I do best for a living. It wants me to finally turn what I’ve been doing as a hard-working hobby for 13 years into a serious paying concern that does more in the long term than just give me a little extra spending money. Here’s me telling the universe: I want to build something that can support OTHER people, not just me.

I think it can happen, especially if I work on building more local support in the Triangle area as well as continuing to promote OtherSpace throughout the Internet.

Meanwhile, I’m definitely hedging my bets. I spend a good part of my mornings looking through websites for job opportunities, each and every day, because it’s the responsible thing to do. But I’m also spending a good chunk of time simply promoting my project, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, or by slapping the sign on the side of my car while I drive around Durham on my way to the UPS Store, Southpoint, or the Duke trail.

I’ve also signed up with a freelance writing gig site, just on the offchance that I can land some quick-and-dirty/no-long-term-committment jobs.

So, all that stuff has kept me kind of distracted from the blog.