Month: June 2007

Planitia Update 18: Want some code to go with those textures?

Truly not ugly.

Wow, I don't want to gouge my eyes out!

Fixed the sand/grass transition and implemented a minimap. It’s really starting to look like a game.

The thing that has been really slowing me down is a crasher…typically I’d make a code change, think I’d fixed it, and then I’d add a new feature or expand something and it would pop back up again. I really, really think I’ve fixed it this time (and greatly lowered the game’s memory requirements while doing so, which is a bonus).

At this point I need some god power buttons, a mana bar, and some rudimentary enemy AI and it’ll actually be a game. Something by the end of June? Perhaps. We’ll see.

Riding in Cars with Game Designers

Overheard while driving back from lunch last week:

Game Developer 1: “Hey, is [COMPANY REDACTED] still working on [GAME NAME REDACTED]?”

Game Developer 2: “Has E3 happened yet this year?”

GD1: “No, don’t think so…”

GD2: “Then no.” (grin)

One of the worst things about working in game development is knowing cool stuff and not being able to tell anybody. For instance, I am currently working on The Sims Castaway Stories. I can tell you that because the web site announcing the game is up. I can’t tell you anything else about it. As I’ve mentioned before, since Aspyr Media does almost all contract work, it’s absolutely vital that we not get a reputation for leakage.

I can’t wait for E3 to finally pass so I can tell you about the [COMPELLING FEATURE REDACTED].

What the…I can’t even tell them about that? Damn.


This is the story of a cheese.

The story begins, like all great stories, with a road trip. This one was to GenCon 2000 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Only…I didn’t get to go.

Back then I was working at Human Code as a tester. There were two other guys with me in the test department, Nathan Regener and Scott Hazle (whom we called Shazle for short). All three of us were avid gamers. All three of us wanted to go to GenCon. But somebody had to stay behind and do the work.

Guess who that ended up being.

Okay, I’m not bitter. I really couldn’t have afforded to go anyway, so it wasn’t that big a loss. But since our boss was out as well, I ended up spending the week alone, working on a huge project that was already overdue. I ended up working about eighty hours that week and was feeling pretty unappreciated by the time they got back.

So, Tuesday morning, Nathan, Shazle and Jeremy (friend from another office who also went) waltz in. They unload the usual armfuls of posters, programs, book covers, tchotkes, etc. as well as copies of the Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition Player’s Handbook. I’m suitably impressed.

Then they pull out the Package. Now, I am fully aware of the custom of Wisconsin football fans, so I knew exactly what it was: a cheesehead. You know, one of those silly cheese-wedge-shaped hats that Packer fans wear to games. They told me that if I opened the package, I would have to wear it. Being in my right mind, I then refused to open the package until they threatened me with pointy implements.

I was right and wrong at the same time. It had started as a cheesehead. But it had become a magical artifact – a powerstone, in fact, charged with the essence of dozens of writers, game designers, artists, and other cool people.

And now I present the Cheesehead to you.

Pictures of the entire Cheesehead are coming. In the meantime, I was able to scan its various surfaces to bring you the individual signatures. Clicking on a name will give you a closeup of that signature and the story behind it.

The Top:

The Beginning

Richard Le Parmentier
Dave Arneson
Greg Stafford
Ramon Perez
John Kovalic
Neil Barret, Jr.
Tracy Hickman
Peter Woodward

The Curved Side:

Andrew Greenberg
Gary Gygax
Sam Wood
Phil Foglio
Owen Seyler

The Right Side:

Aaron Williams
Unknown Two
Kate Novak
Christian Moore
K.W. Jeter
Katherine Murphy
Todd Lockwood

The Left Side:

Toivo Rovainen
Kaja Foglio
Michael A. Stackpole
Jeff Grubb
Shane Hensley
James Ernest
I’m From Chicago – I Don’t Do Cheese
J. Michael Strazinsky

The Bottom:

Dave Mattingly

People We Didn’t Get To Sign

The Beginning

Nathan: No shit, there we were. GenCon 2000. It was me, Shazle and Jeremy. The decision having been made to get something for Anthony, we embarked on a quest to find the most heinous item we could. I came up with the idea of the classic Wisconsin cheesehead…

Shazle: No, we were at the mall and saw them and thought, “You know, Anthony wouldn’t want one of those. Let’s get one for him.”

Jeremy: What I remember is that we were at the mall and they fucking closed on us and we went to three different restaurants and we ended up eating at this Japanese place and we were leaving and laughing about how Anthony was at home doing all the work and we decided to get him something and Nathan said “cheesehead” and I said cool, but what we needed to do was write “My Stupid Friends Went To GenCon 2000 And All They Got Me Was This Stupid Cheesehead” on it and then we should get signatures from everybody we could. And then I went off and spent the rest of the time hanging with Melanie, so…

Nathan: So me and Shazle did all the work.

Nathan: Everyone met this with a degree of surprise and occasional dismay. But everyone took it well and seemed happy enough to be signing something that wasn’t a picture of themselves or their own art that they’d seen a million times. A lot of them took a little extra time and chatted just because of the break in routine. Even if we don’t have something special to say about them, everyone was great about it. A finer group of people I couldn’t have met.

John Kovalic

John Kovalic – Creator of Dork Tower, Wild Life and various other comics.

Nathan: He touched my ass. No, he was very nice. He chuckled a bit and signed the damn cheese.

Tracy Hickman

Tracy Hickman – Fantasy author; co-creator of Dragonlance.

Dave Arneson

Dave Arneson – Co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons.

Nathan: He was sitting there looking so bored before we got there. Then we said “Sign our cheese!” He laughed a lot and signed it. Then he yelled, “Photo opportunity!” He put it on and danced around while random assorted hangers-on took pictures. It was actually kind of disturbing.

Anthony: I can’t help but think that one of those pictures would make a wonderful companion piece. Hint, hint to our audience!

Ramon Perez

Ramon Perez – One of the main artists for Palladium.

Nathan: I knew Ramon through another set of friends. He’s Canadian.

Greg Stafford

Greg Stafford – Creator of the world of Glorantha.

Nathan: He touched my ass.

Richard Le Parmentier

Richard Le Parmentier – Played Admiral Motti in Star Wars: A New Hope. Told off Darth Vader and got choked – you know the guy.

Shazle: He heard about the cheese prior to us showing up. We had acquired a small reputation by then – and this was when we were only about halfway done. He told us he had never signed a cheese before. He was English, and didn’t know exactly what it was, so we explained it to him. He was familiar with the concept of “rabid football fan”, though.

Peter Woodward

Peter Woodward – Played Galan on Babylon 5: Crusade.

Nathan: He touched my ass.

Shazle: He was autographing his Babylon 5 card or face shots for ten bucks.

Nathan: We walked up and handed him the cheese and he said, “Oh wow. I’ve never charged for signing a cheese before, I don’t think I should start now.” And he signed it for free.

Neil Barret, Jr.

Neil Barret, Jr. – Writer

Nathan: He was a writer. He did not seem amused. He was kinda cranky. He was the only one.

Shazle: He was at the booth with Michael Stackpole and K.W. Jeter.

Right Side:

K.W. Jeter

K.W. Jeter – Writer.

Nathan: Writer who was at the same booth as Michael Stackpole and Neil Barret, Jr.

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams – Creator of Nodwick.

Nathan: Kovalic handed it to him when he was done and he signed it.

Aaron Williams: It was the most challenging surface I’ve had to draw on, I must say. I barely made it out of the faux-swiss divots with my arm intact. I recommend that beginners practice signing styrofoam packaging before they attempt this feat themselves. 🙂

Kate Novak

Kate Novak – Writer. Co-creator of the Finder’s Stone Trilogy.

Christian Moore – Line designer for Star Trek, and one of the founders of Last Unicorn Games.

Katherine Murphy

Katherine Murphy

Shazle: She’s a vampire LARP player from Milwaukee. She’s 21.

Nathan: Cute girl named Kat who hung out with us for most of the convention.

We dunno...

Unknown 2: We don’t know.

Anthony: But someone out there probably does. Fill us in, please!

Todd Lockwood

Todd Lockwood – One of the conceptual artists for D&D3. Big red dragon on page 124 of PHB.

Shazle: He saw that Sam Wood had already drawn on it and said, “Damn, now I have to draw on it.”

The Curved Side:

Andrew Greenberg

Andrew Greenburg – One of the primary writers on Fading Suns.

Nathan: Really nice guy. He’s recognized me at the con for two years running. Had a great time with his devil (marketing guy) last year.

Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax – Co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

Nathan: The man who first brought me to Satan worship…no, he was really nice. He seemed genuinely touched when I thanked him for fifteen years worth of entertainment. And then he genuinely touched my ass.

Sam Wood

Sam Wood – Conceptual artist for D&D3.

Shazle: He was actually the first person to start drawing on it.

Phil Foglio

Phil Foglio – Artist of such great talent and so many things that to try to summarize him is to do a disservice.

Nathan: Laughed very hard.

Owen Seyler

Owen Seyler – Line Editor and primary designer for the Dune RPG for Last Unicorn Games.

Nathan: I gotta tell the LUG story. Back in ’92-’93, I was at Apple doing tech support and I get a call from these guys having problems with fonts. So I take the call and get their name and what company they’re with – turns out they are with Last Unicorn Games, and I was reading through Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth right when they called. So I started chatting with them and when Heresy came out (this was back when everyone was getting on the CCG bandwagon) I started demoing for them. Then I started playtesting Dune: The CCG for them. So they ended up paying my way into the first GenCon I ever attended. And we’ve been pals ever since. This year, when I got them to sign my copy of the Dune RPG, they signed it “To Nathan: You will be known as Usul among us.” Which I thought was awful damn nice of them.

Toivo Rovainen

Toivo Rovainen – Artist and Collator for Cheapass Games.

Kaja Foglio

Kaja Foglio – Phil Foglio’s wife and artist of many Magic cards.

Nathan: She’s…just…cute. I mean, really cute. Actually, they were rooming about four doors down from us our group and theirs all went down on the elevator together.

Shazle: And, of course, Nathan says “Okay, whose hand was that?”

Nathan: Now, I was standing in the back of the elevator. Kaja was at the very front, and she pipes right up, “Oh, that was mine. Sorry.”

Shazle: And Nathan replies, “Oh, I’m not.”

Michael Stackpole

Michael A. Stackpole – Writer extroadinarie.

Nathan: The first person who signed.

Shazle: No, the second. K.W. Jeter was the first. Well, all three of them signed it at once, I guess.

Jeff Grub

Jeff Grubb – Longtime TSR writer and fantasy author.

Shane Hensley

Shane Hensley – Creator of Deadlands at Pinnacle Entertainment.

Nathan: He seemed a little surprised when I whipped out the cheese.

James Ernest

James Ernest – Cheapass Games.

Nathan: I spent a bit of time with him hanging out. Really nice. Got to play his new game “Vegas, or Jame Ernest Writes Off Another Trip To Vegas” – that was fun. He signed it “US Government Property” just because he’s funny that way.

I Don't Do Cheese.

I’m From Chicago – I Don’t Do Cheese

Nathan: Cute girl at this booth that sold swords and assorted jewelry. She’s one of the people I’ve hung out with at GenCons past.

Anthony: It’s just reassuring to know that whatever she’s doing right now, it’s not cheese.

J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Strazinsky – Creator of Babylon Five.

Nathan: The first time I went up to him I just shook his hand and said, “Thanks for improving the quality of science fiction as a whole in the last decade.” I apologized then because I didn’t have anything for him to sign. The second time through, he seemed to recognize me, and chuckled when I whipped out the cheese. Then he touched my ass.

The Bottom:

Dave Mattingly

Dave Mattingly – Writer for

Nathan: Not the baseball player. Just some guy I’ve played some games with.

Anthony: I think that’s Don Mattingly.

Nathan: Shut the hell up.

People we didn’t get to sign it:

Anthony Daniels (C3PO) – Twenty bucks for a signature on anything. If you bought a picture of him for twenty bucks, you got the signature for free.

Chris Druschel (Sysadmin at Wizards of the Coast) – We were never able to get him and the cheese in the same room. We suspect he’s the anti-cheese. We watched him possibly drink himself into a better job.

Johnathan Tweet (Designer for Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition) – Nobody could find him during the entire con. Pity.

Technical Difficulties

My first attempt to move this blog to the main page of the site failed utterly. As a result, there are lots of broken images and links on the site. Comments should work, though. I’ll try to get it cleared up tonight.

The Blog is the Site

Let’s face it, this page is where the action is on this site. I haven’t updated the main page or my links in months.

Well, that’s because updating the main page or the links is annoying. It requires downloading pages, mucking around in their HTML and the uploading them again. Unlike updating my blog, which is quick and easy.

I had thought that the problem was that the blog really isn’t integrated into the rest of the site very well. I wanted to fix that so I did some research…turns out that WordPress is quite capable of running an entire site, especially one as simple as this one. So instead of WordPress integrating into the rest of the site, the rest of the site will disappear and this blog will become the site.

Thus the radical new template. The template layout is very nice; I especially like the buttons for my various pages at the top. The color scheme will probably change and I’ll do some other tweaking, but I’m hoping very soon to move the entire blog to the root of this site and then everyone can just come to to read new posts as well as download my finished games.

And if anyone has any suggestions, please feel free!

Name That Game 24!

This one will be easy.


I am personally very sorry that I never got a chance to get into this series of games, as it appears to have been a worthy successor to Wing Commander and Tie Fighter.

Name and developer, please. If you’re the first to get it right, I’ll name one of my villagers after you! Seriously!

Planitia Update 17: What the hell are you doing to that sheep?!


Which way is the sheep, George?

That three-by-three series of squares represents a town. (As I have mentioned earlier, I are no artist.) The villager is fetching food from the sheep (which currently has no AI and simply serves as a permanent food source) back to the village. When the village has enough food (or rather, has a large enough food income) it creates another villager, which…does the same thing. I should have them collecting wood as well very soon, and then it’ll be time to start tweaking how the village grows and shrinks based on the food and wood income and external events (like getting set on fire by a god power).

I’ve already got the village “wrapping” to fit to the terrain, so it’ll react appropriately to changes in the terrain height. Now I just need a little building to go in the middle, better textures…and the ability to grow.

And I’m aware that my beach-to-grass transition has gotten messed up. Can any eagle-eyed readers tell me why?

Credit Where It’s Due…

I forgot to mention that the terrible Cybermage audition was provided by Henry Kropf. Thanks, Henry! I’d been looking for that sound file for years.