Friday, December 18, 2009

Fast Forward

It's been a while since I posted something useful on this blog, so evidently a lot has happened since. Instead of making this a four and a half page long discourse of recent (and not so recent) events, I'll try to keep it short. I've had a weird run-in (or should I say 'run-over') with a cat, bought a new car and a new computer, and lost my job.

About the cat, I'm currently trying to write this story down, so in a while you might see it appear on this blog. It's worth the wait, believe me.

Our old car was not going to pass the safety inspection, so we got a new Opel Zafira TD 1.7 family vehicle, and it's a joy to drive around in. The more buttons in the cockpit, the happier I am.

My old computer was slowly dying on us, so we got a quad core 2.33 GHz with 6 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce G210 from Hewlett Packard. It looked like a nice piece of machinery, except for the fact that it didn't have any wireless network controllers built in (which I only discovered after purchase at home). Not a big problem 'per se' because I still had a PCI wireless card lying around, were it not for the fact that this particular HP model didn't have any PCI slots. At all. I was baffled. So I had to drive around looking for a PCI-Express wifi card, which exists but was nowhere in stock -- nobody uses these anyway. I came home in the end with one of those shitty USB wifi sticks, which cost me another pretty penny on top of the new PC. But hey, we're online again and we've got a pretty decent loadout that can run all my favorite 'oldies' flawlessly at maximum graphical detail (Thief 3, Oblivion, Unreal Tournament 2003, ...), albeit with a considerate shortage of available USB ports.

And the job at Larian Studios, well... Suffice to say I got my 3 months notice and a load of crock to justify it. I was 'unwilling and unable to do enough overtime' and I was the 'most expensive developer at the company', so I've learned. I wasn't trustworthy enough anymore to start on a new project. Well, here's my side of the story: I've dedicated more than three years to that company. I've neglected my son, my daughter, my wife, and my own health for Larian. I've spent more than 8 months straight in crunch mode, which was 2 months longer than any of my colleagues -- despite the fact that I was the only one with a wife and 2 children (one of which was in pediatric intensive care for a week, by the way) and I was the only one suffering a daily 4-hour commute all that time. There were times when I left for work at 7h45 in the morning, to come back only after 23h00 in the evening, catch a little sleep and leave for work again -- for days in a row without even seeing my children. Deadlines kept being pushed back, so we basically had one each week. I was way short on sleep and stressed beyond recognition, but apparently that still wasn't enough. That's what I put into this company, and now I got my reward. And to top it all off, I got official word that the company was moving to closer quarters (after me lobbying for it for three years) that would have reduced my commute from 4 hours to 1, in the EXACT SAME conversation in which I got fired for not being able to work longer. Go figure.

However, I am really grateful that I no longer work at Larian Studios. Sure I miss the colleagues and the coolness of 'making video games', but I haven't been more relaxed since I-can't-remember-when. I'm extremely relieved that I don't have to deal with the bullshit any more -- all the broken promises, last-minute feature changes and plannings turned upside down are now behind me. I won't have to be dragged down any longer in the low morale that's oozing in those hallways after finishing Divinity II. Despite not having found a new job yet, I feel a hell of a lot better!

It sure feels good to get this off my chest. The ranting's over now, I promise -- no hard feelings anymore. I do wish the best of luck to all the guys and the one girl at Larian Studios for the next Divinity title (or what else lies in wait), because they are definitely going to need it in the years to come. I look forward to buying and playing their future games and I wish to thank Swen for giving me the opportunity to live my dream, even though it was a short one. Thanks guys, and so long!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

People

The major problem -- one of the major problems, for there are several -- one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it's a well known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

From "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", by Douglas Adams.

Friday, August 28, 2009

RPGs for a living?

I'm currently at a seriously intimidating -- if I may call it that -- yet exciting crossroad in my life. Part of it is that I will be quitting my current job in a couple of months and I have to find some other source of income before then.

At the same time, two people from the RPG blog-o-sphere (namely Johnn and Yax) recently started up a program, called The Gamer Lifestyle to help aspiring RPG enthousiasts make money out of their productions, ideas, and what-not. A sort of virtual RPG company incubator, if you will.

Now, I'm not saying I can make a living out of RPGs alone -- I'm not the entrepreneur type, and not comfortable with managing a business -- but I do like the idea of receiving some extra pocket money off the back of my favorite hobby.

I was thinking I would concentrate on creating content (mainly adventures) and publishing them on a blog. In fact, I recently had to design a quick side adventure for the D&D4 campaign we're playing in (our DM is taking some time off, and I'm cutting in for a session), and I was pretty amazed at how fast I could make a pretty decent adventure (about three train-trips to/from work). Okay, I admit, I had to 'borrow' a skill challenge from the excellent SkillForge, but I did tweak it to better fit my mini-story. Also, I already have a cool name for the blog.

I will first try to come up with some more material, and if I'm sure I can keep it up, I might start with this idea.

All siked up!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

(Lack of) Drawing

I don't draw that much anymore, even though I would very much like to. I used to attribute this to a lack of time -- I'd hate to start on a drawing, if I suspect I will not get to finish it -- but now I believe there's another reason behind it: it's difficult for me to start if other people are around me. Especially other people who are much better at it than myself.

It's a stupid reason, I know, but I can't shake it. I hope I someday will, because right now I'm getting nowhere.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The First Men in the Moon

I just finished "The First Men in the Moon", a novel story by H.G. Wells, and really enjoyed it.

It's a fiction that's very well narrated, to the point where I could really lose myself in the story. The descriptions are vivid, the (few) action scenes are short but fast, and the interaction between the protagonists are very credible and three-dimensional.

Seeing that it was written some 70 years before Armstrong and his companions actually set foot on the moon, Wells obviously had no idea whether or not his depiction of our satellite would hold any truth. Nonetheless, his descriptions are all so strongly supported with sound scientific explanations that one might actually believe his version of the moon to be real, perhaps in some other parallel dimension or something. A classic example of the true meaning of Science Fiction, if you ask me.

Beyond that, the story contains some very interesting philosophical issues, such as the disconnection of mind from body that could occur when one floats alone through space in absolute darkness for weeks on end.

It's so rich in detail and atmosphere, so complete and correct in scientific foundations, but at the same time so naive and filled with a childlike wonder that it's really enjoyable on all levels. And to top it off, the ominous, gritty ending is right up my alley.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gourmet Weekend

For my 30th anniversary, my wife treated me to a gourmet weekend in Burg-Reuland, a small community in the province of Li├Ęge, Belgium. As a special bonus, she also invited our close relatives (brothers and sisters, parents, and children) to join us. My father-in-law had some prior engagements, so he couldn't join us. We also decided it would be best for our son to relax in a familiar environment with not too many people (what with all the hospital-adventures he's been through in the last few months), so my mother-in-law volunteered to stay home with him (for which we were, of course, immensely grateful!)

We arrived at the hotel on Friday afternoon, and stayed until Sunday afternoon. All meals were included and most were four courses, except for the meal on Saturday evening, which was a six-course dinner. Other than eating, we relaxed on the terrace overlooking the fishpond, went for a stroll through the village and surrounding country, or played boardgames. We all had a terrific weekend, despite one of the playing cards from my Shadows over Camelot boardgame getting caught in the wind and sinking in the fishpond. Which reminds me, I still have to order a new one.

Now, this wouldn't have been a blogpost, if I didn't have any musings on the topic. In fact, I have two.

First of all, it occurred to me how much happier our daughter was, with her brother not around. Not that she doesn't like him, though - she always enjoys watching her brother play and they both get along very well - but he always takes the center of attention, leaving her to mostly entertain herself. This time, though, she got passed from one person to the other, was fed bottles by nearly everyone present, was constantly played with, talked to, and cuddled. I've never seen her smile so much. She's an amazingly sweet girl, and I don't even enjoy half of it, so I've decided to pay her a lot more attention and spend a lot more time with her from now on.

Secondly - and this one wasn't a musing as much as it was a hammer on the head - I've come to realize, since I live in Dendermonde with my wife and children, how much I miss my parents, brother, and sister. The little time we spent together this last weekend reminded me so hard of our childhoods, the fun my brother, my sister, and I had together, and the conversations we held with our parents at the table, that our parting and saying goodbyes hit me like a train; I've been overly emotional ever since we got back, and I admit to breaking up in tears on more than one occasion by now. Much of it might be because of the exhaustion of the past half year, but some of it roots in these family ties for certain. So, I would also like to spend more time with them.

This might turn out to be a problem, though. I also decided to spend more time with our son, because he needs the care and attention now more than ever; I need more time for myself to blow some steam every now and then; and I don't want to spend any less time with my wife, because she deserves a lot of love and attention too (because if it weren't for her...)

I think it's about high time for some changes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Game on!

I have the best wife a gamemaster could wish for.

Due to serious time constraints, what with a family and a demanding job, I've been deprived of my games for the last half year or so. Last week, though, I read an article about playing solo campaigns, and it suddenly dawned on me. If I could get my wife, who had played in my group sessions before, to agree to a solo adventure, we might just squeeze in sessions during evenings between dinner and bedtime.

And she agreed. We decided that D&D Pathfinder would be the best system since she was somewhat familiar with 3.5, and the Pathfinder rules don't change much. During the last couple of days, she rolled up a character she wanted to play, while I decided which adventure to run. She chose to play something completely unlike her: a male dwarven barbarian; I decided to run the first Pathfinder adventure path, Rise of the Runelords, slightly modified to work for a single player, and with the Pathfinder Beta rules.

I'm very anxious to see how this will turn out; it will certainly have a couple of positive effects. I will be able to spend time on at least one hobby again; I can improve on my GM and narrative skills; she can improve on her rules knowledge; and I finally get to see hands-on how the Pathfinder adventures play.

Baby, you're the best!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

In the wake of a tragedy

What was supposed to be a routine grocery run this morning, turned out as an awkward, but touching trip down sympathy-lane.

The Belgian people among you need no introduction to the drama that occurred on Friday last week. Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, read here.

This thing happened not far from where I live. In fact, I pass that nursery every Saturday when my son and I have our walk to the baker and the bank. Strangely enough, I have been able to remain calm and sober about this situation this last week, even considering the fact that I have a two year old son and three months old daughter myself. But today, that changed.

When we approached the nursery this morning, it was the first time I saw the scene since the incident. The entry was taped off, with an official memorial wreath barring the entrance to the building. Next to the wreath, I could see from afar some flowers and children's handiwork adorning the pavement. I remember thinking that it seemed very little, considering the impact this drama had caused, but assumed that most of what was left behind by sympathetic people had already been 'cleaned up'.

To my surprise, when I continued around the corner, the entire side of the building was stacked with toys, teddy bears, flowers, cards, candles, and who knows what more! It was a big mass of hopeful colors, a true sight to behold! I regret not carrying a camera at the time; you're just going to have to imagine it.

Continuing our walk, I started to notice how deserted and somber the streets around the nursery seemed, in contrast to the Big Prismatic Wall. The air was heavy with sorrow and fear, and I couldn't help but feel that the white balloons and ribbons attached to the front doors were not so much out of sympathy for the unfortunate families, than they were to ward off some evil spirit at their doorsteps.

As we came closer to the bakery and bank, we also approached the town's church. I guess it came as no surprise when I saw a hearse parked out in front of it. What did strike me as unusual when we walked around to reach the bank, though, was how the entire parking lot around the church was blocked from traffic, and several police officers were patrolling the church -- most likely to make sure no press would intrude on the privacies of the burial ceremony. I assumed either one of the two deceased children or the deceased nurse was to be buried today.

Having finished our errands at the bank, we set to return around the other side of the church to head home, and at that moment the bells started their funeral toll. The solemn ringing cut right through me, as my son and I watched from underneath up to the tower.

That was the first time since the tragedy that I've realized how extremely lucky I am with the family I still have.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Boozehounds!

Every morning I arrive at the train station of Oudenaarde, and every morning I see at least 2 people in a pub drinking beers. At 9 am. Every day.

It irritates me. I don't pay taxes so some people can spend their unemployment wages on alcohol every day. They should be finding a job, instead of wasting their lives and my money, damn it! Mind you, I have nothing against people drinking; just people drinking in the morning, when they should have better things to do.

I know it's not my business, and I know I shouldn't get riled up about it, but if I had some power in this country, I would submit a law that states that public places cannot serve alcohol before 12 am. Period.