Wednesday, June 27, 2007

From the Ground Up

Most of you who know me know my approach to RPGs is a bit like tissue paper. I do not run the same game system twice unless pressured specifically to do so. My philosophy is that a game should complete in three to six sessions and that each game should use its own system, engineered to support whatever it is you're trying to accomplish with your game.

Many people are very satisfied running their favorite system. "What I'm trying to accomplish with this game is to give my friends a good time! So I use a system I know we all enjoy!"

I say: you're really missing out! Oddball systems offer very different dynamics, and the fact that these are short games (even six sessions isn't really very long) means that even if they're terribly unbalanced, it's not going to be un-fun. Of course, not every oddball system is worth playing, and what you want to do with your game will never precisely fit any given system.

That's why I always roll my own.

So, for those of you who might want to try your hand at something deeper than picking a monster out of the manual, I'm planning on writing a set of articles on how to make your own systems. To find all of them, do a keyword search for "make your own" (link at bottom of essay).

This essay?

Turn order.

Turn order is a huge part of how your game feels. Here are some basic systems:

Free-for-all. Games default to free-for-all, and most games will be free-for-all even if they have some specific method, because most systems are sloppy enough that players won't be really aggressive about wanting to go first. The less advantage there is to going first, the more likely free-for-all is.

Free-for-all does everything bidding does, except crappily. There's nothing really wrong with that: bidding is often overkill, and free-for-all is basically zero overhead. Regardless of how you design your game, there will be a lot of free-for-all chatting at basically every moment of the game.

However, I suggest that if free-for-all serves all your game's needs, you're probably using a really boring system. All your players should be panting to be the next player to go.

Round Robin. More common in card games than tabletop RPGs, round robin simply goes around the table in a predictable order over and over. This is terrible, because not everyone has equal opinions at all times. I find that round-robinning usually means that half the players say "I pass" and the other half say, "I can't do what I wanted to any more!"

Round robin is a basic choice for more competitive games, or recursive games where the action of the last player matters hugely. However, in these situations much of the game lies in who you sit next to, so there should always be a game mechanic for switching seats and controlling turn order!

It is also not uncommon for the GM (if there is one) to interleave himself instead of simply getting to go once. Usually, giving the players five turns in a row is just begging for unbalance.

Staggered Round. This is a kind of round robin progression which has a kind of built in "fairness". Usually a staggered round means each time you go around the table, you start such that the person who went first last time goes last this time. This isn't the only option: another fun option is the "ping-pong" method where you go around the table, "bounce off" the GM, and go around in the opposite direction. This creates a kind of tit for tat mechanic which keeps players sitting "downwind" safer. There are other kinds of mechanics for this sort of thing, too.

Again, however, where you sit is tremendously important, so changing seats should be part of the gameplay. However, controlling turn order is less important, so it'll generally be more transparent as to who will go in what order. While, you know, still being something vaguely resembling fair. So even though the rules seem more complex on the surface, staggered round is usually better for newbies than the round robin, because the round robin is either boring (if you can't change turn order) or surprising (if you can).

Initiative. Many RPGs force players to go in a specific order that has nothing to do with where they sit. This is usually an initiative system: the faster their character, the sooner in the turn order they get to go. It also allows the GMs to interject NPC turns in a meaningful way rather than an arbitrary one.

The downside is that it is not a very juicy mechanic. It is dusty dry, either largely luck or almost entirely predetermined by character creation. There is not a moment-to-moment feeling of staking your resources on turn order.

"What the hell is he talking about?"

Try a different turn order type, you'll see what I'm talking about. Initiative is simply the dryest form of controlling player action, short of round robin with no way to control turn order. Nobody really gets excited about initiative. At least, nobody after they've played any system using any other method.

Simul. Some games try for simultaneous play. This is good for games which are potentially very competitive, but for cooperative games it makes teamwork needlessly cloudy and difficult. Also, while some people take their turns absurdly slow, those same people take ages to try to figure out what to do simul. Simply put, players love to build on what other players have done, and this muddies that equation.

Plus, unless you have at least eight players, you won't be saving any time going simul. Trust me, I dedicated a good chunk of a summer to it. Using a time clock to force timely moves will alienate your players faster than you can say "".

Bidding. Bidding is when players spend resources to determine turn order. For example, if everyone has ten chits and gets two more chits a round. Everyone bids chits and play goes from highest bid to lowest bid. Bids are either simul with a lot of tabletalk or in some other turn order with minimal tabletalk. (Competitive games are, of course, simul with no tabletalk.)

This lets players decide how much they want to go first (or last, if that's better). And, of course, it doesn't have to be chits they can only use for initiative: you can have a kind of "action point" system. They spend action points, they get to go first but have less action points to spend on actually doing stuff...

If bidding is going to slow you down too much, you can "front load" it - bid once for an entire sequence instead of rebidding each round. Also, you may want to read about the controlled random method if you like bidding but it seems too slow.

In order for bidding to be a viable system, turn order has to really matter.

Wounded Puppies. Some systems determine who goes in what order based on how well they did last round. Some systems make the winners of the last round have a better place in the turn order, but I would suggest the opposite: negative feedback loops are almost always better than positive feedback loops.

How you measure "how well they did" will determine the entire flavor of your system. If people who get injured more get to go first, it will feel like a very adrenal, high-tension game. If people who are closer to the enemy get to go first, it will tilt the entire play style of ranged characters and melee characters. It doesn't even have to be last round: it can be determined by a day's activities or somesuch.

This system really says something. If you want to give your game a message, this is a really easy way to do it. Just don't get preachy.

Controlled-Random. This method gives the players some control over their initiative but introduces a heavy random element. Usually, it's a simplified bidding system where what you can bid isn't so easily divisible.

For example, you might have a hand of three cards. You can play one as your initiative. (Maybe the others are used for hit and damage, or maybe initiative in the following rounds.) While there is a big random element, you have a level of control. Especially if you can trade cards.

There are many methods to do controlled random. That's a post in and of itself. But the basic idea creates a very strong, tense situation and creates a very good atmosphere. I highly recommend it.

Reverse Bidding. Reverse bidding is another handy shortcut. Basically, you have a list of numbers from 1 - 20. The players all get to choose any number they please, with the better numbers going first. Then the GM gets to choose a number or numbers.

The catch here is that every turn, each gets a token put on it. What that token represents depends on what the game is - maybe it's an XP boost, maybe it's a story token, whatever. Whenever a player picks a number, they get the tokens. (The GM does not take the tokens unless he only gets one turn, for balance purposes).

This is a specific example of a general idea. The idea being that you let players choose to act inefficiently in turn order in exchange for an advantage in something else. This is a very strong general-purpose method that can be applied to almost any facet of the game, even though this example is specifically for turn order.

Complex Phases. Not really a "type", this is really a mixing of types. The idea here is that your turn order varies dramatically depending on the phase. Maybe you bid on the movement phase, go round robin in the action phase, and go wounded puppy in the recovery phase. Maybe you can be a huge bastard and actually make the types have turns that players somehow choose at the beginning of each round, so they have to decide whether they want to do round robin for the first phase or the fifth phase.

Complex phases create a very complex interconnection between the players and the way actions reverberate through the game. While unsuitable for beginners, it can provide endless fascination for more advanced players.

Because a turn will typically have at least two (usually three) complex phases in it, these are not suitable for "fast" turns like rounds of combat. Instead, these are more suitable for huge chunks of battle, or political maneuvering, etc.

GM Fiat. Don't you do it. Just don't you do it.

How many of these methods have you used in an RPG? Have you used any I didn't think of? Did you really read that whole freaking thing?

It's your turn now.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cooperative Storytelling

Everyone likes to tell stories.

Many people think they don't, and many more think they are terrible at it. But I find that, given the right constraints and suggestions (choppertunities glarrrrrrghhhhh...) even the most uptight, unimaginative person can tell great stories. Or, at least, pieces of a great story.

When you get people together to tell stories, there are basically three stages. Each player moves through the stages at different speeds: some players need a lot of help, some players just need a little time to adjust to the situation.

The first stage is "bewilderment". In this stage, the player doesn't really know enough to try to tell a story. In this stage, the player is usually happiest to hear stories - to follow, rather than lead.

Giving the player a viewpoint and examples is the fastest way to get them through this stage. For example, "You're the pirate king, and those guys over there could use some pirate help..." or "you're the incarnation of joy, so keep that in mind as you play..."

The second stage is "immersion". In this stage, the player is part of the world. In this stage, they usually want to explore the world using their viewpoint, and they can be relied on to seek out new experiences and help direct events as their viewpoint (character) would.

Many LARPs and tabletops reach this second stage and stop. It's easy to design a game which uses the second stage, but more difficult to design a game which allows the players to get to stage three.

The third stage is "creation". In this stage, a player stops adhering to the viewpoint given them and begins to think about the world and its stories at a larger level. At this stage, they can be relied on to guide and create situations that try to make the world more interesting.

In order to allow for this third stage, though, a game has to let players make significant changes... which has serious drawbacks. And I'm not talking about content or any of that - generally, players moderate themselves very well as to what is acceptable storytelling or not.

No, I'm talking about the fact that the history of the world gets very deep. New players and slower players will be unable to keep up with the flurry of new stories, and the people who created the stories aren't going to want to tell them over and over again. This generally results in "writer packs" of three to five people working on their corner of the universe and basically ignoring the fact that everyone else lives here, too.

Moreover, I have never seen a game designed to let players be in any of the three stages without being hindered. I've designed games which are good for any one stage, but the rules make it hard to be in one of the other stages. This leads to a very uncomfortable unbalance as to how many players of each stage there are. I don't know the ideal ratio, if there is such a thing.

What do you think? Can you think of a rule set which lets players go through all three stages unhindered? Can you think of a way to bring in fresh blood without requiring a lot of overhead from the experienced players?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

LARP: Mixing and Matching

One of the basic methods of keeping players entertained in a LARP is to have them "switch off" their friends and partners: spend half an hour with the elf king, spend an hour with the space robot. Switch it up!

This has two results. First, it allows each character to have less plot, since they're only going to be exposing it to any other given character for a few minutes. Second, it allows the various plots and themes to be mixed together as the players problem-solve across a dozen meetings with half a dozen people. "The space robot needs a power source... and the elf king has that magic stone of power..."

Every LARP leans heavily on this "automixing" system, because it (A) feels efficient and (B) means you don't have to get your players to memorize a book before starting.

But there are downsides to this method.

First, it's not really very intuitive. Experienced LARPers know to talk to someone new every time they run out of things to do, but first-time (and even third-time) players tend to stand around looking flummoxed. While this can be reduced by pointing specific people to specific people at specific times, that makes the game feel less like a game and more like a play.

Second, it's extremely hard to predict. Who a player decides to get involved with next depends on proximity, charisma, energy, and whether a given player is busy. As far as I can tell, if you give them specific people to talk to, the game can be modeled to some extent... but the moment you rely on them going out and finding something to do on their own, CRASH.

Lastly, some people work really well together - they have a kind of chemistry.

If you're not forcing mixing, then these two or three players will bond together like glue, totally throwing off the factioning of your game. "Why the hell are the psi-cops working with the rangers?"

If you're forcing mixing, then you're going to lose out on their potential - players with chemistry can produce more immersive content (primarily for themselves) than any writer.

I've run a lot of "strong-story" games to explore this topic, and I don't think I've ever really gone into any detail on them before. So, this weekend: "players are better at playing your game than you, so shut up and let them."

But this post was to highlight a basic (but usually overlooked) component of LARP design. If you've ever played, designed, or run a LARP, take a look: did you see what I described?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Player generated content is like nuclear power: it can fuel anything you want for as long as you want, but produces some astonishingly nasty byproducts and occasionally an atomic bomb.

Actually, it's a lot like nuclear power, because those radioactive byproducts that are too hot to touch (usually porn) can also be used for fuel in their own way - via a breeder reactor. Har har. Har har har.

Like nuclear power, player generated content also has three steps. First, you have to get the right kind of material in the right density. Second, you need to set it off in a controlled fashion. Third, you have to have some method of harnessing the gentle glow that ensues.

As an example, Second Life is really great at harnessing the power of players, but it is really terrible at controlling the size of the reaction: they have a really hard time getting the right number of the right kinds of players together. They usually either have too few (not enough reaction mass) or too many (cascade griefing).

As another example, World of Warcraft is really great at getting the right number of players together, but the energy they throw off is only minimally useful because it has no path of expression. To stretch the metaphor, I guess you could say that instead of having a chain reaction, World of Warcraft warms itself on the simple radiation that the reaction mass produces.

I find that most people who think about player content have this idea that players will cluster into useful groups if left to their own devices. Sort of an "if you build it, they will come" philosophy. That's really not a very good way to build a nuclear reactor, is it? It's not even a very good way to build a nuclear bomb, which is what most of those people are trying to do (in a metaphorical sense, of course).

What kinds of methods can you think of for gathering a reaction mass of players, setting them off, and harnessing them as they burn? All without losing control, of course.

Hm, tough question.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

That's it! Retail stores, the Rant.

I bought "Runaway 2" today, an adventure game. I bought it on a lark, I don't know much about it. What I do know is that, like every PC game I've bought from a brick-and-mortar store in the past year, it doesn't fucking work. Yeah, it wants to see the original DVD before it'll let me play, never mind that the original DVD is in the drive.

So, as usual, I find myself downloading an illegal crack to play a perfectly legal copy of the game.

Worse, I find that I could have bought it on-line for the same price and just downloaded it, no DVD required. Which means the version released to the stores is crippleware. Crippleware that prevents me from playing the game I own.

I can add this to a giant stack of games I bought and could not play without illegal software modifications. A few of them: Half Life 2, Halo, Stubbs the Zombie, Sid Meiers's Railroads... all games I bought and could not return when they didn't work because of "store policy". "You can only exchange them for copies of the same game." Guess what? The game doesn't work on my machine. Period. I still haven't played Stubbs.

Strangely, I've never had any problems with games bought and downloaded - I once had to get a patch, which has been the extent of my difficulties. And I own a lot of games purchased from on-line stores - more than a dozen. All of which work fine.

So, what the hell? The multi-billion dollar industry of game stores can't produce a usable product, but J random downloads work fine?

Hilariously, I saw versions of games I downloaded online in the store - Bookworm Adventures, Shadowgrounds, Aveyond, etc, etc. I almost want to buy them just to verify that the retail versions won't work, even while I have a perfectly functional copy two hundred kilobytes to the left.

No more brick-and-mortar stores. Fuck them.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Writing Dialog the Weird Way

This is related to writing dialog in games, despite the rather odd start:

I have a family member who sent me a really detailed horoscope for my birthday.

Did it fit me? Sure.

It also fit my coworkers, my least favorite politicians, the bag lady who wants a nickel, and my long-dead pet dog. That's how they are written. They only start to miss as they get too specific. I'm "unassertive"? Compared to who? Genghis Khan?

But it occurred to me that horoscopes are really effective at what they do. The techniques they use (techniques shared with tarot cards and psychics of all forms) are very well documented and easy to learn. I think everyone should be familiar with them, because you're far more likely to be attacked by misleading sentences than by a man with a knife.

These methods are built to work on anyone.


One of the real problems of writing dialog in games is that the player could be playing a wide variety of characters. In some games the variety is extremely small - just the same character played in different ways. In some games the variety is absurdly huge - you can play any race, creed, gender, category, belief system... in short, you could be anyone.

The common way to deal with this is to write huge dialog trees that change depending on your stats. "If the player is playing a girl character, start the 'hit on' tree." This is astoundingly painful on both ends, since it takes a lot of effort by the writers and is very transparent to the players.

The techniques used to write horoscopes, give tarot readings, and convince you to join Scientology might be useful in this regard.

There are lots of tricks, but I'll only discuss two of them:

1) Vague statements are the staple of this kind of writing. Pointing out things that all people share and few people talk about to strangers is part of this, and the other part is making the statement itself open to interpretation. For example, "You probably have some issues with relationships" or "you don't always do all you can for people".

Tweaked for a game, these statements could be equally "prescient". For example, we can basically rest assured that by fifteen hours into the game, the player will have developed a strong feeling about one of the NPCs - love, hate, respect, irritation, whatever. We can use this method to talk about that emotion (that relationship) without even knowing anything about it. We can then use step two to gently get information from the player about the specifics.

2) Fishing for details is the art of tossing out specific suggestions which have a fairly high likelyhood of being right, and (optionally) then adjusting based on the reaction of the individual. An example might be "I see someone whose name starts with 'D'... Dehhh... dah...'" and then the target goes "Donald?"

This needs to be treated carefully in a game, though: a player's knowledge about their character is likely to be limited to their statistics, whereas most fishing revolves around people and common events like birthdays. Most fishing dialog will have to be carefully framed, as mentioned above, or the slack will have to be picked up by adaptive characters also involved in the conversation (see below).


An additional method is to turn these tricks against NPCs. Let the player's dialog contain these kinds of techniques, or let one NPC "read" another in this way.

In this manner, you can basically get a player to learn everything about an NPC and come to think of them as a person - without requiring lengthy exposition or forced cut-scenes. It could even be done on the fly, allowing NPCs with only a vague starting personality to define details about themselves as comments and questions are made.

The trick is to get the dialog to sound natural. You don't want everyone to always sound like they're trying to be psychic, or, worse, have them switch between "normal" and "psychic" mode.

The thing to remember that you're not trying to do horoscopes. You're trying to write dialog. That means that you gently embed these techniques into dialog that follows all the normal rules of character and plot advancement.

Therefore, instead of writing "you are concerned about finances", you might write "Well, I'm going to go buy a new sword. You were doing a lot of fighting yourself, as I recall. Need anything? Healing potion? New boots? Scantily clad local?"

What do you think? Doable? Additional tricks I didn't talk about?

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Few Suggestions

I love comics and weird RPGs. If you love either/or, here are some very unique ones you have to read or play, hyperlinked to as good a starting place as I can find. These are all obscure: give yourself a point for having heard of one, or three points for having read it/studied the manual.



0-1: Not very geeky, man.
2-4: Big geek.
5-8: Top notch indie nerd.
9-15: You already heard about these in person from me.
16+: There is no 16+.

All of these have very unique elements to them, so in addition to being fun, I think they are very good to learn from.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Long Loops

Well, I've seen all the basic gameplay rules I really care to. They all boil down to about three basic mechanics with a thousand special rules lumped on top. I hate special rules. I prefer to layer gameplay mechanics instead of making special rules for a single gameplay mechanic.

One of the things that this allows is for a rule to control the way gameplay progresses - the pacing of the game, if you understand. It's more common in board games rather than tabletop RPGs. For example, in the Battlestar Galactica CCG, they have a "if your fleet gets too big, you piss off the Cylons" rule which makes for a definite shift in play between early and mid game. Similarly, in "Shadows over Camelot", the quests advance with or without you, which makes the end game usually a sprint to get those last few successes before the bad guys get their last few successes.

Indie tabletop games occasionally, very rarely, have a system for this. "With Great Power" has an explicit one, whereas "Prime Time" and "Rune" have one that is more of a guide rather than a layered set of rules. But these rules - or guides - make the game dramatic and fun in a way that is unique. I honestly don't think any game should be created without carefully thinking about the way it progresses from early to mid to late game.

With that in mind, I've been looking at the ways to make these progressions interesting, and I've come up with some basic observations:

1) Scarcity of Resources. Generally, as the game progresses, resources become more scarce as the players use them up. In some games, "resources" are literally tokens or cards or lives that are used to do things, but in many games the "resources" that get scarce are places on the board. Land, essentially, as the players (or other mechanic) fill it in.

2) Achieving New Modes of Play. Some games give you new capabilities as the game progresses, either on a schedule or in exchange for some resource wrangling. The opposite is also fairly common, with the new rules making it more difficult for the players.

3) Goal Changes. Some games put out new goals for the player. It could be done when an old goal is accomplished, on a timer, randomly, or when a player plays a new goal. Any way it works, this changes what the players are after and, therefore, their method of play.

4) Explicit Stages. The most likely method for a computer game or tabletop RPG, explicit stages carefully lay out a new set of resources and, often, new modes of play/goals. In its most common form, each stage is a new game with your starting resources altered by the previous game. However, in some cases a "stage" is actually only one part of play, changing only one or two aspects of the game when it switches.

5) The Hidden is Revealed. In any game with imperfect information, it is possible to "schedule" the reveal of that information. For example, in Shadows over Camelot, there is often a traitor. The game is largely about him balancing secrecy and effectiveness until the circumstances of the game essentially force a reveal. This is not like House on the Hill, where a traitor is invented at the moment of reveal. That's not hidden information, that's an explicit stage switch. I'm basically only counting hidden data that players are directly affected by even before it is revealed. Otherwise it's not hidden data.

#5 is a little iffy. There's something wrong with the way I phrased it. Can you think of any methods I didn't touch?

From these methods you can choose exactly how you want your game to progress. More is revealed about how a game feels to play by looking at it through these lenses rather than looking at the actual rules. Also, nearly all feedback loops are one of these rules.

For example, Chess is about killing pieces and controlling positions. The pieces are a limited resource that fades as the game continues, but they don't fade at the same rate, so a better player retains more pieces than a weaker player. That's a positive feedback loop.

Anyhow, food for thought. Comments?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


On a weirder note, apparently Wil Wheaton and I use the same throwaway password. "Monkey".

I don't really read his blog, but I just happened to notice...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Choke Points and Vantages

I find that, in level design, the interesting elements are choke points and vantages. For example, having a view of the bridge puts you in a strong defensive position, while having to cross the bridge puts you in a bit of a bind.

Of course, bridges aren't the only kind of choke point. An open plain can be a choke point, or a single doorway, or a teleporter, or a roof... a choke point is simply any area where players can't pass through without encountering other players in the area. The terrain of your chokepoints depends on how far the players can see/affect and how obstructed the view is. A forest is not likely a choke point, but cut down all the trees, suddenly passerby are easy to see.

Some choke points have no vantage - such as an important but twisty hallway. Some vantages can see multiple choke points - or no choke points at all. Some games create "fictional" vantages by allowing enemies to teleport into choke points. Some vantages are also choke points. Some choke points can be bypassed, others cannot. There are lots of options.

The pacing of a level is largely determined by how the players encounter choke points, vantages, and "neutral" territory. Since the players are interactive, when the enemy encounters a vantage or choke point, that changes the "value" of the vantage or choke point. You don't want to try to break through a choke point that the enemy has a vantage over. But standing around on a vantage while nobody uses the choke point is pretty useless...

Now: Automated level generators generally don't think in this way. They usually build things pretty much at random, although they may occasionally create a choke point by accident (or something that is supposed to be a choke point, but isn't). In a 1P game this kind of iffyness can be partially dealt with by enemy placement. For example, in Diablo II, the levels were generated with choke points and vantages, and even though the placement made absolutely no sense, they were definitely choke points and vantages because the game put enemies in them.

I don't really think that's the best way we can do it. I think we can generate maps that are much more meaningful by creating meaningful choke points and vantages. If we can "tell" what a choke point controls/limits, we can even create a little story around it - a janitor complaining, or someone who wants to be closer to the action, or a tall tale of a battle, or whatever we please.

Choke points are created because people want to get from point A to point B in a reasonably efficient manner. Choke points are usually the result of natural terrain - either conforming to it (a road) or surpassing it (a bridge over a river). Some choke points are caused as a result of unnatural terrain - such as a castle gate to get through the "natural" castle terrain of being surrounded by a wall. But they still follow the same rule: there is a wall, and the choke point is to surpass it.

You can even go much further with a little more data. The castle is surrounded by a wall. Now we have to decide how easy the owners want people to be able to surpass that wall. Some castles are fortresses with only one, heavily fortified entrance. Others are more marketplaces and palaces, often with dozens of entrances that are barely secured at all. Wealth and size of wall also play a part in how the entrances actually look: a poor keep might only be able to afford a portcullis, while the emperor's treasure fortress might have a fifty-foot-long "airlock" with multiple portculli and lots of places for boiling oil and archers.

This sort of calculation gets more interesting once you realize that things change over time. It isn't at all uncommon for some places to get less popular and others to get more popular, which changes the stress on the various choke points (and, therefore, vantage points). For example, a new city built on the sea might have a serviceable port - until there's suddenly a gold rush and fleets of ships start pouring in with get-rich-quickers. This not only taxes the choke point of the docks, but also the various roads and resources of the city, causing resources to bulge and rearrange in different ways, causing a big change in which people want to go where from where.

I support this kind of "iterative" level construction, whether for a city or an office building. Put down resources and (optionally) a 'natural terrain'. Take turns building barricades to protect the resources; facilities to exploit and transform them; and creating bypasses and roads to get to and from the resources (new and old). You can even make a little bit of history while you're doing this, if you feel up to it.


What does everyone think?

Friday, June 01, 2007

It's my birthday...

And you know what I want for a present? Really really want?

Ring... ring... ring... ring... "Hi, this is Johnny Rad, I'm not in, leave a message."

"Okay... hi-"

"Welcome to our big company's voicemail system. This mailbox is for " "Johnny Rad" ". If you'd like to leave a message, you may do so after the beep. Once you're done, you may either press pound, 9, 6, 7, or 8. Alternately, you may simply hang up the phone when your message is complete. If you want to send a numeric page, press 3. If you'd like to leave a call-back number, press 4. If you'd like to talk to the operator, press five. If you want more options, press star. If you want to talk to an operator, press zero. If you don't have a touch-tone phone, say 'help' in to the headset. If you are deaf or would like these instructions again en espagnol, press el numero uno. If you want to hear a really funny corporate-sponsored joke, press 2. Now we'll wait ten seconds to see if you press a button... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Beep."

"ggzzznnzz- huh? Oh, yeah, I was calling someone. Hey, whoever you are, I forgot who I was calling... call me back."


Fix it.

Either that or lots of money. Either or. I could go either way.


Most popular gift this year: invites to LinkedIn. It's an interesting idea: "Here's absolute proof that I was thinking of you!" I guess it seems like an unimpressive gift until you realize that, until half an hour ago, my portfolio was invisible.

Anyhow, if you want to give the gift that keeps on giving, you too can invite me. It's like a gift, except painless, pointless, and almost completely impersonal since I made it easy.

That was the most popular gift. Biggest gift?

The moon is full. It would be quite pretty, if I could see through the dense haze of New England. Technically, they call it "rain". Really, it's just "New England". The actual land beneath is nameless: the weather is the constant factor. Miserably cold and rainy, or miserably muggy and rainy. Some days New England ceases to exist for a little while and Virginia or Florida rolls in for a day or two. Unfortunately, Virginia and Florida won't have anything to do with the people of this nameless place, and they roll out as quickly as they roll in, leaving it once again New England.

Bastards, both of em.


There, that was my birthday post.

Originally, I wanted to talk about how the brain learns, and maybe make some neural net references. But, eh, too much effort. Besides, everyone already knows all that crap.