Darwinning: August

It’s been just

over a month since we arrived in Darwin, and boy, have a lot of things happened. A quick overview of events in no particular order:

That’s not even all of it. It’s been a pretty great introduction to the territory, and we’re grateful for having the weather and the time to get to do it all. The incentive is there though; pretty soon the wet season will approach and it’ll be all Lou and I can do to keep ourselves from murdering each other in this tiny apartment. But then that’s why that streaming bit is in there, I’ve plans for many, many Let’s Plays. We’ll see how they pan out.

It hasn’t all been roses though. It’s hard to pick up and move to a new place. I hate missing out on what all my friends are doing back home, especially nerdy shit like board game nights and D&D (although we totally nailed that one). And Louise is having a bit of a hard time in picking out what she wants to do here. Plus there’s all the pressure with trying to find a place for when the transitional accommodation runs out and we have to decide where we want to rent/buy for the next year/foreverrr. It’s adult stuff, and we’ve never really been in the (financial) position to make these kinds of promises to ourselves. Promises like “We’ll love this place”, or “I am definitely going to be okay without a pool”, or “NBN? Pft, who even needs that kind of speed?”*. It’s tough to try and predict the future; obviously, otherwise everyone’d be doing it.

Anyway, that’s kind of where we’re at, at the moment. Settling in, trying to look into the crystal ball, and generally figuring out what to do for the next few years. We’ll hopefully be back down in Perth around October, and then of course back for Christmas so I can shower my nieces and nephew with novelty crocodile toys. I’ll try and keep this a little more updated so I can point people to it, but if not, eh. (:


*Just kidding, I literally won’t move to anywhere that doesn’t have at least a 100 Mbps connection now.

Relocation

Crocodile in aquarium

Hey, so it’s been a while. I could type reams about how blogging has shifted in my mind from what it once was to me, to what it is now to me; a random occurrence when I feel the need to write something that isn’t podcast notes or game code. But that would be boring and probably no real news considering how quickly blogging is becoming, if not completely irrelevant, but a very different animal to what it felt like when I first started writing it. And besides, as is the way of the Internet someone has already beaten me to it. Instead, let’s focus on the here and now, shall we?

And the major news is that, for the first time in my life, I am moving cities. Like, for really reals. Louise and I will pick up our belongings (or, really, I should say ‘our books and the other 3% of our weight allocation’) and shift it all to tropical Darwin. Yeap, the big, sweaty D*. It’s a fair way from P-town to D-ville, but we’re willing to make the move. I managed to get a new job with a large company working up there, and while the financial benefits are significant, it also kind of fits in with the fact that we’ve both wanted to live somewhere other than Perth. I’ve always thought I’d move overseas, but given that Darwin is three-and-a-half hours away by plane, it might as well be intercontinental according to most of the world’s definition of a decent travel distance.

It’s strange to think about and despite thinking about it a lot over the last few days, I’m still not there, in my mind. It’s a similar story with all travel with me; I’m never excited or keen until the moment I step foot on the plane and starting panicking over the completely inept pilots who are very definitely going to steer us into ocean, mountain, or flat, red dirt. I suspect it will be the same with the relocation: unsuspecting of the truth until the moment I make my way down the corridors of FIFO workers and Kaka-tourists.

Aaand WordPress just lost the rest of the entry when I pressed publish. Good to see some things haven’t changed in blogland. I’m going to go ahead and leave it there. That’s the big news, we’ll see how it turns out, eh?

 

 


*Hur hur.

photo by:

Dev-o

Pixels on Canvas

There’s a feeling

that I often refer back to–I know, referring back to a feeling; is that a thing?–that is elicited by very specific circumstances. In my memories it is most strongly associated with a stereo playing my favourite Gorillaz album, rain coming down outside, a mathematics textbook open on the desk in front of me, and my pen rolling along the surface of a fresh sheet of lined A4 notepaper. The pen stops with a zero, or an x squared, or any number of answers that I know, just know, are correct without looking at the back of the book. And there’s that feeling of solving a problem that has challenged you.

This feeling has become a touchstone of how I measure worth of activities. Noticing its absence has become something that I try and do over the years, but it’s hard to switch that particular radar on all the time, and often I’ll find myself slipping into being satisfied with activities that are easy. Like a video game that requires you to click a button to get +1 to whatever metric you might get addicted to, rather than offering any real depth. It’s been a long while since I chased that feeling: writing used to be one way in which I did so, but that seems to have slipped lately. I’m not sure what led to that particular lack of inspiration. I completed flash fiction month, or at least half of it, and that felt good. Writing without expectation of quality is a very fun thing to do, and there were some good ideas in there. But ideas are cheap; having the motivation and drive to follow up on ideas and make them something more than just a 500-word vignette is something I lack at the moment.

All of which is why my recent forays into game development–or, more realistically in my case, ‘fucking around with coding up simple games’–have really got me feeling refreshed and excited. I’m using a game engine called ‘GameMaker’, which provides a lot of the most commonly-used functions for you without you needing to code up an environment in which to develop, and giving you the ability to quickly run a version of your game at the click of a button. What that translates to is a very positive feedback loop of coding, compiling, and seeing the game take shape in front of my eyes. Part of the huge amount of satisfaction I’ve already experienced is reclaiming the feeling of solving problems. How do I make this homing bullet work so it follows a player until it gets closer than 100 pixels and then continues on in a straight line? How can I make this wall’s collision box work so that the player can walk behind it? Where do those sweet particle effects come from? I’ve banged my head on problems for hours, only to realise I’ve used the wrong function call, or misplaced an equals sign, and still come away from it beaming now that my game works the way I wanted it to work.

The other part is the fact that I’ve hooked up with a couple of friends who have also wanted to reclaim this feeling. We egg each other on, claiming higher and higher levels of refinement to an initial idea. It doesn’t hurt that collaboration in the age of the screenshare, the cloud, and the mumble server is quite possibly the easiest thing in the world. There’s a constant stream of messages hitting my various inboxes, calling my motivation to arms. And it’s just downright fun.

Now if only we could decide on a name.

photo by:

Catch-up

Catenacci - Old Bolt Latch

I feel that

I’ve been around the blo(g)ck long enough to be able to pull off long absences without needing to do the usual ‘Hey, so, been a while, eh?’ schtick, so consider all that done and dusted. I’m here to talk about things I am doing, rather than those things that I’ve let fall along the wayside. So what’s the go? Given it’s Monday and all the lack of awake that comes with that weekly territory, I’ma summarise in dot-point form some of the stuff that’s been happening around here:

  • The Podcast:

As if everyone who reads this doesn’t know already, but myself and Tim have been putting together a gaming podcast for the last, what, 20 weeks or so? Damn, when you put it like that. Anyway, it’s about games and gaming and topics in gaming and what we’ve been playing lately, and we think it’s pretty good! It’s been getting easier and easier to set up and talk into a microphone for an hour without too many interruptions (except for all those fucking planes). It’s a good way to catch up with Tim, whom I’m very happy to have as a friend, and we get to talk about something we both love. It’s my main ‘creative’ output at the moment, so go listen to it!

  • Weddings. And 30ths:

These two go fairly obviously hand-in-hand. Everyone that I know is either approaching 30 soon, turning 30 this year, or has done so in recent memory. And that not only means a shit-tonne of dress-up parties and correspondingly large amounts of booze, but also that all the couples that I/we know that got together at university are hitting their stride when it comes to getting hitched. This is not a bad thing! Not in the slightest. There are no buts to that statement; I love people and I feel happy when people make each other happy. And that’s something that has been happening, and I’ve nearly cried every single time the aisle is trod. Because god damn do our friends scrub up nice.

  • Fretting about life:

Fairly inevitable this one, for any nearly 30-year-old. And it kind of goes hand-in-hand with point above. Lots of our friends who are couples are making big decisions about where to head with their lives, and the majority of them are trundling down that fairly well-trod garden path towards marriage, babies, etc. Louise and I are so very much not ready for that, but we do have to start making plans for what we’re going to do for the next 5 years. Beats to hit, goals to attain, that sort of thing. Otherwise we won’t really get anywhere. So we’ve been wondering what the heck we’re going to do, and the list seems pretty much endless (der). Stay in Perth and buy a house;  buy an apartment and rent it out then move states, or countries; move countries and screw real estate; stay in this job, move to that job; start a business, and so on and so on and so on. At the moment we’ve settled on some investment, with the distinct possibility of moving around a bit in the next few years. But we’ll see how that goes.

  • Not writing:

I haven’t written a thing in forever. This post is the most I’ve written, besides the occasional science article for my peeps over at Refraction Media, in about 6 months. Meanwhile, all my writer friends are amazing and have been winning prizes and getting published. This is awesome, but I feel like I’ve let myself down a little bit. But not really? I mean, I got a bit sick and tired of the old ‘write/submit/pray the right person reads my work at the right time’ thing. It just seemed so arbitrary and unrewarding to smash my brain trying to write these stories and not have any reward for them. Which I know, I know (now) isn’t the way to go about things; writing should be its own reward and all that. But still, it was true to me at the time. Anyway, at the moment I’m kind of looking to try out new media, hence the podcast thing and exploring the process of making a point-and-click adventure game. It’s fun to try new stuff, but there’s a lot to take on and learn again. Still, keeps the ol’ brain ticking away.

  • Working:

Well, how could I forget about this. I’m still at my job and still really enjoying it. It has its ups and downs–mostly in the workload department–but there’s always something to think about or do, so it keeps me occupied. And the stability! Oh! How I love the stability. I know what I need to do and where I need to be to do it. I know that my skills are required, and the people I work with are awesome. Couldn’t have hoped for a better first workplace.

Alright, nothing much more to say. I’m considering cross-posting some of my posts from TAPTAG here, particularly with respect to the game-making. So keep an eye out for those if you’re interested. hope y’all are doing O.K.

Time to relax

This weekend just

past, I tripped down to Margaret River for a few days as part of a welcome back for Andrew, an old friend from high school. Margaret River is the main wine region in Western Australia, and it’s correspondingly the hub of all things sun-touched and decadent; beaches, cheese, chocolate, micro breweries, and so on. It’s beautiful country and we had booked a homestead next to a winery for the duration, so we were smack bang in the middle of it.

I don’t really want to talk about what I did on the trip so much. Suffice to say that it was wonderful to catch up with Andrew and meet a couple of new friends. It also involved drinking (a lot), playing board games (quite a bit), and generally hanging out (definitely more than normal). Although having written that sentence, I can see that it’s that last one that is basically what I wanted to talk about. The nature of hanging out. The mechanics of relaxing until the point at which it crystalises into the sharp sting of boredom.

Doing nothing is something that I often have trouble with. It’s a topic I’m sure I’ve talked about on this blog before and chances are good I’ll talk about it again. And I should be clear here; this doesn’t mean that I am someone who does things obsessively. I am not, for example, someone who finds himself wild-eyed if there is no cleaning or tidying to be done around the house. But generally speaking, I can’t stand to be sat around if there’s nothing to be gained for doing so. Or at least I thought I couldn’t.

Because after experiencing true relaxation last weekend, I think I’ve been doing exactly that–the veg-ing out with no gain thing–for the past year or so.

It’s a combination of activities that gives the illusion that you are relaxing when you’re not. Relaxing is giving the mind room to breathe. Scrolling endlessly through Reddit doesn’t do that. Nor does sitting down for a game of Counterstrike. Nor does trawling blog posts or researching software tutorials or learning to program. I’d convinced myself that these were relaxing activities because they were either passive consumption, or active entertainment. And that kind of works, but not really. Not in the sense that I felt any more chilled out after doing them. Not in the sense that they brought on that relaxed boredom that allows you to think up new ideas, new desires, new projects. Not in any way that was important.

I realise this is sounding like turning into a New Year’s Resolution post, but I’ll try and stay just this side of that cliche. Because I’ve already started to shed. I quit my two-hour-a-night addiction to Counterstrike. I’ve learned to recognise when I’ve consumed enough Internet media and it’s time to sit down with a book. I haven’t quite got the hang of kicking Reddit down the stairs, but I’ll get there. And the benefits are already showing. I’ve started a new podcast with my good friend Tim and we’ve got some great ideas for where to take it. I’ve been reading a book a week for the last two months (granted, they’re all books from the same lightning-paced genre action series, but hey). I’ve become excited about writing again, when I thought I’d lost it for good.

So yeah. I know this probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone but me. But if you find yourself overstimulated, maybe it’s time to relax? To get bored, so your subconscious can think of ways to get you un-bored. Couldn’t hurt, right?