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The shuttle fell through the layers of the atmosphere. Blue and Gold flames licked across the view ports from the friction of entry. Jonathan Honor forgot to breath as he watched the flames dance around his window. He slid one of his tan gloved hands across the view port, feeling as though he might actually touch it through the glass. Instead he only managed to temporarily remove the faint reflection of his dark hair and blue eyes.
When the flames cut out they were replaced the multicolor swirl of gasses that made up the second layer of the gas giant’s atmosphere. It was like looking into a thick gold and red fog. Jonathan could still see the shuttle’s wings but only barely. The eddies of the gasses just in front of the wing, where they were being parted and pushed away by the craft itself, fascinated him. The man in the seat next to him spared only a glance out the window, then went back to tapping out messages on his small business computer.
A serene voice played through the cabin, “We have entered the atmosphere of Andora. Our course takes us across the rim of the Scilian Downdraft, so expect some light turbulence. We’ll be arriving at Good Hope in a little under three hours.” As he looked around Jonathan could see the eta slide across the display of those who had brought projected screen computers. A slight twinge of envy made him frown as he rubbed the point on his belt where a computer of his own would have been if he had one.
Far in front of him he noticed a woman wearing the pale blue uniform of a spacer guild member enter the cabin. She moved from row to row, entering polite conversation with the passengers and taking note of any pressing needs they might have. When she made it to his row, she placed a steadying hand on the luggage bar and leaned in to speak to him. “Are you doing okay?”
Jonathan smiled up to her, “Yeah, this is grand! I mean, do you see this every time?” His excited tone seemed to penetrate the businessman’s bubble of working solitude earning them both a scowl of disapproval.
The woman looked sheepish for a half second, but soon grinned back at Jonathan. “Well, not every time, but it is why I like these colony runs. Interstellar Navigators don’t get much time out of the navigation pit unless we’re in atmosphere.”
“So you’re a navigator? You must have been everywhere!” He said.
“Hah, I wish. I’ve got a destination list a mile long, and I’m adding new places faster than I scratch the old ones off. But, yeah, I’ve been a few places.” She smiled as she talked. “This is your first time traveling more than a light-year right?”
The fourteen year old nodded, “The deliverer guild is all in-atmosphere. It’s our sister guild, the courier guild, that handles deliveries in space.”
“You know, if it’s that interesting, you can change guilds at sixteen…” She trailed off.
He smiled and looked out the window. “No, I mean this is just… amazing. But I’ve got something even better waiting for me. I’m going to join Kokkusawa!” He said.
She whistled and raised her eyebrows, “Kokkusawa!? Wow kid, didn’t know I was talking to a prodigy.” She laughed, “Well it was worth a shot. Good luck with the apprenticeship. Keep up the fight!”
The businessman was outright glaring now, but he couldn’t defeat either of their smiles. Jonathan went back to looking out the window as the navigator moved on to the next row. Three hours and he’d be arriving at his new home. He knew he should probably get a nap before they arrived, but there was no way the excitement was going to let him sleep.

Jonathan watched in awe as the shuttle slid out of the clouds and into the bubble of atmosphere that housed the colony. All around the outside clouds of red and purple roiled and twisted, constantly shifting along the edges. In the center of the open space rested the colony of Good Hope. It’s shell of dark blue and bright white panels shone brightly, back lit by the station’s lights. It had the shape of an old time ocean going vessel, long with a v shaped bottom. A main control tower jutted up from the center of the colony vessel.
As they got closer it’s scale became more apparent. It had been one thing to read about it being a mile long, entirely another to experience that fact. The control tower was soon looking less like a tower, and more like a vertical city all it’s own. The sparse dots that had surrounded it like a swarm of insects slowly came into focus as the vehicles of hundreds of people going about their business in the colony.
Their shuttle glided alongside the behemoth vessel for a while, allowing Jonathan to get a good look at the walls of the colony. Seen up close the bright panels had signs of wear and degradation around the edges. Where at times there was an opening people could be seen sitting from open doorways, or hanging from long suspension lines as they did maintenance on the outside of the colony. After a few minutes the shuttle pulled up rising towards a dome to one side of the tower city.
They slowed as they came into their approach, a short runway hanging off the side of the ship lighting up for them. The cabin voice returned, “We are coming in for a landing. Expected forces five Gs, please harness yourself appropriately.” Jonathan checked his harness, ensuring it was tightly in place. The cabin lights flickered then turned green to signal the start of the landing sequence.
Landing was a rough process, more than he could have been prepared for. Almost as soon as the wheels of the shuttle hit the runway the port’s force web caught it. The small force webs within their harnesses kept them from feeling the full forces of the battle going on between the shuttle’s momentum and the force web that was attempting to stop it. Still Jonathan felt himself being pressed back into the soft seat with an incredible force. A moment later their momentum was under control and the force disappeared. As one the passengers leaned forwards gasping for breath.
“I hate landings.” The businessman said between gasping breaths.
“We have now arrived at Good Hope Colony Spaceport. Please wait while we establish a connection with the terminal.” A long, white, shrouded walkway slid out of the wall of the spaceport and slowly drifted towards the shuttle. After a few long minutes it found the shuttle’s exit hatch, several long tubes along it’s outside spun clockwise securing the two together. “Our connection has been established, please proceed in good order to the exit hatch. And remember, polite behavior makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone.”
They all set about unlocking their harnesses and removing them. People stood and moved towards the exit, milling about somewhat after the shock of landing. A few people slid around the crowds to talk to their friends, but they were careful to stay out of the way for those that were looking to immediately get off. For his own part Jonathan found a place in the line exiting the shuttle.
The co-pilot stood by the exit hatch, personally shaking the hands of people as they passed by. A woman in a business suit slid past the disembarking passengers, coming from the other direction. He only caught a brief look at her as she passed by the co-captain and headed straight to the cockpit. It only took a few minutes for the slowly moving line to meander out into the terminal.
A staff member was walking up the line, quickly performing a cursory retinal scan and a medical scan. Looking around he realized that the uniform was standard across all the staff, a powder blue dress that came down to the knees, white stockings, blue heels made of solid plasticine. Their makeup was all immaculate as well, with blue eye liner, lipstick and nail polish. When the woman working the scanner got to him he could see that she was more of an older teen, seventeen or eighteen, than an adult. She took the scans quickly, quietly thanked him for his patience and moved on to the next person in line.
As he got a good look around he realized the spaceport was really rather empty. Rather than being swarmed with people, small clumps gathered here and there. Other than a few groups greeting people as they came off the shuttle, most of the people seemed to be business people meeting with members of the port worker guild. All four of the info kiosks were empty, allowing him instant access. “Kokkusawa Apprentice Dorms.” The kiosk gave him a quick map overview, drawing a route for him. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” The automated voice replied, surprising him.
He was thinking about the supposed route he needed to take as he walked out of the terminal and got his first ground side look at the colony. The terminal exited to a small business park that rested just below the towers. Even craning his neck all the way he couldn’t quite see the tops of the towers. To his left there was a collection of low buildings, on his right the surface seemed relatively level with only a few buildings all the way out to edge of the colony. According to the route he needed to turn left here. The dorms were on the underside of the vessel, but the route down had looked convoluted. For a while though it said to stick to the surface, so he set off towards the buildings.

The reality of the surface streets was far different from what he’d imagined. People milled about in impressive numbers in this region, at least a thousand were within his direct view. Bright lights just off the street level lit everything from below in shades of white and blue. Occasionally a building would have graffiti scrawled across it, but it wasn’t like the signatures left by disaffected teenagers back on Earth. Each instance was a mural or work of art in it’s own right, calling out in brilliant colors to be viewed. There was a staggered street market with service workers in short skirts and mini tops hawking their wares or services to anyone passing by.
One of the shops sold tattoo nanites, another a colorful selection of artificial lifeforms to keep on your personal computer. A few had personal computers of all kinds of colors and models, with prices ranging from impressively cheap to downright exploitative. One caught his eye that sold personal computers with custom artistic details already applied. As he got further in he started to notice that each street seemed to have it’s own specialty. The busiest streets had food vendors, though which caused the other was anyone’s guess. His stomach growled to him reminding him that he needed to eat. A familiar smell stopped him in his tracks, and he followed it to a small stall selling backed potatoes.
“What can I get for you kiddo?” The older teen standing at the stall said. Jonathan stopped for a moment to take him in, he was tall and thin as a rake, wearing a downright scandalous mini-skirt with long fishnet stockings and stiletto heels. Even his top was little more than a band of cloth to cover his pecks. “What’s the matter, you haven’t seen a service worker before?”
“Ahh, I’m from Earth,” he explained with a mild blush.
“Oh, how cute. Just off the shuttle are you? We don’t have to worry about the big freeze around here, so you’re going to have to get used to seeing people wear a lot less.” He said.
Jonathan adjusted the collar of his coat suddenly realizing it was terribly warm here. “Do you take ret scans?” He asked, as he salivated at the sight of a tin wrapped potato cooking on the grill.
“I don’t have a reader… although, that looks like a Deliverer’s Guild uniform, you coming here to join a company?” The salesperson asked.
“Yeah, I got an apprenticeship at Kokkusawa.” Jonathan told him excitedly.
“Kokkusawa, huh. I know someone at Kokkusawa, I can just bill it to their tab.” He grabbed a flat wooden fork from a small bin on the side and used it to maneuver an uncooperative potato onto a plate. He handed the plate and fork to Jonathan, “My name is Mikael, sweetie. What’s yours?”
“Jonathan,” he replied and blew on the potato to cool it off. “Jonthan Honor.”
“So tell me, Mr. Honor, do you know the way down to the dorms?” Mikael asked with a wry grin.
“I saw the map at the information kiosk, but honestly I can’t remember it very well now.” Jonathan said.
Mikael turned his grill off, “In that case, how about I give you the gawker’s tour of Lower Good Hope and drop you off at the dorms afterward?”
“Won’t you get in trouble for losing sales?” Jonathan asked.
“Ha, nowhere near as much trouble I’d get in for letting you wander off lost. Trust me, my aunt would kill me. I’ll survive a reprimand, and sales have been good lately. I think I can afford a bit of time off.” Mikael gave him a quirky grin and waited patiently for him to finish eating before guiding him out into the city.
After a few minutes of walking they came to a plaza with cafe’s lining the outside and single massive tree growing in the center. “This is De Garo’s plaza. Named for Lorn De Garo who was responsible for doing the chemical survey of Andora. Life in the lower quarters pretty much revolves around this place. Stay here long enough and you’ll meet everyone who’s anyone around here.” Mikael made grand gestures as he talked, like the spokesperson from a tourism ad. Jonathan felt impressed, the buildings here were visibly different, many built or at least faced with brick and stone rather than the pretender steel that everything else was made of. The strains of amateur love ballads saturated the air from musicians wooing girls and setting the mood for couples enjoying the plaza.
Mikael took him down what looked like a series of side allies next. Eventually they exited on a surprisingly quiet street. The street looked out on the edge of the vessel. A series of platforms hung over the edge for observers to get a better feel for the view. Despite the silence, there was at least a hundred people on the street. Some were drawing or painting, others writing. A few of them even seemed to be just meditating as they basked in the incredible view of the gasses swirling around them.
“The view here draws in all sorts of people. Sometimes I come up here and just watch it all go on around me. Someone once told me the winds across the outside edge are in the range of a hundred-fifty miles per hour.” Mikael said. Off in the distance a large ship floated serenely into the cloud bank disappearing in a few moments. “And their goes our main industry. They’ll go a ways out to find the really good stuff and trawl the clouds for industrial gasses.”
“And they do this every day?” Jonathan asked.
“Nah, they only go out once a week or so. The total need is filled so the manufacturing guild doesn’t pay for more than a couple expeditions a month. The other times it’s usually privately funded and looking for more exotic gasses. But it pays well, kept this place floating for the first fifty years pretty much single handedly. These days we’re a lot more self-reliant around here, so there’s even less need for them to keep going out.” Mikael explained.
Jonathan nodded, but something caught his eye. He turned to look up into the sky, such as it was. Far above his head there was lonely patch of blue sky at the very top of the bubble. “Wow… What’s that?” He aked, pointing towards it.
Mikael followed his finger to where he was pointing at and laughed. “The contained atmosphere has moisture gathering at the top. That’s why it’ll rain every once in a while. There’s a sun mirror in synchronous orbit with us, it transmits down sunlight through the clouds even if it’s not much. The sunlight hits the very top and passes through the moisture and oxygen giving us a small area of blue sky. Anyways enough science lecture, this is our next stop.” He pointed to a small circular alcove.
Mikael pushed him in then crammed himself in behind him. A wave of Mikael’s hand brought up a holographic console, and with the press of a button they were sliding downward in a transparent tube. The interior of the colony was it’s own mass of wonders. White and Blue cargo containers were lined up in semi-ordered rows, sometimes just one, sometimes as much as four wide. Each row was stacked nearly to the rafters. Cloth bridges and long flat sections of metal connected stacks to each other. As the elevator got lower he could see people milling about, entering and exiting containers, going about the typical activities of life.
“People live in those?” Jonathan asked, more impressed than ever.
“Yeah, I live in that one.” Mikael pointed to a section of containers almost hidden from view. “If you aren’t from the guilds or have some real credit to throw down on a place, you tend to wind up here. The original cargo containers brought to the city were designed for use as building materials, so they’re surprisingly cozy.”
“Am I going to live in one of those?” Jonathan asked, perhaps a bit too excited.
“Nah, you’re a guild kid. The guilds all have their own housing, usually as part of their overall complex.” Mikael ruffled his hair.
Jonathan huffed at him, but then they passed below the level the container city was on. Immediately below seemed to be workshops set aside for making or fixing things on demand. Partway down the elevator stopped, and the wall behind them rotated to the other side of the elevator. Mikael herded him out of the elevator and into a long narrow corridor. It was kept in surprisingly good repair, with a working a holographic directory on the wall ahead of them. “Come on, this way,” Mikael started off down the corridor. To their left.
Jonathan got a quick look at the directory, to confirm their location then hurried to catch up to Mikael. “So do you come down here a lot?”
Mikael just shrugged, “Sometimes. It’s not my favorite place in the world, but it’s a place.”
They passed by a lot of closed doors and even most of the open ones only opened to unlit rooms. Jonathan caught a few of the name plates that boldly announced the purpose of each room. “High Pressure Cleaning”, “Gatherer Maintenance”, “Android Repair”, the last gave Jonathan a moment’s pause. “You guys have androids around here?”
“Not in any significant numbers, they’re mostly used on the collection ship and it just left.” Mikael said. His eyes caught on the door and lit up. “You want to see what’s going on, I could probably get us a peek inside.” Jonathan didn’t need to say a word, the naked hero worship in his eyes was enough. Mikael rapped on the door a couple times and they waited.
After a long while a blond woman in disheveled overalls opened the door, “Yes?”
“I was just giving my friend here a look around the colony and we noticed you guys were in Android repair. Do you think we could take a peek inside and see what goes down?” Mikael asked easily.
“I don’t know…” she said, “Shanky, there’s some people here want to see you work.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” another woman said. When she appeared behind the first woman they were almost startling in their differences. Shanky was at least a head taller, her figure full and her pixie cut hair pitch black. Though at least they wore the same basic overalls. “Mikael! Didn’t expect to see you here, come on in!”
“Oh hey, Shanky, if I knew this was your place I’d have just come on in.” Mikael said throwing an arm around Jonathan and guiding him in.
The room was white walled with a gray floor but the walls were hardly barren. A wide array of tools of many different shapes and colors covered the wall. Jonathan’s eyes instantly locked on an older model android sitting against a nearby wall. It’s gold and maroon husk informed that it was a construction unit, but even so it had the unique sleek and trim look that separated androids from more basic robots.
“Is that a model A-24?” Jonathan asked.
Shanky grinned and walked over to it, “Well it’s an A-23 technically, but the regulator was jury rigged from a 24 so it looks more like one of the 24s now. She’s been having trouble lifting more than a few hundred pounds, I’m thinking back problems.”
“Those are kind of rare for 23s aren’t they? I mean it’s a lot sturdier built than the G-2s or the A-28s that they’re making these days.” Jonathan leaned over the android to get a better view.
“Uncommon but still possible. Out here on the colonies there is also a lot more overuse and people are quicker to order them to do things beyond their specs.” Shanky leaned in to point out a few of the problem parts.
For his part Mikael just stood at a distance watching the enthusiasts get down and dirty. “I take you aren’t as excitable?” He asked the blond.
“No.” She said. After a few seconds it became clear she wasn’t going to elaborate further.
“All right stand back,” Shanky said surprising him.
“Hmm, what’s going on?” Mikael asked.
“We’re going to watch her do some spot surgery on the spine,” he positively beamed.
“Oh great…” The blond rolled her eyes and turned to a small workbench pointedly ignoring the proceedings.
Shanky took a seat in a large chair, a holographic interface building up in front of her. As she tapped a few buttons robotic arms slid down from the ceiling and positioned themselves around the android. The bindings on the android moved, quickly flipping it over to allow access to the back. One of the robotic arms turned and connected to a tool on the wall, gently lifting it out for use. In this case it was a large socketed opening. She removed one bolt at a time from the androids back casing until it was only lightly resting in place. The other arm grabbed the edge and removed it, placing it on a nearby table for use later. The first arm replaced it’s tool and both grabbed long gun-like extensions.
Jonathan couldn’t tear his eyes away as they came back over the droid. The larger extension lit up indicating it’s invisible laser was active. There was a squealing of metal from the android’s spine as it expanded under the heat of the laser. The second came in perpendicular to the first. A massively zoomed in view could be seen in the chair’s interface as the view skimmed across the metal of the spinal connectors. For a few moments they found nothing. Mikael was even starting to wonder if the diagnosis had been correct when the view came to a stop on a trio of small faults in one of the last two vertebrae. Shanky crowed out in victory.
The smaller laser fired in a visible green beam melting away the metal while a tiny cup extension caught the drip. After a few seconds it went up to change extension again. The view zoomed in further to show a single frayed wire that had been hidden under the scored housing. A tiny blade cut away the wire on either side of the fray. Wire extended out to a length that could replace the damage the base of the arm which it grasped then cut off. It held the wire under the large laser until it began to wilt then placed it in the hole in the wire. Holding it in place the edges melted together, prompting it to deactivate the heating laser.
It changed back to the laser attachment and poured the still gooey metal back into place on the vertebrae. The other arm placed a blocky extension over it, acting as a temporary mold. Shanky reclined back in the chair and looked over, “Well, how was it?”
“Incredible!” Jonathan replied. He looked at the walls again, “Are these all robotic extensions?”
“Most of them. There are a few hand tools for when I just want to wail on something, but the big stuff is all for the arms.” Shanky grinned to them.
Mikael gave them a few more minutes to chatter on about the details, then nudged Jonathan. “We’ve still got to get you to the dorms, remember?”
“Oh right,” Jonathan agreed. “Thank you again for letting me watch. This was great!”
“No problem, try and stop by from time to time. There aren’t many enthusiasts around here. Even within the guild,” she said. The blond gave a belabored sigh in response to the not so subtle jab.
“All right, I will. Bye!” Jonathan followed Mikael back out into the hall.
They walked along in a comfortable silence for a few minutes.

It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that they wandered into the Kokkusawa complex. A man dressed in a tan uniform and wearing a pair of thin framed glasses sat behind a large desk in the center of the main room. From the look of things he was comparing a pair of ledgers and moving some transactions off to fit by themselves. “Mikael, what brings you here?” He asked. “Or rather, is that our newest recruit there behind you?”
“I found him topside a little lost, figured my aunt would prefer it if he found his way here.” Mikael said.
“What do you mean it arrived two hours ago!? Where is he!” A woman shouted from the other room.
“Then you two had better go in now, I’d hate to see what she’ll do once she gets worked up.” He said looking back down at his ledgers.
“That’s not worked up?” Jonathan whispered to Mikael.
“Nope.” He answered. The older boy guided him into the side room the shouting had come from. The woman he found there surprised him. Even with her hair teased up into a tight bun on top of her head she still wasn’t more than an inch or two taller than him. Her hair was mostly brilliant orange but creeping lines of stark white were beginning to invade it.
“Aunt Margret?” Mikael tried to catch her attention.
“Not right now, Mikael, I’m busy.” She said.
“Looking for the new guy, right?” Mikael asked.
“That’s right.” She repeat, then stopped. “Wait, how did you know that?” She finally turned around to see both of them. “Oh.”
“Well, I think I’ve done my good deed for the day. I’ll be out of here.” Mikael made good on his words and slipped out before anything more could be said.
The woman fumed at her nephew for a moment longer then turned to face her charge. “Jonathan Honor, I presume?”
“Yeah, that’s me.” He said.
She looked him over for a moment then opened her desk and pulled out a small transparent rectangle with a black dot in the center. She passed the bit of plastic to him, “this is a computer slip, it’ll get you any personal computer at the black level. You’ll have four days to square things away before you’re thrown onto the duty roster, getting a personal computer and familiarizing yourself with it is priority number one. Out here things can change in seconds, a sudden gust from the Great Barrier and we could drift five miles off course in a moment. A storm changes direction and we may need to ground everyone immediately. Never neglect your physical conditioning, on any given day you may be running more than riding. But as I was saying, your personal computer is your only chance of keeping up with the changes, and that can mean life and death out here.”
He took the slip and nodded as she spoke, making mental notes. “My name is Margret Gwain, that’ll be master Gwain to you for a while at least. Our first year apprentices room with our Journeymen, it solves a lot of problems with hazing and fraternization before it even begins. In you’re case, that would be room C. The dorms are across the foyer and up the stairs.” She shooed him from the room then quickly went back to making and taking calls.
With only a moment of confusion he followed her directions and quickly found and ascended the stairs. To his surprise rather than being rooms simply designated in order, each rooms letter was written on it with some kind of black marker and they weren’t in any particular order. He passed rooms X, F, G and A before even going halfway down the hall. Room C as it turned out was one of the very last rooms, sharing the honor with room H which was across the hall from it. He knocked briefly, but got no response. He cautiously opened the door and walked in.
Inside he could hear the shower running in the attached bathroom. One bed had a uniform strewn across it along with a bevy of rider’s gear, while the other had the luggage that was supposed to be delivered to him on it. Divining which one was his he sat down on the bed and let himself relax from the excitement of his day. His eyes begun to scan the room, taking in the environment suit that marked his roommate as one of the elite Stormriders who assisted with search and rescue on top of their delivery duties. Then his eyes fell on the picture of her with her parents on either side.
Wait, my roommate is a girl? He thought. Realizing the shower had stopped running he instinctively looked towards the bathroom door. It opened before he could realize what was about to happen and she walked out completely naked except for the towel draped around her neck.
A scream filled the room.

24 comments

Winter Was Warm

So I’m sure by now everyone has heard of, to some degree or another, the somewhat more controversial changes to Diablo 3. I’ll leave a link to more thorough coverage at the bottom of the post, but for now the details aren’t really what I’m here to talk about. Rather, what moved me to write today was the realization that winter is, in fact cold.

I’ve wanted to make games for roughly as long as I can remember. Essentially from my first encounter with the computer game Xargon I couldn’t help my fascination with the magical pixels moving before my eyes. Though it was a long time until I truly began to understand what machinations of programming were causing those pixels to move around. Along the way I played every game I could get my hands on, spending extra time with anything that had any sort of editor mode attempting to bend the rules of the game to my whim. Usually I’d fail spectacularly, but nonetheless I couldn’t help but try.

I do distinctly remember that it was around sixth grade that I got my hooks into StarCraft. My parents were both working at the time and there was a period after school when I’d have the house to myself on most days. For me, that was my time to partake in the forbidden fruit of “online play”. Of course I wasn’t very good, laughably bad in fact, so I was drawn to the special rule changes of Use Map Settings mode. Often times the rules would allow cooperation, or would be so different that I was rarely the only one figuring it out as I went. And of course seeing the options it wasn’t long before I found myself immersed in the Map editor, trying desperately to create something interesting… and so often failing.

It wasn’t too long after that when my family switched to macs. For a long time Starcraft was my only option for gaming beyond some simple solitaire apps. Even after discovering Ambrosia Software and a small passel of other shareware distributors making games for the mac, Starcraft was still hands down the best game available to me. For years as I got older and had more disposable income I made certain I always had a copy of the game. Lost disc, buy a new one, lost code buy a new one. Even though I didn’t own copies of the Warcraft series or the Diablo series, I had so come to identify Blizzard with my love of gaming that I know that somewhere in my room right now is the copy of PC gamer that announced Warcraft 3, even though I never actually bought the game.

Somewhere along the way, my dream of making games had changed. It had become my dream to make games at Blizzard.

Somewhere during those first couple years after WoW’s release that began to change. The entire history of how and why things changed is again unimportant to my point. I can say though that Starcraft 2 certainly did excite me, to the point where I probably would have bought it opening day if I’d been able to fit it in the budget at the time. And yet… as I went on without it, my desire to have it grew less. My anger towards some of Blizzards decisions grew, and my hatred for Activision deepened. Until lately, I’ve been of the opinion that I’m the better for not having it. (Fair cop though, I did get some time to play it on my brother’s laptop so it’s not like I was completely bereft of playing it.)

What this news about Diablo 3 invoked in me is not anger or revulsion. I’m not pressed to the battlements with righteous fury. Instead, I find I don’t really care about the changes. It’s more like that moment came, after a long falling out where you suffer another, honestly rather minor betrayal… and realize that the other person no longer cares, and even worse, you don’t care that they don’t care. If anything the real disappointment in all this is that an industry and a company that I loved for making me feel so incredibly big, now makes me feel oh so incredibly small.

But I was always small, and winter wasn’t warm, but what a marvelous illusion it used to be.

Rock Paper Shotgun – Diablo II: No Mods, Online-Only, Cash Trades

4 comments

P2P Bullshit

You know, I hate this play to play bullshit creeping into MMOs lately.

Look, I pay good money to get my advancement. I go to work, pay my dues, come home and just want to buy that next level to keep up with the guild, but noooo. No, these play to play losers with no life have been grinding all day. By the time I get home from work they’ve already leveled up FIVE FUCKING TIMES. I mean what sort of no life fucked up loser actually plays the game for more than an hour? So now I have to spend five times as much just to keep up, meanwhile they’re getting all this stuff for free. Fucking greedy MMO companies won’t just kick the assholes out, either, want them around to push the rest of us into spending more.

And that’s just below the level cap, my god how am I supposed to know who the other people with a job and kids are when some guy could have just run the god damn dungeon five hundred times to get all the loot? I payed good money for this t3 gear, Cleric’s gear ftw btw, and I’m not even going to have enough to buy t4 for another two weeks. Two weeks! Nerf prices ffs! Meanwhile these guys are running around in t7 just taunting everyone. I have to spend my entire, limited, play time just collecting these random bullshit trinkets and treatments to get my gearscore up enough to qualify for those fucking pug runs with my cousin!

Fucking players. No, fuck grinding! Come on devs, do us all a favor and NERF GRINDING!

2 comments

Working away.

So I’m working on Pax Imperator these days. It probably sounds like I just can’t stick with a project, but I’ve actually been doing planning and design work on Pax Imperator for a long time. (It’s name has changed at least three times and it’s setting once.)

I’ve got some support on this so I’m putting in pretty much my whole day on this.

The big thing out of all of this is that I’ve decided to change around my working modus operandi a bit. I’m live streaming my entire work process. You can catch it here – stream – it’s probably going to be pretty boring overall, but hey, it helps me focus.

Anyways, I’ll try to remember to drop something in here every now and then.

“Stick to the bar, I’ll handle negotiations.” I said. The young black woman nodded before taking an empty stool and ordering a drink. I kept walking, the people in the bar weren’t especially close to each other, but you could feel that they were organized. Their presences all seemed overbearing, and restrictive, probably intimidating to someone whose never been in a knife fight with a Massakari.

I slid into the booth, taking in the blood shot eyes and pale complexion of the man across from me. It would be hard to tell with the smell of New Hanover cigarettes filling the tiny space if he was drunk now or this morning. Either way he took another puff before finally speaking.

“So you want to hire me to fly around your little expedition in ole’ Charlotte. Now we’ve got the obvious questions, like why should I stick my neck out for you, but I’ve got something a little more personal. You see, I’m not so short on contacts I can’t get the digs on some ole’ glory hound from the clan wars. So what I want to know is, what happened on Huntress?” He leaned forward, his serious face looking almost demented with the light gleaming off the sheen of sweat covering his pale skin. “Why are you here, like some backwoods retiree, but have the whole of the Eridani Light Horse singing your praises like a goddamn military genius.”

I leaned back letting the memories run through my mind, feeling the pain of old wounds. “Towards the end of the fighting on Huntress we were in constant retreat up into the mountains, about half our company had broken off to deal with light ‘mech harassment along our flanks. Problem is we didn’t have very good maps of the area and followed some bad indicators only to wind up way off the mark. What we hadn’t known at the time was that there was a great big vein of magnetite to the south. Our previous route had been unintentionally shielding us from it, but our current position had it completely screwing up our on board compasses. Comms with the ships were through other units, and we didn’t have the equipment to set up a good link.

So South we went, but not quite straight South, and we wound up missing the enemies main forces. Problem is, we didn’t know, ran into their rear guard, three light omni ‘mechs. We had a medium lance, three hunchies including mine and a centurion, our company commander’s Archer and a couple commandos. One of them had a PPC and got a lucky shot on the commanders cockpit, thinking hell was three steps behind these guys we opened up on ‘em to slow em down and booked it in full retreat. A full retreat right into at least a company of enemy ‘mechs.

With our company commander out of action we didn’t really know who was in charge so I just started shouting. We’d caught them flat footed so I called for a knife fight around the edges, catch them in their own crossfire if possible. Finally, I just decided we didn’t have a chance and came up with something really crazy. I set my Hunchback to self destruct and waded into the middle while the others hemmed them in close. My best friend, Mac…

Well, mac waded in there with me, took a lot of big hits so I didn’t have to. He’d been hurt, wasn’t responding right, I tried to get him to eject but he kept saying he would when I did. Time came and I pulled the ejection lever. I pulled it a bit early even. Was just thinking of him, just wanted to see him eject. So I flew up into the sky, and hung there, all those mountains everywhere but I was just looking at Mac’s Hunchback waiting for him to pop right on out. Nothing. Then, just as I was really starting to worry, my reactor exploded. Took out most of the clanners all right, but Mac didn’t make it out. The rest of the fight was over before I hit bottom, all that was left of us was the last hunchback and enough of each commando to keep one moving.

Turns out it was enough. The 11th Lyran were force marching their way through to reach the rest of the Eridani and they’d picked up our radio chatter during the fight. Figured we’d saved them from an ambush and I’d been some sort of ace field commander. Their report made it up the line in the Eridani, and before I knew it I was a war hero.”

I’d had my eyes closed for a while, not really finding the thought of being watched as I said all this bearable. Finally I opened them to see him leaning back, watching the ceiling with a serious expression.

“What’s the payload?” He finally asked.

“A seventy-five ton omni-’mech, and a thirty-five ton light ‘mech. Twenty tons in ordinance and another five is sensitive equipment. Roughly one four zero tons all told.”

“Meet me at pad three in four hours, and you’re covering the fuel.”

I sat there in a state of semi-shock as he walked away. I’d thought he would have been the hardest to recruit. Breaking out of my stupor I got up and walked back to Billie.

“Pad three, four hours. Make sure you have a full survival kit in your mech.”

Funeral Song – Angreal – Soldier – Al Raabist

Born of light, fair child,
Brought unto this world by boldest whim to spread fair and far,
A most beautiful charm now,
Erst not since broken by the befouling of flesh.

Light Maker, Light Taker,
Accept in the daylight this child’s own sun,
That we may bask now,
Bask in the light of this child’s kind sun.

Spirit, we thank thee.
Spirit, we honor thee.
Spirit, we implore thee,
Forget not thy family,
Watch o’er them fully,
That they might be at peace.

Funeral Song – Human – Soldier – Al Raabist

Then came the stranger who sat at our table,
A wandering soul for whom we had no fable,
But Light Maker blessed me, and I addressed thee,
please join this feast with our blessing.
Through the night we drank and sang with no ire,
Come the morn we broke bread by the same fire,
we were blessed then to know thee,
A light unlike our own but warm and comforting.
Come eve’ again and the darkness doth encroach,
The cold come to bind our hearts in our throats,
But warmth and love we found within thee,
Gave whole of yourself without reserve or flagging.

Spirit, we thank thee.
Spirit, we honor thee.
Spirit, we implore thee,
Forget not thy family,
Watch o’er them fully,
That they might be at peace.

I’ve been working in games for a while now, to varying success. Did art for Fae’s Wyrd by PsychoAvatar, and for our next project as well. I haven’t been skimping on my other projects though, just developing a workflow. However, in the process of developing this workflow, I’ve picked up an important thing about doing your own game design.

Always find the simplest form of your idea. The simplest part, the simplest project, and work from there. That streamlined ultra-low level concept is about as much as your going to be able to make without the backing of a huge team, and it’ll usually be hard enough in and of itself. Now sure, if you have a few years to develop, you can eventually evolve that into something bigger, but it’s not just about how fast you can turn a project around. It’s about how well you can keep yourself motivated, and keep the ideas and concepts straight while your building it. Cargo moves from point a to point b seems like a really simple concept, but after a while you’ll be hip deep in queue structures, custom datatypes and various patches and streamlines of the system. Start working in a second area that has to have the same code work but isn’t really “about” that code and any breakages in your old code become confusing, and it’s hard to keep track of whats really working with the overall idea and what’s just implementation detail.

This is also why 20 page detailed design docs aren’t really a good show of your strength as a designer, in my opinion. It’s not what you ideally want, it’s what you can simplify the overwrought idea down into that matters.

Just a thought.

“Witnesses claim they left towards Freehold, we’ll be taking this road at a hard ride. Our goal is to get my son back, the Seeker is secondary.” The six man posse surrounded the reef, as close together as their horses would allow. “With any luck we should catch up to them by dusk.”

“Sir, there’s someone approaching from the road.” They reformed into a single file line attempting to appraise the cloaked figure approaching. The figure was obviously a woman, a halberd with an oversized blade strapped to her back. As she walked her upper body jerked and spasmed at regular intervals. One of the posse, Milak, broke formation and rode out to her.

“Clear the road, we’ve got a party about to ride out!”

“Ahh, what terrible music…” she said. Her pupils seemed dilated, her clothes torn and stained by varying shades of red. “Can you hear… the music?”

“Hear me!? Make way!” The rider closed and gave her a hard kick in the face, knocking her to her knees the halberd clattering from her back onto the ground.

“I suppose… their song has abandoned you…” In a single boneless movement she grabbed the haft of the halberd and spun around. The force of her movement carried the blade through the man’s body without so much as a pause. She danced around his falling torso to charge at the Reef’s formation along a swaying almost drunken route.

“Kill her, quickly!” The Reef’s men charged as well, some drawing swords while others leveled spears. One of the spear carriers came in for first strike, thrusting for her torso. She smashed the head of the halberd into the ground, using it’s haft to vault over the spear head. Rather than letting go she spun around so that she kicked the haft just below the blade, launching it into the air. Using her body as a fulcrum she spun the hooked end up into the air piercing the rider to the lung and dragging him off his horse. She landed gracefully both feet on the ground her stance low. Then she swung wide to the left to avoid the sword of a rider who was passing nearby.

A third rider approached, hoping to thrust his sword into her while the halberd was caught in his companion. She dove to the ground, but kicked the haft up into the air. It’s metal capped tip caught the man in the sternum knocking him off his horse winded. the force of impact jarred the hook free of it’s previous victim. A spear man charged her from the front while a swordsman came from the back, hoping to trap her in a crossfire. With a scream she balanced on her heels and spun the halberd around in a circle. The spear landed a blow in her left upper arm, but the forelegs of their horses were cut. Collapsing, their horses threw them violently to the ground. She pulled the spear from the wound with her right arm, her left obviously falling to the side useless.

The final rider besides the Reef charged hoping to take advantage, but she effortlessly lobbed the spear through the air towards him. He charged dismissing it’s slow arc through the air, only to have the tip slice through his throat, killing him near instantly.

The Reef finally dehorsed, and approached the woman cautiously on foot. He dodged her initial swing. Sensing it was too wide he dodged again, barely avoiding a back swing with it’s hook. He lunged in with his sword. She blocked with the haft of her halberd, turning it into a clinch. He leaned on her with all his might, hoping to overpower her guard. It gave for a second, causing him to lean ever harder, then he found himself sailing through the air from her sudden push upwards against him.

For a few seconds it seemed as though timed slowed down. He hung in the air watching the blade of her weapon sail in a graceful arc towards him. He had no way of moving. No chance of dodging. He could only watch the blade gliding ever closer. Finally it slid into his stomach. Searing pain shot out to every inch of his body. It was made that much worse by then being crushed into the ground when he landed on his back.

He silently watched. He felt his life run out as she pulled the halberd from his body and began walking towards the village. “Who.. are…” the man who had only been winded began to ask. She fluidly swung the halberd around, crushing his head with the dull back edge of the hook. “Silva… wait, should I have said… before killing him? Better next time… I guess.” Silva of the blood lakes, the three kingdom killer, at least he was killed by a legend he thought before it all finally went black.

A link to the DeviantArt of this weeks art piece.

Just got a new style of brush worked out, doing a lot of work with it.

On a completely unrelated note…
Akido Tank
Akido tanks don’t require any specific focus, all of it’s skills draw from the immediately available unarmed skill cloud so leg strength can be especially important if you intend to also do damage.

The basic setup for an akido tank is to set up each row so that you have a redirect, evasion and counter/invasion(opener)/throw(closer).
Redirects: Change the direction of their strike and add to it’s cooldown time. It’ll prevent them from parrying as well, so it’s a good way to open up a tougher opponent for your teammates to get some undisturbed attack time. If a redirect fails you’ll take 2x normal damage.
Evasion: Some basic dodges to avoid taking damage. Even if an evasion fails the damage dealt will be reduced 33%.
Counter: An attack timed to strike slightly faster than an opponent, disrupting their current attack. Very powerful against AOE opponents.
Invasion: A form of counter where rather than just striking an opponent, you instead enter their space and use their own movements to increase the power of your attack. Deals base kick damage + 33% of the enemy’s base damage for the attack countered.
Throw: Does no damage on it’s own, but knocks down opponent and moves them several meters away. Requires the lower body strength to overcome their weight.

Akido tanks have a slight disadvantage due to their requiring the opponent to be attacking, but it isn’t they themselves that necessarily need to be under attack. They are pretty much always light on the damage dealing, but a well timed invasion can floor an enemy who was going for a big burst damage attack. They are one of the few types where their effectiveness tends to decrease as you go upwards in base size, they are at their best with the speed to get in their counters and completely evade attacks.

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Seeker

He sat at the fire, the warmth of the hearth seeping into his bones. The villagers in the inn avoided him, a few of the more brazen snickering into their mead. It wasn’t a bad feeling, to have the space to simply eat without anyone intruding on his thoughts. Of course, this wouldn’t be much of a story if that lasted long.

The young man sat down across from him. Usually the ones who came to him were the sociopaths looking for a good laugh, but this young man seemed more earnest and straightforward. The silence continued for a few moments as the young man obviously gathered his courage.

“You’re a dragon seeker.” It came out as more of a statement, no lilt to the end to indicate a question. The older man simply leveled an even gaze on him, not denying it. “Will you take me with you?”

“How old are you?” he asked. He felt the conversation die off in the rest of the inn.

“Seventeen, sir. I may be young but I’m good with a bow and can take care of myself on the road.” The young man’s eyes didn’t waver even though his jaw tensed and released several times after he was done.

He leaned back. It was a surprisingly brave request, delivered boldly. Any chance he may have had at a peaceful life in this village had just been destroyed in any case. “Parents?”

“I’m making this decision on my own, I’ve already got my gear ready in the stables, with my horse.”

Nodding he said, “All right then, we leave within the hour, just let me settle my tab with the barkeep. Go out and get my horse ready to go.” The young man nodded and left to the stables. As he settled his tab with the barkeep one of the patrons leaned over.

“Ki’s the so’ing Reef’s son, you’re asking for ‘ouble just walking ou’ with him, Seeker.” He said.

“He’s a man by tradition, therefore as ready as any seeker before him. I can understand the situation well enough, it reminds me of someone.”

“An’ who migh’ tha’ be?”

The seeker simply smiled then walked out to the stables.

*Later on the road.*

“What name should I know you by?” the Seeker asked.

“Kron” he answered.

“Apprentice Kron then. I am Noi Hargen, you will address as me as Seeker Hargen, or just Seeker, until you are officially inducted as a Seeker.”

Kron looked off into the forest around them. “Seeker Hargen, is it true… what they say.”

The Seeker nodded to himself, he’d figured it would come down to this in the end. “If I’m understanding you correctly, to some extent yes, though I myself am not. The Seekers are as much a place of last refuge for those who feel there is no place they would be truly welcome. I’m sure you can understand why there would be a great deal of overlap. In any case, we should pick up our pace, I’m sure that as soon as word of your recruitment spreads we’ll be in for company you may not be ready for.”

The two goaded their horses into a fast but not especially taxing trot, hurrying away from the shire and township they’d just left.

“No time like the present to begin your training though,” Hargen shouted over the sound of their riding. “Tell me, what do you know of dragons already?”

“Nobody has seen one for at least four hundred years. Long ago, however, they lived side by side with humanity, but finally faded with disease and then the hunts.”

“Good, and why do you think we seek the dragons?”

“I don’t know. I mean they said around the village that the Dragon Seekers look for them to vanquish them as in the old tales from the hunts.”

“And do you believe this?”

“No. I can’t imagine anyone seeking out something so long forgotten just to get a trophy.”

Hargen rode in silence for a while before finally speaking. “Our task is not the eradication of dragons, you are correct. You will not be made aware of our full task until your training is finished and you’ve been recognized by the order at Drakemont. However, I can tell you that we desire to discover and preserve the unique beauty that dragons brought to the world. This means we seek not only living dragons, but also dragon relics from both before and after the hunts.”

The young man nodded, taking the revalation in stride, or perhaps simply too preoccupied with his steed to fully process the information.

“Now, the three guiding principles of a Seeker are…”