Earlier this week, I volunteered to run the Dresden Files RPG at Origins.  This morning, I got email inviting me to a group that has gotten me a copy of the playtester’s Alpha.  Beyond normal work, and working on tomorrow’s self indulgent character journal, I’ve been reading it.

Skimming it mostly, as there’s a lot there to see.  I hope to look at it more tonight. My first impression is that it’s very well put together. Professional quality, good graphics.  There are margin notes between Bob the Skull, Harry himself, and Billy the werewolf (who ostensibly is the one writing the game system.)  The art is cool, and there’s just tons of information, examples, and stuff there that it’s hard to absorb on first blush.

I’ve been following the development of this for years, since I was playing Evil Hat’s games long before they started making ones for real money, because they made a variant of FUDGE called FATE which, essentially, made FUDGE a bit more useful.  Both Spirit of the Centuruy (which I got last year at Origins) and Dreseden Files use FUDGE and FATE as it’s base — and those who’ve known me for awhile know I have had a liftetime love affair with FUDGE. (Certainly longer than I’ve been writing on line.)

It’s lightweight, and not very crunchy, and it’s primary downside is that it uses weird dice.  But it’s intended to be a bit more cinematic and freeform, which was a welcome change from D&D and GURPS (the latter of which is way way way to crunchy and detailed for me).  FATE just kicks that up a notch, and my reading of SotC makes me like it even more, as the players are rewarded more for more interesting characters.

So now I need to absorb enough information to put together a plan of action, in order to put a suggestion in to Origins as to what I’ll run for them.  I’m not sure what that details, but I’ve only got a couple of weeks.  Right now, I’m thinking of doing something very much based in Columbus and perhaps tied to the Modern/Fate2.0 game we played several years ago.

I’m hoping to have something to test out with the folks at PAX East, as well, if they’re interested in playing a bit of Pen and Paper. I’m pretty stoked about it, as you might could tell.

I posted a blog piece called “Transgression and Kink” at my NSFW blog.  I’m linking it here, to tie it in with the transgression and liminality posts I’ve made here.  It’s not here because 1) it’s more personal, and 2) it’s about sexual practices.  It’s not explicit in anyway, but it felt like it belonged over there, and not here.

If you want to read it, go for it. I’ve turned comments off on this post, since they really belong over there.

I’ve had Overlord 2 for a while, but hadn’t played it (as it lived at Girl’s house for some time). I recently borrowed it, and began playing it.  This isn’t strictly a First Impressions post, but I’m about that far into the game.

Girl and I played the first game fairly differently.  One of her favorite things to do was to farm the first villiage by going and killing everyone in it, and looting all the houses.  I, however, played without killing anyone.  I was going, both by predilection and GamerScore, for the achievement of being “good”.  She enjoyed the loot.

Overlord II promised a more evil morality system, where you were basically evil and it was more a question of how you were evil, not if you were.  Not being evil in the first game made some sense, after the reveal of the ending.  Being completely evil in this game also makes sense, given the prologue.

Fairly early in the game, you return to the town that ejected and rejected you. At first it’s unaccessible, controlled by the Empire, the primary enemy of the game. As soon as you get to the outskirts, you’re given a quick tutorial on the morality system.  You can dominate or destroy the villagers.  To destroy them you hit them with your magic spell until they die.  To dominate them you hit them with the spell until they start taking damage, and then you stop.  The latter converts them into a loyal follower/slave/whatever.  (Not minion, minions are something different.)

To teach how to do this, the game requires you to dominate three villagers, and then to destroy three.  It seemed to me, again, that dominating was the less evil decision, so I made that choice.  Part of this reasoning had to do with Girl’s dissatisfaction with destruction.  In Overlord I, the destroyed village repopulated itself. In Overlord II there’s persistence of state for your villagers.  Once you kill them, they are dead.  Once you dominate them, they are dominated — until you kill them.  My desire to keep things open, lent itself to the domination path.

Last night, I went to work on my quest to properly dominate Nordeberg.

I ran out of mana pretty quickly, as my first few attempts had villagers running from me.  I got a few done, however, a pitiful handful of villagers, and nowhere near the 100 I needed. I was tired, and stopped, and went back to my castle to save and take a break.

When I returned the villagers I had mastered were still dominated, and had sparky blue things around their head.  They worked at anvils, or digging mines.  I barely noticed it, though, as it really was only five or six.  I started doing the rest of the villagers, using my minions to trap them a bit, and zap them.  They started with a catty comment about how I had treated the first real villain (by dominating instead of killing him, as he’s largely useless).

That quickly changed to a “Thank you for sparing me!” or “Know that if I die, it will be in your service, Lord!”  The latter made me chuckle in Evony-inspired humor.  Later conversions offered to love me forever, or a promise to become a cog in my well oiled machine. I had gotten up to around a quarter of the remaining villagers — most of the ones walking around outside, and I saw something different than when I first arrived.

Villagers that walked around, did so hunched over.  They exclaimed, “I am so tired!”  There were a lot of people working in the mine and in the blacksmith. I picked up the money and equipped my minions and started in on the houses. When un-dominated villagers came out, I dominated them, and went to the next house.  Soon I had close to 50 villagers dominated — as many as I could find; there were sections of the town I couldn’t get to yet.

But the town was different. I mean, besides being on fire. It will filled with despondent people.

“Why didn’t you just kill me fast, instead of slow?” cried out one woman.

“I think I’m in love with you,” said another woman.

“I think I’ll just go in the corner and die,” said a man.

“We always knew you were one of us,” said another man.

Back and forth from despair to adulation. These were broken people, and I had broken them.  They shuffled about, working themselves to the bone, and they hated themselves.  But they loved me, or said they did (and the voice acting made me believe in it)

I started to think that maybe it would have been more merciful to have killed them.  I wasn’t sparing them, I was forcing them into my plans and by my power.  I felt actually evil.

That bothers me.

I didn’t expect that from this game, honestly.  It was one of a couple of surprises (the other made me laugh.)  I’m looking forward to completing it, and yes, I plan to stay on this path to its no doubt bitter end.

It’s feeling like the natural thing for a Monday is weekend updatery and planning. So, that’s what you’re getting. I even made a tag for it! And I just noticed tags aren’t being displayed on the site. Well, then.

This week I guess I’ll be adding tags to the site, and fixing the ugly informational thing that appears at the bottom of my posts.  With all the javascript I’ve been doing over at CotT Games, I need to do a bit of PHP to keep from getting rusty. If you were sitting here beside me you’d hear me laughing — I’ve been writing PHP since the early 90’s. If I forget it now, I’d be surprised.  Actually, if you were sitting her beside me, I probably wouldn’t be laughing. Probably greatly depends on who you are. Anyway.

Update: tags are appearing, evidently.  But it’s still ugly.

Update2: Title of the post is because we got a metric buttload (over 6″) of snow this weekend. I meant to mention that, but I forgot, so, err. Yeah.

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So, I said the other day that I was going to work more with HTML5 since the triumvirate of Python/Pygame/PGU were starting to bother me.  I don’t want to denigrate either python or pygame as both are well developed, maintained and documented projects.  I don’t quite get PGU, and I think it mainly suffers from the fact that programmers aren’t usually also writers.  Tech writing is its own specialty that is under-appreciated in the open source world, I think.

Anyway, that’s not why I want to abandon the way I was going.  Here’s the thing: for someone to run my pygame game, they’ve got to have python installed (and the correct version).  Also they need the pygame libraries installed, plus any libraries that I use need to be installed or delivered with my game.

I remember what this was like.

When I first became a full time programmer, I worked on a 4GL called PowerBuilder.  It took four hours to compile, and even then it was only pseudo-compiled.  In order to distribute it, you had to include 14 other DLLs, along with the executable and libraries you used. It didn’t come with an installer (ubiquitous setup programs came with windows 95, and this was in the Windows 3.1.1 days).  So we had to compile it — and just in case something had changed — copy all those DLLs along with it to send to the client.  Back then, that meant copying it to a disk and mailing it.  As our application grew, it no longer fit on a single 1.4MB floppy disk, so we had to go to two disks, which introduced more error.

I worked with other companies, but kept this up for several years.  VisualBasic was slightly better for distribution with it’s runtime, but writing VB game the hives.

Then came the web, and everything pretty much changed.   We lost that “client/server” architecture in favor of one that mirrored the old mainframe methods, just with a much smarter, more capable client.  (IT goes in these cycles, I wouldn’t be surprised if in 5-10 years we’re back to a client/server model, but the current trends are away from that.)

You see the same thing in game development. Most games on my PC want to install DirectX.  There’s still a huge suite of files installed when you run the setup for a game, and all that has to be managed, designed to run on multiple operating systems (even if they are all windows), builds, etc.  Abstraction is good, minimal distribution is better.

The thing is, pretty much everything that connects to the internet today has a browser. Pretty much system has a browser that supports HTML5.  Maybe you’re stuck in an environment where you must use IE.  Well, you probably aren’t playing games there, eh?

Lord of Ultima says, “All you need to enter is a normal web browser…,” as Corvus pointed out recently.  That’s pretty appealing.

I’m not finding any libraries yet, but the other reason I’m switching is that writing HTML and javascript is something that I do every day at my job.  My javascript-fu is a little rusty, but it’s coming back to me as I play with things.  You can look at some of my experiments over at the new Games website which is more of a lab at the moment. I do have a bouncing ball thing working using canvas.

It’s not much, but you know what? It works in Firefox and Chrome under windows xp and windows 7.  It also works on my iPod Touch and the browser on my Android phone. I bet it works under Linux and MacOS and on the iPad, too.  There will be some game design issues if I use keyboard controls, or want to support multitouch — those are the edge capabilities now.  But mouse clicks and single tap controls should work across all the platforms, defining the constraints of the design.

I’m excited by it, and it’s fun to boot!  Now to keep work on these tools so they’re ready in three and a half weeks!

Borderlands plot — at least as far as I’ve gotten into it — is largely non-existent.  I’ve gotten several quests to kill some dudes, and a ghost lady that suggest I should do these quests to kill some dudes.  I’m pretty good at killing dudes, and that seems fun.   Darksiders plot is much more involved, serious, and still involves the developers coming up with some reason for me to kill some dudes.

That’s really a problem, and it didn’t get me very far into the game before I was about to give it up.  I made the conscious decision to return the game on Monday, and that spurred me on to play it a bit more, just to see.   I mean, I wasn’t totally irritated with it, but let’s play the one i’m not keeping for a bit, to eke out the most enjoyment possible.  At least that was my thought, and it’s not the first time I’ve done that.

Now, I was playing it largely because of the buzz from my twitter feed.  Not all of it was good, but the bad stuff wasn’t horrible, and the good thing, the word everyone kept using had me hopeful.  That word? Zelda. In case it’snot obvious from my blog, I happen to like Zelda just a bit.  Not as much as turtles, but hey, everyone has to have priorities.

Saying something is similar to, or reminiscent of Zelda is enough to get me to play it. It’s not enough to get me to gout out and buy it right away, but I’ll play it.  That’s what game rentals and GBoxes are for.

Since I already started talking about the story, let’s recap what I know of it.  Heaven and Hell were fighting a war until another group, the council, showed up and made them stop.  The enforcers of this pact, were the Four Horsemen.   Once they stopped fighting, humans showed up, making for a third kingdom, which would play a pivotal role in the battle.   There’s a typical Armageddon setup, with seven seals after which the four horsemen ride, and Heaven, Hell, and the humans can fight it out.

The game starts with Heaven and Hell fighting, and you, playing the horseman War there to make them stop or something.  I dunno, you fight demons and angels.  You’ve got godlike power… and you’re War.   And the game play is very, God of War. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, you play through a tutorial, and some angels point out that the seventh seal wasn’t broken, so this shouldn’t be happening.  You try to kill the big demon “the Destroyer” and lose all your power in the process.  Then you fade to black.

You wake up in front of the council, stripped of all your power (Don’t you just love games that do this?) and, evidently, the need to redeem yourself for being framed.  Not sure why it matters, as the humans are all dead at this point.  But it’s okay, Mark Hamil will be attached to your wrist, so that you can be annoyed with him.

He’s way way way more annoying than Navi every thought about being in the worst nightmares of Shigeru Miyamoto.  He leads you through a bunch more God of War like tutorials, except for the ones that are like Prince of Persia.  Some of the art looks… very much like Prince of Persia.  I’ve never seen walls with those kinds of gaps in them, but evidently Arabian oases and destroyed metropolises decay in similar ways.  Which is good for people with oversized hands and metal gloves.

Were was I? Oh, plot.

You need to make contact with a demon who will sell you some information for souls. See, the things you kill (mostly zombie-like nothings at this point) drop three kinds of souls.  One is xp, I mean, money.  One is health, and the other wrath or mana.  Hey, but they changed the colors! And they aren’t balls, they’re skulls. Still nothing Zelda-like that I’ve noticed, except for a passageway blocked by ice.

Oh, and a horn, a musical intstrument!  That it took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to equip and use.  I probably could have summoned up a whiny farmboy, but I was kind of pissed at him, anyway. So I didn’t do that.  My bad, probably. I hated talking to Midna, too.

Well, demon guy sends me after another demon guy who sends me after Lilith.  At this point I tweet about the lack of Zelda references.  Annoying useless helper-sidekicks notwithstanding.  I had no idea that I had a potion that would become an empty bottle if I used it, because I hadn’t.  And I didn’t understand why I couldn’t buy any potions, because I didn’t realize I needed empty bottles.

Darksiders doesn’t call them that, of course; then we might notice, or understand.

Only once I got into the first dungeon did I really see the Zelda bits.  There were things like bomb flowers, and small keys.  I got a boomerang, even, that works just like the boomerang in Zelda, only the aiming is hard and annoying.  And necessary in the first boss fight.  I know how to kill Lilith, but I couldn’t pull it off after several tries.

In the boss battle with Lilith, I was doing fairly well, but screwed up one of the dodges. She then knocked me into one of the bomb flowers that just happened to be nearby, doing more than one “heart” of damage to me. I only have 2 hearts, so I was quickly killed.  I think that’s when I walked away..

I’m really tired of un-fun punishing games.  If you’re going to be punishingly hard, let me feel like I’m learning my way, and getting better.  That’s why Demon’s Souls is in my queue as well.

I’d taken a break from Darksiders, and certainly coming back to play made it seem like more fun.  Maybe there’s more fun deeper in, but I doubt I’ll find out. There’s no point in continuing something that’s refusing to be enjoyable. So it goes back to the GBox today.  So does Borderlands, but it gets added to the GameFly queue for longer-term play.

Most of the old posts of this type went with the great hard drive failure of ’09, but I like to talk about games before I’ve fully experienced them.  I’ll gladly analyze them to death the whole time, but I tend to drift away from games, or finish them.  Neither is a good way to get me to buy these games, but that’s a sticky post of another color.  I’d play these games for an hour, and move on, but Kyle Orland already does that.


Here’s what I knew about the game before I got it:

  • It’s a four player co-op game, that has a Diablo looting mechanic.
  • The story is set in that cliché’d science fictional post-apocalyptic world that seems game.standard.
  • The plot is essentially “get the four keys and open the vault.”
  • It’s an FPS with couch co-op.
  • The guy with the bird is lame.
  • It was Manveer Heer’s Game of the Year on Brainygamer’s podcast

None of this (except perhaps the Diablo-style loot generation) really bumped it up in my thoughts. There’s really one person I play co-op games with, and she doesn’t like shooters or science fiction, and her love of loot doesn’t really overwhelm that.   When I hit the GBox rental on Friday, I wanted two games, I quickly decided on Darksiders for reasons I’ll discuss later.  Bayonetta was my next choice, and it wasn’t available on the 360, the PS3 visuals aren’t as good, and well, what is Bayonetta without visuals? No More Heroes 2 was a distance third, as I haven’t completed the first one, but it wasn’t even available as a choice. Mass Effect 2 was sold out, but getting that would have been an also ran.

Borderlands sat somewhere after that.  But I’d just listed to the Brainygamer year end podcasts, and listened to Manveer talk about this thing.  And I thought, “What the hey? How bad could it be?” And GBox rentals are for those kinds of games.  Sometimes I find out my prejudgement of the game was woefully wrong, as I did with Demon’s Souls.

I’m not sure my reaction to Borderlands was as strong as my reaction to Demon’s Souls, but there was just something fun about it.  Okay, I played World of Warcraft for years.  I’m totally trained to do the kill 4 Skags or collect the three audio diaries type quests. I’m down with levels, and know to run from things that are “skulls”.  When my bullets started doing elemental damage, catching those things on fire… yeah. I think that might have been the moment.

I died like three times to get that gun, but death isn’t horribly expensive.  You lose the progress with what you were fighting (it heals up, unlike Diablo), but you’re usually set back at the ammo vendor, and with full health, too boot.  Often that’s enough to settle the odds in your favor.  Then I got the gun that sets things on fire (I originally said “shoots fire” but it’s not a flamethrower), and it was like I had a fireball arrow.

We were cooking with gas, baby!

That’s also about the time I looked up and it was time to quit, turning the console over to Girl so she could play Oblivion, and honestly, some part of me didn’t want to.  Still, I enjoyed what she did as she played, and had more interesting thoughts about transgression as she played through the ends of the Assassins and Thieve’s Guilds quests.  I had to fight myself to put in Darksiders to try it out — and my initial disappointment with that game made me try more Borderlands.

I may have talked Girl into trying couch co-op with me though.  I told her the plot, as Manveer explained it on the podcast: “get four keys and open the vault.”

She said to me, “Why are you trying to open the vault.”

“There’s treasure in it,” I said.  “Some sort of alien something or other.”

“I might need to play this game,” she said.  Hopefully she’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

(This article is going to be geeky and technical and ranty.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As I’ve mentioned I’m prepping for the Glorious Trainwrecks’? THE 371-IN-1 KLIK & PLAY PIRATE KART II: KLIK HARDER event.  I’m on win7 and Klik & Play doesn’t really run all that easily, so I’ve been poking about for something else.  I did a bit with Construct, but it’s windows only, and I don’t really want to learn a new tool that isn’t going to give me some other benefit.

I thought about Unity, and that’s still a bit in the running, but I was already learning Python for other reasons, and pygame  is a fairly developed tool for making games.  I’m not looking for something fancy, just something I can quickly hack together, and make a few crapware games in a couple of hours each.  Once I’m more comfortable with the tools, and the games, I can develop the ones that seem good into something better.   To me the event is like a speed writing exercise, the goal isn’t something publishable,but something that’s creative that can be developed.

So, what I want to do is familiarize myself with the tools, and, if possible, find or write an engine that’ll let me do basic tile games (mazes and platformers, mostly).  I’ve found two or three of these, and they are either several years old, or quasi-documented.  PGU seems to be the most recently updated — and I’ve found in my years working with open source that you want two things: recent updates, and an active community.  That means the project is alive, and kicking, and working with the current suite of tools.

None of these tools that I’ve found have an active community, but PGU was updated in the past few months.  Unfortunately, PGU’s documentation leaves a lot to be desired.  I don’t really want to have to puzzle out someone’s code to figure out how it works — it’d be faster for me to just write my own code at that point.  If I’m using an engine, I want to not have to think about the low level implications of my decisions, and just move forward.

I don’t want to say that PGU’s documentation is bad. It follows a convention I’ve seen in the Java and Python worlds.  You put your documentation in the code, so it can be generated when you do a release.  You document functions and objects as you write them, and then everything is documented right?

Well, no. Not really.

There are two kinds of documentation that often — but not always — get left out of this. The first is systemic documentation, which tells you how all the pieces fit together and work together. A good project will have a page or two showing you how to fit all the pieces together to make something work.  Often this is a tutorial or a set of documented examples showing the project working.  PGU does this, but it feels largely esoteric.  Yes there’s code, and I can more-or-less see what it’s doing, but there’s some magic going on in there, and I’m not sure what it is.

That uncertainty, I realized was the missing second bit of documentation: file formats.  Unless you’ve got an object which reads and unpacks a file format and that process is documented in your Py or JavaDocs, you’ve got no documentation about your file formats.  PGU uses a Targa file (.tga, a graphic format) to store it’s tiles and maps.  The former, I get, the latter less so.

I delved into the code last night, to see if I could have an a-ha moment and move forward.  What I discovered was that he was being tricky. A graphics file is ultimately an array of color values, along with some information to tell you the shape of the rectangle that it is. In other words, it’s a 32 x32 graphic, the upper leftmost pixel is black, the next one is green, et cetera.

Color information is 32 bits in a Targa file (just like on your modern computer) it’s 8 bits for Red, Green, and Blue color values, and 8 bits for “alpha transparency”.  That’s how Vista and Win 7 (for example) manage to give you that  see-through the window look.   Getting the colors out of pygame is pretty easy, it’s Surface class will give you those four values for any pixel in an image.

The author of PGU is then using these four values for different things. I’m not 100% sure what they all are. One is the tile index, which I get and expected — tile games have a pretty stable design, they work a certain way, and I’ve worked with 5 or 6 different libraries, and they all share certain similarities. Another is something called “codes” and another is “background”.  He’s also using the alpha for something, but I’m not sure what.

Not knowing how all that works makes the code really hard to read.  Add to it’s object-oriented nature (I’m not against that, but it spreads the actual verbs around in ways that make it hard to trace through the code, as I bounce between API and program code)

I don’t want to invest too much time into this, I’ve got about 3 weeks to become proficient enough to make some games with something.  That’s like agreeing to write stories using a different keyboard than you were used to, and trying to Mavis Beacon your way through it.  Sometimes it’s better to find a different keyboard.

Today, I’m a bit tempted by HTML5, and I already know a great deal about that.

Nothing major to report gaming-wise today.  I went to the local GBox to pick up a game: predictably, Mass Effect 2 was sold out, as were Bayonetta and Darksiders on the 360.  Those were the two main games I went to get, since they fall into a sort of odd category for me.  That category is of games I don’t think I’ll like, but would like to try anyway.

Getting a game like that through GameFly is a bit of a hassle, there’s at least a week’s turn-around on a game, and to get one that you immediately slip back into it’s mailer and put out to be mailed, means two weeks without any decent games.  Sure, I’ve got the 4-game subscription, but I’m playing most of those games.  (Well, I will be once I get the Wii set up again.)

So $2 for a night’s rental (or $6 for the weekend — let’s be honest) is decent enough for a game I might not like — I’ve had Girl take me back to the GBox on Saturday for particularly vile games, but this time around I didn’t even get into one of the games until Sunday.

I wound up getting Darksiders on the PS3, mainly because there was so much reporting about it being Zelda-like.  It took a few hours to get to that, though, and the getting-to-it part was all God of War.  It kind of feels like God of War with some Zelda-esque puzzle and dungeon design.  I’ll write more about it later in the week.

The other game I got was Borderlands, because I figured why not, and I always get two games from the GBox in case one of them is particularly vile. (As I note, has happened before;) In fact, I figured Borderlands would probably be the vile game, as I’d be playing is single player, and it was a FPS on a console.  As it is, I wound up playing it for sometime.  I have my thoughts about that, and I may return this one, since it probably qualifies to be a real GameFly (and thus cheaper, long-term) rental.

I also spent some time re-starting Dragon Age, this time on easy with a mage, and using some suggestions from the commenters here about how to play it.  I’m debating doing one of this thinks Kateri calls “a horrible in-character game journal.”  Partly as a talk about the morality system, and some of my complaints about the game.

I am enjoying it much more. I’m almost finished with Ostragar, and no one as died, and I’ve only had to pause to manage my party one time.  This is much more in line with the experience I want, so I hope I’ll be able to continue with it.  I’m not really upset by playing it on easy, I’m not playing it for gamist challenge, but to experience the world and story, and so forth.

I think I’ve largely settled on pygame for the Glorious Trainwrecks thing at the end of the month.  Right now, I’m trying to learn a tool, and get it to a comfort zone so I can make 2-3 2 hour games. It’s a push to get some things started, and I have a few decent, if not great ideas.  The point, I think, is to try and to iterate, and to work.  Over-design and over-thinking are the enemies of getting things done.

The point of the Glorious Trainwrecks is that quality doesn’t matter.  We’re going for Quantity here. Because, of course,  moar==better.

Something about the first of the month has me thinking pen and paper gaming again.  Perhaps Darksider’s Zelda-elements have me thinking about Amaranth, as well.  Girl and I were talking about playing D&D via telecommuting, and I remember that there were several proto-tools for this sort of thing available several years ago.  Perhaps there are better ones (or those tools have advanced) for doing this.  This would let us manage something, perhaps every other Saturday or so, assuming we can find other folks intersted.

I’m also working on reading some background for 4E game I’ve been invited to (I’m going a bit slow here, but I have ideas I need to communicate to the GM).  That, and I’ve been recently reminded I let my My Life With Master game go fallow over the holidays, and I haven’t brought it back in line.  So, there’s quite a bit to do this month.