Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and I pledged over a month and a half ago to write a post about a woman in technology and science who inspired me.  I’m a programmer by trade, and inclination; writing is important to me as well, but even that is centered around programming and technology issues. Ultimately, there are four people who inspired and shaped me into the programmer I am.  The first is a man, the remaining three are all women.  Today I’m going to write about them.

Ada Lovelace was the first programmer, and Charles Babbage was the first hardware tech.  I guess its’ fitting that the one man in my list was a hardware tech, and all the women were programmers.  Without them, I probably would have been a hardware tech, but without this first man, I probably won’t have heard of or met two of the women, at all.

When I was about eight years old, I went to spend a summer week with my mother’s father, whom we called “PopPop”.   He was a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, who went back to work for the Air Force as a civilian contractor.  One Saturday while I stayed with him, something happened at his work, and he took me with him.

He worked at one of the (now defunct) Air Force bases that monitored the Russian submarines off the coast of North Carolina.  His job was to keep the RADAR system running, which meant taking care of the computers.  This was in the mid-70s, and these were the first computers I’d ever seen.   They were hulking behemoths, 5 or 6 of them, each the size of a refrigerator.  He set me down at the teletype — the only input/output for the device, and had me play with the software that calculated trajectories.

One of the breadboards — this computer was old enough that it didn’t use integrated circuits, although it was new enough that it used transistors instead of vacuum tubes — had burned out.  There was a civilian tech there, to replace the part, and my grandfather had to meet him.  As if being in the computer center wasn’t thrilling enough to my 8-year-old mind, my grandfather showed me the secret radar room (where they covered the locations of the subs with a curtain so I couldn’t see, or tell), and the radar dish as well.

He ended the tour showing me a computer bug in the trajectory software that made it come out with negative numbers for height when the angle was too high.  So, a good day for my younger self: my first hardware failure, my first bug, and secret anti-Soviet spy stuff, like a geek James Bond.

If nothing else had happened, I’d probably have gone off to NC State, majored in Electrical Engineering, and be designing chips and hardware today.  In fact, I did spend a year at State, following that goal, but several things and people changed and altered that goal, and those are the women I want to talk about today.

Like my grandfather, I was an early riser. I often woke up earlier than most of my family. My father worked at the end of a long commute, so he was often gone by six in the morning, when I woke up.  I had a couple of hours to really wake up and catch the bus, and I spent a good portion of that watching local news, and the follow-on show, Good Morning America.

One morning they had a guest who was all about computers.  She was in the military, like PopPop, and worked with computers like he did.  Her name?Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (Although she wasn’t a Rear Admiral when I first encountered her, it’s the rank she retired with).  I remember a lot of that talk with the hosts of Good Morning America, although possibly they were conflated with other times I saw her.  She struck a chord in me, there was something about her reservedness and formality that contrasted with her sense of humor.

Her description of finding the first “bug” in a computer program (a story about them actually finding an insect which had died on one of the breadboards of a computer they were maintaining)  reminded me of my trip with PopPop to the base he worked on.  She wrote one of the first computer languages, COBOL.  I remember that she had one of her nanosecond wires  (a wire the length that light travels in a nanosecond), and gave it to the host.  It was neat, and I was awestruck.

And she was the one who introduced me to the concept that it’s “easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”  I know I quoted that a lot when I was younger, but I’ve learned that there’s a certain level of excellence required to pull it off.  I suspect Admiral Hopper managed that level of excellence, though.

If I’d had the words then, I’d have understood why she made such an impression on me. She was tough, she was a geek, and she was a woman.   The women in my life were all strong, determined women.  While my mother’s mother fulfilled a more traditional role as a military wife, my father’s mother worked outside the home as a chemist. So it was no real surprise when my mother went to work, and back to school.

Perhaps the thing that surprised me the most then was that she went to school for a programming degree.

I don’t know why it was surprising, maybe it was because she was my Mom, and she was a teacher, and at that age, who is better than a teacher? Now I know she was a teacher’s aide, which is even more thankless and underpaid than teachers are.  While she taught, she went to night school, at the local technical college, and got her associates in computing.

I think at the time, I was still fascinated by the artifacts of computing. Computers were rare.  We had one in my middle school, and the access to that was strictly controlled.  My brother and I saved up for an Atari 2600 and that plus a cheap LED Football game were about the only ‘computers’ in our house.  I still remember the day, though, when Mom dropped her BASIC program.

She’d kept it up on the top shelf of her closet.  While getting it down, she slipped, and the entire thing cascaded down, cards going everywhere.  I don’t remember how long it took her to get them back in order, but from then on, she kept her programs wrapped up with rubber bands.

A decade or so later, I was living with them for a while, and Mom professed to not ‘understand computers’ all that well.  I had to wonder what had changed so much? It bothers me when people denigrate themselves that way, but where was the woman I remembered, the programmer whose biggest problem was an out of sequence card-stack?  I remember more the ambition and learning, and the desire to program that played out in my own BASIC programs, which, thankfully weren’t on punched cards.

I wrote a game during summer camp, and did a lot of work with the Apple ][c, but was still focused on being an electrical engineer, because I somehow naively thought that’s how you worked with computers.  Even then, I knew I wanted to program them, make them do things. I just didn’t now how that was done.

Perhaps because of that naiveté, I didn’t do so well my first year of school.  I came home, saved up some tuition, and we had a family discussion about how I would be going to a local school.  I’d do more what Mom had done, and go to a local school, and take computing classes with a business perspective.  (Mom’s degree had been business focused, as well).

I might do it differently today, but that would have meant that I never met Mrs. Wanda Thies, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be who I was today without that.   I did a search on her, and other than some mention of her church, and that she did a seminar at UNC-Greensboro (where I went to school) in 1989, there’s not much about her on line.

I took four classes with her, COBOL mostly, and we talked her into teaching us assembly language.  Because she was an old IBMer, the only assembly she knew was on an old IBM Mainframe.  We didn’t have one of those at UNC-G, so we mailed our programs to NC State to be run.  They would only run at night, and when there was time, so one of the things we learned was to check our software over carefully, including the JCL that told the computer how to run our jobs.  I had a few problems with that, but so does everyone.

It was the closest I ever got to old-style, punch-cards, time-shared computing. By the time I entered the workforce, client-server development was the norm, and the way we work on the web is completely different. Still, those skills are useful — they’ll cut your time when you’re doing any sort of programming work.

She was probably the best teacher I had at any computing task.  She wrote and ran all her assignments ahead of time, she was efficient and clear.  You never felt like her classes were a waste of time, or that her instructions were incorrect.  She gave you every chance to succeed, but she wasn’t going to hold you back from failure either. Late assignments weren’t accepted, there was no extra credit, and that’s just the way it was.  She was clear about it from the beginning, and her class schedules rarely, if ever, changed.  It was wonderful.

She survived somehow in a world organized around men — the only other female professors in that part of the business school taught the “Office systems” degree, geared to wards administrative assistants and secretaries, in other words more traditional women’s roles. She didn’t even have a Doctorate, or if she did, we were informed she was “Mrs.” Theis, and that’s the way it was. I suspect she didn’t have one, but had a lot of life experience, and a respect for us as students that made her one of the best teachers I ever had.

She spoke one day, in one of the later classes. It was 1989 or so. “Look at this file format,” she said. “Four digits for the date.  Any of you turn in a program that doesn’t use a four digit date, and I’ll fail you. In a few years, you’ll all get jobs fixing that problem, I guarantee you.  But don’t you even think about doing it now, or in your professional career.”

She was right about that, too.

The Three Modes of Interacting

To continue the experiential analysis, I wanted to recap the three modes of interacting as laid out by Norman in Emotional Design. Most people are familiar with his work in The Design of Everyday Things (or Psychology of, depending on where it was published). In Everyday Things, Norman complained about things that were overdesigned, or designed in a way that kept them from being easy to use, or apparent to use.  In fact, he often goes overboard and suggests that only utilitarian design matters, and that things which win aesthetic awards are actually bad in some way.

In Emotional Design he backs away from this, and talks a bit more holistically about design.  We interact with objects three different ways, Normal says.   To illustrate it, he talks about the many tea pots that he has.  One is a beautiful object, and is just aesthetically pleasing; it is nice to look at, but not practical for making tea, this appeals to us in the visceral mode, emotionally and aesthetically. Another is totally impractical for making tea at all, as the spout is on the wrong side of the tea pot — this is the illustration that is normally on the cover of Everyday Thingsyet this is an important tea pot, it has a story and invokes conversation and thought: we interact with it in the reflective mode, by thinking about it and telling the story..  A third tea pot is the one he actually uses to make tea — it’s nothing special, but it works for it’s purpose: this tea pot is for the behavioral mode, used so often we don’t even think about it.

Ultimately, Everyday Things is about design for the behavioral mind.  It’s about controls that disappear in use, because we no longer think about them.  It’s the part and kind of object we rarely talk about, because they are not by nature beautiful, and their ease of use means they add nothing to the story, by virtue of disappearing.  All three kinds of design are important to video games, but behavioral has been developed quite a bit, in large part because of Norman’s own work.  Everyday Things is considered required reading for the game designer. (Interestingly, Emotional Design has a whole chapter on Game and Human Interface Design.)

To recap what I wrote previously, the visceral/emotional mind of Normal maps to the experiential mind Kahneman talks about at TED.  That mind is the eternal now, with about a 3s life-window.  It’s the mind that senses, and responds immediately, often through emotional reactions.  The reflective mind is the storytelling mind.  It’s the part that remembers, analyzes, processes and tells you the story about what happened.  These two minds aren’t really separate, they influence each other, back and forth, as the story of who you are provided by your reflexive minds, tells you (to some extent) how to react to the now.  How you react (and how you feel about how you react) affects your story.

One thing that Norman points out in Emotional Design is that many things which we value as experiences are not actually viscerally pleasing at first.  He talks about coffee (or any food with a bitter flavor).  These are acquired tastes, and ones which we have to work to acquire.  The visceral mind doesn’t like these things at first, but can be trained to like them by the reflexive mind.  We build up a picture of ourselves as someone who drinks coffee, and someone who likes coffee, and we come to like it. It’s who we are, and we value coffee all the more because it was difficult to come to like it.

I, personally, remember going through this process as a pre-teen and teenager, gradually learning to drink my coffee “the way Dad does”, as a way to be like him, and to be ‘adult.’  Now, as an adult, I use much more cream than then (Dad drank his coffee black), and I probably use more sugar, but I’m a coffee drinker now, and so it’s okay that I changed how I drink my coffee, since I acquired that taste.

This has a lot of implications for games.  You’ve got people of all ages and skill levels, some of whom want to acquire the taste of certain kinds of games.  Certain parts of games appeal to the visceral mind, and certain parts don’t.  Some games are strongly reflexive games (RPGs and Farmville come to mind), some strongly visceral (Flower? Tetris? Or perhaps Tetris i’s more behavioral).  Games, unique to media, use all three modes of interacting, and offer both kinds of experience.  We need to think about this if we want to offer experiences beyond just ‘fun’ (and even if we want to make sure that we offer fun).

More than One Kind of Experience

I’m reading Schell’s Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, which took me a while to pick up after his DICE talk which destroyed some of his credibility to me. The book, though, is a good one, and while I’m not far into it, the idea that Game Designers’ job is to create an Experience that arises out of a game. (I’d say, that except for the ‘game’ parts of that sentence, this is what creatives of all stripes do be they fiction or blog writers, painters, sculptors or something else.)

Then, earlier this week, I saw a TED talk, by Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize winning founder of behavioral economics. He talks a lot about happiness, and two ways in which we view happiness.  This can be expanded, I think to two ways in which we view anything that happens to us.  One of those minds he called the experiencing mind, the part of us totally in the now (or at least a 3 second-moment); the other he calls the remembering mind, which is the storytelling part of us, that reflects on the experiences.  These two minds are often in conflict and give different answers to the same question.

I’ve heard these called the visceral and reflective minds, with the behavioral mind added as a third. (While I may have the terms slightly off, this is in Norman’s Emotional Design.) That analysis is a bit better for games, and I’ll want to talk about the behavioral mind later.  It has less direct impact on our thoughts and emotions as the visceral and reflective minds.

The visceral mind is the one that experiences things. That’s what it does. It has an immediate reaction to them, one that is often fed more from emotion than from logic. It’s where we experience joy and sadness, ecstasy and despair.  The reflective mind doesn’t do this, although it can conjure those emotions in the visceral mind — because reflection itself, is an experience that we are doing at a moment in time.

The reflective mind is the storytelling mind.  It thinks back on the experiences, and says, “That was fun.” or “I enjoyed that.” or “It was good until the end, too bad the ending spoiled the whole thing.”  Of course the visceral mind was having fun there, right up until the end.  But the reflective mind just can’t shake how bad that ending was, and it obliterates all those other, theoretically good, experiences you’d had up until then.

What does this mean for games?

A lot, I think.  The visceral mind enjoys the moment-to-moment aspect of the game, and the reflexive enjoys the memory of the playing.  This is why endings are so important, as it’s what the reflexive mind will enjoy.  I think this has a lot to say about short games vs long games, fun vs serious games, and even can inform our discussions about cutscenes.

Different games respond or entertain  the different minds.  Tetris is a visceral experience.  We don’t typically weave a long story about playing the game, or say much about it. A game like Final Fantasy may not engage the visceral mind much at all, with turn based battles and long story segments. We remember the story of it, perhaps more than the long boring sections because the reflexive mind edits out redundant things (just like it does with Tetris).

We have to understand this to understand how games work, in order to design them and talk about them reasonably (particularly since it’s the reflexive part of our mind that does the talking about part).I think a lot of our discussions about what should and shouldn’t be in a game (eg “fun”) come from a misunderstanding of those two ways of experiencing games.

Neither side is right or wrong, but they are comparing two different kinds of things.  And we haven’t even gotten to the behavioral mind, because it doesn’t experience so much as do.  I’m going to be looking into these debase over the next few weeks, looking at how they can enlighten our game design, and hopefully tying it into liminality (which my intuition says is a reflective property that affects the visceral).

Neptune’s Pride

I’m not a big fan of appointment gaming, nor of competitive play of video games. I play card and board games, but those are over pretty quickly, and tend to feel like they’re at a certain skill level that we all have.  So I don’t play online FPS because there’s a lot of player knowledge and skills I don’t have, and I don’t play serious PvP Online games (like Eve) because they lack that iterative quality that boardgames have. I win this time, but you win next time.

Appointment games run forever, but I’m not willing to pimp out my friends just so I can do well in them. I play them for a week or two, and the interest wanes pretty quickly,or I reach the end of what I can reasonably do by myself or with the handful of people I know who also play these games.  It would, frankly, be a good time for the game to end, and start over — only few of these games have the random component to support free play.  They aren’t designed for that.

Well, I’ve found a game that is both competitive and appointment gaming, and it’s fun.  The game we just finished took sixteen days, and I admit I won our first game. I think a good portion of that winning was luck, but that’s okay.  The game? Neptune’s Pride.

It’s a 4X game, where the ship travel times and scientific research, and economy times are measured in real days.  The goal is to control a certain percentage of the stars (in our newbie 8-person game the goal was 89 stars, which I think was slightly more than half the stars.)  You build fleets send them off to explore, and the other X’s.  Players can interact in limited ways, but the basic information about players is globally visible (with some limits based on technology).

It’s very simple: 4 different kinds of technology, three planetary stats, and only one kind of ship.  The combat is based on the player skill, not the number of ships, per se.  Most battles are of attrition, unless there is a serious imbalance between the player’s technology skills.

It takes anywhere from 30minutes to an hour to play every day, and most of that — for me — was checking a website two or three times, and adjusting orders. It starts off fairly simple, ad things get complicated and faster as the game matures.

NP is monetized by the selling of premium games, and the ability to create games limited to friends, or free for friends.  They sell “galactic credits” for real money, and you win 10 as a prize for winning a game (Free or not).  That’s enough to join a premium game, but not enough to create one, which costs twice to five times that (depending on options).

We had about half the people drop out of our game, and become AI controlled, which changes the strategy (and technically gives you a few days to get ahead of them).  The AI in our game seemed to give up at one point, but realistically, the game was over except for cleanup.

There are some UI things that bother me with selecting things (I kept having the wrong fleet selected when sending them out, because of the way they’re selected).  That’s pretty minor, and the game is still being modified and upgraded.  That’s an advantage of these web-based appointment games.  The fact that it can be over, quickly or slowly (there’s a premium game which lasts for monthis) make sit feel more like a board game I play a little bit as I go along.

Kind of nice, and we’re enjoying it.  Plus, it’s generally free to play.

Join us!

First Impressions: White Knight Chronicles

I suspect that if White Knight Chronicles hadn’t been a huge JRPG, it would have been a half hour, or one-evening game at most.  But it isn’t, and that more or less gave it a buffer for me. It’s a comfortable genre, and it seemed that it was going to do some interesting things.

Of course, typical of JRPGs, this couldn’t be a half hour game because it takes that long to get to anything.  I accept that, though, it goes with the territory.  I was surprised that a good chunk of that time was spent making an avatar.  Pleasantly surprised, even.

The character editor that let me create an avatar with, perhaps, more options than Oblivion or Fallout.  I messed around with it for a bit, got something I was reasonably happy with. I could have spent a lot more time with it, tweaking and messing, but I chose not to (and to be fair, it gives you the option to change it alter.)  Fifteen minutes or so, and  Zhenette was entered out onto the world.

Then the story started, and I, or rather my avatar, wasn’t in it.

The story is about some guy who works for a weird looking dude who runs a winery.  The boss guy is upset with the Wine Delivery Dude, needs him to do something ASAP, and oh, take the new girl with you.  Oh, yeah that’s me. I nod and smile, or rather my Avatar does.  That’s really all she does.

We do the first mission, which is predictably simple, travel across a low level monster-filled wilderness, wind up being late anyway, coming back at dark.  We’re joined by a useless guest and Unrequited-Love Girl Then we’re attacked by a ridiculously large monster, which we (being buff wine-making delivery people) dispatch with apparent ease. (Well nobody died or anything, anyway).  All of this, of course, interspersed with cutscenes and stuff that’s going on back at the palace.

When we do get there, the bad guys had done bad things, including destroying part of the town and killing the king.  Wine Delivery Dude saves the Princess (who he met when he was younger) and runs off with her, while my avatar and Unrequited-Love Girl are separated from them by a burning pillar.

I should say at this point, that combat is semi-active.  Position appears to matter, but doesn’t really, except perhaps for area spells, and that’s more luck than anything else. You can control any character, and I chose to control my avatar for most of that.  Zhenette is usually a mage, as I’ve said before, so I had a bunch of spells.  I set wine delivery dude up as a swordsman, and when we got unrequited love girl, I made her a healer.  Each of them runs on their own, while we all fight, using a very basic “all out” or “conserve mana” type setup.  (Nothing like, say, Final Fantasy 12 or Dragon Age:Origin’s tactical setups.)

This works fairly well for a while, but after most movies, Wine Delivery Dude is set as the main character, so I had to switch back to MY avatar. After the split up, I’ve got him in my party and only him, and the princess as a (useless) guest.  He’s built totally wrong to be on his own, with no healing or magic, and no customization so, I have to spend time figuring him out, while he was just on automatic before.

Still, the Princess and Dude fight through a dungeon, and then he gets a big eponymous superpower, that makes him boss-sized, and he fights and wins against the boss. So far I’m okay, we’re really still in tutorial land, and things have just gotten bad.

The princess gets kidnapped and taken to another castle. An Old Grumpy Mentor shows up and Wine Delivery Dude plan to set out on your quest, taking along Unrequited-Love Girl, and oh yeah, Silent Chick Who Happens To Be There (aka: your avatar).

If you follow the story from then on, you’re avatar is there at the end of every cutscene, standing there and saying nothing while everyone else talks. Of course what everyone else says is kind of stupid, especially as we’re running around.  Wine Delivery Dude complains we’re not going the right way; Unrequited-Love Girl complains that it’s hot in the desert; and Old Grumpy Mentor tells them to shut up and get moving, we don’t have time for this shit.

I decided then, to do a quest. They opened up and I could join the adventurer’s guild and go do something else. And here’s where White Knight Chronicles steps out of it’s cliche and off a cliff.  I went in to do a quest, and was suddenly alone.  This time, at least, I was my Avatar, but by then, even more skewed to being a mage, and certianly not to being alone.  Oh, the deal is quests are designed to be multiplayer. For extra bonus annoying points, they are also timed.

There’s a lot geared in the game to the multiplayer content. Quests, your town which you can waste spend gold on, I suspect there’s going to be real money stuff you can buy too.  I died a lot doing my quest, which I was under powered for by myself.  I’m much higher level now, but  since the surprise end bosses are to giant ones, I don’t know how I’ll manage with two. I could barely stand up long enough to fight the first time.

I still wasn’t completly discouraged at this point.  I hadn’t gotten to crafting yet, and that’s about the point that you’ve got most of the tools you need to play a JRPG (technically, you usually go everywhere, then get a ship to allow you to travel faster, and then it opens up, but crafting is a good place to define the cut).  The quest to get crafting was ridiculous.

Not silly or funny, although I suspect that was the intent.  You deliver a love message to someone who turns out to be a monster, only to return (with a response letter, mind) to discover that the person you were acting on behalf of was married. Someone in your party knew this, and didn’t mention it.  You then get roped into the lie because you need a pass to go out the other gate of the city.  Yeah, a pass.

In other words, a totally contrived plot door makes me run through one of the more stupid (and from where I sit, kidn of offensive) plots.  Oh, and the Don (the very large guy who sent the letter) knows how to meld items together to make new ones.  Okay.  He has shops everywhere, and now (for a fee) you can use them.  Why did I go through this, again?  I saved, quit the game, and popped the disc out and ranted to Tam while I stuffed it back into it’s GameFly envelope.

I realize that there are people who work hard at making these games. They spend hours and hours doing writing, coding, deisgn, 3D modelling, voice acting, rendering and all that. This quest probably took a team two or three weeks — or more — to write and do (it was a small one, but still).  Did no one look up and say, “This is stupid. And not funny?”  I kind of feel sad for those people who worked so hard on something so very stupid.

There are good ideas in here. I like having a customizable avatar! I don’t like being supernumerary in every way (to the point that i’m not longer controlling my Avatar, which is a freaking misnomer.) Online co-op play is good (not as good as couch co-op, but yay!.  Having it be a separate thing entirely from the game, but embedded within the game? Not so good.

I’m actually kind of angry with it, but then I don’t like lying (particularly in the space of relationships).  The heteronormative cheating crap gets on my nerves a lot.  But even allowing for my own strong bias, the whole things was silly and contrived.  I’m done with my rant now, and the game is in the mail.

So, like a few other games, this first impression is almost certainly also a last impression.

Disarray

Well, I did spend two hours of my weekend working on the Klik-n-Play Pirate Kart, but when I finally sat down to do it, I discovered that I’d saved none of my refactored map code.  On one hand, that code was confusing and not very good, on the other hand, it was nearly done.  Well, the new code is much better, but took me an hour and a half to put together, most of it spent tracking down a stupid error.

Most of my code errors these days come from syntax errors, and a few come from overall logic errors.  A very very few come from not understanding something about a new library. The former are caught by Chrome’s developer panel, the logic errors are pretty obvious: things where a character moves left instead of right (this actually happened).   The latter error can be really hard to fathom, as it’s something not in my code, per se, but in my understanding. I couldn’t get a graphic to display, and didn’t understand I hadn’t callled startGame() yet. Which is required by the library.

Otherwise it just quietly does nothing, exactly like I told it to.   And that’s a minor example of coding under a timeline.  I was going to come back to it, but I wound up working on some other things, and generally feeling kind of stupid about it. I’ll work on the game (I think it’s an interesting, if not revolutionary idea), but I was annoyed, and my computer is acting up according to plan.

I think, above all, that’s what’s bugging me today.  We’ve been money tight since January (and isn’t everyone a little tight around Christmas?), so I haven’t bought the copy of win7 to replace my release candidate. My computer will shut itself down sometime tonight.  While I have more than one computer, and beyond PC Games, there’s not much I use it for, it still has the power to make me grumpy.  We’re going to try to buy the OS next payday (which isn’t far, since I get paid weekly).  Still it made me not want to sit at my computer and do things like program games.

Feh, I say. Feh!

I did get my DresdenFiles RPG Origin’s game sent off to the proper folks.  I got my linux machine back online (it used to run this blog, but no longer).  I have some gaming plans for that, but they’re still working out.  I need a really long USB cord to run from that PC to my couch — anyone know how long a USB can be before degrading?

I’m a bit rambly this morning, I know.  I played a bit of Overlord II this weekend, and got White Knight Chronicles from GameFly.  I’m still formulating my thoughts about this one, but expect a First Impressions post soon. Borderlands, hopefully, will be here later this week; Girl and I are going to try out the co-op modes on this one.  Hopefully they’ll work well on the couch.

I’m feeling that bit of winter blah today.  It snowed again this weekend, but this week i’ll be warm enough for that stuff to start melting, and I’ll get a bit of color back in my world.   That probably explains the tone of my post today.  I owe you a self-indulgent character diary from Friday, so maybe I’ll do a couple of those this week.

I’m feeling the need to tell stories.