Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God and the Machine

Two and a half years ago, I began blogging here in order to create a space where I could write about all kinds of games, any time I want, however I want. Since then, I've built a small but loyal audience interested in the same thing, and I thank you for staying with me as I adjust to changing demands brought on, first, by my return to graduate school, and then by various family illnesses.

In case you're wondering: no, I'm not closing down State of Play. Posting will continue to be lean until I find some balance among everything I need to do, and while I work to get a new project up and running. But I will continue to make this a place for my game coverage.

That new project is also a blog. It's called God and the Machine, and it's hosted at Patheos, a portal dedicated to intelligent discussions about the entire sweep of religious issues. My contribution covers "Technology, Culture, and Catholicism," which is a pretty broad mandate. The official launch was Monday, and I've already posted on subjects ranging from the HHS contraception mandate to the LulzSec arrests.

I've always made clear on these pages that I'm politically conservative (not Republican) and Catholic, but since it's a game site, I never have (and never will) make that the thrust of my posts here. That will not be the case at God and the Machine, which will tackle more controversial issues. While I've always made an effort to keep State of Play a family friendly site, particularly since I know I have young readers, those limitations can't apply to God and the Machine simply because of the nature of the subject matter.

If you'd like to follow my posts on this subject, please follow me at the Twitter account @ThomasLMcDonald, or on Facebook. The Twitter account for @StateofPlayBlog will remain focused on games and pure tech. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Games Magazine Goes Digital

Sorry for the radio silence this last week, but we had back-to-back medical crises, and I'm still getting caught up.

In the meantime, there's news from the world of Games Magazine. We've gone digital! You can buy a subscription or a sample issue at Zinio. If you click on the image, you can preview a few pages. It works on computers and most mobile devices.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So, Yeah, This Is Happening ...

I do everything I can on these pages to prevent just this kind of thing. I feel like I've failed you all. I'm so sorry.

Here's the whole story (after the jump), told in in PRSpeak, which is like 1337speak, only 38% more disingenuous:

Monday, February 13, 2012

TOY FAIR 2012: Life Size Lego Hulk

Just because.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Why, yes ...

... That IS a Fembot doll from The Six Million Dollar Man. How did I ever live without one?

... and Bigfoot (6MM version) as well.

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TOY FAIR 2012: New SpotIt!

Hockey, baseball, kids, and travel themes, with a possibility of a Halloween theme in October.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Mario Kart: Micro RC

Very tiny remote controlled battling Mario Karts. Everybody should have one.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Turnstiles (ThinkFun)

A neat logic puzzle from ThinkFun. It uses rotating
obstacles for a Rush Hour style logic puzzle.

Here's a supershort video I shot of the game in action. You need to get the figures into their matching corners by rotating the walls.

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TOY FAIR 2012: UnHinged (ThinkFun)

A neat new puzzler from ThinkFun: these hexagons are all attached by hinges: blue on one side, white on the other. You have to flip and fold them to match a patter.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Show-exclusive Skylander: Cynder Metallic (Activision)

When I get home tonight, I will be proclaimed "Best daddy in the world."

Toy Fair 2012 exclusive Skylanders metallic Cynder figure. I've seen it posed on eBay for as high as $500, and actually bidding upwards of $200. People need to get a grip.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Skylanders Giants (Activision)

They're Skylanders ... only bigger. The new game is due this fall, and it looks great.

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Toy Fair 2012: Bicycle Jacked Up!

Bicycle is integrating playing cards with QR tech to create some neat twists on War, Hearts, and Solitaire

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TOY FAIR 2012: New Qwirkle (MindWare)

Qwirkle Cubes and Travel Size Qwirkle versions of the Spiel des Jahres winner.

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TOY FAIR 2012: NECA Game Tie-In Toys

Plush Team Fortress figures? Life size portal guns? Assassin's Creed big-heads? We got ya covered.

The Team Fortress 2 maquette below isn't from NECA, but I don't remember who's making it.

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Welcome to Toy Fair 2012

I'll be walking the floor for most of the day, posting anything that might be of interest, as long as the signal and charge hold out.

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Toy Fair Today

I'm travelling into New York today for the Toy Fair, where I plan to see all the usual suspects. I'm going to attempt to post from the show throughout the day, but that depends upon my connection.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Knight's Tour: Animated GIF

I run hot and cold on Wikipedia, but I stumbled upon this animated GIF of a Knight's Tour, and thought it was worth sharing. The Knight's Tour is a mathematical puzzle that requires a knight to visit every square on the board once using his standard move. The GIF is the work of Ilmari Karonen, and uses the following moves:

e8 g7 h5 f6 e4 g3 h1 f2 d1 b2 a4 c3 d5 b6 a8 c7 b5 a7 c8 d6 c4 a3 b1 d2 f1 h2 g4 e3 f5 h6 g8 e7 c6 d8 b7 a5 b3 a1 c2 d4 f3 e1 g2 h4 g6 h8 f7 g5 h7 f8 e6 f4 h3 g1 e2 c1 a2 b4 d3 c5 a6 b8 d7 e5

There's a beautiful symmetry in the finished solution. If, for some reason, the animation starts in the middle, just let it play out and it should loop around to the beginning.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Speaking of Plagiarizing Slimeballs...

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... 6waves. Remember that name, and don't ever buy anything from them again. Ever.

Here's why:

This is Triple Town, by Spry Fox:

And this is Yeti Town, by the aforementioned Slimeballs Inc.

See! They added snow!

And 6waves developed the game under the pretense of negotiating with Spry Fox to publish Triple Town:
6waves was in confidential (under NDA) negotiations with us to publish Triple Town at the exact same time that they were actively copying Triple Town. We gave 6waves private access to Triple Town when it was still in closed beta, months before the public was exposed to the game. We believed those negotiations were ongoing, and we continued to give private information to 6waves, until 6waves’ Executive Director of Business Development sent us a message via Facebook on the day Yeti Town was published in which he suddenly broke off negotiations and apologized for the nasty situation. His message can be found in its entirety in the body of our legal complaint.
It’s bad enough to rip off another company. To do so while you are pumping them for private information (first, our game design ideas, and later, after the game was launched on Facebook, our private revenue and retention numbers) is profoundly unethical by any measure.
So tell me: did Generation Napster have every last trace of scruples removed in between watching  Digimon and playing Syphon Filter?

Previous story: Zynga Chief: Stealing is Okay Cause Everybody Does It 

Zynga Chief: Stealing Is Okay Cause Everybody Does It

Naw, Mark Pincus really didn't say that. He said this:
We don’t need to be first to market. We need to be the best in market. There are genres that we’re going to enter because we know our players are interested in them and because we want and need to be where players are. We evolve genres by making games free, social, accessible and highest quality.
That's from a leaked memo in response to "criticism" (read: blindingly obvious observations) that the Zynga game Dream Heights in a bald-faced piece of plagiarism of indie hit Tiny Tower.

Pincus went on to say that it's different when people do it to him, as happened when Vostu's Pet Mania ripped off Zynga's Petville, which had already ripped off Nintendogs and every other pet game on the market.
A few of you have asked how our approach to genres relates to the situation we faced with Vostu. There are rules of engagement in our industry. Companies have to respect each other’s legal and IP ownership rights in the form of copyrights and trademarks. In the case of Vostu, you can see for yourself that Vostu crossed the line and chose to use our copyrighted IP and artwork. That’s different than competing to build the best product or out-innovate us in the City category.
 That's a lot of words for a guy most famous for telling his design team, “I don’t want ****ing innovation."

h/t: Forbes

Monday, January 30, 2012

Minecraft Legos

From the Department of Redundancy Department. Lego is producing an official Minescape Lego product, which will be completely different from regular Lego because it will say "Minecraft" on the box. And maybe come with a Creeper face decal.

Lego CUUSOO is a site that allows people to post ideas for Lego projects, and if they get enough votes (and pass review), Lego will produce that product. Minecraft passed the 10,000 vote mark and the review process, and "we are now developing a concept that celebrates the best aspects of building with the LEGO system and in Minecraft and we can’t wait to show it to you—but we aren’t ready just yet. These things take time, so we appreciate your patience. More details are to come."

h/t Penny Arcade

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gibraltar Chess Festival Gets a Stamp

The Gibraltar Chess Festival has become one of the premiere events on the chess calender, drawing some of the top talent to the Rock for 10 days, from 24th January to 2nd February, 2012. For the tenth anniversary, they're issuing a set of stamps depicting classic games from past years:
The games featured on the stamps have been specially chosen as representing the best of the many thousands contested in Gibraltar over the past decade. All the players shown are grandmasters. Two are women. Pia Cramling (Sweden) has played in all ten Gibraltar festivals, while Natalia Zhukova (Ukraine) won the top female award in 2010. Michael Adams, Nigel Short (both England) and Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) are all former Gibraltar champions. Viktor Bologan (Moldova) and Fabiano Caruana (Italy) are elite players with aggressive styles popular with the public. Chess legend Viktor Korchnoi (Switzerland) fought two World Championship matches with arch-rival Anatoly Karpov.
My children were puzzled when they first learned about stamp collecting. I explained that it was something we had to do before fun was invented.

You can follow the Gibraltar games live if you like.

h/t: Wayne Schmittberger

Star Wars: The Exquisite Corpse Version

This is about to go very viral, very fast. Star Wars Uncut divided the entire original movie into 15-second intervals. Fans from around the world claimed each of those intervals and made their own versions of those 15 seconds. These were then stitched back together into an entire film.

Why post it on a game site? Because it is, essentially, a high tech variation on the parlor game called exquisite corpse, in which someone makes a drawing, folds the paper so only the edge of the drawing can be seen, and then others continue the drawing without reference to the entire picture. The result looks like this:

Drawing by Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Max Morise, Joan MirĂ³, c. 1926.
Star Wars has such profound cultural capital that everyone can understand these moments no matter how crudely recreated, and they flow together into a surreal, ever-shifting, experience. It's almost impossible to watch all at once, but there are real moments of genius here and there. It is Star Wars re-imagined by the hive-mind of the internet fan community.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 18th: Stop SOPA Day

Minecraft has become the latest site pledging to go dark for 24 hours on January 18th in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) & Protect IP Act (PIPA) currently making their way through the US legislature. Notch tweeted the following message a few hours ago:
Decided. We'll silently take down and on the 18th in protest of SOPA.
A number of sites are planning to shut down in order to protest the new law, which is supposedly designed to thwart copyright violations and pirating. Similar hairbrained schemes crop up now and then and need to be smacked back down with great force, Whack-a-Mole-style.

I have little confidence in our government's ability to do almost anything right that doesn't involve really cool weapons, and the idea of opening the technological infrastructure of the entire internet to their meddling is sheer madness. Standford Law Review has a good summary of the problems with the law, and the Wiki entry also fills in some details. SOPA/PIPA is yet another bone thrown to the toxic mix of trial lawyers, lobbyists, and media conglomerates, and will only serve to cripple the continued growth of the internet and stifle free speech. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Xbox Workers Threaten Suicide in China

It doesn't seem like the most effective way to keep your job, but the subtleties of Chinese labor negotiations are lost on my Western Imperialist mind.
Dozens of workers assembling Xbox video game consoles climbed to a factory dormitory roof, and some threatened to jump to their deaths, in a dispute over job transfers that was defused but highlights growing labor unrest as China's economy slows.
The dispute was set off after contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group announced it would close the assembly line for Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 models at its plant in the central city of Wuhan and transfer the workers to other jobs, workers and Foxconn said Thursday.
Also of note: the writing at Associated Press (and, frankly, all mainstream journalism) just keeps getting worse and worse. I wrote better than this for my high-school newspaper: "The site previously had a couple of suicides or attempted ones a couple years back, prompting the government to take over the operations of the dormitories, said Wang, the equipment engineer."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ToneMatrix: Your Amazing Time-Waster of the Day

The developer describes ToneMatrix as a "simple sinewave synthesizer triggered by an ordinary 16step sequencer. Each triggered step causes a force on the underlaying wave-map, which makes it more cute." It's the work of Andre Michelle, and it's flat-out amazing in its addictive simplicity. If he converts this to a mobile app, he'll make a pot of money.

I found this one courtesy of my National Catholic Register colleague Simcha Fisher, the irritant who helps little grains of sand become wondrous pearls, whether we want to or not.

Strange Stories of an Accused Spy

Amir Hekmati
On Monday, January 9th, Iran's Revolutionary Court found 29-year-old Amir Hekmati "Corrupt on Earth and Mohareb,” and sentenced him to death as a US spy. (“Mohareb” is legal term identifying a defendant as someone who is waging war against God, or God and the State.) The verdict against Hekmati, a US citizen, is creating an international incident, but the story Hekmati tells in his “confession” is a strange tale of the CIA using games to influence popular opinion.

Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona to Iranian parents, and graduated from high school in Michigan. In his confession, he claims to have entered the US military in 2001, where he was trained and deployed as an interpreter because of his familiarity with the Farsi language. The US military regularly uses Iranian-Americans as translators in Afghanistan because Farsi is spoken in both countries.

After serving in Iraq for several months (the confession claims), Hekmati went to work for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA is a super-secret group that is described, on their publicly-available website, as being established in 1958 “to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.” DARPA is, essentially, a high-tech R&D contractor for the US Department of Defense.

Now, here’s where things get weird. In the interest of just reporting the facts as stated, this is what Hekmati said in a confession broadcast on Iranian state television and obtained, we are certain, without any coercion, threats, or use physical force:

“After DARPA, I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East and distribute them among Middle East residents free of charge. The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world and Iraq that what the US does in Iraq and other countries is good and acceptable. The head of Kuma called me and said I have received your resume from DARPA, and we have a program in which you can help us. It [Kuma] was also a cover for the CIA and only the chief of company knows that you're working with the agency.”

Hekmati’s father, Ali, a professor of microbiology at Mitt College in Flint, Michigan, contradicts this version of events. He told the UK Telegraph that his son was in Iran visiting his grandparents. "He is not a spy. It's a whole bunch of lies on my good son. They have lied about any American ... captured in Iran for visiting or tourism, or for any other reason. The first two weeks went without incident. The third week in Tehran, some people visited him and took him away. Nobody heard from him in the next three months."

Kuma Reality Games was founded in 2004, and is based in New York. They are best known for a series of poorly-regarded downloadable military first-person shooters, often with a “ripped from the headlines” premise. Users can download new episodes containing missions such as the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. They’re also responsible for Dinohunters, a game of almost sublime awfulness. One of their few innovations is the use of sponsored advertising in free games.

Some of Kuma’s shooters may well be intended for the military, which often uses software for recruitment and training purposes. In 2006, Keith Halper, the head of Kuma, admitted to that Kuma created training simulations for the US Army.
Dionohunters (Kuma Games) was created by the CIA
to convince Iranians that the US has an elite force of
dinosaurs on flying scooters equipped with machine guns.

Kuma also releases a steady stream of machinima, which are short films created using game engines. Some of these are just silly or promotional, while others depict military operations. The tone of the military shooters is sober and undeniably pro-American, with coalition soldiers shown taking down terrorist targets or conducting important military operations. It’s not particularly hard to see it as a coordinated propaganda effort, but it’s also not hard to see it as yet another military shooter with a Western/American point of view. Aside from its use of contemporary missions, nothing about Kuma’s work stands out one way or another.

The uniquely peculiar part about the “trial” of Hekmati is that the main charge against him was not for his work—real or not—with Kuma, but for working in Iran as a CIA spy. He was allegedly ordered to give Iranian Intelligence good information in order to get their trust, and then to start providing them with misinformation. He was allegedly captured before he could begin this alleged mission.

Of course, this version of events would ask us to believe that Hekmati’s employment at a company producing widely-available pro-American propaganda was merely cover for his role as a CIA agent, which would be a rather curious way of approaching a covert operation.

Although Iranian death sentences are usually carried out quickly and brutally, it’s more likely than Hekmati will be kept alive and used as a pawn in the ongoing geopolitical struggle between Iran and the West. 

Written for Games Magazine

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wizards of the Coast to Revamp D&D Yet Again

An interesting email just popped into my box, and I was thinking about headlining it "Wizards of the Coast Prepairing to Break D&D and Blame You."  All I have to say to WotC is this: D&D 4.0 is just fine, Encounters is a great initiative, the boardgames are good, and Pathfinder is out there for anyone who still wants the 3.5 experience. For the love of God, please STOP!

I mean, how many people would really prefer to go back to 3.5 via Pathfinder? Let's just toddle over to Amazon and take a look at the sales charts to see what people are buying  ...

... well ...

... that was awkward.

The release Wizards sent to the press today is after this-here jump:

Yeaaaah! Skyrim Gets a Little Macho Magic

I was going to title this one, "Snap Into a Skyrim," but Kotaku beat me to it. A Skyrim mod in which dragons are replaced with the late, great pro wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage? Yeah, that's awesome.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

REVIEW: Skyrim

I've reviewed Skyrim twice and written two editorials about it, and still keep on playing, logging something like 90 hours or so in total. That may seem like a ridiculous commitment for a game, but remember that a long-running TV show (like Lost, the last thing I followed with any enthusiasm) runs about 100 hours, and Skyrim is every bit as rich and varied as Lost. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is vast. It is epic. It achieves moments of grandeur unlike anything I have encountered in three decades of roleplaying, both conventional and electronic. Yes, it is flawed in places, but these are the flaws of a system that occasionally breaks down under the immense strain created by pushing current technology to its very limits.

Players familiar with its immediate predecessors from Bethesda Softworks—The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3—will see much that is familiar, on the surface. This is a still an open-world, action-oriented RPG, heavy on dialog and filled with quests, places to go and things to kill.

But everything is simply better this time around. The potential hinted at in Oblivion and developed further in Fallout 3 is now fully manifested in Skyrim. Bethesda has created a dynamic, highly-developed fantasy world populated with an immensely diverse selection of characters and spread across the most fully realized landscape ever seen in an electronic game.

There is much to love in Skyrim, but the biggest star of the show isn’t the graphics, the story, the character, or even the gameplay, but Skyrim itself. This world just cries out for exploration, from its sunlit valleys to its frozen mountain peeks, from the depths of monster-haunted dungeons to the frozen plains where peaceful giants (deadly if provoked) act as shepherds for wooly mammoths. Farms, homesteads, fortresses, and ancient ruins dot the landscape, beckoning travelers. The different cities each have a unique character and even a socioeconomic profile, from grand imperial seats to squalid, poverty-blighted areas where thieves and cutthroats lurk in shadows. Never has a fantasy world been so thoroughly and appealingly realized in a video or computer game, not even World of Warcraft.

Within this world, the NPCs (non-player characters) go about their lives in a more dynamic way that we’ve ever seen, farming, trading, crafting, stealing, drinking, brawling, flirting, and just living out their lives. It’s hard to tell just how dynamic the economic model really is, but there’s no question that the fortunes of people and locations fluctuate with time and the actions of the player. Driving off a threat helps a town or city return to normal, and people’s actions and moods change accordingly.

Skyrim is not a true sequel to Oblivion, but a new series set in the same world. The action picks up 200 years after the end of Oblivion. The Empire has begun to recede, and with the assassination of the High King of the Skyrim region, the area is slowly descending into chaos and civil war. The natives of Skyrim, known as the Nords, are divided into various camps: those who want to remain in the Empire, those who want out, those who want to manipulate either side for power, and those who just want to keep their heads down and avoid trouble.

You begin the game by choosing a race and appearance for your character. This doesn’t effect the plotline of the game, but it does effect interactions with individual characters. The world of Skyrim is highly race-conscious, with xenophobia leading to inevitable conflict. Whatever race you choose, you start the game as a prisoner on his way to execution, suspected of being a member of the rebel group known as the Stormcloaks. The execution is interrupted by the shocking reappearance of dragons, which had long since vanished from the land.

From there, you learn that you are yourself “Dragonborn,” meaning you are able to speak the “language” of dragons. Known as “shouts,” this dragon language enables you to harness incredible power, but also marks you as someone destined to play a major role in the fate of Skyrim. Soon, you find yourself meeting a wide array of people and factions, each with their own needs and agendas. People appear offering opportunities for adventure, treasure, and a chance to uncover the mystery of the return of the dragons. Some are just folks who need your help, and you can assist them or not depending upon your desires.

Factions are groups that provide certain benefits and potentially align you with certain forces. You can join the Empire or rebellion, become an assassin or thief, rise to be Archmage of the magical college, or follow any number of other paths to carve out a unique career in the world of Skyrim. Impress the local leader, and you can even buy a home and decorate it.

The Dragonborn mystery is really the central plotline of Skyrim, but you can pick it up or drop as you please. The difficulty level scales along with your skill level, so no matter what order you tackle missions, the strength of the enemies will match your character’s abilities. No matter how you approach the Dragonborn plot, dragons will appear throughout the world. These dragon battles are large and somewhat challenging, but not so difficult as to become frustrating. Plus, at the end of each battle, you absorb the soul of the defeated dragon, thus adding more opportunities to expand your selection of shouts.

The combat mechanics are quite simple but provide for ample flexibility. Each of your character’s hands is bound to a button and can be assigned a weapon, shield, or spell. Favorite spells and gear can be called up while the game pauses, allowing you to cast a spell, switch to weapon and shield, and then switch back to a spell, with each hand acting independently. The spells themselves come in a wide array of categories, such as healing, summoning, attacks, traps, and more. The game also features an incredibly robust crafting element that allows you to make, improve, and sell all manner of items from armor to potions.

A character earns points towards his next level as he performs tasks and defeats foes, and with each new level comes one “perk” point. These perks are a complex matrix of enhancements to various skills, adding bonuses and new abilities in order to gradually customize your character around your style of play. Thus, you can spend points to enhance anything from haggling and lockpicking to shield bashing, sword skills, and spell power. As these points are spent, each character develops a unique set of abilities.

The flaws in Skyrim are intermittent and mostly technical. The game crashes occasionally on all platforms, and there are graphical glitches aplenty. Frankly, for a game of this size and complexity, I expected far more of these problems than I found, and the ones I did encounter rarely had a huge impact on the overall experience. I’ve seen far worse in far less ambitious games.

And this is an ambitious game, perhaps moreso than any other open world game yet created. It is a masterpiece of worldbuilding and epic storytelling, rich in content and featuring an immense amount of gameplay. It’s impossible to say how long it would take to see and do everything in the game, but Bethesda has claimed 300 hours of potential gameplay. It’s easy to believe. This is a monster of a game, and a masterpiece of interactive art.

Welcome to a New Year of Gaming

Good Lord, has it been a month already? These festive seasons sure do take their toll. Between finishing a semester in graduate school, work, and fending off an evil, soul-sucking mortgage company, it's been all I can do to get from dawn to dusk with my usual 3 hour nap and 2 hour martini break in between.

Seriously, though, I've been going through almost stratospheric levels of stress lately, and it's taken a toll on my writing, my health, and my sanity (which some would claim was already pretty fragile)(and by "some" I mean mostly my mother). It's also cut deeply into the extra gaming time, which is what (in theory) makes State of Play more than just a repository for my print writing. Board and card game play has fallen off a cliff, and it's all I can do to write for work while still leaving time to live a full and happy life as a High Elf Werewolf Companion Archmage Thief Legionnaire with two houses, a wife, a couple of housecarls, some daedra, and a horse with a unquenchable desire to charge into every dragon encounter and promptly get either barbecued, frozen, or eaten.

(I've been through 6 horses, and my daughter is running out of chocolate-themed names to give them. We've had Chocolate, Hershey, Snickers, Musketeer (he lasted about an hour--tried to stomp a bear to death--failed), Reeses, and M&M, and I'm afraid I'm about to wind up with M&M With Peanuts, which is just all kinds of wrong.  Why the chocolate names? Because Bethesda, which has populated Skyrim with hundreds of unique creatures, seems incapable of making a horse in any color but "brown", and I sold naming rights to my horses to a 10-year-old girl in exchange for leftover Halloween candy.)

So am I abandoning State of Play? Nope. I'm still here. Just slowing down while life kind of reforms around me. I'm increasing my school schedule and my non-game writing, and still working my way through the insanely ill-conceived and horribly implemented HAMP process. That means posting will be intermittent, but I've put down a fairly solid footprint here and don't intend to abandon it. 

And I'm looking forward to a new year of gaming. I have a stack of good stuff waiting for the table, and the electronic platforms have been an absurdly rich banquet of high-quality titles. I'm about to post my review of the most high-qualityist of them all right after this, so stay tuned.