But soon the sun with milder rays descends

Everyone says planning a wedding is hard work, but it has not really caught up with us until this summer.
Our wedding is in three weeks. We have our cocktail napkins. The moms, the flower girls, and I all have our dresses. Our flowers, cake, and cake topper are set, and we are looking forward to a wedding at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
We’ve even got more music than we know what to do with ready for instant DJ-ing loaded onto our computers. I’m really excited about all of that. But there are a few stumbling blocks. For one, we found out that our rings are really late! We ordered custom rings from Absolute Titanium. We had pretty rough luck with them for my engagement ring, so we figured we’d have to be proactive about making sure the wedding rings got to us on time. Lets just say that it was a good thing that we’ve been aggressively in touch with them. Apparently, the canceled our order by accident. They confused us with another “Owens” that ordered the same style.

We’ve hardly had time, this summer, to take any fun pictures. Of course, we have the obligatory puppy shots, because that is what dotting dog owners do. The puppies have been enjoying a bit more outdoor freedom now that we have installed a short fence. It is tall enough to keep our little guys in line, but still short enough to maintain our view of the woods. They still bark at everyone that walks by. Why don’t dogs understand property lines?

The summer highlight for sure has been the wedding of our friends Ben and Amanda. The wedding was at an amazing vineyard outside of Amanda’s hometown of Staunton, VA. A gorgeous little old town that deepend my appreciatiuon for my new home state. Take a look. The bride, groom, friends, and scenerly were all picture perfect:

The wedding was a rare confluence of great friends, great booze, great food, and amazing scenery. Utterly unforgettable. The best part was that it was the puppies’ first hotel stay, and they did smashing-ly well.

Darwin Quest RPG: Making Historical RPGs for Almost Nothing

Last Friday I was excited to rediscover RPG Maker, a windows only, no-programing skills necessary, platform for building role playing games. The tool allows you to create games with the look and feel of mid-nineties Super Nintendo Games like Final Fantasy VI, Breath of Fire, or EarthBound. As an avid gamer and proto-historian I was excited to see if RPG Maker could be used to build historical RPGs, or, if not that, at least  playable proofs of concept. After a few hours of fun with the program I am happy to report that I think it can serve both these purposes.

Through the tools relatively simple interface you can very quickly create maps, characters and edit all the other RPG staples like character classes, skills, and items. I have always thought Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos would make a neat RPG so I thought I would start by playing around with that. Below are some screenshots from my 2 hrs of work.

Darwin Quest Title Screen
Darwin Quest Title Screen
Charles is aparently a level one naturalist
Charles is apparently a level one naturalist

RPG maker comes pre-loaded with generic map tiles and each tile already comes with standard properties. For example you can’t walk on water tiles but your ship can sail on them. So with a few minutes of playing around with the tiles and a map of the Galapagos I had a functional recreation of the islands for my game. I also used a visual basic sprite generator one of the members of the RPG Maker community built to make a little Darwin character for the main map. You can see him, the map, and the HMS Beagle in the image below.

Darwin on the Map
Darwin on the Map

Here is where the interesting stuff starts. RPG Maker allows you to create events triggered through simple interaction, and then use those events flip global switches that can then impact any number of other interactions. So, in a simple example, a designer could require the player to observe 10 finches on the island to trigger a switch which would give the player an item called “Finch Observations”. Now, the player can use that item to say win an argument, or form a theory. What is exciting here is not my example, which is actually pretty weak, but the fact that this platform allows folks interested in these types of games to jump into development, with basically nothing more than the investment of their time, and get right to the heart of interesting game design questions. You can skip all the programing and start making a game today.

Darwin finds a finch
Darwin finds a finch (Ok, I know it looks like a chicken)

Now, the fact that RPG Maker requires basically no programing experience does mean that it imposes some strong limitations on the kinds of games and the kinds of game play you can develop. After a bit of head scratching I think I am getting close to some ideas for how to use the mechanics behind the RPG standard “kill some monsters-to get experience points-to level up-to kill some tougher monsters-repeat” model to build some very different kinds of player experiences.

I should mention that a lisence for RPG Maker costs 60 bucks, you can try the 30 day trial for free though. Beyond just using the platform, it looks like that fee allows you to make and distribute any game you develop in any way you chose.