Skyrim Map

While I was wrapping up the final touches on my Ultima VI map at the end of 2016 I was already brainstorming how to go about making a map of one of my other all-time favorite RPG video games, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

If you’d like to skip ahead to see the final result, see the images at the end. Otherwise, read on to find out how it was made!

The completed map.

Continue reading Skyrim Map

Ultima VI Map

Ultima VI is one of my favorite games of all time. It was one of the first PC games I ever played. It was installed on my mom’s computer by my brother in law, and I stumbled on it by accident one day. I didn’t have any manuals or maps or anything, so I was going in blind. I think that kind of added to the appeal. I wound up drawing a map of my own on graph paper with quite a lot of detail using nothing but the in-game sextant and sailing around the coasts of every landmass.

More recently I thought it’d be nice to create a new map, something I wouldn’t mind hanging on my wall. Continue reading Ultima VI Map

Project Alpha

Legendary Digital Networks (LDN) has created a new subscription streaming and video-on-demand service, Alpha, featuring geek-focused programming from Geek & Sundry and Nerdist. It’s due to launch Thursday, November 17th, 2016 (a delay from the original date of November 3rd). You can find the press release and video here, but if you’re reading this you are probably at least somewhat familiar with the service already.

You are also probably aware there has been controversy. There are a lot of opinions being voiced about the new service, few of them positive, some in the wait-and-see area. I have a pretty dim view of the service myself. In fact, I see it as pretty toxic. I’m writing this post to my fellow community members to convince them to steer away from Alpha.

Continue reading Project Alpha

Curta Mechanical Calculator

Here’s a little toy I’d had on my wishlist for years and finally treated myself to about a year ago. It’s a Curta II mechanical digital calculator, manufactured circa late 1966. It achieved the extraordinary feat of putting the complex mechanisms of an adding machine into a package small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Continue reading Curta Mechanical Calculator

Technology and the Elderly

I have a lot of thoughts on UI and UX that I’ve been wanting to organize into a coherent series of posts, but I feel like that may be too onerous and paralyzing a task, so I will try to tackle topics as I think of them. I am not a credentialed UI/UX designer, or a trained designer of any kind. I’m a software engineer who has specialized in UI, from desktop to web to now mobile interfaces, and I have a degree in psychology. Dubious qualifications. My thoughts are informed as an implementer of UI/UX designs, a mindful observer, and someone with the honed ability to whine constructively. Take with a grain of salt.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about my changing relationship with technology as I get older. (For this discussion when I say technology I mean our consumer electronics and the software that runs on them.) My delight in new technology is waning, and I have some thoughts on why.

Continue reading Technology and the Elderly

Kinga Fan Art

I’m a tremendous fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. When Joel Hodgson launched a Kickstarter (now concluded) to bring it back I immediately pledged money. When Felicia Day was announced as the new Mad (or more accurately, when the information was leaked days before being officially acknowledged) I was over the moon, because I’m a huge fan of hers.

I decided to take a break from some of my other creative projects and draw some fan art of Felicia’s new character, Kinga Forrester.

Rise of Kinga MST3K fan art

The drawing measures 4×6″. It took approximately (very approximately) 30 hours over the course of about 2 weeks. As with most of my stippling projects, I used a Sakura Pigma Micron 005 (0.2mm) pen, as well as a brush tip for filling in the larger black areas.

I took frequent photos with my phone of the progress and turned them into an animation. I really like watching this, seeing the sections fill in like fluid, and details being tweaked in older areas. I’m going to make a point of trying to make these animations for future drawing projects.

MST3K fan art time lapse

I started with the face because I am not very confident about or practiced in drawing people, and if I messed it up I wanted it to be easy to start over. In terms of my skill and comfort levels, inanimate things are easier to draw than cartoon people, are easier than realistic made-up people, are easier than realistic actual people, are easier than realistic actual attractive people, are easier than realistic actual attractive people where I’m applying totally different lighting to the drawing than from the source photo I’m working off of. So I wasn’t very confident in how it would turn out. I feel pretty good about it considering my managed expectations. Perhaps in a few months I’ll be able to look at it more objectively and form a better snap assessment, but right now I’m pretty happy with the results.

Eeek & Spoopy

Eeek & Spoopy

I’m a fan of Geek & Sundry, creators of various geeky programs on YouTube and Twitch. During this past Halloween they changed their Twitter name to “Eeek & Spoopy,” and I was inspired to do a little drawing.

Color pens: Sakura Pigma Micron 05 (0.45mm) and brush, Copic Multiliner SP
Outline pen: Sakura Pigma Micron 005 (0.2mm)
Paper: Strathmore medium 80lb
Time: 2-3 hours

Why I Play Female Avatars

In RPGs or any video game with a customizable avatar, I’ve usually gravitated toward choosing female characters. As a hetero cis male, I’ve never quite understood this tendency, and I’ve often felt a little self-conscious about it. (“No, hey, wait, don’t load that save game! Let’s just start a fresh one, okay, yeah. [ahem]”) Does this mean something about my gender identity I don’t understand? Do I need to learn to walk in heels? I already have enough foot problems in sneakers.

Only recently did it finally make sense to me: I play female avatars because they aren’t my avatars. By that I mean I don’t play as video game characters; I play along with video game characters. I guess I missed the whole “role playing” part of role playing games, because it’s just not how I relate to them.

Any time I’m rolling a character, I’ve always felt uncomfortable picking one with my name and appearance (and not just because I’m goofy looking). It feels a bit like hiring a new employee and on their first day saying, “Welcome aboard! Here are my clothes for you to wear, and from now on you will answer to my name. Now hold still while I do a bit of reconstructive surgery.” They aren’t me; it’s weird to try to make them be me.

I’m rolling not an avatar but a companion. I’m creating a partner that I’m cooperating with to get through this game. I want to keep them safe, not out of self preservation, but to protect my new friend. We’re working toward shared goals. In this way, solo gaming feels less solo. It’s like a buddy movie, but with more murder and theft.

That explains why my characters don’t resemble me, but why are they female? That’s for reasons more unique to me. I’m just more comfortable around women. I grew up with sisters, a single mother, nieces, and many other self-sufficient, strong, kind women. Conversely, I was nerdy, sensitive, indoorsy, artsy and never into the sportsball (is that what they call it?), so my bro relations were stunted. And the vast majority of my childhood tormenters were guys, which didn’t help build positive associations. I’m not a man-hating man, and most of my friends have been male, but given the choice of hanging out with a random male stranger or a random female stranger, I would choose the latter. No universal declarations here about either gender. This is just the context that influences my preferences.

And frankly, strong female characters are just more interesting. Cocky meathead trigger-happy dudes are vanilla. Standard. Default. We’ve heard that story already. Let’s see something else.

So when given the choice between a male or female video game character, the latter is just easier for me to get behind …and slightly above in third-person camera mode.

Gender picker