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

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

Fallout 4 Stipple Drawing

I’m getting excited for Fallout 4 coming out next week, so I drew a thing.

Fallout 4

Pen: Sakura Pigma Micron 005 (0.2mm)
Paper: Strathmore medium 80lb
Time: ~10 hours

It’s approximately 3 inches wide. Very small. I used a magnifier during most of the process.

The biggest enemy of stippling is impatience. There are many areas in this drawing where I was impatient to fill large areas, and it shows as grittier, clumpier shading. The nicer areas are the ones where I took my time and placed each dot very purposefully. In those areas the dots are evenly spaced and smooth and just generally a lot more attractive. It’s especially hard to maintain in areas where the tone changes continuously, because then the dot pattern changes continuously as well. It’s an evolving skill.

Yoshi’s Woolly World

Yoshi’s Woolly World just came out for Wii U, and I can’t decide whether to call it gorgeous or adorable.

OK, it’s both.

The style is executed so perfectly. The soft, warm fuzziness just leaps off the screen and makes you feel like you’re bundled up under a warm blanket in winter. The animation is full of fraying yarn and squishable pillowiness. It all adds up to an incredibly satisfying experience that feels as comforting and familiar as that itchy sweater your mom knit you.

Here are some screen shots, but I recommend watching the trailer at their website to get a better feel for it in motion.

Yoshi map

Underground zone

Yarn ball dispenser

Sunflower platform

Bundled knitted Yoshi Amiibo

Steam Link


Steam Link

My Steam Link arrived today! The Steam Link is a little device that connects to your TV and allows you to play games on your TV using a PC in another room. Game pad and keyboard/mouse inputs are received by the Steam Link and relayed over the network to your PC, and the video is streamed back to your TV. It’s got a nice couch-friendly interface for navigating through your games. My PC is on another floor from my living room, and sometimes it’s better to curl up on the couch than sit at a desk, so this is perfect for me.

Steam Controller

I had some minor snags initially. The Steam controller takes a little getting used to. The two circular areas are capacitive (like a smart phone screen) as well as pressable. They control a mouse cursor in certain contexts. I tried sending a message to a friend at one point and encountered a pretty bizarre two-cursor soft keyboard where each capacitive area navigated over one half of a QWERTY keyboard. Really odd, but I could see it maybe getting a little easier with practice.

My PC is in a multi-monitor configuration, and I think that may have been the cause of at least one failure of a game to stream properly. I tried running GTA V, but I hadn’t played it in a while and it required a #%*!ing Social Club update before it would run, which could only be done by manually visiting a URL and downloading it, which the Steam Link is useless for. That’s no fault of the Steam Link; that’s the fault of that damn game. I won’t get started on that rant.

That said, most games I tried worked pretty well. Guacamelee, for example, is the perfect sort of game for this configuration: a 2D platformer. Chariot is similar, though it did seem to be running at like 90% speed for some reason. I’m especially eager to try this thing out once the weather turns cold and getting curled up under a blanket on the couch.

Steam Link screen