It’s really gone and begun now

Eight days to go until we fly out of here and into SFO. Today is the day things really kicked into gear. We get three opportunities to get our stuff from here to there: The luggage we carry, an air shipment with volume and weight limits, and a sea shipment with volume limits. They arrive, respectively, with us, one week after we arrive and five weeks after we arrive. Having done this more than once now, myself and the wife have a really good idea of what we need at each stage.

The sea shipment is being packed up in three days, so it was vital to make sure we separate out the things for air shipment and luggage before then. Given the shit-storm that is going to happen over the next few days with immigration and vet visits and turning security passes into work, etc, etc, etc, today was the day to get it done. And get it done, we did.

The apartment is now officially a tip, but things are sorted out, which is fantastic. We’re basically living between kitchen, laptops and the bedroom, with brief sojourns to the bathroom. Everything in-between is either in disarray, or in a box.

Usually, this would be enough to send my anxiety through the roof, but seeing the boxes made and tetrised (yes, it’s a verb) into the right volume requirements for the air shipment, and seeing the luggages spread out with coats and jumpers (oh, coats and jumpers. Finally!) ready for the cold air of San Francisco, is a great feeling.

Eight more days. Then we get home.

MUDs, MMOs, and me, oh my!

Two pieces of news have inspired this today. News the first is that the humble text-based MUD is 30 years old. The second is the news of a new MMO from a company that I have a vested interest in seeing succeed, and based on an IP that I have a certain fondness for.

Most of my gaming background is rooted in role-playing. I started gaming when I was around 12 or 13 when I was invited to a lunch-time session of the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game. The invitation was from an older boy at my school who was known as a ‘strange’ one, meaning that he had long hair and wore a black trenchcoat. Stereotypes have to have a grounding in some reality, right? These lunchtime gaming sessions were a relief to the young me that ate packed lunches quietly in the corner of the playground and avoided all ball-based sports that were played around me.

I’m not quite sure how the progression went, but the next memory I have of gaming with friends is a small group of us meeting at one of our houses every Sunday to play Rifts. I must have been around 16 years old, and I know that we met through a combination of pub-going1 and loitering around youth-clubs2.

It was around this time that I started finding out about MUDs. I’d been online for a while and had run a BBS for a while3 with a couple of friends, and of course I’d been playing text-based games for years, so when I found out that someone had combined these two things into an online text-based game with actual real other people playing, I was instantly hooked.

I don’t remember my first, or my second, but I do remember my last. Discworld MUD managed to hook me in with yet another factor I could not deny: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I played so much that I ended up as a creator, coding new rooms or items for players. This ended up with me meeting my future wife as she was my boss on the MUD. It also started getting me thinking about a career as a software engineer in the games industry rather than the theoretical physicist I thought I was going to be. I owe quite a lot to that game.

Right before moving to Singapore, I found a new gaming group. We played through the first couple of stories in a 3.5 edition DnD campaign, but then it was time to leave for the other side of the world. It’s my first time playing DnD, believe it or not, and I loved every second spent with my Gnome Barbarian/Sorceror (don’t ask).

I don’t play on MUDs so often now. I have to pick my hobbies more carefully due to a more limited playtime schedule and there are just other things that capture my interest more. I have played a few MMOs (EVE Online, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft) and have recently picked up Warhammer Online for the pleasure of exploration of a new world, and I’ll always pick up other non-RPG games to see what is out there. When it comes down to it, I’d still rather spend time sitting around a table with a group of friends rolling dice and arguing about rules than anything.

I suppose that’s why I couldn’t resist the 4th edition DnD Player Handbook when we went shopping for books for the upcoming flight. I’m not sure I agree with the changes they’ve made, but I can’t wait to find a group of players in San Francisco to find out how it plays.

1 – Playing in bands, rather than under-age drinking. Honest.
2 – Sounds Workshop: A recording studio masquerading as a youth club.
3 – Archetype, on the off-chance that anyone ever used it

Harnessing my powers for good

Today is the first working day off in a break that will last three weeks. I woke up as normal, checked my sites, caught up with my friends lives and started wombling around the house. By 9.30 I was on edge. This is not like me as I tend towards a rather sedentary life with my natural cycle revolving around nocturnal activity. But there it was, I needed to do something, anything.

So I broke out the moving plan that Mirto has done a fantastic job putting together while I’ve been at work for the past few weeks. Here we are just five hours later and a huge dent has been made in the list. Shelves are down, holes are spackled, figurines are boxed, cables are sorted, floors are vacuumed. I didn’t do it all, of course, but it feels great to have had the energy and drive to get anything done. I hope I can continue harnessing the work habit in the next few days to finish off the list earlier and getting some true chill out time with the family.

Of course, if the XBox 360 wasn’t glaring at me with three red segments, and if Singapore Post would actually deliver Warhammer Online, perhaps this bout of motivation would not be so easily harnessed for good.

Making the choice to read

As always, Mr Wil Wheaton has given me cause to ponder. In a blog post today, he quotes from an interview with Neal Stephenson regarding making the choice to read a book rather than engage in one of the many other activities we have available to us now.

It’s something that I’ve recently rediscovered: While I might love to browse my netvibes feeds and keep up with twitter, not to mention browsing the latest game demos through whatever means are available, or watching guilty pleasure TV, I still find the greatest peace and pleasure when I drop some music on a stereo, open up a book and allow myself to be absorbed. I still find the greatest connection to a story, and to characters, is that connection that comes through the pages of a book.

I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks of vacation before I fly out to my new home: Warhammer is coming, I get a chance to work on my own projects, but above all, I get to just sit and read for a while.

Last day of work

Last time I touched on this subject, I ended up writing more about starting the new job than leaving the old one. I’d like to remedy this by writing now about today: My last day at work.

I suppose my usual feeling when leaving one job to go to another is terror. The anxieties of how the last day will go kick in, as well as the concerns I mentioned previously about the new job.

Again, this time as a transfer between sibling companies, it’s very different. I feel more like I’m going on vacation for a couple of weeks and then going back to a different team rather than a whole new company. I’m truly excited about the future and I don’t feel that I’m leaving my team here behind as I’m sure I’ll still be involved with them at some level.

I’ve written the farewell email ready to send out later. I’ve included the embarassingly long list of contact methods for people (a couple of IM alternatives, social networking sites, email addresses…) and the obligatory Douglas Adams quote. All that is left is to walk out of the door in six hours.

Aaw, now I’ve made myself feel melancholic. Perhaps a lunchtime beer is required…