"Awesome!" A Blog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hello and There Have You Been!

It struck me that I haven't been making much of an appearance in the old "public figurena" lately, and that it was high time we checked in with one another. I know that you know that I'm not much for this kind of thing, so I'll keep this brief and to the point. I will also ramble, and go on at length, and take many breaks to view Internet pornography about maids.

1. "Hey, did you quit or something?"
I've been posting the four weekly Achewood strips in the morning lately, and this has caused some confusion. It upsets routines. It drives people in Australia up the wall, because their "morning" is actually something like sixteen hours later, and their coffee has long since gotten cold, and they've drummed their fingers to the bone. It's hard to please a twenty-four hour world, people. So, why the different posting schedule? Well, I've been doing the strips at night, often very late at night. Sometimes I finish them so late that my synapses are actually sitting in a pile next to my mousepad, and I don't have the use of them. I've found that I like to look over the strip when I wake up, gently burnish it here and there, and then send it on its way. Why don't I work a day in advance, you ask? Well, that's kind of like asking me why I'm a boy. God put what he did where he did, and now I'm prone to thinking of Chuck Norris every few days. I make no apologies. I doubt Chuck would either.

2. The Child.
A little while back I got all high on my abilities and had a child. I posted updates about her life, and then I stopped doing that when she got to be about two and a half. She's three now, and I can't say that she's let up much. We went to Disneyland recently, and late one night when I was on a bipedal errand I fetched some cereal milk and bottled water from a liquor store a block past our hotel. Plumbing around for a personal nadir, I ducked into a Del Taco for a cheeseburger and a side of fries. The food was disgusting. The patty was a disc of paste like you might peel off a roll of waxed paper. The fries were crinkle-cut relics from a joyless factory thousands of miles distant, their crenulated surface informed by food styling trends set in the early '80s. I was glad she was not there to witness as her father stuffed three dollars worth of expedient gunk into an sticky, overflowing trash bin and wandered back out into the night.

3. The Great Outdoor Fight book
This is a big one. We've had it in the works for a while...roughly since before YouTube and Facebook emerged to remind us all that we should have learned how to write computer programs. Dark Horse will release this hardcover in the fall, and it will be on Amazon as a pre-order starting sometime in mid-April. What I recommend is getting a case for your trunk, so that you can make friends wherever you go, and also keep a stack in the front hall for departing guests. It might also be prudent to keep a few dozen in a large bowl in your office or waiting room.

4. The 2nd Achewood Cookbook
It's an open secret that Achewood sells a cookbook, and in the five years since its release I've been testing, learning, tasting, and documenting my further experiments in the kitchen. It's just a gigantic mess of a Microsoft Word file at the moment, but I hope to have it dressed up and pretty by summer. Whereas the first book is full of basics (who else will tell you how to really cook rice and hot dogs?), this one is more advanced, more sophisticated, and assumes that the reader has a cutting board.

That's about it for now...I need to go draw gorillas with somebody.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Adventures In Text

Like many quasi-computer people my age, I passed whole years at a stretch plumbing the depths of HHGG (remember the silly little gifts that came with it? What were they?), Planetfall, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Zork...the list actually doesn't go on much from there, but indelible marks indeed did those games leave. A couple stale-smelling guys in a dorm room at MIT could combine five or six interesting sentences with a diagram of seventeen rooms and you, the user, would create entire mental worlds in the white-on-black 80-column universe. So spare was the imagery and explanation (it had to be: these came on 128kb floppies, remember) that by the time you wrapped up a successful trip through any one of them, you'd imagined more copy than the combined works of John Irving, only no one would be referring to you as, "a fairly important novelist from New Hampshire" (unless you were, of course, J.D. Salinger, in which case why were you dicking around playing Zork?).

Several years back, a very talented fellow coded a Java-based environment, complete with GUI, in which I could develop a retro-style Achewood text adventure. He was a good man, with the best intentions, and he was magnificent with computers. Unfortunately, I could never install the thing properly, make sense of the user interface, or run it anywhere without a bunch of gray pop-ups saying things about Java and failure. Wherever you are, C., forgive my ineptitude. I hope you were able to use the code in some other way, perhaps to mind your eggs and milk.

It is in that spirit that I put the following query forth to my readership: does anyone know of a good, easy-to-use environment in which to develop interactive text adventures? I stopped programming computers well before the Internet replaced the Vuarnet, and we've been on uncomfortable footing ever since, so it would need to be something which ideally did not expose one to a command line. I mean, of course, in the making of the product — not in the use of it. Funny how that goes.

Please email me with any suggestions. Thank you for any and all, and if I do not reply it is nothing to do with you, but rather because I am a lousy fellow.

(Edit: as of nine hours later, I have about sixty replies, most of which are recommending something called the "Inform-7" interactive fiction platform. Thank you everyone! And here I was, thinking Inform-7 was some sort of Swedish boy band.)