An almost-perfect Saturday

I did my first pace run in two weeks this morning…

…and I didn’t do too badly considering I’ve been taking it easy for a fortnight! I am missing parkrun on Saturdays, but I’m hopeful that I will be able to maintain my speed during this lockdown.

I’ve now got an afternoon and evening of game creation and game playing to look forward to. I feel fairly lucky that I’m an introvert and a homebody anyway, so I can keep myself quite content during this awful world situation, but I know it must be pretty unbearable for people who thrive on social contact.

Tomorrow will be similar, with added Easter chocolate 🙂

Pixel art tunnel
Light at the end of the tunnel. Made for my upcoming graphical update of Goblin Decathlon.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Abba – ‘I Have A Dream’
Ram Jam – ‘Black Betty’
The Knack – ‘My Sharona’
Flogging Molly – ‘Drunken Lullabies’
The Pogues – ‘Fiesta’
Rei Kondoh – ‘We Should Turn In For The Night’

And a bonus track that Geth was humming earlier:

Ultraviolence – ‘Elektra’

Graphics for the artistically-challenged graphical text adventure creator

I’m creating graphics for my adventure games this week, and because I’m currently working on three different adventure games (set vaguely in the same universe), I’m also working on three different types of graphics!

Goblin Decathlon
One of the many goblin officials you meet while trying to win all the gold medals in Goblin Decathlon.

For a graphical update to Goblin Decathlon, my most recent Adventuron jam entry game, I’m currently creating some basic graphics in the same style as I used for Hallowe’en: Night of the Misty Manor back in October for the Hallowe’en jam. This style – which I think (and others have kindly commented on occasion) is quite cute – is very basic pixel art, with flat colours and marginally fleshed-out stick figures – nothing complicated at all – and, unfortunately, represents the limits of what I can currently create from scratch using pixels. I hope to improve my skills in this area, but I’ve got a long way to go.

Hallowe'en: Night of the Misty Manor
In Hallowe’en: Night of the Misty Manor, Mr Campbell is in charge of all the party snacks. How are you going to distract him so you can grab one?

For one of my unreleased games – the game idea I was originally intending to create for the most recent jam – I’m taking a different approach and drawing the graphics with paper and pencil. Once I’ve finished that part of the process, I’ll scan them in and finalise the artwork using GIMP (my preferred digital editing software). At the moment I’m planning to keep it black and white for a stylised effect… but I may succumb to the temptation of colouring in during the cleanup process. We’ll see!

Artwork in progress
This wizard is a central figure in my current series of games, but right now he’s still a very basic pencil sketch.

For my other unreleased game (which is a huge project – I started it for NaNoWriMo last year and am currently working on it again for Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don’t expect it’ll be ready to release until at least the end of 2020), I’m going back to where I started when I had to create last-minute graphics for my first jam entry, The Cave of Hoarding. For that game, I made photo collages and then pixelised them – it was very rough and ready, but I had very little time (in that jam, I spent two weeks working on one game and then had to switch to a different smaller project in the last forty-eight hours when I realised it would be impossible to finish the first on time!) and zero experience of creating pixel art. I’ve been experimenting further since then with pixelised photographs, working on editing and filtering them to make them look more like drawings than photos, and I’m feeling more confident that I can create something nice for this project.

The Cave of Hoarding
One of the jam conditions for the first Adventuron jam was that certain locations had to be used, including ‘the side of a beautiful lake’. For my attempt at this graphic in The Cave of Hoarding, I used some old holiday snaps to make a photo collage of a lake and some trees, then heavily pixelised it and indexed the colours. I’m not sure how ‘beautiful’ it is, but it was probably the best graphic I made for my first jam attempt!

I’ve never been much of an artist, but creating graphics to go with my games has probably been one of the most enjoyable challenges in making adventure games over the last few months. It’s an area in which I have definite room for improvement!

Out on the hunt

It was another practical run this morning…

…because I needed to visit nine shops before I was able to find any pasta, and so I thought I might as well get my run in as part of the search! Our wee Sainsbury’s Local had a few packs of macaroni left. It transpired that they’re now limiting them to two per customer, which is probably why!

I also (miraculously) managed to find some toilet roll in a pound shop that I never normally go into. Everyone in there was being really great about only taking one pack. I now feel confident that Geth and I have enough to keep us going, even if it takes a couple of weeks before I manage to find some again.

I spent the rest of the day working on a paper for a client – I’m very grateful to have some work at the moment. I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend, including a ‘non-parkrun’ tomorrow and a ‘not nearly as long as in marathon training’ long run on Sunday.

Upscaled pixels
Being in the house means I’m running out of stuff to take photos of, so I made this slightly existential upscaled pixel art self-portrait.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Unflinchable Courage’
Badly Drawn Boy – ‘Once Around The Block’
The Beatles – ‘Michelle’


I’ve had a day in the house today (meaning a treadmill walk this evening to get my steps in!). I’ve mainly been working on my text adventure – the end is in sight in terms of the actual programming, but I’ve still got quite a lot of graphics to create.

I’ve also spent a bit more time looking into job opportunities. There’s a few different things I could do and I’m going to spend a bit more time researching them this weekend.

Looking forward to having another go at Jesmond Dene parkrun tomorrow morning!

Pixel turnip lanterns
Not an OOTD: some more pixel details, this time of turnip lanterns.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Jon & Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home
Michael Land – Inside The Governor’s Mansion
Squeeze – Up The Junction
Duran Duran – Secret Oktober

Pixel hunting

I’ve had a good day working on my text adventure today. I’m starting to create the graphics now, which is really relaxing! I’m not really any good at drawing but I’m enjoying making my wee pixel pictures.

Now catching up with a few episodes of Strictly and am about to get my steps in with a quick walk on the treadmill.

Pixel vampire bat
Not an OOTD: it looks a bit odd as I had to take a picture of the screen (the pixel art is too small to post online!), but here’s a vampire bat I made for a minigame that takes place within the main game!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Michael Land – The Brimstone Beach Club
The Sugarhill Gang – Apache

Convention Review: UK Games Expo 2018

I’m back in Newcastle again, for a good long while now!  I’ve spent the last three days at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham, which has been a brilliant weekend.  Geth and I went for the first time last year, but I think this year was even better, largely because we were able to travel down on the Thursday and have the full three days.

Sharpy came down on the Wednesday to play boardgames and drink beer with Geth (I did not partake in either, as I was furiously stockpiling Now! reviews for the weekend and being super careful with my diet in a last-ditch attempt to hit target – it worked, as I may have already mentioned).  After I got back from Slimming World on Thursday – stopping briefly for a quick hen do lunch for my fellow SW member Alison – we all piled into Sharpy’s car and headed off down to Birmingham.

What was great about arriving on the Thursday was that after we checked into the Hilton and got unpacked, we were able to head across to the NEC and get our three-day passes without having to queue for more than a minute or so.  We then headed across to Resorts World for food.  Because of all the people arriving in the complex for two conventions plus various other things going on, we had to wait half an hour for a table at Pizza Express, but we were able to grab a quick pint in TGI Friday while we were waiting – and I bought my first boardgame of the weekend, a copy of vintage ’80s game Nightmare On Elm Street, which is (obviously) a tie-in with the film of the same name.  A fairly good condition copy had shown up on eBay for a tenth of the price that it normally goes for, so in the spirit of the Expo I decided to go for it!

After the meal, we headed back to the NEC for a game of Sonar in one of the halls, and then to the Ibis on the other side of the complex to meet up with Heulwen and Laura (Geth’s sister and sister-in-law) and various other friends.  Unfortunately, when we decided to head back, it was too late to get back through the NEC as it was closed, so we had to walk right round the outside of the complex.  It took forty-five minutes, and at one point there was a torrential rainstorm.  Not fun.  When we finally got back to the Hilton, Geth and Sharpy went for a drink in the hotel bar, but I was knackered so I went straight to bed.

Friday morning proved that we had made the right decision in showing up on the Thursday evening – the queues for passes were just ridiculous!  As we already had ours, we were able to go straight in, which was great.  The morning was mainly spent investigating all the stalls in the main hall and then going shopping.  I bought a few things – Mamma Mia, HMS Dolores, various geekery-themed scented candles and a cheap but important D20 (its function is to help with future dice-buying decisions) – but my main aim was to make a list of all the stuff I wanted to get on the Sunday.  Geth, meanwhile, spent pretty much all his spending money in the space of ninety minutes.  I went outside to meet him and Sharpy for lunch and found them sitting on a bench surrounded by bags and bags of games.  I’ve got some serious reorganising of the game shelves to do this week.

Friday afternoon was spent chilling out and having a go at some new games in the open gaming room back at the Hilton, before heading through to the suite on the other side of the Hilton lobby to see the MMORPG Live show.  We’d seen Knightmare Live last year, and this was done by the same guy, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good – there was too much audience participation for my liking, and by the end I was getting really irritated by the sound of fifty or so people all thinking they were funnier than they actually were.

Back to the open gaming room for the rest of the evening – it was great that so many people we knew were able to come and join us at our bit of trestle table.  Due to a longer-than-expected game of Lords Of Waterdeep, Geth and I weren’t able to get quite as much of an early night as we’d planned, but five hours of sleep is better than nothing, and in the morning we dragged ourselves out to Perry Hall parkrun and got some exercise in.

Once back at the NEC, we met up with Sharpy and his girlfriend Steph (who had arrived on Friday evening) and we all had a quick go at a prototype of a game called Chocolate Factory, which was quite fun.  We then split up and did a bit more shopping – I picked up Ghostel, some more dice, and a print of some Stormtrooper art for the house, and Geth got some paintbrushes and a board for his planned new hobby of miniatures painting – and then went for lunch, met up with Sharpy and Steph again, and headed back to the Hilton open gaming room to settle in for the afternoon and evening.  Geth managed to go see the This Game Is Broken show, and we got lots and lots of gaming in with lots and lots of people before the late-night The Dark Room Until You Die show.  We all made it until the interval at about half past midnight, at which point I think everyone drifted back to their various hotels for some sleep.

This morning, I went and did my big shopping haul – Timeline: Music And Cinema, some expensive-but-beautiful wooden inserts for all the Eldritch Horror expansions that we now have, another gorgeous piece of artwork for the house, some more dice (I have a problem) and a portable rubber dice tray that says ‘UK Games Expo 2018’ on it.  Geth, meanwhile, went and talked to lots of game designers about games that he will probably buy at some point in the near future.

Then we went back to the hotel, got all of our luggage and piles of games down to Sharpy’s car and packed away in the boot, had some lunch in the sunshine, and drove back to Newcastle.  It’s been a great weekend, but it is good to be home.  With our massive haul of stuff.

UKGE haul 2018
That is a big pile of games. Reorganising the game shelves will be a job for tomorrow.

Will we be back next year?  Well, put it this way: Geth’s already booking the hotel.  We’ll see you there.

Stuff I like about my parents’ house #1: Rarities of Chinese Painting poster

This poster has been in the house for as long as I can remember…

Rarities of Chinese Painting poster
Poster from the Rarities of Chinese Painting exhibition at the Talbot Rice gallery in September 1984.

…which makes sense, given that the exhibition took place a few months before I was born.  The poster used to hang on the wall, but as Mum and Dad’s book collection has expanded, that wall space has been taken over by bookshelves, hence the poster being moved to the window shutters.

Given that the big work project I just finished a couple of weeks ago was on the subject of art in Edinburgh, I’m interested to see that the Talbot Rice gallery has been going for some time.  No Edinburgh Art Festival back then, either – it all seems to have been under the banner of the International Festival.

I’ve always liked this poster – the black leaves are really pretty, and remind me of the numerous houseplants we used to have in the family home before they all died.  The ’80s lettering on the poster is just a bonus!

Missing my wall decorations

Intensive transcription projects at work always do strange things to me.  The last transcription period, in autumn 2017, involved a couple of projects, the larger of which was for a study about an experimental coffee machine.  I had actually given up caffeine in 2013 and hadn’t touched it since, but the combination of a lack of sleep and hours and hours every day spent listening to people talk about coffee had fairly predictable consequences, and I fell off that particular wagon.  I’ve been drinking a couple of coffees every day since then.

This time round, the transcription project I’m working on is for a study about public artworks.  I’m not really ‘into art’ in the traditional sense – I don’t tend to visit galleries unless dragged by someone else, I couldn’t care less what the ‘meanings’ of artworks are, and I’ve never done much reading about the subject – but I like things that are nice to look at, and that’s what I have on my walls.  Or it’s what I would have on my walls under normal circumstances.

The thing is, pictures are always the very last thing I put up when I’m sorting out a new house, as I think of them as the ‘finishing touch’.  This is why, unfortunately, the walls have always been a bit bare in my last few rented properties – because by the time I’ve got to that stage of the house sorting, I’m thoroughly sick of the whole thing and I’ve really slowed down with it, and so I never get round to doing the pictures properly before we realise that we’ll be moving again soon and so there’s no point putting anything else up.

This time around will be different – I may have already mentioned once or twice that I am OMG NEVER MOVING AGAIN, because this house move has been so stressful, and so I will definitely have the time and motivation to get the picture collection actually finished.  Sadly, the house is still some way off being sorted – all of our pictures and other wall decorations are currently stuck in the study, which I will be spending May going through.  As such, the walls have to remain bare for a while longer.  I do have a couple of posters up on the upstairs landing, as I needed to keep them out of the way and uncrumpled while I was sorting things out, but everything else will have to wait.

Which is a shame, as it would be nice to have some pretty artwork on the walls to look at while I’m spending hours listening to people talking about art.  I guess the artwork on our boardgame boxes will have to suffice.