I’d say it’s a good time to make New Years’ resolutions, but the first month of 2014 is almost over. Gosh! Game dev slowed a little recently due to holidays and other stuff going on. Nevertheless it progresses!

Coding

Almost literally the first thing I did in 2014 was get the compile working for my game. It went surprisingly smooth. The game works on my new machine with a new setup so onwards!

The break has given me some time to think strategically about the game and its development. I’ve made two decisions that I’d like to try out:

  • Move the codebase to 64-bit and ditch any support for 32-bit CPUs. It’s about time for all software to be 64-bit. I hope my libraries agree.
  • Ditch any notion of using DirectX and only use OpenGL.

The latter one is a funny decision. Ogre3d allows me to use both at will. But DirectX means another library to manage, and it’s always been the weird child of the panoply of libraries I use. The newest DirectX versions offer me nothing, and Microsoft seem to be iterating quickly between operating systems and god knows what that means for DirectX.

I’d prefer to support Steam OS when it comes out, so OpenGL it is. That covers Unix, Windows and Mac without having to worry about different codepaths for different platforms. At least for graphics. At least to an extent.

Moving to 64-bit is annoying because some libraries don’t suffer the transition well. Windows compilers are funny about 64-bit, so myeah. It’s not desperate to follow up because I don’t do anything tricksy in my code and I want to focus on gameplay rather than engine code for a while.

I’ve also been writing tool code. By which I mean, tools so I can efficiently make the game. I’m making local web apps, because it’s fun and I can smash it out very quickly without worrying about writing proper programs. For example, my scene writer uses Python and Javascript to give me a lightweight interface. AJAX bounces off the server and throws data down into text files that I can import into the game. Well, in theory because I’m still writing it, but I don’t need to worry about how to display graphics if a web-browser can do all the heavy lifting.

My ideal there is quick drag-and-drop elements in the browser, type in code and have data files populated in the game directory. It’d be fairly lightweight, so I could bring it with me without bringing all the game code.

Gameplay

I’ve also been thinking long and hard about the game. I’ve made some cuts and compromises there too.

The first is that I’m shelving The Twins for now. Their gameplay and story is fantastic and interesting, but they introduce so many problems at the same time. As a unit and as interactions with the other characters, they increase the complexity more than the rest of them combined.

So first content update will have them. For now, I’ll focus on the six other characters. Unfortunately this breaks the gender balance I had – now it’s 4 females (The Cop, The Courier, The Spy and The Scientist) versus 2 males (The Doctor and The Hacker). I don’t want to bring any new characters in to address that balance because that hardly solves the original problem. Plus Alice the Artist is very busy doing cool projects so more art would be tough.

In any case, it wouldn’t hurt a modern video game to have more female characters than male. And no, it won’t be a harem game.

My next focus is to ignore multiplayer at the moment. The system is prepared for it to an extent. I haven’t got the network code in, but everything is engineered to accommodate it. Multiplayer brings a variety of issues that you might not consider until you’re down in the guts of it.

For example, how do you address gameplay synchronization? Not server/client data synchronization but actual “someone’s read the text before someone else, do they have to wait?” Do you let people force the game forward? Do you have timers? What if your scene depends on a character making a decision but they’ve run off to the toilet? What do you if the team splits? Can you keep them roughly in sync in terms of world and gameplay progression?

How do teams decide on things? Democratic voting? A leader? I had a mechanic from very long ago in the dev process where you have energy as well as health. You can expend energy to do strenuous things. You might also use it to force a vote to resolve a certain way. But if you have these power struggles between players, is it fun? Is it just bookwork? I want people to feel like they are making important decisions in a disaster zone, not having lengthy discussions deciding on UN Resolution 2378.

I’m keen on just creating the minimal viable product and evolving that. I’m prepared for multiplayer, but I want to focus on the single-player experience, so I’m doing that.

In any case, you can look around the indie games scene and see some very simple games. You don’t need much complexity for a successful game. I’d like to optimize for success first, complexity second :)

The Short and Sweet

What I’ve been working on lately:

  • Sketching out ideas
  • Designing gameplay systems
  • Learning how to write web apps for my dev tools

What I’m working on in the next run:

  • Cleaning up the gameplay source code branch
  • More web app dev
  • Maybe the scene code.
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This is the character journal of my character Aeona Tycheweaver, an Oracle who exists at a fraying of the fabric of space-time.

Before and after the Christmas break our intrepid heroes were investigating a haunted house. Because of the break, I’ve not been writing Aeona journals. We are now Level 6. Aeona is comfortable in her combat role of chaos-bringer and general helpful gal. Occasionally she can bring the noise… sometimes not.
(Click here to read the rest of this entry)

Another invisible update – I’ve moved away from the GUI/engine work and am working on the game itself. I’m sizing up my attack whilst trying to sort a few other things out. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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This is the character journal of my character Aeona Tycheweaver, an Oracle who exists at a fraying of the fabric of space-time.

We’ve finished Burnt Offerings and begun The Skinsaw Murders. We’ve levelled up 5, and I’m starting to come into my element. That element is chaos, and is glorious. We’re past the point of being able to rejig our characters, which is okay. I wish I had gone solely for DEX rather than STR and DEX, and spent a feat getting Weapon Finesse (hands) so my melee touch attacks would be effective and I wouldn’t have spread myself so thin on attributes. No matter. Aeona’s a tough customer – kinda of a Suicide Girl with a hidden boxing hobby.

This post combines two sessions, as I’m trying to explore Aeona and time rather than be slavishly recounting our adventures in detail.
(Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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This is the character journal of my character Aeona Tycheweaver, an Oracle who exists at a fraying of the fabric of space-time.

Last time we had travelled straight as an arrow towards the boss villainness and killed her (or more aptly, let death fall upon her). We felt bad that so much loot, I mean, plot had been left behind in our wake, so we returned to Thistletop to get answers and gear. Surprisingly, we levelled up again. Aeona at level 4 has a bunch of tricks up her sleeve and an Ozymandias complex.


Aeona-of-the-future, stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

This story is about a fort, a door, two sisters, a gypsy, and dwarves losing the rust from their beards. We had crossed a rickety bridge from a fort made of brambles over to a ramshackle castle. We found a curiously captured horse. We kicked in doors until we came upon the tragically decorated evil lair. Skull torches, hands in jars on overstuffed shelves, the works. Oh and don’t forget the literal blood bath in the middle of the room. We beat up some bad guys and shades pursued us, sucking the very life force out of us. The biggest, baddest evil in the room eyed the door, but some quick thinking on my behalf kept her at bay while Vik’s dogs tore her to pieces. Murder is fine if you don’t enjoy…

Thistletop

No. Wait. That was last week’s journal. I’m confused. My sister Viktoryah keeps bugging me about putting dates and times on my journal. Seriously. Me, sitting at a tangle of space-time and reality. What in any of the gods’ names would a date mean to me? What exactly is “last week”? Can you point it out to me? No, I need to CIAN-NAR, draw the thread. These journals will be more mnemonics for my particular take on the world. I’m a unique snowflake, caught on the breeze.

Gimme a second.

Okay, so this story is about a fort, a door, two sisters, a gypsy and dwarves losing the rust from their beards. We were going to cross this rickety bridge from a fort made of brambles over to a ramshackle castle when we came across an arrow-studded burlyman. A mercenary. A betrayed mercenary. We healed him up whilst gently interrogating him. I flashed my chest dammit Vik stop messing with my journal ARGH sisters are the worst pearly whites and tried to convince him to tell us his story. But I know men who fight for money can lie as easily as I can see tomorrow’s weather, so I grilled him. Nope, no lies. Just avarice. Actually I was glad of that – men tend to maintain only one, maybe two greeds. His was violence and coin. If he took a fancy to Sis or myself, I’m not sure we’d have an easy time throwing him from the bridge. Well… Sis might. She’s got issues.

The mercenary’s deal was that he’d run in with Nualia’s crowd. He hadn’t heard our raid last week, but knew that Nualia had gone off with the faeries. Well, demons. He’d figured that crazypants coins weren’t as good as being-alive-elsewhere coins, and tried to escape. A bugbear ranger that has been in cahoots with the goblins shot him in the back as he crossed the bridge back.

“Do you like justice?” I asked him. We offered him some cash and the ability to return the arrows in his back into the face of the bugbear, if only he’d accompany us into the castle dungeon and give us (literal) insider knowledge. Justice wasn’t working. My winning smile wasn’t working. The glint of gold was.

He had little idea about the horse, but we threw it some food with the intention of bringing it with us on the way out. Assuming we made it out.

Previously I had snipped Nualia from time to trap her in a room with shades and dogs, thus murdering her. Tangential murder, at best. Anyway we needed to get back into her tragic evil den to figure out what she was up to and take some souvenirs. The shades were still there, but we were ready this time. Durak, our dwarf paladin, had his new stone armour and oil of bless weapon. Seriously, Durak is just the connective tissue in between his armour now. If he dies, we’ll only find out when he doesn’t ask for an ale at the tavern. The gypsy Zoran had blessed his weapon too, but had eschewed the whole heavy armour thing to cover himself with hidden weapons. He’s very flashy about all his weapons[1]. If he falls over and stabs himself in the leg with a hidden dagger, I’m laughing at him before I heal him.

We kicked in the door, stepped over the corpse of Nualia and proceeded to stab the heck out of the shades. How that works, I don’t know. I’m a space/time kinda gal. The Shadow Realm is freaky. Our only casualty was Durak’s strength – the buggers had sucked the rust from his beard. Somehow he could still shuffle about in his stone armour. Dwarves, eh?

We’d claimed enough of Nualia’s gear and incriminating notes to make today’s venture quite rewarding, but in a trick of time, the others had convinced me it was a good idea to stomp through the rest of the dungeon. Not too bad when we found a secret door honouring Lamashtu. Still pretty good when we found a freaky conjoined skeleton and some surgeon’s tools. Oh and a weird gizmo with a seven-pointed star on it. A Runelord’s mark, if I remember/see correctly.

Not good at all with the door. That damn door. Aeona of the past, hear your time-sister well: the Seven-pointed star is bad juju. I swear I had checked for magic on this door with the seven-pointed star on it, but apparently I remembered wrong. But lo and behold, the door had no handle, but our gizmo fit a shallow perfectly.

  Don’t open doors that have no handles.  They don’t have handles for a reason! I know you can read this, past-Aeona. I also know that I saw this warning and ignored it, but you need to do as we say, not as we do. Um…

So anyway, let’s just say that we walked into a room with a barghest. It had eyed the door for escape, but instead clawed us all almost to death. I kept the dwarves alive for Sis to summon wave after wave of dutiful dogs, one of them finding the barghest’s jugular and chewing.

A barghest - a nasty cross between a goblin and a wolf.

It’s okay to kill this guy.

Murder is fine if you come across a barghest arcane-locked into a room for several millennia and it sees its best chance for freedom is eating your valuable dwarves. Trust me, I didn’t enjoy that fight one bit. Letting Nualia fall on her own sword (in a manner of speaking) was fine, if horrific. This was just horrific. No humour at all.

We’re currently taking a breather before we embark on our next joke. Sis and I are no adventurers. But here we are. It’s a joke whose punchline hasn’t come yet.

Speaking of jokes… Hey, Aeona-of-the-future, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This story is about a fort, a door, two sisters, a gypsy, and dwarves losing the rust from their beards…


[1] Zoran is now a Swashbuckler, given Paizo has released the beta Advanced Classes Guide.

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Real simple one this fortnight… A GUI! (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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This is the character journal of my character Aeona Tycheweaver, an Oracle who exists at a fraying of the fabric of space-time.

Our games have been sporadic recently with people away for various reasons. Last time we battled our way through the front of a fort made of brambles and almost were eviscerated by a cougar. While maybe half a day of adventuring in-game, this episode was split over a month of gaming and non-gaming. We also levelled up halfway, so I’m beginning to get powerful.


To be totally honest, I figured this journal would help me “draw the line” and figure out a consistent account of my life since that flirting gaze from Nethys, God of everything that matters. It hasn’t helped. My previous entry finished with some finality but that wasn’t the case at all. And really, I didn’t write that in the middle of our raid, so when did it happen? It’s my handwriting, so Nethys knows what’s going on. (Hmm, maybe I should ask him. (Although remember, Aeona, what happened last time you saw him (Gawd))) So I’m not entirely sure if this is my journal from another timeline. Or if I’m another Aeona from another timeline. Same excellent handwriting though, so at least there’s that.

Thistletop

Okay, enough about penmanship. Goblins! After murdering the goblin druid with the tricksy cougar, we murdered all their rabid dogs. We didn’t get to burn the brambles fort to the ground (yet). It might have made quicker our crossing of the bridge from the fort to the island! The castle on the island was really just ramshackles. Like it had been outsourced to bored teens. Or, I guess as was the case, goblins. Again, we weren’t allowed to just burn that to the ground, so we did the “honorable” thing and waltzed through murdering everyone.

Had I mentioned Nethys had taught me a nice sleight-of-hand with time? So it’s always hard to remember if this was the first tower we cleared out or the second, but we pounced on two of the little goblin buggers playing cards. They decided they wanted to skewer poor ol’ Zoran. In a beautiful flick of my hand, I linked that moment to every previous moment that green goblin had betrayed grey goblin, including five minutes ago when he cheated grey out a bet. While a gypsy man in your tower focusses your mind, a primal reminder of betrayal does wonders to focus your rage. Grey shook with rage and shivved green with all his might. The goblin blood on his hands and a general confusion over what had happened brought both goblins’ weapons back to us. At least now one had a punctured kidney.

Green tried to escape down the ladder and warn his friends. He hadn’t counted on Durak the Slow but Crazy Courageous leaping from a set of stairs on top of him. I rested in a pause in time to enjoy that moment. When I came to we were jumping on goblin beds, battering their skulls in with morningstars. Oh no, don’t burn down the fort, just smoosh them in their beds. We’re the best at heroism.

Then it got weird.

Look, sometimes time ebbs for me like waves on a beach, overlapping, churning, receding. Here’s what I remember next and how I remember it:

  1. The goblin lord screaming to attack and leaping from his throne onto a huge gecko.
  2. The goblin lord inviting me into the middle of the room to discuss politics, for I was the fairest. It was fine that I left the beefy guys behind.
  3. Bahlek burying a handaxe into the guts of a goblin ninja.
  4. Goblin ninjas coming from the darkness. Although this memory is bleeding into another thread… Hmmm…
  5. Watching the pulse of my heart through the spurt of blood from my wrists.
  6. A goblin bard desperately singing before having his song cut short by Durak’s warhammer.
  7. Aeona of the Future shaking her head at me, beckoning me aside, bringing serenity and healing. My vision of time clarifying into…
  8. Surrounding the goblin lord. Despite having his jugular opened by a deft swipe by the gypsy, he wanted to fight on.
  9. We danced around him, dodging blows, waiting for him to drain out.
  10. I got a bent crown!

I distinctly remember trying my second trick (see later) on the goblin lord’s gecko, but there was some tangle in the threads. I have no idea how I survived that fight, but I did. Our trusty wand of cure light did wonders for my headache. And dying-ness, I suppose. Dying is such a complicated affair – I’m not sure I can be bothered with that yet.

I know what next happens because I’m looking at the result right now. We found a small child’s weight in coinage and magical gear. The gear was rather practical, but rather not practical enough for me. I’ve gotten some tips from Alternate Aeona #736 on crafting something a bit more useful. I’ll try my hand this week while Durak gets some colour back in his beard. Or why the draining of colour? Well!

I heard some whispers from an Alternate Sis (I don’t know which one, they aren’t as friendly as mine, and significantly more emotional). She suggested we hole up in the towers and recover before pressing on. This whole joke had a punchline about a girl and a demon, but we weren’t ready for that yet. Did I mention the horse we saw from above? In a cupboard, apropos of nothing, next to a pack of hungry dogs, surrounded by goblins who couldn’t ride it, across the rickety rope bridge, across the brambles fort that we humans had to duck through and miles from town? Yeah, that goddamn tricksy horse. Vik reckons it wasn’t a dream, but I reckon it was. No-one would be that weird to have a horse there.

By the way, the previous journal wasn’t written then. I’m sure of it. Such a mystery!

In the morning we stomped back downstairs and found plans to the goblin raids on Sandpoint. Dastardly! I told Zoran that I had seen those plans before, maybe in a dream. Then I told him my eyes were up here. No time (ha) to argue, we barged into the next room and found a not-nice-looking woman there. Zoran circled around to knife her. I tried another new trick of mine (no not that one). This one requires me opening up the Realm of Thoughts and slicing through the latest thread of consciousness for this woman. Not her CIAN-NAR, no I’m not that powerful. Yet. Basically, force a memory lapse. She forgot about ol Zoran until he shanked her. As I was closing the portal to the Realm of Thoughts I could see her adrenaline jack up and she turned invisible and ran.

We gave hot pursuit, with Zoran the hottest. (No Sis, I don’t think he’s attractive, pay attention!) Somehow this cleric had taken non-literal flight down a secret corridor and into a temple. Zoran tried to follow and avoided a trap by the longest of his goatee hairs. An elaborate trap, to be honest: portcullises, sweeping blades and a pit drop. Lucky for Zoran, though! (I tell him that, but across the nearby threads, all Zorans made it. It’s a local invariant to the universe. Well, this universe)

No time to waste, we pursued invisi-chick through a door she conveniently left open. She and her bestie were holed up in a tragically decorated evil lair. Skull torches, hands in jars on overstuffed shelves, the works. Oh and don’t forget the literal blood bath in the middle of the room.

This was make-or-break time-and-space, so I gave the evil chicks a demonstration of my expertise. Invisi-chick got a reminder of all the betrayal her friend had dumped upon her (including some elaborate argument about the pony we had found in my dreams). I gave Boss chick a preview of her death. Oh that one was brutal. And very familiar in a jamais-vu way. The boys and Vik’s champion (if fiendish) dogs laid into the both of them, while I kept spooking boss chick away from escaping out the only door to the place.

Invisi-chick hadn’t died yet when two shadows had risen from the blood bath. When she did, another rose with her. It was horrifying. Shadows warp and corrupt all the threads near them, on most planes. Poor ol’ Durak was on his last little legs and shuffled for the door. I gave him the sanctuary of zen calm to help him on his quest out the door as he grumbled about the room being airtight or something. Boss chick had heard this and had steeled herself against my trick of prescience. I could see in her eyes both determination and a sinking, familiar fear.

Everyone was out of the room except the shadows, boss chiquita and I. They had intended to close the door to block the shadows. Boss chick intended to be on the other side of the door too. I saw it on the tapestry. I saw what I had to do to complete the weave.

I strode up behind her with my bent crown. Vik’s dogs were trying to nip her heels and keep her away from our side of the door. I shouted “I am Ozymandias, king of kings! Look upon my works, ye mighty boss chick, and despair!” That got her attention so I booped her on the nose; actually grabbing a thread from the tapestry and yanking her entire patch out for a moment.

From her perspective I shouted like a crazy lady, booped her on the nose, then time skipped, the door was shut tight, her escape gone and the shadows advancing on her as dogs tore at her legs. I was still giggling at my trick until her screams. Then I stopped. Half-demonic boss chick might have tried to corrupt us with evil darkness and kill us with magic missiles, but her screams and scrabbling at the door was too much.

I had at one second been king of kings, and the next, after a time skip, been two trunkless legs of stone.

We had come to stop her evil plans to become a vessel for some demon, but we had planned something more honorable. Like caving in her skull. I have to admit, my trick was fun. Might have to think about the morality about that some time.

Or not. That works too. And if you’ve seen the landscape of time like me, there’s worse to come. Skinsaw, for example.

After an encounter with a rabid, evil dog that I’m too embarrassed of my dwarven friends to recount, we zipped back home. The shadows are stuck in the room of evilness, as with a bunch of useful weapons and clues, so we’ll have to research how to best deal with them.

Durak is recovering from his near-death. Zoran is romancing the town. Bahlek is restringing his bow and sis is sneaking scraps to other-planar dogs. Meanwhile, today my hair is purple and I’m making clocks…


Some awesome moments for Aeona last session after a long time being a snarky healbot. If I can pull off my spells or special abilities, they can really shape combat. We’re all trying to settle into our characters. Zoran and I are probably the most comfortable. Vik is yet to pull out her trump card (for awesome role-playing reasons). The paladin is settling on a useful code of ethics to avoid the usual issue of paladins being kill-joys when they aren’t killing things. Bahlek’s player has been away and is new to Pathfinder and not being a DM, so he’ll need some more time. Archer rangers are awesome, so he’ll come into his own soon.

The fights are really, really tough and we’re getting through barely. Hopefully the loot (and further loot) from this adventure can let us gear up a little.

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This year has only felt like a few months long, but this month feels like a few months in itself! I’m all steam ahead, in all sorts of ways. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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Not a Hero

We find ourselves in a peculiar quandary. If we look at pop culture and ask “What is a man?” we can readily find a few archetypes.

Superman is by his very definition, the pinnacle of man. He’s strong, reliable, moral, unyielding. He loves and is loved. In his true form, people fear and respect him. It takes extraordinary circumstances to even just bend his knee.

We take his darker alternative – Batman. A man born into a good life and laid low by tragedy. But he takes that tragedy and rebuilds himself to superheroic standards – world class athlete, fighter, inventor, detective. He opposes the darkness in the world and always gets back up, no matter what they throw at him. He is prepared and resourceful. He is endlessly strong.

Although these examples are fictional and exaggerated, they represent symbols that men should aspire to. There’s a long cavalcade of similar examples, real or fictional: pinnacles of physical perfection, hyper-intelligent sleuths, confident masters of their world.

On the other hand, if you asked for the stereotypical characteristics of males, it might include violence, dominance, sex, confidence and a lack of emotion. We have an amazing cognitive dissonance here: the stereotypical man is a dangerous brute, but one of the greatest known men of all time, Shakespeare, still astounds people with his understanding of the human condition and nuanced exploration of the texture of life: death, war, jealousy, age, and, of course, love. Einstein, that great man of science, was a man of peace.

Even further, normal men are none of these extremes. They don’t solve their challenges by punching them. They don’t swing into a party and make all the women swoon. They aren’t masters of their universe – they get buffeted about by chance and unfavourable design. They make mistakes. They get depressed. Normal men aren’t heroes.

One in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime. And it’s not necessarily a product of tragedy. Some very successful, intelligent, hard-working, friendly men will find themselves laid low by the black dog of depression. It’s not a rational thing, depression doesn’t work that way. It’s a stronger villain than any laughing madman. It knows all your thoughts, weak points and ways of seeing things. It can make nonsense sound sane. It can amplify the smallest of issues. Depression can make a man retreat from his closest friends, ignore the things and people they love, drink or take drugs, imagine opposition from their closest friends and family, run themselves ragged, break their hearts, or sabotage their life in a myriad of dumb ways. Depression can destroy men without raising a single finger.

Four out of every five suicides in Australia are committed by men. In 2011, almost two thousand men took their lives. Depression is an incredible foe.

Historically and even now, men are encouraged to endure this onslaught and not seek help. Men should “man up” and stand against their sea of troubles, without support, without tools. Women are twice as likely to seek help from a mental health service provider than men. It’s ridiculous.

The good news is that depression and related mental illnesses are treatable. There’s a wide variety of treatments available and are customized to the person. But society’s men need resources, education and support to seek help when they need it.

I’m supporting Movember to bring in donations to help exactly this. Please consider a donation, no matter how small.

Normal men are not superheroes. They don’t shape the world by their very existence. They may find themselves struggling from day to day. They may be loved and respected and find success, but still have to reluctantly drag themselves out of bed every morning.

Support the men in your life. Make sure they’re going okay and help if you can. If they are depressed, get them to seek professional help. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. It may be the start of a new life. A new life where depression pops up every so often like a villain-of-the-week, but at least it’ll be manageable. It’s better than the alternative.

A single man might not have the strength of a hundred, but with his friends, family and support services, he can get damn close.

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Okay, I’ve resigned myself to an insane, busy month. I’m doing Movember as well as attempting NaNoWriMo, while my parents visit and all sorts of other things go on. Oh and as well as my other projects. I might end up a wreck, but I’ll be a productive wreck. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)