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Sketchbook Harvest4:11

Playing my dij in a cafe, with about 10 other drummers. I'm on the stage, pulling a tune and watching Gina, who's in front of me, sitting on the edge of the stage and idly shaking two red maracas.

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howe (how) n. hollow; valley

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Rapa Nui :)
Crazy, chopping down
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Triumph of the Nerds
Even if you lived through the microcomputer revolution, you'll learn a few things from Bob Cringley's entertaining 3-part documentary on the history of the home computer... and if you weren't around back then (or just weren't paying attention) you'll find the story of the early days of the Macintosh vs. Windows feud fascinating. But since the history of computers changes as fast as computers themselves, this show is as obsolete as a computer from 1996... it portrays Apple as a fading star, but this was before Steve Jobs returned, created the iMac, and revolutionized everything yet again. (Oh, yeah, and then there's the internet...) But the best material is timeless now, this being the history of the early days, i.e. Part 1: "Impressing Their Friends". It reminded me a lot of [more]

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Life's So Rad

"The rules are simple, fitting entirely on the back of a single coaster. Like all good abstract strategy games, though, the rules are deceptively short. The game's strategy is satisfyingly deep and luck plays an acceptably minor roll in determining the winner." -- Brad Weier, in a review of Cosmic Coasters published in Pyramid Magazine

Thursday, March 29, 2001
by the Wunderland Toast Society

What's New?

What's Going On? GTS, Vegas, and a Computer in the Forest

We're back from the GAMA Trade Show (GTS), and it was a total blast. The GTS is an industry-only event, but unlike Toy Fair, which is massive and broadly focused, this show is small and oriented entirely around the adventure game industry. And while at Toy Fair we felt tiny and insignificant, lost in the ocean of booths, at GTS we could tell that we are rapidly becoming well known and highly regarded. It was a joy to work the booth at this event, since we were so often praised and complimented on our products by retailers who are delighted by great sales. Even showing off the line to those who knew little or nothing about our games was a joy this time around, since our reputation is now preceding us in this community. We are amazed at how often our corporate strategies or products came up in discussions in the various panels and seminars. We were amazed too at how often we were over-qualified for such seminars. We went to a couple of sessions geared towards newer, small game companies, only to find we're already putting their lessons into practice. (We snuck out early, feeling like sophomores who'd accidentally sat down in a freshman class...)

We also deployed an extreme bit of marketing cleverness at this show, something which attracted us a whole lot of attention, so much so that I wouldn't be surprised if someone steals this idea next year. You know how a lot of conventions will assign different colored ribbons to different categories of attendees, so you can tell someone's rank a glance? GAMA does that... we as Manufacturers had red ribbons, which made us the natural enemies of all other red ribbon wearers as we all stalked the light blue ribbon wearing Retailers and the purple ribbon festooned Distributors. Being sophomores, we know that this is how things work, and after some clever investigative work by Kristin, we knew what ribbon style/colors would be in use this year, and where we could get matching ones made. And so, we made up our own ribbon: royal blue, with our signpost logo in silver under the words "GONE LOONEY". These we added to the badges of everyone who sells our games, and it was a joy watching our special blue ribbons spread like a virus through the crowd of attendees over the course of the five day event. It also provided an excellent feedback mechanism for verifying that someone who sells our games is properly recorded in our online roster of stores, a printed copy of which Kristin had with her in the booth. The corrections, and in particular, the additions, to this roster are overwhelming. (So is the stack of orders we need to get caught up on filling...)

In other news from GTS, the Origins Awards nominations were released, and I'm very pleased to say we're up for three! The Icehouse set has been nominated for Best New Abstract Strategy Game, Chrononauts got two nominations, one for Best Traditional Card Game, and specifically for Alison in the category Best Graphic Presentation of a Card Game. Soon everyone will have a chance to vote, and I hope you'll agree that these games kick the competition's butts!

GTS was again held in Las Vegas, and this year I managed to slip away from the convention for a while to go see some of the sights on the strip. Actually, all I really did was to walk briskly through half a dozen gigantic casinos, but since each of these places is a self-contained world of entertainment that seeks to hold your attention all night or all week, even just walking around looking at stuff can take up heaps of time. Some casinos are so heavily themed that I found myself referring to them as pavilions, as if all of Las Vegas were one big theme park or world's fair... which isn't a bad comparison. I was particularly impressed with the indoor cities at the New York New York and Venetian pavilions, and I finally got to see a few of the famous attractions, like the pirate ship battle at Treasure Island and the volcano at the Mirage. But I left with a feeling of having just barely gotten started. At least we managed to work in a roller coaster ride, namely, the very exciting (and very expensive) Manhattan Express at NYNY.

After GAMA, Alison and I came directly home, but Kristin went on to San Francisco for a few days, to attend to other business. She was mainly going to visit Leslie; a year ago, Leslie helped us write a business plan, and Kristin was very keen to compare the past year's numbers to the projections. (And things look good!) She also wanted to tour the warehouse and shipping facilities of one of the distribution companies to whom we're thinking about farming out our order fulfillment work. (They look promising!) Along the way she got to meet (and play games with) a few old and new friends, including Leslie's mom, Leslie's husband Jeremy, and Skyler, their tiny baby. (Skyler isn't yet home from the hospital; he just hit 3 lbs but must stay in his high-tech preemie incubation chamber until he gains 2 lbs more.) Of course, there were lots of other people out there she wanted to visit, but there just wasn't time and anyway it was a working trip for her... but hopefully this spring all three of us can go out there, for a much more social visit, perhaps structured around a series of scheduled "play games with the Looneys" events...

I'm pleased to report that I'm writing this update on my new computer setup... but if you've heard the rumor that I'm getting one of those new Flower Power iMacs, that's not the new computer I'm talking about. Actually, this is an old computer: a Macintosh Classic, you know, the original little box with a tiny b&w screen. By modern computing standards, it's like a Model T Ford; it's only got a 20 Megabyte hard disk! But I remember when that was really a lot, and when this computer was what Steve Jobs called "insanely great", so it's a nostalgia kick just to use now. Besides, primitive though it is, this machine is exactly what I need for this job: a small writing computer. It fits in a bookshelf!

Here's the thing: in the secret underground headquarters of Looney Labs, I have a desk right next to Kristin's. But when she's at her desk, making and taking phone calls, I have a hard time concentrating on creative tasks like writing. This is one reason I like working the night shift. But even my own computer provides distractions... don't you stop whatever you're doing when your email software chimes, just to see what new messages came in? (And doesn't it suck when it's just spam? Worse yet, spam in a language you can't read?) And of course, email messages are always pointing me to websites where I then waste even more time...

To get away from the distractions and focus on my creativity, I often retire to a little anteroom outside our bedroom upstairs, which we call the Forest (named for a cloth wall hanging of trees we embezzled from Dawn). Here the only noise is from one of those mechanical surf/rain/cricket noise machines, and I can lounge on throw pillows on the floor with my sketchbook, and draw and ruminate and otherwise be creative. And now, I can also pull down a keyboard and write! This old computer is still an insanely great machine.Andy

Have a great week!

the story so far

Thought Residue
I didn't gamble away a single cent in Vegas, but as soon as I got home I found myself wishing I'd looked into placing a highly specialized bet: I wonder what odds they're giving on who'll win Survivor 2? I'm rooting for Amber.

"It was an incredibly thrilling experience." -- Steve Jobs, "Triumph of the Nerds", describing the satisfaction of simple Basic or Fortran programming in the early days of the micro-computer revolution

"I have a friend who once told me that when he was a little boy he lived in the north of our country, a desertic zone. He said his father used to smoke a joint and take him and his little brother out walking in the desert. His father, being stoned, was in a similar condition of amusement walking in the dunes and looking at the cactii as the kids. He remembers it as the best quality time he ever spent with dad." -- story accompanying one of the many emails I get in regards to my Stoners in the Haze piece (the vast majority of which, by the way, are positive), in this case from someone in Chile named Javier [I also recently played advice columnist to a non-smoker in a rocky relationship with a daily stoner, codenamed "Stoney" (they still broke up, but I think the email exchanges we had helped her sort through their various issues))]

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