Upgrading to Disappointment

Upgrading to Disappointment

It’s ranting time, kids, because this old man is about to start complaining about how things used to be better. But instead of a strongly worded letter, it’s in the form of a strongly worded blog post. And it’s not about how music used to be better, oh no. I’m pissed off about the state of video game consoles.

Remember a time when you turned on a console, popped in a game, and started playing? That was the great advantage of consoles versus computers. Sure, computers had better graphics, more elaborate gameplay and other goodies but you needed to master the entire keyboard and ensure you had the correct video card, memory, and more. For consoles, if it was a game for the PS2, you just needed to make sure you had a PS2. Game on!

For Christmas, the missus and I bought ourselves an Xbox One as a present for each other. We’re not avid video gamers, it’s just something we enjoy a bit more recreationally. Her more than me. I like the idea behind playing video games but could count the number I’ve finished on one hand plus a severed finger. Xbox has been my poison of choice and I’ve now owned all three version of Microsoft’s entries to the console wars. I was very happy with the original Xbox, I enjoyed the Xbox 360… and it ends there.

In the two months since hooking it up, I’ve had to repeatedly postpone playing because of upgrades. Big upgrades in the hundreds of megs, significant upgrades. See the photo above as the most recent example. Even one for the controller. The controller? Has an upgrade? Seriously?!! The games are constantly being upgraded too and that’s not including the essential online access needed to play. The first game we bought was Star Wars Battlefront, a long-awaited sequel to perhaps two of my favourite games of all time. Nope, not this time. All the battles require online play.

The kicker is that this alone is not enough to warrant my disappointment because if I still lived in town or back in Ottawa and had access to high speed internet, maybe this wouldn’t get to me as much. We live out in the country and our internet is poor. It’s something we’re working on. Netflix is tricky and any significant download requires leaving a computer running overnight. So I do want to stipulate this rant probably would not exist in blog form were it not for our internet drought. Yet it does exacerbate the problem and turns yet another night I wanted to play Dragon Age: Inquisition into a night of flipping back and forth to watch a progress bar’s status. And when you forget to leave the controller on, eventually the whole unit shuts down and you have to start over again. Play without Xbox Live? Sure, would love to. But it goes back to logging in to a game’s servers every time you want to play and it’s not an option when you skip these big upgrades.

I get that I’m in the minority on this because we’re in single digit percentages when it comes to slow-mo internet. It’s something I’m hoping will change this summer. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m not impressed with this turn of events. I just want to play the damn game. The occasional update every now and then was fine – that’s how it worked on the 360 and I could live with that. This is getting to the point of overbearing and no matter what your counterpoint to my opinion, this one fact trumps all your efforts.

The controller needs a fucking upgrade?!!

I win.

An Identity Problem

An Identity Problem

Switching over the blog’s title has created an unexpected dilemma. See, I’ve been operating under the pseudonym of “The Warden” for the past three years for reasons I’ll explain in a bit. Every now and then, there’s been a toss-up as to whether or not I should go back to using my birth name, keep up the pseudonym, or come up with another nom de guerre that reads more like an actual name. (It’s not like anyone can picture someone’s mother actually name their kid “The.”)

Now that my last name is literally plastered across the top of this blog and embraced with a big ol’ hug, it does seem like I’m sending a mixed message. Working as The Warden has been tricky over the years – my G+ profile still reads “Todd Crapper” with “The Warden” as a nickname. Requesting a permanent change was refused and I had built up too many followers to risk switching to a new account. Even winning the ENnie Award required me to submit my real name. So while my RPG credits have been Warden-ized these past couple years, I’m still using my birth name.

Is it time to ditch The Warden and go full Crapper? Maybe.

Origins of The Warden

KillShot-Logo_v1The first time I used The Warden in a published game, it was Killshot and for two reasons. One, I genuinely started to wonder if my real name was a bit “distracting,” something I always wonder about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed. I’m a firm believer people born with funny last names either grow up learning to throw a punch or with a great sense of humour – I learned the latter. And when I’m job hunting, people remember me based on my name alone. That’s a huge benefit when the goal is standing out in the crowd. But as a published name, it’s not exactly recommended. You want your work to stand out, not your name and only because of your work should your name be covered in shining Hollywood lights.

The second reason was Killshot itself. After years working on D&D supplements and existing systems built by other people, Killshot was my first attempt at building something from scratch. It was a new step for me, combined with a lot of evil stuff going on at the time. Changing my name seemed the right course of action because you didn’t need to know what I did before. The Warden was a character from my long-running Shadoworld campaign (no, not the official setting), someone who pulled everyone’s strings from behind the scenes. It was fitting because that’s exactly what I was doing through my mechanics and so it was plastered across the front cover.

Do You Trust Pseudonyms?

Four months ago, I read a comment from someone’s post about the ScreenPlay public playtest. Short and sweet of it: this person didn’t trust anyone who didn’t write under their real name. It’s a minority opinion and he acknowledged that, but it was a general rule he lived by. That’s stuck with me and I’ve actually been questioning my choice since. Add the aforementioned blog change and here was are.

Publishing a game, for me, is more than just creating something to sell. It’s a part of my life, a collection of thoughts pulled out of my brain and formatted into a document for others to read, process, and experience. It’s art. A part of me shared with the world. Using a name other than my own seems to counter that viewpoint because I’m hiding behind a falsehood. Then again, Banksy is a world famous graffiti artist whose face has never been seen. Numerous other artists have kept themselves hidden, leaving their work as their mark on the world. Either version sounds entirely plausible and I’m left torn on where to go from here.

There’s Always A Third Option

crapper-thomas-rect
A photo of Thomas Crapper, the man who started it all. Not the inventor of the flush toilet, just the guy who made it better. You’re welcome. 

Or perhaps something a little different. Perhaps “The Warden” is a bit too extreme and maybe Crapper is a bit goofy. Some people may think that’s the worst alternate name ever conceived. (Though it’s surprised me over the years how many people know about Thomas Crapper, long before I discovered who he was. If you don’t know, Google it. It’s worth a Google.) What about something in between.

My middle name is Lawrence. (Yes, my mother thought it was be adorable if my initials were TLC. Now you can see the double whammy I endured growing up.) It’s also my father’s name. Todd Lawrence is very distinguishable, a classy kind of author’s name. And it’s still me, just not the whole me.

What’s In A Name?

A name is a powerful force of self-recognition and reflection. It plays a factor in how the world looks at you, direct or indirect. How much of that is predominantly internal and how much is wholly external remains to be seen. All that matters is what we do with the name we leave behind when our body is no more.

I just came up with that shit on the fly, a brief thought come to life. It’s something I can do with my blogging. Sometimes, it helps in the decision-making process, allows me to coherently display my thoughts into something logical and legible rather than the mess of chaos swirling around under this skull. And I think I’ve solved my riddle.

I’ve lived with my family’s heritage for 42 years and I wear it with pride now – I’ve fought a long, hard war to become the Crapper I am today and I hope my son will learn to appreciate it as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Warden is dead. Long live Todd Crapper.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

A Fresh Coat of Paint

If you’re trying to find Uncaged: Realms of the Warden in a Google search lately, you may have noticed it don’t work too good no more. Odds are likely you’ve discovered the answer right here because the old blog is dead. Long live the new blog!

Ok, not really. The old blog was actually I Am The Warden! and that one still exists for posterity (and deleting something with over 50,000 views seems like such a shame). Uncaged is now On The Crapper. A drastic change, for sure, but there’s a good story behind it.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on creating an online portfolio site to showcase my graphic design work. While the standard practise is to assign portfolio sites a domain name based on the designer’s full name, I toyed around with another idea playing around with something having a little fun with my true last name. Taking it to an online poll, the idea lost out by only one vote and so I decided the title, On The Crapper, was too good to put aside. And here we are.

A name change alone would have been fine, but I decided to streamline all my blogs onto one service. Gone is Blogger, say hello to WordPress, the same location as the Broken Ruler Games website and my upcoming portfolio. It took some time to clean it up and complete the transfer (thankfully there were only 17 posts to switch over) and there’s still some work on a couple of pages, but it’s enough that I’m happy to make it official and start moving forward on the latest phase of this blog.

Umm, that’s it actually. No engaging topic this time. Stay tuned and I’ll come up with something another day.

Oh, I Wish I Had Insomnia All The Time

Oh, I Wish I Had Insomnia All The Time
 Yeah, you read that title correctly. I would love to be an insomniac, though I must confess I’d rather make sure I’m a functioning insomniac and not one of those crazy sum bitches like you see Christian Bale portraying. From a writing perspective and with a full-time job on my hands (which I have to admit, I’m not exactly looking forward to its return but that’s a post all to itself later on this week), being awake a few extra hours a day to get some words plastered onto a few projects here and there would be ideal. It’d allow me time with family, yard work, everything else still required of me while permitting the guilty pleasure of doing what I love while everyone else is asleep.

Since becoming a new parent, I’ve been allowed a teeny glimpse into that world of nocturnal writing and have to admit it’s been amazingly helpful. When I first mentioned getting a lot of work done for ScreenPlay during my paternity leave, the whole concept was shot down pretty quick by everyone online. And yet there are 44 pages of a brand new Playtest Edition for this system hammered down over a couple of nights. Plus I’ve been able to revise close to half of the revisions for my resurrected gamebook, Fires Across the Plains, and pulled off some edits for the upcoming monster guide to the Ancient World setting for Savage World and the Entropic System published by my good friends at Mystical Throne Entertainment. It’s not like I’m burning the midnight oil every night, nor have I been able to accomplish as many results as my mind would allow, but what I’ve been able to do has been with a renewed focus and zest I haven’t felt since… well, since I was off work for three years recovering from my accident.

Which has been giving me cause to reflect. Since returning to work, my mind has pondered and conceived of new ideas, but with very little to less than satisfactory results. I’ve wanted to work on more material and yet found it difficult to set aside the time and allow myself to truly focus on each project as I once used to. Seeing as a full-time job was the biggest change, it’s given me time to reflect on just how much this mandatory function in life has slowed down my creative juices. Could it be that working in a creative field wears down my creativity? Or is that my continued cognitive recovery while working bogged down my mental energy to pump out a few thousand words every now and then? Or could it be that the birth of my son has given me the sorely needed kick in the ass to stop whining and get it done?

The conclusion is obvious: it’s all three. Since I started working, I’ve had to retrain my brain to function in an open office environment and it has been an exhausting ordeal. Learning how to block out information (people chatting around me) and organize multiple projects on the same day lead me to have a few fuzzy moments, as I prefer to call them. They’re times when my mind simply cannot keep it all in order and I blank out; it’s very similar to someone suffering from a petite mal seizure. So it’s definitely had an effect. Plus I do a lot of creative output as a graphic designer and working in marketing, bringing another point to the aha board. Finally, there’s no denying that this new inner flame ignited three weeks ago, which is when my son was born. It’s all so obvious now, the hat goes on the head! The question remaining is what to do with this newfound knowledge.

For the next little while, I’m going to try pulling overnight writing sessions on Friday nights. Even when I’m back at work, which is in another week. It’s the best option I have for recovering sleep without dipping into quality time with the family on the weekend. It’ll mean less sleep, sure, but isn’t that new parenthood anyways? Why not make it work for me? Plus since I’m more inclined to go into Ottawa on Friday nights for some quality time at the gaming table with the Ottawa Warband (always resulting in a return time of 3am at the earliest), it only makes sense to keep it a pattern. And if a certain wee baby wakes me up at 5 in the morning and I find myself far too thoughtful to sleep, my laptop is only an office door away. After all, that’s how I got to writing this very post at 5:43am on a Tuesday morning.

Answering the Challenge of the Mountain Path

Answering the Challenge of the Mountain Path
 What you’re about to read is not the first time I’ve written about this and if you’d like to check out what I posted a couple of weeks ago on the Calabogie Peaks’ official blog, go right ahead. I’ll continue on with this revised version while you do. If you do. Your call.

Seeing as this blog is new and some of you may not know me from a hole in the wall (and really, how well do any of us know our holes in the assorted walls of our lives?), I’ll go into a brief bit of history. Close to five years ago, I was involved in a particularly nasty car accident that nearly killed me. As one of my goals with this blog is to avoid treading back on that time in my life and instead move forward, I’m going to leave out the details in text and instead provide you opportunity to hear a raw rendition of the events towards the end of this post. For now, all that’s important for you to know is that said accident left me with a right foot calcaneus fracture, significant nerve damage and some additional issues not related to what’s going on for this post. As a lover of the outdoor hike and an avid dog walker, these injuries were brutal both physically and emotionally.

Three weeks ago, I did something doctors said would probably never happen again: I went hiking. Not only hiking along a regular trail, hiking up the side of Calabogie Peaks’ Dickson Mountain. Like right up the ski trails. In reverse. And I documented it. Check it out!

This was something I had planned on and off over the course of the 18+ months I’ve worked at The Peaks and there are two reasons why I documented it. The first is for myself and to share with my son when he’s old enough to know that goofball with the growing belly is his dad and provide a lesson on never accepting your limitations or letting others define how you will define yourself. It’s something my wife and I are committed to demonstrate by example for Logan as we’ve never accepted it in our own lives.

The second is to pay my pain forward. If someone else watched this video and felt the urge to overcome their own adversity, maybe that would make my hardships that much easier to bear. It’s why I’ve posted this video and shared it using the #challengeyourself hashtag… and I’m quite literal about the whole “if only one person” idea because I have no misguided expectations about my shot at inspiration becoming something the whole world will see. Even if that never happens, I didn’t do it for someone else, I did it for me. Anyone else is a bonus.

Make no mistake, even though this video is a glossed-over version of the hike edited for professional purposes (to promote the hiking trails at The Peaks), this hike hurt like a son of a bitch. Because it was my first hike in years, but also because it was done despite the sensation of my foot wanting to snap off, break free of my body and catch a flight to Tijuana. And yes, I did fall down. But it was worth every minute of it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, accomplishing this once unexpected feat has given me cause to return to the hike, which is really handy seeing as I now live at the base of a former ski hill with a-plenty of old ski trails to conquer. Yep, one hike down, a million more to go, as far as I’m concerned.

The start of my hike up Dickson Mountain began with the Juniper Junction ski trail
(looking less ski-y in this shot).
What can I say? I’m a sucker for the whole sunlight shining through the trees photo.
Always a welcome sight in Ontario this time of year, trilliums were in full bloom.
One of the joys in hiking/exploring are the unexpected discoveries,
like this random overlook promoting a long extinct development project.
The hike was dotted with these snow guns, useful as trail markers and poignant photos.
The Monkman Hut became my first waypoint to park my butt
and pat myself on the back for 10 minutes.
When I bought this walking stick in PEI last year, it was purely for decoration.
How fitting that it became my best friend today.
The Lakeview Top Hut became my second waypoint and it was fortunately unlocked,
making a welcome respite from the growing bug population.
A very cool, Jurassic Park-style sign pointing to the Skywalk Trail.
Another random discovery. Someone’s taken an old chair lift and made a comfy
campfire overlooking the Highlands.
Now this is what it’s all about: a sample of the Skywalk Trail winding along
the opposite side of Dickson.
My first speechless moment.
Yeah, I caved and took a selfie. Purely for promotional purposes, of course. Ahem.
A panoramic view from the edge of Skywalk Trail and my second speechless moment.

Now for that earlier mentioned video recap of what made this moment so fundamental to my recovery.